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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘We’ are more than our selves

Now, on to the Self, Part 3. If you’ve haven’t been following, for the last couple of columns I’ve been using Walker Percy’s 1983 book “Lost in the Cosmos” as a springboard into an examination of the curse/blessing of human self-awareness, a disease with which humans appear uniquely afflicted. Our cats, Maddie and Annie, have been offering by contrast their lives of unexamined contentment: play, sleep, eat, cuddle, and catch-and-munch-the-fly. Frankly, I want not to be just like them but to actually turn into a cat. With me as their owner. Yes, this is a paradox, rather like Leonard Nimoy talking to the younger Spock in the latest two “Star Trek” movies. Never mind the sheer impossibility and think about it. If you could turn into one of your favorite pets and live the kind of life it has vs. your own, wouldn’t you jump at the chance?

Innate goodness of human beings a challenge to see

Have you ever considered what “seeing with God’s eyes” might be like as you look at the world, or maybe another person? When I’ve used that imagery before, it is almost always in the context of looking outwardly, seeing life from a bigger, fuller perspective. But how about seeing with God’s eyes as we look inwardly? What is there to see in a bigger, fuller perspective? For one thing, today’s nettlesome question: What if there is more to being human than we usually settle for?

The earthly good aspect of salvation overlooked

When I began full-time ministry 45 years ago, one preacher-centered cliché I heard on occasion was that preachers were “so heavenly minded that they were no earthly good.” I believed just enough of its truth that I determined to be more earthly good than heavenly minded. Eventually, my understanding of Jesus confirmed this. Yes, friends, as reported in all four Gospels, Jesus spent much more time and energy preaching and living the kingdom of God as an earthly effort than as an afterlife. Yet the historical church – especially today – seems so obsessed with heaven that we, too, often forget our job as Jesus-followers is to nurture God’s kingdom right here … now.

Tragedy highlights the issues of spiritual schizophrenia

It delighted me to hear our president and law enforcement leaders encourage prayer in the face of terrorism and disasters like those in Boston and Texas this spring. Citizens nationwide turned to God, acknowledging that he is our sure shelter in the face of evil and its wreckage. He alone is the God of all comfort, the father of mercy.

Breaking bread

Spokane Faith and Values is celebrating its first anniversary with a progressive dinner and fundraiser Sunday. Faith Feast will be hosted by three Spokane Valley congregations – the Spokane Islamic Center, the Sikh Gurdwara of Spokane and Millwood Presbyterian Church. A few tickets are still available.

Life in the moment takes care of itself

I’m writing my column a week late. And I quite unapologetically offer no apology for doing so. I had the flu and was too busy projectile-vomiting to worry about much of anything. And as I felt pretty puny for several days after the Main Event, it wasn’t until the following Saturday that I opened the paper and thought, “Hmm, wonder when my column is due?” Make that past due. So what? It left me with the feeling that I sometimes sweat the small stuff too much. Now I absolutely hate, loathe, despise, detest and abhor being late – for anything. You want to get somewhere on time? Ride along with me. I used to play this game with my wife, where we’d be driving back from, say, Portland, and by the time we hit Troutdale I’d announce, “Betcha a quarter that we get home at 3:37, plus or minus two minutes.” She got tired of losing those bets.

My gospel, according to Paul, or, a come-to-Jesus moment

Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve just become someone else? And that, in this new reality, you have an entirely different worldview? What would it be like to have a new self, not only looking at the world through another’s eyes, but to be looked at differently in return? And how many drugs would you have to take to effect this transformation? Well, this very thing happened to me recently, and without the aid of peyote or other hallucinogen. I’m not a texter-tweeter-twitterer kind of guy – I think one of them involves 140 characters, whatever that means – so I sat down on a recent Saturday morning to see if I had any actual emails other than of the “start melting your fat away naturally” variety.

Faith and Values: Resolve to check out this philosophical test

So how are your resolutions working out? A new year and we’re all supposed to have checked our flaws, excesses, blah, blah, blah, and resolved to become newer, better, happier people! Yes? No? Who cares? I’m of the opinion that resolutions don’t much matter; if I am inclined to change something, I’ll probably do so, and if not, not. Mine, therefore, are working out just fine. Zero for zero. That’s not to say, though, that I don’t reflect, examine, inquire, assess, assay, test, appraise, analyze, probe, pry and otherwise scrutinize myself. Or my self. In fact, that’s part of my nature, and not only do I believe that the unexamined life isn’t worth living, I think it’s even worth checking out formally every now and then.

Beliefs best explored with a healthy respect

What would you do if you came upon a hummingbird with its beak stuck in the thin wooden veneer of a door? That was exactly the dilemma faced by Philip Gulley one day. He tells about it in his thoughtful, respectful book, “The Evolution of Faith.” He carefully pulled the bird free and gently held it in his hand as it recovered. His wife took her turn holding the bird tenderly until it stirred. Then it flew away.

Resolve to be better at lifting those around you

The notecards started showing up on my desk about a year ago. On each simple card was written a thoughtful, timely and sincere note of encouragement. Each note buoyed my spirits, infusing me with fresh resolve to serve God and his people with passion.

Faith and Values: Christmas that’s ends-based far more satisfying

So I’ve been mulling over whether to even address a certain holiday, only a few days away, that I think most folks are looking forward to. Why, it’s Godless Capitalism Day, when we celebrate rampant consumerism with the goal of propping up a shaky economy by collectively sinking ever deeper into debt ourselves. This is a Great Good. It’s only why, after all, we’re called “consumers” and not “citizens.” Oops, that’s not much in keeping with the holiday spirit, is it? And I recall that some folks do actually call it “Christmas” and approach the day in a different manner than we godless heathens do.

The son of God was a contrarian from birth

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the last in a yearlong series of letters Paul Graves has written to his grandchildren. They are based on the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

TV star’s struggle is a lesson for all

From an unlikely place comes a lesson in Christianity, conscience and compromise. Angus T. Jones, 19, the young star of the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” has stirred the pot in both Hollywood and Christian circles by declaring his own show “filth” and encouraging people not to watch it.

Letting go can serve as reminder of being forgiven

Editor’s note: This is the 10th in a 12-part series of letters Paul Graves is writing to his grandchildren in 2012. They are based on the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. Dear Katie, Claire and Andy,

Faith and Values: Some provocative thoughts – to distract from the election

I don’t know about you, but I’m totally done with this election. By way of relief, I’d like to just put out a few random humanist-oriented thoughts from a file of ideas that I keep, so that you can focus your irritation on me instead of the candidates. Agree, disagree, I don’t care, but it’ll give you something to think about besides how doomed we are if Obama/Romney is elected. Humanism is self-derived, and to the degree that it is a belief system, it is provisional and incomplete, always subject to change as new views of the world provide new ways of seeing.

Giving of yourself can help you lose your ‘self’

Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a 12-part series of letters Paul Graves is writing to his grandchildren in 2012. They are based on the Peace Prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.