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Friday, December 18, 2015

Another Year

I am not sure how old I was when it dawned on me (or someone told me) that Christmas and the New Year did not come at exactly the same time everywhere in the world.  I am not sure how I felt when I learned the kids in Europe had opened their presents six hours before I did.  And for sure, I do not think I could quite grasp the fact that Chinese kids had done their New Year’s party at noon my time.  And by the time I watch an old year go out and welcomed a new one, the Chinese had just had their lunch!

Now I know fully that all this is due to the fact that our earth is round.  It is a big ball.  And it takes the ball twenty-four hours to spin around one time.  I know this in my head, but honestly I have had very few experiences to convince me the earth is round!  It still looks flat, except when you get in the mountains.  But there is nothing even with the mountains that would tell us the earth is round.  I don’t doubt the scientists, but I do have to take it on faith. 

What really intrigues me is the whole idea of time.  Clearly, day comes, followed by night, and yet another new day.  That is pretty easy to grasp.  Along the way some smart person figured out how to measure time.  Days and nights were no-brainer measurements.  If I go to sleep when it gets dark, at some point I realize it is getting light.  So I conclude the night is “over.”  And a “new” day has come.  It can’t be the “old” day.  That was destroyed by “last” night. 

And then, the measurements of time became more specific.  Hours were invented; then seconds.  It takes twenty-four hours in one day-night cycle.  Given this, China can be twelve hours “ahead” of me since China is half way ‘round the globe. 

I think it would have taken a little longer to figure out the cycle of years.  Spring giving way to summer and then falling leaves and snow became clues.  “Years” became the measurement of this cycle.  Our calendar decides the New Year comes with January 1.  For Christians and Jews this follows upon the Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations. 

For me these holiday seasons and New Year’s Day always feel like a coming and going.  But that’s time.  And that’s life.  You can’t grip it, you can’t hold it, you can’t stop it.  You live it.  And hopefully, you live it as meaningfully as you can. 

Sometimes meaning comes really easily.  It is almost effortless and is like grace.  And sometimes, life throws you a curve and it is difficult, if not unimaginable, how to make meaning.  I think in most cases meaning is made.  Many of us don’t think about it this way; somehow, it is tempting to think meaning either “is or isn’t.”  We don’t realize the power of our choice.  We don’t fully appreciate the fact that we can make meaning out of almost anything that time delivers to us.  To make meaning is a form of power.  Victor Frankl recognized this power even in the throes of a Nazi concentration camp. 

Indeed, we cannot always change the situation in which we find ourselves.  But we always have the choice how we view the situation.  Neither Nazi guard nor anyone else can deprive us of that freedom.  I take solace in this.  But I also realize I need to take responsibility. 

If meaning is made, then I want to make good choices so that my meaning can be as full and rich as possible.  All my “yesterdays” are gone.  The New Year is upon us.  In addition to scientists, I also have faith in the God who is present to us in all our times. 

May we recognize and respond to that God.  May that God bless you and me…in every new day that comes our way.

This is the last message until the University opens again January 4, 2016.
If you would like a reminder to begin reading again, email me at: akolp@bw.edu

