Thursday, October 31, 2019

My Spiritual Journey




The Dalai Lama’s My Spiritual Journey presents this Buddhist’s life with extraordinary love, compassion and foresight.  It’s amazing to understand how at age two as a child he was discovered through established traditional norms to be the spiritual leader of Tibet.  Raised in a monastery under a regent the 14th Dalai Lama assumed his responsibility at the age of sixteen when the Chinese first invaded his ancestral home.

After failed negotiations with the People’s Republic of China the Dalai Lama escaped via the Himalayas Mountains to India.  While in Indian Territory with some eighty thousand refugees they re-established Tibet as a refugee nation under the auspices of the Indian government.  From their external home in Dharamsala the Dalai Lama persevered in an ongoing campaign with the Chinese officials for Tibet to be returned to Tibetans as an independent country.

All these negotiations failed although the Dalai Lama spelled out a Five-Point Peace Plan and had even agreed to drop its demands of an independence homeland to that of having a truly authentic and autonomous state.  But the People’s Republic of China viewed the Tibet-in-exile government with suspicion, and thought that their sole intention was to gain independence for Tibet.

Since the 1950’s to the early 2000’s Chinese brutality has continued with thousands of Tibetans losing their lives, wounded, and imprisoned.  Many Tibetans have continued to flee Tibet to neighboring countries, and died as they attempted to make their way via the Himalayas Mountains.  And China has relocated many more Han Chinese to the Tibetan region where they have now outnumbered Tibetans whose culture, language, and ecological means of living have been decimated.
But Tenzin Gyasto, Tibet’s spiritual leader has continued his campaign for their homeland.  As head of their government-in-exile he has received multiple awards and honorary degrees, including the Congressional Gold Medal and Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his message of peace, nonviolence, interreligious understanding and compassion.        

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Eucharist




In Johannes H. Emminghaus’s book entitled The Eucharist: Essence, Form, Celebration, its celebration starts out as an ordinary meal which was enjoyed in the early Jewish culture.  This custom was meant to call to mind the Passover that was from the days of the Exodus when the Israelites were liberated from Egypt.  This story is clear as Pharaohs charioteers were pursuing them, God paved a way through the Red sea where the waters enveloped their pursuers who were attempting to intercept them.

In the Old Testament God explained how they must celebrate the remembrance of the Passover.  Every Jewish household had to slaughter a lamb and prepare it in a special way.  They had to eat it when dressed just like when they were about to leave Egypt.  The doorposts of their homes were to be sprinkled with the animals blood, so that Gods judgment would pass over them, and they would be saved.  This rite was to be celebrated on every anniversary of their deliverance.  But over time changes were made because it had become too worldly.  It was therefore determined to have the Passover in a more suitable manner as a meal, giving praise, and thanksgiving to God for their deliverance.

The New Testament Eucharist 

Emminghaus showed in the New Testament the Eucharist was instituted as a memorial by Jesus Christ with his disciples, before he sacrificed his life on the cross at Calvary.  Christs salvation was to follow the customary Jewish tradition.  These meals however came to be abused, for although they were communal, guests like at Corinth overdid it with debauchery.  Thus the Eucharist later celebrated at the end of a meal failed to measure up to the divine standards of the sacrament.

It was later proposed that the Eucharist should stand by itself.  Since partaking of the elements of bread and wine were rather brief, this celebration evolved into the formulation of a Mass with the Liturgical Word, hymns, and the offering of the bread of life (Christs flesh, and wine) his blood.  Early in Christian history the Mass was formulated by Justin Martyr, the Greek Hippolytus, and passed down almost verbatim to the contemporary church.

The early churches were built to reflect the nature of the Mass.  Since Jerusalem was the focal point the congregation a priest faced the East.  The priest who presided at these ceremonies had their backs turned to the worshipers, but eventually this changed because of the layout of some churches.  Now a priest faces every direction - East, West, North, and South.  Altars have shifted to central locations within parishes with the seating arrangements in concentric circles around them. 

