Thursday, May 1, 2014

Getting Rich. In all of Life.

Enrich your world by creating value for others.

Enrich your health by walking twenty minutes a day.

Enrich your community by contributing to someone, without keeping score.

Enrich your relationships by saying what needs to be said.

Enrich your standing by trusting someone else.

Enrich your organization by doing more than you're asked.

Enrich your skills by learning something new, something scary.

Enrich your productivity by rejecting false shortcuts.

Enrich your peace of mind by being trusted.

The connection economy pays dividends in ways that the industrial one rarely did.

Citation from our friend Seth.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Seasons of Our Life and Their Interface with Spirituality

The human soul is like a fine wine that needs to ferment in various barrels as it ages and mellows.

The wisdom for this is written everywhere, in nature, in scripture, in spiritual traditions, and in what is best in human science. And that wisdom is generally learned in the cru-cible of struggle. Growing up and maturing is precisely a process of fermentation. It does not happen easily
without effort and without breakdown. But it happens almost despite us, because such is the effect of a conspiracy between God and nature to mellow the soul.

So we need to be patient with one another and with ourselves. Maturation is a lifelong journey with different phases, human and spiritual. And it has many set-backs.

Take, for example,  Jesus’ parable of the talents: in essence, that parable warns that if we do not use our natural talents to achieve something and accomplish something in this world, we will be punished, and punished to the exact extent of what we have wasted or left unused.

That warning clearly applies to us more during the first half of our lives, when we are more fragile in terms of our self- worth, are still struggling for an identity, and are still at a stage in life where success and achievement can help establish a healthy sense of self- worth, than during our later years when the human and the spiritual task is much more to let go, especially of the sense of self- worth we get through success and achievement. Success has little to teach us during the second half of life. It continues to feel good, but now it is often more an obstacle to maturity than a positive stimulus toward it.

Citation:  Fr. Ron 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

As We Mature Through Life: Becoming a Better Person with Age

The Major Imperatives within Mature Discipleship

In his autobiography, Morris West suggests that at a certain age our lives simplify and we need have only three phrases left in our spiritual vocabulary: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! He is right, if we understand fully what is implied in living out gratitude. Gratitude is the ultimate virtue, undergirding everything else, even love. It is synonymous with holiness.

Gratitude not only defines sanctity, it also defines maturity. We are mature to the degree that we are grateful. But what brings us there? What makes for a deeper human maturity? I would like to suggest ten major demands that reside inside both human and Christian maturity:

1.      Be willing to carry more and more of life's complexities with empathy: Few things in life, including our own hearts and motives, are black or white, either-or, simply good or simply bad. Maturity invites us to see, understand, and accept this complexity with empathy so that, like Jesus, we cry tears of understanding over our own troubled cities and our own complex hearts.  

2.      Transform jealousy, anger, bitterness, and hatred rather than give them back in kind: Any pain or tension that we do not transform we will retransmit. In the face of jealousy, anger, bitterness, and hatred we must be like water purifiers, holding the poisons and toxins inside of us and giving back just the pure water, rather than being like electrical cords that simply pass on the energy that flows through them.

3.      Let suffering soften rather than harden our souls: Suffering and humiliation find us all, in full measure, but how we respond to them, with forgiveness or bitterness, will determine the level of our maturity and the color of our person. This is perhaps our ultimate moral test: Will my humiliations soften or harden my soul?

4.      Forgive: In the end there is only one condition for entering heaven (and living inside human community), namely, forgiveness. Perhaps the greatest struggle we have in the second-half of our lives is to forgive: forgive those who have hurt us, forgive ourselves for our own shortcomings, and forgive God for seemingly hanging us out unfairly to dry in this world. The greatest moral imperative of all is not to die with a bitter, unforgiving heart.
5.      Live in gratitude: To be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude, nothing more and nothing less. Let no one deceive you with the notion that a passion for truth, for church, or even for God can trump or bracket the non-negotiable imperative to be gracious always. Holiness is gratitude. Outside of gratitude we find ourselves doing many of the right things for the wrong reasons.

