Latest Entries »

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 7.49.45 PMMy favorite line in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is beautiful things don’t ask for attention. When Mitty finally finds Sean O’Connell, whom he’d been looking for throughout the film, O’Connell had been in front of his lens for hours, watching a white tiger.

O’Connell declares beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

“When are you going to take it?” Mitty queried.

“Sometimes I don’t,” O’Connell responded. “If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

“Stay in it?”

“Yeah,” O’Connell clarified. “Right there. Right here.”

Real beauty is only visible for true beauty seekers to see. The Apostle Peter referenced much the same in 1 Peter 3:4-4:

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

O’Connell, however, was referencing the infamously lost photograph, number twenty-five, to which the audience sees only at film end. Only then do you realize O’Connell was referencing Mitty.

Mitty, “What was the picture?”

O’Connell, “Let’s just call it a ghost cat, Walter Mitty.”

Like a Zen master teaching, we’re reminded to live in the moment – to stop and be open to the beauty surrounding us. We need to just “enjoy” the moment.

Prior to his journey, Mitty’s lifestyle was drab. He went to work, hid in the background, and took care of his unemployed mother and sister. This version of Walter is kind of depressing for he reminds us of who we are right now—the person who’s just a number in society, who’s working hard to support other people. What’s sad is Walter resigned himself to the meaning others ascribed. And sadly, many of us accept these labels and become them. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty reminds us our time and work in life derives the most meaning only when we are working in and for the lives of others.

When O’Connell decided not to take a picture of a snow leopard, he told Walter he wanted to experience the moment rather than seeing it through a filtered lens. The ‘lens’ in this sequence is metaphoric of Walter’s daydreaming, even of our own.

Number 25 is my best ever, “O’Connell wrote in the opening film sequence. “the quintessence of life, I think. I trust you’ll get it where it needs to go, you always do.”

In truth, the most beautiful things don’t come from self-indulgent movie stars. These come from ordinary everyday people … like you and I. Some things don’t require a photo or an iPhone ‘selfie’ – you just need to live them.

Maxwell Maltz phrased it well:

Within you right now is the power to do things you never dreamed possible. This power becomes available to you just as soon as you can change your beliefs.”

Just be. Live.

Empty Your Cup

overflowing-cupA friend received her PhD several years ago. During the subsequent search committee interviews for academic teaching and lay ministry, committee members queried her accomplishments. Without hesitation, she provided an exhaustive doctoral background:

I came from another country and English is my third language. I have a near ‘genius’ IQ; went to the number one college in my own country; received a Masters from the top sixth academic university in the United States’ and received my PhD, summa cum laude while simultaneously receiving a ‘Fulbright Scholar.’ I have fourteen years of counseling experience; read over a thousand books in the last three years; wrote for leading academic journals; performed research and am a world-wide acclaimed speaker.”

Needless to say, she received a tenured academic position.

Upon meeting someone new, she reiterated parts of or all of the above. When feeling neglected or looking for affirmation, friends and family were reminded of her accomplishments.

Two weeks ago a local hospital required an interim Chaplin. After contacting the hospital CEO, the interim position was awarded to her care.

Coincidentally, an academic search committee member from several years prior required surgery. Glancing through the hospital admission log two days ago, she found a record indicating both his faith and room assignment, room 304. Upon visiting the third floor, the nurses barred entry to the patient’s room. The note stapled to the outside medical record jacket was informative:

Patient does not want to see current hospital Chaplin unless he’s in a coma.”

We are so enamored of our own ideas and opinions that our conditioning traps us. If we empty ourselves out, let go, and cease to hold on to our views, a more pure truth will come. Many of us cherish our opinions, for we’ve been taught such value by our elders. All of us need a way of approaching each encounter freshly. Be open to the moment, toss aside the past. Cultivate an inclusive mind of love, one that is able to meet every moment and be filled by the moment versus filling the moment with our own home movie … to which so few wish to see.

Experiencing the peacefulness of true love requires an empty cup.

