Sunday, December 27, 2015

Create Something Better....

The American generosity at Christmas is wonderful to witness. Families are adopted and hearts open to fill needs to ensure a memorable Christmas day. We pull lists from trees and fill them. We throw money in the kettle to help. Hearts open.
No one is asking if the recipients deserve the help. No one is asking if they are lazy. No one is complaining that giving a little extra might take something away from their own celebrations. We open our hearts a little and feel compassion for those who may not have quite as much as we do.
And then many go right back to the same old rhetoric. "You cannot give to people and expect... blah, blah, blah."
Yes there are people who take advantage of other people. Yes there are people who take advantage of the system.
Then let's create some better systems. Let's stop making assumptions and start creating opportunities. We're seeing those better systems slowly growing where assumptions are overcome. In Colorado a city project offers homeless people the opportunity to work cleaning up the community - 8 of 10 offered accept. A woman starts making jackets that double as sleeping bags for the homeless and get scolded by a homeless person because they need jobs. So she starts hiring homeless people to make the sleeping bag jackets.
A woman from Afghanistan comes to the United States for an education - becomes a successful doctor - and returns to Afghanistan to educate her own people - especially the women but also would be Taliban men.
We need to have vision and create systems of hope and generosity that make a difference for years to come. We need to stop making assumptions about those in need and create hope that generates hope. Kindness and generosity create seeds of hope. You will not see it immediately. You need faith to believe in it's possibilities. Love never fails.
Greed, Assumptions, Bitterness, Resentment, Jealousy are the opposites of kindness, generosity and hope. They poison opportunity. They offer no vision - no room for growth. They are killers. You cannot enter into any potential positive outcome for anything if you hold onto bitterness, resentment, jealousy, greed or assumptions. They are faith killers.
You need faith to believe in possibilities. You need vision to create hope. Those are forward thinking acts of love. That's where we create something better.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Let's start listening...

Are our perceptions reality?
Through the years, I've thought of Americans as kind and generous people. I've thought that American values were about giving those in need a hand up, providing opportunity to grow, ingenuity, integrity honesty and dreaming big. Is that reality?
We may need a reality check. Perhaps a world performance review. We should have experts in many fields from other countries review our level of performance in their field of expertise. Let's ask government officials - politicians - in other countries to review our Congress and Executive Branch. Let's ask health care professionals in other countries to review our health care system.  Let's choose the major issues we face on any given topic and ask experts from other countries how we rate - Education - human rights - working conditions....
We are quite likely to be very surprised by the results. If we want to be "great" again, we need to be better listeners. We need perception and reality to be pretty close to the same. In our personal lives the people who love and care about us - and the people who don't - provide reality checks. They let us know how we are doing - like it or not.
Anyone who feels America is off track - for whatever reason - should be keenly interested in hearing from those who might have insight about why. I'd rather hear that from people who are succeeding where I might be failing. Anyone can spout about what's wrong. The important people are the ones with answers. Wouldn't you like to learn how people have actually DONE things right? Let's start listening.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The political and personal

This political campaign is quite fascinating. On one hand it's encouraging to see that so many people are engaged and watching the many debates. On the other hand, it's quite discouraging to see how many people focus on and believe sweeping generalizations that contain misinformation and no substantive solutions for the many issues we face.
On one hand, it seems encouraging that someone is beholding to no-one as they finance their campaign for president. On the other hand, that means they have no allegiance to me either. 
I'm the "little gal" who has squeaked along - worked hard - paid my way best I can. I have fought. I have scratched. I have demanded equal rights as a woman - as an "other". I did not have a rich daddy. I have been passed over. I have been paid less. I have fought against dishonesty and corruption. I have served my country.
I want a President and a governing body that understands ME. I want a President and governing body that represents ME.
I am weary of misinformation - sweeping rhetoric - and NO substantive solutions. Let's talk about what needs to be done and how we get it done. Then let's do it. "Trust me, I will" is not cutting it with me. Tell me exactly how. Show me a history of how you have. Then you will get my attention.
I cannot understand why so many people are willing to settle for less than that. Let's get something done. Let's solve something.
Do some fact checking with reliable sources. Set some clear objectives for expected outcomes. Think a little bit. Just a little. Take just a little time to remove yourself from the knee jerk response and think.
Who is really going to do the things you believe need done? Who's really going to work for you?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Holiday Memories - Bittersweet - Sweet!

As the years pass, holiday memories can be bittersweet. It's best to treasure the sweet.
One Christmas very long ago, my little brother - 4 year old toe headed Mikey - couldn't keep a secret. "You're getting a typewriter for Christmas", he said. At 7, I was barely aware of what a typewriter was and thought it sounded rather odd. I pondered the idea for weeks.
On Christmas morning, we sat on the stairs staring in the distant below which would remain tradition for many years as we had strict orders not to enter the living room until the Parents granted permission. I could see no typewriter. When we were permitted to make the mad dash of discovery, I found a wonderful little corner store with a cash register. My guess is that Mommy masterfully told Mike that it was a typewriter knowing he might spill the beans but creating a way to keep the gift disguised.
That little corner store generated many hours of fun as cousins reading this are likely to recall. Many of those hours were the last I shared with Mommy. That was our last Christmas together.
I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the next Christmas must have been for our Dad. I cannot remember the tree or excitement of Christmas morning that year. I remember Mr. and Mrs. Frinifrock across the road brought early gifts - pick up sticks for me and a Barrel of Monkey's for Mike. But I remember there was snow that Christmas in 1966 because Dad bought snow ski's for all three of us and we tried them in the yard. They had springs that latched our boots to the skies.
In that year of deep grief, he had found a determination to create adventure. That winter, and for many that followed, we skied with our little ski's and spring bindings. He bought a nice camper that year. We camped more with our aunts and uncles and made our first trip west that next summer.
This year, I mark as the first since Dad's passing. Our last conversations were filled with talking about things he thought I'd like to see. As Mike so eloquently said in a tribute to Dad last April, that is the gift he gave us and our sisters that he adopted as dearly as his own. On that Christmas in 1966, that is the gift he gave us and continued for many years.
I am certain it is the gift he intended that we would pass along.
And perhaps - just perhaps - it wasn't completely a diversion about the typewriter. Perhaps my mother knew, I would be intended to write. And write, I will.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Checking our Perspective

We cannot change everything in this world but we can change our perspective. We can do it by choosing gratitude as a pattern of thought. We can do it by looking for the best - even in bad situations. We can do it by selecting where we focus our attention.
Some years ago I read about a study conducted with a group of similar aged, similar income level people who lived in a rather safe neighborhood. Half of the group read and watched little to no mainstream news coverage. Half of the group followed the mainstream news diligently. The study showed that, over time, those who were diligently following the mainstream news displayed higher levels of anxiety, believed their neighborhood was more dangerous and felt a lower level of trust for strangers. Their belief in the dangers within their neighborhood were higher than the reality of the dangers that were playing out in their neighborhood.
I believe following the news is good but mainstream news may give us a false sense of reality. There are so many things happening in the world that never make the news. We know that to be true in our own home towns. If you are involved in your community at all, you must be keenly aware of the stories that never make the newspaper. We do not see regular reports about volunteers giving countless hours to serve our community. But countless hours are contributed every day in our volunteer fire departments, our scout troops, our non-profit organizations, animal rescues, our churches.... These are the stories of real life. These are the stories that change lives. These are the stories that change perspective.
These stories are happening around the world. These are the sources of real change - meaningful change. We need to hear them more. Look for those. Let those stories become part of your mainstream news. You will find them within sources like or on
When I am seeking a reality check and as I purposefully focus on learning new things, I go to There you will find "Ideas Worth Spreading"!
Last night I watched this TED talk.
Most everything I have heard about Afghanistan has come from mainstream news. And I can think of little that was positive. Here was the voice of a woman who is making a difference. If we are going to make a difference in the world, we need to understand how to empower people like this. We need to take time to hear - to discover - the stories not told in the mainstream media. And I prefer to hear those stories first hand from those living the stories. provides that on a wide range of topics.
Mainstream news focuses mostly on what is wrong in the world - what is not working - conflict.
Let's focus on expanding and growing what IS working. Let's change our perspective. It matters. It's where the world changes.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Can we try? or fixing "stupid"