6.      Bless more and curse less: We are mature when we define ourselves by what we are for rather than by what we are against and especially when, like Jesus, we are looking out at others and seeing them as blessed ("Blessed are you!") rather than as cursed ("Who do you think you are!"). The capacity to praise more than to criticize defines maturity.

7.      Live in an ever-greater transparency and honesty: We are as sick as our sickest secret, but we are also as healthy as we are honest. We need, as Martin Luther once put it, "to sin bravely and honestly".  Maturity does not mean that we are perfect or faultless, but that we are honest.

8.      Pray both affectively and liturgically: The fuel we need to resource ourselves for gratitude and forgiveness does not lie in the strength of our own willpower, but in grace and community. We access that through prayer. We are mature to the degree that we open our own helplessness and invite in God's strength and to the degree that we pray with others that the whole world will do the same thing.

9.      Become ever-wider in your embrace: We grow in maturity to the degree that we define family (Who is my brother or sister?) in way that is ever-more ecumenical, interfaith, post-ideological, and non-discriminatory.  We are mature only when we are compassionate as God is compassionate, namely, when our sun too shines those we like and those we do not. There comes a time when it is time to turn in our cherished moral placards for a basin and a towel.

10.  Stand where you stand and let God protect you: In the end, we are all vulnerable, contingent, and helpless both to protect our loved ones and ourselves. We cannot guarantee life, safety, salvation, or forgiveness for ourselves or for those we love. Maturity depends upon accepting this with trust rather than anxiety. We can only do our best, whatever our place in life, wherever we stand, whatever our limits, whatever our shortcoming, and trust that this is enough, that if we die at our post, honest, doing our duty, God will do the rest.

God is a prodigiously-loving, fully-understanding, completely-empathic parent. We are mature and free of false anxiety to the degree that we grasp that and trust that truth.



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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tapping the professional skills of micro-volunteers via iPhone and web

San Francisco-based Sparked by The Extraordinaries is an online platform that seeks to make it easy for altruistic consumers to support an organization or cause. It enlists both individuals and groups of company employees to contribute their expertise to a nonprofit in even the smallest chunks of time. Requests by nonprofits might include translating a page of a document into Spanish, for instance, or helping to choose a new logo. The organization neatly combines people’s desire to give back to society with another prevalent trend: their need for convenience.

Much the way Catalista connects would-be volunteers with opportunities by mobile phone, so Sparked by The Extraordinaries aims to enable “micro-volunteering,” whereby philanthropists with a few minutes of free time can use it to make a difference.
Currently in private limited beta, San Francisco-based The Extraordinaries is an online platform that seeks to make it easy for altruistic consumers to support an organization or cause they care about. Toward that end, it enlists both individuals and groups of company employees to contribute their expertise to a nonprofit in even the smallest chunks of time. Nonprofits begin by posting requests to the site; those, in turn, are routed to would-be volunteers based on their skills and interests. Examples might include translating a page of a document into Spanish, for instance, or helping to choose a new logo; The Extraordinaries even has pre-built “kits” that turn a series of best practices into tasks for volunteers. Willing volunteers then complete the requests during a spare moment via iPhone (through a dedicated app) or web browser—or they can share it with their colleagues. Either way, corporate team volunteers can track each others’ efforts via a Team Activity feed. Current nonprofit users of The Extraordinaries include KaBOOM!—which we’ve covered before—and Big Cat Rescue.
The Extraordinaries is in the process of becoming a B Corp.; its business model will eventually include charging organizations a fee for each task completed, according to a report on NPR. Social entrepreneurs around the globe: time to make micro-volunteering your new best friend…? (Related: iPhone app lets users earn cash for small tasksWork site divides large jobs into small, concurrent tasksQuick tasks via SMS for phone users in the developing worldJob marketplace for quick online tasks.)

saverio manzo
Biz-Advisor is a full-service business development and consulting firm delivering on a broad array of professional services to small and medium-sized businesses in Canada. We help our clients build and develop new business, maintain positive cash flow, control costs and accelerate profitable growth, allowing entrepreneurs and managers to make the most of their work and their lives.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It All Starts With Kindness...

