Joan Chittister’s “The Liturgical Year: the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life”.

I love to read Sister Joan’s books. This book is one of books in The Ancient Practices Series (I love them all) by Thomas Nelson. This is one of the books helped me to discover and enjoy the rich and the meaning of The Liturgical Year when I came to Anglican from another Christian tradition 8 years ago.

In the beginning of the book, Sister Joan wrote, “every year is a distinct growth point in life… Each year brings something unique to us and calls for something different from us…The way we define our years determine what we think our lives are meant to be about and how we will live because of it…”

Then she wrote and explained “The liturgical year is the year that sets out to attune the life Christian to the life of Jesus, the Christ. It proposes, year after year, to immerse us over and over again into the sense and substance of the Christian life until eventually, we become what we say we are – followers of Jesus all the way to the heart of God. The liturgical year is an adventure in human growth, an exercise in spiritual ripening.”

Her writing has inspired me the most is this, “Like the rings on a tree, the cycles of Christian feasts are meant to mark the levels of our spiritual growth from one stage to another in the process of human growth”.

I have been thinking, as a priest, have I helped my parishioners to experience and cherish the rich and the profound meaning of the liturgical year? How can I have more and mover people journey with me in the spiraling adventure of the spiritual life?

Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”

In this book, Don Miguel Ruiz offers us practical guide to personal freedom based on ancient Toltec wisdom. In my journey of experiencing the power of his guide, I have been learning to change the way to deal with myself – no more harmful way going against myself. I have been learning and experiencing to live my life “without the fear of being judged by others…no longer rule my behavior according to what others may think about me…no responsible for anyone’s opinion…no need to control anyone, and no one controls me, either”. These disciples have been setting me free.

I have been also practicing: 1) don’t take anything personally and 2) don’t make assumptions.

As a priest, I love what he wrote, “God is life. God is life in action. The best way to say, ‘I love you, God,’ is to live your life doing your best. The best way to say, ‘Thank you, God,” is by letting go of the past and living in the present moment, right here and now…”

Once we have freedom, then we will have true happiness and love.

Joe Calloway’s “Keep It Simple: Unclutter Your Mind to Uncomplicate Your Life”

Cluttered processes and over-complications are the enemies of control in our life. In this book, Joe Calloway offers us two powerful tools to streamline our life, reduce stress, and achieve our goals: simplification and focus. Joe wrote, “Focus means clarity. Clarity means knowing what is most important…Getting focused is the path to simplicity, and simplicity is the path to success and fulfillment”. As what Jessica Jackley said, “You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate delay or skip the rest”. But at first we need to determine really does matter most for us. Do you know and are you doing the most important things?

Michael H. Hoppe’s “Active Listening: Improving Your Ability To Listen And Lead”

Although it published by the Center for Creative Leadership is written for leaders is for everyone. We all need to learn to be an effective listening. Although this book is very thin (less than 30 pages), it effectively describes the six components of active listening: paying attention, suspending judgement, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing and sharing. If you need a concise book on active listening, I strongly recommend you this book by Michael H. Hoppe.

Sister Chan Khong’s “Beginning Anew: Four Steps to Restoring Communication”

One of the inspirations and learning is her teaching on “watering each other’s flowers”: “Refresh the relationship with a new look of appreciation. Try to find many qualities, talents, or actions, whether large or small, that others have done and acknowledge them. We call this part ‘watering the flower’ in the person you’re speaking too; but it also trainings you to be more attentive in daily life to the many small kindnesses and beauties of others around you, so it increases your own happiness as well”.

Have you watered the flower today?

Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Anger: Wisdom For Cooling The Flames”

I have read many books about “anger management”, but Thich Nhat Hanh not only help us to deal with our emotion but also rejuvenate those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger.

One of his transforming advice is practicing compassionate listening, “you listen not for the purpose of judging, criticizing, or analyzing. You listen only to help the other person to express himself and find some relief from his suffering”.

When we listen to each other with compassionate listening, our understanding, our inner self and our relationship are transformed. But companionate listening needs to be practice with intention, will and love. It is very effective way to cool the flames of anger.

Nicola Bird’s “A Little Peace Of Mind”

For more than 20 years, Nicola Bird experienced anxiety and panic attacks, sometimes so severely she could not leave the house. In this book Nicola opens up her experience and learning the way to cope with her anxiety.

She wrote, “…I became anxious about becoming anxious and my home felt like only place I could stay safe….We sometimes experience anxious thoughts, as does every other human being. It’s just we’ve decided that, at some point, for us, anxiety has become a ‘thing’ and that it is a problem. And we’ve forgotten that in truth we are the smoke machine and never the smoke…Trying to deal with the waves by managing your external circumstances is a never-ending and futile game…Living in harmony with Mind and having our thoughts flow through us is our natural and default state of being…You are safe. Everywhere you go. Because you’re home, wherever you go…I did not need to be anxiety-free to be absolutely fine…”

This is the way of Zen. This is the way of Tao. This is an invitation to your home, your heart. You can find peace there.

