The inspirational message of ‘Grounded’ is more important than ever

wpid-0404_Diana_Butler_Bass_author.jpgEditor’s Note: ReadTheSpirit magazine earlier collaborated with Christian educator and writer Debbie Houghton on a five-part study guide to Diana Butler Bass’s landmark book Grounded. Here are .. Here’s a link back to Part 1, also to Part 2, Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. We also published an interview with Diana Butler Bass on why she calls this “the first book of the second half of my life.”

As Spring, 2017, approaches, a new less-expensive paperback edition of Grounded has been released. (Visit the paperback’s Amazon page here.)

We asked Debbie Houghton to return and tell us why this book remains very important for the spiritual challenges of this new year.

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By DEBBIE HOUGHTON

Where is God?

How often are you asking yourself that question in the opening months of 2017?

Diana Butler Bass’s premise in Grounded is that that we find the Holy One in the natural world—dirt, water, sky—and the relational world —family, home, neighborhood and commons.

To say that we can find God in all of our encounters means that we need to treat those encounters as holy and sacred.

It means that children in Flint and all over the world deserve clean water to drink and use; it means our national parks need to remain as places of beauty and refuge; it means that we need to cherish and raise our families to respect and love this world; it means that our neighbor is not only next door, but in all whom we meet; it means that hospitality means opening the door and inviting in those who need a welcoming hand.

It is so important in this newly emerging era of fear and unkindness that we can live and love in the world and meet God there. My favorite image from Grounded is that of God’s dining room table, where, as Diana writes:

No one owns the table. No one gets to take it over. We receive this table; it is the gift of heaven to earth. Our job is pull up more chairs. And make sure all are fed.

She reminds us that God is here, now. We only need to recognize the Spirit in all. I hope that you will have a chance to read Grounded and start finding God in your world.

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1st United Methodist Church of Ann Arbor (1)Care to come to Ann Arbor?

In Ann Arbor, we care so much about this message that we are hosting Diana Butler Bass for a series of talks on March 24-26, 2017. Here is our congregation’s webpage for the event, if you care to learn more.

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Missy Buchanan brings us ‘Spirit Boosters’ to start your day

“Sometimes you wake up and think to yourself, ‘There’s no reason for me to get out of bed.’ You have no motivation, no anticipation. Each day feels just like the last. Remember that you are called to be a disciple, and discipleship carries no expiration date. Your work on earth is not done. Get up, serve, stretch, and grow!”
Bible reference: “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
From Missy Buchanan’s Spirit Boosters

By DAVID CRUMM
ReadTheSpirit Editor

Spirit Boosters by Missy Buchanan

CLICK on the IMAGE to visit the Amazon page.

Spirit Boosters is my eighth project with Upper Room Books and it comes from all the traveling I’ve done over the years, speaking at conferences and churches and senior-care communities,” Missy Buchanan said in an interview this week. “I keep meeting people who continue to do so much good, whatever their age may be. But they also talk about how easy it is, as we age and we lose some of our abilities, to become bitter about life. We may wake up each day facing aches and pains. And, there are other reasons we can become bitter. Finally, one day, a friend suggested to me: ‘What we need is a daily attitude adjuster.’ ”

That’s how Missy Buchanan—who has had amazing success over the past decade with books designed to inspire aging readers—decided to roll up her sleeves and create a spiral-bound, 365-day calendar of bite-sized inspirational messages, coupled with passages from the Bible.

If you haven’t read our earlier ReadTheSpirit columns about her work, then we are sharing links below to some of our past coverage. Here are the basic details you need to know: Since 2008, Missy Buchanan has had a meteoric career in writing very popular books for Christian men and women who are wrestling with the sometimes harsh demands of age. Many of her readers are 80 or older. Many of them live in senior communities. She also scored a big success in helping the mother of Robin Roberts, the Good Morning America co-host, write her 2012 memoir.

Like her other projects, her spiral-bound calendar is aimed at Christian readers, drawing on verses from the Hebrew Bible out of Psalms and Proverbs as well many passages from the Christian New Testament, including the words of Jesus.