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Alone or Together

The title for this inspirational piece could also be written in a different way.  I could have chosen to say “alone and together.”  In either case the question in my mind is how people in general and how I in particular practice the spiritual journey.  On one hand the answer is obvious.  My spiritual journey is mine alone.  You cannot do my spiritual journey and I cannot do yours.  From this perspective to pose the question, alone or together, is senseless.  It seems like my spiritual journey is done alone.
There is no way I can speak for the majority of Americans who actually would say they are on a spiritual journey.  However, I would guess that many, if not most of them, are doing their spiritual journey alone.  I would say this even knowing that a significant portion of people on their spiritual journey are folks who go to church, attend a synagogue or mosque. 
I say this because I do not consider going to worship---in whatever tradition that happens---to be the same thing as being on a spiritual journey.  In fact, I think it is very easy to go to a worship service, participate in that service and be on no spiritual journey whatsoever.  A journey is a daily spiritual walk.  Worship is seldom that for so many of us.  Worship is usually for an hour; the spiritual journey is for a lifetime.
It is worth offering some details about the nature of a spiritual journey.  A spiritual journey is an intentional, directed way of living our lives.  For me personally, the journey is tied to my conviction there is a Higher Being---a God---who has a desire for me.  God’s desire for me is to grow more and more into a loving human being.  To do so only means I am beginning to fulfill the purpose for which God created me.  I am to love God and to love my neighbor as myself.  That is the simple definition of the spiritual journey.  It is an intentional journey into love---growing from someone who can choose to love into someone who is by definition love.  To be love means I am loving at all times with all people in all situations.
Clearly that is an ideal.  But the ideal does not mean the same thing as impossible.  Because the ideal is possible, I can aim for it and grow toward it.  I know I have to do this on my own.  In that sense I do go it alone.  Either I do it or the spiritual journey is merely an idea.  I have to put it into practice.  And because it is a journey, I do it today and again tomorrow.
I do it alone.  But I wonder, is that it?  Is there no role for any other person in my spiritual journey?  When it is posed that way, the answer seems fairly clear.  Of course, there is a role for others to play in my spiritual journey.  As I look back on my journey, there have been a significant number of folks who have been together with me on the journey.
Sometimes it has been one other person.  At other times, it was a small group of people.  Most of the time it has been a group of people I call community.  Community has been crucial for my spiritual journey.  In fact, without community I probably would have ditched or, certainly, failed in my journey alone.  There are just too many temptations to quit or go down blind alleys.  On my own I am probably too helpless, hapless and hopeless!
I am not so naïve as to think that the community does it for me.  They do not take away my choice to practice the spiritual journey.  I chose to keep on the journey.  Community supports, cajoles, encourages and cares for me along the way.  I do the same for others with whom I am in community.  In this sense we are all in it together.
We are all in it together, but we each have to do our journey by ourselves---alone.  I do the practicing.  I do the loving.  I do the serving---all these are basic components of the spiritual journey.  In the beginning I posed the question whether the journey was done alone or together?  I recognized an alternative, namely, it might be alone and together.  After thinking about it, I realize it does not matter.
What matters is choosing to transform life into a spiritual journey.  Finally, that is likely the only way that life will have ultimate meaning.  Until I make that choice, nothing spiritual is happening.  The choice and the spiritual journey are mine and mine alone.  No one else can do it for me.
Having said that, I also realize that I do the spiritual journey together with others in my life.  I like to think about these people as my spiritual community.  They respect that I am on the journey alone---just as they are.  But I also am deeply grateful that they are there for me to be with me.  I can’t imagine making it any other way.  I am on the way---but I have a long way to go.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Servant Leader

