Tag Archive: Living Christ


Blameless

The decision from federal judge T.S. Ellis in Virginia comes less than a week before Manafort’s second sentencing hearing in another case in Washington, D.C., district court. Both cases were brought on charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing probe of Russia’s election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Manafort is expected to serve only 38 more months of the 47-month sentence because of time he has already spent incarcerated. In addition to the sentence, Ellis ordered Manafort to pay a $50,000 fine, the lowest fine provided for by guidelines that recommended a fine between $50,000 and $24 million.

Before delivering his sentence, Ellis said Manafort had “been a good friend to others, a generous person” and added, “He has lived an otherwise blameless life.”

A “… blameless life?” Franklin Foer of The Atlantic documented Manafort’s blameless life. Here’s a sample:

  • In an otherwise blameless life, he worked to keep arms flowing to the Angolan generalissimo Jonas Savimbi, a monstrous leader bankrolled by the apartheid government in South Africa. While Manafort helped portray his client as an anti-communist “freedom fighter,” Savimbi’s army planted millions of land mines in peasant fields, resulting in 15,000 amputees. In an otherwise blameless life, he spent a decade as the chief political adviser to a clique of former gangsters in Ukraine. This clique hoped to capture control of the state so that it could enrich itself with government contracts and privatization agreements. This was a group closely allied with the Kremlin, and Manafort masterminded its rise to power—thereby enabling Ukraine’s slide into Vladimir Putin’s orbit.
  • In an otherwise blameless life, Manafort came to adopt the lifestyle and corrupt practices of his Ukrainian clients as his own.
  • In an otherwise blameless life, he produced a public-relations campaign to convince Washington that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was acting within his democratic rights and duties when he imprisoned his most compelling rival for power.

So, what is a blameless life? I can only think of a few, two: Christ and Enoch. We’re all pretty familiar with Christ, but Enoch? Enoch who?

Enoch’s life was formally introducted while attending an ethic’s seminar some 30 years ago. His life is not widely discussed, and the Bible does not devote a lot of space to him. About the only biblical information we have on Enoch’s life is found in four sentences from Genesis, 5:21-24.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more because God took him away.

My spin is that Enoch walked a blameless – meaning he consistently lived in the present moment, completely aware of God’s presence and that his fellowship with God and others was built through faith and love. For Enoch, blameless living was the business of a lifetime, not the performance of an hour. In other words, walking with God is not going to church every Sunday from 10:30 AM to Noon. Faith exercised once a week for an hour or so, and it is not a good walk!

Biblically speaking, the term “walk” is used when dealing with ordinary, day-to-day life. In the Old Testament, we read of one’s “rising and sitting down,” two of the most natural things people do every day. As Buddhist, I might ask, “Can two people walk together going in opposite directions?” Instead, there’s a sense of common direction, common purpose, and common interests. When I rise in the morning, do I walk in love? When I lay in the evening, do I sleep in love?

As Chuck Swindoll once said, “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it is a walk in the light.”

An author noted great works did not mark Enoch’s life; he merely lived in God’s presence. And apparently, God enjoyed the relationship so much that He took Enoch, uninterrupted, into eternal fellowship. Sadly, our lives resemble roller coaster rides than walks. We rise and plunge as emotions vacillate, we collapse from physical, spiritual, and mental exhaustion, only to rise and go back into the fray. We can, like Enoch, learn to walk with Him.

The life that pleases God is one of faith walking—not running faster than a speeding bullet or leaping tall buildings with a single bound. We don’t need to have great faith; we need to have faith in a great God.

Manafort never lived a blameless life. He lived in pride. Contempt. Arrogance. Self-exaltation. It’s a version of life we must learn to never live.

Interpreting God

I was dining one night when I overheard two people discussing the best way to interpret God. After a brief pause, one said, “Maybe there’s an app?

Reflecting on my youth, I first read the Bible cover-to-cover at age 18. Having no theological training, many of the thou’s, tho’s, thus’, thereby, shalt’s, coulda’s, shoulda’s, woulda’s were way over my head. It was a weird feeling. I could take apart an M-16, clean it, and reassemble it in 20 minutes, but somehow, Biblical verbiage escaped me.

