Tag Archive: Love


img_0009Author J. Gresham Machen once wrote “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” In fact, grace is the most important concept in Christianity and the world. It is most clearly expressed by God’s promises, as revealed in Scripture and embodied in Jesus Christ. Grace is the love shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God. It is this type of grace we are called, by God, to provide others, just as God provides to us.

This form of grace – this form of love – is the first thought crossing my mind after hearing of Chelsea Manning’s commutation. As you may recall, Ms. Manning is in the seventh year of a thirty-five year prison sentence for leaking classified military data to Wikileaks. In this essay I will neither review nor comment on either the nature of the crime nor the prison sentence. Rather, I simply choose to focus upon the President’s act of grace.

In truth, I have no idea why President Obama commuted Ms. Manning. Suffice it to say, there are probably many who are equally deserving. And I respect and honor all the effort and love for those who fight on their behalf.

There are many who claim the disclosure of documents was brutal, that many were impacted by the breach. And therefore, Manning is unworthy of such grace. Others will claim American taxpayers should not pay for Manning’s gender identity and counseling. I sympathize with such thoughts. Then again, as a taxpayer, I did not want to pay for the Iraq war and I certainly did not want to pay for the military effort in Afghanistan as well. As such, every taxpayer in America sucked it up and paid the price. I also did not enjoy reading, seeing and hearing of American soldiers committing horrendous acts of brutality either. Yet many remain at large, free from prosecution.

Strictly speaking, the blessings of everyday grace does not appear to descend from a Supreme Being or deity. Rather, grace comes from the normal interaction of people meeting people, by enlightened travelers who go forth, interact, forgive and love daily.

At the core of our humanity, all of us want to believe and embrace grace. At the same time, at our most human level, none of us will never emit the powers of Christ. Yet Christ and left humanity with two of Christ’s most powerful weapons – love and grace. These weapons transcend every day smugness, anger and hatred and provides real grounds for human hope. Transcendent grace reaches beyond our limitations of human understanding and provides relief to those who suffer.

I believe this is the same form of grace Manning received.

We don’t have to assess evidence for worthiness. We don’t have to condemn the fallen. We don’t have to impose our own limited bias to a woman most have predetermined forever unworthy.

What’s honorable is that somewhere, somehow the President of The United States reached down to a very wounded soul and provided grace. It should be our hope that all of us receive this level of love.

loveOver the weekend, a New York Times opinion piece written by Todd May titled, The Stories We Tell Ourselves struck home.

We tell stories that make us seem adventurous, or funny, or strong. We tell stories that make our lives seem interesting. And we tell these stories not only to others, but also to ourselves. The audience for these stories, of course, affect the stories we tell. If we’re trying to impress a date, we might tell a story that makes us seem interesting or witty or caring, whereas if we’re trying to justify a dubious act to someone who is judging us (or perhaps ourselves), we might tell a story that makes us out to be without other recourse in the situation. In the latter case, what we are doing is dissociating ourselves from a value we might be associated with and thus implicitly associated ourselves with a different one.

As a seasoned traveler, now expanding over 30 countries, I relate. For a person with little family and social friends common to others, my stories have migrated from benign to adventurous, from “eh” to bold, from snoozer to engaging. I didn’t change facts, but I changed the narrative. I embolden keywords, added rain when there was mist, added lush green forests when droughts had strangled most vegetation.  I wanted a value greater than the reality.

I am not unlike most. I presume most of the bar stories heard over the years are extracted from mundane life moments interspersed with misplaced dreams. Where upon returning to the actual mountain, the real city, that one country, we’re exasperated, It’s ’s so different from when I was here.”

Let’s face it, we all want love. We all want to be normal. We want to experience the life created in our dreams, but are deathly afraid of facing the very dream dreamed. As my father would say while star gazing in late autumn, “be careful of what you ask.”

My experiences are real. I have visited over 30 countries. Yet retelling tales of travel have alienated many who could have been a friend. I damaged so many lovers, so many women and so many family members. Everything I thought they wanted to hear wasn’t actually what they wanted to hear. What each of those wanted was to be acknowledged and simply told they were loved – that I thought of them as I careened the globe. I never did. There was nary a thought.

The one insight learned would be this – live your life but never forget those who’ve loved from afar. I am sure my grandmother loved me deeply, but it would have been terrific if I once sat and wrote her. I’m positive my relatives still love me, but finding the time to attend a family reunion would be priceless. Stories of walking the old ruins in Columbia are beautiful, but watching my niece grow older meant more than seeing the Great Wall of China.

