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Loving Courageously

6 Jun

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This post is part of the June Synchroblog: Ordinary Courage, where bloggers are invited to write about ordinary courage. The other contributors for this month are listed at the end of this post.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ―Lao Tzu

What is courage? What does it mean to be courageous as a person of faith? The dictionary definition speaks to having the mental or moral strength to preserver and overcome difficulty, danger, or pain. Using this definition, I don’t think I know a single person who hasn’t been courageous at one time or another. Yet, if asked, I believe most of us would hesitate to call ourselves courageous. Why is this?

Perhaps we accept that we are called to be courageous when it affects us or someone we know in the physical sense, but we sell ourselves short in our moral courage; times when we “do the right thing” even if it is unpopular, shameful, or scandalous. C.S. Lewis defined integrity as “doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” The philosophers among us may question, “If no one is watching, does a ‘thing’ happen?”

Why does loving someone deeply give us courage? Because loving someone deeply requires that we are vulnerable. Everyone has been hurt – emotionally, physically, spiritually. To return to love, to open one’s self to another, to the possibility of more hurt, is a huge risk. Yet, if we do not do so, if we are not courageous, the “hurt” wins. The one(s) who hurt us in the past win. More importantly, when we forfeit the chance to love and be loved once more, we lose, and so do those who do not get to feel and return our love. Continue reading

Michael Douglas: Women gave me Throat Cancer

3 Jun

Note: This post contains adult themes and language.

If you are looking for the source of anything that is wrong in the world, or in your corner of the world, or in your workplace or home, look no further than the nearest woman.

It’s obviously her fault. Going all the way back to Eve, the original temptress; the one who got Adam in trouble by, you know, making him sin.

Just when I thought we might be making some progress on this ridiculous notion, actor Michael Douglas makes the incredible and unsupported by medical evidence claim that his throat cancer was caused, not by his years of heaving smoking and drinking, but by having frequent intimate associations with a certain part of the female anatomy. Really? Really! Continue reading

My New, Exciting (and Modest) Business Propositions

30 May

With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

I’m very excited that I am finally making progress on one of the two books that has been in my mind for years. The first one to get going is on my great, great-uncle, who owned the Boston Braves when they won the World Series in 1914. He was quite the character, and I am working with both a research specialist and a ghostwriter to finally bring get this book in print. While I originally envisioned a biography, I think it is going to work better as historical fiction.

This book is not the only thing new in my life. I am also investing in a restaurant chain and becoming a minority owner of a baseball team. The restaurants are called “Bat & Balls,” and yes (surprise), they have a sports motif. The specialty is the mozzarella and jumbo shrimp plate. They are fried, but not in a greasy sort of way. They are served, appropriately enough, on a plate that looks like baseball’s home plate.

The servers are all male; they wear tank tops from various teams and speedos. As you might imagine, we have a very high percentage of female patrons, especially for a sports place. Our focus groups reveal that men feel a bit uncomfortable around our servers, as if they don’t “measure up.” Oh, well!

While the restaurant is exciting because it is something I never thought I’d get into, the baseball team is what has me the most energized. It’s a semi-pro team; I sure don’t have the means to own part of a pro team! My team is called the Blackfaces, and our mascot is this hysterical character called Darky. We found a local college student named Freddy Douglas who does a wonderful job entertaining the fans with his “Darky” antics.

Our focus groups showed some were offended at the name of our team, but it is an honorable homage to the vaudeville shows of yesterday. Besides, not everyone is offended, and even if the majority were, this is America – a free country – right? I so believe in the freedom we as Americans are given.

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You probably realize by now that only the first paragraph of this post is true…. I am not a big fan of the term “political correctness” because I view its true definition as, “Opposition to doing away with offensive, prejudicial, or inflammatory language and behaviors that in the past were not necessarily considered offensive, prejudicial, or inflammatory.”

One would hope that a restaurant chain named “Bat & Balls” as I described, or a baseball team named the Blackfaces, would be uniformly condemned, but as current business practices show, this may not be the case. Some seem to think there is a sort of “percentage vote” that determines what is offensive and what is not. The same people are generally the same ones who believe civil liberties and rights in this country should be bestowed by a majority vote.

Just because it is allowable to name restaurants after derogatory terms for female parts and name sports teams with racist terms does not mean I have to financially support them. That’s the true meaning of freedom.

Anything that does not build the kingdom, in effect, tears it down.

Angelina Jolie, Mom, and Me: Body Image in Our Mixed-Message Culture

21 May

“Everything is beautiful, in its own way.”

