Category: Faith & Doubt


Just as 12 people were shot and killed in a California nightclub, the National Rifle Association declared war against the medical profession via social media. Apparently, the war was triggered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) having the gall to release new figures showing gun deaths on the rise, indicating latest data for large metro areas are reaching levels not seen since 2006-2007.

Among the 50 largest metro areas, 43 (86%) reported rate increases when compared to 2012-2013 total. The report states a likely factor in both homicide and suicide rates is access to a firearm. According to previous studies, the decision to harm yourself or another person take as little as 10 minutes or less. Persons who make such decisions tend not to substitute use of a firearm when one is unavailable or difficult to access.

“Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves. https://t.co/oCR3uiLtS7

— NRA (@NRA) November 7, 2018

The NRA is right. We need a consult.

In July 2017, the Emergency Management website ran a story indicating initial hospitalizations involving firearm injuries cost $734.6 million a year nationally. The story, written by reporters Jennifer Smith Richards, Annie Sweeney and Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune followed two gunshot victims – Annette Johnson and Leo Leyva.

The bills for their initial treatment were staggering. In his first 35 minutes at the hospital, Leyva had racked up $21,521 in charges, and by the time he was released three weeks later the bill totaled more than $157,000. For Johnson, who spent barely 24 hours at Mount Sinai, the hospital charges approached $27,000.

Can anyone guess the average cost of branded and top grade shotguns? $500 to $800 dollars. Likewise, can anyone guess the average cost of a decent 9MM weapon? $250 to $400 dollars.

The Emergency Management article continued. An unprecedented analysis of state data by the Tribune revealed that the initial medical costs for treating Chicago gunshot victims like Johnson and Leyva add up to tens of millions of dollars annually.

Also in June 2017, NBC News published “Journey of a Bullet” followed six people endured the physical force, paid the emotional toll and found a path to recovery. the most interesting quote,

“… the gunshot wound may heal, but the bullet remains embedded in every facet of the survivor’s life.” For a fleeting moment, the thrust of the bullet bonds these survivors before their stories pull apart, diverging in directions where their futures are thrown into turmoil: Some are left paralyzed or must undergo years of reconstructive surgeries or are so shaken up, they can’t walk down a street without glancing over their shoulders.

What the NRA’s social media war fails to comprehend is that for clubgoers, rescue staff, police, heath care clinicians, and victims of the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting are forever bonded. That will never change. In the meantime, Trump ordered flags to half-staff, Democrats demand action, and relentless prayers. All those damned prayers. “Prayers and condolences” for all.

Having made a living in the medical profession, both as a former rescue man and paramedic, police officer and now consultant, I can attest that the physicians are right. However, maybe the NRA’s concern, that “… the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves” is valid. As such, I sarcastically propose the following scenario during the next major trauma. It’s not very Buddhist, but it feels right.

Doctor: “Gunshot wound. Oh my God. I need a consult.” Picks up phone. Dials.

Voice: “National Rifle Association. How can I assist you?”

Doctor: “This is Anytown ER. Need a consult. We have a well-developed, well nourished, white male, 70 inches tall, weighing 138 lbs, and appearing the stated age of 39 years. Present in the right upper chest, 13 1/2 inches below the top pf the head, level with the jugular notch, just below the clavicle and 2 3/4 inches to the right of the midline, there is a gunshot wound of entrance. Initial examination of the wound reveals it to consist of an oval-shaped, seared and blackened wound, measuring 5/16 inch vertically x 1/4 inch horizontally. Partially burned grains of powder are present in this wound. Lying slightly above this wound and enclosing three-quarters of it, there is a circular contusion ring, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. This ring measures slightly less than 1/16-inch-wide and has a reddish color. The bullet, after passing in between the clavicle and 1st rib, struck and perforated the right brachio-cophalic vein and the right internal thoracic artery. The bullet then went through the apex of the upper lobe of the right lung and struck the antero-lateral aspect of the 3rd thoracic vertebra. The bullet went through the body of this vertebra in a posterior path, creating a tangential wound of entrance into the spinal canal.”

So, ah, NRA? It’s your gun and your bullet. How should we proceed?”

How’s that for a consult?

