Sunday, November 16, 2014

God said so...

Spirituality and things of the spirit are often on my mind. And yet, I have less and less interest in religion beyond an intellectual curiosity about it's dogmatic purpose. Dig beneath the surface and soon we can uncover a political motivation for most any institution. If ultimately the "truth" of religious teaching leads to "because God said so" you should become quite skeptical that spirituality or spirit have anything to do with it.
Things of the spirit - spirituality - truth - are unquestionable. Not because God said so, but because it resonates as true always. That is the measure. We can call it whatever we want to call it.
For example, we know that when we smile a sincere smile - it is understood in any language and in any situation. Kindness - sincere expressions of kindness - are understood and resonate across all lines. These are spirit. These are spiritual truths.
If your religion teaches you that "truth" is something that does not have this universal resonance, it is not a spiritual or spirit driven teaching. It is that simple.
Creating a God that does not reside in truth is blasphemy. Watch the people who are burdened in dogma. They are driven by divide and destruction with great excuses for abandoning love and kindness. As they stretch to protect their teachings they create greater and greater falsehoods to defend them. This is what happens when you begin with a false premise. We watch them grow more bitter as their need for affirmation is left unsatisfied. They know no peace. They are invested in dogma not spirit.
Spirit and spiritual understanding is deeply personal. It is grounded deep within us. It is our inner voice telling us what to do. It is the connection we need to understand. It is the connection with everything and everyone around us. It is what binds us to all that ever was and all that will ever be. That connection is carried in our cells - our DNA - but it also transcends any physical entity. It is our source. It is part of everything.
Those of you who are animal lovers, like me, can feel it as we connect with our pets. They say, express, teach us - something that is beyond language. It resonates. We feel it. It is pure. There is no dogma associated with their connection to us. It is spirit and spiritual. They love. They connect.
We need to understand spirit and spirituality in that way. Love and connect without judgement.
Shed the religious dogma. Find truth - universal truth. Everything else leads us down a path of destruction even if someone tries to mask it as "God said so."

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Be the one....

The holidays are around the corner and there will be events, greetings, shopping, and family gatherings. And sadly, there will be grumbling.
Lines will grow longer at many stores and frustrations will grow. We need to develop some strategies to lighten up. I've pictured standing in a long line with people getting impatient and suddenly breaking into song or some crazy entertainment plan. Create a positive distraction.
If I really want to avoid the lines, I will find a way. I've been known to do my Christmas shopping in the middle of the night. That was before on line shopping made it really easy to avoid stores all together. Another great tactic is to shop at small local stores who will be very happy to see you and are less likely to be overcrowded with irritable people.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of "War on Christmas" grows louder. We Americans are a stressful lot. 
Even holidays can create conflicts that get people riled up.
Last week I noticed our company made cards available to send out. They say "Happy Holidays". Would some say they have violated Christmas? Probably. Why would a company want a Happy Holidays greeting instead of Merry Christmas?
They do it for the same reason I tell my Jewish friends Happy Chanukah. My greeting is for them not for me. My Chinese friends celebrate New Year at a different time. When it's their new year, I tell them happy new year - not for me, but for them. In turn, they often tell me Merry Christmas or happy new year in recognition of my holiday. It's not a war. It's a simple recognition. Being respectful.
As much as you feel about your celebrations, others feel the same level of connection to theirs. If we can simply be respectful of one another, none of us has to suffer.
If you are in a room full of Christians and say Happy Chanukah, it's going to sound pretty strange to most of them. It's not their holiday. Likewise, saying Merry Christmas to a room full of Muslim people will sound pretty strange to them. It's not their holiday. You might say if the majority are xxx, then go with the majority. Ok - do you want to be the one feeling left out?
If we want to spread a message of love and joy, let it be a language that resonates with the intended audience. That's all it is.
We're becoming more of a global society with people from many different cultural backgrounds working together and living in the same community. Recognizing one another and our differences can make our lives richer. It should not hurt us to know and respect that some don't share our beliefs or traditions. If we make an effort to understand and respect theirs, they will be much more likely to try to understand and respect ours.

In any case, however you view the holiday season, it's yours. Let's greet each other with warmth and sincerity.  Let's be cheerful and respectful. Let's promote peace on earth - during this and all seasons. Be the one who brings a smile in those long lines.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Passing the torch

Some of us are growing closer to our 60's and seeing the end of our careers as we have known them. Younger, brighter, faster, smarter people are rising behind us. How do we navigate our way in this new land?
We have a unique opportunity to become their mentors and champions. The greatest thing we have to offer is our hindsight. They are rising. We can help them rise a little farther.
I am thrilled today to see the rising stars around me having opportunities that I only hoped to have a decade or more ago. What can I offer? I can be their champion. I can herald them forward and ensure they have the connections they need to move forward and upward. I can caution them and tell them about the mistakes I made in hopes that they can avoid those same mistakes. I can give them greater historical reference than I had. I can try to help position them for greater success.
I have put my heart and soul into many endeavors, then watched them flounder in my absence.  This time, I want to leave a group of talented people behind who will achieve more than I ever dreamed. I want to see them 10 years or 20 years from now and be WOW'ed by their success and achievements. I want to feel I left them well positioned to soar.
Maybe - just maybe - this time I get it right. And if I have truly gotten it right, they will do the same 20 years from now. If each of those people can sponsor and champion an equal number of people and those people sponsor and champion an equal number of people....
In my remaining years, my deepest desire is to leave something that grows and thrives and serves the community well. If I have learned one great lesson, it is not about what we can do ourselves but more about what we can inspire others to continue. Our best gift is to pass a brightly burning torch that can be passed again growing brighter.

