Thursday, June 21, 2018

Beyond Weird

Things have gotten weird.
Once upon a time, the idea of any foreign country trying to influence our elections would have had us all united in a determined effort to stop it. But not this time. There is no question that it happened. There is no question that foreign efforts to influence us and undermine our system of government continues. But talking about it and more importantly doing something about it gets weird.
We know Russia was the most significant perpetrator. They have been at odds with us since the end of WWII. Once upon a time we were united in our mistrust of their motives. Once upon a time, we saw them as opponents of democracy. But now, things are weird.
The head of our nation now openly admires Putin. The investigation into Russian meddling is demonized and undermined by this administration and it's supporters. At the end of day, little or nothing is being done to stop future interference. The fear that "my guy" might have done something wrong (wittingly or unwittingly) is causing many in our nation to ignore the actual issue. Another country meddling in our election process - especially Russia - would have united us in outrage - Once upon a time.
Once upon a time, the hint of infidelity would have derailed a political campaign. Faith based voters expected the highest standards of family values. Not any more. That's really weird.
Once upon a time, we valued our allies and worked with them on world issues. We stood with them and they stood with us. Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany and France have been close friends of our nation for decades. Now we are at odds with them, pulling out of agreements and threatening trade wars with them. That's weird.
It's especially weird when the administration opens it's arms to not just Russia but other totalitarian regimes like North Korea.
The most heart breaking turn is the hardening of hearts toward the plight of innocent children. I've heard the weirdest things in response. "The law is the law!" "Well, the Obama administration..." Or the strangest "250,000 American Military children have been ripped from their parents." WHAT?!!? Thousands of children are being scattered all over this country and will possibly never be reunited with their families within our borders or outside our borders and this is your response? You really believe these children "got what they deserve" because their parents made a choice you hate. If that's your best answer, THAT's WEIRD.
I struggle to find a common theme behind these things. The only connection is admiration and loyalty to one man. These things defy religious teachings as I've understood them. They all pose long range problems that will grow exponentially. They are all painful assaults on our democratic system, values and our place on the world scene. I look at the people in front of me (that I believe to be good and decent people) who are believing these things are ok and wonder where we are heading as a nation.
Historically, I see this time as similar to the McCarthy Era and the rise of the KKK. If there is a theme, it's strongman tactics and "we versus them" division. If that is true, it's beyond weird. It's frightening.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why are there illegal immigrants?

What would cause you to pack up what you can carry, leave friends and family behind, and set off for a foreign, unknown land?
That's the question we need to ask and the root problem we need to solve.
If you believe "Illegal Immigration" is a huge problem, the answer is not to become a nation that no one would want to enter. Do we want to become such a mean, nasty, intolerant people that no one in the world wants to deal with?
We should be asking fleeing immigrants why they are coming? We should collect every story. We should document everything they have to tell us. Then we need to go to the countries and ask them why they are not dealing with these issues! Then we use every bit of leverage we have to force them to solve them. We need to take the money we are using to "protect our border" and use it to help create a safer world, safer countries around the world, and rid the problems that are causing people to flee their homes.
Lowering our standards of decency and compassion will not solve "illegal immigration". It will harden our hearts and destroy the very soul of our nation. It will create enemies that last generations. It damages us within. It damages all those who feel the effects.
We have historically been a nation that was a beacon of hope. We have sought higher standards of humane treatment. We have also experienced periods like this where a cancer grew within that attempted to move us away from the essence and spirit of what has made this country great. It's happening again. We need to return to our highest ideals and greatest virtues.
All of the institutions that have created the framework of our democracy are now under attack; public schools, the justice system (including the FBI and CIA), a free press, our system of governance, any public sector organization such as the VA.... There is now a push to privatize everything and what is not privatized should be placed under a very central controlling force. None of this is sustainable. It will crumble over power and corruption.
Then, we will be the ones fleeing.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Can you be my friend?