The Soccer GodsA return trip to Washington netted seats adjacent to several Bible Study camp participants homeward bound to Texas. After a short period of time, it was apparent they followed Psalm 34:1 …. literally. In short, the group loved to … praise the LORD at all times” for they constantly spoke of His praise.

When a flight attendant brought a pillow, “Praise Jesus,” was uttered. “Thank you Lord for this water.” “Thank you Jesus for this view,” another exclaimed. After receiving peanuts, “Thank you Lord for this meal.” (Personally, I’ve never considered a small bag of peanuts a meal.)

After absorbing this atmosphere for an hour, a weird part of me wondered if any would praise Jesus if the aircraft were crashing. “Oh Lord, I praise you for the crash we are about to partake!” That raises another question: why do baseball players praise God after hitting a home run by thrusting their fingers toward the sky, but don’t praise God when they whiff (i.e., strikeout)? How come professional football players will praise Jesus after scoring but don’t praise Jesus when dropping a catch?

Maybe Jesus can only be praised when it’s good?

Those lost in the furor of religion neglect to “… give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.” That bottle of water came from flight attendant’s service. The flight attendant received it because a another airline teammate stocked the plane, who received it from a buyer whose company and employees manufactured and shipped same said bottle of H2O.

Same goes for the peanuts. Neglecting the fact those peanuts would make quite a tasty meal for someone in Africa, should we not also praise the Lord for denying those peanuts to someone in Africa? It’s your bag of peanuts right? I mean God delivered them to you and not to another, right? Praise Jesus!

How about that winning score? Well … someone tossed the ball. A teammate probably blocked. A coach designed the play. Team owners are supported and paid by fans attending the game, etc., etc., etc. Shouldn’t we also praise God for the defender who’ll lose his job? “Hey Mr. defender! Praise Jesus I scored. And I praise God that you looked so bad on national television that you’ll lose your job.”

You get the picture.

The lesson is simple, one can’t praise ‘yang’ without praising ‘yin.’ From a Buddhist perspective, everything is interconnected. Everything affects everything else. Everything that is, ‘is’ because other things ‘are.’ All beings and phenomena are caused to exist by other beings and phenomena.

Thus, while we’re so busy praising God, don’t forget to give credit to the Caesars’ within your life.

A Hope to Kiss Again

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 1.32.50 AMMy Dearest K.

I shelter myself upon this island. It’s nearly midnight in Eastsound, but I find myself bathing in the moonlight of your eyes. I trace you with my soul. I kiss you with my heart. And a horde of words cannot fill the vastness that lay before us. Even from Missouri, I touch you. You are here and the cosmos shutters upon your beauty.

Your absence trembles my timepiece and in the early morning fog, you breathe through God’s solstice and for a moment I can caress your body – but for only a moment. You are life itself. I found love in your hands, the taste of Christ in your month and comfortably I lay in your arms.

No matter where the wind gales, I seek you. I will preserve by all God’s glory a hope to kiss thy lips once again and quench this dearth thirst.

With Love …

palin-impeach-obama-hannityAs you may know, a few political conservatives have called for President Obama’s impeachment. Former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin indicated the spike in illegal border crossings was another reason to impeach Obama.

Palin, writing on the Brietbart website, stated:

His unsecured border crisis is the last straw that makes the battered wife say, ‘no mas,’” she wrote. “President Obama’s rewarding of lawlessness, including his own, is the foundational problem here.

First of all, trying to link illegal immigration to a battered wife is stupid. And I apologize to all those women who’ve suffered accordingly. The opening lines of Palin’s editorial are a gesture that all rational thought should be tossed aside.

As blogger Blackeyedbeaver noted on ‘Politico,’ “ What’s frightening is someone “published” an op-ed by her [Palin] as if she has any credibility on ANY subject,” and “… some people may actually read it and change their previously held opinion …

Palin posed two arguments for Obama’s impeachment:

  • Untold number of illegal immigrants will kick off their shoes and come on in, competing against Americans for our jobs and limited public services.
  • It’s the American worker who is forced to deal with Obama’s latest crisis with our hard-earned tax dollars while middle class wages decrease, sustainable jobs get more scarce, and communities become unrecognizable and bankrupted due to Obama’s flood of illegal immigration.

