Friday, May 16, 2008


A program of attraction, rather than promotion.
"If I be lifted up.. I will draw all men unto me"
(this line lovingly added for those who really don't understand the first line)

There's a lot to be said around this, but as I was talking with a close friend last night, my head was spinning with principles that were founded in 12 step recovery, steps that apply to a relationship with God and the foundation of a spiritual program. So often we promote Christ and Christianity with our mouths. We wave the bible, the commandments and use them as tools like crusaders to force a conversion or compliance within another.Our actions indicate that we believe that we must lift Christ with a sword or a threat. I hear folks tell others what Jesus thinks all the time. However, whenever Jesus was was all about attraction. Jesus never sent folks out into the street with tracts advertising his latest big speech, or made announcement on Temple Radio. People were drawn to him once they saw who he was. To his closest, he issued an invitation - once he saw their interest. The masses never needed inviting. He showed up...and they started showing up. That's attraction in its most magnetic form.

The question is, with His life as our example - why do we feel the need to do it differently? The difference I suppose, is religion - not relationship. I love and respect my closest. I love and respect their families. Because I love them, I want to live the best life I know how so that within me (as I saw with my own mother) they will see something to aspire to. They will see (as I have see in scripture and in my life) failures, stubbornness, bad decisions but also humility, willingness to change, thoughtfulness. My wish is for them to never see that it's all about me. But that they see it's all about the process of the relationship with God. And that process has nothing directly to do with anyone else other than me ( not the church I go to, the work I do or the people I know - or think might judge me). My life, My testimony, My story is my sermon. The choices I make, the things I say and do become my personal witness without ever quoting a scripture (that no one asked to hear), or providing my opinion on what God thinks (aka doing the work of the Holy Spirit). You know a tree by the fruit it bears. You know a person by the impact they have.

What we must all do to be champion attractors for deep spiritual walk with God - is to go within, examine the barriers in our own lives - confess those to God and others so that they may be cleared from your life - admit our state of powerlessness over EVERYTHING that we cannot change - give it to God - and then taking his hand become partners in making it better.

I have seen this process work in more lives that you can imagine. However, most of those lives have NOT been within the organized religious circles. Many who have this process sit in those circles - but many also sit who do not. Most of us do not have 40 years with which to wander around in the wilderness trying to figure it all out on our own. Take the first step towards peace and serenity - now.

This seems almost too simple to be true, but acceptance -- accepting things exactly as they are -- can be the key that unlocks the door to happiness.As you read the passage below replace "alcoholism" and "sober" with the things/behaviours/people you cannot accept - then read it again.

It may be one of the most referenced passages in recovery literature. It's from Page 449 of Alcoholics Anonymous or The Big Book as it is widely known:
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation -- some fact of my life -- unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

In its simplest term - that last sentence is a prayer. "Lord, change" If that's all you asked for and God granted....the end result .....happiness

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On Forgiveness

Here's something that I've struggled with off and on throughout my life. Getting to the process of forgiveness is sometimes the most difficult thing I have to do. But here are some thoughts on the matter.

One of the hardest, thorniest and most difficult things we humans are ever called upon to do is to respond to evil with kindness and to forgive the unforgivable. We love to read stories about people who've responded to hatred with love, but when that very thing is demanded of us personally, our default seems to be anger, angst, depression, righteousness, hatred, etc. Yet study after study shows that one of the keys to longevity and good health is to develop a habit of gratitude and let go of past hurts.

Want to live a long, happy life? Forgive the unforgivable. It really is the kindest thing you can do for yourself. Your enemy may not deserve to be forgiven for all the pain and sadness and suffering they've purposefully inflicted on your life, but ''you'' deserve to be free of this evil. As Ann Landers often said, "hate is like an acid. It destroys the vessel in which it is stored."

Realize that the hate you feel toward does not harm them in the slightest. Chances are, they've gone on with their life and haven't given you another thought.

Look at the situation from an eagle's eye.]] Make a list of the good things that happened as a result of this awful experience. You've probably focused long enough on the bad parts of this experience. Look at the problem from a wholly new angle; look at the good side. The first item on that list may be a long time coming because you've focused on the bad for so long, but don't give up. Force yourself to find 10 good things that happened specifically because of this experience.

Look for the helpers. Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) related that, as a little boy, he'd often become upset about major catastrophes in the news. His mother would tell him, "look for the helpers." In your own nightmarish experience, think back to the people who helped you. Think about their kindness and unselfishness.

Look at the bigger picture. Was someone your "good Samaritan"? In this biblical story, a traveler happens upon a poor soul who was beat up on the road to Jericho and left for dead. It's a lot easier to play the part of the Good Samaritan than to be the poor soul who is left bleeding and bruised on the side of the road. Perhaps this isn't all about you. Perhaps your trial provided an opportunity for others to rise to an occasion to provide you with help and support.

Be compassionate with yourself. If you've ruminated over this problem for a long time, steering this boat into a new direction could take some time, too. As you try to make a new path out of the dark woods of this old hurt, you'll make mistakes. Forgive yourself. Be patient and kind to yourself. Extreme emotional pain has a profound effect on the body. Give yourself time to heal - physically and emotionally. Eat well. Rest. Focus on the natural beauty in the world.

The Aramaic word for "forgive" means literally to "untie." The fastest way to free yourself from an enemy and all their negativity is to forgive. Loose yourself from them and their ugliness. Your hatred has tied you to them. Your forgiveness enables you to start walking away from them and the pain.

Forgiveness must be unconditional. Therefore, it cannot be dependent upon the repentance of those who have harmed us. However, unless those who have harmed us have truly repented of whatever they have done, we need to use wisdom in avoiding repeating the hurt. This may require avoiding those who are unrepentant of the harm that they have inflicted upon us.

How many times this week did you tell "the story" about how badly you were hurt and how horribly you were wronged? How many times a day do you think about this hurt? Stop telling "the story." It is a stake driven into the ground that keeps you from moving away from this hurt. Rather, forgive your enemy because it's the kindest thing you can do for your friends and family. Negativity is depressing, physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

When your enemy and their evil actions come to mind,send them a blessing. Compliment someone you hate and wish them well. (this may take a LOT of practice and prayer) Hope the best for them. This has two effects. One, it neutralizes that acid of hate that destroys the vessel in which it is stored. The evil we wish for another seems to have a rebound effect. The same is true for the good that we wish for another. When you become able to return blessing for hatred, you'll know that you're well on the path to wholeness. The first 15 or 150 times you try this, the "blessing" may feel contrived, empty, and even hypocritical but keep trying. Eventually, it will become a new habit and soon thereafter, the anger and pain that has burned in your heart will evaporate, like dew before the morning sun.

Remember: you're not the Lone Ranger. One wise African-American preacher said, "I worship a God with holes in his hands and feet." If they did it to innocent Jesus, then how much more to us? And if they wrong you for doing right, then you're really doing what Jesus did. You're in good company, at least!

Maintain perspective. While the "evil" actions of your "enemy" are hurtful to you and your immediate surroundings, the rest of the world goes on unaware. Validate their meaning in your life, but never lose perspective that others are not involved and do not deserve anything to be taken out on them. Your enemy is someone else's beloved son, someone's employee, or a child's parent.

Got any stories of forgiveness? How you made it through? I'd be glad to hear them. think it's changed?

Racist Incidents Give Some Obama Campaigners Pause

By Kevin Merida
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 2008; A01

Danielle Ross was alone in an empty room at the Obama campaign headquarters in Kokomo, Ind., a cellphone in one hand, a voter call list in the other. She was stretched out on the carpeted floor wearing laceless sky-blue Converses, stories from the trail on her mind. It was the day before Indiana's primary, and she had just been chased by dogs while canvassing in a Kokomo suburb. But that was not the worst thing to occur since she postponed her sophomore year at Middle Tennessee State University, in part to hopscotch America stumping for Barack Obama.

Here's the worst: In Muncie, a factory town in the east-central part of Indiana, Ross and her cohorts were soliciting support for Obama at malls, on street corners and in a Wal-Mart parking lot, and they ran into "a horrible response," as Ross put it, a level of anti-black sentiment that none of them had anticipated.

"The first person I encountered was like, 'I'll never vote for a black person,' " recalled Ross, who is white and just turned 20. "People just weren't receptive."

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed -- and unreported -- this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

The contrast between the large, adoring crowds Obama draws at public events and the gritty street-level work to win votes is stark. The candidate is largely insulated from the mean-spiritedness that some of his foot soldiers deal with away from the media spotlight.

Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign. One night was all she could take: "It wasn't pretty." She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: "Hang that darky from a tree!"

Documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, said she, too, came across "a lot of racism" when campaigning for Obama in Pennsylvania. One Pittsburgh union organizer told her he would not vote for Obama because he is black, and a white voter, she said, offered this frank reason for not backing Obama: "White people look out for white people, and black people look out for black people."

Obama campaign officials say such incidents are isolated, that the experience of most volunteers and staffers has been overwhelmingly positive.

The campaign released this statement in response to questions about encounters with racism: "After campaigning for 15 months in nearly all 50 states, Barack Obama and our entire campaign have been nothing but impressed and encouraged by the core decency, kindness, and generosity of Americans from all walks of life. The last year has only reinforced Senator Obama's view that this country is not as divided as our politics suggest."

Campaign field work can be an exercise in confronting the fears, anxieties and prejudices of voters. Veterans of the civil rights movement know what this feels like, as do those who have been involved in battles over busing, immigration or abortion. But through the Obama campaign, some young people are having their first experience joining a cause and meeting cruel reaction.

On Election Day in Kokomo, a group of black high school students were holding up Obama signs along U.S. 31, a major thoroughfare. As drivers cruised by, a number of them rolled down their windows and yelled out a common racial slur for African Americans, according to Obama campaign staffers.

Frederick Murrell, a black Kokomo High School senior, was not there but heard what happened. He was more disappointed than surprised. During his own canvassing for Obama, Murrell said, he had "a lot of doors slammed" in his face. But taunting teenagers on a busy commercial strip in broad daylight? "I was very shocked at first," Murrell said. "Then again, I wasn't, because we have a lot of racism here."

The bigotry has gone beyond words. In Vincennes, the Obama campaign office was vandalized at 2 a.m. on the eve of the primary, according to police. A large plate-glass window was smashed, an American flag stolen. Other windows were spray-painted with references to Obama's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and other political messages: "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion. Goddamn Wright."

Ray McCormick was notified of the incident at about 2:45 a.m. A farmer and conservationist, McCormick had erected a giant billboard on a major highway on behalf of Farmers for Obama. He also was housing the Obama campaign worker manning the office. When McCormick arrived at the office, about two hours before he was due out of bed to plant corn, he grabbed his camera and wanted to alert the media. "I thought, this is a big deal." But he was told Obama campaign officials didn't want to make a big deal of the incident. McCormick took photos anyway and distributed some.

"The pictures represent what we are breaking through and overcoming," he said. As McCormick, who is white, sees it, Obama is succeeding despite these incidents. Later, there would be bomb threats to three Obama campaign offices in Indiana, including the one in Vincennes, according to campaign sources.

Obama has not spoken much about racism during this campaign. He has sought to emphasize connections among Americans rather than divisions. He shrugged off safety concerns that led to early Secret Service protection and has told black senior citizens who worry that racists will do him harm: Don't fret. Earlier in the campaign, a 68-year-old woman in Carson City, Nev., voiced concern that the country was not ready to elect an African American president.

"Will there be some folks who probably won't vote for me because I am black? Of course," Obama said, "just like there may be somebody who won't vote for Hillary because she's a woman or wouldn't vote for John Edwards because they don't like his accent. But the question is, 'Can we get a majority of the American people to give us a fair hearing?' "

Obama has won 30 of 50 Democratic contests so far, the kind of nationwide electoral triumph no black candidate has ever realized. That he is on the brink of capturing the Democratic nomination, some say, is a testament to how far the country has progressed in overcoming racism and evidence of Obama's skill at bridging divides.

Obama has won five of 12 primaries in which black voters made up less than 10 percent of the electorate, and caucuses in states such as Idaho and Wyoming that are overwhelmingly white. But exit polls show he has struggled to attract white voters who didn't attend college and earn less than $50,000 a year. Today, he and Hillary Clinton square off in West Virginia, a state where she is favored and where the votes of working-class whites will again be closely watched.

For the most part, Obama campaign workers say, the 2008 election cycle has been exhilarating. On the ground, the Obama campaign is being driven by youngsters, many of whom are imbued with an optimism undeterred by racial intolerance. "We've grown up in a different world," says Danielle Ross. Field offices are staffed by 20-somethings who hold positions -- state director, regional field director, field organizer -- that are typically off limits to newcomers to presidential politics.

Gillian Bergeron, 23, was in charge of a five-county regional operation in northeastern Pennsylvania. The oldest member of her team was 27. At Scranton's annual Saint Patrick's Day parade, some of the green Obama signs distributed by staffers were burned along the parade route. That was the first signal that this wasn't exactly Obama country. There would be others.

In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him.

"No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

Obama's campaign workers have grown wearily accustomed to the lies about the candidate's supposed radical Muslim ties and lack of patriotism. But they are sometimes astonished when public officials such as Ball or others representing the campaign of their opponent traffic in these falsehoods.

Karen Seifert, a volunteer from New York, was outside of the largest polling location in Lackawanna County, Pa., on primary day when she was pressed by a Clinton volunteer to explain her backing of Obama. "I trust him," Seifert replied. According to Seifert, the woman pointed to Obama's face on Seifert's T-shirt and said: "He's a half-breed and he's a Muslim. How can you trust that?"

* * *

Pollsters have found it difficult to accurately measure racial attitudes, as some voters are unwilling to acknowledge the role that race plays in their thinking. But some are not. Susan Dzimian, a Clinton supporter who owns residential properties, said outside a polling location in Kokomo that race was a factor in how she viewed Obama. "I think if it was somebody other than him, I'd accept it," she said of a black candidate. "If Colin Powell had run, I would be willing to accept him."

The previous evening, Dondra Ewing was driving the neighborhoods of Kokomo, looking to turn around voters like Dzimian. Ewing, 47, is a chain-smoking middle school guidance counselor, a black single mother of two and one of the most fiercely vigilant Obama volunteers in Kokomo, which was once a Ku Klux Klan stronghold. On July 4, 1923, Kokomo hosted the largest Klan gathering in history -- an estimated 200,000 followers flocked to a local park. But these are not the 1920s, and Ewing believes she can persuade anybody to back Obama. Her mother, after all, was the first African American elected at-large to the school board in a community that is 10 percent black.

Kokomo, population 46,000, is another hard-hit Midwestern industrial town stung by layoffs. Longtimers wistfully remember the glory years of Continental Steel and speak mournfully about the jobs shipped overseas. Kokomo Sanitary Pottery, which made bathroom sinks and toilets, shut down a couple of months ago and took with it 150 jobs.

Aaron Roe, 23, was mowing lawns at a local cemetery recently, lamenting his $8-an-hour job with no benefits. He had earned a community college degree as an industrial electrician, but learned there was no electrical work to be found for someone with his experience, which is to say none. Politics wasn't on his mind; frustration was. If he were to vote, it would not be for Obama, he said. "I just got a funny feeling about him," Roe said, a feeling he couldn't specify, except to say race wasn't a part of it. "Race ain't nothing," said Roe, who is white. "It's how they're going to help the country."

The Aaron Roes are exactly who Dondra Ewing was after: people with funny feelings.

At the Bradford Run Apartments, she found Robert Cox, a retiree who spent 30 years working for an electronics manufacturer making computer chips. He was in his suspenders, grilling shish kebab, which he had never eaten. "Something new," Cox said, recommended by his son who was visiting from Colorado.

Ewing was selling him hard on Obama. "There are more than two families that can run the United States of America," she said, "and their names aren't Bush and Clinton."

"Yeah, I know, I know," Cox said, remaining noncommittal.

He opened the grill and peeked at the kebabs. "It's not his race, because I got real good friends and all that," Cox continued. "If anything would keep him from getting elected, it would be his name. It might turn off some older people."

Like him?

"No, older than me," said Cox, 66.

Ewing kept talking, until finally Cox said, "Probably Obama," when asked directly how he would vote.

As she walked away, Ewing said: "I think we got him."

But truthfully, she wasn't feeling so sure.