Busted Halo

Practical tools for your personal spiritual life from Phil Fox Rose.

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December 31st, 2012

As the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” by Jefferson Bethke, approaches 18 million views, I will add my response into the clutter. I’ve seen pro-life responses. I’ve seen Catholic exceptionalism responses. I’ve seen atheist and non-Christian responses that agree but then have their own conclusions. I am not interested in getting into theological debate, or in driving wedges between people. I want to make a simple point. It’s the same point I often make to friends who say they’re spiritual but not religious. And to some atheist friends right after they’ve explained why they don’t believe in God.
It is this: What you are calling religion…

August 16th, 2012

I’m honored and excited to tell my longtime column readers here that I’ve been invited to start a blog on Patheos. This column isn’t going anywhere, but I want to share what’s happening in the blog.
Over three years ago I started writing this column about personal spirituality, with an emphasis on useful tools and tips. In the new blog I’ll continue that theme, but it will be much broader and with near daily posts. The name of the blog is “On the Way” and the Way has many meanings. Each touches on part of what I’ll be covering:
The path
Many spiritual traditions speak of a way or path or road — staying on it, straying from it, turning back in the right direction.…

July 19th, 2012

Very few things are actually important to know in real time. Some things are fun… to know in real time, like watching live sports or reality show results episodes, but it is rare that our knowing something sooner makes a difference. There’s a very long but fascinating post on SCOTUSblog about CNN’s fumbling of reporting on the Supreme Court decision concerning the Affordable Care Act. In it, SCOTUSblog publisher Tom Goldstein says CNN (and for a shorter time, Fox) got the result exactly wrong, stating definitively that the mandate and bill were dead, because of three things. Two — lack emergency procedures and not trusting reliable sources — involve process, but the third is interesting:

July 5th, 2012

A June 30 NY Times Opinionator blog post by Tim Kreider called “The Busy Trap” created a lot of buzz among my friends, shared on Facebook with comments like, “If you read only one thing, ever, read this.” (Sorry, Emily.) A thread of professional jealousy made me want to respond to each friend’s enthusiastic share with the snarky comment, “I refer you to my 2009 column ‘How Sweet To Do Nothing,’” but I resisted. And I wanted to find fault with the post, but I could not. Its main themes are ones I touch on regularly, and it addresses them well…

June 21st, 2012

The pope has made several comments concerning vacations, which were highlighted in a piece on the Vatican Radio website. Whether he’s your spiritual leader or not, he touches on some powerful ideas, so let’s take a look.

Pope Benedict offers two basic goals for our vacation besides relaxation:

  • spending time with others
  • spending time with God

It’s one thing to spend an hour or two with a person, or to be with family or a partner all the time in the daily routines of life, but there’s something special (and sometimes challenging) about travelling together. Quality time is a great thing, but the hours of non-quality time during a vacation — in cars, waiting at airports, between events — create a different kind of intimacy.

And as far as what vacation to choose, are you challenged by the pope’s suggestion to spend time with others? Is there a visit to family that you could do instead of that beach vacation which will yield greater fruit in the long run? Maybe not. And not every vacation should be about visiting family. Getaways are valuable too. But it’s worth asking yourself.

It’s obvious how to spend time with other people — bring them along or go to them — but how do we spend time with God while on vacation? The pope offers three ideas, and we’ll explore each one a little…

June 7th, 2012
Nourishing your soul with regular creative outings

In my column about nonnegotiables, I talked about Julia Cameron’s concept from The Artist’s Way… of the “artist date” — where you make a playdate with yourself to do something creatively enriching. While she was suggesting it specifically for people in creative professions, this is a powerful spiritual tool for everyone. I want you to consider making a weekly date with yourself to do something creatively stimulating — two hours a week for a museum, show, or hike in nature, a stroll in a new neighborhood, a subscription to a local concert series.
It can be so easy to go from home to work to gym to home, dividing time between job and chores and other people, looking after the maintenance

May 24th, 2012

The beginning of Acts 2 reads like a breathless passage from a Hollywood screenplay:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Like so many well-known passages from scripture, I thought I knew this one until I read it closely and repeatedly, and with a group. What emerged in the reading and was clarified for me is that this Pentecost story has a perspective distinct from the passages in John and 1 Corinthians that also talk about the Holy Spirit.
While other passages offer long or short lists of spiritual gifts, the focus here and in some other places in Acts is…

May 10th, 2012
Why we do it and the harm it does

Gossip seems like the main form of entertainment these days. We’re bombarded with the ups and downs, the personal embarrassments, of entertainers, politicians, and a whole swath of people on pseudo-reality shows whose only reason for fame seems to be self-promotion. People have always been attracted to lurid news. In the Middle Ages, instead of Perez Hilton, its purveyors were roving minstrels — the medieval French term for a minstrel, jongleur…, actually means “gossip.” I think it’s worse now because of the information age — the obsessive focus on information to create an illusion of control. We substitute having an opinion about Kim Kardashian’s swimsuit