When we disagree, the most difficult thing to do is listen. Listening stops when we allow the conversation to become emotionally charged.
In our daily lives we know this is true. We have an argument with a spouse, friend or co-worker and we all need to cool off before we can resolve the issue. The longer we hold onto the emotional charging station, the bigger the problem grows. If we don't find a way to listen - to hear their concerns - to recognize their position, the problem just grows and festers. It takes work on both sides. We have to share a desire to reach agreement. We have to want a solution. We have to share a commitment to resolve the issue.
The beginning of resolution is to discover common ground. That takes real work. And often the most important common ground is a shared commitment to resolving the issue. To get to that point, we have to release ourselves from the emotional charging station. Step back. Think. Build a bridge.
I've started to ask people who seem to be on an opposite side of an issue "What's your solution?"
That's not a rhetorical question. I sincerely want to hear. I don't know everything. We don't get great solutions to huge problems with just one perspective. We get the best solutions when a wide spectrum of educated people make a commitment to solve an issue. We get the best solutions when we collect our resources and really work at it.
Let's work toward solutions. Let's find a way to talk to each other that isn't full of emotionally charged one liners like "You Can't fix stupid." That's a door slammer. You CAN fix "stupid" if you are able to intelligently lay out a plan. It might take a bit of thinking and a lot of work but if it makes sense, it will make sense. In my lifetime, people have even been able to fix my "stupid" with a little bit of reason and care. But it had to be solutions oriented and needed to resonate. It needed to recognize my part of the equation. It needed to offer promise of something better.
I'm not willing to throw people under the bus because they are not like me or do not think like me. I've learned the most from those who are different and had an important message. Let's take some time to build.
It's going to take some work on all of our parts to stop poking one another in the eye. It's real thinking that will get us somewhere. It's really hard as we are bombarded with "gotcha" one liners that are tempting to smack one another with - or to use as a 2x4 we want to smack someone with. Has smacking someone with a 2x4 ever solved anything? It's hard work to quit venting and actually focus on resolution. It can be much easier to vent and draw lines in the sand.
One strategy I'm trying is to truly ask "What's your solution?" I need to hear. I need to listen. I'm trying to watch more Ted Talks with people who are actually doing real things to solve world problems. I'm always looking for resources that are examples of solving issues. I want to think differently - engage differently - create real solutions. Let's try. It's hard work but I believe it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Listen and learn....Our Lives depend on it!

For many years I've pondered how good and decent people can be swept up in a wave that enables mistreatment of fellow human beings. In our own nation, the Declaration of Independence said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." And yet, many of our beloved founders were slave owners. It took a bloody civil war to end that peculiar institution.
Then another hundred years followed with entrenched inequality. The civil rights movement attempted to move us to higher ground but another half century has proven that hearts are difficult to change. We are a clannish species and we have been taught to love hierarchy. If we are fearful of loosing our position or desire a better position, we will step on someone's back. We will oppress others believing we are then lifted or protected.
There's a very good documentary about the KKK that's worth watching. When the KKK was at it's peak, I wondered, why did so many people want to join? Good and decent people were caught up in the KKK. While we think of it as a terribly racist organization, there was and probably is, an underlying message that resonates with people who feel dis-empowered. It's good to understand why. We should not dismiss associations as meaning the people are bad people. There is an important thing we need to understand about why they would go this path.
We need to understand these things.
How did Joseph McCarthy create a powerful committee that trampled civil liberties and destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans? He created the "Red Scare" that generated black lists of proposed communist sympathizers whose careers were decimated. One person is credited with turning the tide of information and the path toward sanity. It was the courageous effort of a journalist in this one broadcast. In our age of emotionally packed soundbites, it's hard to imagine an audience willing to watch and learn.
That's not a new weakness of humanity. Creating messages that grip emotions and lead masses down an ominous path has been done before. Once we become emotionally attached, the connection is hard to break. Good and decent people will follow. We need to understand why. We need to reference history. We need to understand.
We need to understand how an entire nation could be taken down such a terrible path as happened in Nazi Germany. Good and decent people were turned against an entire segment of their own population. They turned a blind eye as neighbors and community members were taken away. They were not bad people but were too easily led down the path of darkness.
We are witnessing the evolution of sweeping darkness. The darkness began in a place few of us can understand, half the world away. We cannot overcome darkness by creating something darker. We need to understand. We need to understand why. We need to shine a light.
Why are people joining ISIL? We need to understand why. Good and decent people can be taken down a very dark path. We need to understand that. That is the only way we will truly turn the tide. We need to create hope of a better path. We need to be the light.
We will never understand if we turn our backs to our Muslim friends and potential allies. We need to hear what they have to say. We need to listen. Our lives depend on it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

One - I am, You are, We are - One

I believe in One.
I believe I am One.
I believe you are One.
I believe we are One.
I believe our spirits are One.
I believe all are part of One.
I believe your pain is my pain.
I believe your joy is my joy.
It does not matter what you believe.
It does not matter what I believe.
We are one.
We are part of one.
I believe if we all could understand that,
we could act as one.
In that One, we become fully connected
with God - as God - ONE.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Growing level of Insanity

When we are talking about solutions to issues, it's good to consider how a solution could play out. Do a "what if" exercise.
One of the solutions to our increased massive gun violence problem proposes that more guns would solve it. In this scenario it's proposed that more "good guys" carrying weapons would increase the likelihood that a "bad guy" could be stopped before they could do massive damage.
So, I try to imagine how this might play out in a real situation. Let's pretend a situation breaks out in a very large store, shopping mall or heavily populated street with 5000 people. 500 of the people are carrying weapons. Suddenly gun fire breaks out. All 500 draw their weapons and turn to - head toward the gun fire. Now what?
Are all 500 people going to hold fire until they know who the "bad guy" is? Is it possible some will just start shooting? Even if just one starts shooting, it's likely to cause mass chaos.
The police arrive and find hundreds of people with guns. Now what?
There is a reason police and military personnel train extensively. It goes far beyond being able to handle a weapon. It's about making good decisions in very bad, confusing situations.
As well meaning as I'm sure many gun packing folks are, they are assuming a huge responsibility that they can make good decisions. I don't have nearly as much confidence that they can as they would expect. More guns out and about in our communities creates greater danger and liability. Guns don't come with "good guy - bad guy" detectors. There have to better answers. This one is not rational or reasonable. 
After the horror of 9/11, we were willing to concede to airports having strict screening for all flights. We take off our shoes, remove our laptops and limit what we carry onto a plane. We go to the airport extra early knowing we will wait in possible long lines for pre-flight screening. We are willing to do that because some knucklehead might want to cause horrible destruction. We sacrifice millions of dollars in an effort to prevent such things.
Meanwhile gun ownership is considered, by a very powerful minority, to be so sacred that nothing can be done to curtail it any way. Last week a bill was voted down in Congress. It would have prevented anyone on the terrorist watch list from legally purchasing a gun. It would have limited the sale of assault weapons. It would have required a background check for anyone to purchase a gun.  Those sound very rational and reasonable to me.
Some argue that these restrictions will not stop bad guys from getting guns. That is true. Drunk driving laws don't stop everyone from driving drunk. Taking away someone's driver's license doesn't guarantee that they won't drive. Would anyone propose that we eliminate these attempts to curb it?
We have a huge gun violence problem in this country. It's getting worse and worse. To those arguing against any efforts to try to DO something, what's your solution? Certainly you don't believe we need to just accept it and all arm ourselves in a heroic belief that we can become a protective militia.
Maybe we spent too much of our childhoods watching wild west movies.
Misguided fears are driving this country to a very frightening level of insanity. The underlying fear seems to be that someone is in the shadows trying to take away your guns. That fear is so great that any attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them is a threat. The crazy part is that most of these people are law abiding gun owners who passed a background check to purchase their guns.
Am I missing something? Are there more people than I believe who have guns that are not registered or feel a need to stockpile unregistered weapons including assault weapons? If so, that's a frightening thought. Those are the people I fear. A bunch of paranoid, trigger happy people with stockpiles of unregistered weapons poses a more real and present danger than a potential secret government plot to confiscate weapons. That would be a sign of a growing level of insanity.
We need to change our mindset. We need to get a grip and learn to distinguish between real threats and fear based hysteria. Until we do, nothing will be solved. We'll just keep talking about what can't be done. There's a pile of CAN'T and WON'T going on in this country and it's destroying us.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Create - Gotcha!

Buzz words, superlatives and "gotchas" get us in so much trouble. Rather than trying to come to understanding and reaching agreement, we want to end the discussion - end the debate - get the "win".
Grey area is hard. Finding common ground along a spectrum is hard work. It really isn't either/or in this world unless you want to walk alone. It's about finding a path we can work on together. It's about seeking something - together. Working together toward something - working outside of our comfort zones - is how we all grow toward something much greater than we could have ever found alone.
Here's the important part. If someone wants to nail your feet down in place or walk you backward, don't let them! Looking back is fine. Going back is lost momentum.  It means nothing is being created. Why stop creating?
And why would you want to nail anyone in place? Why would you walk backward? Don't!! Look back to appreciate how far you have come. Imagine how far you can go. Create! Believe in that same energy that brought you this far.
Appreciate - get ready for the growth that comes in the understanding more. Delete the buzz words, superlatives and "gotchas".  Understand. Discuss. Debate.  CREATE!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Snake and the Spider....

