Friday, September 30, 2005

Do You Believe Me?

One of our most valuable possessions is credibility -- the quality of being believable or trustworthy. I can lose physical things -- camera, hat, etc -- and easily replace them in a short period of time. Credibility cannot be replaced. It must be re-created and that takes much time.

I identify with environmental groups, peace activists and other groups devoted to noble causes. Unfortunately, sometimes some of these groups make statements that challenge credibility.

I think it's critical that we avoid the precipice of incredulity by adhering to some guidelines such as the following.

*** Stay cool! Maintain an emotional tone that conveys the message "I'm not speaking out of reckless anger. I'm in control. I've checked my facts!". Anger can be good because it motivates us to action but anger can be a barrier to communication and credibility. Get angry, get calm, get the facts and get to work!

*** Cite references. Credibility has nothing to hide. Give me the opportunity to check the facts. For example, a recent article ( states that a rapist in Ohio received a much more lenient sentence than an environmental activist in California who destroyed some property "after taking precautions to harm no lives." Give me more details so I can research this. Better yet, give me the details of a reference -- the newpaper and date, the website, etc -- so I can find it quickly.

*** Avoid exageration. Initially, I'll accept your facts and apply my own logic to them. Hopefully, I'll arrive at the same conclusion that you're presenting -- but, I may not. If you tell me that some developer in Colorado is destroying a prarie dog colony and this will lead to the end of western civilization then, in my opinion, your credibility has developed a crack. I'm not arriving at the same conclusion.

The world is not perfect and never will be but we have a responsbility to work for change. Our efforts to work for positive change will be limited and perhaps fail if we don't protect our credibility.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Am I Moral?

I'm wondering when the word conservative became synonymous with moral.

Does this mean a liberal can't be moral?

What does it mean to be moral? One definition of moral is "conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior". Whose standards?

Some groups believe that a woman is immoral if she exposes her face to the public. Is congress prepared to define moralilty for us and settle this question of whether women should wear a veil?

Since we're redefining words I think I'll avoid the word moral and focus on being ethical. I choose to be ethical.

To me, ethical means I'm responsible to listen, learn, evaluate, think and make decisions. Ethical means I have some principles that guide me in this process -- integrity, respect, tolerance, honesty, lovingkindness, reverence for life. Using these I'll arrive at decisions.

In the end, it doesn't matter if you think I'm moral or immoral -- liberal or conservative. What matters is whether I think I made a good faith effort to work toward a better world where morality varies but lovingkindness is constant.

Does It Really Matter?

The debate over creation and evolution doesn't really matter. What matters is how I treat you and other people.

If I treat you without respect and lovingkindness does it matter if I'm a creationist or evolutionist or some variation of these?

If I agree with your position on evolution/creation and blind myself to the suffering of children -- are you happy to have my support?

If I work for peace, education, opportunities and health care, does it matter what I believe about creation or evolution?

Let's solve the world's problems. When we've worked together and agree that no child is malnourished then let's sit down and discuss evolution and creation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

To Daniel

Daniel, I received the following comment from you.

"I fucken swear - if I ever catch the bastard that came up with blogging I'll fucken kill him. This shite is just ridiculous and I don't even care if you realise you are embarassing yourself on an international stage. And you can file this comment under "rebellion" OR "surprise"."

Daniel, I know you're upset but I'm not certain why. It appears you disagree with my beliefs, values or opinions. That's OK.

I get the impression that you are young. I, too, used to be rigid, opinionated and saw the world in blacks and whites with no room for shades of gray. I learned to be more tolerant and when I did I began to realize that others had opinions that were valid -- some more valid than mine. Tolerance made my life better because I felt less stress living in a world that wasn't structured the way I thought it should be.

Are you married? Marriage is tough in today's world. I failed at my first marriage and spent several years single in order to have time to identify my mistakes and my part in the failure. I finally began to realize how I contributed to the divorce. If I had it to do over again I would have responded to my wife with less rigidity and less impulsive anger. I hope you learn this lesson.

