Bless Me Father, For I Disagree

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Graphic by LikeSuccess

In his homily this past Sunday, my pastor said that sin darkens our intellect and obscures our ability to see the truth – God’s truth, God’s will. Even when we see the truth, sin causes us to have a hard time obeying and following it.

As an example, my pastor said Hitler had a brilliant intellect, but his darkened intellect kept him from knowing the truth that Jews are equal to, not inferior to, Aryans. In the same way, our nation’s darkened intellect kept us from knowing that Blacks are equal to Whites.

Because sin will always be there to hamper our ability to see the truth, we need people through whom God can lead us. We all have the potential for such spiritual leadership, so we shouldn’t be afraid to fulfill our God-given potential, lest we deprive the world of a leader – “a fisher of men” as Jesus said in the Bible.

Here’s where my pastor’s homily took a weird turn. As an example of a man who is not afraid to become all that he can become, my pastor chose Donald Trump. My pastor added that he does not agree with all of Trump’s decisions or all his goals, but he nonetheless approves of his attitude in striving to be all that he can be.

My pastor marvels that Trump is not afraid to be all that he can be.

My pastor is not repulsed that Trump is not trying to be more than he can be.

My pastor seems to assume that everything Trump will be will be good. Why? Because Trump’s anti-abortion position endears him to the religious right?

Am I supposed to be impressed that Donald grew up affluent; went to private schools; didn’t have to serve in the military; got through business school; went into business with seed money from his dad; made a lot of money; went through several bankruptcies; stayed mega-rich while he stiffed contractors who worked on his buildings; and then decided to become president so he can single-handedly save our nation from economic malaise and a lack of worldwide respect? Is this a man trying to be all that he can be?

Could Trump try to do more? Could he strive to be: Mindful of the working poor who can’t afford healthcare? Compassionate toward immigrants seeking safety and a decent life? Informed about science that warns of imminent dangers to the planet we share with all the other countries of the world? Embarrassed by his locker room talk about grabbing women by their genitals? Ashamed of publicly mocking a person with a disability? Aware that lying is forbidden in God’s Top 10?

Should this man of such privilege, and now of such power, be wary of all the wrong things he can be – like the intellectually darkened Hitler? And if he is not wary, does that give us all the more reason to be?

My pastor might be correct that Trump always goes for it when it comes to becoming all he can become. But Trump goes unchecked by Christian values rooted in love. His anti-abortion stance does not give him a pass for the Christian directive to love one another.

Does my opinion make me a bad Christian? A hypocrite? Many will condemn me as such. It’s my struggle, a matter between my conscience and my God, but I cannot love with one hand and hate with the other. If Trump is a fisher of men, I pray he does not catch me in his net.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2017.

Love Must Push Back

 

 

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Lady Justice with her scales and her sword. Source: Internet, no credit found. 

Like many Americans, my mind is swirling with many questions about the 2016 presidential election, particularly its results. As I did during the contentious 18 months of campaigning, I am reading opinion pieces and articles to try to comprehend why people, especially people of differing opinions, think the things they do. Peace starts with empathy. One journalist asked why people are still touting the “Love Trumps Hate” slogan after the election results proved it wrong.

“Love Trumps Hate” is for me a belief rooted in faith, not a mere slogan. Since God is the source of all love, then God trumps hate – ultimately, seldom instantly, but in a sustained fashion. Being a person of faith means accepting that things happen in God’s time, and we are not privy to the reasons. Waiting is hard for us, especially when times are hard. And we are quick to forget that we need to work, to fight, and to sacrifice for things worth having.

Why did hate – in the forms of disrespect, bullying, misogyny, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia – get tolerated and perhaps rewarded in this election? Were people so filled with rage born of fear and resentment that nothing else mattered? Were people were so filled with distrust and laziness that they did not bother to vote in rejection of these things?

Women, racial minorities, immigrants, veterans, the LGBT community, and disabled persons were all made to feel less than, unwanted, intimidated, and threatened during this election. Now that the responsible person is in a position to affect their lives, many people have reason to fear and doubt. Now more than ever, I need to cling to my belief that love trumps hate.

