Category Archives: Inspiration

Wise words from Canada—and the smartest guy you never heard of.

view_on_north_saskatchewan_river_west_of_glenbrook_farm_below_edmonton_alberta_15358789091-e1469655611222

By Provincial Archives of Alberta, via Wikimedia Commons

This story first appeared July 27, 2016, at Patheos where I write a regular weekly column called Wake Up Call.

I’ve honored the deceased recently, including my buddy Terry, a good man who passed away at 55 from a sudden heart attack, and my wise expat friend from France, John, who passed away in April. Now it’s time to honor the living—a guy who I feared might have joined Terry and John.

There’s a blogger from Edmonton, in Alberta, Canada by the name of Ivon Prefontaine. He gave me a jolt a few days ago when I suddenly realized I had not received a blog update from him in several weeks. For a few years now, I’ve looked forward to his regular e-mail missives and when I went to his Web site, Teacher as Transformer, there were no signs of activity since late-May.

It didn’t seem right, someone who blogged frequently to suddenly go silent, so I reached out to Ivon—and discovered he is alive and well. He informed me he is busy finishing a book, which has taken up a lot of his time, so had put his blog on hold.

Ivon is a writer and fan of poetry, neither of which I can say about myself, and he regularly shares poems he admires. But what pulls me into his blog posts aren’t the poems themselves, but his writings about them, which are full of great depth and insight. For me, they put a context around the words, and are often are more illuminating than the poetry itself.

Without further adieu, here are four examples of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings from his Web site:

Freedom to Choose

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space there is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom. ~Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl was a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed a school of psychiatry called logotherapy, which is the search for meaning in life. He used his experiences as a Holocaust survivor to help inform his findings.

Humans choose their responses and seek life’s meaning. When we lose our meaning in life, we drift, feeling rudderless and without mooring. What keeps us grounded are the choices we make in life and the meaning we find in life. For example, becoming a teacher, a farmer, a parent, etc. gives life purpose and calls us to take action.

We express who we are through responding to the continuous calling, the vocation, that we find through various meaningful roles. When and if we find our life’s meaning, it allows us to make a difference in the world, for other sentient beings, and for the non-sentient elements of the world. We care for all aspects of the world and feel connected to it.

Thomas Merton suggested some humans find their calling and others search throughout life, unable to find it. Perhaps, it is they do not hear what calls them and are unable to respond. Mindfulness and silence open spaces to hear the calls that give our lives meaning and make living meaningful.

Lost

 I sometimes feel lost in the world, without bearings. David Wagoner counseled that when we feel lost, to stop and listen to the world, as if it were the forest and a powerful stranger able to speak to us.

When I stop and pray, I ask someone for help, but, if I rush on, without listening, the prayer cannot be answered. I pose a question that I cannot answer. Prayer is not just speaking. My heart opens and receives what is returned to me.

Is it in the form of words? Or, is it the gentle breath that is hardly perceptible? When I am mindful and listen to listen, I intuitively sense differences. Mindfulness becomes an attentive and sensitive way of life, as opposed to just happening.

Still Point

Max Reif describes the rush of life and the calling of nature somehow overriding that rush. The poem reminded me of biblical passage from Matthew 6:28 describing lilies as just being.

What is my hurry? What roots me in this place and time? I overlook the depth of those questions. I enjoy reading Wendell Berry’s essays about farming. He reminds me that farming is a love of place and time. The small farm is home for people and nature. There is no separation.

My mother said farmers do not need Daily Savings Time. Depending on the time of the year, they understand their work based on the time and space they are in at that moment. When I think of the world as unpatterned, I sense its majestic wholeness and not compartments, rendering them virtual.

 Leaving home

for work

each day

I hear the trees

say “What’s your hurry?”

Rooted, they

don’t understand

how in my world

we have to rush

to keep in step.

I haven’t even time

to stop and tell them

how on weekends, too,

schedules wait

like nets.

It’s only on a sick day

when I have to venture out

to pick up medicine

that I understand the trees,

there in all their fullness

in a world unpatterned

full of moments,

full of spaces,

every space

a choice.

This day

has not

been turned yet

on the lathe

this day

lies open, light

and shadow. Breath

fills the body easily.

I step

into a world

waiting like

a quiet lover.

