Friday, December 8, 2017

Coexisting in Peace and Love

In 2000, Polish Warsaw-based graphic designer Piotr Młodożeniec, submitted an entry in an international art competition sponsored by the Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, understanding and Coexistence.  The image consisted of several icons that represented a variety of religions.  Since then, various versions have emerged, but they all represent and honor different religions with respect.  You may have seen these images on bumper stickers.  They’ve become one of my favorite images because they strive to bring religions together in love and peace. 

The Dalai Lama said, “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love, compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness.”  He also stated, “When there is peace among religions, there will be peace in our world.” 

One thing I’ve learned is that in order to find this peace, we need to come together and learn from each other.  If you want to know more about a religion, ask people from that religion to find out what they believe.  Don’t just believe the speculations, beliefs, rumors, lies, or whatever anyone says on the Internet. Even then, please remember that the person’s beliefs may not necessarily represent their religion as a whole.  Misinformation has been one of the biggest propagators for hate, disharmony, and even wars.  Learning about other religions and embracing them doesn’t have to threaten our own beliefs or the religions we currently belong to.  They can even enhance our beliefs and help us to have more love, compassion, and understanding for one other.

I love the diversity of all our belief systems and I’ve learned from many of them.  I’ve also met and made friends with so many wonderful people from other religions.  Instead of focusing on our differences, we need to focus on what we have in common and how we can get along.  As Prince sang, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” 

Shakieb Orgunwall declared, “Somewhere in our pursuit of being better Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, or Jews, we’ve forgotten to be human beings and what it means to genuinely love and respect one another.  Being human and expressing a common concern for humanity is a prerequisite to membership in any faith.”  

And I love what Paul Enso Hillman proclaimed:  “I say ‘Namaste’ because I like what it means, not because I am Hindu. A lot of people here think I am Christian because they think I talk about Christian values, but the truth is I am really talking about human values.  I’ve been asked if I am a Buddhist, just because I have discovered inner peace.  A lot of my friends are Pagans, and they think I am one, too, because I say that being in Nature is my idea of going to church.  Do you want to know what I really am?  It’s very simple.  I don’t need a label to define me.  I am a piece of the universe, sentient and manifested, and I am awake.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 8, 2017.






Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Proverbial War on Christmas

Tis the season of bringing good tidings of great joy!  Children look forward to Santa’s visit bringing them delightful gifts.  Adults attend parties and buy presents for each other and their families.  Homes, stores, businesses, schools, towns, and cities are brimming with holiday decorations, and lights sparkle in an array of colors everywhere you look.  In other words, Christmas is upon us!  People love the Spirit of the season!  They’re a little kinder, more compassionate, and they give a little more generously to those in need.  This is the bright side of Christmas and the holidays, and I love that loving Spirit!

There is also a dark side to the holidays.  It is also the season of fighting and arguing and it can bring out the worst in people.  Some fight over whose holiday should be celebrated and that the season is only for one particular religious holiday.  They argue over whose greeting we should use or not use and they get nasty if you don’t say their greeting of choice.  People fight over whose decorations should be put up and where.  They’ll run over anyone to get the gifts they want, sometimes hurting or even killing others to get them.  People go into debt buying gifts they cannot afford.  Families fight over whose family they should visit and on what day.  For many, the holidays are extremely stressful and not always in a good way.

And then there’s the argument that always goes around this time of year that there’s a war on Christmas.  There is no war on Christmas.  If there were a war on Christmas, it would be illegal to celebrate Christmas at all.  People would be arrested for celebrating, for putting up decorations, for saying Merry Christmas, for going to their Christmas church services, or for even saying they believe and celebrate this holiday.  Raids would be conducted on homes if the authorities even thought that someone may be celebrating in secret.  And possibly, people could be shot for even doing so.

But it’s not that way!  Just look around during this season and everywhere you look, all you see is Christmas!  You can’t get away from it!  On TV there are countless Christmas movies, TV shows, and Christmas commercials, Christmas music is played on many of the radio and TV stations, and there are decorations galore everywhere.  Drive around and see all the Christmas decorations and lights on people’s homes and in their yards.  Walk into any store and see all the Christmas decorations and items you can buy, as well as listen to the Christmas music that plays over the intercom.  There are Christmas parades in many cities and towns.  Schools and churches hold their Christmas programs.  Nativity scenes are in yards. 

And there is no law saying you can’t say Merry Christmas.  You can say any greeting you wish.  Instead of fighting and arguing over what greeting to say, whether it’s Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, let’s show the love that our spiritual masters taught us and greet people with the same greeting they give us and do so with kindness.  

Let’s show the love by blessing and honoring each other’s holidays that also occur during this season.  Christians aren’t the only ones who celebrate Christmas.  There are many different religions that also celebrate this holiday even though Jesus isn’t the Master of their religion.  There are also many who don’t belong to a religion who participate in the celebrations as well.  When it comes to this season, I have rarely seen any decorations or mention of any other holidays during this time such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, and so many others, and these deserve to be celebrated and mentioned as well!

Some people say that Jesus is the reason for the season, and during this season we proclaim, “Peace on earth, good will toward men.”  Lately, though, it’s sometimes hard to find the peace and the good will toward men (and women) with all this fighting and arguing.  The holiday season should be a season of love and peace.  We should be showing more compassion and kindness towards all regardless of their beliefs during this season.  

W.C. Jones said, “The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing others’ loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts, becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”  Calvin Coolidge stated, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind.  To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”  These are two great quotes that say so much.  We can always tell who believes in the real spirit of the season by the way they treat others.

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season (whatever holiday you celebrate) with much love, peace, happiness, prosperity, joy, and magic!




Friday, October 20, 2017

Every Day...

Every day, I get to wake up in a warm and comfortable bed, eat breakfast, get dressed, and go to my job where I hopefully get to make a difference.  After work, I come home, sit in a comfortable chair, eat dinner, shower, watch TV, and then go to bed in my cozy bed.  I'm in pretty good health, can get around, have a car, family, and friends.

I think all the time about what others are going through.  For instance, all the victims of the hurricanes and fires and so many losing their homes, trying to get to safety, and survive.

I think of the homeless never knowing where they’ll sleep or if they’ll eat that day.

I think of those who are struggling with health issues and financial issues.

I think of those who are experiencing hate, bigotry, or discrimination in any way, and are fighting for their very existence in a country that doesn't always fight for them.

I think of those who are victims of cruelty and crimes, who are murdered, and those who lose the lives of their loved ones as a result.

I think of all the animals that are harmed, who are left to roam the streets, who may not know when they will eat.

I think about those who are fighting in wars, never knowing if they'll come home in one piece or if they'll even make it home at all.

I think of those who are struggling with addictions that have completely taken over their lives.

I think of all the children who are abused and who are so hungry for love.

I think of those in other countries who are victims of genocide, seeing their family and friends slaughtered and having to live with those memories, of those trying to escape with the clothes on their backs to a place of safety, being labeled immigrants, and wondering if the new country will even accept them.

I think on these and so much more.  Then I realize that I have nothing to complain about.  Sure, I have my share of bad days and I sometimes get down on myself.  I have those moments where I wonder if life is worth it.  Then I think of all those who are fighting just to make it through another day. 

Instead, there’s so much to be grateful for.  In the realm of everything that could go wrong in my life, I'm actually doing quite well.  I've learned that I should not take the life I have for granted for even a split second.  Sure, it could be better, but it could also be a whole lot worse.  I'll accept the life I currently have and accept it gratefully.

My heart goes out to all those who are struggling.  It is only by fate that we’re not in your shoes. 

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”  Cynthia Ozick 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 20, 2017.


Friday, October 13, 2017

At What Point Did I Become An Old Lady?!?

Halloween is a favorite holiday for many people, but for me, it’s…okay.  I think I’ve only been to two or three Halloween parties in my life (maybe more when I was a young child).  I just don’t like all the candy that we feel we “must” eat because it’s…well…it’s Halloween.  My hips and thighs love it.  My double chin?  Not so much.

One Halloween, I was home alone watching the movie “Halloween H20” and handing out candy to the few kids who did come to the door.  When children came, I would hand out the candy, comment on their costumes, and maybe joke around with them a little bit, depending on their ages.  A group of four came to the door, and knowing a couple of the high school kids, I kidded with them.  Before leaving, I heard the one saying something about my being “the nicest old lady.”  Huh?  Old lady?  This both shocked and amused me.  At what point did I become an old lady?  I am currently, um, middle aged, and definitely do NOT consider myself to be an old lady. 

As I pondered his statement, I remembered that when I was young, people in their middle age were considered to be old.  At least to us.   After giving myself a good talking to, I was able to talk myself down into not taking it too personally.

They say something along the lines that 50 is the new 40, 40 the new 30, and so on.  We’re only as young or old as we feel.  We older people can feel really young, possibly even in our 20’s, and the only thing that gives it away is our body.  They don’t always work the way they used to.  We’re not as fast, limber, or spry as we were in our young whippersnapper years.  (Oh, my.  Just using the word whippersnapper gives me away.)  Parts of our body start sagging where we didn’t know they could sag.  Our knees argue with us as we try to bend down.  I always say that the older you get, the farther down it is to get to the ground.  It becomes harder to trim our toenails and you almost have to become a contortionist just to reach your feet.  Wrinkles appear where we didn’t know we could get wrinkles.  I’m proud of my crow’s feet.  They give me character.  Problem is, my crows keep getting more feet.

Personally, I don’t believe in age.  If Einstein proved that there is no such thing as time, then there’s no such thing as age.  Besides, I refuse to be identified by a number, whether it’s my age or my weight.  Time is just something man made up to keep track of…well…time.  If we didn’t have time, would we even know how old we were?

Men grow into themselves.  They can grow older, get the wrinkles, put on some pounds, become bald, and they can still be dapper and dignified.  Women are expected to stay young with youthful bodies, and if we get a wrinkle or a drop of cellulite anywhere…heaven forbid!  Walk into any store and you see aisles and aisles of products directed at women that are supposed to take years off of our faces, beauty products that are supposed to make us look more beautiful, and hair products to make our hair look like any fashion model.  Only thing is, most of them don’t work and we waste countless amounts of money hoping they do.

Getting older.  We can’t avoid it.  It’s inevitable.  There are many good things that come with getting older.  We become wiser.  We have a wealth of experience to pass on to the younger generations.  Our children may be our future, but we are our history.  Let’s learn to embrace getting older with high esteem and class.  We are unique.  We are magnificent.  And we should give ourselves a lot of credit for making it this far.  It especially helps if we can have a sense of humor about it all as well.

So, as I go about my days, still trying to find that youthful serum that may make me look at least a few weeks younger, and that outfit that will make me look 1/16” an inch thinner, I will continue to work on loving and accepting myself as I am and to accept the fact that in some eye’s, I have become….an old lady. 



Friday, October 6, 2017

My Articles Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen Newspaper

Many of you have followed my articles in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper and know that I then post them to my blog after they are published in the paper.  Over a month ago, the religion section of the paper was downsized to one page; therefore, out of eight writers, only two of us will be published each week.  Though I have not stopped writing, I do not know when I will be published next.  

Please know that when I am published again, I will then post them to my blog and will let everyone know via Facebook and Linkedin.

I want to thank you for all your support and your encouragement.  It really has meant a lot to me over the years; more than you can know. 


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Saving All Saints

“All Saints” is an amazing movie which was inspired by a true story that took place at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee.  It’s a beautiful faith-based story that isn’t preachy or dogmatic and is a film that can be enjoyed by people from all belief systems.

Newly ordained Michael Spurlock, along with his wife and son, were sent to the church to close it down.  Because of lack of funds and the dwindling attendance of just a handful of people, the diocese could no longer afford to keep it open.  He was to inventory the property and oversee the sale.

A week before the scheduled demolition, dozens of refugees from war-torn Burma, who are ethic Karen farmers, arrive and start attending the church with more refugees to follow.  They are very poor and to hear the stories of what they went through with the war was heart breaking.  Many lives were lost and they were left with horrendous memories of their journey.

Spurlock’s son asks about the refugees and Spurlock says, “Let’s keep them in our prayers and ask for God’s help.”  His son replies, “Aren’t you God’s help?”

Later, Spurlock believes he hears the voice of God to use the church land to grow crops to help provide food and shelter for the refugees, as well as to create an income for the church.  The Karen farmers are experienced in growing crops, and with the help of the church members, they plant a field of vegetables. 

During one tragedy, the Smyrna community, which included other religions, comes to their aid.  It didn’t matter that they were helping refugees, and color, race, religion, wasn’t an issue.  They came to help human beings who were in need.  This was a community that followed the teachings of Jesus to love and care for one another no matter who they may be. 

In a time when refugees are being de-humanized by so many, this was a brilliant movie which showed that these beautiful human beings are just trying to survive and make a life for themselves.  It also showed how these wonderful Christians embraced them and sacrificed personally and financially, and how they welcomed the Karen and showed them a love that you would hope to see come from Christians and others.  This glorious community not only saved the church, but they saved each other through the love, compassion, and kindness that was taught by Jesus.

“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people.  Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all his children.  Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors.  In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.”   Cory Booker 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 1, 2017.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In the Midst of Chaos

Recently, a dear friend asked if I had any suggestions on what she could do to make a difference in the midst of all the chaos that we are seeing in the U.S. right now.  There seems to be so much hate and bigotry manifesting into violent protests where people are getting hurt and some are even losing their lives.  She wants to do something, but doesn’t know where to begin.  There are many of us pondering the same question.

Some of us are fighters, some are lovers, and some are both.  Not all of us are able to join the protests and rallies.  Many of us are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for much of anything else, but we still feel like we need to contribute to the cause of love and peace.

If we can’t join the protests and rallies, we can help by just continuing to live our lives with love, compassion, and kindness, and touching one person at a time.  Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”  Just an act of kindness can help lift someone’s spirits and even change lives.

If we do anything at all, though, let’s do so in peace.  Sometimes we feel we have to do something huge to make a difference, yet all those small things we can do add up, too.  Also, let’s not judge others when we think they should be doing more to get involved.  We can only do what we can do.  If nothing else, we can make a difference by writing letters to politicians, sending emails, and most importantly, by getting out and voting in future elections.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go, and it’s sad that we still have to go through all of this to this day.  People are fighting for equal rights (and rightly so), and some are even fighting for their lives.  There are many who can’t speak up for whatever reasons, so many of us need to speak up for all of us.  Malala Yousafzai stated, “I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”

Robert Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”  And Nelson Mandela declared, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”   


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 25, 2017.