The Middle Ages

Through the Middle Ages the liturgical season of Holy Week and Eastertide were especially popular, because they gave scope for the imagination.  The people celebrated Palm Sundays procession with singing, the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday, the veneration of the cross on Holy Friday, and the unveiling of the cross.  The acclamations, reproaches, the Pascal Vigil, with the impressive lighting of the new fire, and the carrying of the “Light of Christ” into the dark church were greeted with joy.  The intense emotion, the blessing of the Easter candle, the baptismal water, and Easter day with its dramatic elements developed into Easter plays with the apostles, holy women coming to the tomb, and so forth were some highlights

But Emminghaus wrote that the liturgy by the end of the Middle Ages and on the eve of the Council of Trent (15451563) was deficient for it failed to grasp its real nature.  There were abuses and one-sided popular piety, a decadent condition of the church as a whole, the great schism, selfish political interests, and social upheavals.  Gods word in the scripture was not being preached, rituals were hindering it, and this was not helping the congregation’s spiritual life.  These doctrinal controversies of the Reformation led to a new Roman Missal of Pope Pius V the Latin Rite being restored, greater centralization, and a return to “the primitive rule of prayer.”  Between 1570, and the year of Pope Pius Vs calendar reform, 1914, one hundred and eleven new feast days were added.  There were increased feasts for Doctors of the Church, and some thirty of these by 1959.

The 20th Century Liturgy

Since the 20th century the liturgy was restored to a more profound theological grasp of its characteristics.  It was realized that it was a communal, salvific celebration of Gods people of the new covenant when the body was gathered in Jesus name with each member playing a distinct role.  This long break through was finally achieved at the Second Vatican Council that adapted new conditions of reforms. 

Before and around 1800 desires for liturgical reforms went back to the time of the Enlightenment.  With these changes came better and more frequent sermons, and led to the methodical catechists in the church and school.  It saw the use of the vernacular language, encouraged the faithful to take a “rational” part in the celebration, enriched the liturgy at the parish level, and reformed the administration of the sacraments.  These changes promoted the continuing education of the clergy through study, and pastoral conferences.  And people were now able to receive the Eucharist more frequently.  The age for first communion was lowered, and there was more active participation of the community in public worship.          

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Prophet Muhammad




Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong is a rather compelling biography.  Prophet Muhammad (C. 570–632 CE) was born in Mecca and preached “surrender” (Arabic word for islam) to God.  He experienced conflicts in his ancestral home with the city ruled by Quraysh.  So he migrated to Medina whereas Muslims he dwelt with warring tribes.  There he recognized the “People of the Book” – Jews and Christians, and were supported by Bedouins.  Muhammad taught his adherents to imitate the way he “spoke, ate, loved, washed, and worshiped.”
While living in Medina he made alliances, and married daughters of chieftains from different tribes.  These women meant a lot to him, and he received revelations concerning their rights that are verses in the Qur’an.  But these proclamations caused animosity among some of his male followers.  
Muhammad however stuck by these divine messages, and the community adhered to his teachings.
As a leader of the Muslims, Muhammad led raids and pilgrimages to Mecca.  Eventually he succeeded with his Medinese followers in bringing peace as they reached the Kabah.  Despite his successful return to Mecca where he gained more converts he decided to live in Medina.  When Muhammad died he was succeeded by caliphs.  Islam later ended up being splintered into sects viz., Sufi, Sunni, and Shi’ah.      

Friday, October 25, 2019

American Culture




American Culture

What a joy it is to hold a culture in high esteem.  American popular culture though has some drawbacks.  Carl Bernstein (b. 1944), an investigative journalist of the Washington Post wrote, “The lowest form of popular culture – lack of information, misinformation, disinformation and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives – has overrun real journalism.”  People find these shortcomings in the sensationalism, tabloids, pop music, and erroneous displays in some forms of art.

All however isn’t lost.  But it takes acceptance of a religious faith, for cultural peddlers to live according to what’s right in pursuing stories that uplift us.  Strange as it may seem people in the media’s audience buy into what is presented to them.  Even religious believers fall victims to ubiquitous displays of cultural distortions.  Some might say, “Everyone is watching salacious material, so why can’t I?  It gives me pleasure.”  People must realize they are falling victims to such presentations. 

Cultural Appreciation

Cultural appreciation goes way back to the Egyptians, Greeks, Italian Renaissance, and Reformation.  In the West Europeans are loved for their classical tradition.  Masters like Beethoven, Handel, and Mozart are held in high esteem.  People feel empowered by fast automobiles, airplanes, nuclear power, and technological advancements.  In the pop music Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Billy Joel, the Beatles, and Supremes were icons in the society.  And music of different genres, e.g., rock ‘n’ roll, country & western, Christian, and jazz are alive and well. 

Billy Joel (b. 1949), a pianist and singer-songwriter said, “I think music itself is healing.  It’s an explosive expression of humanity.  It’s something we are all touched by.  No matter what culture we are from, everyone loves music.”  Music appeals to people in unique ways.  Some might disagree with the quality of some genres.  What’s known is that with hymns God’s exalted.  Many have been converted by hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “Bread of Life, Hope of the World,” “Holy God, You Raise Up Prophets,” “Song of the Body of Christ,” and “We Shall Overcome.”