In the wake of Trump’s election, I have found myself pondering about non­violence, its contributions, limits, and place in my Buddhist ethics and life. Having watched Trump since the 2016 presidential campaign, I wondered when the logical migration from talking of violence to violence would occur. October 24th was the day political violence breached the bounds of custom and political dignity oozed toward a darker, more sinister spectacle. If Clausewitz were alive, he might rephrase one of his most notable aphorisms to “Terrorism of my enemies is the continuation of politics by other means.” Of course, one could also state, “Trump is the continuation of politics by other means.”

As you may know, explosives were mailed/delivered to homes of Democratic fundraiser George Soros, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, CNN’s New York studios, offices of Debbie Wassermann Schultz’s and Maxine Waters. As a result, some expressed fears that Democratic leaders were being attack in advance of America’s 2018 mid-term elections. New York police commissioner James O’Neill stated the recipients may have been selected because of their opposition to Trump.

Of course, terrorism is not unique to America. Terror attacks in France, London, Middle East, September 11th and other countries contribute to our questioning God, and more specifically, “Why?

An article I read in UK’s Telegraph newspaper, the Archbishop of Canterbury admitted the terror attacks in Paris made him “doubt” the presence of God.

Justin Welby was left asking why the attacks happened, and where God was in the French victims’ time of need. He said he reacted with “profound sadness” at the events, particularly because he and his wife had lived in Paris.

Asked if these attacks had caused him to doubt where God is, he said: “Oh gosh, yes,” and admitted it put a “chink in his armor.”

Many would claim America was lucky. However, the resultant questions that often spring forward in my mind are similar to all ethical people. My questions are time-tested but not original, as they were noted by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus.

  • Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? If so, then He seems not so omnipotent; or
  • Is He able, but not willing? As such, then He appears malevolent; or
  • Is He both able and willing? Whereas then whence cometh evil; or lastly
  • Is He neither able nor willing? Propose yes, then why call Him God?

Neither Epicurus nor I have received any answers.

Several Thoughts

First. What has Trump learned that most political adversaries have not? To me it’s fairly simple can be found in sacred scrolls that comprised the “Art of War.” It’s basically this, whatever you are trying to achieve, realize that you will have to pay for it in the form of time, effort, pain, and sacrifices. Anything worth having comes at a cost. The bigger the goal, the greater sacrifice is necessary.

In other words, for Trump, the end justified the means. Set your goals high, one has to be prepared to pay the price. Trump has willing gone where no American politician has been unwilling to go.

Second. It’s strange to say, but I believe God is somewhere in all the shit. My justification you ask? Not one bomb exploded. No one died. In the days ahead, survivor thoughts may scatter, from those who continue to believe in a Complete Power to those who will never trust a Complete Power again; but as a Buddhist, it is my general opinion that something of a higher cause worked today, even if the emotional toll was great. The “Faith” of coworkers, politicians and staff, firefighters, bomb experts, police, FBI and terrorism units’ breached unwritten boundaries and became part of a larger family — despite their differences. And it is within this hope that people like Trump will always lose.

Conclusion

In the United States, people get leaders they choose. And those leaders reflect the values of the constituents who elect them. As such, the reason President Trump is President lies not because of a fault in our stars, but in ourselves.

Want to change it? Yes?

Then Vote.

While everyone focused upon the midterm elections, the Supreme Court nomination, Elizabeth’s Warren DNA test, and Trump’s 60 Minutes interview, the federal budget deficit swelled past $779 billion for fiscal year 2018. The Treasury Department said the variation was driven by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenues from resulting GOP tax cuts. As a result, the deficit is on pace to top $1 trillion a year before the next presidential election.

So why is this important? Well, in a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Going forward, the president’s economic policies that have stimulated strong economic growth, combined with proposals to cut wasteful spending, will lead America toward a sustainable financial path.”

And what about that ‘wasteful spending?’ Well, that comes from a little discussed Republican proposal filed this past June that proposes the budget would be balanced in nine years — but only if America makes large cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicare and healthcare.

One aspect of healthcare

Thus far, under the Trump administration, Republicans have chipped away enough medical services that 4 million people have lost their health care. Additionally, The Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center estimates that tossing out the remaining provisions of the ACA would result in 17 million people losing commercial insurance and another 15 million losing Medicaid and children’s health care under the CHIP program.

And just as the people are losing coverage, the World Health Organization estimates dementia approximately 50 million people have dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases every year. By 2050, 132 million worldwide. Currently, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, America there will be about 14 million.

Senate Republicans joined their House colleagues in proposing steep cuts to Medicaid, part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives hope to roll back what they see as an expanding and costly entitlement. But little has been said about what would happen to older Americans in nursing homes if the cuts took effect.

