4/19/20 Romans: 14:19 So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. There is a program on television that I like. The premise is what would happen to the earth if suddenly all the humans were gone – if some disaster struck that wiped us all out. The program then went through various scenarios about the earth taking back the roads and buildings; everything would rather quickly be swallowed up by vegetation and wild animals would roam about in packs and herds. Or the area turns back into desert. Things go back to the way of the earth. We see this on a smaller scale when we do not tend our garden. It does not take long for weeds to overgrow and steal the nutrients and water from the soil, and our cherished vegetables are withered and gone. I saw this yesterday as I was doing some cleaning in my office. Everything was so covered in dust; it was as if the earth was trying to reclaim the room. In a conversational, non-scientific usage, we call this entropy: the gradual degradation of something into chaos or disorder. When we do not tend the garden, the garden withers and dies. We observe this process when we leave something metal outside: it rusts. Not all entropy is aesthetically unpleasant. We like to take pictures of old weathered barns, for instance. In fact, I am sure that there are people who would prefer the world to take back most of what humans have built. Some people see progress, while others see scars on Mother Earth. Regardless of our philosophic persuasion, or the exactness of our definition, a force or law akin to entropy exists. Without attention, things tend to degrade. Left on their own, most things don’t get better; they don’t improve. They do not get shinier, stronger, more organized, or better. Perhaps the force I am referring to is atrophy. If we do not tend to our bodies, through proper diet and exercise, our bodies become ‘dis-eased’ in one way or another. From lack of use, the body and cells can degenerate. Whether it is a form of atrophy or entropy, lack of attention can cause many areas of our lives to weaken, degrade, and become chaotic. Chaos can affect our finances, our housekeeping, almost every area of our lives. If we do not use our minds, we lose our capacity to think clearly. While it is true that the tone woods of guitars improve with age and become more beautiful sounding, it is also true that guitars, as do all wooden instruments, require the correct humidity to stay healthy. We must tend our instruments in order to maintain them. If we do not, they may either dry out and crack without humidity, or expand, warp, and literally fall apart as the glue separates from the joints, if there is too much humidity. This is also true with our relationships with family, friends, and associates. If we do not tend our relationships, they grow weaker. It becomes obvious after a while, that what we pay attention to grows and prospers, and what we ignore weakens. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “I have a fight going on within me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, inferiority, lies, false-pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued. “The other is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, wisdom, tolerance, temperance, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on within you – within every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a moment then asked, “Which wolf will win the fight?” The old Cherokee said, “The one you feed.” Where we place our attention, our focus, we give it power and strength. When we ignore something, and remove the light of our attention, it dims and fades. In life, we will often meet circumstances where we are afraid, or in our adult language, we say, “We are concerned.” It is the same thing. It is my belief that fear is a symptom of entropy; we have not paid attention to something, and the result is fear. The idea we are avoiding, which is resulting in our fear, doubt, and concern, is love. In 1 John 4:19 we are told, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” It takes effort to combat entropy; it takes our energy, perseverance, desire, and attention to stop the process of degradation. But it can be stopped and reversed with a new plan. “Look, I make all things new,” says Christ. In Isaiah 43:19, God said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” It is the nature of Spirit to stop atrophy and through love bring everything back to a state of perfection and peace. We are transformed with the renewing of our minds, we are told. When we stop feeding the evil wolf and turn our attention to the good one, we are renewed – in that very moment. In the instant of choice, where we place our attention determines our rebirth, our renewal. If we do not purposefully choose love, then through entropy we have doomed ourselves to fear. It is the positive purposeful decision to focus on love that determines our loving joyous life. We do not even have to choose fear and doubt and pain. In fact, I would argue that most people don’t intentionally choose the dark path. Rather, it is a result of not choosing love and light. It is the consequence of spiritual entropy. It may be possible to eventually become so spiritual that we always move toward the good. But I would need some convincing. Look