Love sometimes requires courageous, difficult, and unrelenting work. To act in the name of love means to act with patience, respectfulness, and humility. When hate pushes against and looms over some of us, we have the choice to stand together, lock arms, and push back.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Reset Button

 

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2016.

Work periodically brings me to the city of Martinez, California. On my last trip to this city, I learned that naturalist and conservationist John Muir, the first president of the Sierra Club, lived in Martinez with his wife and two daughters. This might have triggered a subconscious craving for some one-on-one time with nature.

Fighting a growing sense of burnout, I fled to Napa Valley this weekend. On a mission to flush out the crud in my mind, I purposely drove down roads I didn’t know. In my search for places I hadn’t seen before, I also rediscovered places I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years.

Pretty views from the car weren’t going to cut it, so I trekked through mud in search of vistas that would make my brain fire up synapses and light up like a Christmas tree. In my knee-high leather boots with rubber soles I was undaunted by the feeling of squishy earth rising up to meet my ankles.

Gradually receding into the far back corners of my mind were news stories about sexual assaults and building walls; discussions about emails and private servers; worries about what the future holds for some of my clients; and reminders to pick out new cabinets and counter tops for my kitchen update. None of these things were going away, but they were being relegated to their proper places. A healthy perspective was being ushered back to the head of the line.

In the peaceful, open spaces of hills and vineyards, my mind quieted and emptied itself. My reset button clicked. Problems and crises shrank down to their real size, ceasing to be the giant monsters that were stalking me. My body purged the toxic chemicals caused by tension and worry. My muscles loosened, releasing their grip on my joints, and allowing my body to flood my lungs with air.

John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” (The Yosemite, 1912.) These words proved true for me this weekend, as they have countless times before, and as they will for countless times to come.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

A Scaredy-Cat and October 31st

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I am that person who gets in a roller coaster car, buckles in, white-knuckles whatever she can hold onto, and then proceeds to scream for the entire ride with her eyes closed. And then I have the audacity to giggle and tell people the ride was fun. I’m also that person who will watch a scary – supernatural scary – movie and then sleep with the lights on. Sometimes not just for one night. Yes, I’m a scaredy-cat about a few things.

A friend who happens to be psychic taught me that the veil separating the dimensions of the living and the dead thins before October 31st, making it possible for spirits to visit the land of the living. It is now October 27th, and I’ve noticed an uptick in small but unusual occurrences.

It started several nights ago when I woke up to a faint beeping sound. I could tell it wasn’t one of our smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. I woke up my husband and asked him if he had set the alarm on one of his electronics. He said no and then confidently declared that the dryer sensor must be broken. We went back to sleep. There were no clothes in the dryer that night, and the random beeping fits continue.

Twice this week, I woke up during the 3am hour. I didn’t need to go to the bathroom, and I wasn’t having a bad dream. My eyes popped open, my mind alert as if I hadn’t been sleeping at all.

There’s been more creaking around my house. I tell myself it’s the wind going through the roof vents, the weight of the rain in my gutters, or metals expanding…or contracting.

I always smell cigar or pipe smoke in the home of some friends. No one in that house smokes, and no one else smells what I do. During a recent visit to this home, I heard someone go to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night. When I told this person it was good he slept in late after his sleep was disrupted, he said he had not gone into the kitchen that night.

Go ahead, roll your eyes. Shake your head. Laugh. Call these instances coincidences strung together by a silly imagination. Of course. That’s what being a scaredy-cat who rides roller coasters and watches scary movies is all about – being silly. Scared silly.

The countdown to October 31st continues.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The Vintage Aesthetic

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I know a young woman who has decorated her last two homes with vintage furniture. A faux fireplace with distressed wood and peeling paint. A dark brown armchair and matching ottoman with patches of cracked, faded, and thinning leather. An Art Deco-inspired vanity circa the 1950’s or 60’s with rubbed edges and glossy patina. A dining room hutch with raw wood showing through sanded-down finishes of chipped matte paint.

Walk through any home decor store and you’ll find faux antique clocks, wall hangings, and knickknacks that exude the charm and romanticism of days long gone. Vintage fashion, from high-end couture to budget-friendly interpretation, has inspired the opening of many consignment and thrift stores. Stores sell outdated cameras, typewriters, and telephones. Even meats and wines are aged.

Whenever I get the chance to walk through a flea market or antique store, I feel the thrill of the hunt for pieces of Hawaiiana (Hawaiian antiques and collectibles). Recently I “rescued” a large piece of tapa (or kapa), a Polynesian cloth made from tree bark and painted with plant dyes, lying on a tarp at a flea market.

We survey our homes and collections of vintage things and smile, but we furrow our brows when we look in the mirror and see our own vintage peeking through. We dye our gray roots. We spend money on foods, vitamins, cosmetics, skin care products, and surgical procedures that slow down and reverse the signs of aging. We exercise to stay healthy, of course, but we also know it slows down the aging process.

Some of us don’t mind the gray in our hair or the laugh lines on our faces – they give us character and reinforce our sense of individuality and self-confidence. It’s the dwindling of life energy that we abhor. It’s the wearing down of body parts that literally makes aging painful.

We have a shelf life on this planet. So rather than rail against the looks of our vintage, what if we surrender to it? What if we accept that our bodies will wear down and our energy will dwindle?

What if we look at vintage individuals the way we look at vintage things – as reminders of the past? Except vintage people aren’t silent, they’re living, breathing repositories of history overflowing with wisdom. What if we could appreciate vintage hair color, vintage skin, vintage posture, and vintage pace the way we appreciate the look and functioning of things distressed, weathered, and worn?

We could save all the money we spend on hair dye, makeup, cosmetic surgery, and anti-aging potions. More money to spend on vintage stuff. Just kidding. May you rock your vintage look. Aging gracefully is very attractive.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Beware of Beautiful Doors

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine 2016. 

He was handsome, intelligent, funny, and well mannered. An expert in his field, he was often asked for advice, and he always responded graciously and modestly. Well traveled and adventurous, he entertained people with stories of exotic places and fascinating people.

People thought they were more than mere acquaintances because he had a way of making them feel close to him. He listened to their stories, asked if they enjoyed their holidays, and remembered the names of their spouses and children. People didn’t notice that they never saw the inner workings of his life.

When newspapers reported that it was his body that had been decapitated by a train, people were stunned. Some had heard rumors of a change in his outgoing personality, but none would have guessed that he would walk to train tracks not far from his home and lie down across them because he could no longer bear to live.

The doors to his soul were beautiful. Warm in hue and texture, the doors were inviting, but they were equally thick and tall. He came out to dazzle and to charm, and people were content to enjoy his company, but he never invited them in.

Will anyone ever know all that transpired behind the beautiful doors that attracted so many but opened for no one? Are people haunted by the thought of his loneliness and despair? Do hearts ache with the pain of connections that fell short, like lifesavers thrown into the water but never grasped by the drowning?

Beautiful doors. They make the view from the outside so pleasant that people fail to notice they’re being kept out.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Take Time to Smell the Roses

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Copyright Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

Today, Thursday September 22, 2016, is the first day of fall. The photo above is a split screen of a garden statue at a winery in Napa, California. The left side is a picture I took in May. The right side is a picture I took four days ago.

The pop of red in the garden was a welcome change to my eyes. Fall, with its cool weather and palette of warm vibrant colors, is my favorite season. The brown leaves that had already started to decay on the garden floor, however, made me feel a twinge of melancholy. It was yet another reminder of how quickly time – life – flies by. Another summer of precious memories has come to a close.

So, as this sweet statue reminds me every time I visit her, I take time to smell the roses. Unlike the bronze rose that the little girl in the statue holds, the roses in our lives don’t last forever. Life is beautiful, change is part of life, time is priceless, and every season brings its own gifts. Don’t wait to do the small but vital things, especially with the people you love most. Don’t agonize over letting things go and ending happy chapters of your life; new chapters and better versions of yourself are waiting to be discovered.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.