March 12, 2021


Glade Creek Mill 05 Oil Paint Rendered — Babcock State Park, Clifftop, West Virginia
We know when things are 
balanced and harmonious,
and we know when things are 
unsettled, chaotic
and out of control.

We know when we are fighting
with our life,
struggling to get things into place,
and when we are at peace
with our life,
lolling in "the land of gentle breezes
where the peaceful waters flow"
(Anne Murry, Snowbird).

What we don't know
is when to change ourselves
and when to change our life.

Changing ourselves is
"Adjustment, acceptance, acquiescence
and accommodation, Kid.
Adjustment, acceptance, acquiescence
and accommodation."

Changing our life is
seeing what can happen,
knowing what the situation 
is calling for,
and offering what we have to give
in the service of what needs to be done,
allowing the outcome be the outcome.

Willing what cannot be willed,
and forcing what cannot be forced--
and not knowing the difference
between what can be 
and what cannot be--
is the recipe
for turmoil, chaos, struggle,
upheaval, unrest, anxiety, 
discontent, dissatisfaction
and what generally passes
as the American/Western Way of Life.

Whenever we experience the symptoms
of "the American/Western Way of Life,"
we need to take it as  a cue
to sit still,
be quiet, 
attend our breathing,
seek the center,
the source,
the core
of our original nature,
and open ourselves to the impulses
arising from the depths of who we are.

The inner experience
of seeking clarity--
which is the sole function of prayer
rightly practiced--
will orient us according 
to the Way of the Tao,
which is entering the service
of what is being called for here and now,
and doing the right thing,
at the right time,
in the right way,
and the right place,
and allowing the outcome 
to be the outcome,
trusting ourselves 
to respond to that outcome
in ways appropriate to the occasion
for the rest of our life.

This is "turning the light around,"
by being what we seek,
and serving the moment
with what we have to give,
which is the most life transforming
and earth-shaking
thing we can ever do:
just being present in the moment
for the sake of the moment.



Sandy Stream Pond 03 Oil Paint Rendered — Baxter State Park, Millinocket, Maine
If we go into any situation
looking for what we stand to gain
from the situation,
our we might profit from the situation,
what's in it for us in the situation, etc.,
that will lead to outcomes
that are quite different
than if we go into the situation
looking for what is called for in the situation,
and how we might serve the situation
for the good of the situation,
asking ourselves what we have to give
that the situation needs,
asking how we can be helpful--
regardless of the cost to us personally.

How we approach each situation as it arises
tells the tale.

To get or to give?

Nothing matters more than that.



Whitetail Doe 06/28/2016 Oil Paint Rendered — Scenes from my Hammock, Indian Land, South Carolina
We think in terms 
of outcomes,

We think in terms
of what is in it for us,
and regularly run
cost/benefit analyses
in order to figure the odds
and do what's smart.

Look around.

Being smart has us 
where we are today.

Jesus said about being smart,
"They have their reward."

And he said,
"Be like the lilies of the field.
They neither sow nor reap,
nor worry about 
how they are going eat, 
or what they are going to put on."

And for his trouble,
they crucified him on a cross.

Jesus wasn't smart.

Look what happened to him.

Jesus also knew what he was doing.
He knew that speaking the truth
and being true to himself
within the conditions and circumstances
of his life--
where it wasn't smart 
to have anything to do with truth--
would lead to his death.

What will we die for?
What will we go to hell for?
What are we afraid of?
What will we do anything to avoid?

Is it more important to be smart,
or to live truthfully?

Living truthfully changes everything.
There is very little profit,
in the way the world measures profit,
in living truthfully.

Living truthfully
is the first thing to go
in doing what it takes
to make it
in a profit-driven economy
(And what other kinds of economy are there?)

Profit at what price?
Profit at the price of living truthfully
is a Faustian bargain.

Faustian bargains run the economies of the world.

And look around.
Being smart has us 
where we are today.

The alternative is
knowing what we are doing,
knowing what is important,
knowing what matters most,
and living in light of that,
in service to that,
in a "Thy will, not mine be done,"
kind of way--
though there be a cross
at the end of the line.

That is the message of the cross.

That is the Tao of Jesus.
That is doing what needs to be done,
saying what needs to be said,
when it needs to be done/said,
the way it needs to be done/said,
for as often as it needs to be done/said,
and letting the outcome be the outcome.

Quite different from
the bargain of Faust.

And, you will never hear that sermon
in the Christian churches of the land.
Any land.

And here we are.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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