The American Dream

Most immigrants land on our shores with hopes of achieving the American dream.  When people reflect on this dream they think of worldly and material benefits.  This might mean acquiring their own home, finding a good job, having a loving family, a station wagon, or, sports car, and living in the suburbs.  This dream is somewhat different to every immigrant.

Some might see living a religious life as a top priority.  Walt Disney (19011966), an entrepreneur and film producer wrote, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Undoubtedly, since for the major religions loving, and serving their fellowmen are important it’s wise to embrace such values.  These attributes are essential in shaping the American dream.

Moral Standards

To improve American popular culture people have to live up to higher moral standards.  H. L. Mencken (18801956), a journalist and satirist said, “I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie.  I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave.  And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.”  People ought to consider Mencken’s perspective as empowering.  It’s wise to know the reasons for doing what we do rather than being ignorant.  American immigrants and non-immigrants alike ought to pursue a good education for it’s a liberating force.  Knowledge is beneficial in building up the American culture.          

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Spirituality



What is spirituality?

Spirituality is predictable and unpredictable.  Its recognition could be the result of suffering, misfortune, or failure that reveals the true nature of circumstances.  It could be based on the appreciation, success, or an accomplishment that’s beautiful and awe inspiring.  In short, it is the insights gained of a transcendent reality from such diverse occurrences.

Erwin K. Thomas, Interfaith Author

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Interfaith Alternative



In the Interfaith Alternative by Steven Greenebaum I rather like the recognition given to the commonalities of the major religions.  But how will this church handle differences in religious beliefs?  I have read about these problems, and watched documentaries addressing such issues.  And there are some unique beliefs to try and integrate in such a church. 

This book focuses on compassion, love, and respect for all faith traditions.  This approach is understandable, but the author’s treatise doesn’t show exactly how the teachings of this new church will be accomplished.  For example, “Is this church Trinitarian, mono, or poly-theistic?”  “What is its belief about sin and salvation?”  “Will they have baptisms?”  “Will they celebrate certain religious and secular holidays? “What is the church’s teaching on the sexual orientation?  These are some questions not discussed in the text.

Greenebaum’s approach seems similar to those of the Unitarian Universalists and Baha’i because the Interfaith Alternative tent consists of other religions.  But when someone reads this book there’s no mention of a doctrine.  Simply stating that different faith traditions would share their beliefs with members of their congregation isn’t quite clear.  Since early Christendom Christian denominations have undertaken ecumenical ventures with some success.  But an interfaith undertaking will do much more in embracing a multiplicity of religions

Monday, October 21, 2019

Wake Up





Sam Harris’s Waking Up is a thoughtful account about how to tap into one’s consciousness.  The author who is a neuroscientist discussed the right and left brain dichotomy.  Our right brain functions quite differently from the left, but still they are complimentary.

Harris discussed many topics that have to do with the brain, thinking, and feeling.  Some of these are reflections of the mind, hallucinations, near death experiences, and the role of drugs.  And the author made trips to the Far East to have experiences from gurus.  But he ended up not being impressed with some of their meditational practices.

As a scientist the author evaluated a variety of practices while attempting to explore consciousness.  For him people didn’t have to be religious to reap these benefits.  But Harris’s own approach to meditation had to be subjected to scientific scrutiny.  That is why as an atheist he didn’t think much about the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that based many of their beliefs on faith.

Harris’s book will shake up what believers think about their religion.  And although the writer found benefits in meditation, still he exposes some of the Far Eastern gurus that were nothing more than charlatans.  So Waking Up isn’t a book that is promoting any religious belief, but its contents are geared to those who wish to reap the benefits of meditation without a religion.  So this guide to spirituality without religion should be read by believers and non-believers alike, who wish to tap into consciousness by submerging “I” in their thinking, and showing compassion towards others.    

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Alcoholism




Alcoholism

 “I am more afraid of alcohol than of all the bullets of the enemy.”
 Stonewall Jackson (1824–1863), Confederate General of the American Civil War   

 “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
 Samuel Johnson (1709–1784), English writer and lexicographer  

“Alcohol has caused numerous problems in the lives of people.  Some however were able to have their addiction treated, while others were unable to do so.  Writers have described the impact of alcohol abuse on the American economy.  A brand of liquor was even named after the renowned Indian chief Oglala Sioux, but several states banned this alcoholic drink.
Erwin K. Thomas, Interfaith author

“Higher Power was the result of a personal experience: a friend of mine who went through the process of addiction and recovery.  It’s a very tough thing - very easy to become addicted and very, very hard to become a recovering addict.”
Tom Scholz (b. 1947), rock musician and engineer      


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Acts of Love




Acts of Love

Acts of love bring us joy.  While performing such acts people are blessed by God’s grace.  These gifts become apparent when we love others.  God’s love that flows from heaven sustains souls, and causes the unification with the Holy Spirit. For the good news of the Gospel is that with faith people will find security.  Tullian Tchividjian (b. 1972), a professor of Theology and pastor said, “Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better.  If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”  What great news this is for those who have fallen short of God’s promises! 