The Bible was never read in my home. As a kid, English was the only chosen language. One semester, I was registered in a French class. Any hopes for entering the diplomatic corps were dashed on the blackboard as I could barely comprehend Merci (thank you) or S’il Vous Plaît (please). I once said Merci to my father. The look on his face was priceless. To him, French was best left in school, and generally, everything outside our home and conversations of Coors beer barely registered. Foreign films, short documentaries and other attempts to introduce any ‘refinement‘ were quickly forgotten, mostly within minutes.

I was so inept at Biblical reading that I was convinced, that after prayer, God would respond, but respond in Tongues. Damn, then I would have to find someone who could understand Tongues. How would an 18 year find such a person? Place a classified ‘Help Wanted’ ad?

18-year-old, first-time bible reader, received a message from God. Unfortunately, the message is in Tongues. Need interpreter. Will pay, but can’t pay much.”

Comprehension was always a challenge. I have to admit; I learned conversational Spanish. However, even conversational Spanish had difficulties. On a fraud investigation in Southern Chile, my driver asked if I wanted to go to the cocina (kitchen). I laughed heartily. “Knowing he did not understand English, I replied, “It’s 10:30 PM. What the hell do I want to go to a ‘casino’ for?” Wasn’t until I repeated the story to a coworker in Atlanta that I learned my error.

There were many times I thought God must believe I’m incompetent. This personal level of insecurity dates back to 1999 when I worked with a colleague who spoke 12 languages and could easily skip, with ease, between dialects. He smoothly transitioned from Arabic to Darija, to French, then Hindi, Bengal, Spanish and so on. Elderly Egyptians recount how in Alexandria, in the early 20th century, they would switch between Arabic, French, English, Italian, and Greek, depending on what they were doing and whom they were addressing.

For some time, I remained rudderless. While able to speak to God, I often did not hear the response. In truth, none of us who commit to prayer and the spiritual life enjoy those periods during which prayer, liturgy, or spiritual reading seem dry or dull. But such moments are necessary—or so it would seem—for God permits them. It turns out I wasn’t alone.

St. John of the Cross wrote of “the dark night of the soul.” So did Mother Teresa. And Terese of Avila discussed “the period of aridity.” It’s typical for the religious life, to be plunged into not knowing. I don’t lead an overtly religious life. However, what most are looking for: some way to let real life, with the pain, not blow us apart. And in the wake of such great forces, many quit.

Then again, how many times do both the prayee and responder misinterpret the message?

A rather old-fashioned lady was planning several weeks of vacation in Florida. Being quite elegant, she wanted to ensure the campground was adequately equipped with “toilet” facilities. Feeling too dignified to write the word “toilet,” she thought of an old fashioned term “Bathroom Commode,” and abbreviated it as “B.C..” Her letter included the request, “Does the campground have its own ‘B.C’?”

Upon receipt, the owner couldn’t understand what ‘B.C.’ meant. He came to the conclusion she was asking about the Baptist Church. So, he responded:

“Dear Madam: I regret the delay in answering your letter very much, but I take pleasure in informing you that the “B.C.” is located nine miles north and is capable of seating 250 people at one time.

As a Buddhist, I learned every person has a personal language which provides a unique prism through which to interpret God’s wisdom and experience. We’re not in the position, as human beings, to figure out the mind of God. It is our shared humanity and fellowship with other humans. I now believe God communicates not with mere words alone, but through culture, shared experience, laughter, tears, music, books, blogs, and joy.

It’s important to realize God shares our condition of humanity. God became one of us and poured himself into our human experience so that we are never alone, so that God is with us even into the worst of times, even when we do not know it. God is there. God will equip you with what you need when you need it.

What Lucky Taught Me

“And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”

~ Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories ~

Lucky was acquired. Living in Mendota Heights, MN during the winter of 1993, I noticed a 15 pound stray, orange long haired tabby. Of the few times was seen, he drank from standing pools of water on the street. Finally, on one ‘lucky night,’ I nabbed him. Capturing is misleading; he came willingly. I named him Lucky because it was pure luck we crossed paths.

Unlike ancient Egyptian pyramids, Lucky came with no ‘warning sign.’ Though I certainly could have used one, he had no user manual. And while I looked quite extensively, there was no ‘off’ button. For all the world’s Yang, you know, those loving, wholesome thoughts, Lucky received a double dose of Yin. To this day, I believe Lucky woke in the morning and ate nothing but a quarter slice of lemon. That was the high note, and it dwindled quickly thereon.

He was perpetually cranky. One might say Lucky was prejudice. But after having lived with him much of his life, I can honestly state Lucky was not prejudiced – he hated everyone. Almost equally. As one friend phrased it, “Those aren’t ears, they’re horns.

Still, Lucky taught me just as many lessons as Figaro.

Real Love Does Not Require Complete Understanding
We all want to be loved. Behind the grump, Lucky just wanted to be loved. On most days, his real personality came out, and he was often happy and affectionate. As Norman Maclean observed, I didn’t always understand him, but I loved him completely.

The Truth is Easier To With Those We Love
With little fear of repercussion, its easier to share the dark, deep troubles of those we love. Whatever life Lucky lived before me, maybe we drift more towards truth as we age because we realize “truth” is what cuts through the weighty, granite fortresses of life. As Maclean said, “But maybe what he likes is somebody trying to help him.” In truth, after all these years since he’s gone, I believe Lucky loved someone trying to help him, even if I couldn’t wholly cure whatever ill hurt him.

Interconnection Means Sharing an Life’s Arc
The lake just off Concord Way was perched adjacent to my patio. Watching Lucky follow geese across the clear blue water reminds me that the arc of flowing water symbolizes the arc of life. Lucky and I were connected by that lake, and while living upon the shoreline, we etched deep patterns of life’s harmonic vitality into one another. I was amazed at how we lived through the seasons, and torrent weather with a philosophical exploration of a spiritual dimension. Through it, we believed in each other, because we lived in each other. He was an anchor for me, just as I was an anchor for him.

Relationships Require Work
Lucky and I worked hard at building trust. I didn’t know him; he didn’t know me. He didn’t choose to like me just because I was black or white. He didn’t care how tall I was, my education, my social status or wealth. We connected because we both chose to trust. As a result, our lives became an intimate story between souls. We shared something beautiful. And now that I think about it, it was always about love and relationship – about how we became brothers and formed one common bond. Even in death, his sense of self-transcendent interconnectedness still lives today.

I am humbled to have been a participant in his life. For all his gruff, Lucky still moves me in a positive, meaningful, and profound way. I’m moved to a different level each time I reflect on him and of our unspoken love.

God, I miss him. And it’s that level of love both Christ and Buddha would honor.

Thank you Lucky.

As a young twenty-year-old fresh out of college the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), was my go-to ride. Whether by bus or rapid transit, my typical work route from the city’s north side to downtown was approximately 40 minutes. During my years as a commuter, it wasn’t out the ordinary to encounter drunks, beggars, dirty jokes, fights, thefts, robberies, drug sales, arrests and several dozen claiming to be Christ, Buddha, the Archangel Michael or superhero. I’ve seen bus drivers stop mid-route, leave the bus, get coffee, newspapers, and grab lunch. All the while, riders remained frozen in time and space, on the bus.

By the time I received a living wage, I had an established proof positive test for anyone claiming to be a deity. If (fill in the blank) ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) can fix the CTA ‘s Red Line, said ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) would have established a new church by ride’s end. Thus far, the challenge remains just that – a challenge.

One ride remains memorable.

It was late fall, and the sun began setting early. As usual, riders piled on near downtown, often mashed against one another, holding anything within reach. Rounding a corner near Sheridan Road, the train suddenly stopped and leaned right. The doors suddenly opened and one rider lost his balance and began drifting outward, sixty feet from the ground. Just before becoming flightless, three passengers reached out and pulled the man back.

Are you all right?” asked a woman.

Jesus Christ,” replied the man. “Thanks.

Damn, that was close,” said another.

Yeah,” the young man smiled. “I saw an attorney down there holding a business card.

Laughter swallowed the nearly fatal horror.

Why me?” muttered the man as the train started.

No one can ascertain why this world is destined for so much pain. At some point in time, all of us will ask, “Why me?” And truthfully, the whole dialogue about Adam and Eve, the great apple (i.e., fruit from the tree of knowledge) seems like a used car salesperson selling an Edsel. God promised a time when ‘evil’ will be defeated. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.

Other religions teach that evil is a force outside ourselves which seduces us into sin. This force is sometimes thought to be generated by Satan or various demons. Thus, the faithful are encouraged to seek strength outside themselves to fight evil, by looking to God. I take a more nuanced approach to Buddha’s teaching:

“By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another.”

Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects.

My ‘why me’ point came after a back injury. Strapped to a body board, I underwent various medical tests, poking, prodding and other indignities of the medical world. Why? In essence, to keep me from having to ask that question for the remainder of life. After a year of therapy, I was able to walk. Eventually, I ran. And now, later in life, I return to pain. The cycle of my life nears its end.

Fortunately, the sum of those I know does not experience trials experienced in my life. Every life has a story receives their form of tests, moments marked by pain, loss, and sorrow. What connects us to god is our humanity. Jesus, suffered, and died. Near death, Jesus offered a question, “My God, my God? Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus question, much like our own, is not a sign of faithlessness. Instead, the problem comes from the soul of humanity. And that humanity is like a version of iMessage.

Working in hospitals, I’ve seen a lifetime of pain. But I’ve seen enough of life to know that where there are scars, there’s love and compassion. It’s the same love and compassion that reached for the man in the rain. It’s the same love of clinicians that restored me.

Nothing in this world brings us closer to ‘why’ – I stopped asking decades ago. Instead, I ask what do I choose to love and how can I positively impact others?  Now that I reflect upon it, that might be my own personal ‘why.’

The Power of Love

Remember when I said you never know what tomorrow will bring? Or as Tom Hanks charater in cast away said:

“… keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide will bring.”


Bob Boilen of National Public Radio wrote this piece.

The story of Bernie and the Believers is the most powerful I’ve ever come across at the Tiny Desk. It’s about a beautiful act of compassion that ultimately led to this performance, and left me and my coworkers in tears.

I discovered the music of Bernie Dalton among the thousands of Tiny Desk Contest entries we received earlier this year. The band’s singer, Essence Goldman, had submitted the entry and shared Bernie’s story. You can hear her tell it in her own words at the Tiny Desk (and I choke up every time I hear it) but she said that a few years ago, Bernie — a father, a songwriter and a musician in his mid-forties, and an avid surfer with a day job as a pool cleaner — answered an ad Essence Goldman posted offering voice lessons. In addition to being a singer, she was a performer trying to manage her own career as a single mom, and Bernie was trying to improve his talents.

Bernie drove 90-minutes from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, eagerly showing up early to his voice lessons with Essence. But not long after they started working together, Bernie lost his voice. They didn’t think much of a it at first, but then things got worse. He had trouble swallowing and eating. Essence encouraged Bernie to see a doctor and after some tests Bernie Dalton was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He began to lose the use of his hands and, along with it, the ability to play guitar.

With a prognosis of only one-to-three years left to live, Essence offered to raise money so that Bernie and his daughter could travel together. But what Bernie wanted more than anything was to make a record. So he asked Essence to not just be his voice teacher, but his voice. From there, they got to business. Essence pulled together a team of producers, engineers and musicians, while Bernie guided the creative direction through gestures and a dry-erase board. They wrote and recorded a new song every day. Their first single, “Unusual Boy,” was the one they included in their 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry.

Now Bernie’s friends have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to perform his songs. All the while, Bernie watched and listened from his hospital bed on the West coast, communicating with us in a live video feed through his eye-gaze device. What you are about to witness is the ultimate act of love: Essence sacrificing her own musical ambitions to fulfill the dreams of Bernie Dalton. Through tragedy there was beauty.

I don’t know Bernie or Ms. Goldman, but after watching this, I believe they are worth helping. If you can, watch the entire piece. Ms. Essence Goldman told the story at the 9:02 minute mark.

Here are the key links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPQsEoYHekg

Band Page: https://www.bernieandthebelievers.com

To bring Bernie: https://www.gofundme.com/sendberniehome

This group of talent artists understand the power of love. Beautiful.

Belonging

Passing a nursing station, I overheard a nurse say, “He has no one.”

Who?” I inquired.

Startled, she turned, “Oh.” Quizzically, she perused up and down. Whatever she thought, I’m positive an old, bald, fat man was not expected. “Oh,” she murmured again. “409,” her shoulders shrugged. “The guy in 409 has no family. His time nears.”

So, he’s alone?

Yes.

No one?

Nada.”

May I sit with him?”

Her eyebrow raised slightly, “Sure.

I sat with him until near dawn, sometimes in silence, sometimes lightly speaking, letting him know he was not alone. He whispered, “Why?

Standing to stretch my back, I glanced out to the street below. Raindrops angled across the window pane. My breath echoed against the glass as colorful hues light refracted through the early morn by drops darting downward.

Know what?” I said. “Earth is old. The sun is old. But do you know what may be even older than both? Water. It’s a mystery how the world became awash in it. Maybe water originated on our planet from cosmic ice specks. Some claim distant meteorites or comets as they bombarded the earth.

A slight momentary silent filled the room.

Kaboom” and “Smash,” I reemphasized.

A slight smile, “Ha,” he whispered.

The most accurate answer is: I don’t know ‘why?‘ My limited theological training offers little in any way to account for the unexplainable. And after all these years of walking with Christ, then Buddha, questions linger. Regardless of belief, the world reminds me death is not the end, that we carry forward in the glow of love.

Turning from the morning rain, I sat near, “Are you close?

Leaning in, he whispered, “I come and go.”

There was nothing I wanted more than to bring out a suitcase full of proof, saying, “See? You can be confident.” But there is no absolute proof. Heck, some days I have trouble even convincing myself. There’s just us. Instead, I stayed.

In the small moments of life, a bridge of faith is lived in-between the “back and forth” by both believer and witness. God’s faith glides in between moments life and for whatever reason, which remains foreign to most, joins our world through others, and through us.

Glancing at the man, I stroked the soft fragile gray hair, mirrored his peaceful rhythmic breath, and saw myself. While there are stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, and sudden cures, more often than not, in the final moment, the God of unconditional love will arrive in human form – just like his Son.

I whispered, “The ‘Kaboom and the ‘Smash’ were for you. In those very moments He created you. He loved you then. He loves you now. That same love is here for you. The same air that Christ breathed, you breathed. His breath is in you. His love encompasses you just as he encompasses me. And as your friend, I am with you always and will remember you always.

His lips quivered lightly. A tear dotted his eye. I cupped his hand to my heart. He never spoke again.


The real beauty of Christian and Buddhist faith is that faith is lived and experienced moments. As such, in a time of need, God comes to us in physical vessels, where love and grace join to feel His spiritual presence.

Through all my years working in healthcare, I could never explain “why.” Even if I could, it wouldn’t have brought anyone back. Still, even in my own days of difficulty, many have reached out to me to let me know that I was not alone. They were the presence of God to me. They held me up to, guided me to return to this world, brought me back and consoled me. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.

Make someone your life know he or she belongs.

I’ve work at ABC Inc., for the last five years and get paid $8.75 an hour. I room at the YMCA for $61 a week. I get to do my own laundry. I wish there were more places like it.”

~ Response from someone being asked what they do ~

Remember all the internal conversations where you kept asking yourself why am I working here, doing this job or that job? Friends have asked me similar questions since March 2018. You see, since March 2018, my biggest challenge was trying to find something to do. There are the usual morning routines: in by 7:30 AM. Grab a cup of coffee, flip the computer on, check email. Cruise over to MSNBC, then to CNN, then to USA Today. Later, peruse Google news, smoke some tunes at Jazzradio.com, then open an Amazon book via an online reader and knock out a few chapters.

At this point any number of friends would say, “Why exactly are you working there?”

I always respond something to the effect, “I know I was supposed to take this job. Not sure why at the moment, but maybe tomorrow will be clearer.”

Yesterday, I attended a morning meeting of senior management. Our Director of Physical Security attended. He humped over, holding his right arm, saying he cannot move his arm and has trouble breathing. After watching him throughout the meeting, I forced him to go to company’s onsite medical team. I walked with him to ensure he made it there. He kept saying this was a waste of time.

Turned out he was a having a ‘heart event.’ Had I not interacted, he might not have been properly treated. This is not a statement of self-congratulations. It’s just one interaction of one person helping another. Many people, just like me, have similar events everyday. And maybe, just maybe, this event was just one reason why I was meant to be here.

In other ways, my job has left me an ability to help others in need. Alecia Lane, the furloughed government worker I wrote of in my last post, exceeded her GoFundMe goal of $5,000. Without our help, she may not have made it. In fact, at 10:22 AM yesterday, Ms. Lane posted an update:

“Thank you!!! I’m amazed at all the help provided to my family. There are no words to express how grateful I am to you. With your help I was able to bless 3 of my coworkers.”

If her words are true, our effort not only assisted MS. Lane, but positively impacted three others.

Turns out, our assistance was not unique. City of San Angelo offered assistance to furloughed federal employees during the government shutdown. Restaurants offered meals. People donated to GoFundMe requests. The American Bankers Association has a list of more than 100 banks offering special help to furloughed workers (regardless of whether you agreed with the interest rates or not). The list of assistance is endless and reached every state.

A lot of us search for our own meaning of life. And for most, such deep meaning remains elusive. However, maybe we’re here to assist others. Maybe, just maybe, clarity can be found in those little moments when helping a person in need.

We aneed to be generous with our time, and have self-discipline, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom. The practice of generosity is largely entwined with the mind. The focus must be upon assisting others, not validating oneself. But, one can receive validation from effort. Far more important than the gift being given is the intention and state of mind when giving. I try, as much as possible, to give with a pure intention. This means giving from a place of compassion, conviction, attentively, and without negatively affecting others. Buddhists believe that what is given is not lost, but is actually returned to the giver in the form of karmic rewards.

And this my friends, is my purpose in life. Maybe, that’s what all of us are called to do … help. So, if you’re still searching for meaning, hang in there.

You never know what tomorrow may bring.

Several days ago, a friend asked a favor and requested if I could take her to the airport on the way to work.  “Of course,” I replied. I agreed to pick her up at 7:30 AM. At 7:40 AM this morning, she stumbled out of her condominium. I carefully placed her luggage into the back of my vehicle and off we went.

I checked TSA wait times just before picking you up,” while navigating my car through a series of curves before entering the main thoroughfare. “The current wait is 11 – 21 minutes. I don’t believe you’ll have a problem today, but you should be cognizant of wait times on your return.”

Why?

Well,” I explained. “Due to the shutdown, if TSA agents aren’t paid this week, many may call in sick or become unavailable. An absence of TSA Agents could delay your processing time through TSA lines.”

Exasperated, she muttered “I don’t get these TSA Agents. They’ll all get paid. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid.

Yeah,” I momentarily fumbled. “But the agents need to pay landlords, car payments, medical bills and other items today. So, at the moment, they are not getting paid and have to make ends meet.”

“No,” she countered. “TSA Agents are not working for free. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid. If that can’t handle that, then they need to find another job.”

Driving 65 miles per hour, I sat stunned. Coming from a Christian educator, her response was dismissive, as if to say, “Tough toenails, toots.”

I guess Trump would be proud.

For many of us in the world, it doesn’t matter what position you have, going without two paychecks, especially families with children, food, rent and other necessities becomes critical. These are people who never imagined that they’d have to stand in line for food. Imagine what that’s like — for someone in uniform to come through a food pantry door … and say, “My children are hungry.”

Like my friend, many US Legislators are clueless. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross expressed confusion at reports that many unpaid federal were having such a tough financial time during the government shutdown, suggesting instead that those people could take out loans to survive the partial government closure. Likewise, Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife, had a different message for the more than 800,000 federal workers going without pay, it’s “a little bit of pain” but your children will thank you later.

In other words: suck it up. Uh, yeah sure.