Do you have children or do you hope to have children some day? You'll be a better father if you learn to respond from a position of wisdom and tolerance. I can remember some of my poor choices as a child and I can remember my father's response. I grew up feeling good about myself because he gave me the freedom to be myself and didn't try to force me into a mold that he preferred.

Daniel, it's OK to disagree. More important than our opinions is the person that we are and the person that we are becoming. Should you return to my blog I hope we can relate to one another with tolerance, respect and lovingkindness.

Solutions and Sucesses, Please!

Change is hindered by pointing and whining!

I've been reading news sites and blogs and notice that many make two mistakes.

* They point out problems, injustices and evils but don't offer solutions.

* They whine about the fact that the news media are less than honest about reporting the truth.

I think these are counter-productive.

We should focus on being positive -- offering ideas for change -- rather than simply pointing out the problem which is focusing on the negative. It's easy to see the problem. We need help finding a solution or ways to bring about change. Be problem solvers and not alarmists!

We should not bemoan the fact that the news media are not perfectly honest. The media are owned by large corporations that are motivated by profit. It's illogical to expect them to campaign for our welfare. Rather than rant on about the media, use the space to promote change, to celebrate sucesses and to recognize persons who give us inspiring examples to follow and emulate.

Seven Social Sins according to Gandhi

* Politics without Principles
* Wealth without Work
* Commerce without Morality
* Education without Character
* Pleasure without Conscience
* Science without Humanity
* Worship without Sacrifice

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Patriot or Citizen?

I just finished reading a book about the WWII battle of Stalingrad. It wasn't a great book but it affected me. I've read thousands of pages about WWII and this book reminded me once again of the horror of war.

How many died? Perhaps 750,000 of all nationalities -- a mind boggling number.

I'm always amazed that a small group of politicians can deceive, manipulate, appeal to blind patriotism, cajole, threaten, intimidate and finally gain power and start wars. Though there was violence used in Hitler's rise to power in the end the Germans voted to give him the power. Germany was a center of the Reformation and home of some brilliant and ethical men and women. A huge percentage of Germans were church members.

I often question many things but one thing that I do not question is whether there is a difference between Germans and Americans. There is not!

What happened in Germany can happen again -- even in the US.

I am not a patriot. I refuse to be a patriot. I choose to be a responsible citizen. As such I must and will question and challenge the US goverment regardless of which party is in power.

Citizenship is uniting. Patriotism is divisive.

Citizenship is responsibility. Patriotism is the beginning of evil.

Citizenship seeks to build. Patriotism seeks to destroy.

Citizenship appeals to people's best traits. Patriotism appeals to people's worst traits.

I am a veteran, the son of a veteran and the father of a veteran but I am not a patriot.

I am a citizen filled with humanity that I refuse to sacrifice on the altar of patriotism.

The Profanity of Prayer

Last Saturday we drove through an amazing canyon and stopped at a cafe and had lunch outside. The canyon was narrow and the cliffs towered above us. A breeze moved briskly up the canyon and the trees swayed slightly. Everything was full of life and beauty.

It was a time that demanded quiet. Even a spoken prayer would have been profane. How can we vocalize appreciation and gratitude in the midst of something so sacred? The only acceptable comment, the only acceptable prayer, the only acceptable response was silent awe, silent appreciation and silent gratitude.

Don't Ask

What is the meaning of life? Sorry, the answer isn't here. However, I wonder if it's a valid question?

Yesterday, I read a blog entry referring to two additional blogs that posed this question. I broke for lunch and walked to a bookstore. The air was neither cold nor hot but was perfect. The breeze felt refreshing. The sunlight has that special glow that I associate with Fall. The flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees had comforting and subdued yet brillant colors. The mountain seemed thrilling.

The world was perfect! A beautiful gift! Questioning the meaning of life or the purpose of life seemed profane.

I didn't question it but simply enjoyed it.

Maybe that's the meaning or purpose of life. To simply enjoy the gift without analyzing it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Seriously Funny

I think I've noticed a pattern. It appears that the web separates people from seriousness and turns them into amateur comedians.