A snake once got into a man's friend's house. Everyone suspected that the snake got in through a crack in the foundation. The man hated snakes and grew fearful that one might enter his house. So, he carefully checked his foundation and ensured that all cracks were well sealed.
Then someone said, a snake would come in if there was any chance a rodent could get in. So the man sealed every crack he could find from the foundation to the roof and he felt safer. Then someone said, birds could get in through the chimney. Birds carry disease, people said. So, he covered his chimney with screens.
Then a poisonous spider bit a neighbor and he became very ill. Somehow it had gotten into his house. They suspected the spider got in through a vent or maybe through the screen in his chimney. So, the man sealed the vents and his chimney. Nothing was getting in. Through the summer - no snakes, no rodents and no spiders. He was very happy.
Winter came. They found the man dead in his house. It wasn't a snake. It wasn't a rodent. It wasn't a bird. It wasn't a spider. He had sealed his house so well, it filled with CO2 and the air killed him.
The moral of the story is that we can become so obsessed with potential enemies that we kill ourselves with our own solutions.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Spirit Walking

Spirit Walking...
Spirit is the place where connection resonates. Spirit walking means to live in connection with your self, with your surroundings, with those surrounding you, with those beyond your comprehension. Spirit walking is living in a deep belief in a divine connection with the universe - past, present and future. It is the deep understanding that nothing is beyond you, nothing is separate from you, nothing is apart from you. It is the deep understanding that you are part of everything in the universe. It is an awareness that you are a tiny spec in relation to the universe.
Spirit walking is the conviction that your tiny spec of existence can make a difference that influences the entire universe. Spirit walking is the understanding that you may not know how your tiny spec of influence sparks something but you are convicted to make it be a spark of positive change.
Spirit walking is about relationships - all relationships - every person, creature, thing. It's about a conviction to leave every person, creature, thing in a better place. It's about being purpose driven in every encounter, every act and in every thought. Spirit walking is about the determination to leave a tiny spec of hope in the universe that will resonate far beyond your expectations or understanding.
Spirit walking is about faith that your tiny spec of existence here is just the beginning of something more and is intricately tied to some past. It is beyond our understanding now and beyond our comprehension now, but if we have faith - if we believe in leaving hope - we will create cause for celebration.
Spirit Walking requires seeking connection first. First, we must seek connection with our own spirit within. That spirit within has the great understanding of the divine and universal spirit. It is imprinted in our own spirit from before our birth. The world is filled with noise that can overpower our ability to tune in. How do we know what is noise? If it causes us to feel disconnected to all people, all creatures, all things - it is noise. If it causes a "them and us" feeling, it is noise.
Spirit calls us into reconciliation and connection. Spirit is powerful with all who seek reconciliation and connection. Only love and compassion can create reconciliation and connection. Spirit drives love and compassion.
Spirit walking is the place where connection happens. We seek connection first. We lay down our fear. We lay down our resentment. We ignore all slight against us. We are resolute in our search for connection.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The question of security OR compassion....

Frequently I tune into the local Christian radio station on my way to or from work. That might surprise some people. I'll just say I don't do it expecting inspiration or encouragement but today I was surprised. I caught a conversation that was both encouraging and inspiring. It was a conversation about the Syrian Refugee issue.
The host described our country's conflict - pitting security against compassion and encouraged listeners on both sides of the argument to frame the issue differently. What followed was a wonderful dialogue with guests that caused me to pause and really listen. It was a message of hope and reconciliation speaking to both sides of this issue. It spoke to me and I'm happy to try to share.
Those of us speaking about compassion need to acknowledge the very real and legitimate security concerns. And those concerned about the security issue need to acknowledge the very real and legitimate needs of the refugees. First and foremost, we need to acknowledge each others' concern.
What followed on this show were several guests who then did just that.
The security concerned person acknowledged that she had not known how much scrutiny was in place and how long the process was for a refugee. At the end of last week, I realized that most people - even Congress - are apparently unaware of the process. The bill passed last week by the House of Representatives seemed to me to mirror the process already in place. In reading the news reports about the bill, I felt encouraged. To me, it looks like a way to help the country accept refugees with assurance of the highest scrutiny.
The discussion I heard from an unexpected source gives me hope. Let's not pit security against compassion. Let's acknowledge the need for both. I believe we can. I believe we should.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seeking the Constant

Consistency is the great challenge in the world. To be consistent in thought, word and deed. To be consistent in holding yourself to the same standard you hold someone else - that is the great challenge.
I ask myself often if I am consistent. Do I hold myself to the same level of standard I am holding the other person? Do I give in the manner I expect to be given? Do I love in the way I want to be loved? Do I forgive as I hope to be forgiven? Do I expect more from others than I expect from myself?
Am I consistent? Am I true to the values I espouse?
Do I place conditions? Am I conditionally consistent? Do I accept the same conditions to be placed on me?
I have failed. I have suffered. I have wronged. Should my failure, my suffering, my wrong be held differently?
Am I consistent? When I question myself, I find much greater capacity for compassion for others. I find that I expect FOR others in a greater context. "There but for the grace of god, go I."
There is one consistency that never fails - love and compassion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's God Calling....What's your answer?

The world is calling you.
There is pain. There is violence. There is suffering.
The world is calling you.
What is your answer?
More pain? More violence? More suffering?
The world is calling you.
What is your answer?
God is calling you.
There is pain. There is violence. There is suffering.
God is calling you.
What is your answer?
More pain? More violence? More suffering?
We are the hands and feet of God.
God is calling you.
What are your hands and feet about to do.
More pain? More violence? More suffering?
Are you declining the call?
More pain? More violence? More suffering?
It's God calling.
Is this your answer?

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Cup of Hot Chocolate

Over the weekend I heard a small nugget of a story that continues to roll around in my mind and stirs my spirit. A young woman had suffered a severely abusive childhood and was seeking help to heal from her anger and bitterness. She was asked to recall anything from her youth for which she was grateful. She could only recall a day when a kindly woman offered warmth and cup of hot chocolate. From that one memory, she was encouraged to build a view of gratitude - to seek it - to embrace it in the present. Her healing began with the memory of one simple act of kindness that happened many years before - a cup of hot chocolate.
There are two important lessons from this story. First, we never know what seed we may plant in a single act of kindness - no matter how small. That seed may grow years from now and for reasons we cannot comprehend. Kindness is a seed that heals and it will grow when the time is right.
Second, kindness sparks gratitude. When we feel gratitude, anger and bitterness melt away. If we want to end anger and bitterness, gratitude is the path. Kindness sparks gratitude. It may not spark today but when the time is right, it will surface.
In my darkest moments - in those moments of hopelessness, anger and bitterness - it has always been gratitude that has provided a light that guided the path toward healing. Gratitude for even the simple things grows a sense of healing. As focus on gratitude grows healing also grows.
There are many hopeless, angry and bitter people in the world. Perhaps many are beyond reach. But if you are reading this, you are not. You can walk in gratitude. You can become a spark with kindness. Something as simple as a cup of hot chocolate might be the difference.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Bitter Branch You Chew...

There is too much anger in the world. Anger grows out of frustration and resentment. All too often we see it grow into violence. For some reason, anger and fundamentalism seem to make great partners. They use violence to dominate the heretics or the infidels. It works for a time until violence overtakes their domination and on and on and on it goes. Seeds of hatred and anger are constantly planted and watered.
Every so often a great leader and a great teacher emerges to say we can overcome domination with love and compassion. We can stand strong in a non-violent way. But it is not the easy path. It takes much discipline and a very clear vision. It requires a long term commitment. You have to believe in the greater spirit - be it God or the universal spiritual desire for happiness. You truly must believe that love conquers all. You must believe that the light will overcome the darkness. If you cannot believe that, you too will become trapped in the darkness. You will be angry, frustrated, resentful and prone to violence. You will be your own terrorist.
We will never be able to walk down the street and know who the next terrorist might be. We will never be able to lock our borders or lock our doors and know that no terrorist will intrude. Our anger, frustration and resentment will never make us safe.
We have to love our world out of this anger. It starts right where we stand. Right where we are. What grudges are we holding in our own lives? You expect a terrorist to change - how about you and I? What bitter branch are you chewing?
If we want peace in the world, we each have to create peace in our corner of the world. Then we need to support those who are able to create greater peace in the world. We need to understand and comfort those who are angry and resentful in a way that leads to peace. We have to love each other out of bitterness. We have to start a new world. It starts right where we stand.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


At one time or another most of us have said "I hate drama". But that is only half true. Our lives are full of drama. Our lives are a drama. Who doesn't love watching a friend tackle the seemingly impossible thing and succeed?  We love watching a contest of endurance or competition. We LOVE drama.
We spend hours watching movies and TV shows. Even the news is now a drama show. We LOVE drama.
We love sharing our drama. We post on facebook. We twitter. We instagram our drama.
So, when we say "I hate drama", what do we really mean?
For some, it seems to mean "I hate people questioning me!"
For others, it seems to mean "I hate all the excitement over this?"
I'm a PG, Hallmark Channel, kind of person. I do tend to get excited over certain things though. Mostly, if I was asked to define "drama" it would be generating UN-neccessary trouble. But watch - trouble and conflict make the most popular drama.
If you "hate drama", the only thing to do is tune out of the drama you hate. Tune into the drama you like. It's all drama. It will go where we go.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On Veteran's Day

On Veteran's Day I feel humbled and a little embarrassed when someone thanks me for my service. I'm proud to say I'm an Air Force Veteran but I served in peace time and was an entertainer for those doing the heavy work.
In my last year, I was stationed at the Air Force Survival School headquarter in Spokane, WA setting up a media relations program for the Public Affairs office. There, I met POW's from Vietnam and many of the Survival Instructors I worked with every day were veterans of that war. When I think of veterans, I think of them. I think of my nephew who served 3 tours in Iraq. I think of cousins who served in the Gulf war. I think of Uncles who served in Korea and in World War II.
During my tour, there was only one night I feared and wondered if I might need to risk my life for duty. But it did not come to that. While I remember it, it has never caused me nightmares. I witnessed no bloodshed. I experienced no terror.
I know a veteran of such experience - witness of bloodshed and terror - by the look in their eye. They have been to a place that never quite leaves them. To these men and women I humbly defer recognition of service. They lost a part of themselves in that place that never quite leaves them. It becomes a ghost that follows them - distant but hauntingly real.
I can only hope to entertain them.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Writing on...

