50 Ways to Improve your life…

I think my friend Sharon (or her husband John) sent this to me at the beginning of the year. It eventually got buried on my hard-drive. I stumbled on to it yesterday while using “spotlight” to find something else. I know we are mid-2008, but what better time to refresh those “new years resolutions” than now. (enjoy, think, act…)

50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2008

  1. Help a neighbor for no reason.
  2. Fast for a day and give away the food money.
  3. Write a letter of gratitude to an old mentor.
  4. Keep a notebook of dreams. (“An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter from God”–Elie Wiesel)
  5. Add a new charity to your list.
  6. Rent Chariots of Fire.
  7. Confront the biggest of the seven deadly sins. (Gluttony? Lust? Sloth? Envy? Anger? Greed? Pride? Your choice.)
  8. Have tea at Alektor Café. (1807 Grand Avenue, Nashville, TN)
  9. Read a fair, informative book on Iran.
  10. And on Pakistan.
  11. Volunteer.
  12. Memorize the Ten Commandments.
  13. Play music you used to dance to. (Try Steve Earle’s song, “The Revolution Starts Now.”)
  14. Visit a retreat center
  15. Know all the books of the Bible.
  16. Go hear live bluegrass.
  17. Learn a poem by heart.
  18. Write one.
  19. Forgive an enemy (and a friend).
  20. Study Martin Luther King’s speeches and achievements (this was on U.S. News’ list).
  21. Help rebuild the gulf coast.
  22. Light a candle.
  23. Learn Buddhism’s Eightfold Path and Four Noble Truths.
  24. “Do not avoid the eyes of the homeless.” (writer Michael Ventura)
  25. Say grace.
  26. Write down your reasons for believing.
  27. Walk a labyrinth.
  28. “Don’t believe the hype.” (Public Enemy)
  29. Engage the war (protest it, or conserve gasoline, send useful items to the troops.)
  30. Find a peaceful window view.
  31. Avoid e-mail on the Sabbath.
  32. Sit still for 74 minutes and listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
  33. Attend worship of an unfamiliar faith.
  34. Visit a prisoner.
  35. Revisit Job and Ecclesiastes.
  36. Identify a secret fear, then let it go.
  37. Visit a church with lots of stained glass.
  38. Read Dante’s Divine Comedy.
  39. Study a map of the Mideast and south Asia.
  40. Observe Speak No Evil day (May 14). (That day is past, so pick one…preferably a Monday!)
  41. Be accountable to somebody.
  42. Check this local Web site: coolpeoplecare.org.
  43. Learn the constellations and motions of the cosmos.
  44. Attend a contemporary art exhibit.
  45. “Simplify, simplify.:” (Thoreau)
  46. Be conscious of where the food comes from.
  47. Learn the difference between Church of Christ and United Church of Christ.
  48. Remember this statistic: 30,000 children die everyday from poverty or malnutrition.
  49. Lay this list aside and stir up your own.
  50. To quote Wendell Berry: “Practice resurrection.”
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The Necessary Revolution

I picked up Peter Senge’s new book the other day on a whim. I liked his book The Fifth Discipline very much and was intrigued by the title of the new book: The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. I was floored by a sentence on page 6:

“…the simple fact that the wealth of the 200 richest people in the world exceeds the combined annual income of the world’s 2.5 billion poorest people should give anyone pause, as should the knowledge that almost half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day while the average American earns $130 per day.” (from The Necessary Revolution, page 6).

Contemplate that for a bit…

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Christianity as practice vs. belief system

Brian McLaren was featured in an interesting interview on the FERMI Project podcast discussing his new book, Finding Our Way: The Return of the Ancient Practices. I picked up a copy last week but haven’t finished it yet. At the beginning of chapter one, he tells about interviewing Peter Senge at a pastor’s conference. McLaren opened the interview by acknowledging for Senge that the audience of pastors was probably different than his usual gatherings of business leaders. Senge replied,

“Well, Brian, you’re right. I don’t normally speak to pastors. Actually, I was thinking about that very question yesterday when I was in a large bookstore. I asked the bookstore manager what the most popular books are these days. Most popular, he said, were books about how to get rich in the new information economy, which didn’t surprise me. …Second most popular, the manager said were books about spirituality, and in particular, books about Buddhism. And so when I thought about speaking to five hundred Christian pastors today, I thought I’d begin by asking you all a question: why are books on Buddhism so popular, and not books on Christianity?” (McLaren, Finding Our Way, p.3)

McLaren returned the question to Senge, “How would you answer that question?” Senge’s answer was, I believe, profound and very intriguing:

“I think it’s because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life, and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief. So I would want to get Christian ministers thinking about how to rediscover their own faith as a way of life, because that’s what people are searching for today. That’s what they need most.”

This was a wonderful statement for me personally because it speaks very pointedly to my own faith context at this particular time of my life. (I alluded to this in a blog post a couple of months ago). I have found my received Christianity-as-belief-system increasingly problematic as I move through my life. The fact that this belief system began 44 years ago as an extremely fundamentalist and literal form of Christianity has had much to do with my discontent. It simply could not bear the weight of life and circumstances and I found I could no longer ignore the empirical evidence of life lived outside the bubble of Christendom. And yet, I couldn’t leave “the church” or faith or Jesus.

Several weeks ago, I attended a 5 Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. To be perfectly honest, I began the experience extremely cynical and with very low expectations. I left that experience with a profound new understanding of my own faith journey and of my practice of faith from that point forward. Specifically, my new understanding revolves around this tension between practice and system of belief. I would love to hear some of your thoughts on this.

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