Sowing

People must love their neighbors as themselves by sharing warmth and tenderness in their relationships.  It’s Christ’s love that makes hope blossom, but such a revelation has to be nurtured. By doing good deeds people come to know divine beauty.  This wondrous love is beyond comparison because it’s found deep within our hearts.  It’s revealed through Christ’s promises.  An author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh (19062001) wrote, “For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”  How wonderful God’s security is in believers’ lives!  Billy Graham (b. 1918), an evangelical preacher said, “God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”

People must always put love into practice while serving mankind.  This calls for having humble hearts and a positive outlook.  Such care must be meaningful and authentic.  This is often demonstrated in the Eucharistic celebration of the supper of the Lamb when Christ is adored.  And all are welcomed at his feast.  Through participation believers put into practice their faith.  Martin Luther King, Jr. (19291968), a Baptist minister and civil rights leader said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”  People’s failure to sow love, and making themselves heard are surely the sort of tragedy to which King was alluding.

Service

Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), a South African retired Anglican bishop wrote, “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”  Such love is universal.  At the sublime level it’s one of connection.  People promote this truth when they come forward to do their part in the communities where they live.  This service is created, recreated, nurtured, and blossoms into amazing realities.  It’s holy and expresses the eternal blessings of our Creator. 

Love is a true gift for all living souls.  Albert Camus (19131960), a French author and philosopher captured this best when he said, “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.  This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”  Cycles of creative forces keep moving us forward to tap into a newer and better world.  This is through the recognition of the Holy Spirit working in our midst. 

      

Friday, October 11, 2019

Spiritual Acts




Spiritual Acts

“Believe it or not, Christianity is not about good people getting better.  If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.”   
Tullian Tchividjian (b. 1972), professor of Theology and pastor  

 “For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”
 Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906–2001), author and aviator     

 “God proved His love on the Cross.  When Christ hung, and bled, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”
Billy Graham (1918-2018), evangelical preacher

 “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), Baptist minister and leader of the civil rights movement    

 “You don’t choose your family.  They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.”
Desmond Tutu (b. 1931), South African retired Anglican bishop    . 

 “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle.  This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”
 Albert Camus (1913–1960), French author and philosopher   
      

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Harvest of Blessings



Harvest of Blessings

Jesus told the Jews to believe in the works which he did and they will know who he is.  These gifts were from the Father, for he was the Son of God.  In Isaiah 35:5 God promised the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.   Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego were bound and thrown into a burning furnace, but they were seen walking in the midst of flames that didn’t harm them.  Hezekiah was sick, and about to die, when Isaiah the prophet was told by God to let him know he has heard his prayers.  God added some fifteen more years to his life.  Living abundantly in the Lord, leads to a harvest of blessings.

Joel Osteen (b. 1963), a televangelist and senior pastor of Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas, said: “When you focus on being a blessing, God makes sure that you are always blessed in abundance.”  By not being self-centered and reaching out to others Christians freely share these blessings.  The more they honor people the more they are blessed by God. 

When offering blessings we mustn’t distinguish between the rich and poor.  We’re all God’s children.  President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough to those who have little.”  Roosevelt was cognizant that the poor has a special place in the eyes of God.

God’s Gifts

Abundance might not come only with material wealth.  Some might have these comforts and be miserable.  The founder of Simple Abundance Charitable Fund, Sarah Breathnach (b. 1947) wrote, “Whatever we are waiting for – peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance – it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”  No doubt, we have to be in the right frame of mind to accept such gifts.  Are your hearts open to God?

People might make distinctions concerning their prayers.  Often we pray when faced with setbacks and challenges.  Khalil Gibran (1883–1931), a Lebanese-born artist and writer captured this phenomenon by saying, “You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might also pray in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.”   In being blessed with the gifts from God’s bounty we ought to thank him.  Christians doing so will surely receive more blessings.