at Jesus, how often did he move into prayer? A lot! “Get behind me Satan,” was a command to his earthly human mind to control his lower thought patterns. He made the decision to stop feeding the evil wolf and focus on love. A group of ministers had assembled for the discussion of difficult questions. Among other topics, it was asked how to comply with the command to "pray without ceasing". Various explanations were given. It was finally agreed that one of them would be appointed to write a lengthy essay on the subject, which would be read at the next meeting. The entire discussion was overheard by a young woman who had been serving the tea. She said, "What, a whole month to tell the meaning of that text? Why it is one of easiest and best texts in the Bible!" "Well, well, Mary", said an old minister, "what can you say about it? Let us know how you understand it. Can you pray all the time without ceasing?" "Oh yes, sir!" "What?" the old minister coughed back, "when you have so many things to do?" "Why, sir, the more I have to do, the more I can pray!" "Indeed", he replied, "Well Mary, let us know how it is. Most of us think the answer is otherwise." "Well, sir", she said, "when I first open my eyes in the morning, I pray 'Lord, open the eyes of my understanding'; and while I am dressing, I pray that I may be clothed with the robes of righteousness; when I wash, I ask for the washing of regeneration; as I work, I pray that I may have the strength equal to my day; as I sweep out the house, I pray the my heart may be cleansed from all impurities; while preparing and eating of breakfast, I pray to be fed with the hidden manna and the sincere milk of the Word; as I am busy with the little children, I ask God to make me become as a child; and so on, all day. Everything I do furnishes me with a thought for prayer." "Enough, enough", cried the old minister, "these things are revealed to babes and His from the wise and prudent. Go on, Mary, pray without ceasing. May we all do the same!" Like Mary, the more we can keep a prayer in everything we do and think, the stronger we become. When we are coming from a position of strength, then we can follow the admonition in Romans 15:1-2: “So we who are strong have a duty to bear the weaknesses of those who are not strong, rather than please ourselves.” This leads me to my final point of this talk. When we can infuse with love and the awareness of Spirit through mental attention and prayer, then we can help others, and others can help us. When I was 40, I was taking Tai Kwan Do lessons. I had just earned my first belt and working toward the next. There are so many various colors of belts, I think this one was … Mother-of-Pearl. Anyways, I was warming up doing some jumps, when I landed, heard a resounding pop, and fell to the mat. I was not in pain, but I could not get up. I learned later that I had damaged both Achilles Tendons, one was torn, one was ruptured. I never had surgery to repair them, which was a mistake. I still cannot run without pain and fear of injuring them again. My calf muscles atrophied, and it was as if I severed a nerve so I could not even flex those muscles. When I was in my late 50’s, I started walking for exercise. After three years of this I was walking 5 miles a day. My lower legs were in great shape, but in my left leg primarily, it was not from the calf muscle on the back of the leg directly. Adjacent muscles had stepped in to take on the burden of strengthening my legs. It is so in our lives, in a national society, and in the world community. If there is weakness in one area, with love and acceptance, others will come in to strengthen that area. This is seen when a call goes out from a natural disaster, and that call is answered with profound giving and caring. When we come together, we can accomplishment tremendous things, make great achievements, and perform almost impossible feats. It is the nature of God to heal atrophy, reverse entropy, and maintain perfection. But Spirit needs us to do our part and do it well. We are here with a purpose, and not to interfere with the purpose of another. We can help others, and support them, but we cannot tell them what to do or what their purpose is; they must be allowed to fulfill the plan God has for them. When we can be our best at working God’s plan for us and help others be their best as they pursue their unique mission, then we are on God’s Team. When we live completely in Spirit, we remove ourselves from the effects of degradation. When all our thoughts are of God, and when the Christ expresses through us perfectly, the choices are easier: light or dark, love or fear. When there is only Spirit, there is only one choice. So, until we are perfect, my prayer is that we continue to make the positive purposeful choices of love, joy, and peace, so that we radiate the Divine to all others, building bridges between hearts. As 1 John 1:7 teaches: “If we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other.” I pray that one by one, we push back against atrophy and entropy by living in the Light of Christ, building togetherness, creating community, and establishing unity. It starts with us, as an individual -- here and now. May we have the courage to come together, love each other, and move forward on God’s plan.