Social media is wonderful. It's a way to share and create connections, keep in touch and learn about one another.
And social media is horrible. Specifically, social media can be used horribly. It can be used to spread dis-information, create discord, and as a weapon against one another.
It's too easy to sit behind a keyboard and do harm. Would you say or do the same thing face to face?
Seeing people harshly criticize friends or family ON social media is shocking to me. Would you stand at a party full of people and say the same things? Do you think it reflects most poorly on the person you are targeting? To me, you are the person the most question. I note that I need to keep a distance from you.
The one use of Facebook in particular drives me crazy is - "de-friending". Really? Is that how you handle conflict? Is your "conflict" so great that you seriously intend to never talk with that person again. If you are using it - facebook - as a weapon, do you really think your stamp of approval is so very valuable?
The truest test of character is not in how you handle the easy things. The test is in how you handle the most difficult.
If you say something I disagree with, I will do what I would do at a party. I will move on. I will respond respectfully with an alternative view. Or I'll just smile and think about it. Sometimes what you say really makes me think differently. Rarely - very rarely - will I ever react with the feeling that I can never be in the same room with you again.
I will confess to two occasions where I actually "de-friended" a person. Both were due to cursing that was excessive. We had no personal dispute. We had no conflict. There was no direct reason. I simply did not like all their cursing and didn't want to be associated with their presence on social media. Both were people I expected to never see again and were not significantly connected to anyone I spend time with or wish to. And, indeed, I have never seen these two again and they are still not connected to anyone I spend time with or wish to. My guess and my expectation at the time, is that they never even noticed. I mattered little in their circle either.
I've witnessed some bizarre uses of social media and specifically "de-friending". The person will "de-friend" then later request to be friends. What is that? I've been "de-friended" then had the person send me a personal message asking for something. Really? It all feels like middle school drama to me.
This is not a social media problem. This is an emotional maturity problem. Mark this - if you "de-friend" me on social media, I won't accept a future request. It doesn't mean I won't still love you. It doesn't mean I will mis-treat you face to face. It just means if you want to deal with me - if I matter to you - let's do it face to face. I'm no longer sure you are stable enough to handle the use of a tool that allows you to do remote harm. I may even be praying that you don't own a gun.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"Praise publicly. Criticize privately"

"Praise publicly. Criticize privately." It's an old saying with a great deal of wisdom behind it. If you think about it, it is very much about the golden rule. We all make mistakes. It's painful if those mistakes are publicly scrutinized.
I once worked under a manager who liked to post the last employee mistake on the wall. He would also copy many people in on emails that listed all corrections that were required on a project. He rarely praised underlings but criticized them daily. When pushback came, he was stymied. "I'm trying to help you," he insisted. But when he was publicly criticized, he was furious. I sometimes wonder if he ever learned why so many of his department left.
"Praise publicly. Criticize privately."
What's publicly?
Recently I was reminded that as soon as I tell a third person what I think, it's public.
In other words, if I tell you what I think about you or something I think you did; criticize you directly, it's private. If I tell no one else and you tell no one else, it's private. The minute either of us shares that, it's public. The two of us no longer control who knows.
If I criticize you and I tell no one else, I have kept it private. If you tell someone else, you have opened it up to public discourse. You may believe the person you told agrees with your side of things. Maybe they do. But will the next person they tell?
The things we say can have powerful effect. Words resonate. They are repeated and repeated. Once released to the universe, we have no control over their power or interpretation. As soon as we unleash a criticism of another, we have unleashed a powerful thing. Even if we believe strongly that we are right, it can have terrible consequences.
"Praise publicly. Criticize privately." And I would add, criticize carefully. Praise will return praise on you. Criticism will return criticism on you. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Life challenges us.
Deep within - if we let ourselves dwell there a moment - we know the answers.
We know. The spirit knows.
The answers are not quick fixes. They are not bandaids that cover wounds.
The spirit knows, if we let ourselves dwell there a moment or two.
Life challenges us.
We are challenged to learn what power spirit gives us - freely and willingly. It is right there. It is ours and always has been. It is ours to claim, to own, and to share. It is magical and mystical and powerful. It has and is always been there. We need only embrace it.
Life challenges us.
We are challenged to separate lies from spirit. Lies tell us others are in control. Lies tell us that others are to blame. Lies tell us that others hold the solutions.
If we let ourselves dwell in spirit for just a moment - we know the answers.
We have been freely given all that we need to unleash the power of spirit. It is not "out there".
We need no one else to complete us. We were created whole.
We need no one else to make our world right. We were provided a right world.
We need no one else to do anything.
We are responsible for a right world. We are responsible for our own creation. We are responsible for connecting our spirit to the world to create a better place.
Life challenges us.
We answer with spirit or we fail in anger.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Taxes - Return on Investment?