Love What You Do

You must love what you do.  By so doing you’ll be happy when you spread your blessings with others.  A self-help author and motivational speaker Wayne Dyer (1940–2015) wrote, “Doing what you love is the cornerstone of having abundance in your life.”  You don’t have to wonder about those things about which you have no interest.  Do the tasks that bring you joy, happiness, and peace of mind.  All believers are blessed with at least one gift.

In our society there are some who are blessed with material gifts.  A Spanish priest and theologian Saint Ignatius (14911556) said, “If God has given you the world’s goods in abundance, it is to help you gain those of Heaven and be a good example of sound teaching to your sons, servants, and relatives.”  In short, it depends on how you use your treasure.  For Saint Ignatius these gifts have to be instruments for blessing people.  This is the way to live with wealth.     

Monday, October 7, 2019

A Christian Allegiance




A Christian Allegiance

Dan Quayle (b. 1947), vice president of the United States declared, “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Savior, for whose Kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe.”  Quayle certainly made his pledge against sin, fallacies, idolatrous pride, and fear.  Like Christians he could now approach God and seek his friendship, for he knows that obeying his laws are of paramount importance.  He accepts God’s freedom and privileges.  Christians like Quayle are continuing to do good deeds.  They are spreading good seeds even after the storms of life. 

Mankind is born with the proclivity to sin.  Our lives have marks of evil, pride, display of personal power, and we aren’t humble.  But it’s right to change our behavior to a childlike trust in the supreme being of Jesus Christ.  It’s beneficial to participate in communal prayer and listen to the tick-tock of our consciences.  In word and action we must be contemplatives.  Martin Luther King, Jr. (19291968), a Baptist minister and Civil Rights leader said, “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive.  He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.  There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.  When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”  By prayer and the working of the Holy Spirit, believers should pursue higher goals in their lives.

Transformation of Hearts

William Gaddis, Jr. (19221998), a novelist remarked, “Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”  That’s why leaders and followers alike ought to turn away from the corrupting nature of their hearts that are evil. It was sin which led to the first humans’ downfall when their actions betrayed their trust of God.  Let us reform our hearts by daily prayer and not be blind to the truth of the Word.  Further, accept Christ’s expiation of our sins and feed on his teachings.  On our journey toward heaven it’s inevitable we’ll face tests.  You should embrace setbacks boldly and let your faith grow.  Do away with the desire to live sensually and be steadfast in your Christian walk.

The Bible says our hearts are filled with lustful desires.  These conditions eat away at the good in us.  In reading Scripture we’re distracted by fallen angels, transgressions, and evil that doesn’t enthrone God.  To counter these defects let us be athletes of the living God.  Let us dedicate ourselves to the faith and persevere in the race.  Be Christian models in our churches.  It’s wise to remember that almost everything we’re bound to make errors in judgment.  Jacob Bronowski (19081974), a Polish-Jewish and British author wrote, “No science is immune to the infection of politics and the corruption of power.”  Bronowski held a different perspective of power than Gaddis.  But an important way of thinking about power is that, leaders who wield it, have to be wise about how it’s used.            

Our goals in life must be what Quayle said earlier.  It’s about allegiance to Jesus Christ – not just any allegiance, but a holy one.  This hope for our life could only be found through the Cross of Calvary.  With such beliefs lie redemption from sin and salvation. It’s therefore right to rid ourselves of our sinful natures and put on righteousness.  For with God, we’ve to be pure, and free from sin, to enter his Heavenly Kingdom.   

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In Memory of Joy Lynette Thomas (1960-2019)




In Memory of Joy Lynette Thomas (1960–2019)

Joy Lynette Thomas faced her terminal illness of cancer with dignity and died on Saturday, September 28, 2019.  Though she lived in many ways a simple and unassuming life she was very special.  And her family and friends living in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, and America will surely miss her.  So too will her children Richard and Nicole, who lost their mother at the tender age of 59.

“God who is all in all, predictable and unpredictable, the existence of a mystery, and always greater than conceived” would surely receive her soul.  Included is my last email to Joy, my youngest sister, and her reply.


Sep 2 at 7:19 AM

Joy,

I was thinking about you and all the things you are going through.  Just hope that in these trying times you will find time to talk with Nicole, Richard, and other members of the family.  Please know that you can always ask us for help when you need it.  We are here to make you feel as comfortable as possible in your ordeal.  We will continue to lift you up in our thoughts and prayers.  God bless!

With Love,

Kenny & Mary 

ErwinKThomas, Ph.D.


Sep 3 at 8:18 AM

Kenny,

I do appreciate you taking the time to communicate with me your sentiments. I do appreciate all prayers you and Mary have said.  It’s comforting knowing your family care and concern. God Bless 🙏

Love,

Joy