I have been privileged to be able to see myself as a leader.  I do bring some native talent to the leadership opportunities I have had, but I also have had a helping hand offered by many different people at a number of junctions in my life.  I have had many good leadership models to help me get clear about what leadership style fits my personality and my own Quaker convictions.  I also have watched some leaders whom I thought were not very good and were more of a negative model.  They showed me ways I never wanted to be seen as a leader.
I remember getting some leadership opportunities as early as elementary school.  In the bigger scheme of things, these were miniscule leadership chances.  However, they gave me an early chance to practice being a leader.  Much to my surprise, some other kids followed my lead!  I guess you are a leader if someone follows you.
As I grew, so did some of my leadership opportunities.  In high school I became more aware there were different ways to be a leader.  In my vainest moments I was attracted to leadership roles where I had authority.  Although I could boss people around, I soon realized this was not an effective leadership style for me.  I became aware that I am more of a nurturer and encourager.  That does not require raw, brute power to boss people around.  I developed what I might call a “pull strategy” as opposed to a “push strategy.”
Early in my working days I continued to get some leadership opportunities.  I tried to grow and develop and become a more effective leader.  As a Quaker, I was reminded time and time again that being a leader was not about me.  Some leaders stoke their egos.  Quakers insisted we get our egos out of the way.  Leadership is more about the vision and about the group.  Egomaniacs make lousy Quakers.  And I believe, egomaniacs make lousy spiritual leaders!
In the 1970s I became aware of a particular kind of leadership called the servant leader.  I was intrigued by that combination of words---servant and leader.  The focus was clear.  The noun was “leader.”  “Servant” was an adjective; it modified the noun.  Servant leadership is a particular style of leading.  I knew it resonated with my Quaker spirit.  And then, I had the opportunity to make a big difference in my leadership life.
I met Robert Greenleaf, then living in a Quaker retirement center near Philadelphia.  Greenleaf had coined the term, servant leader, and had begun to write extensively about it.  Greenleaf had been in business---AT&T back in the days when it was a corporate giant.  Greenleaf happened to be a Quaker.  Things began to click for me.  I knew I had found my leadership style and tried to hone my skills.  I have been trying to practice it ever since.
Greenleaf wrote quite a bit and one younger student of Greenleaf’s began to take up the servant leadership mantle.  Larry Spears was his name and he also was a Quaker.  I became acquainted with him and, then, became friends.  He helped me understand even more about this way of leading.  Let’s look at how he defines a servant leader.  "The servant-leader is servant first.  It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.  The conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.  The best test...is this: Do those served grow as persons?  Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"
I like Spears’ words that the servant leader begins with the feeling that he or she wants to serve.  That seems very spiritual to me.  An egomaniac has no interest in being served.  Instead the egomaniac expects to be served!  The servant leader makes a choice; to serve—to be there for the other.  Servant leaders willingly sacrifice their own interests and well being for others.  It is an act of love.
The test of the servant leader is clear and noble.  Do the ones I serve grow as persons?  I try to do this as a leader in my classroom.  The neat thing about this leadership test is we all can practice leading in almost any situation.  Do I help others to grow as people?  Do they become healthier, wiser and more free?  If the answer is yes, then I have been an effective leader.  I may get no credit, but that’s ok.  I can be a leader, not an egomaniac!
The servant leadership test goes further.  Do the people I serve become more autonomous?  That means that my leadership helps the other become more able to operate on their own.  Autonomy means I help others stand on their own two feet.  And finally, does my leadership help others become inclined to be servant leaders in their own right?  If this answer again is yes, then I have done a superb job of unlocking and unleashing more spiritual servant leaders in the world.
In a sneaky spiritual way, the servant leaders have engaged the task of kingdom building in the way Jesus meant for us to work for peace and to bring joy.  I am happy to do my share in this work---the work of leading as a servant.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Otherize is not a word I use every day.  I suspect many folks have never heard the word.  It seems fairly east to guess what it means, even if you have never seen it.  The sad fact is people can “otherize” other people without knowing the word itself.  To otherize someone or some group is both a perception and an action.  It is important and, often, is a spiritual issue.
Most recently, I ran into the term in an Op Ed piece by Nicholas Kristof that was entitled, “How Well Do You Know Your Religion?”  I have a great deal of respect for Kristof’s work.  He is a double winner of the Pulitzer Prize as an American journalist.  He often writes on human rights issues, poverty and the like.  When he speaks, I pay attention.  So I obviously was intrigued by the title of this piece.
The context for the remarks is comments from some American politicians that we ought to bar any Muslims from coming into our country.  The implication that goes along with this is that we ought to be suspicious of any Muslims living in our country.  Kristof suggests that some Americans have the perception that “Islam is rooted in misogyny and violence, incorrigible because it is rooted in a holy text that is fundamentally different from others.”  In other words this perception contends that the Qur’an (Koran) teaches readers to hate women and be violent.
The implication again is that ours---our scriptures are different and better.  By “our” scriptures we are talking about the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and, of course, the New Testament.  Jews and Christians alike can share this perception.  To have this view clearly puts the Muslim in his or her place.  Their holy text, their religion and they are not as good as we are.  The process of otherizing has begun.
I think Kristof now offers a telling point.  He contends, “There’s a profound human tendency, rooted in evolutionary biology, to ‘otherize’ people who don’t belong to our race, our ethnic group, our religion.  That’s particularly true when we’re scared.”  I don’t know whether proof is possible when it comes to his contention, but I am convinced.  And I have some experience that I think backs it up.
We can take it out of the scary international realm of politics and current fear of terrorism.  I think we see a benign version of otherizing when we look at the world of sports.  Many of us have participated in this in a way that is fun and usually quite harmless.  Think of rivals in sports teams: the high school or college rivalries or the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry.  This is an inadequate example because we usually know the names and even the people of the opposite team. 
Nevertheless, in these rivalries the other team tends to be otherized.  Temporarily at least, they are “the enemy.”  It is easy to “hate” them.  During the game, we hope that we can “kill” them.”  Shame and humiliation would be a good thing.  It is fun to watch not only the other team “get it;” we are happy to have their fans experience it, too.
The good news in the sports world is the game is over and players usually shake hands and realize it is just a game.  It is not real life-and-death.  Otherizing the opponent normally is left to the sports context alone.  But even when I type that, I realize this may be easier said that done.  If I am a die-hard Red Sox fan, hating the Yankees is a commitment and a way of life.  I may joke about it, but underneath the joke is a tinge of sincerity.
When I take the otherizing tendency into the world of religion, it functions the same way.  My Bible is the truth and the “other” holy text is not even a holy text to me.  It serves me no purpose to think my text has alternative interpretations or even contradictions.  It is easy to see these problems in those other texts.  And to associate the text with the religion with the adherent of that religion is to begin otherizing him or her---or all of them!
If I otherize people this way, I lower their status beneath mine.  Otherizing people makes them less than human---they become “it.”  This typically cancels any obligation I might have to care.  There would be no role for compassion.  This is a perspective and it leads to particular kinds of action.  The course is set. 
It is not just my problem; it is everybody’s problem who otherizes folks.  Jews can do it; Muslims can do it; Hindus and Buddhists have done it.  All I can do is be as aware as I can of what commitments I have made.  My personal commitment is Christian which, I understand, commits me to follow Jesus.  I hear his counsel to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, and love your enemies.  This does not sound like otherizing.  I understand that all this can be dismissed as naïve, at best, or unrealistic and even stupid.
Like Jesus, I believe my ultimate commitment is to love.  If I have that perspective, it necessarily will lead to particular actions.  When I type that, I realize how easy it is to be a hypocrite.  All I can do is keep trying---not to otherize and to love. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Advent Season