But the real reason to order one of these calendars—perfect for someone wanting to start a deeper spiritual reflection during the Christian season of Lent—is the daily advice written by Buchanan herself, based on the scripture passages. She brings her trademark honesty to nearly every page.

“Every now and then, I find a critic who describes something in one of my books as ‘harsh,’ and I think Baby Boomers in particular may be uncomfortable about my level of honesty about the challenges of aging,” Buchanan said. “But from the very start of my first book, I had this group of older adults who I would visit regularly. These friends formed my core group of advisors. I’ll never forget the advice I got from one of them. She said: ‘Missy, whatever you do, don’t put on rose-colored glasses and try to convince us that aging is easy. It’s not! If you try to write like it’s all roses—we’re not going to believe you!’

“And over the years, that’s been my constant goal: honesty. So, part of that honesty is in the way I name what people are facing. I talk about the aches and pains. Those are real and trying to cover that up isn’t helpful to anyone. But there’s another part of my honesty and it involves telling readers that they need to get up each day and do some good in the world. Whatever your age or condition in life, you can do that, even if it’s only in the way you behave toward your caregiver.”

And, in recommending this inexpensive gift for yourself—or someone you love—here is another honest-to-Missy sample from the February section of the calendar:

“As an older adult, you have a responsibility to younger people. They are watching and learning about aging from you. Think of what you are teaching them about God’s faithfulness. Reflect on your responsibility to younger generations and the lessons you are passing on. Are you teaching them well?”
Bible reference: “We will tell to the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord.”
Psalm 78:4

 

 

CARE TO READ MORE?

ReadTheSpirit has recommended the work of Missy Buchanan over the past decade. If you missed these past columns about her work, you may enjoy reading:

ALSO, look for Missy Buchanan’s upcoming appearances via her website. In June, she will appear twice at the nation’s largest United Methodist congregation: Church of the Resurrection in Kansas.

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Celebrating 75 years of revolutionary Little Golden Books

Cover of Golden Legacy book about history of Little Golden Books (1)

CLICK the COVER to visit the book’s Amazon page.

I was a Little Golden boy. Millions of Baby Boomer girls and boys were like me—raised on this revolutionary series of affordable, high-quality picture books for children. You may have a favorite. Mine is Wiggles, released in 1953 with gorgeous illustrations by Eloise Margaret Wilkin, who sometimes was called “the soul of Little Golden Books.” She used a variety of media to produce luminous illustrations—often depicting children at home in town and country. Wiggles was about a city boy who went to live in the country and discovered all sorts of wonders in the farmland surrounding him. I loved the book because several scenes evoked Robert Frost poems that I heard my parents read aloud in our home. One illustration shows apple picking; another shows a calf with its mother that is reminiscent of Frost’s “The Pasture.” When I learned to read and finally could read books by myself, I carried vivid images in my head from Eloise Wikin and Little Golden Books. They were—and are—images of harmony, hospitality and hope.
David Crumm

Little Golden Books (born 1942)

The post World War II revolution in children’s literature, now known as Little Golden Books, sprang from roots that were sunk decades before the war. “Roots” is a good metaphor because these earlier efforts were regarded as tangled, messy and downright plebeian by the literary elite who ruled American libraries.

The entire story is laid out—with lots of colorful pictures—in Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became An American Icon Along the Way, by Leonard S. Marcus.

One root beneath the launch of Little Golden Books was the Artists & Writers Guild, formed in the 1930s to dramatically rethink the way books were produced. Borrowing a medieval-sounding name, these writers and artists were based in New York and intended to create a whole new collaborative process for rapidly producing books. They weren’t interested in traditional literary gatekeepers—nor were those gatekeepers interested in their books, for the most part. Other pre-war taproots were pulp fiction, comic books and even Horatio Alger up-from-the-bootstraps novels. These were “popular” books in “cheap” editions and America’s librarians scoffed at the whole mess.

