Ideas and messages from Len Sweet.
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Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up Thy dwelling within my soul, and make of it Thy sacred temple.
Make me live by grace as an adopted son of God.
Pervade all the energies of my soul, and create in me a fountain of living water springing up into life everlasting. Amen.
–The Catholic Church of England and Wales
Last week we celebrated Trinity Sunday as well as the Baptism of Jesus. This week, I wanted to focus even more on Jesus. As I read through the verses and stories for this week in the Revised Lectionary and The Story Lectionary, I was overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus in each reading. So, today I wanted us to listen to some songs about Jesus. As you look, see where you find Jesus winking at you. In some of these songs, it will be apparent, in some songs, you will have focus. Either way, Jesus is waiting for you to join Him in the song!
Celtic Woman – Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring (live)
“Africa” le Toto as Gaeilge
Avicii – Wake Me Up (Official Video)
Casting Crowns – Only Jesus (Official Lyric Video)
The Laws of Human Nature
by Robert Greene (2018)
ISBN: 9780525428145 hardcover
–Review by Douglas Balzer
As an avid student of human beings, the title of this book caught my attention. Then I did my research on the author, Robert Greene, I found a remarkable human being who authored this book after experiencing one of the most frightening health events a human being can face, a stroke. Greene writes, “If you had given me a choice of not writing the book and never having this physical problem, I would have chosen the book.” I am impressed and felt the back story supply a context worth exploring. After reading the book, I can see why it is so important to Greene.
So, who has not asked the question, “Why did they do that?” Human nature is mysterious at best as we look to understand why people do the things they do. It applies to us as well when we examine our activities. Through this book, Greene helps us to understand why people do what they do, as well as how we can use both our psychological flaws and those of others to our advantage in our relationships, at work, and in life.
Drawing from the ideas and examples of various people, Greene teaches us how to deal with our emotions and master self-control, how to develop empathy that leads to insight, how to look behind or beyond people’s masks, and how to resist conformity to develop a unique sense of purpose. Greene offers brilliant tactics for success, self-improvement, and self-defense. Who doesn’t need self-defense techniques in present emotionally driven and identity politics of our culture?
Greene begins with a common lesson we can all relate to –
Self-sabotage is the most common way we ruin our lives. In other words; Master your emotional self. Greene calls this the Law of Irrationality.
We like to believe we are in control of our fate. We can set the course of our lives and successfully navigate it. But the truth is we are mostly unaware of how deeply our emotions dominate us. Whether it is soothing our egos or finding evidence that confirms what we already believe, we see what we want to see (confirmation bias). Depending on our mood, this disconnect from reality is the source of the bad decisions and negative patterns that become the habits of our lives. Greene is a proponent of rationality to help counteract these emotional effects, to take time to think rather than react. Take the time to open our mind to what is happening, as opposed to what we are feeling. It doesn’t come naturally; it is a learned skill we have to practice cultivating, but in praxis, we have the opportunity to realize our highest potential.
Attitude is the key, according to Greene. Having a positive outlook is crucial because it is not usually others who stop us from succeeding, but ourselves so, we must stay positive.
In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks speaks about self-inflicted upper limits, the ceilings, that prevent us from getting to the next level. The baseline attitude needed for life is a positive attitude, no matter what the circumstances, is the best way to keep yourself from subconsciously setting up a negative attitude as a habit.
Another essential lesson we learn is we are much more complicated than we think. Greene encourages us to transform self-love into empathy. He calls this the Law of Narcissism.
Greene wants us to understand we naturally have the ability for connecting with people and reach social empathy. Now, if we cultivate and effectively use it, we can see into the moods and minds of others, giving us the power to predict people’s actions and gently lower their resistance. This ability, however, is blunted by our habitual self-absorption or narcissism. At many diverse levels, we are all narcissists, some farther out on the spectrum than others. Our mission in life is to come to terms with this self-love and learn how to turn our sensitivity outward, towards others, instead of inward. At the same time, we must recognize the toxic narcissists amongst us before getting entangled in their dreams and infected by their resentment.
These are just two of the laws of human nature Greens shares with us. Other examples include The Law of Role-playing and The Law of Generational Myopia.
Greene delivers a robust, well-seasoned tome for our consideration. The Laws of Human Nature is a long book tightly packed with 18 laws in the form of a compendium that makes it easy to reference. What is great about this book is you don’t have to read in one go, but you can go back to it and easily find your subject or the law you want to explore. Now go forth and study Greene’s The Law of Human Nature there is something special about this book.
