This 4th of July Remember What We First Endeavored

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  – United States Declaration of Independence

  • All Men meaning All Humankind.

It Was The Myth of Fingerprints…

This lyric from Paul Simon’s song, All Around the World Or the Myth of Fingerprints, popped into my head this morning as I was reflecting on myth in light of a happy convergence of three books I was reading simultaneously, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings, and Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (audiobook).

Starting with Paul Simon’s lyric, what was the myth of fingerprints?  Since the advent of discovering that fingerprints are unique and may be used to accurately identify people, the term has also been adopted to mean leaving one’s mark on something.  That fiasco has so and so’s fingerprints all over it.  Or the British Empire left its fingerprint all over the globe.

Myth is what we choose to believe apart from absolute certainty – are all fingerprints unique with absolute certainty?  We can never know for certain, because we don’t have a fingerprint database going back to the beginning of human history.  So we choose to believe the myth that fingerprints are unique because it gives us (so far) a reliable framework for authenticating an individual’s identity.

Norse mythology and the Viking legend have sparked the imagination of artists, authors, and the world for years.  Wagner immortalized Sigfried, or Sigurd, in his series of operas known as Der Ring des Nibelungen, of which the Ride of the Valkyries is one of the more popular pieces.

Less well known perhaps is the influence of the Norse myths on current popular culture today – notably, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series and Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods.

Myths are powerful, and they surround us daily.

During the 2016 Presidential election I imagine citizens did not vote for Donald Trump the person or Hilary Clinton the person.  They voted for the myth of Donald Trump (Make America Great Again) or the myth of Hilary Clinton (Stronger Together).  Barack Obama was president for two terms because the majority of voting citizens believed in the myth of Barack Obama (Hope – 2008,  Forward – 2012).

In Sapiens, Harari points out that the core of what we believe as United States citizens is entrenched in myth.  The myth that all men are created equal, endowed with inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   This is the myth we choose to believe as US citizens.  Other countries and cultures have their own myths that tie them together as a people.

Myth helps us explain not only what we believe, but why.  What we must realize is that different myths are used to explain the same things in different ways, so before we criticize or denounce another’s myth it behooves us to understand how similar our myths may be, and rather than hold myth as absolute truth, see it as a story through which we can find commonality with others.

Some Thoughts on Forgiveness and Love

If we believe we have nothing to be forgiven, then we have little reason or capacity to love anything.

If we know we need to be forgiven, but are too proud to ask for forgiveness, then we will be too ashamed of ourselves to truly love another.

If we know we need to be forgiven and ask for forgiveness, but cannot forgive ourselves, we do not love ourselves and cannot love another.

If we know we need to be forgiven and ask for forgiveness and with humility believe we are forgiven, then we can begin to love ourselves in earnest and love others in abundance.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.””‭‭  Luke‬ ‭7:47‬ ‭ESV‬‬

 

What do your posts say about your heart?

This morning I was contemplating on how social media has become a way of recording our speech that has never really been possible in the past, thus allowing unprecedented access to a person’s inner thought life.

Reading someone’s posts can give us a fairly clear indication of what’s in their heart, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”

If the speech sounds angry, then they have anger in their heart, if the speech sounds intolerant, then they are intolerant in their heart, if the speech sounds hateful or spiteful, then they are hateful or spiteful in their heart.

What does your social media presence reveal about what’s in your heart?

Here’s a tip if you want to be more positive:  before you post anything, think of at least one thing you are grateful for – it’s impossible to be hateful when you’re grateful.

Not just a Season of Giving

The Christmas holiday season has long been considered the season of giving.

  • Parents give toys and other gifts to their children,
  • friends and coworkers buy small gifts for each other in a spirit of goodwill, and
  • charitable organizations see an increase in fund raising as people are subtly guilted into being more generous and as tax accountants are encouraging clients to increase deductions before the tax year ends.

We quote sayings and scriptures like, “it is better to give than to receive,” and cry while watching heartfelt movies like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when Scrooge gives away his money, and comment to our kids how giving increases the heart while watching Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  All of these things are good.

In fact, in the Christian tradition, this is the time we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, often referred to as the greatest gift the world has ever known.

But yet, something has been forgotten, and something is amiss in this candy cane, Ho-Ho-Ho Santa down the chimney fairyland.  Can you guess what it is?

Knowing how to receive.

Yes, that’s right.  In a sense, knowing how to receive well is how we make a gift complete.  When a gift is received well it brings great joy to the giver.

Think of the last gift you truly gave – one where you had the perfect idea and just could not wait to see the joy on their face when you gave it to them.

Then you hear, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly accept this,” or “you didn’t have to do that,” (I confess I did this just last week), or your gift is barely acknowledged, and your heart sinks a little bit.

It hurts, doesn’t it?  Now think back to a time where maybe you reacted that way to a gift someone had given you.  Ouch, right?

Now consider that God gave us the gift of His only Son, who laid down his life for our sins.  Yet we tend to receive this gift poorly by promising all the things we will do for God as a way to earn this gift.  But gifts are not earned.  By trying to earn this gift we have in essence promised to pay for the gift, and thus spoil its true intent.

If we learn to receive well, I think we in turn understand how to truly give well.  And ultimately we come to understand for ourselves just why giving is so much better than receiving: because of the joy it returns to us.

In Receiving well we allow the giver to experience the full Joy of Giving.

This Christmas season, reflect on the gifts you receive and receive them well, returning a blessing to the giver.  In the same way reflect on the gift of Christ given to us, and receive Him well, giving glory to the Father.