Prayer of St. Francis

Kathy and I celebrate our 40th anniversary this weekend and we are on our way to Alaska. We used The Prayer of St. Francis (Peace Prayer) as a reading for our wedding mass. As well, we have an inexpensive plaque that sits on a dresser in our bedroom. My mother gave it to us many years ago. When we celebrated my mother’s funeral mass a year ago, we read the prayer, as well.

When I was in Spokane for extended periods, I posted a copy of the prayer on my bedroom wall. It serves as a daily reminder of what we are capable of as humans in relationship with one another, the world, and God in our moment-to-moment living.

The prayer is about the travails and their rewards that we undertake. When I think about love, I recall Thomas Merton‘s saying we call it falling in love for a reason. We open ourselves, risk being hurt, and the rewards are worthwhile. We mind, care, and attend to people and things.

 Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, the truth;

Where there is doubt, the faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled, as to console;

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

 To see more of Ivon Prefontaine’s writings, you can visit his Web site here.

Beginnings: becoming who you were meant to be.

here-it-comes-1058055-225x300

Brad Harrison/ freeimages.com

In Beginnings, The First Seven Days of the Rest Your Life, author Steve Wiens offers up a unique addition to the motivational book genre. Steve, a pastor in Minnesota, has tied his main message to the seven days of creation found in the Book of Genesis and the promise of new “beginnings”.

Now to be honest, I found the biblical connection a bit tenuous—but it really didn’t matter. Steve is a gifted writer and storyteller, sharing many personal anecdotes and putting fresh spins on a few biblical tales. He could have connected his message to the Seven Dwarves, and I’m sure it would have been just as good a read.

I’m going to talk about two key messages I pulled from Beginnings, the ones that resonated with me after I put the book down. The first is a primary theme that is repeated throughout the book, about how we are constantly offered the chance to start anew and “bring forth even more life into the world”. Wiens posits the idea that:

You are partnering in the ongoing creation of your actual life, which is endlessly unfolding, artfully constructed and filled with hidden beginnings that sometimes flow out of unexpected endings.

We need to be alert to the beginnings life offers us, as they are often not obvious, and involve breaking free from the status quo. To Wiens, this means “leaving the forced march”, so we can “pursue the endless adventure of becoming”.

Now, Wiens recognizes that this journey of becoming who we were really meant to be—who God wants us to be—is both “dangerous and transformational”. But it’s worth the effort:

There is something deep inside of you so good that you’re most likely suppressing it because you can’t believe that bringing it to life might help to heal the world. You need to bring it out—over and over again.

He tells us that “there are seeds of life embedded within you by God, and something needs to call them forth so they can burst into life.” We can choose to ignore this calling and push the “seeds of life” back down, but it’s in our best interest to bring the good inside us to life. We need to take action, no matter how difficult it may be:

It can feel like surging rage, bubbling up and embarrassing you in the middle of a meeting at work. It can feel like blinding frustration. It can even be blissful joy, filling you in a moment that overwhelms you with gratitude.

My take: beginnings come in different sizes, from big to small. The big opportunities can include starting a fresh relationship or finding a new way to serve your family or community. But there are small opportunities as well, and we can realize them virtually every day—stopping to talk with someone on the margins, complimenting a stranger, going out of our way to do anything that resembles walking the proverbial old lady across the street. These smaller beginnings shake us from life-as-usual, and put us on a path that is more loving, more kind and more compassionate.

The second aspect of the book that really hit home for me was Wiens’ look at the four seasons and the different moods each one of them evokes. Since winter has now set in here in the Northeast United States, I found his chapter on the “the soul-crushing season of winter” especially evocative and personally relevant. (See my “blue winter” piece from a couple of years ago.) Wiens writes:

During the winter we wait, and the waiting is brutal. Going without what we’re longing for feels desperate and panicky. When you are waiting, there is a hopelessness that can descend and cover you, a fog that won’t burn off. It’s my least favorite season.

Amen Steve, I agree with you 100%. The only good thing I can say about winter is that it passes. Like a tree covered by a thick blanket of snow, we silently endure this unwelcome visitor and perhaps our roots grow stronger during the process. And I suppose the chill of winter makes the arrival of spring all the more joyful, with its new opportunities, it’s chance for new beginnings.

This post originally appeared on my Patheos Wake Up Call column, January 13, 2016.

A Wake Up Call from Bill Murray (and Life).

