Friday, July 29, 2016

There's Always Good News!

If you’ve watched the news or read the papers lately, it seems as if the world is falling apart.  So much negativity, hate, violence, fighting, and arguing that you’d think there was a huge dark cloud over our nation and our world.  That’s what the media and those who want to control you want you to think, and many are falling for it.  Political seasons especially are usually pretty nasty, but this season, it’s gone way beyond horrific in what’s being said and how much harm certain politicians want to do to people; therefore, the news today is focusing mostly on politics.

But what you’re not seeing or hearing is all the good that is occurring in our nation and the world, and friends, there is so much more good than bad!  There are countless numbers of people who are out there spreading the love, compassion, and acts of kindness all over the world, and so many are being of service to humanity no matter a person’s color, race, religion, culture, politics, gender, sexual preference, and so on.  They’re seeing each other as human beings with no separation. We rarely see these stories in main stream media, if at all, that’s for sure. 

I’d like to give you a few examples of the good I’ve been seeing, and I would highly recommend that you get out there and look for those wonderful stories.  Look for the good!  If you do, then maybe it will give you more hope and then you won’t give up on humanity.

One of my favorite stories is about Ken Nwadike, who started the Free Hugs Project.  After the Boston Marathon bombing, he decided to participate in the next race by offering free hugs and encouragement to runners along the route.  This simple act of kindness got national news attention, and now he attends many events, including protests, with his Free Hugs signs and he hugs everyone who will allow his loving embrace.  Mr. Nwadike has so much love for others regardless of their beliefs, who they are, or what they look like, and it shines forth from his heart.  He states, "Fear and hatred will cease to exist when love is in abundance." (freehugsproject.com)

There has also been good news coming out after all the recent conflicts with police officers.  People of all colors are hugging and praying with officers of all colors.  They’re building bridges instead of walls and are coming together to try to find peace and to heal, as well as to find solutions to these issues.

There are beautiful stories where Muslims are protecting Christians and their churches, and Christians are protecting Muslims and their Mosques.  There are even stories where Muslims, Christians, and Jews are coming together to worship in the same buildings and getting to know each other.  This isn’t just in other countries, but in America as well! 

There are stories of every day heroes who are out there making a positive difference, helping strangers as well as those in their communities.  Businesses going out of their way to help those who have experienced tragedies.  People saving the lives of both humans and animals.  Those coming from all over the world to help others who have been affected by natural disasters or wars. 

The stories are endless!!!  If you want to check out a great website that posts many of these beautiful, heart-warming stories, please go to www.goodnewsnetwork.org.  They created this website to counteract the onslaught of negativity we see in mainstream media, as well as to “report on outstanding citizen action, innovative solutions to the world’s problems, and to shatter negative stereotypes in the public regarding race, governments, politicians, religion, corporations, Hollywood, public schools, and inner cities.”

Even though we may not be able to avoid all negative news, we can make choices as to what we watch or read.  “But, Karen!  How will we know what’s going on in the world?!?”  Trust me, if something major happens, someone will let you know.  At least limit the negativity or try to balance it out with positive news.  It will really help us keep things in perspective and remind us that there really is so much more good out there than not, and so many more good people out there than not.

Never give up on humanity, my friends!  Love always prevails.  We just need to decide whether we’re feeding the light or the darkness, and to never give up hope.  Desmond Tutu stated, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  And as Nelson Mandela said, “We can change the world and make it a better place.  It is in your hands to make a difference.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 29, 2016.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A Native Summer

In 1971, there was a sleeper hit movie called “Billy Jack” about a ‘half-bread Indian’ and it has been one of my favorite movies of all time along with its sequels.  It was this film that began my interest in Native Americans and started planting the seeds of a serious spiritual journey that didn’t take root until many years later.

At the time, I also wasn’t aware of the conditions on the reservations and what all Native Americans are dealing with.  To this day, they continue to be one of the most discriminated against groups of people either on or off the reservations.  They were our original Americans and they have been treated poorly and unfairly ever since the early Europeans committed genocide on millions, took their land, and forced thousands onto reservations. 

And yet, they are a beautiful people whom I have come to highly respect and admire.  I have learned so much from their spirituality and much of it has become the foundation of what I believe today. 