Why do I write?
At some point in my young life I discovered that writing - words and tunes - provided a sort of release valve for expression of feelings I could not quite grasp but needed to explore somehow. Words grew important. I grew weary of spoken words floating around me that were ill thought and questionable in motive. Writing provided opportunity to carefully select the right words or to simply let them flood the page and then I could look at them for careful reflection.
All these years later, writing is still a release valve. More and more I find I need to write - just need to write. Then I go back - read the words - go back to what I wrote a year ago or 5 years ago and check myself. The words provide a measurement. The thoughts and expressions of feelings about issues or events helps to ground me and to check my compass. Was I - Am I - pointed in the right direction.
Those words from years ago through to now are a map. They foretell where I am going.
I write to map my present location and push myself to explore the next.
Writing is my adventure.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Mr. Tommy Cat

It's time once again for a furry friend story. Today is the story of Mr. Tommy Cat, the newest addition to the family.
It begins a little sad. Our friend Mr. Jeepers disappeared as mysteriously as he appeared. For those who may not know, he showed up on the porch 2 years ago and we were determined to ignore him. I wrote the Mr. Jeepers story last March.
Mr. Jeepers was a perfect gentleman indoors but he still had a love for wandering and he fully expected that if the dogs could go out, he should too. He was very good at finding a way to get past us and escape. Sadly, one day a few months ago, he did not return. We filed missing cat reports. No Jeepers. We still hope that he is somewhere and loved but we have missed him so.
Last Saturday morning Holly said "Let's go out to the humane society and see the kittens. Just look." Of course, we both knew we were most likely to return with a cat. On the way Holly said, "We're just looking but I would most prefer a kitten."
When we arrived a volunteer encouraged us to see the pretty tabby cat she had grown fond of - not a kitten. Our attention fell to the 3 little kittens below. Then nearly in unison, we caught sight of a cat off to the right. "Jeepers!", we said. But upon closer look we learned that he was only 1 year old and unmistakably NOT neutered. His name was Tommy. Though he seemed so very much like Jeepers, he is too young to be a son and came from a home who had to give him up.
Mr. Tommy Cat came home with us.
I hope he doesn't mind that we could not resist his resemblance to Mr. Jeepers in both looks and demeanor. The shelter staff description of what they experienced with him and our brief meeting with him at the shelter have rung true. He is a gentle soul, as was Mr. Jeepers, and I am looking forward to learning more about his special personality.
In less than a week, he seems quite content and is gradually feeling more secure. Tobey, as with Jeepers, is most interested in interacting with him and he does not seem to mind (though he was unsure at first). He prefers higher posts so I think my mission soon should be to make him a little condo of his own.
We miss Jeepers. We did not intend to have a cat at all. Perhaps his mission in life was to show us that we should. Thank you Mr. Jeepers. Thank you Mr. Tommy Cat.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Seeds you Plant

Every day we are planting seeds.
Your words, your acts, your thoughts - they are all seeds.
Think about that a moment.
Every word - every act - every thought is planted. It has the potential to grow. You have no way of knowing what will grow and what won't.
Every word - every act - every thought is a seed.
It does not matter if it is an angry word, act or thought or a happy word, act or thought - It is still a seed. You have no way of knowing what will grow or not. Once it's released to the universe, the determining factor is where it lands. Once you say it, do it or even think it - it has it's own energy. Once released, it is no longer solely yours. It now has potential life of its own.
You do, however, have control over the seeds you plant. You CAN change your words, your actions and your thoughts. And only YOU can.
What seeds are you planting?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Changing Focus

We're very good at focusing on what is wrong in the world and what we don't like. And we express a great deal of emotion - especially anger - about what we don't like and don't want. Everywhere you look, people are talking about what's wrong and what we hate. It's not a liberal thing or conservative thing. It's not a religious thing or an agnostic thing. It's the American culture today.
We obsess over bad news, people who should be hated, and things that shouldn't be happening. We do it at both ends of every spectrum and across most of the in between. We focus on what didn't/doesn't work and love to place blame on somebody - anybody.
With the energy we put out into the world, we help create that world. If our vision goes no further than what we hate, what we don't want, and who to blame - we will get more of what we hate, what we don't want and someone to blame. We need to create a vision of what we want to see happen and put more energy into that vision than we do focusing on what we don't want. That vision needs to be facing forward creating a beacon for where we will go.
Things change. That's one thing we can be certain about. It doesn't need to be a whirlpool or a cesspool. If we help create the change we want to see, we can be positive about it.  It can be difficult as often things seem to be beyond our control but I tend to think every effort we make in a positive direction will help change the course.

Here are some small strategies I'm trying:

1) Try to state a positive outcome instead of focusing on the negative thing that happened.
2) Consider how to get to that positive outcome
3) Avoid inflammatory characterizations or statements
4) State facts and avoid emotional reactions
5) Don't make fun of anyone - in other words, do no harm

It will be a great deal easier to talk to one another if we can all do these few basic things. We still may not agree but we might get a lot closer to real solutions to real problems. I know I can't change the world but I can change me. This is where I'm starting.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Keeping a Nation Strong

From 1933 to 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corp employed up to 300,000 workers doing public works projects in every corner of the United States. It was one of the most remarkable programs of the New Deal and the results of their labor remain quite visible these many decades later.

In proposing the CCC, President Roosevelt said:

"I propose to create [the CCC] to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth."
CCC Statue at Letchworth State Park, NY

The CCC re-forested public land, built picnic areas, pavilions, retaining walls, bridges, dams and much more. Visit any national park or state park that was established prior to the CCC and you will witness the results of their efforts.
We were in the middle of the Great Depression. Unemployment was a staggering 24%. The United States was in a huge financial crisis. The government was broke. And yet, they found a way to put hundreds of thousands of people to work in one of the biggest social programs of our nations history.
Hundreds of thousands of people were no longer hungry and homeless. They were engaged in meaningful work while gaining valuable skills.
From an early age, traveling to and camping in many of our state and national parks, I've been keenly aware of the work of the CCC. This program should be a source of great national pride and this story should be more broadly re-told. When I hear someone scoffing at "socialism", I think of the CCC.
Capitalism alone is not enough to keep a country strong. We need a certain degree of socialism. The two can work hand in hand. Letchworth State Park is a great example of how that can happen.
William Pryor Letchworth was a successful capitalist. But once he had made his mark in business, he turned his attention to social reform. In addition to conservation, he is remembered for his work with epilepsy and the plight of poor children. And, of course, he donated the land that is now the cornerstone of Letchworth State Park - one of the most visited state parks in the United States.
We can thank Mr. Letchworth for his socialist acts. We can thank Mr. Roosevelt for his socialist acts. We can thank our government for the socialist acts to keep these parks open and in good order for the public enjoyment of generations to come. Capitalism alone would not do that. Socialism is not a bad word. It's about doing what Capitalism cannot or won't.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Let's get social....

It has been refreshing to see much of the response to the Democratic debate this past week. It was refreshing to see the debate itself. They actually talked about issues and there were few, if any, defamatory comments toward one another.
I love that Bernie Sanders came to Hilary Clinton's defense about the "damn emails". I didn't love it because I'm a Hilary Clinton fan (I'm not), I love it because he speaks my language. Let's talk about the issues that matter and what we want to do about them. He set an example that I wish we could hear as a nation. Let's get focused on what matters. Side shows and hyper boil are destroying our country.
Our government cannot get a thing done because of it. Hatred and dividing lines are causing such a huge quagmire that people can't see the facts of anything through the dust that's constantly kicked up.
Who can we believe to deliver the actual facts about anything?
I see a lot of reaction to fear of what may happen. I see a lot of reaction to what has happened and blame placed on the most hated person of the moment or in line with the media line that's regarded as gospel. There's a lot of talk about government as though it's an alien entity that has no connection to us. There's a lot of horrible talk. There's very little work being done to solve anything.
I see "socialism" thrown around as if we are not part of a social fabric but rather live in some kind of dog eat dog culture. Many of the same people who claim to hate socialism are angry that government isn't giving them something that they perceive is being given to someone else. But they hate socialism! It seems more like a "give me" first sort of mentality.
The hatred that's boiling will kill this country. We have to stop it. WE have to stop feeding that monster. We can disagree but we have to find room to talk. We have to find common ground. We have to find the facts of a matter and work on actual solutions to issues. Yes, it's hard. Yes, we will disagree on the best path to take but we have to find a better way to seek that path. We have to govern. We have to be part of governing. We have to build our government into a reflection of us. I hope that reflection is more like what I saw in the democratic debate. We can differ on our views but we can discuss them. We can be civil to one another. We can find agreement. Let's get there.