Beautiful American-produced children’s books already were redefining childhood before World War II—if you were part of a well-to-do family who could afford a $2.00 hardback copy of The Story of Babar, which first appeared in the UK and the US in 1933.

Everything about Little Golden Books was intended to democratize children’s literature, starting with the price: a quarter. These books were fast, inexpensive and focused on connecting all families with quality picture books about real life, including American cities, towns, human families, animal families, occupations and modes of transportation. The publishing project also spanned much of the nation—joining Simon and Schuster in New York City with Western Publishing in Racine, Wisconsin.

A pilot group of a dozen Little Golden Books—starting with Three Little Kittens and including the famous The Poky Little Puppy—were published in 1942, but wartime shortages prevented the full-scale launch of the project until 1946. The first two volumes in the post-war series were New House in the Forest, illustrated by Eloise Wilkins and The Taxi That Hurried, illustrated by Tibor Gergely. A Hungarian refugee who made it to New York in 1939, Gergely went on to create the super-popular books Tootle, The Little Red Caboose and Scuffy the Tugboat.

(NOTE TO READERS: Dig around in your attic. Some of the original Golden editions are valuable today! As we publish this column in early 2017, vintage copies of New House in the Forest are selling for $160 on Amazon.)

From the beginning, America’s librarians hated the whole idea of these upstarts who were intentionally bypassing their traditional pre-publication review process—and then were grabbing little eyes in drug stores, “variety stores” and “dime stores.” The gatekeepers of children’s literature favored fairy tale classics; they only bought “quality” editions and they encouraged the publishing of “timeless” stories for their institutional collections.

Librarians also turned up their noses at Lucy Sprague Mitchell, an educator who had tangled with library associations as far back as the 1920s. Mitchell became one of the major cheerleaders behind Little Golden Books. Earlier, she had founded an influential progressive school in Manhattan’s West Village, called the Bank Street Nursery School. (Today, the school founded by Mitchell in 1916 has evolved into the Bank Street College of Education.) A veteran of national debates on the future of childhood education, Mitchell went after the critics of Little Golden Books full force.

In Golden Legacy, Leonard Marcus writes: “Arguing that young children were naturally curious about everyday modern life—airplanes, telephones, cities—and apt to be confused by the ‘timeless’ fairy tales librarians favored, Mitchell … went on to propose prototypes for a new kind of child-centered children’s literature.”

The project picked up another major educational ally in “Mary Reed, PhD,” a name frequently associated with Little Golden Books although Mary herself remained largely in the background. She co-authored only two of the books, My Little Golden Dictionary in 1949 and Numbers in 1955. Mary, born in 1880 in a small town along the Susquehanna River, grew up to become a courageous scholar on the faculty of Columbia University’s Teachers College. She bumped into the Writers & Artists Guild, which she immediately saw as a sign of cutting-edge creativity in media. That led to her connection with Little Golden Books. The savvy team recognized that Mary’s “PhD” and her prestigious role at Columbia would trump the other gatekeepers among America’s libraries who kept disparaging Little Golden Books. Mary agreed to review and comment on all Golden books, lending her name and that fancy “PhD” to what became a popular movement in households nationwide.

Cover Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Children and their parents loved to collect Little Golden Books. They reshaped American childhood. One of the best ways to glimpse their cultural impact is through Diane Muldrow’s book, Everything I Need To Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book. Muldrow is an editorial director at Little Golden Books and has written dozens of the stories herself.

In her preface, she describes the millions of American children who loved looking at the colorful covers of Little Golden Books while shopping with their families. If Mom or Dad agreed to buy one, “when you got the book home, you proudly scrawled your name on the inside front cover where it said: ‘This Little Golden Book Belongs to …’”

“Little Golden Books were first published during the dark days of World War II,” Muldrow writes. “They’ve been comforting people during trying times ever since—while gently teaching us a thing or two. And they remind us that we’ve had the potential to be wise and content all along.”