What she neglects to clarify is that during the 2000s, U.S. multinational companies cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million while increasing overseas employment by 2.4 million [Wall Street Journal, 4/19/11]. Republicans also voted against efforts preventing or discouraging of shipping American jobs overseas, cracking down on offshore tax havens and while simultaneously increasing pro-outsourcing measures. And Republicans fought to keep and expand corporate tax loopholes, rewarding outsourcing of American jobs (fully detailed here)

However, without learning a specialized skill, immigrants would never be able to move up the income ladder. As long as there are thousands of undocumented workers competing for low-end jobs, salaries are more likely to fall than to rise. Additionally, Of the 472 civilian occupations, only six are majority immigrant (legal and illegal). These six occupations account for 1 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

What’s scary is that Sarah Palin could have been President of the United States. We shouldn’t forget that. Remember, this is the same Palin who babbled, “… you can actually see Russia, from land, here in Alaska.”

Whether or not President Obama violated some oath of office worthy of impeachment is not my call. But Palin’s evidence for impeachment appear devoid of factual reality. And truthfully, we should never consider Palin’s opine worthy of anything.

imageJust one day after the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 14 faith leaders wrote President Obama requesting a religious exemption in his planned executive order barring hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation by federal contractors:

… an extension of protection for one group not come at the expense of faith communities whose religious identities and beliefs motivate them to serve those in need.” And, “Without a robust religious exemption . . . this expansion of hiring rights will come at an unreasonable cost to the common good, national unity and religious freedom…

In opposition, a June 2014 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, signed by over 90 religious, civil rights, women’s, and LGBT rights groups maintained:

“Religious Freedom Restoration Act should not be interpreted or employed as a tool for broadly overriding statutory protections against religious discrimination or to create a broad free exercise right to receive government grants without complying with applicable regulations that protect taxpayers.”

The 14 faith leaders aren’t appealing to law, but rather to Obama’s own history of opposing same-sex marriage and stated goals when forming the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. However, while many of the faith leaders who openly requested exemption publicly emphasize all people are created equal in both divine image and love, they imply reaching consensus may be impossible. So rather than even try, a case is made for religious bigotry.

Basically, these religious leaders are requesting the ‘right‘ to discriminate via religion. Apparently Jesus recognizes ‘equality‘ is difficult and that being homophobic and discriminatory, is at times, ok. In truth, these are not moral, loving people … they’re assholes. When discriminating, the impact is not limited to that specific person. Mothers, fathers, children, nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, and grandparents feel bigotry’s burden.

Using religious dogma trivializes people, demeans loved ones, their life and families. Zen Buddhism doesn’t make a distinction between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships. Instead, the expectation is not to harm, exploit or manipulate others, which would directly violate the third precept. For instance, Zen Buddhists often refer to hedonism, ascetic masochism and prostitution as practices that violate the “Middle Way.”

If two people have taken no vows and both love each other, why should sexual orientation matter?

imageIn 2012, the Supreme Court of The United States chose to reaffirm the conclusion of Citizens United ruling that corporations are people — at least as far as the First Amendment is concerned. The Supreme Court of The United States continued to reaffirm that decision today by stating some corporations have religious rights, that certain for-profit companies cannot be required to pay for specific types of contraceptives of their employees.

Hobby Lobby and other small Christian based companies claimed the Affordable Care Act forced them to set aside deeply held religious beliefs by requiring them to provide contraception in their employee health plans. The owners said they cannot have any role in providing access to certain forms of contraception without having to violate those beliefs. Their attorney, former Republican Solicitor General Paul Clement, said that because the Obama administration has provided some exemptions to the rule — for churches and certain nonprofits — it should be willing to exempt companies, too.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court affirmed that thought process.