800px-Bill_Murray_by_David_Shankbone-150x150

Bill Murray by David Shankbone

There’s an article in a recent issue of Rolling Stone called “Being Bill Murray”. It tells the story of how the now 64-year old actor has a habit of engaging in sometimes mischievous, often beguiling public acts.

For instance, there’s the time he stopped to read poetry to a group of construction workers in New York City. Or the tale of how, while in a cab in San Francisco, he engaged the driver in conversation and found out he was a fledgling saxophonist who never got the chance to play. So Murray took over the wheel, driving himself to his destination so the cabbie could blow his horn in the back seat, stopping at a BBQ joint along the way.

Why does he do it? Murray believes that “no one has an easy life”, so he goes out of his way to surprise and delight those around him, helping to lessen their load. These small acts have an effect on those he encounters making their worlds “a little weirder, the mundane routines of everyday life a little more exciting”. Murray explains his actions this way:

If I see someone who’s out cold on their feet, I’m going to try to wake that person up. It’s what I’d want someone to do for me. Wake me the hell up and come back to the planet.

It’s a wake-up call and Murray makes them everywhere he goes. He has been known to stroll around Charleston, South Carolina, where he owns part of a minor-league baseball team, and make impromptu, spontaneous appearances at public and private events. He “photobombed” a couple taking wedding pictures in a local park, stopped by a birthday party in a bar to give an off-the-cuff speech and toast.

But perhaps what is most interesting is the fact Bill Murray performs these acts not just for the pleasure of others, but also for himself. In his words:

My hope, always, is that it’s going to wake me up. I’m only connected for seconds, minutes a day, sometimes. And suddenly, you go, ‘Holy cow, I’ve been asleep for two days. I’ve been doing things, but I’m just out.

Now you might say, he is Bill Murray and can get away with this kind of off-kilter behavior. But the fact is, we all have the ability to break away from our preconceived ideas of how we should act and behave in public. We all can engage in activities that add a little more light and joy to the world and ease the burden of others.

The renowned businessman and life philosopher John Templeton tells the story of a friend who was sitting in a park one day when she noticed a man “in his latter years” stroll by wearing a bright red cardigan, red cap and checkered pants. He smiled and said hello, then proceeded to walk to a playground where he got on swing and began vigorously and joyfully swinging back and forth.

The elderly gentleman later stopped by to explain that while on his daily walk he swung on that swing exactly 50 times each day. She noticed that the man “glowed with the fullness of life” and that his eyes “sparkled with the joy of living”. His age was clearly of no concern to him, nor did he worry what others might think about his behavior.

Templeton points out that we often curtail our childlike wonder and joy due to concerns about “our self-imposed limitations of age, appropriateness of behavior, the images we hold of ourselves”. This robs us of our ability to fully engage in life. He calls out the example of Jesus who asked us to “become as little children that we might enter into the fullness of life, which he called the kingdom of heaven”.

John Templeton was known by some as a staid businessman, but he also had a contrarian streak, zigging while others zagged. He showed that he is a kindred spirit with Bill Murray when he made the following challenge, one we should all take to heart:

When did you last swing on a swing? When did you last do something “outrageous” that pushed you beyond your present boundaries and radiated to the world that you are fully alive? When did the childlike spirit within you run free in joy and excitement? Age is no excuse; other people’s opinion of you is no excuse; and your own limiting opinion of yourself is no excuse for not embracing the gift of life and living it to its fullest expression.

This post previously appeared on my Patheos column Wake Up Call, January 25, 2015.

Napoleon Hill on Work/Life Balance: a Message for 2015.

Napoleon Hill

Napoleon Hill

You may know the author Napoleon Hill because of his book Think and Grow Rich. It’s one of my favorite inspirational/ motivational reads and is one of the best-selling books of all time. Even though it was first published in 1937, the book’s primary message—that you can get what you want through visualization, honest effort and a positive attitude—still rings true today.

But if you ask me to name my favorite Hill book, it would not be this classic. I actual prefer a far lesser known sequel to Think and Grow Rich published 40 years after the original. You see, in 1967, an 84-year old Hill had come to a slightly different conclusion about what success really meant and wrote a book titled Grow Rich—with Peace of Mind.

After a lifetime of hard work, fame and riches, the elderly Hill began to whistle a slightly different tune about the role of work in our lives and explains it in this book. Sure, he said, strive to be successful—but have a life, too. Hill’s not pitching a Tim Ferris-style 4-hour workweek here, but suggests that one of the best ways to achieve real happiness is to “make a time budget”.