Thanks for reading this review. Leave a comment below.
The Misfit’s Manifesto
By Lidia Yuknavitch
–Review by Landrum P. Leavell III, Th.D.
The Misfit’s Manifesto is a TED book. I can’t remember where I came across it, but the title grabbed me. I’d never heard of Lidia, knew nothing of her story, and hadn’t watched her TED Talk, “The Beauty of Being a Misfit,” which has had over two million views. Who hasn’t felt like a misfit before? To be crystal clear, this is not a faith-based book or even a faith-referent book. It is real. It is raw. Parts of it are at least R-rated. (I’ve always thought that one way to assess your personal distance between the spiritual penthouse and the outhouse is how long it’s been since you heard an F-bomb in conversation with someone.)
Yuknavitch has written national bestselling novels, one winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award for Fiction. I intend to read her memoir, The Chronology of Water, which was a finalist for a PEN Center USA award for creative nonfiction and other awards. Today, she is a proud misfit, but it took years to accept and appreciate that status. Her resume is an almost unbelievable testimony to survival, tenacity, indescribable heartbreak, loss, and failure. What would you think in reading her resume? Flunked out of college twice, screwed up a college scholarship in swimming, two epic divorces, lost a daughter at birth, rehab for drug use, two stints in jail, homelessness—yet she couldn’t shake the dream of being a writer.
Her book has been described as her love letter to all those who can’t ever seem to find the “right” path. And she’s not trying to help you get over the misfit hump. It’s not something to be overcome but something to embrace. What does it look like for a misfit to pursue goals unafraid, teaching them how to stand up and ask for the things they want most?
Here’s a taste of Lidia’s words to and about misfits:
“In differing degrees, maybe all of us are losing control of our desires and behaviors a little at a time… The gap between the outcasted, traditional back-alley junkies and weave-walking alcoholic and the rest of society is rapidly closing.”
“It is important to understand how damaged people don’t always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It’s a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good…of feeling something good.”
“Not all dreams come from looking up. If you’re a messed-up, malcontent, miserable misfit, and you are still alive, dreams can sometimes appear out of nowhere—Sometimes there’s a dream underneath the dream, or to the side of it, or cutting right through it.”
Suffering is not always beautiful. “I don’t ever want to romanticize the story of suffering, because then you’re just playing into making it a good story or a sellable story for a culture that wants to be entertained by your suffering.”
“I feel kindred with fellow sufferers, not because they suffer, and not because of some absurd vortex of victimhood camaraderie, and not because sufferers are in a state of grace, but because they go on, they endure.”
“Most misfits struggle against the story that’s expected of them. Misfits chafe at the stories placed in front of them or on top of them because nothing about our experiences in life matches up with the traditional or mainstream story line.”
“Our hope happens between ordinary people inventing their own ways of doing things. It’s a lateral definition of hope, one emerging from the edges of things, where you just need to find each other, and you need to stand up and not leave each other.”
“Misfits are remarkably good at invention, reinvention. Innovation in the face of what other people might see as failure. We are resilient; we don’t just survive, we invent how to thrive. Misfits know how to help others…”
“Misfits know how to resist the homogenizing narratives of culture since we live at the edges. We help culture find new shapes. We hold the center from the edges. We guard the perimeter.”
“Beauty doesn’t always come from mirroring the universal. It can also come from the weird on its way to becoming original and transformational.”
She includes a lot of the work of students she has had in her writing classes. I was profoundly impacted by the depth of soul she expressed as well as the raw candor of her story. Having read no reference to faith, I pray for her and her family, that the common, sustaining grace she has lived through to this point would point her to Christ. This book is worth reading or at least listen to her story on her TED Talk.
Grant, O God, of your mercy,
that we may come to everlasting life,
and there beholding thy glory as it is,
may equally say:
Glory to the Father who created us,
Glory to the Son who redeemed us,
Glory to the Holy Spirit who sanctified us.
Glory to the most high and undivided Trinity,
whose works are inseparable,
whose kingdom without end abides,
from age to age forever. Amen.
Sunday After Pentecost
There are many ways to praise God. God has placed praise on our lips and words of joyfulness on our tounges. Let’s listen to the same song (Ode to Joy/Joyful Joyful) performed in various ways:
Did you listen to all of them? Which one was your favorite? Why?
When it comes to praising God, there are as more ways to praise Him than there are stars in the heavens. The means to praise Him may vary, but the end is to praise Him.