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I was shocked and saddened by the negative comments on actress Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. Jolie made this decision after learning she has a mutation in her BRCA1 gene that gave her, according to her doctors, an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. The fact that Jolie saw her mother fight breast cancer for 10 years before succumbing to it at the age of 56 no doubt also weighed in her decision.

Some of the same people who believe in a woman’s right of body self-determination when it comes to choices such as abortion wasted no time in criticizing Jolie, going as far as calling what she did “self-mutilation.” Others claimed she should have chosen to smoke marijuana or have better nutrition. This woman is a millionaire and has access to the world’s best advice. Do people really believe that if these “treatments” worked she would not have chosen them?

My Mom lost one breast to cancer in 1989 and the second the following year. She chose to not have reconstruction, opting instead for removable prosthetic breasts. There came a time in Mom’s life when she decided she wasn’t going to wear her prostheses anymore. I have never considered her mutilated; her body shows the remnants of numerous accidents and surgeries that have left a trail of scars almost from head to foot.

Mom developed cancer after menopause, so it is unlikely she has a BRCA mutation. If she had known she had the mutation, I have no doubt she would have chosen the preventive double mastectomy as well. If you are not like Jolie or me, and have not seen your Mom pleading to die, writhing in pain, and suffering the ill effects of various treatments, I don’t think you have any right to comment on another person’s decision (particularly someone like Jolie whom you do not even know).

Beauty lies within. Sounds trite, but it is true. People you might think are “self-mutilated” or who otherwise do not fit society’s image of what a person is supposed to look like were also made in the image of the Holy. Some of the most physically beautiful people I’ve known (as our society defines it) were the ugliest inside.

We are too quick in this culture to judge others by outside appearances. Women, in particular, are judged harshly. We are too thin, too fat, too tan, too pale, too dark, not dark enough, too short, too tall. Our hair is too straight, too curly, too boring, too wild. Our breasts are too small, too large, too saggy, and above all, too tempting to men. Continue reading

(When) Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word

13 May

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“It’s sad, so sad; it’s a sad, sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd.
It’s sad,  so sad; why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me, that sorry seems to be the hardest word.”
– John & Taupin. All rights reserved.

We’ve all been there; that awkward moment at the funeral home or in the hospital, or elsewhere, where our want to express SOMETHING – something kind, something meaningful, something appropriate – gets washed away by saying something really inappropriate, such as:

     “You’ll have more children.”

     “It was God’s will.”

     “God needed another angel.”

     “You still have your other children.”

     “You’ll survive; you always do.”

     “He/she lived a long life.”

     “Everything happens for a reason.”

What do we do (or not do) and say (or not say) when someone is in great pain?

What Not to Do

  • Ignore the person. “Surely they are already swamped by other well-wishers.” “I don’t know what to do/say, so I’ll do/say nothing.”
  • Give long-term advice. If asked, a kind, “Perhaps you should take some time to think about it,” is appropriate.
  • Send regrets via a) Facebook, b) Twitter, c) e-mail, d) text message. Remember, we are talking about someone CLOSE to you!
  • Do extraordinary things that the hurting person or someone close to him or her did not ask you to do. The house may not need another tray of lunchmeat. That photo montage you thought was precious may bring unintended pain. Your gently used linens are awesome, but they don’t have a bed, let alone a queen-size bed.

What to Do

  • Be in touch. If you truly believe this would be overwhelming, send a note card or make a phone call. Either can be dealt with when there is time and the will.
  • Be in touch later. Often there is a rush of kindness when the event occurs, but it is in the coming weeks, months, and years that hurting people need a friend. (Hint: Write anniversaries of painful events down so you will not forget them.) You may think people do not want to be reminded, but the opposite is often true. I often contact people “the week of” so it is easier to Segway into why I am calling.
  • Offer assistance. A simple, “What do you need?” is a powerful question. Asking, “What can I do?” is not the same thing.
  • “Just” be present. Don’t feel like you have to talk.
  • If you know the person’s religious beliefs, offer to do something meaningful that reflects that tradition (pray, light a candle, etc.). If you do not know, and I cannot stress this enough, do NOT make assumptions. Ask if you can pray, light a candle, etc. Continue reading

Therefore but by the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part III)

7 May

This is the last part in a 3-part series about my struggles with alcoholism. In Part I, I wrote about how former NBA star Allen Iverson’s battle with alcoholism really hit home with me. Part II covered my early days of sobriety in the hospital up until today, and mentioned how I have put together a toolbox to help me when I feel like drinking, get depressed, or get stressed. This final part covers my toolbox and other lessons I’ve learned in my 24 years of being clean and sober.