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Guns are Gone....

For about a dozen years I lived on a farm located 6 miles in any direction to the nearest town. I rented the farm house and freely roamed the 200+ acres which was partly wooded and partly leased to other local farmers. It was a great experience and I have many fond memories from those days "on the farm".
After a few years, the landlady noticed that the big ole blacksnake was doing fine keeping up with the smaller rodent population but groundhogs were getting too plentiful.  They can do a lot of damage to out buildings, are mean little possessors and were not helping my gardening efforts. So, when she offered the loan of a .22 to try to ward them off, I agreed to try. Though I didn't grow up with guns, along the way I had opportunity to learn to shoot and have some natural skill but groundhogs are thick skinned and hard headed. Soon, I decided to buy a shotgun or two.
Then the church just a short walk from the farm house was robbed. There were boot tracks around the house in the snow. Odd things happened up the road. I was six miles from the nearest town and a lot more miles from the nearest police barracks. I grew quite fond of my shotguns. But it troubled me to imagine the scenarios. Fortunately, none of those scenarios became real.
When I bought the house in Franklin, the guns were locked in the safe again. I felt no need for them. The police were nearby and if rodents became a problem, I couldn't exactly start shooting around the yard. I never wanted to imagine those other scenarios again. I never want to point a weapon at another human being. And if all hell breaks loose in the world - to a point of utter chaos - I'm not sure I want to be standing looking at the aftermath. I'm not sure how I would feel about my fellow gun holders at that point.
I'm not against guns. I understand the desire to protect oneself from imagined or real encroachment. But we need to balance our fears, and our needs, with the vision of the type of world we want to survive. I want a world of peace. I want a world built on trust. Weapons won't build peace or trust. Groundhogs aren't threatening my garden. My guns are gone.
We have killers in the world. They are creeping into our space from unexpected locations. I don't want to be the hero who kills the killer. I want to be the hero who loves the kid who could have become a killer - except he didn't - because someone loved him enough to show him a better way.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Discovering Meaning

Who determines the meaning of something? Where/how is meaning attached?
We discussed this in great length in Communication Theory classes. Is the meaning attached by the person who sends the message or the person who receives it?


“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

So, in the above quote - Whose fault is it?
Much of understanding or misunderstanding one another revolves around context. It's not the words alone or the symbols alone that get confusing. It's the meaning we associate. When I convey a message - in words or symbols - I attach a meaning based on my context. The next person does the same. The context we share determines how closely we understand the message - hear the words - share meaning for the symbol.
When people feel oppressed with "political correctness", it's a sign of the lack of shared context with someone who may be offended. The person who is offended does not understand or trust the context in which the person speaks. It's painful on both sides.
It is painful to the person who is offensive. Perhaps they sincerely do not mean to offend and don't see the negative context. Perhaps they don't like being called out for actually embracing the negative context.
It is pain for the person who is offended. Perhaps they have become overly sensitive and assume offense. Perhaps they have grown attuned to underlying motives that all too often surface in subtle ways.
So, what is the solution? If you want to be understood, build context. To build context, you need to be a better listener. Build trust. The more open and aware we become, the greater the ease of building understanding. It's not a troubling thing. It's a journey of understanding and exploration to be embraced. Awareness of you and your context as well as awareness of others and their context brings peace.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Freedom can be Ugly...

It's impossible (at least for me) to avoid seeing the stories about Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who needs her religious freedom specially protected because doing her job now interferes with her religious beliefs. And it appears the Pope has said people have the right to take this kind of stance in the name of religion.
In reality, people in the United States have the right to say a lot of things and to do a lot of things - in the name of freedom - generally. That's what makes our country unique. Sometimes the exercise of freedom doesn't look so pretty. In fact, sometimes it's down right ugly.
To my knowledge, there are no laws that prevent the Westboro Baptist church from protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers. The Klu Klux Klan has a right to hold rallies and march - even the ACLU has defended that right. We can think of dozens of instances of people protesting - exercising their rights - and it did not look so pretty to many others. We have lots of rights in this country. We protect those rights but there are consequences.
It is the consequences that need the closest scrutiny. In each circumstance, we need to put a different face on the issue at hand. If we protect - or fail to protect - the individual right (no matter what that "right" is) how does that apply to other similar situations? That seems to be the work of the judicial system - weighing the law - the constitution - and providing some balance.
Kim Davis' job changed after she was elected. She doesn't like that change and doesn't want to accept it. I get that. It's kind of like getting a new boss who does things differently - maybe outside of your perceived ethical boundaries. You raise an alarm and say "hey, I'm not liking this" and expect something to fix your problem. Kim has gotten the answer. Most of us understand that it's not going to be fixed for her. Why not? Because there can be a thousand other similar issues from a thousand other directions that would then require special exemptions/protections. Yes, she has the right to raise the objection. Objection noted. Now about your job...Are you doing it or not? If not, step aside. The job is different now but it must be done. If it is too painful, you can quit. We all have the right to walk away from a job that has become too painful to endure.
You do have a right to keep protesting. You have a right to hold rallies and march about it. Many of us will think it looks pretty ugly. Tax payers shouldn't have to pay for ugly. I'd be fired if I refused to do my job, though I do have the right to protest if I want to do so. The consequences will likely be rather ugly.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

"We the People"!!!!

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
This preamble to our constitution very clearly states the purpose of our government. Most notably, it begins with "We the People".  Often it seems there is a growing sense of dis-connect from our government as though it is it's own entity apart from us. It was intended, designed from the beginning to be US - united - centered on justice and tranquility, a focus on general welfare, security and a national prosperity for all.
The cause for which our founders sacrificed and fought was noble. They sought to form a perfect union - a new democracy which would secure the "Blessings of Liberty" for all its citizens. It was to be a government "for the people and by the people". They established no monarchy. They established no national religion. And in the beginning, General Washington - President Washington - was reluctant to create a standing army.
We revere those servants who created our democracy. They are our beloved heroes. But we hate the very thing they created - our government. I believe if any one of them could speak today, they would tell us "If you are unhappy with what your elected officials are doing - do something about it!" I think they would be saying "We designed the constitution in a way that gives you power! YOU are the people we were talking about!"
They didn't sit on the sideline and complain. They did something. That something went far beyond saying "you're wrong". They created something that they believed was a better way. And they fought for it. They created a new form of government. They created it in a way that "We the People" can have a great deal of influence if we don't stand on the sidelines and give our power away.
As we enter this upcoming election cycle, many of us are going to grow weary of the political ads, the news soundbites, the calls, emails and knocks at the door. Now is the time to express yourself. Now is the time to get engaged. Now is the time to insist on solutions. Now is the time to offer solutions.
If there is an issue that bothers you, seek a representative that is actually talking about and is actually committed to a solution you believe will work. If they are not talking about the solution you believe is available - tell them what you believe will work! It's not enough to be against what someone else is willing to do. Be willing to commit to something better! Be ready to offer a better solution. That's what our founders did. That's what they sacrificed to create for us. 
At the very least do this:
1) VOTE - and take time to learn about the candidates
2) Engage - tell your local candidates, state candidates, national candidates what you think.
3) We need to encourage an understanding of government at all levels.
Beyond that, we all need to see service to our community, our state and our country as an honorable thing to be respected.We need to stop talking politics and start insisting on service. Every representative of our government needs to be held to the highest standards of public service and gain our highest regard. It's what our founders did! It's what they intended and it is up to "We the People" to uphold.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Seek and ye shall find..."