In the end, my stories meant little. I missed all the life that really counted. My love involved clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self expressions that are nothing than bondage and limitation.

Time is short and memories fade. Travels mean little. Truth is the cascade of moments missed. I loved only myself. In doing so, I neglected all of you.

Don’t be like me.

Anderson Cooper 360 began with the names … Right on Anderson.

PrayIn 1991, Barbara Poma’s older brother John died battling HIV. Twelve years later, Poma and her friend Ron Legler founded Pulse Orlando in memoriam to her brother and as a safe space supporting the LGBT community.

According to police, alleged shooter Omar Mateen opened fire early Sunday morning at Pulse. An officer working at the club initially responded, “engaging in a gun battle” before the suspect went back into the club, Authorities say that at least 50 people have been killed and at least 53 are injured, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

Playwright Arthur Miller wrote “violence in our streets is the violence in our hearts.” So much so that violence by weapon has weaved so much into daily life we hardly notice. To add support, BradyCampaign.org notes on average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for some form of gun assault. Additionally, every day, on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm and 46 people are wounded or killed via a gun. In contrast, if 86 people were dying each day from the mosquito bred Zika Virus, there’d be holy hell on the streets of America.

Over the coming days, thousands will pay their respects, reefs laid, memorials held, tears shed and promises to remember will be made. Homage and prayers were offered by Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and many celebrities. Donald Trump? Well, Trump congratulated himself. But at the end of the day, even this shooting will have little positive impact for the Washington electorate to implement anything more than a few moments of silence.

The important part of Sunday remembrances came not from celebrities but rather from those who survived the shooting. Brothers, sisters and children were not overly idealized or enlarged in death beyond what they were in life. Each victim was remembered simply as a good and decent person, who saw wrong, tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it.

Pulse Orlando was about was Love.

And what set Pulse Orlando and victims apart from the hate was their depth of love – not only for each other but their community as well. It’s the same love Christ and Buddha offered. And that form of agape love can never be forced, even by a whacked out, mentally deranged idiot. Why? Because power never wins. A true God does not want subservience, but love. Pulse Orlando and all those LGBT rights activists chose the sometimes slow, hard way of agape love. It’s a conquest from within.

George McDonald captured both Christ and Buddha’s approach, “Instead of the crushing power of force; instead of destroying what we believe to be infidels, these victims encouraged making one another better people. (paraphrased)” Better citizens. They chose to love one another.

Victims in this shooting are voices speaking from heaven. Some will try to dismiss them but each victim is dazzling proof of love’s transfiguration. Each one is beautiful and may their voices roar to the power of love.

You Are Not Alone

Not AloneA client acquaintance of mine passed away this past Sunday.  While I did not know this person particularly well, I understand from other coworkers that this person may have ended his life.  Somehow, on a Sunny Sunday, this middle-aged person, two children and a good career passed away.

Those of us outside the family’s inner circle remain perplexed. And like armchair coroners, for better or for worse, many scalpel this person, slicing open their life, peeling the facade like an onion. Why?

For those like me, who experienced so few interactions, why must we strip this person’s dignity on the cold steel table of our imagination? We care so little for others that we walk past people, day-in, day-out, with nary a glance. Yet we presume to have the right to dissect the dead, to explore, to investigate, to simply satisfy curiosity.

Think I am wrong, then look no further than Prince. Not into Prince? How about Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley or Robin Williams?

We need to autopsy ourselves. If this acquaintance really did commit suicide then we need forgiveness – forgiveness for not saying hello, forgiveness for not being supportive and forgiveness for being so god damn arrogant. We need to understand that at the basic human level, pain often wins. We need to understand that when hope loses, faith does as well.

In reference to her husband’s death, Susan Schneider, Robin Williams’ widow said, she was beside herself in agony. She fought to the end, but didn’t know what she was fighting. Our battle is similar. When someone dies, we often don’t know why. In our angst, it’s even more important not to stop fighting for one another, living and loving – in life, love and pain.

As many of you know, I once considered suicide. Not because of the degrading physical pain I currently experience, but because of mental pain that incessantly encased me. Like many, I often thought there was no escape. But like many, I made it, just as many others made it. There is life beyond the pain.

So … if you’re contemplating suicide, my advice is go ahead and kill yourself. But don’t do it with a rope or a gun or a knife or a handful of pills. Do not end your life by destroying your body. Kill yourself by cutting off your former life and going in a completely new direction. Kill the old life by starting anew. Be someone different. Live, love and learn in ways never imagined.

Yeah, it wasn’t easy. And there were times I thought living to be impossible. Yet things changed and when they did, they really changed.