(Originally published at www.ReadTheSpirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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PBS: Exploring American Extremism

The Birth of a Nation (1915) movie still

The Birth of a Nation (1915), directed by D.W. Griffith, Shown: Walter Long (as Gus) surrounded by Ku Klux Klan members.

By DAVID CRUMM
ReadTheSpirit Editor

In early February, 2017, PBS will broadcast three documentary films about explosive touchstones in the rise of American extremism—and one about a Civil Rights hero. They are:

  • BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT—Subtitled “How The Birth of a Nation Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights,” the hour-long film airs on PBS’s Independent Lens series on February 6, 2017. Visit the film’s PBS website to learn more.
  • OKLAHOMA CITY—Exploring the worst domestic terrorist attack in the US, the two-hour film airs on PBS’s American Experience series on February 7, 2017. Visit the film’s PBS website to learn more.
  • RUBY RIDGE—Examining the 1992 confrontation with the white separatist Randy Weaver in Idaho, the one-hour film airs on PBS’s American Experience series on February 14, 2017. Visit the film’s PBS website to learn more.
  • JOHN LEWIS—GET IN THE WAY—Then, PBS turns to an inspiring profile of Civil Rights hero U.S. Rep. John Lewis who has been in national headlines recently. The one-hour film airs on February 10. Visit the film’s PBS website to learn more.

REVIEW OF ‘BIRTH OF A MOVEMENT’

Do you think it’s unique that Civil Rights are under siege with the backing of right-wing media activists inhabiting the White House? On February 6, the PBS network will broadcast the true, tragic story of what happened when such forces converged in an earlier era.

In the documentary Birth of a Movement, PBS takes us back just over a century to a time when the U.S. president became an ally of right-wing media tycoons releasing a coast-to-coast tidal wave of what historians now describe as “racist pornography.”

Is this the first time you’ve heard this story? You’re not alone. As Editor of ReadTheSpirit, I occasionally talk with groups about the history of American media and I always get stunned reactions to the shocking 1915 story of Birth of a Nation. Most Americans today have never heard this story—unless they’re steeped in the history of silent cinema or the early years of the NAACP.

The movie in question is the infamous Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith—not to be confused with a 2016 movie of the same title. The president who broke with established Washington D.C. protocol to welcome a first-ever White House screening of a movie was President Woodrow Wilson. While most Americans might recall Wilson as an idealist during World War I, Wilson was better known in 1915 as a Southerner whose lifelong friend was Thomas S. Dixon Jr. In that era when Jim Crow laws were cropping up across the U.S., Dixon was the firebrand author of Birth of a Nation’s incendiary storyline about the need for the Ku Klux Klan to violently suppress African-Americans. For his part, Wilson was a Southerner who established and promoted Jim Crow rules throughout Washington D.C.

Then, here’s the real tragedy! By January 1915, the Ku Klux Klan had all but vanished. That all changed after the movie’s endorsement by Wilson, record-breaking crowds in movie debuts in various big cities and eventually unprecedented public protests against the movie organized by a pioneer of the NAACP. The original KKK had arisen after the Civil War, but had all but disappeared by 1915. However, sparked by the enormous popularity of Griffith’s movie—and President Wilson’s encouragement—the Klan was reborn and grew to its largest-ever membership by the 1920s.

In fact, until 1915, the Klan had never burned a cross. What later became its signature hate crime—burning crosses to intimidate African-Americans, Catholics, Jews and other minority families—was a vivid concept introduced in Dixon’s novel and Griffith’s feature film. Eventually, the KKK felt so embraced by the White House and the American people that a massive KKK march was organized in Washington D.C.—and the members no longer feared public identification. Most of the men marched proudly in their white costumes—without their trademark white hoods.

Book cover by Dick Lehr Birth of a Nation and Willliam Monroe Trotter (1)

CLICK ON this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

The film is based on Boston-based journalist Dick Lehr’s book about early African-American activist William Monroe Trotter who organized an astonishing array of public protests against the film in Boston. Trotter was a contemporary and sometime ally of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. (Although Trotter and Du Bois both opposed Washington’s appeasement on racial issues, all three opposed Griffith’s movie.) Various historians featured in the documentary argue that Trotter’s tidal wave of public protests and marches proved to be an early model for civil rights activism all the way into the 1950s and 1960s.