A person posts a serious question void of humor -- perhaps a painful question -- and one of several things happens. In descending order of frequency they are

1. No response.
2. A brief response with a lame attempt at humor.
3. A quick, short, shallow, somewhat serious reponse
4. A serious and sincere response to the question

I like humor. It's serious business. Humor can make us healthier. It can be a means of dealing with a stressful situation. It can make good times with friends even better.

But, why do some people feel the need to respond with humor to a serious, perhaps painful, message posted on a board?

I wonder if this is an indication of the anonymity of the web and it's dehumanizing dimension?

I think I'll end this now and go talk to someone face to face. I like my humanity and don't want to risk it by spending too much time online. In fact, I heard a good joke yesterday and I think I'll tell it to a friend.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Sweet Fellowship of Aloneness

Like the first star on a clear night, a word or phrase sometimes draws attention and captures the imagination.

". . . the sweet fellowship of aloneness . . ."

Life needs balance.

Work and recreation.

Thoughtfulneess and thoughtlessness.

Feasting and fasting.

I am social and need interaction but this need is so easily filled.

Co-workers, television, population, cell phones, traffic, email, radio, urban sprawl -- the list seems endless.

It's "the sweet fellowship of aloneness" that is so needed and more difficult to find.

Aloneness gives me time to balance, to renew, to enjoy and to wonder.

Aloneness reminds me that I am but a few atoms in a universe of countless atoms and helps me reconnect with Life.

It is periodic aloneness that makes me realize that life is good!

(This phrase is from Kahlil Gibran's 'The King-Hermit" in "The Forerunner".)

Friday, September 16, 2005

Life Worth Living

What is my focus,
my core,
that which excites and motivates me?

What is it that give me a sense of rightness about my world?

Should I lose most everythng
what is it that I cannot lose,
must not lose,
to continue with the sense that life is good?

My wife or my life?
Things can be replaced but she cannot.
I wouldn't want to live without her.

Death holds no fear but life does.
What can I not live without?

My sense of independence and self reliance.

My sense self respect, self forgiveness, valuable valuelessness.

My sense of wonder at the mystery of the unknown.

My sense of awe at the natural world.

My sense of reverence for life.

My sense of being finite in the infinite.

My sense of faith in that which I cannot explain.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Tool I Hate

I hate it!

I don’t like the word hate and try to avoid using the term but I HATE IT.

I hate money.

I’m not certain what money is. Sometimes it’s silver and nickel and copper and paper. Most of my money is simply a concept and not tangible. It’s figures – amounts -- recorded on hard drives in computers somewhere in this country – or perhaps some other countries.

So, it appears my money is simply a concept. But I still hate it.

Why? I’ve asked that question of myself.

Here are some of the answers that I’ve discovered.

Money is a master that makes slaves of many people. I want to be free.

Money is a man-made creation that elevates itself to an unworthy god. I want no gods.

Money is a deceiver that promises happiness but it’s a vain promise. I need no vain promises.

Money is a catalyst that sometimes brings out the worst in people – greed and dishonesty and violence. I want to avoid this evil.

Money is a thief that attempts to rob me of my time and opportunities. These are more valuable.

Why do I not want it like so many others? Why am I content with a little? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know money is a necessity and a tool. As such, I’ll earn it and mange it and use it. And all the while I’ll hate it.

Rebellion and Surprise

It began as rebellion. I had pastored for twenty years and had grown to resent the oppressive atmosphere that was created by capricious expectations. I vowed that if I was ever near a nude beach I would stop; not to gawk, find fault or belittle sun bathers but to spend a few minutes nude as a rebellious act. It would be an act that shouts "It's my life. I want to live it my way, according to my values and not other peoples' expectations." Howvever, the likelihood of finding a nude beach in Kentucky or Tennessee made it a lifeless vow for some future that may not sprout and grow.

Death Valley is my favorite national park. We had stopped at the top of a single lane road that descended six miles to the valley below. A sign with a skull and cross bones warned that the road was not maintained and should be attempted only by experienced dirvers with high clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles. As we had lunch and discussed our options, a vehicle popped over the rise. The Canadian couple told us about an oasis about twenty-five miles away. Interestingly, the oasis was clothing-optional. Wow! An oasis in the middle of the desert! We had to see this. I never gave much thought to the potential nudity.