The irony of Hobby Lobby is that not all Christian business leaders actually follow and apply Christian centered principles. The forefront of Hobby Lobby’s argument is as follows:

Being Christians, we don’t pay for drugs that might cause abortions, which means that we don’t cover emergency contraception, the morning-after pill or the week-after pill. We believe doing so might end a life after the moment of conception, something that is contrary to our most important beliefs. It goes against the Biblical principles on which we have run this company since day one.

The Green family may claim to honor the above principle, but like many Christian businesses, they send their “Christian” money overseas to China where its one child policy of and forced abortions is an everyday occurrence. China is one of the worst offenders of human dignity, unborn infant life, and economic justice anywhere in the world.  It’s also important to note Hobby Lobby’s 401(k) retirement plan invested $73 million in pharmaceutical companies that developed and produced various forms of contraception.

Are there other Biblical rules which aren’t followed? Yes. Here are a few.

  • Leviticus 19:27 – “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” Most Hobby Lobby employees have no beards.
  • Leviticus 19:19 – “Do not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.” Most Hobby Lobby clothing consists of many different threads, manufactured in China with cheap labor.
  • Timothy 2:9 – “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” Hobby Lobby sells a lot of ‘gold’ jewelry, mostly produced in China.

Since corporations are now considered people, they enjoy privileges those in the lower class cannot obtain. For instance, you and I cannot get tax incentive financing. If the corporation is involved in illegal activities, how does the court system jail a corporation? And of course, the average working ‘Joe’, such as you and I, will never spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for politically targeted television ads.

Jeffery Tobin (CNN) noted, the Hobby Lobby case is all about politics and little of religious principle.

As for me, I will never spend another dollar of my money at Hobby Lobby.

Become Unfrozen

imageI recently had the opportunity to watch the movie ‘Frozen.’ Frozen is an an entertaining wonderland of music backdropped against stunning visual design. I caught myself enchanted watching the characters struggle with love, personal setbacks and subsequent victories. Overall, Frozen was eloquently laid out.

Frozen reminded me of another Disney product: Beauty and The Beast. In Beauty, Gaston sings:

The Beast will make off with your children
He’ll come after them in the night
No!
We’re not safe till his head is mounted on my wall!
I say we kill the Beast
Kill him!

Why? Why was it so necessary to ‘… kill the beast?‘ I simply don’t get it.

A striking theme throughout history is of humanity’s ability to overlook the stupid. I’m amazed how villagers in both Frozen and Beauty easily crumbled against the tsunami of hatred. How often has society looked upon group racism and innuendo by saying, “Yeah, I concur with that … let’s go beat’em up.” If you think I’m wrong, one needs to look no further than the Kurdish and Shiite in Iraq, any form of ethnic cleansing, the Ku Klux Klan or the myriad of not so hidden political agendas of elected officials. All of us are responsible for ‘ball-and-chaining’ sensibility and love, only to become enslaved by the onslaught of stupidity.

Often times, in a war of ideas people become casualties. For instance, some claim bombs kill people while others claim guns kill people. But looking head-on into the soul’s root, people kill people. And the trigger is thought … that small space in-between the brain’s cell structure where ideas of love, peace, anger and bias originate.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are many lessons Frozen and Beauty offer.

  • Stop spending time with the wrong people. Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot.
  • Stop running from your problems. Face them head on. Yeah, it won’t be easy, but there is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. We must face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
  • You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
  • The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
  • Stop worrying so much. Remember ‘Seven Years in Tibet?’ Dalai Lama’s quote rings true today as it did then. “We have a saying in Tibet: If a problem can be solved there is no use worrying about it. If it can’t be solved, worrying will do no good.

Become unfrozen and unshackled of others people opinions.

imageSomeone once said the sin against the Holy Spirit is to no longer believe He can change the world. And it is sad to believe that anyone couldn’t possibly change me. In truth, I believe God has the power, most of us simply don’t have the will.