All philosophy fascinates me. I'm currently reading Elaine Pagels "The Gnostic Gospels" in which she describes the Gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammandi, early orthodox Christianity and the great divide that developed. She carefully explains those first and second century times and tries to help us understand the cultural and political climate including the horrific persecution of Christians that prevailed.
As I place this book in context with other information I've studied, the reasoning for developing THE "Bible" was quite sound - politically and culturally. If Christianity did not unite under one Orthodoxy, it would not have survived. The orthodoxy required a centralized authority - a patriarchy - in much the same way an army is formed. Gnostic teachings did not follow this way of thinking. And so, the catholic church - the one confirmed (even by Protestants) in the apostolic creed, was established and mightily fought to survive the ages. Gnostic teachings - gnostic texts - were intended to be completely destroyed. Gnosticism did not conform with Orthodoxy and was an internal threat to survival.
Two thousand years later came the discoveries of Gnostic Texts at Nag Hammandi and in other places. These texts, hoped to be destroyed by the orthodox Christians of the time, offer broadly differing perspectives on Christianity, Christ's life and how to follow.  Of course, I find most interesting the Gnostic teachings that treated women as equals and promoted a communal spiritual understanding that did not focus on hierarchy. These communities believed that connection with the spirit was universally available and should be universally valued. Not all Gnostic teachings followed this but I am most convinced that these are what Jesus taught and meant for us to understand.
Christianity has survived quite possibly due to the Orthodox approach. But it has not prevailed in the world. It has not been enough to change the world. Something has been missing. Something has not been quite right. It has not been quite right because something was missing. What was missing is now being re-discovered and confirmed in other ways. (notably Quantum Physics)
The times described in Elaine Pagels book, I believe and was stated by a great Egyptian Guru, began a time of spiritual darkness. I believe we have now entered a time of great spiritual enlightenment. Orthodox Christianity - as prescribed in the apostolic creed - is milk. It can give life and sustain. Spiritual growth is found beyond.
Do not fear. Spirit will lead you. There is more. Seek and ye shall find.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rod Sterling, Alfred Hitchock, Jesus and Quantum Physics

One of my favorite shows growing up was the Twilight Zone. Far beyond simple entertainment value, it prompted me to imagine the unseen and unfathomable possibilities. It set the stage for my favorite pastime of exploring endless possibilities for "reality" and consciousness. When I discovered that these and Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes were readily available for viewing on line, I spent endless winter nights watching one after another. It was pure Nirvana!!!
Rod Sterling and Alfred Hitchcock were more than great story tellers. They knew something. And if you watched, you know it too. There really is something more. If, since then, you have dismissed their "something more" as just good story telling - come back. Watch the episodes again. There is something more!
Now science is beginning to scratch the surface in explaining exactly why the kinds of stories they told are more than just entertaining stories. It is science and scientifically proven - that we - our thoughts and observations - create! We create the reality around us. We create.
Jesus knew this. Jesus taught this. It is quantum physics. Jesus understood it and used it.
You need wine. Turn water into wine. He did it.
You want to see. Listen to me. You see.
We have forty loaves and fishes. Feed them all. They are filled to overflowing.
Of course I can walk on water. You can too. Follow.
Be healed. Rise from the dead... It is all here and possible.
Jesus was a quantum physicist! He demonstrated it all.
So, why did his true work not continue?
His genius, like the genius of many, was not truly understood at the time. It is not understood now.
He was teaching us to feed, to heal and to transcend even death. That is powerful stuff. And powerful people don't want to loose power.
But it's still powerful stuff and if we can stop being overpowered by the fright of the mysticism of it. We can get to it. It's quantum physics. It's not lost. Rod Sterling and Alfred Hitchcock kind of ushered the way for us to try to understand it. I think Jesus is smiling about that.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Bully Appeal

How do loud, obnoxious, mean spirited people gain a following? I've wondered about this since watching the playground bully in elementary school. There is a certain level of appeal and it transcends the playground into adulthood. The best evidence is how well Donald Trump is doing in his run for president and the successes of people like Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern.
These three are not what I would consider good neighbor material. Most people would be very upset if their child's teacher talked and acted like any of these 3, and yet, they have a following that is significant. While we may wish to dismiss the phenomenon as crazy, most of us have friends and family that are enamored with these guys. And we live on the same planet.
So, I find myself looking back at the playground bully days. The bully always had a loyal pack of followers who wanted to appear as big and bad. Then there were the "neutrals" who tried to stay distant and uninvolved. The neutrals sometimes snickered with the bully and pack hoping they were not going to become targets. And then there were the targets that the bully and pack attacked while the neutrals stood back. The power of the bully depends upon neutrals. They are the largest number.
Inevitably, the bully and pack stepped on someone the neutrals could not avoid defending and the tables turned. Loud, obnoxious and mean spirited is not so funny when someone you care about is the target. Why is it EVER appealing?
It's appealing when we think it is a sign of strength. It seems a very basic caveman thing. If you fear a lion is about to attack, you want the strongest person to intervene. The best way to scare off a lion is to be loud, obnoxious and downright mean!
That explains the pack loyal to the bully. They really believe there is a lion about to attack. But what about the snickering neutrals? And the non-snickering neutrals at the other end of the spectrum closer to the targets? The snickering neutrals are probably a bit convinced of the lion threat. The non-snickering neutrals are probably a little more afraid of becoming the bully target.
One day - some day - on some planet - we will finally understand that bullies are not needed. Lions have no threat. Targets are not needed. And neutral is not possible.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Let Spirit Lead You

There are signs of a spiritual awakening. We see it as more people are growing sensitive to and aware of social injustices. But we also see it as oppressors grow more extreme and outrageous in attempts to stifle spiritual awakening.
Spiritual awakening is threatening to those who love power and institutional religious ritualized dogma. The spirit has no need of physical or emotional power. In spirit, we are free and at peace. Spirit is not tied to or separate from anything. As children, full of wonder, we know that. Then the world sets out to tell us otherwise.
We're taught to fear. We're taught to seek power and become conquerors and then to seek salvation from the savagery that we were carefully taught to revere. Inner woven are odd threads of blood and sacrifice, timed rituals, robotic chants, strangely tied to hope of spiritual enlightenment and salvation.
Salvation is not given to us, it is given through us. To be born again is to be spiritually wakened. It does not matter what order the candles are lit. No blood is required. What matters is for you to become a light. You are the candle. The light is passed to you and through you.
All the great spiritual teachers had the same message. Do no harm. And one great harm is to ignore social injustice. Their heart bled for those who were oppressed. They saw it. They spoke about it. They acted. Salvation flowed through them. Spirit flowed through them. The light flowed through them. It did not flow through them so that they must be sacrificed. That is not from the spirit. The world devours, not spirit. Spirit has no need for destruction. There in lies the deception.
It's no so complicated. No book is going to to unlock it. No ritual is going to unlock it. Just stop and listen. Hear and do. Let salvation flow to you and through you. It's not a physical thing that happens. It's a spiritual thing that takes over. Be reborn. Let spirit lead you. Nothing is lost or sacrificed. All is freely given.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hope and faith keep us alive

There are days I am keenly aware of my shortcomings. And then there are other days "I'd admit my faults if I had any." I know in my heart that I mean well. I want to be understood. I want to understand.
It is that awareness of my shortcomings and the sincere belief that I mean no harm, that leads me to have faith that most other people are the same. And then there are other days when I'm certain I must be from some other planet because this one seems so at odds with what I believe.
I just can't stop believing - even if only the hope of another planet - that most people despite their shortcomings actually mean well.  Despite disappointments and what many might call evidence to the contrary, I keep believing. I refuse to be jaded. But then there are other days....
It's hope and faith that keep us alive. We have to believe in something more. We need to see something beyond because if no one has hope or faith or a vision of something better, there will be no better.
There have to be people driving toward something better. We all should be driving toward something better. Think of any major achievement in history - ANYTHING. It happened because someone pushed for something more - something better. They sought a cure, a better way to do something, or created something totally new and unheard of before. They sought to overcome injustice. They said the world was not flat, it was round. They said the earth was not the center of the universe, it was the sun. They defied convention and sought greater truth.
Most of us won't be remembered for some gallant contribution to humanity. But you could be the teacher of someone who will be. You might donate money that buys a tank of gas for someone to get to an interview and that person starts a career that leads to.... You might say or do something that gives a hopeless person hope. Can you remember someone like that?
We can be passive in this life. We have shortcomings. Others have shortcomings. I don't want to live a passive life. If I can leave anything as a legacy, let it be hope and faith that there is something more to be discovered in this world that is better.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Symbols such as flags....

Symbols are an important part of our culture and human history. Companies carefully create logos and build their "brand" around them. They want us to see that company symbol and associate it with their products and with their values. It's an identifier intended to create associations and companies spend a lot of time, effort and money to carefully develop those associations.
Symbols take on greater meaning as those associations grow. They're hoping it will be the associations holding the company in their light but sometimes our experience overrides their intended meaning. Think of any company logo - Ford, GM, Amazon, Facebook, Exxon - and consider the associations you have. Why? What has been your experience? Those associations may be based on personal experience, news stories, relayed information... Does seeing the logo give you a positive feeling or a negative feeling? Why?
Our symbols are steep in meaning. That's the intention. We don't all look at the same symbol and attached the same meaning. At the heart of the debate over the confederate flag, the argument seems to be over its meaning. Many embracing the flag argue that it is simply a symbol of southern pride. To view it this way, one has to disassociate the history and intended meanings as it first flew in the Civil War and when it was raised again in the 1960's.
The original meaning of the stars and bars confederate flag was succession from the United
States. It symbolized all the reasons behind the effort to succeed. At the end of the civil war, the stars and stripes flew again across the south and much effort was made to heal the wounds that separated this great nation. Confederate flags came down.
The confederate flag was raised again in the 1960's as a symbol of protest against de-segregation. In other words, it was a rallying cry to fight against the civil rights movement for equality. It is the flag embraced by the Ku Klux Klan.
That history and this meaning for this symbol remains. Its a symbol of succession, segregation, oppression, and subjugation. Rallying around that flag is dis-comforting in light of what it symbolizes. Does "southern pride" encompass a continued yearning for succession, segregation, oppression and subjugation? The stars and bars flag is not separate from those. The flag is just a flag. It's not the flag that is offensive. It's what that flag has represented that is offensive. The desire to keep that flag flying raises the question - Do you support all that the flag symbolizes? If so, it explains much about the underlying issues that aren't getting resolved.
Let southern pride raise a new flag that symbolizes hospitality, warm weather, warm hearts, great food, and visits on the porch with an ice cold mint julep.