Moral of Voting Responsibly

As a society, we’re not going to escape dementia or Alzheimer’s. So, what are we going to do? Care for people or not? I close with a parable retold in many ways.

A senator’s soul arrived in heaven and was met by St. Peter at the entrance. “Welcome to heaven,” said St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do.”

“No problem, just let me in,” said the senator.

“Well I’d like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one day in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity,”

“Really? I’ve already made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” said the senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have rules,” St. Peter insisted. “Hell is first.”

When the door to Hell opened, the senator found himself in the middle of a beautiful green golf course. In the distance was a clubhouse and standing in front of it were all his friends and politicians who had worked with him. Everyone was very happy and in formal attire. Everyone rushed to greet him, shook his hand, and reminisced about the good ol’days they had shared together, often at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve. Lucifer, the devil himself, seemed really incredible and likeable.

When the senator returned, St. Peter awaited him. “Now it’s time to visit Heaven.”

In the susequent twenty-four hours, the senator joined a group of contented souls, praising God, singing hymns, and found fellowship of the deepest and purest kind. The experience was truly meaningful. And quickly, time had come to an end.

“Well, now, you’ve spent a day in Hell and another in Heaven. Choose your eternity,” instructed St. Peter.

The senator reflected, “You know, I would have never believed that I would have said this. While Heaven was nice, I am better off in Hell.”

St. Peter escorted him to Hell. When the doors opened, he found himself in the middle of a barren land with a dark, ominous and foreboding sky. The heat was exceedingly oppressive. He saw all his friends dressed in rags, some naked and unclean, many pulling around chains of life’s vices.

“I don’t…I don’t…I don’t understand,” stammered the senator. “Only yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse, and we ate lobster caviar, and drank champagne. It was tremendous. We were living the high life. Now there’s just this wasteland, wasted lives, and miserable associations. What happened!?”

The devil looked at him, smiled, and said, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted.”

In Conclusion

A common saying goes, “God does not send people to hell. They choose to go there themselves.” On November 6th, what are we choosing for 2050?

This story has been on the Internet for quite some time. But I found it yesterday. According to what I understand, the author is unknown, but remains greatly appreciated! A video of the story can be found by clicking the picture.


I sat with my friend in a well-known coffee shop in a neighboring town of Venice, Italy, the city of lights and water.

As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us. He called the waiter and placed his order saying, “Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.”

We heard this order with rather interest and observed that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two.

When he left, the waiter put a piece of paper on the wall saying “A Cup of Coffee”.

While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he put a piece of paper on the wall saying, “A Cup of Coffee”.

It was something unique and perplexing for us. We finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.

After a few days, we had a chance to go to this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man poorly dressed entered. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, “One cup of coffee from the wall.”

The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this, as the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the trash bin. Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear. The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town made our eyes well up in tears.

Ponder upon the need of what this man wanted. He enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem… he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee… without asking or knowing about the one who is giving this cup of coffee to him … he only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

A truly beautiful thought. Probably the most beautiful wall you may ever see anywhere!

Moral

In our fast lives we often miss to see the needs of those around us. Needs are not always financial. Those could be emotional as well. Or certain needs can just be gratified with simple “hello” and “genuine smile” to a stranger. We never know what value such a simple ‘hello’ will hold for many people. Of all the resources available in this world, every species has its claim to. Let’s see ourselves as custodians – custodians of love.

I am one of many who never told my parents what happened to me. From age 8 through 10, I was sexually assaulted four times – once by my brother and cousin, once by my brother and his friend, once by my cousin and once by my brother’s friend. I wrote of one event in December 2012, Theodicy – No Easy Answer for Children.

After Dr. Ford’s testimony this past Thursday, I was chilled re-reading my 2012 blog post.

“Never shall I ever forget the laughter …”

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, my helplessness was magnified by the possibility Kavanaugh would be elevated to a position of enormous authority, and seeing the sympathy and the sympathy he cries for just irritates me. Trump called Kavanaugh “a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever.” Similarly, my attacker is considered a Catholic man of honor, has a family and grandchildren.

Another point. Is ‘living hell’ really hell? In the Judicial Committee Hearing, Lindsay Graham yelled, “This is not a job interview, this is hell.” Likewise, Kavanaugh stated his life was ruined, that these past several weeks was a circus.

Really? Two weeks is hell?