April 26th, 2012

In preparing to give a presentation on the structures of faith communities, I was just reading 1 Corinthians 12-14. You may, like me, be familiar with chapters 12 and 13 separately as two of the best-known passages from the Pauline letters. But I’d never put them together along with the following chapter. As a set, they say something very powerful, something which is already a guiding spiritual principle in my life: the essentialness of being of service, of being, at least some of the time, other-directed.
Chapter 12 contains the famous analogy between a community of believers and a body (the Body of Christ.) The word “member” previously referred only to a body part. Using it to mean a person…

April 12th, 2012

One of the most popular columns I’ve ever written is about struggling with being on time. It led to a TV interview and over two years later people still regularly bring it up in conversation. But working on your own on-timeness can lead to an interesting new issue: being on time when others are not.
It’s one thing to be on time and have everything go smoothly. You can point to your on-timeness and feel a sense of self-satisfaction at having contributed to the proper flow of the universe by having aligned yourself with the way things are meant to be. Call it spiritual pride or call it enjoying the fruits of “skillful means,” we all enjoy it when we do the right thing and things go our way. But what about…

March 29th, 2012

I wasn’t going to write about The Hunger Games movie – I’m a huge fan of the books and had no advance screening, so I just went to the theater with everyone else on opening night as a consumer. But I have to share my reaction to concern expressed about The Hunger Games…‘ violence which I’ve read in the days following the movie’s release. I was certainly very interested to see how the makers of the movie would deal with translating the book’s extreme brutality against and among children into a movie that children could watch. I am surprised they went as far as they did and think they came very close to the edge. There’s lots of blood, and a few of the children are killed onscreen

March 15th, 2012

It seems that every year around this time I’m inspired to write about renewal and fresh starts. That’s not surprising, of course. The vernal equinox (March 20) is just days away and where I live in the American Northeast, the annual cycle of natural rebirth is starting to Spring into high gear. Last Tuesday, I saw my first snowdrops on the ground, on Saturday I came across an apple tree covered in buds, and now suddenly there are day lilies everywhere. This is the time of Easter (April 8), Passover (April 6-14), and the Persian/Iranian New Year (March 20). (I realize not all my readers are in a temperate climate, so forgive that I’m talking about it now. It’s my experience.)

Christianity is full of messages of rebirth, most notably the semi-comical exchange between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3, from which comes the term “born again.” The whole thing centers on the fact that the Greek word anothen can mean “again” or “from above” depending on context. After Jesus says we must be born again/from above, Nicodemus is confused and says,”How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus patiently explains that he doesn’t mean being born again physically, but rather born “of the Spirit.”

I wrote once before about former Intel CEO Andy Grove’s ideas concerning inflection points. Grove says that much of the harm is done not by wrong decisions but by people’s unwillingness later to change direction. Even though they may know in their heart that they’re on the wrong track, they stick to their course rather than admit error. Yet, Christianity offers us — demands of us! — the opportunity to do exactly that. Whether its a full blown conversion, an annual renewal along with the rest of the church community at Easter, or an individual act of confession and rededication at any time, Christians have many ways to turn around (con-vert) and get back on the path at any time.

My own life has been shaped by several conversions. My turning from addiction to recovery not only physically saved my life but, more significantly, set me on a new path of growth and harmony. My baptism, after having been raised atheist, was the result of a spiritual conversion that in many ways grew from that earlier “turning.” And my decision to devote my work life to spiritual projects was another change of direction.

March 1st, 2012
Go easy on yourself this Lent

I broke my Lenten commitment on day one. On Ash Wednesday, after a difficult day, I trudged right past two people asking for change on my way home, remembering my commitment but in my aggravation willfully denying it. I felt entitled to do the wrong thing because I’d had a hard day. I’m not proud of this, but does it mean I’m a bad person? Does it mean I failed at Lent? No, it means I’m human. The next day, I recommitted and haven’t slipped since.

February 22nd, 2012

“What are you giving up for Lent?” is not a question I heard growing up in my atheist home. It’s second nature for most Catholics, though — to give up some favorite thing (like chocolate or ice cream) for Lent. But if you have an addiction to alcohol, a drug or cigarettes, I want you to consider using this Lent as a turning point. If you don’t have a dependence on a physically addictive substance like those, then broaden the definition a bit: How about something nonessential like caffeine or sleeping pills? (I’m not talking about prescribed medicines that balance you.) Consider seeing if you can live without it of the next 40 days. If you want to broaden the term addiction further in the now-trendy way for things like the internet and pornography, that’s OK too.

But understand that something isn’t an addiction just because you use it a lot. For it to be an addiction, it should be that your use interferes with your life, you wish if didn’t, and you can’t stop. If you have an addiction problem, odds are you already have a suspicion, though you may refuse to accept it. Or maybe friends or family have been telling you that you do.

Make a commitment to abstain from something you have a problem with — alcohol, smoking, gambling — starting Ash Wednesday and continuing for the duration of Lent. Not the rest of your life. Just about seven weeks.

