The Las Vegas Incident

A very respected friend asked if I would speak Sunday about the Las Vegas shooting. She wanted me to address three questions: Why does it happen? When will it end? How can I rise above it? I’d like to address these questions here.

Q: Why does it happen?
A: There are a lot of very messed up people on this planet. We like to think that most see the world as we do, that we make mistakes, and we try to correct them. We may have a flawed, even painful history that we work to correct. We’re probably right in thinking that most people are trying to do the same. But most is not all, and it only takes one deranged individual to grab the headlines by committing mass homicide. How many deranged individuals are there in the world? All the numbers and statistics generated by the professionals probably don’t include that person next door that actually ends up pulling that trigger.

Q: When will it end?
A: It won’t. Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have committed senseless atrocities against other human beings. These things happen and our leaders stand up and declare we must pass laws that guarantee such things will never happen again. Yet, even after all of these countless declarations, we’ve just witnessed the worst mass shooting in recent American history.

Tim McVeigh, in his Oklahoma City bombing, killed 168 innocent people with a fertilizer-based bomb, simply because he hated the U.S. government. If we can appease every beef that every individual has with whoever affected them at some strange point in their life, then we may be able to end the human-on-human atrocities. Personally, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Q: How can I rise above it?
A: A truly empathetic person will never rise above the shock or the pain of loss that this kind of situation generates. We all think: What if my kid was there? We can’t imagine a concert, intended for pure entertainment, turning into a struggle for survival. We can’t imagine the shock families and friends must experience when they’re given the horrible news that a loved one has just been killed by some self-loathing guy with a death wish. How do you rise above it? You don’t. And you shouldn’t even try. At least not now.

We’ll all put this in perspective. We’ll get on with our lives. And … we’ll all meet that moment when we step from this body. The death of the body is not an end. I don’t think any one of us will condemn the means by which we leave our body. We’ll all be grateful for the adventures we had on this planet. But, relatively speaking, none of us will be here all that long. We won’t stop the killers. But the killers will never stop us.

From, The Complete Soul

Our prodigal awareness, forever trolling the reef-laden shallows of the material domain, never quite forgets that our real home has no shores. We sit in the safety of the harbor with our books, our teachers and our sacred scriptures. We visit the beach, gaze in reverence and wonder into that mist-shrouded horizon that stirs in us a strange mix of mystery and primordial familiarity. With our values, our house and our affairs orderly and firmly established in harbor life, we think a certain way, the starting point always from these surrounding beaches. We contemplate and read about the sea and we seek to reconcile the fact that we are so deeply moved by this boundless vista, this restless living thing that stirs before us.

Then, at some unexpected moment, a profound revelation breaks into our awareness. Our house may indeed stand in the harbor, our ship, safely moored at the pier, but our true home is the open sea. This incessant longing that keeps bringing us back to the wonder we behold from this beach, to the feel of cool waves washing over our feet, is that completed part of us that never has and never shall leave the unconditional freedom of this eternal sea. To know this truth and to value it above all is to put our heart in the Truth that makes us free.

The Truth About Miracles

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Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children (Matthew 14:19-21).

If we consider Jesus our spiritual example, if we take him at his word that the works he did we can do also, and greater things, a story like this, meant to inspire, can inadvertently discourage. How many of us are even close to being able to perform such a miracle? This type story forces us to conclude that Jesus was either a different kind of human, or we have a very, very long way to go in our quest for spiritual understanding.

I have heard the concept of a miracle described in two ways. The first is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” The second sees the miracle as “the fulfillment of a natural law we do not yet understand.” A prehistoric people who witnessed a jumbo jet flying over their heads, for example, would undoubtedly conclude they had witnessed a miracle. Yet the laws that allow a multi-ton craft to fly were as much in place then as now. A miracle to one is routine to another.

If we focus on this story as a miracle, we miss the principle it teaches. There is a condition of lack and apparently not enough supply to meet the need. Jesus, looking up to heaven, took his eyes off the appearance. He gave thanks for the answer before it was apparent. He then took the action of passing out the little he had. In other words, he began giving in the very face of lack, a clear act of faith. One writer suggested that as he began to give, others, following his lead, brought out food they surely would have taken with them. After all, five-thousand desert dwellers would not be foolish enough to venture into the wilderness without proper provisions.

Such stories, passed down orally for decades, undoubtedly suffer from excessive elaboration. God incarnate, after all, must be shown to wield power over nature. The problem is that we place our faith in the so-called miracle worker and miss the transforming principle that we can apply to our own situation. In most cases, it doesn’t take an inexplicable breach in natural law to bring a desired change. Action based on trust in God is the real change agent demonstrated by Jesus. This is certainly a thing he did that we can do as well.