I wonder if Graham or Kavanaugh understand what Dr. Ford’s life is like. How about mine? I can’t speak for Dr. Ford, but in 2012, I posted, “… my soul was murdered and fell into a silent abyss … [I am] both insignificant and invisible, nothing more.”

Commentator Andrew Prokop captured my thoughts perfectly.

Graham indisputably made a splash in Trumpworld, providing exactly what they needed politically and telling them exactly what they wanted to hear — that Democrats were the villains and Kavanaugh was a good man.

In essence, Kavanaugh’s defense suggests a prestigious education is evidence of moral righteousness. The accused is an honorable man who attended a privileged Jesuit, all-boys, preparatory high school and onto Yale law School. Dr. Ford completed degrees from the University of North Carolina, Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California.  If we take Kavanaugh’s claim verbatim, would Dr. Ford be more honorable if she had attended Yale? And what of me? I completed college at a state university. Therefore, do I remain nothing? In the sight of God, am I still insignificant and invisible?

I offer three thoughts.

First. Do no harm. As a Buddhist, I know all of us have a short life span. Therefore, we cannot know the long-term results of our actions. But recognizing that what we say and do can have repercussions for months, years, or eons.  We cannot know the “final” outcome of something we think, do or say.

Second. Great gifts of spiritual/social insight can coexist with psychological and psychiatric illness. It’s important to understand that it is possible to be simultaneously gifted and disturbed. No matter what school, wisdom or privilege a teacher or pastor or imam claims, no one is exempt from psychological suffering. Even leaders. If all if us were more understanding of ourselves and others, it would be less shameful for such exalted mentors, Kavanaugh and all, to receive treatment when required.

And third. Perhaps in the years to come, the #MeToo allegations will steep like tea throughout Kavanaugh and help usher in a growing awareness that sexism and sexual assault invariably sets the stage for suffering in all faiths and all levels of privilege.

SatanMinnesota state representative Rep. Jim Knoblach (R) ended his re-election bid after learning Minnesota Public Radio News (MPR) wrote of his daughter’s accusations of inappropriately touching for years.

MPR wrote the case file is detailed, including written transcripts of interviews, copies of old diary entries and handwritten notes, but makes no mention of law enforcement reaching out to Jim Knoblach to be interviewed. The case file reveals Laura Knoblach reached out to various people throughout her life to express concerns about her father’s behavior, including her mother, Janet Knoblach, but apparently received little to no help.

I thought of Ms. Knoblach after listening to current Republican leaders summarily dismiss Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations, and to a larger extent, how the religious community’s wholesale embrace of Republican norms, including those of Donald J Trump, necessitated the rewriting of personal and moral ethics. But the hypocrisy of legislative staff is not limited to Ford alone.

The Wrap’s John Levine noted Pro-Trump CNN political commentator Jason Miller announced he’s “decided to step away” from the network after a recent accusation in a legal filing that he slipped abortion pills to a former lover without her knowledge.

Lastly, the York Daily Record recorded,

“Found within the depths of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on priest sex abuse is a letter written by a former Diocese of Scranton bishop.

A priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion, according to the grand jury report. And then-Bishop James C. Timlin wrote a letter expressing his feelings: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.””

I remember an op-ed by Jennifer Weiner from October 2017. Weiner wrote of Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who resigned his House seat two days after voting for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically dubious grounds that, at that age, a fetus can experience pain.

I was proud both to sponsor and vote for this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn,” Murphy wrote.

Then The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published texts revealing that when Mr. Murphy’s mistress thought she was pregnant, Murphy urged her to consider an abortion.

Sarcastically, Weiner wrote:

“There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.

For real life American, it’s become ok to dance with Satan, as long as you’re doing it for God.

You know all those websites claiming Trump has lied 3,000 or so times? No biggie. He’s also pro-life. He’s doing God’s work.

Remember Leviticus 19:33-34? You know the line saying “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself.” Fuck that. God now allows us to ‘discern’ which aliens to love. That means Norwegians are in, Mexicans out. After all, white lives matter more than others. Right? Right.

Trump’s closest evangelic adviser, Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas told reporters in 2011 that Mormonism is a “cult” and that voting for Romney for president would “give credibility to a cult.” I am sure any one of the Pennsylvanian Archdiocese victims will be comforted by Jeffress. After all, he’s a man of God.