Lastly, if you feel alone you’re not. If need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. They will fight for you. I will fight for you. Everyone one of us should fight for you.

imageThe U.S. experienced two extreme discussions regarding racism. The week began with Rachel Dolezal and her belief in being black and ending with nine (9) shot dead at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The entire discussion of race seems so narrow. In reality, people with ancestors from Northern Europe or Japan tend to have lighter skin than people whose ancestors are from sub-Saharan Africa or Australia. The reason for these differences may have to do with the amount of sunlight in each place and how much melanin you have. The versions of the skin color genes tell your body how much melanin to make. All of this means that the difference between dark and light skin is only a few changes in DNA!

Yet with all these changes, the world uses skin color as the basis for discrimination, hatred and genocide.

Dolezal, who admittedly overstated and embellishing her childhood and ethnic identity, has been the dart board of the internet and television. From Buzzfeed reports to NBC’s Matt Lauer querying her upon whether she was a ‘con artist’ and or ‘Blackface.’ Others attacked her credentials, her family, her life and her accomplishments as if everything of one’s life could be claimed null and void.

Then came Dylann Roof, a bigoted man whose use of racial terrorism was violently displayed. Roof’s actions were designed to strike terror and fear. Yet, what ultimately occurred was a lesson of courage and grace. One relative claimed:

Everyone’s plea for your (Dylann Roof) soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win.

So who’s crime was worse? Dolezal or Roof?

What Dolezal critics missed is that by comparison to Roof, Dolezal claimed to have felt a spiritual, visceral, this feeling of central connection with black, embracing its beauty and wanting to celebrate that experience.

Her critics also negated her love and work.

They really don’t know what I’ve actually walked through and how hard it is. This has not been something that just is a casual, you know come-and-go sort of identity you know, or an identity crisis. It’s something that I’ve paid away.”

And through all the media and web mud slinging, has any journalist reported of her accomplishments?

“I don’t think anything that I have done with regard to the movement, my work, my life, my identity, I mean, it’s all been very thoughtful and careful, sometimes decisions have been made for survival reasons or to protect people that I love,” Dolezal said.

Many have struggled with questions of how to forgive those who carry out those horrendous acts. In a time of such deep grief, how do you forgive the unforgivable? Forgiveness is a spiritual practice. As such, forgiveness has been taught by Jesus, the Buddha, and many other spiritual teachers.

Practice forgiveness for our own sake, to be unlocked from anger, fear, and resentment. Doing otherwise gives those who wronged you an even greater victory than their original act. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church family members and vistims embraced forgiveness in a beautiful act of selflessness, something that can attempt to stop the seemingly endless cycle of hatred.

Ethel Lance’s daughter said:

“You (Roof) took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you. And [may God] have mercy on your soul.”

Myra Thompson’s relative, Anthony Thompson, told Roof:

“I forgive you and my family forgives you,” he said.

Forgiveness is poignantly illustrated in a well-known Tibetan Buddhist story about two monks who encounter each other some years after prison release where they were tortured.

Have you forgiven them?” asked the first.

I will never forgive them! Never!” replied the second.

Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don’t they?

In the spirit of forgiveness, it’s time to forgive Dolezal. Let her continue the mission of rights equality.

The JourneyNow that Republicans control both houses of Congress, there is newfound effort to craft legislation rolling back part or all of the Affordable Care Act. Obviously President Obama would veto any legislation that eliminates the whole program or threatens essential elements, such as the individual mandate requiring everybody to have health insurance. Still, Congress and the White House will probably play out the whole repeal drama anyway, no matter how scripted.

During the past six months, I’ve come to understand the greater untouched healthcare battle. The biggest costs to health and soul are lost in intimate moments, as loved ones care for aging parents, a disabled child or dying friend. Society rarely assesses impacts of social care from either the receiver or provider point of view. So while economic spillovers of healthcare benefits make a noteworthy newsbyte, neither private insurance nor public coverage through entitlement programs will meet the demand for care.

I am not unlike others, working by day, becoming healthcare provider by night. In reality, I care for two: my father and my ex-wife. My father has end of life dementia and my ex-wife has early Alzheimer’s. And while congressional leadership discuss gutting the Affordable Care Act, few, if any converse upon the daily efforts provided by millions. We’re neither cherished, honored nor recognized as financial burdens of caring mount.

It is we – the we that live and die in every moment – in the silent echoes of our mind, hoping for peace, hoping for relief, hoping for both.

Each of those whom I care had faith experiences. My father’s near death experience occurred in 2000. And until a few years ago, he claimed hving repeated Angelic visitors. My ex-wife claimed God spoke to her at an early age. In each case, personal communiqué with God propelled life, ethics and love.