Because of “Billy Jack,” I thought I would like to become a missionary to the Natives on their reservations.  In 1978, I signed up to become a student missionary through my church, and soon I was on Vancouver Island for a week of training.  But I had a rude awakening when I found that the various religions attending were arguing over who was going to ‘save the Indians.’  It was then and there that I decided I was just going to live with them, love them, and accept them just as they are. 

At the end of the week, we were broken into teams and assigned to various reservations across the British Columbia area.  My teammate and I were assigned to the Okanagan Reservation.  We started out in an old summer house that had only one working light and the water was pumped from a nearby stream.  We also used an outhouse with no door and could only go during the day because of the bears. 

Soon, we went to live with the Ben and Rosie Louis family, which consisted of their 15 children, the youngest being 21.  My teammate Eileen and I then lived in a pick-up camper trailer that sat on stilts in a yard.  I remember one night we awoke to the trailer being bumped to and fro.  Frightened, we looked out the window to find a horse scratching his hind end on a corner of the trailer.  Later, we moved into the home of Ben and Rosie who lived back a really long lane.

Most of the family was involved in rodeos so we had a great time riding horses and attending the events with the family.  I even got to try barrel racing and pole bending on a horse that was pregnant and blind in one eye, and my new-found friends were surprised that I did so well.
While there, Eileen and I also conducted a vacation Bible school for the kids and I fell in love with each and every one of them. 

I had so many wonderful experiences that will last me a lifetime!  I learned to milk a cow.  I learned to Indian leg wrestle and was quite good at it beating most everyone until I wrestled one of the guys who rode bucking horses, and he about threw me through the wall!  I even swam in the lake that was the home of the legendary Ogopogo monster! 

While there, I fell so in love with the whole family and we ended up sort of adopting each other.  I came to consider them as much my family as any of my blood family, and some of us still keep in touch to this day.

Because I decided to love and accept them just as they are, the staff psychiatrist said I was the only missionary student who did not experience any culture shock.  This was a great lesson to me in the importance of loving people unconditionally.

This also taught me how important it is to get to know people from other cultures, as well as those whose beliefs may be different than ours.  When we do, we find that we have more in common than not, and we can actually make many lasting friendships. 

I would like to dedicate this article to my Native family whom I love and miss so very much!  They’ve all been such a blessing to me and I’m a better person because of knowing them and all they’ve given me.  They’ve touched me deep within my soul and a part of my heart will always remain with them.

“Respect others.  Help others.  Love others.  These are the keys that unlock our soul.”  Anthony Douglas Williams

(Pictured:  Ben and Rosie Louis, both of whom have since made their transitions.  I miss them dearly.)

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 22, 2016.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Healing Racism

Yes, racism exists.  It has existed since the beginning of mankind and it will more than likely exist for decades to come.  The violence that we’ve been seeing in the name of racism, particularly with the recent Dallas events, is heartbreaking.  You would think that we would be better than this by now.  People have been working really hard for generations, putting their heart and soul into overcoming racism.  And yet here we are still dealing with the rage and pain that have affected people of all races throughout history, some more so than others. 

We are not born racists.  Racism is taught.  It is also learned through our own experiences.  Then those teachings and/or experiences turn into our beliefs about others.  For whatever reasons, we become racist when we become against a whole group of people just because of the color of their skin.  What’s interesting is that if a white person hurts a white person, the latter doesn’t hold it against all whites.  If a black person hurts a black person, the latter doesn’t hold it against all blacks.  You can exchange the color with any color.  You can also exchange the color with any religion.  So if we’re not going to hold it against our own race or religion, then why do we hold it against others? 

The events in Dallas were tragic (as they are anywhere they occur)... the police who were shot, as well as all the innocent lives that got caught in the crossfire.  And then there are the black men who have been shot by the police.  We have a lot of healing to do, for sure.  But we’re not going to find solutions or heal if we keep pointing fingers and finding ways to keep us separate!  We have got to start moving away from fear (hate and racism are byproducts of fear), and move into a state of love and compassion.  And people are doing so!  We’re seeing it! 

People from all races and groups are coming together all over the country to show their love and support for all concerned.  I’ve been seeing some beautiful videos and articles on Facebook where people are uniting for a common cause!  The hugs I’m seeing between all races just make my heart sing!  One such video showed dozens of people of all colors hugging several officers after an interfaith prayer service in Dallas.   Officers and civilians are hugging each other all over the country in stores, parking lots, at peaceful protests, and so on.  They’re also sharing tears because people are realizing just how much a part of each other we really are and that we’re all in this together. 

We have also got to stop making blanket statements about whole groups of people!   For example…   Not all cops are bad.  Not all blacks are thugs.  Not all Muslims are terrorists.  Not all Christians are hateful and judgmental.  In fact, there are so many more who are good, decent, kind-hearted, and loving!  We just don’t hear about them.  So, please, never give up on humanity!  We’re getting there, but we still have a lot of work to do!

To be clear, this isn’t to say that people don’t have legitimate complaints and concerns.  They do, and they need to be taken care of.  But as the saying goes, are we going to be a part of the solution or part of the problem?  This goes for every politician and religious leader, as well as each of us individually.  Are we helping or hurting?  Are we speaking words of hate and fear, or love and compassion?  Are we bringing people together or keeping them apart?  It starts with each of us!

We have got to stop putting labels on people because labels come with judgments.  Take away all our labels and we see that we really are one race…the human race.  Desmond Tutu said, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

As for the recent events, Van Jones had it right when he said, “Everybody’s got to reach deep down and find some empathy.  If you cried for the brother who bled out next to his fiancĂ©e, but you didn’t cry for those police officers, it’s time to do a heart check.  If you cried for those police officers, but you have a hard time taking seriously all these videos that are coming out about African Americans dying, it’s time to do a heart check.  We are either going to come together or come apart.  There’s enough pain on both sides that there should be some empathy starting to kick in.”

And as Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “I have decided to stick with love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.”   

Published July 15, 2016 in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Filling Your Well of Love

Most of you know that I write a lot about love; loving others and loving ourselves as well, and I’m going to keep writing about it because we still have a lot of work to do, not just on ourselves, but in the world. 

I’m constantly working on myself to be more loving, kind, and compassionate, and I’m going to be doing so until the day I leave this planet.  Of course, I still get angry, upset, and sad, and I have those days when it feels like the world is against me.  But even on my worst days, I try to keep a good attitude and keep my happy face on as I don’t want to pass my bad day on to others.  I want to lift people up; not tear them down.

Some may say I’m not being real or authentic.  This is my being authentic.  Part of my authenticity means not causing harm to others.  We never know what other people are going through and I don’t want to be responsible for saying that one word or committing that one action that may make someone else have a really bad day or even destroys someone’s life. 

As you know, there’s a lot of chaos on the planet.  Hate, anger, and violence, which are all byproducts of fear, dominate the news all over the world.  Many people think the answer is more of the same.  Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."  Millions of people all over the earth are breaking the chains of darkness and are working towards bringing love, light, and peace to all.  More would like to do so, but they don’t know where to start.  Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  And as Michael Jackson sang, “I'm starting with the man in the mirror.  I'm asking him to change his ways.  And no message could have been any clearer.  If you want to make the world a better place…  Take a look at yourself, and then make a change.”

In order to change the world, we need to work on ourselves.  If we don’t have our wells of love overflowing, then we’re not going to have the love to give to others.  People tend to treat others the same way they feel about themselves, and we’re especially seeing this, not only in those around us, but in a lot of people who have been in the news.  If you truly and unconditionally loved yourself, you would never even think about harming yourself or anyone else!  Begin with you.  As you learn to love yourself unconditionally, your heart will open so far and wide that you can’t help but spread the love to those around you.  You do so one person at a time and those one persons can add up to a lot of people!  You can also help fill your well by committing random acts of kindness to help others feel loved and appreciated.  When you make others feel good, it helps yourself to feel good!

Matt Kahn wrote an excellent book called “Whatever Arises, Love That – A Love Revolution That Begins with You,” and I would highly suggest reading it.  He included the following words that have such a profound effect that I would recommend taking them to heart.

“When I’m sad, I deserve more love, not less.  When I’m angry, I deserve more love, not less. When I’m frustrated, I deserve more love not less.  Whenever I’m hurt, heartbroken, ashamed, or feeling guilty, I deserve more love, not less.

Even when I’m embarrassed by my actions, I deserve more love, not less.  Equally so, when I’m proud of myself, I deserve more love, not less.  No matter how I feel, I deserve more love not less.  Despite what I think, I deserve more love, not less.

No matter the past that I’ve survived, I deserve more love, not less.  No matter what remains up ahead, I deserve more love, not less.  On my worst day, I deserve more love, not less.

Even when life seems cruel and confusing, I deserve more love, not less.  When no one is here to give me what I need, I deserve more love, not less.  In remembering the greatest way I can serve the world, I deserve more love, not less.

No matter what I’m able to accept, whomever I cannot forgive, or whatever I’m unable to love for whatever reason, I deserve more love, not less.”

Kahn also wrote, “One loving embrace at a time, you become a living testimony of just how powerful, aligned, inspired, and happy you have always been destined to be.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 8, 2016.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Cause for Humanity

The other day, I went to see the movie “Independence Day.”  As a sequel it was pretty good.  I’m really not into movies with violence much anymore, but I do occasionally like a good action film with my favorite actors. 

While I was watching the movie, I began to see some parallels from the story to what is happening in our world today.  No, we are not being overtaken by aliens (that we know of), but the fear, chaos, and disasters seem to be predominant issues, at least in the news.  According to the media, it seems like the world has gone absolutely crazy with natural disasters, mass killings, the European Union event, and some in politics, religions, and other areas have completely lost their minds, and so on. 

As I was watching the movie and thinking about all of this, I started to take on the weight of the world, which I’m sometimes apt to do, and it can be completely overwhelming for me.  I take on the pain, the fear, the suffering, and so much more that people are feeling and going through and it was all I could do to keep from breaking down in the theatre.

When I see the way humans are treating each other just because of any perceived differences, it makes me really sad to the core of my being.  For instance, it never ceases to amaze me to see ministers and other religious leaders expound such hate and vitriol from the pulpit.  Some are actually praying for and promoting the deaths of certain people or groups of people and then celebrating when they do die or something bad happens to them.  And I certainly never thought I’d ever see certain presidential candidates spew such detestation and violence towards numerous groups of people and wanting to get rid of them, as well as all the childish name calling, temper tantrums, lying, banning anyone who doesn’t agree, and wanting to literally destroy people’s lives because of hate, bigotry, ignorance, and differences in beliefs. 

The sad part is that so many people are believing and following these ministers, politicians, and others, and many claim to be people of faith.  And that makes me even sadder.  Jesus made it very clear when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)  Whenever I see anyone say they are speaking for God or Christianity in particular, this is the verse I think of to gauge whether they really are disciples of Jesus.  This is the verse I think of when discerning who to listen to or who to believe. Too many people have taken Jesus’ teachings out of Christianity and made it into a man-made religion to justify their own personal beliefs and agendas.  This could be said of other religions and their spiritual masters as well.  Of course, I’m certainly not going to tell anyone what to believe; that’s not my purpose.  And I also certainly don’t mean to judge anyone; that’s between the person and their Creator.  (To be clear, there are billions of people who do follow the teachings of their spiritual masters.)

In the above movie, Bill Pullman’s character, now former President, made a great speech and I wish I could remember everything he said because it was beautiful and could be applicable for us today (without the aliens).  He basically mentioned how the invasion, which destroyed so many lives, has actually brought people from all over the world together and united everyone as one people.  What will it take for us to learn this lesson?  Do we need another major disaster either in our country or world before we remember how much a part of each other we really are?  You’d also think our religions would be enough to teach us to love and care for one another, but apparently they’re not, and that’s beyond heartbreaking.  (Again, to clarify, there are those in various religions who do teach love and do care for others.)

Shakieb Orgunwall said, “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.”  Aberjhani stated, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream was a manifestation of hope that humanity might one day get out of its own way by finding the courage to realize that love and nonviolence are not indicators of weakness, but gifts of significant strength.”  And Martin Luther King, Jr. himself declared, “Hatred paralyzes life, love releases it.  Hatred confuses life, love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life, love illuminates it.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 1, 2016.