Then there’s Moore … As in former Judge Roy Moore. Moore lent his unsolicited endorsement to the similarly troubled Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. Moore came to the nominee’s defense by sharing a supporter’s quip with his 80,000 Facebook followers: “They are Trying to ‘Judge Moore’ Him with Unproven Sex Assault Claim.” Moore, if you recall, is the same Moore who likes to date underage teenagers while simultaneously returning God’s ten commandments to America’s judicial system.

Supporting Kavanaugh is critical. Kavanaugh represents the man from God who can potentially overturn Roe vs. Wade. As such, Kavanaugh supporters dismiss his youthful behavior in a whole range of ways – but not assault. And if true, Kavanaugh’s actions constitute little more than normal adolescent male behavior. Remember, the the columnist from God’s network, (i.e., Fox News) Stephen Miller tweeted, “it was drunk teenagers playing seven minutes of heaven.”

Daniel J. Boorstin, in his piece “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)” notes.

“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

Congratulations America. You’re pretty sick.

At 86, my father lay at the precipice of passing. He spends nights talking to ‘friends’ – those being his mother, an old friend or angels he claims to be guides. During the waking hours, my father’s life is not unlike Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

For 15 hours a day, I sit in this same chair, totally dependent on someone else coming in here to make me a cup of tea,” Kubler-Ross says. “It’s neither living nor dying. It’s stuck in the middle.”

Watching a loved one pass can be painful, gratifying, even joyous. Seems ritualistic for my mother, for this is not the first time my father died.

May 21th, 2001 was the first time my father passed. During emergency procedures, he claimed to have an out-of-body experience and successfully repeated, verbatim, all medical procedures to every clinician. He briefly entered the brightest white light ever seen, spoke to his mother and was able to identify key angels, ‘helpers’ and ‘takers.’

The above background lays the groundwork for this post. My thoughts are not of the afterlife, white lights, or angels. Rather, I wish to document critical life lessons my father has revealed in the autumn of his.

Lesson 1

One beautiful thing about death is that one’s life circumstances doesn’t determine your outcome. Whatever your life, whatever your mistakes, God probably doesn’t view personal successes and failures as ‘black’ or ‘white.’ All of us are redeemable. All are loved. And in God, there are no ordinary moments, there is no ordinary person.

Lesson 2

We all feel heaven will end our human experience. Yet, my father has taught me heaven is a world where pain is not worth losing every other emotion and experience that makes us proud to be human. Spiritual living is a changing experience that should cause all of us to dig deep and live all the moments we’ve ever dreamed about, regardless whether they be here or in heaven.

Lesson 3

Love is the most powerful purifier of all. When our heart is filled with love, we are healed. God’s love resonates with everything around us that affects the physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. True love purifies the spirit and cleanses the soul. Expect nothing less from heaven itself.

Lesson 4

Heaven is probably more like our world than we think. Just as we are a collaboration of energies, heaven is probably reinforces that everyone has something to contribute. Everybody has a purpose and a spiritual life attunes you to the rest of the universe. All the life force energy comes to your aid when your purpose is in attunement with betterment of the universe as a whole. “All energy is only borrowed … You have to give it back.”

Lesson 5

Lesson 5 summarizes 1 through 4. Simply stated, Heaven and life, are very similar to ramen. Maezumi from the film The Ramen Girl summarizes what my father has been trying to teach me for 58 years.

A bowl of ramen is a self-contained universe with life from the sea, the mountains, and the earth. All existing in perfect harmony. Harmony is essential. What holds it all together is the broth. The broth gives life to the ramen.

What’s in the broth? Love.

It seems like forever since I’ve written. In theory, one might say I’ve busy. Some time ago, my eighty-year-old parents collided head on with an SUV trying to cut across several lanes. Or, another friend might blame it on the fact I’ve now moved to a wheelchair. As a result, there’s less stress on my heart.

In truth, I haven’t written due to time and having a lack of anything to say.

I thought of letting my blog just reside there, allowing those who wander across my words to read, partake and ponder. And while visitors still read my posts, the exchange of ideas probably occurs offline. In truth, there is no one ‘right’ way to exchange my thoughts. Enjoy them as needed. Find strength in them as required. My words are not my words, but rather that eternal inspiration that guides all living creatures.

Today’s message is one many have pondered. After having cared for my parents post-wreck, I read of Dale Earnhardt Jr. account where he believed a supernatural being pulled him from a fiery wreck. I wouldn’t have thought much of the account if it had not been for my father. A few days ago, my father stated that during the head on collision, he saw four angels or spirits. He remains unaware of their purpose, except many medical professionals, after reviewing accident pictures, pondered how either of the vehicle occupants remained alive.