As I lay my father’s aging hands under the sheets for another night, I reminisce when those hands possessed great strength. They lovingly provided for a family of four. Funny how the very hands that could craft wood now produces such great discomfort. And while massaging my father’s body, I wonder now if his Angelic friends remain near, provide any comfort or wait patiently.

Other days, I watch my ex-wife eyes explore a wondrous fish tank filled with beautiful guppies. It’s magical. In these moments, she’s freedom, grace, beauty and wonder — not merely a concept of mind, but as an experience reverberating throughout body and soul. Does she relive a thousand adventures, encased by swashbuckling heroes? Does she leave the boundaries of this tangible world to fly in the heavens of possibility? Has God conversed and eased her burden?

In reality, I know both will end either hooked to tubes and machines in an ICU or in a skilled nursing facility. But we caregivers struggle so hard, as adults, to figure out the meaning of what to do, how to be happy ourselves, and what it is we’re supposed to be doing versus what we can do.

Congressional representatives will provide little. Then again, I never thought of the radar until I became the radar. No one does. As a Buddhist, maybe answers aren’t important. Perhaps serving as caregiver was never intended to unfold life’s ultimate secret. Still, somewhere in the moments with those loved, I’ve found something far more important, a deeper sense of life itself.

Just like you, I live a journey. Maybe the journey matters. Just maybe.

tom1_wide-1deca903798e3cdc75d899f4c8ed25690a4072ba-s40-c85Many know I’ve been openly critical of National Public Radio. Repeatable fund drives, program reductions and staff cuts have moved NPR from frontline coverage to news with a ‘homey spin,’ one palatable for a broader audience, yet unremarkable in almost every way. I’ve detested rebroadcasting programs, where unaired or anciently aired programs are recycled for panhandling purposes.

Notwithstanding, as the comedic duo of Car Talk signed off in October 2012, I knew such a week was forthcoming. Simple deduction concludes one broadcaster was ill, for how would anyone surrender the love of rich vibrant laughter. I am saddened by the death of Tom Magliozzi, passing from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

I was introduced to Car Talk thirty-years ago. Having made a living in the car industry for twelve years, I openly admit to knowing little about cars. Regardless of how hard my father tried, his effort remained futile. There was little, if any knowledge osmosis. However, Tom and Ray never seemed old. Tom was a true enthusiast, if not eccentric car aficionado, who mixed understanding against the limits of technology.

NPR’s Susan Stamberg captured Mr. Magliozzi’s essence best:

“Thomas Louis Magliozzi was a success in pretty much everything that counts. A loving son, a beloved brother’s other half, his sister Lulu’s best teaser. He was a husband, a father of two, a teacher (of marketing, at various Boston colleges), a mechanic and a man who could make everyone who heard or met him smile.”

Adding to Ms. Stamberg’s thoughts, that for all his shortcomings and faults, Tom had a life well-lived.

Tom Magliozzi was able to touch the soul of others. As such, he and Ray walked fertile holy ground through humor and laughter. While listeners spent time on the urgent, Tom helped us focus on the important. And for a short time in this world, Car Talk held the glue of life – love, the foundational principle holding all relationships.

From a Buddhist perspective, it’s no small task to be both brilliant and relatable, to be a legend and approachable. As a listener, Tom had an amazing gift to leave listeners feeling better. It wasn’t easy, he just made it look that way.

To those who knew Tom, there is little I can say. Quoting President Lincoln:

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.

Like Mr. Magliozzi all of us need to leave legacies. We need lives well-lived. To our benefit, all of us had Tom. If God were here I know what He’d say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Michael SamThis past Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys waived defensive end Michael Sam from their practice squad. As you may know Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, signed with the Cowboys on Sept. 3 after a final cut from the St. Louis Rams.

Sam took to Twitter on Tuesday to express his gratitude for the opportunity.

“I want to thank the Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization for this opportunity, as well as my friends, family, teammates, and fans for their support. While this is disappointing, I will take the lessons I learned here in Dallas and continue to fight for an opportunity to prove that I can play every Sunday.”

As a businessperson, most deduce that any 7th round draft pick has a negligible opportunity of making a final NFL team roster. But Sam was no ordinary 7th round draft pick. In 2013, Sam recorded 11.5 quarterback sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He led the SEC in both categories, and tied Missouri’s single-season record for sacks. After the season, Sam was named the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-SEC selection.

Furthermore, looking back, 12 players had 2.5 or more sacks during the NFL preseason. Ten (10) of those players made the 53-man roster for some NFL team. One’s on a practice squad. And the last, Michael Sam, hasn’t found work.