There is an important need to return to our source of renewal. We must reinterpret our faith and renew our love, not for only our God, but for our fellow man as well. But in our hurried get it done today world faith is reserved for an hour every seven days. We drop a couple of nickels in a donation cup and head off to our favorite sports game or family outing. Thus, by the end of the year, we’ve deleted any modicum of faith and huddle together during the holiday season while secretly asking what the hell have we done.

I remember back to the days of my youth when upon my Uncle’s farm. The hoe scrapped against the upper midwest dirt, lifting the dirt of my ancestors. This no longer was a simple row of corn or beans, strawberries or rhubarb. Whatever life I have in there herein now was given by those who fell to rest long before me. And as I tilled, I enriched their faith. It’s the same faith which created me.

My ancestors never knew a Buddha would come forth. Nor could any of your descendants have known you would come forth either. Yet it was by faith and love that they believed children and grandchildren would come – that if they worked and believed – life’s wonderment and power would erupt from the bosom of soil. Thus, by faith, they lived for you and I.

Just as our forefathers believed in faith, so should we. The sunset imbibes delight through every pore as I walk along the shore of East Sound, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing but a river of faith. As Henry David Thoreau noted, faith:

“… is instantly translated; its literal monument alone remains. The words which express our faith and piety are not definite; yet they are significant and fragrant like frankincense to superior natures.”

Why must we lose life changing faith? Why do we allow life to dull our perception and praise only commonality?

When God makes a covenant with us, God says, “I will love you with an everlasting love. I will be faithful to you, even when you run away from me, reject me, or betray me.” In our society we don’t speak much about covenants; we speak about contracts. When we make a contract with a person, we say, “I will fulfill my part as long as you fulfill yours. When you don’t live up to your promises, I no longer have to live up to mine.” Contracts are often broken because the partners are unwilling or unable to be faithful to their terms.

God never made a contract. He made a promise. The greatest promise of faith we can give to one another is our love. Through that love we can create an anxiety-free respite, find our faith, encourage one another, build confidence and find the freedom to choose our own way in life.

Real faith was never ‘out there.’ True faith has always resided within.

Knowing God

imageI read an article by a friend who claimed to know all about God. Simply put, by reading and studying the Bible, he was able to know God. I counter by stating Islamics, Jews, Muslims and most every other religion opine in a similar way. If one reads and study that one book for one month, one year or one decade, can you really completely learn about God?

Thomas Aquinas’ may have phrased the concept correctly when he wrote, “This is what is ultimate in the human knowledge of God – to know that we do not know God.”

Often times, while watching the news of one tragic event or another, someone often sputters, “Is God a loving Father or a great vivisectionist?” Honestly, even several spiritual experiences, God remains quite the mystery. I cannot always understand His logic, His love, His hatred or His grace. I have no clue if Jesus hates brussels sprouts or liver and onions as much as I. Nor can imagine what His purpose is for the Mojave desert, the Chicago Cubs winless streak or the ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians‘ television show.’

I do know many view God from a myopic personal viewpoint. For instance, when the father of the friend mentioned above became sickened from cancer, he loudly queried, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Yet when 15,887 people died in the Tōhoku earthquake and another 6,000 from the Philippine typhoon, nary a question was raised.

Thinking out loud, is it better sometimes for calamity to strike? Could such calamities awaken the deep root our own prejudices and snap them from the limb of our own tree?

I think the real tragedy is that all of us believe we know more of God than we actually do. Thus, we never etch a serious time in discovering the love He claims to have afforded. So I ask each of you today to drop your concepts, drop your opinions, drop your prejudices, drop your judgements and explore God’s love.

What does He look like now?

takingthemaskoff

addiction mental health stigma

MIRAGE

Reality is merely an illusion, albiet a persistent one. So get a few laughs and do the best you can. Don't have an ideal to work for. That's like riding towards the mirage of a lake.

lijiun

Smile Always

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 84 other followers

%d bloggers like this: