Monday, December 22, 2014

Life Has Changed

Yesterday I sang a solo in church. It is one I have sung many times - Come Unto Him from Messiah.  But this time was like no other.

I started singing church solos at age 14. I cannot even count how many - and my dad was my biggest fan. Always sitting a few rows back to my left.  He always wanted to sit where he could see my mom and I next to each other in the choir loft. Mom and I sat in the choir loft of two churches for almost 40 years together.  (The various directors somehow knew better than to try to separate us.)

When I am asked to sing, I do, because it is my offering. It is something I can do that sometimes touches people's hearts.  There have been many times I wanted to quit because I didn't feel my voice was dependable or good enough. But even the times that I felt awful about my performance, someone would be moved by it.  I'm not a professional, just an untrained soprano. It's a very humble offering, believe me.

I learned many years ago to never look at my dad while singing because there were often tears streaming down his face. Yesterday my dad was not sitting there and my mom was not either because of poor health.  It didn't really hit me until I sat down after the song, and then I was overwhelmed with grief and loss and the confusion of change.

My dad was supportive and proud of everything I ever did. I know I am just now experiencing what so many of you already have in this life.  I was more than blessed to have him here for his 91 years. Parents (and maybe siblings) are the only people you have known every day of your life so, even though I have lost friends and other relatives, this is much different.

I know my Dad is ok.  I believe in heaven and this is what I believe:
Heaven is the place, the everlasting life, where we receive everything we yearned for here on earth. As human beings we spend our lives searching for unconditional love, for perfect peace, for unknowable joy and for release from the cares of this troubled world.  This is the definition of heaven to me.  All will be known. All will be understood. All will be the peace that passes understanding. It will be nothing like being here - where we are left to grieve and wonder and wait.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas

First, there is no war on Christmas.  We should all be thankful that we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship as we please. That means everyone - Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, pagans - all have the same freedoms here.  Insisting that someone honor your religion while you ignore theirs is, to me, the height of disrespect and judgement.

If you think there is a war on Christmas go into any store right now and what do you see and hear? Only Christmas music and Christmas decorations. Do those who do not celebrate it have a choice?

If you are indeed a Christian then you are familiar with these words of Jesus:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

This is not a Christian nation. It is a nation of freedoms. There is freedom of religion as well as freedom from  it. Will someone not saying Merry Christmas to you actually hamper your beliefs or celebration of Christmas? Jesus does not care if you say Merry Christmas - he does care that you love others as yourself - something he repeated 23 times in scripture. Love includes honor and respect.

 Here are some verses from Romans 14 which I think very clearly state that we are not to disrespect others:
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgement on disputable matters. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  

One man considers one day more sacred than another, another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tamir Rice

It's been two weeks and I cannot get used to seeing a boy I knew in the newspaper and on the national news day after day. This news story is personal to me.

I taught kids with special needs for over 30 years, so that's a lot of students. Tamir Rice was one of those students you don't forget.  We had our good days and our bad days together in math class first thing in the morning.  If Tamir's day had started out well he was bright, charming and hardworking. He was good at math and he knew it, but he required a lot of attention. He wanted to answer every question. He was behind in academics from constantly being moved from school to school. In fact, he was only with us for one year, and that causes great instability in a child's life.

If the day had not started well Tamir was likely to cry and leave the room.  But the thing to remember about children's behavior is that it is never their fault.  The child who disrupts or is angry or depressed is   lacking a basic need in life that only the home can provide.  Teachers nurture and care and attend to students' needs as much as they can during the hours they are with them each day.  But home is where basic needs of security, stability, love and attention are met.  Tamir liked attention, so he, like many other children, got it any way he could. He probably thought he was being funny the day those policemen drove up within a few feet of him.

The thing about Tamir was that even if he gave you a hard time you still liked him. Right now I don't remember the tough days as much as I remember that smile you see every day from some news source. Can't you see the mischievous charm in those eyes?  You could plainly see the capacity to achieve and even be a leader if life went his way - which it didn't.  What a waste.

Working in a racially diverse school district for 22 years taught me a lot.  If you think there is no white privilege then you haven't been around those who struggle every day to keep their children safe, fed, and sheltered.  You haven't met a mom who is afraid every day because she has to send her black  teenage son out into the world praying he comes home every night. You are not afraid to just walk through your own neighborhood. You're not Trayvon Martin's or Tamir Rice's parents or Eric Garner's children.

I don't have all the answers and I understand that policemen have to defend their own lives. But what about tasers and pepper spray? Could we invest in those?  Body cameras are fine but there are videos of Tamir's death and of Eric Garner's death in New York City and no one sees how those black men could have been apprehended without dying?

Eric Garner was unarmed and committing a very minor offense, but now policemen have left more children without a father. They could have even just let him get away - he was selling cigarettes, for God's sake.

Did the Cleveland police have to shoot Tamir from a few feet within two seconds of arriving or could there have been another way?  Could they have spent a little more time trying to reason with the unarmed Mr. Garner or did they have to strangle him to death?

                                                               Rest in peace Tamir.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river
attendeth my way
When sorrows
like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot
Thou has taught me to say
It is well
It is well with my soul.

Spafford


Monday, November 24, 2014

Grateful Apologist

Everything I need surrounds me
like a protective shell.
The sun drops on my day as I awaken,
and stays with relentless patience.

God is in your eyes and I can see
him every time I look at you.
My head has eternal music without my ears,
and love is inextricably knit around my heart.

A visceral peace arrives at unexpected moments,
one that can only be found in the human soul.
The world, fraught with danger,
has passed over this house

leaving beauty outside every window,
as if God has lost control of His grace,
and let it move in its own tangents
with glorious abandon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

In Memory of my Dad

For Donald Vogel
1923-2014


Daddy's Girl

You will never again trust
as you did

when Daddy was twice your size
his arms the greatest you knew.

They could straighten your baton
or chop down a tree in the front yard,

he won every game
and you were his best partner.

Driving in the Fourth of July storm
your dread of thunder and lightning

abated with Daddy's hands
on the wheel.

Fearless, you traveled the country
with the deepest knowledge

that Daddy
would bring you safely home.

He never told you he'd give his life
for you, you were born knowing.

You never felt doubt until the day
he held your hands and then let them go.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What If You Were Dorothy?

I've started volunteering to tutor adults who are studying to get their GED. It's only been a few sessions and already I think I might be learning as much from them as they are from me.

I spent all morning working with Dorothy on a language arts packet - excruciatingly dull worksheets on dangling modifiers and parallel statements etc.  At the end of the packet it asked her to write a story about something that happened to her. She thought for a while and then she wrote her story:

She had her son when she was 17 years old. They lived on the streets like "gypsies" for eight years. She wrote about how her every waking minute was spent on trying to meet his basic needs. She did that by "hustling" and dancing in bars.  She would leave him with a friend or acquaintance and buy food for that family with part of her pay. She worked hard for her son.

Then one day her sister came and took him from the babysitter and said she wanted him to play with her son - and Dorothy never saw him again - for 16 years.

When she realized he had been taken she wrote; "I no longer had my reason for living."

I asked her why she was in the GED program and she said because she had to make a new life - stop going to prison. An agency sent her to a halfway house in Akron and then in Cleveland to help her get back on her feet. She is done "hustling" and is getting an education with that support. She has a place to live and best of all her son found her.

Her son was adopted by a minister and his wife. They sent him to college and now he is a minister and gospel artist. Dorothy beamed with pride when she spoke of him.  She said he calls her mom and she has two grandchildren that she sees regularly.

I marveled at Dorothy's sweet nature and positive outlook after all she had been through.  I felt thankful for the social programs that gave her this second chance at life.  I realize her story isn't that uncommon. What was uncommon was sitting next to the person telling it.

So the next time you hear some wealthy politician saying poor people just need to get a job and take care of themselves ask yourself exactly how a 17 year old with a baby and no family support, no home and no education would do that on her own.

This country needs to get real about poverty. We can pay to help people out of poverty and horrific situations now or we can pay by keeping them in prisons and dealing with unwanted uneducated angry children. We pay one way or the other. Just imagining that  everyone has an equal playing field  doesn't make it so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When the Seasons Overlap

One goes down in orange flames,
the other arises in wet white and
the melancholy creeps into your present tense:

The autumn your bones hurt to the marrow,
the winter you bloomed in the brief daylight,
with mouthfuls of bitters, eyefuls of beautiful children.

The days you lost, the reinvented joy,
the unopened books,
a bird singing in the night.

Out of purple darkness the world
turned to face the sun again, and
everything and nothing had changed.

The miles and years like graffiti on your skin,
the generosity of prayer days,
bent on your knees before a creation sky.

And this is what God does:
sends you on a journey in a homeward direction,
makes the dark a light in you,
sings you resurrection songs
until the urgency has passed.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Meeting Tori Amos

Well, once again this blog has been woefully neglected. Life has gotten in the way, but I'm going to try again. I still want to use this blog for the good and positive, but I must start out with one of the highlights of my summer to get caught up.  I met my musical idol of the past two decades - Tori Amos.

If you don't know Tori's work I wouldn't necessarily recommend her to you. It seems like you would have been drawn to her music already if you needed it.  She is definitely an acquired taste.  Many people say they like her from hearing a radio hit or two from the '90's, but to really follow her through the years has been a true blessing in my life.  One of the reasons is because my daughter and I share the same love of Tori.  I'm not sure how that happened, but probably because she was forced to listen to "Little Earthquakes" obsessively in her young teens and she was perceptive enough to get it. We have gone to many concerts together (even once in NYC) and we did that this past August 7th when Tori came to Cain Park in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

I had read that Tori would greet her fans before the show, so on the day of the show I called the venue and was told the "meet and greet" started at 2:00. It was 12:45.  I called my daughter, we pondered it for a moment and simultaneously said "I'll be ready in 10 minutes and meet you there."  We got there at the same time and went to the end of a line of probably 100 people. We stayed pretty much at the end of that line until 5:30 when we were approaching Tori.

Tori Amos had stood outside and greeted every single fan individually. She hugged, listened, signed things, took photos and treated every single fan as if they were the only ones there. Tori fans, you see, adore HER, not just her music. Her lyrics make you think she's written them just for you.  I was trying to prepare myself for being cut off because of the time because it was one of those too-good-to-be-true moments. My daughter was an emotional wreck as we got closer and closer.

What do you say to someone you have felt bonded to for over 20 years? To someone who has touched and healed you? What do you say to the ONLY famous person you've ever really wanted to meet?

I didn't want to say what the last 100 people had said - your music saved my life when I was drowning in despair - I've loved you since "Little Earthquakes" - I have memorized every one of your hundreds of songs - blah, blah, blah.

So I told her that my daughter and I were together at every concert and that we had a mother-daughter dance to her song "Body and Soul" at her wedding. I told her she had helped me become a poet and I gave her my poetry book "Veracity".  She looked at it as if it was a precious jewel then looked at me and said, "You wrote this Diane? Thank you."

But I wanted my daughter to have the time she needed so I brought her forward and I moved back to take photos of the moment.  The photos show Tori immediately engaged with my daughter, taking her arms and speaking to her with intensity. Somehow Tori knew exactly what to say to my daughter that day - like she had a sixth sense. I won't share what was said, but it was beautiful.

We walked away crying and saying "did that just happen?"A truly surreal moment in life.  One I will never forget.  Even better, my son and his wife joined us for the two-hour spectacular concert that night.

I am not a groupie or an idolizer. I hate celebrities and celebrity worship and everything they stand for in today's society. That is NOT what this is. It is being touched by someone doing what God created them to do. Tori was a child prodigy and got kicked out of a prestigious school as a young girl for rebelling against what she was supposed to play - and that has been her legacy. She is 100% who she was born to be. I admire and respect that. I LOVE her music and the lyrics, and watching her greet every fan as she did that day made me love her even more.

Tori Amos is 51. I am a bit older, but the music is growing with her. Her most recent album contains songs about the experience of aging. I can't get that from a 24 year old pop star.  We're growing together and that is a rare and lovely thing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Do Good Anyway

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
IF you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world you best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa and/or Dr. Kent Keith
(Some discrepancy on the exact quote and author!)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dogs Know...

I just read a book by the wonderful author, Alice Hoffman. It's her newest book called "The Museum of Extraordinary Things."  I thought the following excerpt was  a concise and beautiful way to express the amazing creatures that dogs are as well as a life lesson for us all:

Now Mitts (the dog) trotted briskly beside him on their journey downtown, clearly happy to be alive, with no thought of the future or the past.  For this Eddie envied Mitts as well, how light his burden was, how clear his purpose.  He was to be his master's companion and in doing so he became himself, the essence of a dog.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Religion and Spirituality

For the first time in my life I have taken a "break" from church.  I have been very surprised to find my spiritual life growing without it. At first this was confusing to me, but  I have come to believe that church, while important, can lock you into only thinking about what you hear there week after week and season after season. After a time you may find yourself accepting that this is all there is to faith and spirituality - but I have experienced much more being away from church. I have also been seeking it and focusing on my spiritual growth, it didn't happen by accident.

Looking into meditation and Buddhist practices of tranquility may be, to some, not Christian. I disagree. It all works together beautifully. My prayer life has become much more about listening and less about asking. God speaks in the stillness.


These words from an interview with Ekhart Tolle are validating to my experience:

You can have religion with spirituality. You can have religion without spirituality.

Some people are so identified in their belief structure that they're completely trapped in their thinking. There is no spaciousness.

Any Christian who wants to go deeper into their own spirituality and not abandon their religion - there is depth in Christian teachings and in the words of Christ.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Four Agreements

The book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz has been around for a long time, but I just discovered it.  These are the agreements you make with yourself:

Be impeccable with your word.
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word o speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don't take anything personally.
 Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering.

Don't make assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement you can completely transform your life.

Always do your best.
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will void self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Untethered Soul

Another wonderful book called The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer- the kind of book you have to resist underlining almost everything.

Much of the book helps us understand how we have complete control over our own thoughts and how much of our energy is wasted on being upset or obsessed with things we cannot control. There are many words of wisdom to share but I just read the last chapter called "The loving eyes of God" and this is what I will share today.

Most of us who have grown up in a church have learned somewhere along the way that God judges us. This causes fear and fear is the opposite of love. The longer I love the more damage I see being done in churches in the name of a loving God. But Singer writes:

What if it is really true that God is not judging- What is God is loving? We all know that true love doesn't judge. Love sees nothing but beauty in its beloved. There is no impurity. There is no possibility of impurity. No matter what it beholds, it's all beautiful. That is how true love sees. That is what it looks like through the eyes of love. So if God is love, what must it look like through those eyes - the eyes are filled with infinite love and unconditional compassion?

It is like the unconditional love of a mother. The mother devotes every moment of life to her child who is physically or mentally challenged. She thinks the child is beautiful. She doesn't focus on the shortcomings; in fact, she doesn't even see them as shortcomings. 

What if that is how God looks upon His creation? You've lost out if you've been told otherwise. Instead of being encouraged to feel completely protected, loved, honored and respected by the Divine Force, you've been taught that you're being judged. Because you've been taught that you feel guilt and fear. But guilt and fear do not open your connection to the Divine; they only serve to close your heart.

So it makes sense to me that God cannot love us and judge us.  Love is unconditional.  I choose love. How about you?

Does anything in God's creation, other than the human mind, actually pass judgement? Nature just gives and gives to whoever will receive. Should you choose not to receive, it doesn't punish you. You punish yourself because you choose not to receive. If you say to the light, "I will not look at you. I'm going to live in darkness," the light just keeps shining. If you say to God, "I don't believe in you and want nothing to do with you," creation continues to sustain you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Surrender

The concept of surrendering to anything brings to mind a weakness. It has a negative connotation to most of us. But surrendering to love, to truth, to forgiveness, in order to find peace and happiness may be one of the strongest, boldest things you can do in your life.

Think about how much we believe ourselves to be right in every situation, every relationship, every opinion. We may be right, but we may also cause ourselves great anxiety by fighting what we cannot change. We are the ones that suffer. We lose spiritual peace with the world around us. Just look at our Congress as an example. They are unproductive and weak because every has to be right.

I remember a time in my life when this phrase had a great impact on me - Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?

Some thoughts from A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:

Surrender means, by definition, giving up attachment to results. When we surrender to God, we let go our attachment to how things happen on the outside and we become more concerned with what happens on the inside.

Our only job in every situation is to merely let go of our resistance to love.

To relax, to feel the love in your heart and keep to that as your focus in every situation - that's the meaning of spiritual surrender. It changes us. We become deeper, more attractive people.

Surrender means the decision to stop fighting the world and start loving it instead.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What is the Soul?

Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
Matthew 10:28

The soul is the part of you that existed before you were born and will exist after you die. It's the highest, most noble part of yourself that you can reach for.
Gary Zukov

The fingerprint of God that becomes the physical body.
Iyanla Vanzant

The soul is the core of your being. It is eternal. It doesn't exist in space time. It the feel of infinite creativity, infinite possibilities. It's your internal reference point to which you should always be in touch.
Deepak Chopra

The soul is the spiritual essence of who we really are.
Sarah Ban Breathnach

The soul is the part of us that never dies.
Debbie Ford

The soul is your innermost being beyond form. The consciousness beyond form.
Eckart Tolle

The soul is the birth less, deathless, changeless part of us . The part of us that looks out from behind the eyes  and has no form.
Wayne Dyer

The truth of who we are. The light, the love which is in us.
Marianne Williamson

It is one with God. The soul is immortal. It belongs to God.
Llewellyn Vaughn-Lee

The lure of our becoming.
Jean Houston

In the paths of the wicked lie thorns and snares, but he who guards his soul stays fear from them.
Proverbs 22:5

For every living soul belongs to me.
Ezekiel 18:4

Friday, January 17, 2014

Musings on the Spiritual Life


So I continue the journey and I am fascinated by the common threads that have run through all my listening and reading so far - whether it is an Episcopal priest, a Buddhist monk, an Indian doctor or a scholar of miracles...

They are:

To be still and allow God to talk to you. The busier you are the more you need the stillness.

To pray to be in contact with God, to reach new levels of awareness to learn who you are beside a physical body (through meditation and prayer).

To live in the present moment. We do not have the past - it is gone. We do not have the future either. All we really have is now. 

To seek happiness because then you send it out into the world.

There is good and bad and Satan, or evil, stems from our ego. 
Ego is the enemy and it is inside of us. 


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Today I Choose Happiness

by Marianne Williamson
from "A Year of Miracles"

The circumstances of my life may go up and down, for the mortal world is changeable.  The immortal world, however, is changeless, for there there is only love.  I build my house on the rock of the immortal world. Today I choose only immortal thoughts.

I extend my perception beyond what my senses perceive, to what my heart knows is true. I withdraw my belief that I need anyone or anything to be other than what they are, in order for me to be secure.  I know that whenever fear expresses itself, love will ultimately prevail.  Therefore, I need not fear, nor cry, nor despair. To the extent to which I see what is truly true, I see only cause for happiness.

Happiness is the choice I make today. It does not rest on circumstances, but on my frame of mind.  I surrender to God any emotional habits that lead me down the path of unhappiness. and pray for guidance in shifting my thoughts. In cultivating the habits of happiness, I attract more people and situations that match its frequency. I smile more often, give praise more often, give thanks more often, and am glad more often. For such is my choice today.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

COEXIST in 2014

My only resolution, the one I have felt called to at the beginning of 2014 is to use this blog only for good.  I have tried to do that for many years but I have also included politics and my opinions. No one needs to hear more opinions and certainly not more political rhetoric. So I resolve to be only inspirational.

For the past 8-10 months I have been on a spiritual journey. I believe I am on a path of enlightenment. I am at a turning point. I am seeing things in new ways.  I want to share that journey because if others had not shared their insights I would not have them to begin with.

 I will include the wisdom and teachings of others, not necessarily myself. I hope you will join me. I am still a Christian but as I read spiritual teachings I find that non-Christians use plenty of references to Christ and to Christian teachings - I believe all are worthy of thought and consideration.

Thich Nhat Hnah is a Buddist monk. These are four mantras or sacred words to be repeated, that I am incorporating into my daily life.


Four Mantras of Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. Darling I am here for you.   When you love someone the best thing you can offer him or her is your presence. How can you love if you are not there? You offer him or her your true presence. You are there for your beloved one.

  1. Darling, I know you are there.   I am so happy because you are truly there. You recognize the presence of your beloved one as something very precious and you use your mindfulness to recognize that and embrace your beloved one with mindfulness and she will bloom like a flower.  To be loved means to be recognized as existing and those two mantras bring happiness right away. Even if your beloved one is not there you can use the telephone to practice your mantra.

  1. Darling, I know you suffer. That is why I am here for you. Before you do something to help him, to help her, your presence already can bring some relief.

  1. Darling, I suffer. Please help me.  When you suffer and you believe your suffering has been caused by your beloved one and you suffer so deeply. you prefer to go to your room, shut the door and suffer alone. You get hurt and you want to punish him or her for making you suffer.  You go to him, you go to her and practice that and you suffer less right away.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014

Dear Past,
Thank you for the lessons.

Dear Future,
I am ready.

Happy New Year to All.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Coexist With Christmas



Coexist with Christmas

Like a bird singing in the cold of night,
when multitudes of angels
crawled and hovered above 
God walked into the world with a child in His arms.
The shepherds gave a reception, the stargazers
brought gifts to the harbinger of heaven,

the wise men momentarily lost their wisdom
to seek the sunshine of His face.
Then he grew under our sky, under the same loving Eye,
drank the planet’s water, browned in our sun,
for a brief moment – an alien in this world
just as you and I.

In this earthly rotation: blossoms break forth,
summer scorches, leaves fly, snow flies
to bring us to this annual déjà vu,
when hearts thaw and generosity
puffs out its proud chest, and we rush
in the frenetic, glorious mess of holidays.

Now, in this moment – coexist
with the reality of the day.
When the first wet snowflake touches 
your windshield, and you are singing
with the radio about roasting chestnuts,
hear the bird singing in the night,

sense God waiting to greet you
when the celebration is over,
give the midwinter gift of forgiving yourself,
and cast the remnant of your heart to Him.

Diane Vogel Ferri

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Little Good News - Drive-through Generosity

It has been reported that a new type of paying it forward is happening in America.  It's drive-through generosity. To be honest I have probably used a drive-through fast food only a few times in the past 10 years so I have little chance of experiencing this phenomenon.

But I thought I'd bring a little good news today instead of the disillusioning crap we hear day in and day out everywhere we go.

Americans are being spontaneously generous! Sometimes unbroken chains of cars at a McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts are paying for the car behind them - and then they pay for the car behind them - and so on! At a time when our nations leaders cannot seem to even be civil to each other, this seems inspired.

You may remember the movie "Pay it Forward" which came from a novel of the same name by Catherine Hyde in 1999. In the story the protagonist does three good deeds and asks the beneficiaries to do the same.

Fast food operators are reporting that drive-through generosity is happening several times a day. The largest out break occurred in last December at a Tim Horton's in Winnipeg, Manitoba when 228 consecutive cars paid it forward. Last April a Chick-fil-a in Houston had 67 cars (come on, America!)

Since I don't do drive-throughs I'm going to find another way to pay it forward. How about you? That's your good news for the day.:))

From the wisdom of  Willy Wonka said - "So shines a good deed in a weary world."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Why I Love The New York Times

This is not a paid advertisement or any other kind of advertisement - just something that occurred to me this morning as I leisurely read through the Sunday New York Times.

I learn something every week. I learn more than one thing. The logo subtitle is "Expect the World"and that is what you get. I believe that most ignorance and bigotry stems from a lack of a world knowledge and awareness that there is a whole planet out there, full of life and humans that are nothing like yourself.  Once you gain a larger perspective your mind and world opens up in glorious ways.

But I digress. (Again, my worldview is complete in posts from a year ago)

Today I read about schools "flipping". This means that students watch videos of teacher lectures at home, on their smartphones or computers. If they lack technology they can access them at the school tech lab. When they are in school they do projects and homework in small groups with teacher support. Teachers say it is a way to reach every child, to help kids with homework when there is no support at home. Students can view the lectures as many times as they want at home. It is timesaving and, although the article didn't say this, my guess is eliminates a lot of time taken up in social drama in the daily school hours.  Apparently, in some schools they are seeing great success with students who had previously failed classes. Failure rates have declined and graduation rates have increased.

I read an excellent article by Nicholas Kristof who writes nothing but excellent articles on the world's marginalized, underprivileged and forgotten - especially women and girls in sexual trafficking. Today it wasn't about some third world country - it was Nashville.

I read an article about Tim Gunn, of Project Runway fame, who never came out to his parents, but tried to commit suicide at 17.  Again, acknowledging that no one would choose to be gay, bullied, repressed and hidden. At the end of the article he said if he had succeeded killing himself he wouldn't have had the wonderful life he's had.

There is a whole page about German words that express the inexpressible in English. New proposed German words like herbstlaubtrittvergnugen which means kicking through piles of leaves - made up of the words autumn-foliage-strike-fun.  I like plauschplage - the pressure to make small talk with people you interact with every day. From prattle-plague.  That tells you something about me....

Another article delved into the connection between success and musical training
. Examples of many high achievers in government and media (like Condoleeza Rice who trained to be a concert pianist) were included. Makes a lot of sense.

The Arts and Leisure section, while giving me a yearning to be back in New York City, is always inspiring. The amount of human creativity exhibited in this section is a beautiful thing. I feel relieved that I cannot see all these wonders since I am not there - as opposed to when I see them in Cleveland papers and wonder why I am not going to all of them )usually a lack of someone to go with that would truly enjoy it as well.)

I put aside and savor the Sunday Magazine and the Book Review section to take into my week. I find a list of books each week to add to my reading list.

I could go on and on - that's just snippets of October 13, 2013 in The New York Times.


Monday, October 7, 2013

What If There Was a Day...

I am itching to write about my angst and outrage over our inept Congress and the "shutting down" of our government, but you can read excellent commentaries by writers more eloquent than I and we're all sick to death of it, aren't we? So I share a poem of an opposing nature...What if there was a day....


when nothing happened,
in between wars and elections,
storms, giant waves, quakes and funnel clouds?

Teams had the day off, strikes were averted,
traffic moved like a dream,
thieves and attackers took a break.

Juries were sent home and judges napped,
school children forgot to bully and fight,
theater lights darkened, celebrities tired of their capers.

Reality shows were in rerun, mortgage rates
and the stock exchange remained as the day before.
No one was born, no one died.

Newspapers had nothing to print,
talking heads stopped talking,
all media were muted and stilled.

What if the cadence and rhythms of the planet
spun in harmony and coexistence
for just one day...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Follow Your Bliss

I never knew where the phrase - Follow Your Bliss - came from until one Sunday morning I stumbled on the Oprah network. The show was called Super Soul Sunday and the topics are all of a spiritual nature.  Our spiritual nature as human beings is something that always fascinates me.  I believe that every human being has this gift but I observe many fellow humans that don't appear to know it.

I am not referring to religion, especially organized religion. Although I've spent my life in church I completely get why churches are repellant to many people. Full of rules and shame, misinterpretations and hypocritical thinking in the name of God.

But spirit is something that lives inside of us. A part of us that is not in this world. A knowledge, perhaps, of something greater than ourselves. It's something that is easily ignored in this world of distractions and noise.

On Oprah's show I heard three young people in their 30's talking about a spiritual revelation of sorts. They are encouraging young people through their writings and appearances to acknowledge spirituality in order to enjoy a more fulfilling life. A life of gratitude, love and charity to other human beings.

On this show Joseph Campbell was discussed. He coined the term "Follow Your Bliss"decades ago. Who was this guy? Why had I never read his writings?  At a certain time in my life when everything imploded and I was a lost soul I read as many philosophical and self-help books as I could. I absorbed it all (my favorite being "The Road Less Traveled" by Scott Peck).

What does follow your bliss mean?  You must ask yourself :
When am I happiest?
When does time fly?
What feeds my spirit?
What do I have to offer?
What are my strongest talents and gifts?
What talents can offer something to the world?
How can I love others better?

I was shocked to discover at my age I still needed to purposefully ask myself these questions and ponder the answers to get  back on track in my life. To begin to feel true joy again. To feel that I am offering something to the world. I think we need to ask ourselves these questions throughout our lives because we do change and grow and have more to offer the older we get.

I realized that I feel closest to God when I am singing. It makes me happiest. And I have not been singing so I joined a new chorale.  This blog was also one of my ways to offer something, however small, to the world. Ask yourself those questions and you may be surprised to discover that the answers may not be what they once were.
Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Now That I've Got Your Attention....

So I put a pathetic cry for help on Facebook the other day for people to read my blog. And guess what? About 30 people said they would. I find that amazing. For as annoying as Facebook can sometimes be, I find it's benefits much greater.  I have learned of friends losing loved ones that I would have never known otherwise - and I could offer support.  I have been in touch with friends who share a common history with me, but we had lost touch for many years. I have shared my own heartache and felt loved.

Does Facebook just provide the illusion of friends and support?  I think not most of the time. I believe that when Facebook friends say they are praying for you they mean it. I know I do. But, say on your birthday, maybe yes.  Admit it, don't you feel really popular on your birthday now?  (I resent the fact that I have always remembered people's birthdays for years but now I do not get credit for it because Facebook reminds me - but I digress.)

I truly feel blessed by those who said they'd read. It's not that I think that I have so many more profound and incredibly intelligent things to say than the next person. Here is the reason:

I started a blog when I needed something in my life.  It met those needs. It inspired me because I was always looking for inspiration and interesting things to report. It opened my eyes to more of the world in my search for unique blogposts.  It has made me think more deeply about life and the world around me. And I believe that if God has given you a gift - even a small one - it's meant to be shared. You  never know when you may touch someone's life or write something they need to hear.

If you want to read my every little thought and opinion about the world, politics and morality just scroll down a little ways to August and September of 2012. Otherwise I will try to keep it light:)

I may even force you to read and appreciate a little poetry....

This year has been one of the toughest of my life. I suddenly and unexpectedly became a caregiver for my two wonderful parents. It has been a privilege and a joy - but it is also extremely stressful to have to make life decisions for others, to be responsible in ways you never have been before, to get used to not having the time to do any of the things that used to calm you and make you happy. Things are somewhat stable now and this is why I return to something like my blog.

THANK YOU if you are reading this. I love you, truly I do.  I'll try to make then short and sweet and if you want to comment, I would love to hear your thoughts. But it means the most just to know you're out there.

If you scroll down a little ways there is a device that says you can subscribe. I think you will get an email if there is a new post. Try it and let me know if it works!




Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Having It All

Delia Ephron has a new book called "Sister Mother Husband Dog" and this is an excerpt from it about "having it all".

It might be a fleeting moment - drinking a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning when the light is especially bright. It might also be a few undisturbed hours with a novel I'm in love with, a three-hour lunch with my best friend, reading "Goodnight Moon" to a child, watching a Nadal-Federer match. Having it all definitely involves an ability to seize the moment, especially when it comes to sports. It can be eating in bed when you're living on your own for the first time or the first weeks of a new job when everything is new, uncertain and a bit scary. It's when your senses are engaged. It's when you feel at peace with someone you love. And that isn't often.  Loving someone and being at peace with him (or her) are two different things.  Having it all are moments in life when you suspend judgment. It's when I attain that elusive thing called peace of mind. 

Not particularly American, unquantifiable, unidentifiable, different for everyone, but you know it when you have it.

...I have it all. And not only that, I can have more.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

When the Music


This is the poem I wrote for my daughter on her wedding day. You have to know Kate and Matt to appreciate it but I wanted to share it with all.


When the Music

For Kate and Matt 
on their wedding day
July 6, 2013

The chords of hopeful love and harmony
stretched from east coast to west
through fashion and history
unbroken by time or space 
when the music was a silent prayer

Dissonance and alternate soundscapes
pulled to meet somewhere in the desert
near fountains and night lights
unexpected fusion and gold dust  
when the music was unrehearsed and new

An intermezzo of sweet communion
an offbeat meeting of body and soul
and all the world stopped
the fifteen year wait was over 
when the music was a precious thing

Songs they had never sung
they now sang for each other
rhythmic, soul-wise, tattooed on their hearts
in the velvet underground that only two share 
when the music was suspended rock and roll

Today God is in their redemption song
now it is sealed, it is beautiful
let them sing and dance in these song-gifts
with a melody only they can hear
and the music goes on forever.....


Diane Vogel Ferri

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Life Happens

I doubt that anyone looks at this blog any longer.  I don't blame you.  Something I once loved and thought about everyday has gotten lost in the circumstances of life.

What has happened since March 9?
Starting on March 16th BOTH of my parents were hospitalized a number of times and both spent time in rehabilitation facilities. Then my first grandchild was born - a beautiful boy!  The end-of-the-school-year craziness ensued.  My daughter's wedding is days away.

Emotional roller coasters don't leave much room for thoughtful blog posts.  I had been winding down anyway.  I miss you COEXIST. I hope I'll be back someday soon. Meanwhile, having a beloved mother and father and new little person to love and care for is a blessing everyday.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Public School Teachers

There is a teacher's strike going on in the greater Cleveland area. Strikes are terribly damaging to both sides and personally I do not think I would ever vote to strike. I have seen both sides. I do know that it always a last resort and I understand the union's need to retain their power lest working conditions deteriorate and effect student learning. I also understand the need to work with a contract and not be taken advantage of.

Thinking about this made me want to share what it was like in the elementary school building that I teach in this week.

This week grades and report cards were due. Report cards can take hours and hours for a classroom teacher with 25 students. We have one 45 minute planning time each day but at least once a week it is reserved for a grade level meeting. This week teachers started to give up two lunch or planning periods a week to tutor students in math for the all-important Ohio Achievement Assessment.  This will continue until the end of April.  It is voluntary but everyone volunteers because it is good for kids. Just like the entire district agreed to a longer instructional day without one dissent - because we care about the kids.

This week some teachers were required to be at school in the evening for a concert, many are at an all weekend IB training on the west side. These do not all apply to me but I did have extra special ed duties this week that took up several class periods.  This Wednesday we will all work a 13 hour day to accommodate conferences.

Most days I open my email in the morning with trepidation because I know there will 2-3 more things I am required to do that day or that week that I previously knew nothing about.

We are required to go to multiple trainings each year. Yes, they are part of the work day, but anyone who is a teacher knows how much extra effort it requires to prepare for substitutes (and then usually you have to teach it again anyway).

Am I complaining? No! No one I know complains. It's our job. It's also our job to deal with children who come to school hungry, angry, filthy, unmedicated and out-of-control, and deal with parents like the one this week - when told his children weren't doing their homework - yelled at the teacher that it is her job to teach them, not his.

There are days I come home exhausted, discouraged and sometimes defeated because it is not an easy job.  You can't stop caring because they are children.

Oh, and we also lost an hour this week  .......I'm just saying.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Think Positively About the World

The following are excerpts from an essay written for the Washington Post by Peter J. Munson, a major in the Marine Corps and the author of "War, Welfare and Democracy: Rethinking America's Quest for the End of History."

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the United States sent its military off to war and fretted about post-tramatic stress disorder - but paid little attention to the fact that America itself was traumatized. Americans became angry and withdrawn. We are fearful and paranoid because, after a strike on our nation, we chose to focus on defense rather than the resilience and vitality that made America great.  In our defensive mindset, we bristle at every change in a world undergoing an epochal transformation.

We have little reason to be so negative. Certainly the rest of the world is gaining on us, but this represents the successes of explicit U.S. policies, the United States sought to create a world of economic interdependence and prosperity, hoping to banish the malaise that helped precipitate the global conflict. The prospect of rapid growth was not viewed as a threat but rather offered the promise of robust markets for American goods and ingenuity. We were confident and focused on the positive tasks of expanding the economy rather than fearing change.

Collectively we have lost that positivity - what historian Louis Mumford called an "inner go". Mumford was referring to the Romans, who in their decline focused only on security and stability, losing the vitality to embrace change and take risks. In our increasingly paranoid discourse, we too, have lost focus on the positive, creative tasks that continuously remake American power, resilience and vitality. We cannot agree to invest in education for our children or infrastructure for our commerce, to rationalize the regulations that underpin out markets or to act collectively to create value. Instead we hunker in a defense crouch.

A nation cannot survive on defense alone. Militaries and wars produce nothing. They only consume - time, lives, resources and hope.  Banish the fear, paranoia and dissension. Lead again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Coexist on Inauguration Day/Martin Luther King Day 2013



"The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined non-conformists who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood."  Martin Luther King Jr.

"There is not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America, a Latino America and an Asian America - there's the United States of America." Barack Obama

Monday, December 24, 2012

Coexist with Christmas


Diane Vogel Ferri

Coexist with Christmas

Like a bird singing in the cold of night,
when multitudes of angels
crawled and hovered above 
God walked into the world with a child in His arms.
The shepherds gave a reception, the stargazers
brought gifts to the harbinger of heaven,

the wise men momentarily lost their wisdom
to seek the sunshine of His face.
Then he grew under our sky, under the same loving Eye,
drank the planet’s water, browned in our sun,
for a brief moment – an alien in this world
just as you and I.

In this earthly rotation: blossoms break forth,
summer scorches, leaves fly, snow flies
to bring us to this annual déjà vu,
when hearts thaw and generosity
puffs out its proud chest, and we rush
in the frenetic, glorious mess of holidays.

Now, in this moment – coexist
with the reality of the day.
When the first wet snowflake touches 
your windshield, and you are singing
with the radio about roasting chestnuts,
hear the bird singing in the night,

sense God waiting to greet you
when the celebration is over,
give the midwinter gift of forgiving yourself,
and cast the remnant of your heart to Him.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pie Jesu


Oh sweet Lord
untwist the harsh days of this world
and usher us into pure joy.
We are on our way to sleep,
wrapped in your infinite love.
Now, let the sky close
on all pain, and gift us
with our unearned requiem,
grant us everlasting rest.
Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give Thanks

When you take a breath, your lungs filling,
your heart pulsing with your life
give thanks
for the daily unending gift.

When you gaze upward at the untouchable sky
give thanks
for it is infinite and awesome
beyond human understanding.

When you look into the eyes of someone you love
and see those eyes looking back at you
give thanks
for only a loving God could create and sustain that love.

When you sit at a table with an abundance
of food for your taking
give thanks
for you are among the privileged on this earth.

When you look up from your day, your life,
your fears and sorrows
give thanks
and remember God.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Two Cents - The 2012 Election

I have spent more time reading and reflecting upon the politics of the United States during this long and tedious campaign season than I ever have in my lifetime. I am a progressive and believe in the social policies of the Democratic party. However, I made a true effort to understand the conservative Republican way of thinking. Many years ago I identified myself with the Republican party, so it was not as difficult as you might think.

But, as I have written in the preceding posts, my life experiences opened my eyes to the reality of the country I live in.  It is not the country I grew up in - or at least the one I perceived in the 50's and 60's.  After the election one commentator said: "The Republican party is a "Mad Men" party in a "Modern Family" world.  ( In reference to a TV program set in the 1960's versus one set in 2012 with a diverse extended family.)

The fact is that we do not live in a country made of middle-class white families with two children and a dog. Maybe we never did. Maybe that was our own personal experience.

We do live in a country of Hispanics, Blacks, immigrants, gay people, Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists and many struggling people - sometimes through no fault of their own. People who did not have the opportunities, encouragement or support from their middle-class families as many of us did.

I get the fact that there are those who would take advantage of the welfare system. I get the fact that many people resent paying their hard-earned money to care for those people. The problem is that we all pay for the consequences of poverty anyway. Think about it.

I think everyone agrees that government should not constantly interfere in our lives. It's just that we look at that two different ways.  I think preventing people in committed relationships from marrying is government interfering in their lives. I think the government telling a woman what she can do with her own body is interfering in her life.

I see posts on social media by people I know to be very patriotic in their thinking. But those posts today reflect a negativity and unwillingness to respect our re-elected president. To me this is the opposite of patriotism. It is saying  - my way or no way.  It is what we have identified as being wrong with Washington - the inability to work together for the good of the country.  There were Republicans who admitted that their main goal was to make Obama fail. It was heard by many pundits and news anchors as well. If that is one's stance then they can call themselves a party member, but cannot call themselves an American. Because we are all America.

Obama received 332 electoral votes to Mitt Romney's 203 and it was clear that the minorities, women, and immigrants in this country favored Obama. As soon as we all face the reality of what our country is, not what we wish it was,  and we begin working together - only then will be truly to call ourselves the UNITED States of America.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Umoja

I wrote this poem years ago after reading a newspaper article on Umoja.  PBS just ran a two-night show called Half of the Sky about women in third world countries.  And I saw Rebecca and Umoja in the show!  It is from my chapbook "Liquid Rubies".


Umoja

Sitting cross-legged on a sisal mat

thatched roof and the equator sun above,
Rebecca holds the 13-year-old girl’s hand 

You don’t have to marry that old man 
even if he is my brother.
Rebecca goes house to house
You don’t have to have sex with a man
that beats you, exposes you to HIV,
a husband with other wives.

Shamed by rape then abandoned
Rebecca’s women grow a circle of mud 
and dung huts in parched and barren grassland
and call it Umoja, in Swahili, unity.

A sanctuary for Sarah’s little girl body
from bearing a child that would have shredded
her insides, causing her to leak, to smell,
to be shunned into a beggar’s existence.

No men live in Umoja,
a haven for Mary from circumcision,
mutilated gentials that would have forever 
brought pain and denied pleasure.

In Umoja, children go to school for the first time, 
women work in the cultural center
inviting tourists into the beauty of Kenya,
selling red and white Samburu beaded necklaces.

Rebecca ignores spiteful men setting up
their own village, spying, failing to imitate
Umoja’s success but hiring the men to haul firewood 
as women change the rhythm, the power of a village.

Rebecca throws back her brown cloud of hair, 
laughs at stone throwing and death threats 
as she boards a plane to a world conference on
gender empowerment an ocean away.
If you remain silent no one thinks you have anything to say.




Monday, September 17, 2012

COEXIST XXXVII - My Worldview Part 5

(See last 4 posts)

The tragedy in the lives of most of us is that we go through life walking down a high-walled land with people of our own kind, the same economic situation, the same national background, and education and religious outlook. And beyond those walls, all humanity lies, unknown and unseen, and untouched by our restricted and impoverished lives.
Florence Luscomb
architect and suffragist
1887-1985

My last five posts have encapsulated my worldview on current topics. I think this quote sums it up nicely. I have just a few more topics to touch on.

I watch a lot of TV reruns from the '60's like "I love Lucy", "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Andy Griffith Show." I realized a long time ago that I was still drawn to them because they reminded me of my childhood. I was the same age as Opie Taylor and Richie Petrie so it is like watching those wonderful years all over again.  The sense of simplicity and security and love in those shows has always been comforting to me. We all wish for "the good old days" in some respect.  But we are not living in those times any longer:
China will soon be the #1 English speaking country in the world.
The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
There are 5 times as many words in the English language as they were during Shakespeare's life.
The amount of technical information is doubling every two years.
While reading this - 67 babies were born in the United States, 284 in China and 395 in India.
Students in school now are being prepared for jobs that do not even exist yet.

Wow. I am fully aware that my COEXIST way of thinking is idealistic. It is an ideal, a hope, a dream for the world. But if we have no ideals or dreams we have no hope. I believe those of us who have been blessed to be raised and live in middle class America are often short-sighted and sheltered. We have values that we feel strongly about. But our values do not align with reality sometimes. There is a whole world out there that is nothing like ours - with billions of other human beings - all God's children. As human beings we need to care for each other, resist judging each other and strive for peace.

Guns - kill people.   I say - just because it's a right doesn't mean it's right. Same with freedom of speech - when it moves away from civility and respect it's just abuse of a right.  I wonder how many people who carry guns around really ever have to defend their lives (with the exception of certain inner city areas).  The teenage boy in Florida would still be alive if the self-appointed neighborhood watchman hadn't had a gun. That's just the truth. That boy did nothing to deserve to die. Do we really want to revert back to the Old West?

Global Warming - There is overwhelming evidence and agreement of climate experts that humans are causing global warming. They have been warning us since the 1970's. If people are concerned about the world we are leaving to future generations in terms of economics, why are they not concerned about the planet they will live on?
(The hottest decade on record was 2000-2009 with 2010 being the hottest year on record - in the world - not just where we live.)
I remember years when Lake Erie was too dirty to swim in, but this summer I swam in its crystal clear water. I remember doing reports in school on dozens of endangered animals that are no longer in danger of extinction.  Things are better because of agencies like the EPA. Sometimes we need to be saved from ourselves.

If you do not believe in science then I hope you are not going to a doctor or taking medication. It is another case of entitlement - believing we should be able to live the way we want regardless of consequences. I have heard that some believe that God will save us from our consuming ways and abuse of the earth. But when has God ever done that? He does not intervene in tragedy. He does not prevent cancer or tsunamis or accidents - why would he save the planet He entrusted to our care?  Human lives are created by our own free will. It's what makes us human. Free will causes pain and suffering. Free will makes mistakes, but it also allows us to choose truth and beauty sometimes.
See 1 Peter 5:2.

So that's all for a while. I have no idea if anyone has even read any of this, but I am proud that I have come to the point in my life that I am able to articulate what I believe and why.  There were decades of my life when most of these issues never crossed my mind for various personal reasons. But now I am more aware of the world around me, and more aware of what I have learned over the years.

If you've taken the time to ever read this blog - thank you. God bless you.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

COEXIST XXXVI - My Worldview Part 4

(see last three posts)

Coexisting and Diversity
It is not against the law to be Muslim, an atheist, or speak a different language in this country.  Immigration and diversity are why we are all here. If you believe that everyone should look, think, act, believe and vote as you do maybe you have forgotten that  the family of man is over 7 billion strong and most of them are not white, middle-class or Christian. Only 33% of the world is Christian.

I do not align myself with any person, publication or organization.  I cannot respect or understand the opinions of some inexplicably popular pundits who have been known to speak out viciously and disrespectfully against blacks, women, Iraq soldiers, 9/11 families, Katrina victims, people who "deserve" to lose their homes in forest fires etc. (You can look these quotes up easily on the Internet). These people fuel intolerance, fear, and a desire to move backwards to an era before civil rights in this country. How sad.

A house divided against itself will fall. Luke 11:17

The most off-putting agenda of certain groups for me is the idea that they are entitled to have everything their way. They appear to take no responsibility for less fortunate fellow citizens, to care for the environment, to tolerate other religions and cultures, to support quality education for all American children or to ever support what is good for all in this country.  Just because you live in America does not entitle you to have everything suiting your personal preferences.

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950

When Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor" did he mean only those of your political party, race or sexual orientation? When he spent time with the poor did he say "take a bath and get a job"?  No, he just fed them. His whole ministry was based on social justice. On his last day Jesus's greatest example was of washing others' feet. He was not belligerent, angry or insisting he was right - just humble and serving.

I do not believe in a paranoid, doomsday approach to life. This contradicts faith. I do not believe that attacking others solves anything. Any fool can spout hatred and intolerance. Hateful emails and rhetoric only serve to divide us further.

In my Bible Christian morals do not include intolerance. Jesus loved the outcast tax collector, the leper, the prostitute, the poor. If you are a Christian then you must believe that Jesus brought a new covenant of love, compassion and forgiveness, supplanting some of the Old Testament ways.  We are all imperfect, all sinners, all need forgiveness. Don't hate someone just because they sin differently than you.

The highest result of education is tolerance. Helen Keller

You can safely assume that you have created God in your own image when God hates all the same people you do.  Anne Lamott

And.... there is no War on Christmas.  We should be thankful we have have the freedom to celebrate it. Insisting that everyone respect one holiday while disrespecting their religious freedom ( or freedom from it)  is shameful. In American no one will prevent you from praying or worshiping. Is one's faith so small that someone not saying Merry Christmas will hamper the celebration? Jesus does not care whether someone says Merry Christmas, but he does care that you love your neighbor and honor Him through love and respect for all. Many of our ideas about "the way things should be" were formed in our childhoods, but we are not living in those years any longer.  Let God do the judging.

And finally in the words of Betty White: I don't know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs and don't worry about other people so much!

Let's be FOR each other instead of AGAINST each other.
Come let us reason together - Isaiah 1:18