With verbal directions we finished lunch and started down the road to find this unexpected treasure. Mature palms, lush green grass, mutiple pools of hot water and some exotic landscaping made it a true paradise. We camped near the oasis. During the night I experienced a first. Never before had I been able to camp without hearing at least the faint sound of an airplane in the distance. The only disturbance during the night was a visiting wild burro.

Because of Death Valley's limited opportunities and limited hours for bathing, we had not had a shower for a couple days. Now we had a choice of two showers! One was an old cast iron tub sunken to ground level with natural paving stones that formed the walk through the oasis. The walls were the palm trees of the bath and the sky the roof. Water from the hot spring was piped though a shower head and flowed out the bottom of the tub to irrigate a portion of the grass.

My wife and I took the attitude "To heck with the pedestrians walking by. It's a shower. A warm water shower!" The next morning we had breakfast and spent a few moments in one of the three tubs in the main oasis. As we were preparing to leave and tackle fifty miles of unpaved roads, a man asked if I was the driver of the Lexus. Me? A Lexus! Did I look like the kind of person who would drive a Lexus? Well, I guess it's a little difficult to tell what kind of car a person drives without the usual clues that clothes provide.

I was on a high for two weeks after this trip in part because of the nude experience. I hadn't expected this. Naturally I enjoyed the feel of the water, sun and breeze on my nude body. I definitely enjoyed the freedom that came from others who let me be me. But, one unexpected reaction was the pleasure that comes from meeting someone without prejudice or bias. A nude person provides few clues as to educational level, financial assets or profession. I loved that experience and contemplated it's value for days to come.

Since that first experience, we've visited other hot springs and a few resorts. We've joined a resort close to our residence and visit about once a month.

Am I a nudist? I don't know. I do know that labels are dangerous. I also know that social nudity gives me a sense of peace. It just seems right -- a reprieve from the commercialism and vanity of much of the world. I'm convinced that nudism is a positive and healty thing for children, adults and families. I've told my grown children about my experiences and I've met others at our resort who are co-works at my university. Surprise! See you Monday at work!

Am I lucky or fortunate? Definitely. My wife is as enthusiastic as I am. She's truly half of me. Sharing these experiences with her makes life immensely better. I feel a sense of sadness when I read about men whose wives don't understand or don't have the self-esteem or sense of sharing or, for whatever reason, do not join their husbands.

It amuses me that my rebellion got me into this but it's not what causes me to continue. The rebellion is still there. I want to enter a nude race. I'll probably come in last or close to last but that's not important. What's important is to be able to look back on life and say to myself "It was fun. I did it. My only regret is I didn't start sooner."

Be Still and Know . . .

They are experiences that leave me feeling alive with gratitude,

Experiences that I cannot recreate but can remember so vividly.

Experiences that leave me wanting more.

Experiences that feel like a great pressure building up inside me – a great wonderful pressure building so great that I feel like I will explode.

Experiences that I am incapable of describing but can only allude to.

The deep, deep blue sky and the leaves so red and yellow and gold and numberless other colors.

The rain falling so gently into the stream making a thousand dimples in the water.

The sound of the breeze as it moves mysteriously through the tops of the trees with a sound so soothing.

The rolling, rumbling, loud, explosive, gentle sound of thunder in the mountains announcing the coming storm.

The crunch of the snow below the moon that creates a world that ins hidden during the bright sunny hours.

The silence of a slick rock wilderness void of the sound of vehicles and people and airplanes.

All of my overwhelming, memorable experiences come from solitude in nature.

“Be still and know that I am God!”

I’ve never experienced anything like this in a church building. Cities and monuments and man-made things leave me empty and somewhat irritated – as if something pure and of infinite value has been corrupted.

The closest similar experiences in a man-made environment have been experienced when entering a science building on a university campus or walking through the doors of a library -- but even these cannot compare with solitude in nature.