For those of us in the Christian tradition, we are in Advent Season.  Advent is a four-week lead-up to Christmas.  I must admit, I enjoyed learning about this stuff since Quakers are not very liturgical.  I am pretty confident I never heard about the “liturgical year” until my college days.  It was that time in college when I became aware of what so many who grow up in the Roman Catholic tradition, Episcopal and Lutheran traditions, take for granted.  Advent is the beginning of the Christmas season and matches, in some real way, Lent as the lead-up to the Easter season.

The primary theme of Advent is “preparation.”  People are supposed to begin the preparation for the coming of Christmas.  It is easy these days to see how bent-out-of-shape our preparation has become.  These days preparation is likely to mean the beginning stress of Christmas shopping, etc.  I already begin to sense the frenzy in some voices of those who talk about “taking all Saturday” to get the gifts that many feel obligated to buy. 

Of course, I am too harsh on this.  I know Christmas is the highlight of many people’s lives.  It means kids who come home.  It means family time.  And it means so many other good things.  I do not belittle this for a moment.  Those are treasured times.  I hope to get my fair share of that experience, too.

But I am also convinced that Advent is something different that trips to the shopping center as preparation for Christmas.  Advent is meant to be a spiritual thing.  It is meant to prepare our hearts and souls for the coming season of Light.  I can see why this takes four weeks!  Heck, I think it will take me a lifetime!

A few weeks ago, I went to the annual Advent celebration sponsored by my College German Department.  Once upon a time, I was fairly fluent in German.  As with most things, when you don’t practice something, it becomes rusty and less useful.  I never go to this occasion with a resolve to study German in order to reach fluency again.  That would be a great skill, but it would take time and I am not sure that is the most effective use of the time I have.

But I do appreciate the chance to go into an experience where I basically know what is going on, but not sufficiently to be sure I know exactly what is going on.  This distinction I am trying to make here is an important one.  It is subtle, but important for me.  And I realize how well it describes the life of the Spirit for me---and maybe for many folks.

When I get honest about my life in the Spirit, I suspect it is a bit like my use of German now.  Basically, I know what is going on.  I can know the importance of prayer, of taking time in meditation, and so on.  I get it when the student began reading “Das Wort ward Fleisch”…(“The Word became flesh…”)  But my life in the Spirit can be just this: listening passively, understanding somewhat, and do nothing.

But the life of the Spirit can be more…can be so much more if I were able to know exactly what is going on.  This level takes me beyond merely listening.  For sure, it goes way beyond passive listening.  The authentic life of the Spirit is a call to action---a move from hearing to obedience.