I am not a homophobic person. But as a businessperson, I knew Sam would never play for an NFL team. When Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted into the NFL and kissed his boyfriend on national television, his NFL career was over.

And therein lies the problem. The nation as a whole has made significant strides toward LGBT issues, but there are many pockets where personally affirming the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy is the only voice of reason.

Many claim Sam was seen as too small to play defensive end and too slow to play outside linebacker. However, many uttered the NFL pseudonym ‘Not For Long,’ when Sam publicly acknowledged being gay. Doing so placed an enormous microscopic view of physical God-given talent versus simply being gay. Every mistake, every error, forever amplified. Sam was in league where shower (ESPN) habits was considered ‘journalism.’ It’s an enormous amount of pressure to which he unduly suffered.

In June 2012 I came out as having Multiple Sclerosis (MS). With the exception of five people, no one, including my employer, knows I have MS. And very few know my heart slowly expires.

So while not being gay, I do understand Michael Sam’s dilemma. Do I say staying in the closet is wise? Yes and no. Sometimes the need for a job outweighs such deeply personal convictions. Then again, if you want a career rather than a job, you should try to communicate accordingly. However, one certainly doesn’t have to make such proclamations before securing the job.

Being able to open up about personal sensitivities takes courage. Telling the world of a very personal issue prior to draft day takes significant courage. Certainly Sam will argue that not coming out resulted in him not being able to give his employer the full benefit of his insights and perspectives. That may be true. In hindsight though, Sam remains a talented football player, a wonderful man … and unemployed.

There are two lessons. First, it’s hard to work for extremely weak-minded men; and secondly, don’t offer an opinion the organization doesn’t want. Hell, the NFL didn’t give a shit about domestic abuse until Janay Rice was dragged out of an elevator and Josina Anderson still reports for ESPN.

Looking back, University of Missouri Tigers head coach Gary Pinkel said Michael Sam’s decision to come out as gay will not damage his chances of playing in the NFL.

All evidence to the contrary.

imagePeterson was deactivated for the Vikings’ Week 2 game against the New England Patriots after he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child. In a prepared statement Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said:

“Today’s decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday’s game, this is clearly a very important issue.

On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation, and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved. To be clear, we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child.

At this time, however, we believe this is a matter of due process and we should allow the legal system to proceed so we can come to the most effective conclusions and then determine the appropriate course of action. This is a difficult path to navigate, and our focus is on doing the right thing. Currently we believe we are at a juncture where the most appropriate next step is to allow the judicial process to move forward. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and support Adrian’s fulfillment of his legal responsibilities throughout this process.”

While I have no inside knowledge of the Vikings’ organization, I will offer my interpretation of same said press release:

I believe the Vikings made a decision that benefits the organization. As you may know, the Minnesota Vikings are tied for first place in the NFC North. And without Peterson, their chances to reach the NFL postseason is significantly decreased. Thus, the Vikings believe Mr. Peterson when he claims to only have been disciplining his child.  Accordingly, Mr. Peterson deserves due process. 

With due respect, all evidence to the contrary.

Many news outlets report Peterson texted the child’s mother that he “felt bad after the fact when I notice the switch was wrapping around hitting I [sic] thigh. . . . Got him in nuts once I noticed. But I felt so bad, n I’m all tearing that butt up when needed! I start putting them in timeout. N save the whooping for needed memories!

Peterson even went so far as to post several Biblical quote on his Twitter feed, refferincing several Bible verses about the harms of judging, such as the famous passage from Matthew 7:1, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.

But just as all of us claim to know exactly what happened to Janay Rice in that casino elevator, we also know what happened to Peterson’s 4-year old. Vikings GM Rick Spielman can claim what happened to this child was “discipline,” but we know otherwise. How the Vikings’ organization will continue to sell that message is beyond me.

Still, Peterson’s attorney Rusty Hardin infers, “Mr. Peterson is a loving father, providing tough love to his child.”

I’ve seen countless men and women attempt to rationalize excessive violence. However, acceptance is one of many central keys to relationships. As we confront difficulties on the financial front, couples are beginning to embrace the life and the relationship they have, rather than some idea of how it could“if only” be. We must cut each other more slack, making an effort to be less critical and demanding. There has to be more interest and focus on the relationship.

In living the precept, do no harm, let go of judgment and infuse some humor and equanimity. Remember, women and children are our future, they deserve our respect and dignity.

Still … I wonder … had Ray Rice openly said he provided tough love and tweeted a few Bible verses, would he be reinstated?

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