Today is Presidents Day 2010. Our first president, George Washington was a man of deep faith and prayer. Here’s an excerpt from Washington’s prayer journal.
O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.
Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind and liberty of will serve thee, the everlasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.
Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, & direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends & kindred unite us all in praising & glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father.
From William J. Johnson, George Washington, The Christian (New York: The Abingdon Press, 1919).
AN: Doesn’t the fact that with Karma you get moral people and with Christianity you get guilty people seeking forgiveness suggest to you that one is a positive belief and the other negative? How do you suggest we view this otherwise?
MH: I guess I’m not convinced that Karma is really about morality. It’s about functionality – what works. And yes, most religions include some tenet compatible with the ancient Hindu concept of Karma.
By that definition Karma represents the accumulation of all the effects of all the actions of my body, mind, and intuition. As ocean waves rolling toward the shore build up sandbars beneath the surface, so my actions and their results accumulate and build up tendencies that determine the course of my future. Karma is also more than personal… It encompasses the action-energy of everything that has ever occurred past or present, connecting every event back to the influences causing that event, and forward to all results triggered by it. The universe enforces this responsibility one way or the other.
The piper has to be paid. The chickens always come home to roost. Meaning… If I tell a lie, a lie will be told to me. If I give, something will be given to me. When someone slaps me on the cheek they deliver payback, not offense. I am at fault. I bring my own reward. I hold power. I bear responsibility. When I make a mess, I have to dispose of it… somewhere. I own my own garbage.
But… Here’s the crunch: Karma creates problems as well as explains them. If I reap what I have sown, I’m accountable for every consequence – even an unintentional one. How can I escape living with and paying for mistakes I’ve made? What escape do I have when Karma exacts payback for the smallest white lie? What pardon can I gain when even when my best efforts to do good generate more trouble?
Karma brings bad news. The problem is real. My garbage has to go somewhere. I cannot wish it away. Is there any way to remedy the curse of Karma? Eastern religions offer the solution of reincarnation: We return to try again, and eventually – hopefully – escape the cycle of perpetual action that perpetuates Karma. But even the wisest teachers of this philosophy doubt if salvation is assured.
AN: You suggest in your book “The Karma of Jesus” that there is a certain symmetry by which karma works that is broken by Jesus. What do you mean by that?
MH: I’ll defer to Bono. We know Bona as one of the most recognized icons in the world. In recent years the lead singer of the rock group U2 has leveraged his astounding pop status to become a potent political voice and advocate for social justice and humanitarian causes. At any given moment he might be spotted lampooning a rogue third-world dictator, serving soup at an inner city shelter, doing a benefit concert for a 400 year old pub housed slated for demolition, or spewing challenges to the CEO of a pharmaceutical company. Bono claims a moral anchor for this influence on his deep conviction in the necessity of justice in the world, here and now. And he builds this conviction from a forceful, consuming faith in Jesus Christ. Bono sees himself as Jesus’ agent of revolution. In my preparation for writing “The Karma of Jesus” I read Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas. Assayas, who is not a confessing Christian, records an interview with Bono in which he discusses the implications, here and now, of the sacrificial life of Jesus. I’ll pass along an excerpt of that interview within this one…
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics–in physical laws–every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled… . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was–the Messiah–or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched…
Bono:… [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.[i]
 From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Assayas, Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Page 225-227, 228.
February 12, 2010
Weight: 197 lbs
Weight lost: -9 lbs
I’ve been focused on food. I’m taking communion every day, just to see what would happen in my life – particularly what would happen in my relationship with food. I love food, I admit. But at times it has come to rule me. I’m experimenting to see if I can satisfy my hunger in another way, with a deeper food, specifically with the body and blood of Christ. The process has me focused on food, almost all the time.
The results are surprising to me. I’m thinking about food all the time, but I’ve dropped 9 pounds since the first of the year. That’s not breaking news, but it’s real and noticeable. And I really haven’t done anything different in my life except share the Lord’s Supper with my family every evening. The change seems to be happening almost naturally, or supernaturally naturally. I just find myself with a different relationship with food.
Still, I also find myself thinking about food more, and finding an awareness of it all around me. When I decide to look for the color red in the room I’m in, I see red. That’s the power of focus. When I decide to intentionally “consume” the real presence of Jesus, I find myself noticing food from a different angle. It’s quite a shift that honestly I haven’t worked to master. It simply is there.
This morning I made waffles for my sons for breakfast. I loved the smell of them cooking. Normally, I would have, without thought, made one for myself. But this morning I didn’t. I considered it, but thought first, with focus. I realized I really didn’t want a wad of white starch sitting in my stomach all morning. I paused for one moment and considered… That is what is new for me. Instead of running on automatic pilot and eating whatever happens to be in my homing device range, I’m focused and considerate.
“God, I don’t want to take for granted your evident work in my life. As this season has me focused on food, I also want to focus on you in and with my food. That really is the point here. I’m not taking communion as a kind of game. I never want to use you and your gift of life as a substitute for my fallen and sinful appetite. Draw my attention to you, naturally, without force or laborious discipline. I simply want to want you. Work inside my desires. You promise to give me the “desires of my heart…” Okay, I believe that. But not only give me the things I desire, give, and mold and rule the desires themselves. Give me right desires, and then the things that will truly fulfill and satisfy those desires themselves. Only you! In Jesus…”
“The Eucharist Diet” adventure is my six month experiment taking daily communion and tracking and posting the results in my personal life, relationships, health, and body fat percentage.