It might become a turning point. You might discover you like your life better without it and gain a real willingness to let it go. And if you don’t manage to stay stopped, you will have learned an important lesson — that this “habit” is maybe something more; that it has some measure of control over you…

January 19th, 2012

It was all of 13 minutes after midnight on Tuesday night when I went to look up something in Wikipedia… even though I knew the blackout protest was coming and had posted about it. If you didn’t know what was going on or would like to learn a little more about SOPA and PIPA, with hopefully a slightly spiritual angle, read on. But I want to stress, this is not a partisan issue. As I’ll explain later, the line between supporters and opponents has little to do with party affiliation. As Wikipedia said, in its message about participating in the blackout:
It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web… although Wikipedia’s…

December 8th, 2011

Many “alternative” gift articles suggest non-gifts — things like giving to charity in the person’s name, or giving service rather than a thing — but choosing a present specifically for another person, wrapping it playfully and offering it to them can tap into love, charity, selflessness and hospitality. I refuse to let consumerism win by equating gift giving with money and greed. I want you to buy gifts, real physical gifts. So how do we choose gifts in a mass consumer culture?

There isn’t just one approach. You might choose items made locally; or by individuals; or from small manufacturers that treat their employees well. If you’re not buying directly from the supplier, you will be considering the retailer too. Let’s call it “conscious” gift shopping. The spiritual principle here is to consider the whole gift: what it will mean to the recipient; what it’s made of; how it was made; who made it; how it got to your hands. I think everyone can embrace supporting individual craftspeople and small businesses over multinational corporations. At least for Christmas.

November 22nd, 2011
A helpful tool to encourage a more grateful attitude towards life

This is the last column to run before Thanksgiving, so I want to talk to you about gratitude. I could write a dozen columns about gratitude in various forms; for this column, I’m going to focus on one simple tool: the gratitude list.

When you find yourself feeling particularly ungrateful about your life — or your spiritual director or friend points out to you that you are — you can stop and remind yourself of all the things for which you can be grateful.

There are some obvious things. You often hear people say, “at least I’ve got my health.” That might sound trite, but if you have ever experienced a serious loss of your own good health and then gotten it back, or if you or to someone close to you is deprived permanently of good health, you will know that good health is a great blessing. Another common item is family — partners, parents, children: whoever loves you unconditionally and gives you sustenance and support.

Not half full or half empty — just half full

Gratitude list items can also be seemingly trivial things — or at least things that might seem so to someone else. And many things can be seen as blessings or negatives. For example, I do not live with anyone else. I could focus on and feed feelings of loneliness. But I can also be grateful for the control I have over my environment and how easy it is to meditate and have silence when I want it. (Ask anyone with a big family about how precious that is!)

It’s important, even though this is a list, to not fall into thinking of it as a two-sided ledger. It’s not “I’m alone but at least I have peace and quiet.”  It’s, “I can have peace and quiet whenever I want in my home.”

It’s not about seeing our world’s cup as half full rather than half empty. Because the truth is everyone, and I mean everyone, has things they can be grateful for and things they can be ungrateful for. It’s about paying attention to the part that’s full. Who cares about what you don’t have? Seriously. Think about that for a moment.

Focusing on what we don’t have, on expectations of things that have not materialized for us, only leads to anxiety and self-pity. I’m not saying there is no place for wanting to create a more abundant life, but that’s not the way. Paradoxically — as are most great spiritual principles — it is by being content with what we have that we are open to seeing clearly what is around us, and seeing new opportunities.

November 10th, 2011

We are told it is natural to thirst for fulfillment in aligning our life with God’s plan for us and to thirst for the kingdom of heaven on earth to be made manifest around us. So how is this compatible with the idea of accepting everything exactly as it is? This tension is expressed in the Serenity Prayer, which I’ve written about here before. In one line we ask for the courage to change what we can; in another the serenity to accept what we can’t. The prayer’s author then adds a request for the wisdom to know the difference. Well, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?
Usually in this column, I at least take a stab at giving some advice. But here all I can do is acknowledge the tension.…

November 4th, 2011
Dealing with the shortening days and the end of daylight-saving time

Every year, at the beginning of warm weather, I encourage everyone to get out in the sun and experience nature, but it’s important to respect the rhythms of nature and our body in cold weather too. This weekend, in the wee hours of Sunday November 6, daylight-saving time (DST) ends for the year. Though winter doesn’t technically begin for another month and a half, this always feels to me like the point where things change.
So I want to talk to you about two things: SAD and DST.
First, let’s clear up one thing about “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD. Everyone is affected by the seasons…. That’s not a disorder. That’s being human.
Unless you live near the equator, the

October 7th, 2011

I probably should have had an obit for Steve Jobs ready to run. We had a dry run when he resigned as head of Apple a few months ago. But I didn’t, and many others have accurately chronicled the facts, so instead, for my regular personal spirituality column, I’m going to look at a few things we can learn from him.
Though I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, Steve Jobs’ work and influence affected my life often. At different times, I came close to working for both Apple and Pixar, the latter before he took it over. The first personal computer I ever bought was a Mac 512, no hard drive, for $2,600 (in 1984 money; that’s the equivalent of $5,400 today). Compared to my current MacBook, it had 1/800th…

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