“Kindness is the act of caring for the people around you;of knowing how to make both our lives, and the lives of others, more meaningful.” 

Non-obligation Thank You notes. Words of encouragement. Big, fat, friendly hugs. Admiring someone’s hard work and dedication. Making yourself available to others. Turning the timer off.Telling your boss what they are doing right–and how they inspire you. Thanking someone for working hard, without any clauses or hidden criticisms. Telling a funny story to your barista. Appreciating the regular. Giving attention to someone who needs a friend.

Delighting in ordinary. Pausing for a moment to take it all in. Thanking yourself for the work that you do. Donating time. Telling your bus driver to have a nice day, and meaning it. Meeting a new person and asking them to talk about them. Just listening. Being honest with strangers. Reducing our hurry to become impatient. Paying it forward. Tipping generously.

Letting go. Standing up to a bully. Standing up for someone else. Standing up for yourself. Picking up trash that someone else has dropped. Believing in karma. Volunteering. Spending a day planting trees. Donating money to public parks. Acting generously without anyone seeing or watching. Doing what’s right, even though no one will ever know. 

Have you done anything extra-nice today? Sometimes just stopping to write a thank-you note to someone I appreciate makes my day a little better, too.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~Plato

By: Saverio Manzo

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Support the Poverty Elimination Act

November 24th is a special day in the fight against poverty.

On November 24th 1989, Canada's House of Commons passed a unanimous all-party resolution to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

On November 24th 2009, the House passed another unanimous motion to "develop an immediate plan to eliminate poverty in Canada for all".

And last November the House's Human Resources Committee called for a federal poverty reduction plan with measurable targets and timelines.

The sad part is that nothing's been implemented to date.

Twenty-two years, two unanimous House resolutions, and several reports calling for action, yet nearly 3,200,000 Canadians continue to live in poverty.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a law that required the federal government to take action?

Well there is just such a law now before Parliament. It's called the Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada (Bill C-233). A private members bill introduced by NDP MP Jean Crowder, Bill C-233 would require the federal government to consult with anti-poverty groups and people living in poverty, and then draw up a plan that includes targets and timelines for reducing poverty. This bill would lay the groundwork for real action.

In October, many of you sent a message to the Prime Minister about this very bill. This November 24, send the message to your MP. Ask him or her to support Bill C-233.

Private members bills rarely become law. But if enough MPs hear a strong message from their constituents, we can build a momentum that can't be stopped.

To make the message even louder, we have a paper petition for you to download and print. Once you get 25 friends to sign the Bill C-233 Petition, you can ask your Member of Parliament to present it to the House of Commons.

Let's get behind this proposed Poverty Elimination Act. Let's insist the Federal Government make poverty history in Canada.

Thank you for your support!

Simon Lewchuk
For the Make Poverty History / Dignity for All campaign team

P.S.: A French version of the petition is available here.
Donate to Make Poverty History

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Does God exist?

Does God exist? Here are six straight-forward reasons to believe that God is really there.

By Marilyn Adamson
proof of GodJust once wouldn't you love for someone to simply show you the evidence for God's existence? No arm-twisting. No statements of, "You just have to believe." Well, here is an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists.
But first consider this. If a person opposes even the possibility of there being a God, then any evidence can be rationalized or explained away. It is like if someone refuses to believe that people have walked on the moon, then no amount of information is going to change their thinking. Photographs of astronauts walking on the moon, interviews with the astronauts, moon rocks...all the evidence would be worthless, because the person has already concluded that people cannot go to the moon.