Viewers will meet a very impressive array of scholars. Among the African-American scholars who appear in the film are: Both Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Vincent Brown of Harvard, William Jelani Cobb of Columbia and Dolita Cathcart of Wheaton. Filmmaker Spike Lee adds a personal perspective on the story. Danny Glover narrates.

ReadTheSpirit urges readers to watch these films, perhaps visit the supplemental websites PBS provides—and discuss these issues with friends.

 

 

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Enough! Reflecting with Donizetti on Greed

This visual reflection accompanies Benjamin Pratt’s column on parables of Greed and Generosity (or Avarice and Charity), part of an occasional series about the deadly sins in 2017. As Ben explains here, the original idea for this spiritual reflection comes from the late, great author Phyllis Tickle.

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Donizetti painting of Greed Avarice

‘Avarice,’ a 1996 painting by Mario Donizetti

AVARICE

The late Phyllis Tickle, in her book on Greed, chose Mario Donizetti’s encaustic panel as the premier image to facilitate a soul-changing discussion of the mistress of all sins: greed.

Discussing greed as philosophy or ethics always succumbs to abstraction. But Tickle tells us that greed “almost always requires an image to serve as its vehicle if it is to be entered into human conversation.”

Or, to be more blunt, if we intend to confront our own natural tendency toward greed, we need to look into mirrors, be they paintings, stories or dramas, that reflect our personal moral status. To face greed honestly requires a soul battle, and to discuss it in community is even more demanding. A rare happening!

According to I Timothy 6:10, St. Paul says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Tickle agrees that “greed is actually the sin of apostasy, of desiring a life subject to human control over a life of vulnerable trust in the unseen.”

So, to initiate the conversation: What do I see when I look into Donizetti’s mirror?

I see myself stripped naked, exposed, sexless, anxious, vulnerable, scared, and drained of joy, song, laughter and generosity. I see myself hugging my money, hoping it will make me powerful and diminish my vulnerability. I see my stripped-down self sitting on my portfolio of imagined security, cautious of surrendering to my fear of not having enough. I fail to see or don’t want to see those who have paid for or been crushed by my efforts to secure my future while ignoring theirs.

Or might it be that poverty during my early life oozes out from under the sack? I don’t want to feel, smell, taste or face again my childhood poverty. I see the agony of existence—a flower closing instead of opening to life’s joy.

What do you see in the mirror?

PLEASE, we invite you to share this reflection with friends.

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Enough! Remembering that Greed Is a Deadly Sin

Goldfinger movie still

Gert Fröbe as Auric Goldfinger in the 1964 James Bond classic.

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Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
from the New Testament book of James, Chapter 5

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GREED is not a Christian virtue.

For centuries, in fact, Christians have condemned avarice as a deadly sin.

In this new year when the idea of amassing personal wealth is often conflated with God’s blessings, theologians like Stanley Hauerwas are stepping forward to remind Christians of this truth as he did recently in the Washington Post. This week, ReadTheSpirit is taking a different tack. We—our writers and editors—are storytellers and we try to bring you, each week, the best news about books and films that uplift the spirit. So, we have asked popular columnist Benjamin Pratt to share with us some stories—some parables. After a lifetime as a pastoral counselor, Ben has written books on caregiving, on confronting life’s daily challenges and on the importance of understanding the deadly sins and corresponding virtues.

Today, he offers parables you may want to share with friends on greed and charity.

And, by the way, charity is, indeed, a Christian virtue.

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‘ENOUGH!’

By BENJAMIN PRATT

The parable was the main teaching tool of Jesus. A parable is a mirror into which each person is able to see a representation and measure of our soul’s journey in God’s world.