The desert southwest, where my parents live, is full of wonder and movement – a geological marvel where spiritual and physical life resides and interact. However, this interaction is not exclusive to only the desert southwest. I believe the spiritual and physical lives and breathes around us each day.

We just need to look and experience. We need to reach beyond our own limitations and believe

On many occasions, I encounter those who make their daily obsession with legalism above real love. As such, they are unable to see beyond their own “shadows of bigotry” and refuse to allow all to experience God as commanded by Christ. To highlight, I offer two contrasting stories: the first from twenty-two years ago and the second from today.

In the fall of 1996, I attended a weekend retreat at a northern California Monastery. During a Saturday night Eucharist, the Benedictine monk explained mass is a privileged time when we offer ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord along with the gifts of bread and wine, and, by receiving him in Holy Communion, allow him to transform us too into the Body of Christ, just as surely as the gifts are transformed.

One-by-one, each retreatant moved from the congregational seats and proceeded to receive the Eucharist. Just before ending, the monk noticed a lone woman remained three rows deep. With offering in hand, the monk stood to the woman’s side as tears flowed from her eyes.

“Please?” the monk gestured.

“No, I cannot” the woman responded.

“Why not?”

“Father, I have immigrated from Iran. I have not Catholic and am forbidden to receive the Holy Communion.”

“My dear child,” the monk whispered. “I am most certain Christ will not mind.” The monk outstretched his arm, placed the communion in his fingers, “The Body of Christ.”

“Amen,” said the Iranian woman as a river of tears flowed from her heart.

Contrast the story above against that which was witnessed today.

An Asian woman was the Taiwanese daughter of a Protestant Pastor. Having spent all her life giving to Christ and to the mission of God, she immigrated and found a home in an eastern Missouri city.

After years of dedication and service, she received her PhD in counseling and Christian theology. As a result, she was highly coveted speaker in the Christian arena and was actively recruited by a local Catholic seminary to teach seminary students, priests and nuns counseling and Christian faith.

As she often does, she attends mass almost daily and receives communion regularly.

Just like all other days, she proceeded to receive communion, but today was unlike all other days. The Jesuit Priest knew she was not Catholic and when her turn for communion came, the priest publicly refused her Communion.

This servant of God was publicly called out, not for her love, dedication and communion with Christ, but simply because she was not Catholic. As a river of tears flowed from her heart none of her peers challenged the priest.

Verily I say, those who pretend to be above it all are the ones to worry about. These are the ones who destroy the relationships of Christ. Be careful, for Christ calls them “blind guides.”

In both stories, Christ witnessed a river of tears. Yet, which servant will Christ honor?

I looked at the yin-yang symbol for nearly a decade and always thought I understood the hidden dynamic. Rooted in Chinese philosophy, are often thought to be opposing forces versus complimentary forces.

Others propose a more defined view, that everything has both yin, the darker, more passive force, and yang, a more active positive force. The message insinuates that yin cannot exist without yang. Vice versus, yang cannot exist without yin. Lastly, some taught that neither yin nor yang could exist without the other.

I refined my personal perspective after watching the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In Rogue One, we learn that the same material used by the Death Star to destroy planets also powered the Jedi’s light saber. In The Last Jedi, Rey learned the Jedi hold no exclusivity rights to the Force, for the Force is in everything and everyone has equal access. Thus, as Christ would say, each one of us has the ability to accomplish what Christ did and more.

Moving forward, I ask the following question: “What if there is neither a yin nor yang?” What if the world’s yin and yang happen to be derived from the same one life force? What if our own personal yin and yang are derived from the very same force? If true, what becomes of yin and yang?

I propose both yin and yang are breathed to life via personal choice. All of us, will at times, choose yin. Likewise, all of us, at times choose yang. Christ talked of such a view in Matthew 15:19,”For out of the heart come evil thoughts – murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” The challenge lay in choice.

In Rogue One, the blind spiritual master Chirrut Imwe, was in constant dialogue with “the force” as he chanted “I am one with the force, the force is with me.” We must be in constant dialogue with the Father if we want to know what he wants us to do and where to go.

I conclude from the story of a Cherokee grandfather teaching his grandson about life.

A fight is going on inside me,” the elder said. ”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.

The grandson thought about it for a minute and asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one I feed.

So, which will you feed? The yin? Or the Yang?

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