When it comes to the possibility of God's existence, the Bible says that there are people who have seen sufficient evidence, but they have suppressed the truth about God.1 On the other hand, for those who want to know God if he is there, he says, "You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you."2 Before you look at the facts surrounding God's existence, ask yourself, If God does exist, would I want to know him? Here then, are some reasons to consider...

1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

Many examples showing God's design could be given, possibly with no end. But here are a few:
The Earth...its size is perfect. The Earth's size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth's surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
existence of GodThe Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth's position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.

And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.4
Water...colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water). You'll see why the characteristics of water are uniquely suited to life:
It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees.
proof of GodWater is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels.5

Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body.
Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees.
Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.6

The human brain...simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.
existence of GodThe human brain processes more than a million messages a second.7 Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.

The eye...can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages -- simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain -- the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.

2. Does God exist? The universe had a start - what caused it?

Scientists are convinced that our universe began with one enormous explosion of energy and light, which we now call the Big Bang. This was the singular start to everything that exists: the beginning of the universe, the start of space, and even the initial start of time itself.
Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow, a self-described agnostic, stated, "The seed of everything that has happened in the Universe was planted in that first instant; every star, every planet and every living creature in the Universe came into being as a result of events that were set in motion in the moment of the cosmic explosion...The Universe flashed into being, and we cannot find out what caused that to happen."9
Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, said at the moment of this explosion, "the universe was about a hundred thousands million degrees Centigrade...and the universe was filled with light."10
The universe has not always existed. It had a start...what caused that? Scientists have no explanation for the sudden explosion of light and matter.

3. Does God exist? The universe operates by uniform laws of nature. Why does it?

Much of life may seem uncertain, but look at what we can count on day after day: gravity remains consistent, a hot cup of coffee left on a counter will get cold, the earth rotates in the same 24 hours, and the speed of light doesn't change -- on earth or in galaxies far from us.

How is it that we can identify laws of nature that never change? Why is the universe so orderly, so reliable?
"The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics. This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn't have to behave this way. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence."11

Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, "Why nature is mathematical is a mystery...The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle."12

4. Does God exist? The DNA code informs, programs a cell's behavior.

existence of GodAll instruction, all teaching, all training comes with intent. Someone who writes an instruction manual does so with purpose. Did you know that in every cell of our bodies there exists a very detailed instruction code, much like a miniature computer program? As you may know, a computer program is made up of ones and zeros, like this: 110010101011000. The way they are arranged tell the computer program what to do. The DNA code in each of our cells is very similar. It's made up of four chemicals that scientists abbreviate as A, T, G, and C. These are arranged in the human cell like this: CGTGTGACTCGCTCCTGAT and so on. There are three billion of these letters in every human cell!!

Well, just like you can program your phone to beep for specific reasons, DNA instructs the cell. DNA is a three-billion-lettered program telling the cell to act in a certain way. It is a full instruction manual.13
existence of GodWhy is this so amazing? One has to did this information program wind up in each human cell? These are not just chemicals. These are chemicals that instruct, that code in a very detailed way exactly how the person's body should develop.
Natural, biological causes are completely lacking as an explanation when programmed information is involved. You cannot find instruction, precise information like this, without someone intentionally constructing it.

5. Does God exist? We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.

I was an atheist at one time. And like many atheists, the issue of people believing in God bothered me greatly. What is it about atheists that we would spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that we don't believe even exists?! What causes us to do that? When I was an atheist, I attributed my intentions as caring for those poor, delusional help them realize their hope was completely ill-founded. To be honest, I also had another motive. As I challenged those who believed in God, I was deeply curious to see if they could convince me otherwise. Part of my quest was to become free from the question of God. If I could conclusively prove to believers that they were wrong, then the issue is off the table, and I would be free to go about my life.
proof of GodI didn't realize that the reason the topic of God weighed so heavily on my mind, was because God was pressing the issue. I have come to find out that God wants to be known. He created us with the intention that we would know him. He has surrounded us with evidence of himself and he keeps the question of his existence squarely before us. It was as if I couldn't escape thinking about the possibility of God. In fact, the day I chose to acknowledge God's existence, my prayer began with, "Ok, you win..." It might be that the underlying reason atheists are bothered by people believing in God is because God is actively pursuing them.