The life of the Spirit is more.  It calls for deep understanding.  The life of the Spirit requires understanding that the spiritual adventure (ah, “advent!”) is an understanding so deep that I am transformed.  It is always bringing me to new Christmases---to new beginnings and new/re-newed life.

The new Christmas to which this adventure leads does not result in an “oh goody!” Christmas response.  It leads to Hallelujah!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Spirituality for All Seasons

Too often spirituality, and religion for that matter, is portrayed as the antidote to sadness, sickness and sundry other less than desirable aspects of life.  Of course, no one told me explicitly that was the case, but it is true this was the implication I took from my young days.  The implication was the truly religious or spiritual never would suffer from being sick, from being sad or other human maladies.  When I was young, I guess I thought religion was a kind of inoculation shot against human problems.
Now that I am older (but questionably wiser!), I don’t think this is true at all.  Religious and spiritual folks get sick just like normal people.  We have bouts of sadness just like all humans.  And we are not immune from any of the other maladies that afflict the human race.  In fact, I would argue to be human is to be a sitting duck for sadness, sickness and sundry other aspects of life.  That just seems to be the reality of the deal.  So what does this suggest about spirituality?
The first thing I take away from this question is my conviction that spirituality can never make us less than fully human.  In fact, I would argue just the opposite.  To be spiritual is to be as fully human as we can possibly be.  To be fully human never means that we won’t get sick.  Of course we will.  And clearly we will die.  And probably there will be suffering somewhere along the way of life.  And there are sundry other things lurking in the bushes of life that will ambush us---often when we are not even looking.
Maybe in Paradise it was different.  But as Genesis describes and John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden, tells the story, we are all living east of Eden---outside Paradise.  There, Adam had to begin working for a living---till the ground.  And Eve was given to childbirth---no easy task.  East of Eden is where one brother killed another brother. All the hallmarks of human strife and stupidity begin to characterize people living in a world of sin, having opted for that instead of the world of sanctity characteristic of Paradise.  We all live out our lives East of Eden. 
If all this is true, the obvious question asks, so what good is spirituality or religion then?  That is a fair question and not an easy one to answer.  My thinking on this was guided by some pondering on the Psalms.  Although the Psalmist uses some imagery that I might not use in my own writing, the Psalmist does get to the heart of things.  In some prayerful words to God the Psalmist complains, “The enemy has hounded my spirit, he has crushed my life to the ground, he has shut me in darkness, like the dead of long ago.”  Perhaps many of you would balk at the idea of an enemy hounding you.  “I don’t believe in a Devil,” you might say.  I am not sure I do either.  But look at it this way.
What if our enemy is not the Devil, but something else that is equally diabolical?  What if the enemy is cancer or depression?  What if our enemy is some kind of addiction that keeps us in an unseen prison?  The enemy might be a failing heart or kidneys.  It could be Alzheimer’s disease.  All of these feel like they attack the very core of our being.  They feel like an attack on our human worth and worthiness.  This is how I get hold of the Psalmist’s wisdom.
If I understand it this way, then I can appreciate that the enemy hounds my spirit.  The enemy crushes life---sometimes ultimately in our death.  The enemy can shut us in the darkness.  Surely, this is one apt description of my friends who suffer some emotional disturbance in life.  That is like moving from the light into the darkness.  Every one of these maladies feels very personal when it afflicts us.  But every one is characteristic of humanity as a whole.    The question is not whether I might be afflicted.  The real question is how does spirituality enable me to understand and deal with life at this level?
The obvious thing to say is spirituality does not make me immune from life’s troubles.   But I would argue, spirituality does provide some valuable means to cope with being human.  In my case, spirituality offers an intellectual means of understanding life in its entirety.  My view of myself and my world includes a loving God.  That God will not spare me any of the range of human experiences.  But the story of my God is the story of a compassionate, sacrificial God who can suffer.  This intellectual knowing does not magically help me rise above maladies.  But it does enable me to cope in healthy ways.
My spirituality also provides an emotional means to deal with life’s orneriness.  To be spiritual is not an option to be naive.  God does not come down and pat me on the head!  But I do think God is in it with me.  Personally, God comes into the picture for me with community.  My spirituality holds that God is at work in the world through people.  God continues the incarnating presence through my friends and, sometimes, through strangers.  Again, that does not mean my problems are solved.  Some problems never get “solved” in the sense that they disappear.  Spirituality can help me put my problems in their place.
The longer I live, the more convinced I am spirituality must be a spirituality for all seasons if it is going to be worth anything.  If spirituality is just for sunshiny days, then most of us will be in trouble when it gets cloudy!   