Virginia Satir’s “Your Many Faces”

Each one of us has a medley of “faces” that composes our individual personality: intelligence, anger, love, jealousy, helplessness, courage and many more. In this book, Stair points out that “When I fully acknowledge all of my faces and the fact that I am in charge of myself, then I can allow myself to feel different ways at different times. I can admit that I am capable of errors as well as great success. I can then afford to accept myself as a person, and I can more easily grant you the same possibilities. I can deal with real things rather my fantasy of them…Everyone, no matter what age, has new things to discover about themselves – and the more that we discover, the more interesting we become to ourselves and to others. To the degree that we accept ourselves with all our parts, we become whole, loving beings in relation to ourselves, which helps us to become more real and loving to other people.”

Being and accepting ourselves are not the same as being selfishness. Jesus teaches us to love others as we love ourselves. Do we know how to love and accept ourselves including the part(s) you may like/admit?

Responsibility and Power

In his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”, Mark Manson points out that “We do not always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond,…The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives…Often the same event can be good or bad, depending on the metric we choose to use. Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things. You always get to choose the metric by which to measure your experience.”

Manson’s writing causes me to recall what Randy Pausch said in his work, “The Last Lecture”, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” Randy is the great example how we can take the responsibility or/and choose to make response to what happens to us in a meaningful and powerful way (for Randy is cancer).

Yes, we have the choice. Yes, we can be powerful. Our life will be transformed by accepting the responsibility to accept and face what happens to us,

Thom Rainer’s “The Post Quarantine Church”

Although we are not sure if and how the Covid19 Pandemic is going to be over, Thom’s discussions in his book are good reminders for leaders as the churches gradually return to in-person gatherings.

Thom rightly points out that he new normal of the post-quarantine church does not look like the old normal of the pre-pandemic church. In order to grasp the new opportunities the new normal is bringing us, Thom advises us to 1) gather differently; 2) reach the digital world; 3) reconnect with the community near our churches; 4) take prayer to a new and powerful level; 5) rethink our facilities for emerging opportunities and 6) make lasting changes that will make a difference.

In fact, these are the areas the churches have been ignored for years and the new normal is waking us up to make responses to the rapid changing of the world.

The three layers of the self-awareness onion

In his book “The Subtle Art of Not Give A Fuck”, Mark Manson talks about self-awareness. For him, “self-awareness is like an onion”; the first layer of the self-awareness onion s a simple understanding of one’s emotions; the second layer of the self-awareness onion is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions (this layer of questioning helps us understand the root cause of the emotion that overwhelm us); the third level is our personal values that determines the nature of our problems and then the quality of our lives (for him, values underlie everything we are and do).

I appreciate and resonate with his thought, especially on the importance & role of “values” in our lives. In fact, honest self-questioning and having a deeper knowledge of our own values are difficult. The journey of discerning and learning our own values leads us to be our true self, understands why we feel, think, say and do in “that” way, and even adjust our values.

Do you aware of your own values?

Derek Lin’s “The Tao of Daily Life”

In chapter 1 of this book, Lin wrote, “When the rationality of brain utterly fails to grasp the Tao, the heart will step in to embrace it with a way of knowing that is beyond knowledge. Feeling is the key”. Instead of “feeling”, I believe “experiencing is the key”. The “experiencing” I am talking about here is to live in the presence of Tao fully. In this way, Tao is experienced in our thinking, feeling, speaking, listening, walking…when we live fully in the moment of our life.

Responding to the anti-vaccine rally

After I read this news, I have the following thoughts:

Yes, I totally respect and value the importance of freedom and choice and I also believe love over fear. But how do they value the safety and health of others and their own? How do they define freedom and choice? How do they understand and interpret love and fear? In order to fight the COVID19 pandemic, do they have any other workable solutions other than vaccinations and social restrictions? I do know many people deny the seriousness of the pandemic; they do not believe the public/scientific statistics; some even do not believe anything about the pandemic at all…I also wonder if they themselves or their beloved ones have been infected and hospitalized.

At the end, I do want my “normal” life back too and I do feel very challenging and difficult in the past months. But I do cherish the limited freedom I am having now, at least for now I can visit my parents and I can go out for grocery/shopping/jogging… I also appreciate the efforts of others, especially frontline healthcare workers. Let’s keep hope alive when we are in the dark and let’s walk together on this journey.

Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children”

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist wrote a poem called “On Children”:

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children.
     And he said:
     Your children are not your children.
     They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
     They come through you but not from you,
     And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

     You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
     For they have their own thoughts.
     You may house their bodies but not their souls,
     For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
     You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
     For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
     You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
     The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
     Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
     For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Even this poem was written long time ago, as both a son and a father, I think it is out of date. As a son, I always want to be that arrow; as a father, I hope to be that bow. May the archer, the creator of life help me.

Joe Amaral’s “Understanding Jesus: cultural insights into the words and deeds of Christ”

I just finish reading this book that really has been stirring me to “learn more about our Jewish roots as the people of God as we follow after the One our Hebrew Christian brothers and sisters call Yeshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah”. As what Wayne Hilsden wrote, “Joe Amaral sheds significant new light on the person and work of the Messiah and by digging deeper into the Hebraic roots of the New Testament text”, I strongly recommend this book to you.