Today ended as all days should. A rain shower with thunder and lightning passed through late today and the sun came out and a vast golden sunset crept into the western sky. We took a walk and the fall colors were freshly washed. As I write this a breeze is blowing through the window. Far off lightning and thunder give promise of another rain. The are no sounds of automobiles, no sirens, no radio or television to mar the experience.

All is right with my world.

I wonder – and can’t understand – how people survive in cities without stars and coyotes and solitude.

The Forest, Not the Trees

Do you see the forest? No, not the trees but the forest?

Sometimes we stand too close and can't get a perspective to see the obvious.

Let me illustrate with an example.

Often people will read the Bible and disect each verse, ponder each phrase and investigate each word. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this approach or that it's never appropriate. But, sometimes we miss the message when we do this.

Matthew 25:31-46 tells of the separation of the sheep and the goats. We could approach this historically and talk about the value of the animals at the time Jesus spoke the words, their care and use and other historical issues related to the story.

We could approach this as a representation of a future event -- a future judgement -- something that will happen in the distant future.

I prefer to ask the question "What is the message for me?" I live today so the historical and future approaches hold some interest but are not at the heart of my question. "What is the message for me today?"

The message I receive is that 'who' I am is more important than 'what I do' and more important than religious ritual.

Let me explain. Jesus doesn't say those who are 'blessed' are those who participated in religious observances. There's no mention of prayer, tithing, fasting, or attendance.

Jesus says the 'blessed' are those who took compassionate action -- action that came from within -- from who they were. It was a natural thing. The 'blessed' cannot see suffering and not be moved to action. This action was not done out of a sense of obligation. The 'blessed' do not carry a list of commandments. The 'blessed' do not do what is politically correct. The 'blessed' see people hurting and they do something to relieve the hurt.

So, the question for me -- the forest I see -- is "Have I become a person of empathy, compassion and action?"

Another important question for me is "Is this consistent with other truth that I have learned?"

The Bible speaks of a 'new birth'. I find this consistent with the Jesus's story about the separtion of the sheep and goats. The 'blessed' are those who have experienced a 'new birth'. They have been seized, transformed, made new by the Spirit that Jesus exhibited. The are not concerned with religious trappings. They have become new people who see hurt and jump to action.

So, the question I must ask myself -- the great panorama of a forest that I see -- is not "What have I done?" or "What I am doing" but it is "Who am I?", "Am I a person of compassion and empathy and action".

Try reading and observing the world this way. Back up and take a new perspective and look at the horizon. Let the message come to you in a grand panorama.

Want to give it a try? Read the story of Jonah. Stop! Don't get caught up on the whale -- or was it a fish. Don't ask the old question of which it was. Don't as the question of could Jonah have survived. Don't ask the question of could it have swallowed Jonah. These are the trees. Instead, look for the forest. The forest that I see is a forest about racial hatred, blind political loyalty and subborness that leads to our own harm.

I wonder what forest you will see.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Happiness is a Choice That Can Become a Habit

Hey! Stop it. Get a life.

I wonder why do so many blogs seem negative, introverted and miserable? Are people that unhappy or do unhappy people want to share their misery in a blog so all of us can join them in their unhappiness?

Is life that bad?

I find life to be a choice. I can choose to be happy or unhappy. I can choose to associate with optimistic people or depressing people.

Want to be happier?

Get out of your head! Stop focusing on yourself and look at the world around you. It's amazing, uplifting, healing, calming and invigorating.

Turn of the TV! Look for a two-way life where you give and take with people and animals and books and nature. When you choose experiences and people make sure they are healthy choices.

Focus on the person you want to be rather than the person you are at the moment. Sure, you may be sad but focus on being happy.

Be cautious with the news media! They do enjoy spreading bad news. Read the issues that you can do something about. Do you really need to know all the gory details of a murder? Can you do anything about it? Perhaps, what you need to know is the demographics of murders, the causes and potential solutions. You can do something with this imformation and though it's a depressing subject you're looking for solutions -- and that's positive!

Enough for now. Turn off your computer, go outside -- yes, even if it's raining -- and look for happiness!