Busted Halo

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

March 15th, 2012
What Works: Starting Anew

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.

February 22nd, 2012
What Works: What Are You Giving Up for Lent?

“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…

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