Monday, July 6, 2015

I don't support "gay" marriage.

It struck me today that I do not want to say I support gay marriage. Why?
I believe straight people should be able to marry people of the opposite sex and have equal benefits that same sex couples have. They should have the same protections under the law. They should have the same property protections, the same tax benefits, the same health related benefits and protections.
I support marriage equality.
I support the individual right to determine with whom a person wishes to share their life, their property and their personal life decisions. I think the law should protect that decision and not require layers of legal paperwork to do that. And there should not be provisions in the tax code that favor one above the other.
So, what about non-discrimination laws?
Yes, I support those too. You should not be allowed to treat straight people with any less dignity than you would LGBT people. In fact, you just shouldn't be allowed to treat people badly on the basis of being straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender. Let's have a civilized society.
So, what about religious freedom.
Yes, I believe you should be able to go to whatever church you want. And to protect everyone's religious freedom, you cannot try to coerce anyone else into practicing what you believe in that church. If they don't go willingly with you to that church, you cannot use your business or your government as a weapon of coercion. You have to choose to be in business for the public or be in church. You are free to choose. That's your religious freedom.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Weddings I have supported.....

I've attended a lot of weddings in my 50 some years. Many years ago I was a bridesmaid in some. I've sung in some. I never thought about whether or not I believed in their marriage. It never occurred to me that I needed to decide whether or not I should scrutinize their relationship.
I respected their decision to marry the person they chose.  I cared enough about them, and thought they cared enough about me, that it was honor to share in their celebration. I supported them. That's what we do for people we love.
Should I have questioned their choices? Did they choose correctly? How can I decide that? Even now having watched outcomes - How can I decide? Did the successes or failures in those marriages change society forever? I don't know. Maybe it did. If I believe it did, would I go back and change my support?
I can safely say I would not. Even if love is fleeting, love is powerful. Everything done in the spirit of love will yield positive results. It may be just a seed. That seed may sit dormant for many years before it grows. It may seem to fade away but love never dies. I will not presume to know where it will go and where or when it will grow. And I will always celebrate the hope of it. I will support the hope of it. And I will support and honor those that I love who are sharing the hope and promise of more love, honor and support. We all need a lot more of those things.

The Supreme Court Ruled - Henny Penny

The Supreme Court has finally ruled. The majority of Americans and the majority of major corporations are embracing marriage equality AND non-discrimination efforts. While many of us are celebrating this great milestone, a very vocal minority will continue to fight. For those of us directly impacted by this decision and the history leading to this day, the rhetoric and actions that will accompany this fight will be hard to take.
Our getting angry about dissenting voices will be counter productive. It will take generations for society to evolve and there will always be a portion of the population that will not let go. Watching the reactions, it's interesting to try to dissect the logic behind their beliefs. Keep in mind that these are beliefs that have been taught and re-taught for millennia. It's much easier to learn something totally new than to un-learn something that is totally false.
The most important thing we can do is to keep talking and stick to the highest standards of compassion and honesty. Listen carefully to the concerns expressed by the dissenting voices. Use logic. Be calm. Try to calm their fears. The reason the tide has turned is that many of the arguments against marriage equality and against equal treatment in general were NOT logical. Myths and lies are UN-raveling.
It has now boiled down to "we shouldn't be made to accept something we don't want to accept. Why? Because we don't want to accept it." Sprinkle a little God on top - call it tyranny to "make me" and there you have it!
It's going to take a long time for many of the dissenters to realize this has become their logic. Some never will. Now that the tide has turned, I can't help feeling sorry for them. But we need to be careful not to allow their misguided logic to build into a swell of fear that turns the tide again. Listen. Be logical. Be calm and stick to the highest standards of compassion and honesty.
Don't let Henny Penny sweep you up on the way to the king. You could get eaten.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What is your effect?

THE most important spiritual truth is that we are all connected. Absolutely nothing is "an isolated incident". NOTHING!
There is a "butterfly effect". Your decisions and actions matter and will effect the world!
Breath in. Breath out.
You have just shared air with millions of living breathing things before you and millions of living breathing things that will follow you.
NOTHING is separate from you.
You are, at most 5 or 6 degrees separated from every other living being. Count the actual direct contacts you have every day - every transaction, every conversation, every connection. You cannot disconnect yourself. Even in death, you are tied to something, someone, somewhere. You cannot separate yourself.
Let this spiritual truth sink into your soul. Every transaction, every conversation and every move you make, has an impact on something. This is truth. This is deeply spiritual.
What are you breathing in and breathing out? That's the question and it is the answer to what you leave for the world. What is your effect?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

No Truly Lone Wolves

By Dee Lane - My cousin and kindred spirit
There Are No Truly Lone Wolves

One must take exception to the theory that claims “lone wolves” are the cause for the increase in mass shootings. This “lone wolf” idea is simply another way for the Social Darwinists and the Ayn Randians to blame only the flawed individual who perpetrated the act, while not dealing with the social and economic root causes that contribute to such violent behavior.
A survivor of the Mother Emanuel Church massacre, Marcus Stanley, rightly stated in his Facebook posting to assailant Dylann Roof, “Somewhere along the line, you were taught to hate people that are not like you…” It is this fundamental truth that merely blaming the individual fails to address. Those who teach hatred and intolerance enable violent behavior, and as such, also have blood on their hands. We as a society need to take action against hate groups; they are homegrown terrorists who are indoctrinating people with their violent agenda in exactly the same manner as ISIS. We need to out these groups for the terrorist organizations that they are.
Secondly, we need stricter gun laws and to stop telling religious leaders to arm themselves. Any place of worship, regardless of religion, is a spiritual and physical sanctuary. There is simply no place for guns in any sanctified space. The increasing frequency of mass shooting events also indicates that the lack of gun legislation is making the massacre problem worse. Guns must be kept out of the hands of hate groups and the violent individuals; such organizations and people do not have any legitimate Second Amendment rights.
Thirdly, we must address economic inequality which is rapidly leaving more and more people behind, and stop merely blaming individuals. The system is broken and rigged in favor of the top one percent, leaving most people with little or no hope of a better life. That said, there is nothing more dangerous than an individual or group that has nothing to lose. As income inequality has increased, so too has the level of desperation and the number of mass shootings.
None of this excuses Dylann Roof, or any other assailant, from their heinous crimes. However, to characterize these attacks as the actions of “lone wolves” is merely an attempt to ignore our collective responsibilities to treat hate groups as terrorists, develop sensible gun laws and ensure that the vast majority of our citizens have access to the economic ladder.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we ARE our brothers’ keepers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Matter of Honor - lower the Confederate Flag

A few months ago I wrote about my experience living on the Mason-Dixon line and hearing stories of the Civil War from an old friend, Charlie, sitting on his front porch. He had known a woman who was just 10 years old when Confederate soldiers, on their way to Gettysburg, came through their town. I have no doubt that her stories were similar to the stories retold of Union Soldiers who passed through southern cities on their way to other battles.
The soldiers were hungry. They took every bit of livestock - every bit of food - that they could find on the farm. The only thing left was one egg. When they passed through town, they burned and looted. A scouting party had proceeded them, but were killed by the townfolk and buried beneath the tavern. And that is how he came to explain the Confederate monuments just outside of town. Those monuments were raised, after the war, for the Confederate soldiers (actually buried beneath the tavern) out of respect for the kinfolk the town expected would arrive one day.
There are many things about that story that I have rolled around in my mind these many years. This town was devastated - burned and looted - but they felt compassion for the families of the enemy soldiers. Their effort was toward healing very fresh wounds at the end of a very painful war.
I see the Civil War through those eyes. Our nation was less than 100 years old then. Those fighting on either side had often been sitting on a front porch with someone like Charlie who told about first hand stories of the Revolutionary War. They heard stories of the need to fight tyranny. Each of the colonies had strong identities of their own. The Federal Government could easily become an empirical influence in the same manner that England had been. Most who fought in the Civil War had no personal interest in slavery. But the powerful and the wealthy of the south had great interest in slavery. It is the powerful and wealthy who finance any war. Ultimately, President Lincoln correctly identified that the battle over federal and state sovereignty was squarely rooted in slavery. Putting an end to slavery would put an end to the war. He was right.
So, today - 150 years after this terrible war - a Confederate flag flies over the capital of South Carolina. Should it come down?
It's long past time to heal. Throughout the state of South Carolina are ancestors of slavery. They are free. But the Confederate flag is a reminder of an effort to keep them enslaved. And a reminder to racists to try to reverse any progress we have made as a nation. Raise a monument to those who died believing they were serving an honorable cause but do not keep alive an image of racial or national divide. We are ONE Nation. We are ONE people.
Charlie's story spoke to me of compassion and understanding. It spoke to me of honor. There is no better time to lower the Confederate flag. It is a matter of honor.