Spread out over a 24-hour day, Hill’s time budget looks like this:

  • 8 hours a day for sleep and rest
  • 8 hours a day for work at your profession
  • 8 “particularly precious” hours “devoted to things you wish to do, not have to do.”

Now, it is duly noted here that Hill does not account for the time-consuming chores and errands that are a part of our lives. But even with that caveat, it’s easy to agree with his assertion that we need to find time for “play, social life, reading, writing, playing a musical instrument, tending a garden, or just sitting and watching the clouds or the stars”. My personal list includes meditation, downtime with the family, prayer, writing and running. Your list can include any activity or non-activity that makes you happy.

Hill is very serious about putting our “precious hours” to good use and I feel confident that, had he known about them, scanning your Facebook page, texting ad nauseam or playing video games would not have made the list. Yet, he does believe it is up to you to decide what these activities might be, amplifying his message with this passage:

Do not let a day go by without taking some time for yourself — some time you spend in pure pleasure, as you see it.

Hill also points out, that should you have the ability to do so, you should aim to work less than 8 hours a day as you become successful. Success shouldn’t mean spending more hours at the job, but less. In Hills words, once you meet a modicum of prosperity: “You should increase your hours of pure enjoyment. Do not allow these hours to be eaten away by business or anything else.”

The bottom line is that, yes, we all (or at least most of us) need to work and make money. But in the year ahead, let’s remind ourselves—and those close to us who need reminding—that success is measured by more than our status at the office or the money in our bank accounts. Success is measured by the richness of our lives.

This post originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, December 31, 2014.

The Dude on Finding True Love and Making it Last.

the-big-lebowski-jointDO you know the Dude?

He’s a fictional character in the Cohen Brother’s movie The Big Lebowski and he’s played by the actor Jeff Bridges. And while Bridges has played dozens of roles over his long career, this may be the one he is most associated with. He was so convincing as the Dude, the role seemed to be an extension of Bridges himself.

Now, I love The Big Lebowski and have seen it dozens of times; the interplay between the Dude and his movie buddy Walter (John Goodman) is priceless. So when I belatedly heard that Bridges had put out a book called The Dude and the Zen Master, co-written with his friend Bernie Glassman, I ordered it immediately. And like the movie, I’m captivated by it.

There’s a lot of rich wisdom in this book and it’s presented in a unique manner, a dialogue between Bridges and the Zen master Glassman. Like two veteran jazz musicians, they jam on a variety of subjects, from the purpose of life to intimacy and relationships to overcoming the inevitable bumps on the road.

But the part of the book I’m focusing on here is the nature of love and marriage. Bridges has been married to his wife Sue for 35 years, a notable feat anywhere but especially for a “Hollywood” couple.

He has some keen insights on the path his marriage took and I can totally relate because they mirrored my own path. (I celebrate 20 years of marriage to my wife Laney this year.)

You’ll see Jeff’s words in italics below; I’ve taken the liberty of organizing his thoughts into a progression of five key moments of realization because I think they accurately represent the arc of marriage, at least from my own personal perspective.

#1. It starts with finding your true love.

Jeff & Sue. Then.

Jeff & Sue. Then.

Bridges meets his wife on a movie set in Montana in 1974. The first few times he asks her out she turns him down until one night he sees her in town and “we danced and I fell in love.” The very next day Bridges has an appointment to look at a house that’s for sale and he invites Sue to come along on what’s officially their first “date.”

#2. Next, you have to overcome the commitment-phobia.

Things progress, but like a lot of us guys, Jeff becomes frightened by the thought of marriage and a life-long commitment. You begin to wonder: Is this really the one? What if I fall out of love? What if another woman comes along that I love more?

I felt cornered, not by Sue but by myself. I couldn’t bear to let the love of my life slip through my fingers, but at the same time I was afraid of declaring: This is the one! To make a long story short, I finally got the courage to ask Sue to marry me, with the secret caveat that I could always get a divorce. 

Bridges eventually reaches one of those “Oh no, what have I done?” states of mind during their first year of marriage. Sue picks up on it and offers to annul the marriage if he doesn’t want it. Bridges response is  “No, no.” In his words, it takes a couple of years but “I finally got with the program.”

#3. In time, you see the depth and beauty of married life.