The parable was also the main tool used by best-selling novelist Ian Fleming, the creator of the super-agent James Bond 007. Fleming publicly described his novels about 007 as “parables about evil people.” Bond’s mission was not to be a spy but to “go after the threat behind the spies, the threat that made them spy,” Fleming wrote. Bond’s mission as 007 was to slay the dragons of evil. So, in this reflection, I’ve also reached for passages from Fleming’s Goldfinger.

You’ll find some other literary references here and a couple of real-life saints, as well. Consider this column an invitation to become a pilgrim and progress through these encounters.

As you do, please think about your own responses to this temptation. We can offer antidotes to avarice even in the way we talk about greed, and the need for charity, in conversations with friends. For example, if we wrestle with our own temptations toward greed, one sign that we are winning the battle may be an honest exclamation: “Enough!”

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PARABLE OF ‘ENOUGH!’

George C. Scott at Scrooge movie still

George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge

“Christmas a humbug, uncle!” said Scrooge’s nephew. “You don’t mean that, I am sure.”

“I do,” said Scrooge. “Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

“Come, then,” returned the nephew gaily. “What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

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PARABLE OF ‘ENOUGH!’

But Esau said, ‘I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.’
Genesis 33:9

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PARABLE OF ‘ENOUGH!’

The James Bond prize for Greed goes to Auric Goldfinger. Super-agent 007 is also referred to as “St. George” in all the Bond tales. This signals his primary mission—to slay the dragons that corrupt our lives.

The dragons Bond faces are all personifications of the evils that plague each of us. Auric Goldfinger is greed personified. As I describe in my book, Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass, the Bond novels were intended by Fleming as parables about what he felt were the modern world’s deadliest sins. Here are a few passages from Goldfinger, Fleming’s parable about evil—the evil of greed.

Gert Frobe plays Auric Goldfinger in "Goldfinger"

Do these passages remind you of a titan of wealth in our time?

“Goldfinger. Auric. That means golden, doesn’t it? He certainly is that. Got flaming red hair … It was as if Goldfinger had been put together with bits of other people’s bodies. Nothing seemed to belong. Perhaps, Bond thought, it was to conceal his ugliness that Goldfinger made such a fetish of sunburn. Without the red brown camouflage the pale body would be grotesque…There was a powerhouse of vitality humming in the man that suggested that if one stuck an electric bulb into Goldfinger’s mouth it would light up.”

Jill Masterton, Goldfinger’s accomplice in card sharking, answers the big question: “Why does he do it?” (cheat to win at cards or golf) “I can’t understand him. It’s sort of a mania with him, making money. He can’t leave it alone. I’ve asked him why and all he says is that one’s a fool not to make money when the odds are right. He’s always going on about the same thing, getting the odds right…and when the odds aren’t right, make them right.”

”He was the kind of man who thought he could flatten the world with his money, bludgeoning aside annoyances and opposition with his heavy wad.”

Goldfinger has a woman once a month. “He hypnotizes them. Then he—he paints them gold … he’s sort of possessing gold. You know—marrying it.”

Goldfinger said, “I am very successful and immensely rich, and riches … may not make you friends but they greatly increase the class and variety of your enemies … I am a poet in deeds—not often in words.”

Goldfinger confesses his driving motivation. “Mr. Bond, all my life I have been in love. I have been in love with gold. But above all, I love the true power gold alone gives to its owner—the magic of controlling energy, exacting labour, fulfilling one’s every wish and whim and, when need be, purchasing bodies, minds and even souls…I shall be the richest man in the world, the richest man in history!”

The end comes with Bond and Goldfinger attempting to choke the other to death. It is a vicious battle with Bond finally prevailing against greed. Our battle with greed is always a vicious life long struggle between our desire to have more and claiming we have enough.

“I have enough,” James Bond responded to a million-pound bribe.

 

PARABLE OF ‘ENOUGH!’

Have you seen the haunting contemporary painting of Greed by Mario Donizetti? The late Phyllis Tickle pointed to this painting as a disturbing and thought-provoking starting point in our spiritual struggle with this deadly sin. This week, we also are providing readers with that image and a short meditation you could share with friends.