Is this the price these workers have to pay … for an idiot president who won’t give in for fear of looking foolish?

In my heart of hearts this morning, I personally wished my friend would lose her job. Then, I could say, “Find another job.” Or, maybe the TSA would strike and she would have to rent a car and drive back. I said neither. Instead, I quietly dropped her off and drove to work.

So, here’s what I did.

I read of one impacted government worker today – Alecia Lane. Ms. Lane’s story is as follows.

“I am single mom with 2 boys (ages 12 and 8). We have been impacted by the government shutdown, I thought I was prepared but I wasn’t prepared for it last this long especially so soon after Christmas.  It has taken me days to ask for help through GoFundMe.  I haven’t struggled like this since I was growing up.  My kids don’t know the kind of life I had cause I never wanted them to grow up the way I did.  I’ve never wanted to tell my kids we can’t do this or eat this because I don’t have the money.  This shutdown became really real when we missed my first paycheck and we are about to miss the next one.  I am retired Navy and blessed to at least get a retirement check, but I still have bills to cover.”

I donated (click on picture).

Ms. Lane’s story is not unique. A quick search of the term “Government Shutdown” in GoFundme revealed 3,978 results. From here on, until the shutdown ends, I will donate to a needy family or organization.

As a Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, or whatever, donating to those in need is the right. It’s just. Donate anything. Any amount will help.

Selfishly, totally un-Buddhist like, donating is my way of saying ‘F*** You’ to the “Tough Toenails, Toots” naysayers.

Six months before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Seattle Times noted, Martin Luther King Jr. lived an extraordinary life. At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.

But does it?

In a nation of shutdowns, disingenuous protests and moral superiority, many speak of King’s morality – few live it.

I knew it would happen. Eventually, the name of the Covington student noted in the protest march would be revealed. In an updated statement, Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior provided his side of the story. I’ll summarize it for you.

“Lord? Lord? Let me tell you about them protesters.”

In all honesty, I watched the entire video of events preceding the viral images. It’s an hour and forty-six minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Like Sandmann, our inability to see our own personal failures is paralleled by our inability to see our church and parental leadership sins as well.

Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control, power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often gave them a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” oriented version of proud, racist, and superiority class conscious.

Here’s why Sandmann and the adults supporting them were wrong.

That Damn Stupid Hat

The MAGA hats are just the most recent and most visible symbol of a racial divide. It’s used to identify oneself as part of this group to the exclusion of others. These high-school kids wear them mostly for fun, without comprehending its divisive nature.  For such a seemingly small accessory, it’s associated with the emotional impact of the president’s entire campaign and term so far: every comment he’s made about Mexicans, women, or immigrants, the Muslim ban, the threats against bodily autonomy and affordable health care. These are broader issues to which the Covington High School students would probably never understand.

There’s a Difference Between Protesting and Knowing Jesus

A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group,” Sandmann said in his statement. “The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school,” he said.

Why? What for?

At the 1:09 mark, one kid (I presume a Covington high schooler) removed his mega hat, his coat and his shirt and led the students in a chant. To which I say, how is that Christian? Where in the Bible did Jesus remove his clothes, strut around bare chested and chant. This leads me to believe that neither the kids nor parents really understand Jesus.

When religion does not move people to the heart of love, it solidifies angers, creates enemies, and is almost always exclusionary. At this level, it is largely incapable of healing, reconciling, forgiving, and peacemaking. When religion does not give people an inner life or a real prayer life, it is missing its primary vocation.

Their religion has never touched them or healed them at the unconscious level where all of the real motivation, hurts, unforgiveness, anger, wounds, and illusions are stored, hiding—and often fully operative.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it. Covington High School students got played. Parents and students alike let their ego get the best of them. All we saw was grandiose behavior while insisting nothing but a high and legitimate ambition to win a battle for either life or Christ! As Jesus put it, we “see the splinter in our brother’s or sister’s eye and miss the log in our own” (Matthew 7:4–5).

So, congratulations Sandmann, that video will follow you forever. No PR firm will remove that smug smile.

Jesus was nowhere to be found in that mess.

%d bloggers like this: