Lollipops and Love Notes

Last week, I led a discussion at our monthly Wisdom Wednesday gathering and I recounted a story about one of my professors, Bishop Stephen Hoeller (a Gnostic Bishop from Budapest). During one of his lectures he spoke about how the French, when greeting another, will say, enchanté which literally translates to “enchants,” but which loosely means, “I am enchanted.” I find that, well, enchanting! Imagine interacting with others and moving through the world enchanted and delighted by others and by this one precious life we have to live. So I left the Center for Spiritual Living (San Jose) th at night with an intention to find opportunities to be enchanted.

The next day I had an appointment at Kaiser Medical for some lab work to be done which required a 12-hour fast. Got that done, all is well, and I couldn’t wait to get to my car and the cup of coffee I had waiting for me. I wasn’t feeling exactly enchanted because I was slightly rushed and more than slightly hungry! I got into my car, only to have to get back out because there was something on my windshield (insert eye-roll and a huff here). It was a lollipop! A lollipop attached to a little card that said, “You’re doing a great job!” While I was at my appointment, someone was going through the parking lot putting lollipops and love notes on windshields. They were nowhere in sight, but the lollipops were on most of the cars I could see. I caught the eye of another person who had just found their lollipop and love note and we both broke into a wide grin and he called out, “Hah! Well that doesn’t happen every day! “ I said, “Nope. Enjoy the rest of your day,” and he replied, “I will now.”

Don’t you love how Love points the way and the Law makes it possible? So, what intention are you going to set today? I can’t promise you’ll get a lollipop and a love note, but I do know that if you set out to find more enchantment and delight, the Universe will not disappoint. Enchanté!

I don’t care if you don’t march…

I’m late with this blog… busy day. But I am wearing red. That counts, right? Seriously, though, I want to add my thanks to all the women I know who love and support one another – and who love and support me. I am blessed by you. You’ve prayed with me, cried with me, laughed with me, danced and drank with me, taught, mentored and coached me; some of you may even “tolerate” me! And all the FB posts today got me thinking, “What if today wasn’t only about marching or wearing read or making posters? What if it was about compassion and kindness, and honoring all the women we know and those we don’t?” Don’t march. Don’t carry a sign. Don’t wear red…. This may surprise you, but I don’t really care. I didn’t ask you to, nor do I have any expectations that you do nor judgments if you don’t. I do, however, care enough about all my sisters in the world to ask if you would consider showing a little less contempt for those who do. If they are called to take a stand for those that can’t, why does that bother you?

You see I care that we women raise up one another and show compassion for each other (for all human beings, really). If you’re a woman blessed with a safe place to sleep every night, a job or career you love (or at least one that pays you enough to live), great kids or no kids if that’s your choice, the best husband or partner in the world, and parents or grandparents straight out of a TV show – be happy! Be proud! No doubt most of you have worked you’re a** off to get where you are. I have, too! I celebrate us! I’m so proud of you! However, is it possible for you to be a little kinder and, again, a little less contemptuous of the women in the world who are trying their damnedest to get there and just can’t seem to catch a break? Or the women who have been beaten down so much, they can’t rise up anymore and have lost hope? You could perhaps remember that there are women in the world who didn’t have the TV sitcom family, women who didn’t even get to finish elementary school, and they certainly didn’t have a mom and dad to run home to when “Mr. Right” turned out to be her worst nightmare. Every 7 seconds a woman is violently attacked by her male domestic partner and, in the U.S., it’s the woman who has to flee for her safety, often with her children (unlike Australia where they remove the batterer – imagine that!)

If you don’t care that getting a loan approved is about 15 to 20% lower for women-owned small businesses than they are for their male-owned counterparts, that’s totally fine! But if it matters to another woman who might want to start her own business, and she wants to march on behalf of herself, her daughters and future generations of women, could you at least not roll your eyes at her or give her a dirty look?

No one is forcing you to care that typically, women who work full time take home about 80 cents for every dollar a full-time male worker earns.  Over a lifetime (47 years), the total estimated loss of earnings of women compared with men are $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate, and $2 million for a professional school graduate. But if other women care enough to march because they want to change that, maybe you could just say, “Thank you,” instead of criticizing them.

I could go on and talk about access to higher paying jobs and the glass ceiling, the disparity between female stars and their male counterparts in Hollywood, university tenure, access to health care, or how rape victims are treated in the legal system; and don’t even get me started on the military (check out this week’s Marine headlines!) But I didn’t start writing this because I wanted to embark on a litany of what I hope will change for my granddaughter(s) and yours. I simply want to invite all the women I know to remember that spiritual place inside you – that place that houses the nurturing, mothering energy – and ask that you consider giving that energy to other women, even the ones you don’t know; in fact, especially the ones you don’t know. It costs you nothing to be kind and when your contempt is turned into compassion, you can make such a difference in another woman’s life, and in the world.

God bless you! And Happy International Women’s Day!

Can you hear me now?

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. ~C.S. Lewis

I love this quote! Not because it talks of “God whispers” or conscience, and not because C.S. Lewis wrote the Narnia books. I love it because it’s one of the few references to a God that shouts. Sounds strange, I know, but here’s the thing… When I was a new student of Science of Mind, I had the most amazing early teachers. The classes I took eventually led me to Practitioner studies and then to Ministerial School. I loved learning and expanding and I am forever grateful for my teachers.

I noticed when I was a new student to this thing called “Spirituality,” I was always struggling to “feel the Presence,” or “hear God’s whisper.” My teachers talked about the beautiful, light mist that would descend. Still other teachers, and oftentimes classmates, would talk about the soft cotton ball or blanket they could feel envelop them. And so I waited………. But, nope! No whispers. No cotton balls or fleece blankets. Yet I still thought I was having some major spiritual epiphanies, except they were more like lightning bolts or those things that go bump in the night and make you bolt upright. None of which is a huge problem, none of which concerned me, except I kept ignoring these signs.

You see, I thought sure it couldn’t be a God message because it wasn’t any of those things that my teachers or other classmates described. Rather, at the time when I was trying to really get these practices, to make them a real part of my life, the voice of God in my head sounded more like Olympia Dukakis in Moonstruck! And the more I allowed myself to be open to Spirit’s Wisdom, then the more frequently this would happen until one day, I finally surrendered to the fact that my experience didn’t have to be the same as anyone else’s experience, that this was my relationship with the God that loves me.

I mean, think about it? I grew up in a real melting pot; Irish, Italian, Jewish and German mothers yelling out their windows, “JIMMY? LINDA? DINNER! YOU GET HOME RIGHT NOW!” I grew up amidst car horns and police sirens, noisy trains and even noisier drivers yelling out windows. To this day, I love big cities – they bring me comfort, it’s home. So why shouldn’t my experience with the Beloved be LOUD? It works for me. I encourage you to court the Presence in whatever way works for you and if anyone tries to tell you that God shouldn’t sound like your version of it, then you can simply smile and say, “fuhgeddaboudit!”

Today is one of those days…

Today Donald Trump told a group in FL, “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”

And yet there are people who will willingly enter the polls and vote for this… People that I may even know (!) but for the life of me cannot understand or even recognize anymore. People whom I wish I could hold and ask, “Help me understand; please, help me to understand what happened in your life that could make this person someone you would willingly choose? Who or what has hurt you so much to make you think this is a better choice for your life and your future; for the future of your children and grandchildren? Who are ‘those people’ that have damaged or threatened the way you live your life to the point that you think this choice will lead to something better for you and the rest of your country?” I can understand a lack of intelligence or education, a lack of facts or blatant disregard for facts, for history, a lack of political acumen or diplomacy or international affairs. I get that a segment of the population (sadly, more than I thought) thrives on bigotry, hate, fear, and schadenfreude. What I cannot understand is the disregard, no: contempt, for common decency. What I cannot comprehend is the willingness for that same segment of the population to turn a blind eye, to remain unwilling to see the “angry mob bearing torches” mentality that is continually fueled by this unending, insouciant commentary which advocates violence and hate and “us vs. them” on a daily basis. A commentary that celebrates separation and divisiveness, fueled with {barely} veiled threats disguised as the most malevolent “humor,” a commentary that is creating a tear in the very heart and fabric of our society. There are days when my Minister’s heart is heavy; days when I cannot stay silent in the face of something so damaging to all that I hold precious about my homeland, most especially the values for which a brother-in-law I never met laid down his life in Viet Nam (not to mention the generations of ancestors that came before him). There are days when I simply want to weep over the harm that human beings are sometimes willing to inflict on their very souls. Mind you, I still believe my God is bigger than any of this… I am not without hope (I am NEVER without hope) but there are days when I am just a little daunted…

Today is one of those days.

Freedom from Discord

Yes, “Freedom from Discord” is the sermon I am attempting to write today, just days after the mass murder in Orlando. Like many people in the world last week, I found myself at a loss as to what I might do, or how I might make a difference. Of course I went to prayer first, that is always my first response, even when the tears are streaming. It’s what comes next, after the prayers when the reports begin to pour in: eyewitness accounts, sound bytes and video footage; social media that burgeons under the weight of shared grief and upset, updated profile pictures, and hash tags designed to capture the grief and horror of a nation – in 140 characters or less. The political rhetoric began before the bodies were even removed from Pulse: the murder of 49 people was being used as an excuse to wave banners for the candidate of choice who would surely make things right come November; while surgeons were still fighting to save lives, others were fighting to condemn people of a certain nationality, ethnicity or creed and take up the call for more separation, hate and discord. Before all the blood-stained mobile phones could be collected from the dance floor – mobile phones that showed unanswered texts and frantic voicemails from friends and mothers – lobbyists and news outlets were blaming every thing and every one except the systemic problems in a nation that is making its citizens immune and desensitized to a body count of over 6000 year-to-date (less than 1% attributed to terrorism).

It was so easy for my old addiction to outrage* to get fueled by the rhetoric; outrage is a powerful drug and I knew I had to douse that craving rather quickly and lean into my spiritual practice. Failure to do so would let the wind of discord and dissent fan that fire and it would swiftly flare up into something more destructive than discord – it would become hate. That’s how outrage operates, you know, it tells us to fear and suspect, it tells us that there’s something “wrong” here. It begins to seep into our brains and hearts and it starts to use works like “them,” and “they,” and “those people.” Fear creates an “other” that we must distrust and eventually despise because “they” look or think differently than you or I. Fear says things like, “They must be stopped” or “They have to go.” If allowed to fester, it plays the ultimate mind game: spiritual arrogance, and once that sets in, all hope of Oneness or “Love one another as I have loved you” begins to rapidly dissipate until, sadly, bullying and violence in speech and action prevails. Fear becomes so powerful that the people start to think violence and hate is justified because “God” wants it or because “God” told them to. Fear is allowed to malign beautiful, peaceful, loving religious teachings until people stop believing that God is the loving creator that breathed life into each and every living thing, thereby making us all one. Instead, It becomes a mean-spirited, spiteful deity that wants us to hate {fill in the blank} so we can earn some dubious reward after we’re dead and buried.

And so I kept asking “What is mine to do?” I reached out – to my colleagues and mentors, my prayer partners and those beautiful souls in my spiritual community who somehow can always see my highest self, even when I can’t. I searched for evidence of Love and it kept showing up and showing up – in the heroes, in acts of kindness that were small but mighty, in offers that were extraordinarily generous. It showed up in grandmas and doctors and police officers and singers and talk show hosts.

I reached out to more loving beings who helped to co-create with me a vigil for #westandwithorlando (and, yes, I used a hash tag – don’t mock me!) And at that vigil were people of all colors and backgrounds and genders and preferences and ages, there were men and women, a 2-year-old with her parents, a young woman from South Korea who wanted to tell me about the Peace Organization she works with, a beautiful Muslim woman who wanted to come and pray with us and hug us… and there was music, and prayers for peace, and tears. And there was a healing, especially my own.

I made a vow, once again, to stand for something and against nothing, and I admitted out loud that that is sometimes very difficult and so I doubled-down on my spiritual practice. I began to educate myself on what I can do as a citizen to help make it better and I shared that information. I made a donation. I quietly paid for a cup of coffee for the next person in line at Starbucks and when she tried to thank me I simply said, “I needed to do something kind this week,” to which she replied, “I’ll pay it forward, don’t worry.” Baby steps…

And to those of you who may be against everything I hold sacred, I have a message for you, another vow: You will not make me hate. No matter how hard you try, I will not hate you, or anyone else. And while I wish you could make it a little bit easier, I will persevere. And every time I falter, I will simply get kinder, and kinder, and kinder… #lovealwayswins 

*Credit to my colleague Dr. Jim Lockard for that phrase and his blog:

Blogetty, blog, blog…

Well, here goes. My first foray into blogging and I stare at the blinking cursor wondering why I thought this would be a good idea.

I don’t suppose it helps that the last thing I read was a chapter entitled, “Nightmare–A World on the Brink,” from a book entitled, Creating a World That Works for All, by Sharif Abdullah. In this chapter, Mr. Abdullah writes about The Mess: our pain, our ugliness, our cynicism, brutality, cold-heartedness, and violence – not exactly a bedtime story.  In another chapter, he describes how things got to be this way and tells the story of “The Keepers,” “The Breakers,” and “The Menders.” I will let you buy the book if you want to know more, but I am reading this book because I believe in a world that works for everyone and I am intrigued by what it means to be a Mender, or as the author calls it, a “Breaker in recovery.”

I am intrigued because at one time, I was certainly a Breaker – living my life with the thought that there was not enough, that different was bad or wrong or something to fear, that people were not to be depended upon and I needed to be in absolute control. If you are chuckling at the thought of absolute control, feel free to continue and perhaps throw in an eye roll as you mutter, “Yeah… how’d that work out for you?” Because, you know, it didn’t. It didn’t work out at all and my life crashed in ways that are too numerous for this post.

And so now I try to be a Mender; I have given up the story that my problems were someone else’s fault. I can’t imagine my life without the people in it – people who show me every day how much I can, if needed, depend on them. I am peaceful, happy, content and relatively fearless (except for bees and swimming in the ocean!) Being a Mender, for me, means acknowledging my oneness with all beings and doing my best to see and honor the divinity in everyone. Are there some that make it a little tougher than others? Yes. But I’m sure I’m not always a picnic in the park either.

I wish I could tell you it was easy to get here to this place of kinship, that I simply clicked my heels together three times or dumped all my worldly goods and lived in a tree house until enlightenment came. Nope. Not my story. When life crashes around you, it’s not easy to put the pieces back together, it takes time and patience, strength, hope, and a lot of prayer. It also takes the support and love of people – yes, people – turns out I was wrong and most people can be depended upon!

There are two more very important ingredients, the main ingredients, really – personal responsibility and spiritual tape, lots and lots of spiritual tape. Personal responsibility means not only do I stop blaming others for my situation, I also stop looking to others to fix it, fix me, bail me out, or fight my battles. I take responsibility for the things that need to change in my life and I change them, bit by bit. Sometimes those changes have to do with work, other times they have to do with personal vitality and making healthier choices. And sometimes change has meant having to release those relationships that no longer served me, or those relationships that were keeping me tied to a story that was not my truth. Think about the people with whom you spend your time – do you leave them feeling uplifted and supported, or do you leave them feeling bad about yourself or drained of your vital energy? If the latter is true, you may need to release some relationships that are not in your best interest.

Next let’s look at that spiritual tape. When your world crashes, you will find yourself surrounded by the debris of the life you were living (or surviving). Some of the pieces are of little value, or simply will not be of value to the new life you are rebuilding. Still other pieces are vital to your journey and they are the pieces worth putting back together. That’s where the spiritual tape comes in: it is a metaphor for the power of Spirit, the Presence that is the one constant as you grow into your new self. Change is scary, radical change is downright terrifying at times. It’s important to always remember that when things are falling apart, it’s only so that they can come together again. Remember you are never alone and that this is the time to move deeper into your spiritual practice. Pray. It works. Even if all you can muster is, “Help me…” whispered in a dark room while you rock back and forth hugging a pillow you sometimes need to scream into – it is enough.

I know it’s possible to come out the other side – I am living proof. And, as I said, that doesn’t always mean I don’t break something now and then, but it’s a rare occurrence. And, I’ve got plenty of tape, so call me if you need some.