Let there be no mistake, there is such a thing as a “dry drunk” and I do not believe the desire for alcohol ever goes completely away. I loved the taste of beer and of the “hard” liquor I choose to drink; I’ve often thought how lucky I am that all these specialty brews and flavored alcohols were not in vogue back when I was still drinking.

The real benefit of (too much) drinking was not the taste, but the temporary numbing of feelings. The problem was, as soon as the buzz wore off, I not only had to face those feelings, but also deal with the hangover and other consequences of my behavior. Continue reading

Therefore but by the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part II)

28 Apr

In Part I, I wrote about how former NBA star Allen Iverson’s battle with alcoholism really hit home with me. I ended Part I just as I stopped drinking because I checked myself into a psychiatric ward for 10 days.

Even though I volunteered for the 10 day stay, I fought most of the programs and activities. I thought things like art and music therapy were the biggest waste of my time, and group therapy was torturous. Being there, though, gave me the opportunity to look (literally) into what we, the patients who had free reign to walk about, called the “koo-koo ward.” Peering through the glass door, we could see several glass enclosed bays with patients who were wearing strait jackets or sitting screaming or God knows what else. You couldn’t help but feel you weren’t that bad off because you weren’t like them, but it began as a sort of smugness with no concept of thankfulness or grace at all. Continue reading

There, but for the Grace of the Holy, Go I, Again (Part I)

23 Apr

Ephesians 5:18 – “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.”

A recent story in the Washington Post about how former NBA great Allen Iverson has fallen on hard times really got to me. I could write a dozen blogs on different topics after reading this article – the scandal that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association, friends who are not really friends, there’s always room for redemption, etc. But this story really hit my heart when it comes to alcoholism and alcoholics.

Unbeknownst to my parents, I started drinking when I was about 12. The father of my best friend at the time made homemade wine. We’d drink that occasionally, but most often we’d get our booze by giving a few bucks to someone outside the town liquor store to get it for us. The liquor store was conveniently located within walking distance of our junior high school, and we favored the types of sweet, syrupy drinks you might imagine pre-teens and teens would go for – cherry brandy, crème de menthe. We did it because a) it was wrong and b) that stuff tasted good.

Before you judge my parents too harshly, it is important to note that during this time my mom was in effect a single parent of four, including a newborn. Due to changes in base structures, my dad was forced to work at JFK airport in NY for several years instead of in Albany; he commuted home on the weekends. What better time for a rebellious oldest child to get into trouble? (I am grateful that considering this was the early 1970s, I never dappled in other drugs that were plentiful.) Continue reading

The Bible as a Source of Wisdom

15 Apr

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What if God was one of us

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Trying to make his way home

— from “One of Us, written by Eric Bazilian

This month’s syncroblog is “what if” – what if some or all of the Bible narrative is not really history, but more of a myth.  How would this affect you or the larger church? Would it change you and how you view the world? (See the end of this post for other authors on this subject.)

The answer to the last question is a resounding “No” because I already believe some of the Bible narrative is not history, but creative story telling.

Before I thought of myself as a follower of Jesus, I did not know much about the Bible. I was brought up Roman Catholic, and we did not study the Bible. When I tried a class at seminary in the New Testament as a “special student” (i.e., non-degree seeking), I found myself way over my head at the very first class. The professor said something about someone going to heaven in a chariot, and two-thirds of the class yelled out this person’s name. The only chariot I could think of was the one in “Ben Hur,” and the only person I could think of was Charlton Heston. I may have not known much about the Bible, but I knew the answer was not Charlton Heston! Continue reading

The REAL Gay Agenda

13 Apr

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I am “guilty as charged” for some of what I accuse others of in this blog. I am trying to learn, to be more compassionate, and to be a better person. I think my first word as a baby was “Why” and I haven’t stopped asking yet. I would like to be given room to grow on these issues and not be ridiculed as I was recently by a famous GLBTQ activist, whose name I will not mention, wrote to me, “Way to argue, Phyllis Schlafly.” 

I have to laugh when Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (GLBTQ) people and supporters claim that contrary to what some on the “far right” claim, there is NO gay agenda. It is not a “ha-ha” that’s a funny laugh, but a sad chuckle. There IS a gay agenda; I know, because I’ve been a victim of it. It has nothing to do with the “gay agenda” put forth by the “far right,” however.

Part of the gay agenda is to ridicule those that you as a GLBTQ person think are also a GLBTQ person, but the latter person has not acknowledged it. Why, that person is OBVIOUSLY in denial! That person is taking advantage of his/her “straight” privilege, blah, blah, blah. I read this nonsense in gay publications all the time, and on the websites of people who, if asked, would claim they are all about advancing GLBTQ causes (it must be true because they are collecting money to do so). Continue reading

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