If you're a homeowner, you recently relieved property tax notifications. Most of us tend to grumble about them. Taxes are painful. For some, the taxes are a real struggle. It's taken me many years to get it planned right so it would be less painful. And it's taken me years to see it differently.
This year, as I stared at those papers sitting on the desk, images came to mind. They were much clearer as I focused on the city taxes. I thought of every time the streets were plowed. The city worker who hand delivered the water issue notification came to mind. I saw the friendly faces at Town Hall, our city manager, our mayor, our council, our police, our fire fighters, our events planner, our code enforcer. On some very cold winter days, there were city crews working on some trouble areas on the streets or in the water lines.
How many times can I count hearing sirens of first responders? When did those Christmas decorations magically appear? How did the leaves disappear? When did they sweep away the remnants of winter street treatment?
If my tax dollars were divided among all the services and employees serving this city, how does it get applied? As I consider the many services provided in this beautiful town, I'm supporting a great team of dedicated servants. I'm getting a great return on investment. Looking at it this way made writing the check easier. (That, plus super help from my financial institution, Franklin Oil Region Credit Union, to plan better for it.)
Our taxes really are an investment. When we can measure a great return on investment, it's less painful. In my humble opinion, Franklin, PA, is getting it right!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In Search of Universal Truth

A few years back, on a business trip in China, my hosts in Wuxi honored me with a trip to see the Big Buddha and visit the temple. Together we climbed the many steps leading to the foot of the giant Buddha and paused there at a table to visit. Through our interpreter we exchanged questions and thoughts. I was the first American woman they had ever met in person. They marveled that I was over 55 and still working, in this case traveling to videotape in many factories. Women in China retire at 55. They asked many questions about American women.
Then, sitting under Buddha's shadow, the conversation turned to religion. "Our Buddha and your Jesus are much alike," One said. I agreed and said something like this; "Please understand that I am not a typical American woman. Many are not like me. And I believe I was born into a Christian family to help me understand how Christians think and I don't understand it yet." To which they laughed. What followed was a wonderful discussion of how we can learn from one another if our hearts are open to learning.
Cross cultural experiences such as these with Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics, Spiritualists, Humanists, Native American teachings, and others have added greatly to my life. The universal speaks to us all in different ways. Among us all there are universal truths. For me, it is those universal truths that are the "word of God". If they are not universal and universally true, they are not from God. At best, those things not universally understood as true are simply man's interpretation of God. God's word must be universally understood and accepted. Why? Because God perfectly understands how man thinks. Only God can perfectly communicate so that man understands universally. Name God whatever you desire. God is universal truth. "God" is simply my name for it.
My love for search of that truth is unending. One book, one set of doctrines, one set of teachings, one religion, one practice cannot possibly contain an understanding of all universal truth. When confronted with someone insisting that there is only one way, my inner spirit asks "Why is your God so small?"
Every day I am searching these truths and an understanding of how I need to apply them to my life. And then today, I did a thing. Dear friends would like me to conduct their wedding ceremony. And so, I sought the path that would lead to my ability to do that. And so, this day, I am officially ordained through the Universal Life Church. They require just two core tenets:
  1. Do only that which is right.
  2. Every individual is free to practice their religion in the manner of their choosing, as mandated by the First Amendment, so long as that expression does not impinge upon the rights or freedoms of others and is in accordance with the government’s laws.
I am now officially titled "Minister of Peace". I do indeed believe in those two simple tenets. My simple intent and motivation is to honor my friends wishes. For many the ordination process is intense and I respect that dedication. My objective is not to start a church or in any way diminish any established denominations or ordained ministers. My intent is to serve. And I will continue to search truth. And I chose the title "Minister of Peace" to be my compass.
While this was easy to do, I do not take it lightly. It is simply another step toward a greater cause.