Jeepers version of Cat and Mouse

Lately Jeepers must be feeling bored and has developed a new game. In this new game, I am the cat trying to catch the mouse and he is the mouse. If he is in the house, he dashes to escape to the outside. If I am outside going in, he dashes to enter before I close the door (not realizing he is around to dash the door.)
He likes to tease me when he is outside - coming just so close and being quite chatty - but evading me if I try to capture him. The other night I tried to get him in for the night and he ran into the garage so I closed the door and chased him around in the garage. All the while he is making little cat sounds that can be interpreted as - "Ha - catch me if you can." I finally gave up and left him in the garage for the night. At least, I thought, he was safe. And in the morning, he was quite happy to run straight into the house.
Now there may be another explanation for his behavior. He is very observant of the routines of Tobey and Molly Mutt Paws. He's even developed a taste for dog food which Tobey is having a difficult time understanding when Jeepers takes over his dish at dinner time. He watches as they go out each time and seems to want to follow along. He may be expressing dismay that they have a privilege he has not enjoyed. Oddly, when he escapes, he even returns to the same whistle I use to call the dogs.
I'll keep analyzing and try to determine what's going on. For now, I'm feeling like the cat having a hard time catching the mouse. Not real good at this game and he is.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Understanding requires context

One of the most troubling things in this world - particularly in the US - is the lack of civility. We seem to be polarized and driven by extremism. We don't know how to really talk to one another about difficult issues. Too often we resort to name calling. Let's try to be civil.
It's not just a problem on the right or on the left. It's becoming a cultural problem. On both sides of the isle I see people calling one another idiots for expressing a viewpoint. While I may radically disagree with a person's perspective, I pray to learn to be civil in my response to it. It is not easy.
There are so many sources for information and so many variations of media coming at us every day. Many have learned that they need to evoke an emotional response to get our attention. They seek to push our buttons - "Can you believe..." It's a sound bite... a headline... with no context. Far too often we bite. We respond and look no further. We react and make no effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
This is why we get no where. This is why we fail to solve big issues. We are shouters and have lost our ears.
While we may be able to provide a headline for events of our lives, the headline is not the whole story. There will be 20 other people who were part of or witness to that story who have 20 different points of view. Some will be quite similar and some will be radically different. It's about perspective and a greater context that somehow ties into the whole.
We must build compassion for - capacity for - an ear for - the opposing view. Not a shut down response or a "you're an idiot" response but an honest review of the logic behind the argument.
It may be totally illogical to us. It may be based on crazy assumptions. But if we fail to listen and carefully, civilly break the logic and assumptions down into their parts, all we will do is call one another idiots.
Often we face huge projects that appear to be overwhelming. If we break those projects into parts and tackle the tasks one by one, they become manageable. The individual parts are the context.
The next time you see a headline, don't react until you gain some perspective on the context. We can only truly make a difference if we begin to understand one another. Understanding requires context.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Just see us...

Some months ago someone I deeply respect asked to interview me about the "gay community" for a college class.  While I wanted to help and agreed, I felt I had little to offer.  He was searching to understand and define something that I could not myself define. I reached into my past and sought to describe times I felt part of a distinct community that included many gay and lesbian people but we were not distinctly separate and different. I'm not sure what he walked away with. I never heard how his "study" went and do not know who else he may have interviewed.
Today a friend posted this comedic view of a family trying to understand a "gay wedding" and it wakened my senses.

One day we will stop saying "gay wedding". It will just be a wedding.

If you want to really drive me crazy, make a reference to "gay life style". Picture the sketch above with people asking about how gay people live. We are not singing "gay hymns". I don't have a gay dog. I don't walk on a gay street. I don't shop at gay stores. I don't spend gay money.
I realize now in talking to my friend we both missed the whole point. Yes, I have experienced and still experience places and times where I feel more accepted and free to be me but I do not live in a separate community. My gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends are not living in an alternative community.
Back in the '80s I heard a story about an establishment in Franklin with a new manager. The new manager heard that lesbians liked to hang out there and they expressed concern. The worker opened the cash register and asked, "Can you pick out the lesbian money?'
Like everyone else we are part of a work community, a religious community, a volunteer community, a family community. We are a living, breathing, contributing part of many communities. There is no separate and subversive group that drives some commonalty in any way that divides us from humanity at large. We are more the same than we are different. And we are as different from one another as we are the same.
We do not seek to destroy freedom of religion. We seek the choice of inclusion. We do not seek to destroy freedom of speech. We seek the freedom to speak. We do not seek to destroy. We seek the right to build with you. We do not live separate from you. We are your sisters - your brothers - your family - your co-workers.
Just see us.
Judge us by "the content of our character" - how we love not the gender of whom we love.

Monday, October 13, 2014

That simple. That pure.

Where there is love, there is god. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a mystical far off unattainable being.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Love is God. God is Love.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a system of right or wrong or sin and salvation.
Love. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Call it peace. Call it harmony.
Call it acceptance. Call it submission.
It is love. It is god.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
No judgement. No need. No suffering.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
That pure. That simple. That's all.
Walk in it. Bask in it. Accept it.
Be in awe of it.
That's all.