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Living God

In some recent reading I ran across a reference and quotation from one of my teachers in graduate school.  Just seeing his name made me smile.  Raimon Panikkar was an intriguing guy for an Indiana farm boy to encounter.  His class was an amazing experience, but he may have taught me even more by being himself.  Panikkar was born in 1918 in Barcelona, Spain.  His father was from India and was Hindu.  Panikkar’s mother was a Spanish Catholic from Catalonia.  Obviously, he was quickly into the interfaith movement!  And this he began teaching me, even when I did not have that language.

He looked like his Indian father.  He was a small man with a graceful presence that calmed every room I saw him walk into.  He had a charming smile that would have disarmed any malcontent.  But it was his brilliance that I found arresting.  That is not to say he was strong and arrogant.  To the contrary, he was entirely humble and simple.  He had doctorate degrees in science and theology.  He was an ordained Catholic priest.

For a few years he would show up at my alma mater to teach that semester and, then, in the summer he headed back to India to do research.  It was Panikkar who put me on my own global growth journey.  He was at home in worlds I did not even know existed.  For example, one of my favorite lines from Panikkar is autobiographical.  He quipped, “I started as a Christian, I discovered I was a Hindu and returned as a Buddhist without having ceased to be a Christian.”

And so my memories came crashing to the forefront of my mind when I saw a reference to Panikkar in a recent book by the Catholic theologian, Ilia Delio.  She is an amazing thinker in her own right---like Panikkar a scientist and theologian.  She is one of the most trusted thinkers I know doing work at the margin where religion and science meet.  It is in this context that she references Panikkar.

Delio brings Panikkar into the picture when she writes about God.  She says, “Raimon Pannikar said that wen theology is divorced from cosmology, we no longer have a living God, but an idea of God.”  Delio is concerned to describe God and the world or universe (theology and cosmology) in ways that keep them together.  In effect she wants us to understand that religion and science are complementary.  They go together.  You cannot separate them---even though most of us effectively have separated them.

I like very much Panikkar’s notion that you cannot divorce theology from cosmology.  If you take God out of the universe context in which we find God, then all that remains is an idea of God.  In effect that is what theology is: ideas about God.  That does not make them wrong.  But it does mean in one sense they are not real.  Panikkar, Delio and I are more interested in what he calls “the living God.”  This is the real God involved in the real world. 

This is the God to whom we pray and the God who somehow is both creative and sustaining of the world we know.  Panikkar worries that simply doing theology---taking God out of the world---risks simply dealing with this idea of God.  He puts it powerfully when he says if we do this, “God then becomes a thought that can be accepted or rejected rather than the experience of divine ultimacy.”  

I shudder when I read these words, because that describes the God about which I have spent years studying.  I have read many books on God and plan to keep reading those.  But I also am painfully aware that an idea about God is not the same thing as the living God.  I know at the deepest level no words can describe who God is.  When we use the English word, mystery, to describe God, that is precisely it.  God is mystery---and yet very real.  That is the God with which I deal and the God who deals with me.

I am confident of this, but certainly cannot prove it.  I can offer you my theology which adequately describes the God I encounter, but I also know this theology is a bit like cotton candy.  You take it in big doses and mysteriously it disappears!  I will keep doing theology, but more than that, I want to keep searching for and being available to the living God. 

That living God is the one who calls me deeper and deeper into the beauty and truth of this world and universe.  That is the God calling me and you to be healers of this vulnerable and fragile world of ours.  I suspect most of us despair that we can do anything or we are oblivious of the problems our world faces.  At best we have heard about global warming; at worst we think it is all a bunch of hooey.

If God is simply an idea, then the only worry we have is the harm we do to cosmology---to our world.  However, if there is a living God, then we need to get on the divine agenda.  Long, long ago one gospel writer started a line like this: “For God so loved the world…”  This living God cares for more than you and me.  The world counts, too.