Once you get past the first few shaky years, you find your relationship growing stronger, the roots growing deeper. You have a perception shift where you no longer see what you’re missing, but see the beauty in all that you have. This was especially true in my case when our first child came along.

You close one door, the door to all other women, but you open a door that leads to a long hallway lined with doors. Incredible doors like children, grandchildren, deeper intimacy with the woman you love, and so many other things that would not be available to you without marriage, without the water under the bridge…thank God I went for it.

 #4. You engage in epic battles—and the marriage endures.

Like all of us who have been married for a while, you know that it’s not always bliss, especially if you both have strong personalities and opinions. Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen. The real test is in how you handle them.

We do have one ancient war that comes up again and again, which basically runs like this: You don’t get it; you just don’t get me; you don’t understand.” And that’s true. I don’t entirely know Sue or her perspective, I never will. And she won’t know me or where I’m coming from, really, entirely…but as this ancient war rages, with each battle it becomes more apparent that this inability to truly know the other’s perspective is what we have in common.

#5. Come hell or high-water, you’re in it for the long-haul.

Jeff & Sue. Now.

Jeff & Sue. Now.

With time you know that even the “ancient wars” can’t give you a big enough reason to split. You have an unbreakable bond. An occasional storm may hit, it may even cause damage to the home that is your relationship, but the foundation stays rock-solid. And you become expert at repairing the home, each time making it a little stronger.

Knowing that we learn to take our differences and not so seriously, we open up…I now find that when the war raises its head again, I feel: “Great, here it is againnow we get to learn how to love each other even more.”

And a final thought on marriage, one I couldn’t put any better than the Dude himself:

What is marriage? You’re setting an overall context: “Okay, we’re going to jam. We’re going to experience all our stuff, I’m going to get pissed at you and you’ll get pissed back, but we’ll be in a marriage. We know we’ll have tough times, but we’re doing it all together.”

This post originally appeared in Elephant Journal,  July 12, 2013. 

Get Happy! A 360° Philosophy for Life.

happy_face-150x150If you’re a regular reader of The Inner Way, you’ll know that I often feature the philosophies of others who I admire and who have influenced my thinking. This includes the soul-virtuoso Thomas Moore, the businessman-turned-philosopher John Templeton and the passionate promoter of “interspirituality” Mirabai Starr.

I like to think that these writers, and others of their ilk, add an additional layer of wisdom to what I already know, putting a fresh coast of paint on the bedrock principles that inform my life. But there was a time, back in the early-1990’s, when these principles were not so firmly set and I embarked on a quest to find a singular life philosophy, a code or set of rules I could live by.

I was soaking up as much knowledge as I could, reading everything from the Bible to books on obscure religions to different strains of new age philosophy. This included the works of Robert Pirsig. I had read his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, followed by the slightly less dense, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals. In both books, Pirsig tried to set up a philosophical system by which you could identify “quality” or value in life, including its ultimate expression, the highly subjective “dynamic quality”.

It was all heady stuff, a lot of which I could barely comprehend, but it made me realize that I was searching for wasn’t this indefinable dynamic quality, but something a lot more basic.

I wanted a simple road map to help me find my own sense of happiness and contentment. So I set up my own belief system.

I broke down my life into categories to try and figure out where things were right in my life—and more importantly, where things had veered off course. I carved my life into distinct segments, each of which I had some control over, that could spell the difference between a life that was good and satisfying and one that was lacking in one or more important ways. I named it “The 5 Keys to Happiness” and while I hadn’t looked at it in well over a decade, it has held up pretty well.

You’ll see “the keys” below though I did make some tweaks to the original list, combining two categories and adding “Spirituality” and “Exercise/Diet” to the mix. I’ve added questions to each category to help you determine your life is on track or could use some fine-tuning.