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GENEROSITY, aka CHARITY

PARABLE OF CHARITY

Chuck Feeney

Chuck Feeney

Forbes Magazine called him the “James Bond of philanthropy” because he had given away $8 billion in almost complete secrecy. Not one major American philanthropist has given away a greater portion of his wealth. Chuck Feeney’s philosophy met his aspiration to empty his pockets by “giving while living”. He also said, wryly, “When giving while dead, you don’t feel anything.” This New Jersey born, Irish heritage business mogul co-founded Duty Free Shops around the world. He made other wise investments and amassed billions. He funded the peace process in Northern Ireland along with giving billions for higher education, public health, human rights and scientific research. His name is not chiseled in marble nor flashing from gilded letters on the thousand buildings on five continents that were built with $2.7 billion of his funds.

Mr. Feeney, now 85, has nearly completed his life’s aspiration of giving the bulk of his money to worthy causes. He encapsulated his frugality and generosity into his life style by traveling in coach and carrying reading materials in a plastic bag. He said, “You can only wear one pair of pants at a time.”

In June, 2014, Feeney sat among numerous billionaires and received Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Philanthropy. Warren Buffett presented the award by saying, “Chuck has set the example. It’s a real honor to talk about a fellow who is my hero and Bill Gates’s hero.” After other appropriate comments of praise, Warren Buffet turned to his old friend and mentor, Feeney, and declared that he has made a terrible mistake by spending money unnecessarily. “Look at your watch. It has a battery which wears out and needs to be replaced,” he said. Then Buffet walked over to his friend Chuck, removed his own watch with a windup stem, and presented it to Chuck Feeney so that he could save a little more money to give away. What a tender, gracious, generous moment between two icons of philanthropy!

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PARABLE OF CHARITY

Alfred Nobel (1)

Alfred Nobel (1833-1896)

On a fateful morning in 1888, Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who had amassed an enormous fortune from the manufacture and sale of weapons of destruction, sat before his morning breakfast and newspaper and read his own obituary! A French reporter had made a mistake, publishing Alfred’s obit instead of his brother’s, who had died. Alfred was shocked at his description as “the dynamite king.” He had always seen himself as a man committed to breaking down barriers between people. To his horror, the world viewed him as a merchant of death. He left that breakfast table to change his last will and testament in the hope of changing his life’s legacy. The final disposition of his fortune established the Nobel Prize given to those who have done most for the cause of world peace.

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PARABLE OF CHARITY

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”
Luke 21: 1-4

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

Care to read more?

A VISUAL REFLECTION—Also this week, Benjamin Pratt offers a visual reflection on Greed, based on a disturbing painting by the Italian artist Mario Donizetti, an idea prompted by the writings of the late Phyllis Tickle.

Cover of Benjamin Pratt Ian Fleming Seven Deadlier Sins bookAND, GET THE BOOK—Benjamin Pratt is the author of a book-length exploration of Ian Fleming’s life-long fascination with the challenge of “deadly sins.” In fact, Fleming believed that the traditional deadly sins should be updated with sins of the contemporary world—a theme he explored in his Bond novels. Learn more by getting a copy of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass.

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Join with the Resiliency Project

CLICK ON this image of the statement to visit the IFLC’s website and find the entire text, plus ways you can get involved with this effort.

Want to do something tangible to express your ongoing faith in our culturally diverse American community?

The Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit has launched a prayerful effort to do just that.

The pledge—which takes the form of a prayerful affirmation—was drafted by leaders from many faith groups in southeast Michigan. You can read and sign the form online by visiting the IFLC webpage. There’s also a printable version of the statement.

In explaining the effort to a group of media professionals on Friday, IFLC leader Bob Bruttell said,

“Most Americans do not want to be intolerant, but right now we are hearing a lot of intolerant voices unleashed across the country. We need to figure out what it means to ‘stand with others’—and that starts with getting to know each other in a real way. Sometimes we think we know what another community is thinking or needing—and usually we don’t. We need to talk with each other and really get to know each other so that we can stand together in resiliency.”

 

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