Friday, June 19, 2015

About Religious Freedom....

Christian conservatives and fundamentalists are having a very difficult time with the concept of religious freedom. It's understandable that this is difficult for them. The very idea of freedom of thought concerning religion goes against their religious beliefs. Across the Christian spectrum there are varying degrees of piety but the basis of institutional Christian teaching is focused on a one way prescription. So, depending upon how strongly you embrace the "one way" narrative, it's difficult to see religious freedom as a good thing. In fact, it's downright frightening.
Christianity is based on a heaven/hell ending and a specified salvation to avoid the fire of hell. Therefore, it's extremely dangerous to have any humans operating outside that belief system. Embracing the idea of freedom of religion - freedom of religious thought - poses a danger to Christianity. Demonic forces are lurking and poised to steal souls, causing many Christians to fear other religious thought.
As keepers of the one path teachings, Christians feel a responsibility to help others find this one and only path to salvation. If others do not accept it willingly, many Christians feel it is their duty to force the issue through whatever means necessary.
We're seeing this play out in many "Religious Freedom" bills passed in state legislatures. If we paraphrase the meaning of these laws - from contraception to marriage equality - it goes something like this;
"If you will not follow my religious beliefs, I have the right to rebuke you and deny your access to things based on my religious beliefs."
The end result they are hoping for is to limit religious freedom outside of their specific Christian belief. This is how the Talaban operates - under a different religious flag. Sadly, they are opening the door for society to be dominated by whatever religious belief is the majority. And conservative, fundamentalist Christian belief is no longer the majority in this country. It's loosing ground fast. The stage is set for religious war in the United States. We've avoided that for several centuries by keeping a certain degree of separation of church and state. We cannot allow religion to be an acceptable excuse to limit another person's civil liberties. To do so, is the opposite of religious freedom. It is the creation of a religious state.
Have we learned nothing from conflicts in the Middle East? Mixing religion and government is a very dangerous thing. Civil society's have a strong belief in freedom for all.
Flip some of the outcomes a bit. What if you went to a business seeking a cake that said "God Bless You" and the owner said they could not sell you the cake because it should say "Jehovah" or "Ali" or because they don't believe in God at all. Or you go into a restaurant wearing your cross necklace and they refuse to serve you because they don't like Christians. Or maybe the magistrate refuses to perform your marriage because he is not a Christian and does not want to support Christian marriage.
If you value your religious freedom, protect religious freedom AND civil liberty. It means accepting that others may not believe the same as you. Think carefully about where you want the line of respect to fall. If it's too far from the middle, it could flip on you. "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you."

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Recently we were out and about. I had a mission in mind and was quite focused on it. Later, the conversation went something like this.
"Did you see xxx?"
'No, but I saw M's friend Suzy."
"That wasn't Suzy. That was xxx."
'At the third booth? That was Suzy.'
"No. That wasn't Suzy. It was xxx and she was with xxxx. You know, from xxxxxx"
I paused. The scene replayed in my mind in a new context. It wasn't Suzy. She was right. I was oblivious.
How much of life am I missing as I move in oblivion? It scares me sometimes.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Dripping Faucet

It's so easy to get caught up in what's wrong with the world. The gossip style headlines grab us..."Do you believe..." "Horrible outcome for...." "Another Tragedy...". Then we start looking for good stories and find "Elk saves life..." "Gorilla saves child..." We jump around from one end of the spectrum to the other. The extreme stories on either end get moved to the top of the list.
Perhaps that's not such a bad thing because daily reality is falling somewhere in the middle. Often, saving a life is not a dramatic one time event. And mostly ruining a life is not a single event either. How do you write about a dripping faucet when the world is watching for the next flood? Most of life is a dripping faucet.
The important thing is that those big headline stories, good or bad, are exceptions. We shouldn't get too caught up in them. We need to seek pleasure in incremental changes for the better. And perhaps that's what faith is all about - knowing that even the smallest positive things we do contribute to a greater shift toward something bigger and better. Perhaps a Gorilla cares about a human child in danger - saves that one life - because dozens of people, for dozens of years were kind to the Gorilla. It wasn't just the Gorilla that saved the child, it was the dripping faucet of kindness.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Become One

We try to explain spirit with words. Language is too limited. As hard as we try, words can only capture a tiny fraction of the essence of it. As much as I think about it, try to understand it, try to write about it, most often I land on words that aren't explaining it well.
Spirit is energy that is experienced through action. How do we explain action, experience and energy? How can action, experience and energy be universally understood and shared?
When hot air balloons and steam engines were first introduced, people were amazed. How could something unseen create energy - cause a specific action? It was mystical and magical. Wizardry!
When electricity was first introduced, it made no sense to even the most educated. There were no mechanical parts transferring the energy. We cannot see it running along the wire. Most of us today cannot explain how it works. We just know it does (most of the time).
We understand that electricity is generated at a source - somewhere. We also understand that a circuit can only carry so much. Overload it and it shuts off. We're accustomed to consuming energy.
Many spiritual teachings focus on this type of model. All energy is generated from one source - god - and we are expected to worship it, read about it, quote about it, pray to it and draw everything from it.
We're consumers. We have no power, and are seen as repulsive unless covered by the blood of someone else. A blood thirsty source of power is a very odd belief.
Believing that we can and should endlessly consume energy from that source seems equally odd. We can see how that belief system is playing out in the world as resources are depleted in many places and hoarded in others. People can't get filled up. After worshiping more, reading more, quoting more and praying more - there is still not enough flowing in so it must be because other people aren't worshiping enough or worshiping right or reading enough or quoting enough or praying right.
Is it possible that the source isn't blood thirsty, isn't repulsed by us and doesn't expect us to be consumers? Every day, all around us are examples of creation. Creation does not happen in isolation. We are all part of it. We can stifle it or we can contribute to it. We are not separate from it. We are part of the source. We bless the source by contributing to it or curse the source by devouring it. No amount of worshiping, reading, quoting, or praying changes that. Are you creating or are you depleting? That's the question! You cannot worship, read, quote or pray your way out of answering that question. Are you creating or destroying?
The most mystical, magical source of all is creation - the gift of creation - the gift to create. That is the spirit path. Creation is an action - an experience - an energy. Creation is part of all experience and all energy. Your belief system - your spirit - your spirituality and how you practice it - either contributes to creation or stifles it. Your belief system - your spirit - your spirituality and how you practice it-  either encourages others to create or stifles them. The only way you know is to focus on the outcomes of your actions. The only way to understand outcomes is to become mindful of each and every part of creation from the perspective of the other. Humility. Be humble enough to accept that others see things you cannot. Open your spirit to see.
Picture yourself as a solar panel. The sun provides an abundance of energy that you can collect. Be efficient with that energy. Don't stay off the grid. Share the surplus and share all that you have been able to create from the abundant energy. You have the power to do more. Do more. Share more. That's how you worship the source. Become part of the source. Become one with the source. We are called to become one.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Follow your passion

If you feel a passion for something, don't let anyone or anything stop you. In fourth grade, I wanted to learn to play the violin - and actually any stringed instrument would have suited - but what was offered was the violin. The music teacher had a test in which I performed below expectation. In fact, he insisted I had no natural musical ability. I was having none of that and insisted that I was going to learn to play the violin (with the help of my father). After a year of violin lessons, my music teacher insisted I switch to the cello. I loved the cello! And he was likely grateful.
At the end of the sixth grade, much to my dismay, they ended the orchestra program and there was no path for me and my cello. Another music teacher accepted me as a guitar student for the summer. Then in seventh and eighth grade, I sang in the choir and loved it. So, entering 9th grade, I auditioned for the senior high school choir and was not accepted. I was crushed.
Meanwhile, my parents had discovered a guitar teacher in town who was a lovely man. Every week for .50 I took lessons and spent many hours in my room playing and singing songs. In 10th grade I auditioned again for the high school choir now under a new director. He not only accepted me for the concert choir but also for the madrigal group. Under his wonderful direction, I learned to sing.
Now some 40 years later, I am still singing and still playing my guitar. My first music teacher was right. I don't claim any natural ability. Music is somewhat mysterious to me. I am in awe of those who seem to understand it and perform it with ease. But I love it. I have always loved it. Most of all I love sharing music and the belief that if you desire to play and sing - you should and you can.
My first music teacher would never have imagined that I would someday make simple little stringed instruments and travel where ever they lead me in hopes of sharing a passion for music. It is my greatest joy. If I would have believed him and that first choir director, I would not be sharing that great joy now.
Whatever your passion, stick with it. Do it for yourself. If it brings you joy, you will have opportunity to share it one day. Most of all, give yourself that gift. Stick with it.