The 6 Keys to Happiness

  • Family & Friends Identify those people who you are closest with. Is everything right between you and them? Do they know their importance to you? Are you in regular contact or do you owe someone a visit or a phone call? Are you spending quality time with them or plan to?   Are there any problems that need to be addressed or fences that need to be mended?
  • Love Is there a significant other in your life? If yes, are you satisfied with your relationship? Are there steps you can take to make it better? If there are problems that can’t be fixed, are you taking steps to move on? If you’re solo, are you content? If not, is there a person you connect with on a regular or semi-regular basis that might become more than an acquaintance or friend?
  • Spirituality Have you found a spiritual pursuit with meaning to you, whether it’s prayer, meditation, spiritual reading or reflection? If no, begin searching. If yes, do you spend some time each day in this pursuit? If not, can you find the time, ideally twice a day for two 20-minute intervals?
  • Work/Hobby Do you like your job and find it satisfying? Does it put to use your unique talents? If needed, can you improve your circumstances—or do you need to take the steps necessary to embark on a new path? If your job is an unlikable but unavoidable necessity, can the void of meaning being filled by a favorite hobby? Are there steps you can take to pursue your hobby or passions more vigorously?
  • Exercise/Diet Because a healthy body can be an integral part of a healthy and happy mind, are you exercising on a regular basis? If not, what steps can you take to make exercise a regular part of your schedule? Are you eating a well-balanced diet? Are you guilt of over-eating? If yes, are you taking the steps necessary to address any issues?
  • Place Do you love where you live? Are you in the right apartment/condo/ house? Are you happy with the geographic area you live in? Does where you live give you a sense of place, where you either have roots or can grow them? If not, are you exploring other possibilities?

When I first developed the list, my thought was that if I could achieve happiness in all these areas, I’d be leading something close to a blissful life. But the fact is, it’s really hard to have all facets of your life going right at the same time. Chances are that at any given moment, there’s an area or two that can stand some improvement.

The key for me was to isolate the single area that needed the most work—and really focus on it, doing everything possible to make the changes necessary to improve it. Once there was improvement in one area, it was then time to move on to the next area that needed attention.

I’ve got to admit that 20-plus years after I wrote my belief system, I don’t think about it much. Rather than divide my life into categories, I tend to view it as a seamless whole. But this may be because, unlike my younger self, I’m now more settled in terms of my family life, my career and the things I now know are most important.

What about you? Are you taking the steps necessary to get happy?

This story first appeared July 25, 2013, on my Patheos column “Wake Up Call“.

How would you answer the question “Who is God?”

question-mark-on-stained-glass-150x150A few months ago I had a reader contact me about a blog post I had written. Like a lot of my columns, it referenced God, and this particular person had a question that went something like this:

“I enjoyed your story but you didn’t answer the question: Who is God?”

It was a peculiar query, since this particular column wasn’t addressing the subject at all. Yet it got me thinking. Could I actually define God? Who is this entity that I pray to each morning, find solace in when the going gets tough, and thank for my many blessings?

I quickly realized I was opening the proverbial can of worms, as the question can be answered very differently depending on your personal religious and spiritual beliefs. And while I was raised a Catholic, which has helped form my spiritual base, my perspective on God comes from a rich tapestry of belief systems that I’ve encountered and studied during my lifetime.

So what follows is my personal perspective, what I call my religion of one, applied to the query “Who is God?”  Since there was no quick, pithy way to answer the question, it seemed easier to explain my own beliefs through a progression of points that hopefully tie together as a whole.

  • For starters, I believe there is a God.
  • I believe God appears in different ways to different people according to your faith, so my God may be very different from your God.
  • Both of our versions of God may be true.
  • As a child, I believed God was a bearded, fatherly figure who sat on a throne in heaven.
  • I was later taught that God was the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • I now believe what the Christian theologian Paul Tillich once said: God is being itself, not a being.
  • God is here right now, around me and also around you.
  • I believe what Paul said in Colossians 1: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. But I also believe we are all the visible images of the invisible God.
  • Likewise, I believe that like Jesus we are all the sons and daughters of the Creator.
  • I relate to the Muslim belief that God does not possess human qualities or attributes.
  • I also buy into the Hindu idea that God can not be defined as a he or she.
  • I believe that God sometimes appears in human form, in the face of a friend, a spouse, a child, or in anyone you encounter in everyday life.
  • Like Emerson and Thoreau, I also believe it is possible to find God in nature.
  • While God is all around us, the Divine is inside us as well. As Emerson said: “Look within, with pure eyes and simple trust and you shall find the Deity mirrored in your own soul.”
  • I also trust what John said in 4:8, something Miriam Starr expanded upon with this quote: “each faith tradition sings the same song in a different voice: God is love.”
  • Of course, I could be wrong about everything, because ultimately God is a mystery. As John Templeton wrote: Why should we expect to be able to describe God when we know so little about divinity? Would a God we were able to describe be little more than a good, wise human?

This post originally appeared on my Patheos column “Wake Up Call“, May 19, 2013.