I am not the only one who has experienced this. Malcolm Muggeridge, socialist and philosophical author, wrote, "I had a notion that somehow, besides questing, I was being pursued." C.S. Lewis said he remembered, "...night after night, feeling whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England."
Lewis went on to write a book titled, "Surprised by Joy" as a result of knowing God. I too had no expectations other than rightfully admitting God's existence. Yet over the following several months, I became amazed by his love for me.

6. Does God exist? Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God revealing himself to us.

Why Jesus? Look throughout the major world religions and you'll find that Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius and Moses all identified themselves as teachers or prophets. None of them ever claimed to be equal to God. Surprisingly, Jesus did. That is what sets Jesus apart from all the others. He said God exists and you're looking at him. Though he talked about his Father in heaven, it was not from the position of separation, but of very close union, unique to all humankind. Jesus said that anyone who had seen Him had seen the Father, anyone who believed in him, believed in the Father.
He said, "I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."14 He claimed attributes belonging only to God: to be able to forgive people of their sin, free them from habits of sin, give people a more abundant life and give them eternal life in heaven. Unlike other teachers who focused people on their words, Jesus pointed people to himself. He did not say, "follow my words and you will find truth." He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me."15

What proof did Jesus give for claiming to be divine? He did what people can't do. Jesus performed miracles. He healed people...blind, crippled, deaf, even raised a couple of people from the dead. He had power over objects...created food out of thin air, enough to feed crowds of several thousand people. He performed miracles over nature...walked on top of a lake, commanding a raging storm to stop for some friends. People everywhere followed Jesus, because he constantly met their needs, doing the miraculous. He said if you do not want to believe what I'm telling you, you should at least believe in me based on the miracles you're seeing.16
Jesus Christ showed God to be gentle, loving, aware of our self-centeredness and shortcomings, yet deeply wanting a relationship with us. Jesus revealed that although God views us as sinners, worthy of his punishment, his love for us ruled and God came up with a different plan. God himself took on the form of man and accepted the punishment for our sin on our behalf. Sounds ludicrous? Perhaps, but many loving fathers would gladly trade places with their child in a cancer ward if they could. The Bible says that the reason we would love God is because he first loved us.

Jesus died in our place so we could be forgiven. Of all the religions known to humanity, only through Jesus will you see God reaching toward humanity, providing a way for us to have a relationship with him. Jesus proves a divine heart of love, meeting our needs, drawing us to himself. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, he offers us a new life today. We can be forgiven, fully accepted by God and genuinely loved by God. He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."17 This is God, in action.
Does God exist? If you want to know, investigate Jesus Christ. We're told that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."18
God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. The earth's perfect distance from the sun, the unique chemical properties of water, the human brain, DNA, the number of people who attest to knowing God, the gnawing in our hearts and minds to determine if God is there, the willingness for God to be known through Jesus Christ. If you need to know more about Jesus and reasons to believe in him, please see: Beyond Blind Faith.

If you want to begin a relationship with God now, you can.

This is your decision, no coercion here. But if you want to be forgiven by God and come into a relationship with him, you can do so right now by asking him to forgive you and come into your life. Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. He who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him [or her]."19 If you want to do this, but aren't sure how to put it into words, this may help: "Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. You know my life and that I need to be forgiven. I ask you to forgive me right now and come into my life. I want to know you in a real way. Come into my life now. Thank you that you wanted a relationship with me. Amen."

God views your relationship with him as permanent. Referring to all those who believe in him, Jesus Christ said of us, "I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand."20

So, does God exist? Looking at all these facts, one can conclude that a loving God does exist and can be known in an intimate, personal way. If you need more information about Jesus' claim to divinity, or about God's existence, or if you have similar important questions, please email us.

Brought to you by:  saverio manzo


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