Best Super Bowl Commercial…Ever!

The Beatles had it exactly right: “All You Need Is Love.” What they did not understand is that there are four very important—but very different—kinds of love.

In a 60-second Super Bowl commercial, New York Life shows us more about love than you might get in a semester of anthropology, sex education, sociology or theology.

C.S. Lewis championed these four types of love in his books The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces.

Storge love, family ties and loyalty, can be a bedrock for self-confidence and an oasis in struggle. Yet if it is your main diet, it is like eating Wheaties three meals a day—boring.

Philia love, friendship or fellowship around a common interest, provides our team through life and when cultivated, allows us to turn colleagues and neighbors into allies and even friends. When people say, “Friends are the family we build for ourselves,” they are talking about Philia love. If it is your main diet, you have a rich network of relationships, but you will not become who you are meant to be.

Eros love, romantic attraction, can be a rocket fuel for happiness and creativity. Yet if it is your main diet, it is like living on Red Bull, Monster or Rock Star three meals a day—nutritionally hollow. Eros can tilt toward a life of me, me, me. Relationships that exist on Eros do not last.

Agape love, gives and then gives some more. Agape love is all about the other person. How can you help, how can you serve, how can you help your friend or family member achieve their dream? The Super Bowl commercial uses the key words: courage, sacrifice, strength. This is love that satisfies. If agape love is your main diet, this is the top of the love pyramid, and you will have as much of the other loves as you need. When Jesus of Nazareth said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), the Bible does not say Storge, Philia or Eros. When Jesus says, “Love,” the Bible says Agape.

Learning to love with Agape is the person you are destined to become.

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Inquisitor Cory Booker

Booker CoryToday Christian Senator Cory Booker demanded to hear from Hindu-background judicial candidate Neomi Reo what she considers “sinful” or not. Religious questions are out of bounds.

Rao Neomi

To avoid going back to the days of the Inquisition, our founders banned such factors in considering the fitness of a judge or official: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” (U.S. Constitution, Article 6).

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Bigotry: The New Normal in the US Senate?

bigot definitionWe are witnessing an Olympic sprint to religious bigotry in the United States Senate.

In only 17 months, 4 sitting United States Senators have applied a religious test to nominees they interview. They need to heed the Constitution: “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

gabbard tulsiWriting against these senators, Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said, “We must stand together, and with one voice condemn those who seek to incite bigotry based on religion. We cannot allow those who are anxious to exploit our differences to drive a wedge between us. We cannot and will not tolerate prejudicial treatment of those with whom we disagree.”

Sanders-021507-18335- 0004

Bigot #1: Bernie Sanders attacks Russell Vought
In June 2017, The Atlantic reported in “Bernie Sanders’s Religious Test for Christians in Public Office,” “‘During a contentious confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator questioned the faith of the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.’ Sanders declared, ‘I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.’”

feinstein dianeBigot #2: Diane Feinstein attacks Amy Coney Barrett
On Sept. 6, 2017, Sen. Dianne Feinstein  of California said a judicial nominee’s adherence to “dogma” was “of concern” to her. The senator’s exact words: “When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” (Washington Post video, 0:34-0:50)

harris kamalaBigots #3 and #4: Kamala Harris and Mazie Hirono attack Brian Buescher
Sen. Harris California was more veiled, more artful, last month. “Harris’ [written] questions began by noting that Brian Buescher has been a member of ‘an all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men’ since 1993. She then asked a number of leading questions” about abortion and marriage.

hirono mazieSen. Hirono of Hawaii participated in the same inquiry as Sen. Harris, but spoke more openly: “‘If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?’ asked Hirono…. She also asked him if he would recuse himself ‘from all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position.’” The Knights’ positions, however, merely reflect the teachings of their church.

Rep. Gabbard rebuked Senators Harris and Hirono, “While I oppose the nomination of Brian Buescher to the U.S. District Court in Nebraska, I stand strongly against those who are fomenting religious bigotry, citing as disqualifiers Buescher’s Catholicism and his affiliation with the Knights of Columbus. If Buescher is ‘unqualified’ because of his Catholicism and affiliation with the Knights of Columbus, then President John F. Kennedy, and the ‘liberal lion of the Senate’ Ted Kennedy would have been ‘unqualified’ for the same reasons.”

We hope the Senators will heed Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, “The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today. We must call this out for what it is – religious bigotry.”

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Ode to James Comey

Treason JeffersonSONGWRITER ARRESTED FOR TREASON! Because his song requested that the President rehire the defender of the nation, the artist was arrested for treason. He was released when he agreed to destroy all copies of the song.

The national defender had differed with the Republican President, and he was sent out the door. The Democrats alternately criticized and defended him. Although he reported to the President, he had made a public statement that differed with government policy.

Before serving under the Republican, a Democratic administration had elevated his career in intelligence operations. An Irish-American, he came to Washington, D.C., with Ivy League credentials. After a successful stint in government service, he created a lucrative career in big business.

In the words of Wikipedia, he “failed to maintain the trust of [the] President…. He did not trust his commander-in-chief and was privately derisive of him…. Some historians view him as a highly capable commander whose reputation suffered unfairly at the hands of pro-[presidential] partisans who made him a scapegoat…. He demonstrated a tendency for insubordination toward senior political figures…. He vigorously defended his [own]…conduct.”

An East Coast entertainer wrote a best-selling hit song demanding that the Republican President re-appoint this defender of our nation. The songwriter was arrested for treason.

If that last paragraph does not sound like it describes President Donald Trump and former FBI Director James Comey, you are correct. Except fo the entertainer’s hit song, this account is true about Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey, but it actually describes President Abraham Lincoln and his Civil War general-in-chief, George McClellan.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

By the way… the songwriter was Septimus Winner when he wrote “Give Us Back Our Old Commander: Little Mac, the People’s Pride.” He is better known today for “Oh Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Dog Gone?”

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Waking Up a Billionaire

In N Out restaurantImagine waking up a billionaire! That's what Lynsi Snyder did today. Her family set things up so that when she turned 35 years old, she would become the sole owner of In-N-Out Burger, worth more than $1 Billion. Happy 35th birthday, Lynsi! As of today, you are in total control of more than 400 super popular restaurants in 6 states.

It sounds a little like a Disney princess story, but it's quite the opposite. The first years do sound storybook: Lynsi's grandparents, Harry and Esther Snyder, opened In-N-Out in a Los Angeles suburb in 1948. They created the first drive-through in California.

Then the troubles began. Uncle Rich ran In-N-Out from 1976 to 1993 but died in a plane crash. Her father, a struggling drug addict took over, but six years later he died of an overdose of painkillers.

In N Out Pres.pngLynsi was the sole heir to In-N-Out. She had married at 18 and soon divorced. She married again and again. She describes her ups and downs transparently at "I started to believe the lies: I deserve that. God’s punishing me.... I felt more alone than ever, more of a piece of trash than ever, more of a failure."

Lynsi's life has stabilized, based on faith and family. Happy birthday, Lynsi!

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Kenyans Win Boston Marathon

Who and where we come from shapes who we are. Why do some nations produce such unbelievable strings of champions?

The men’s and women’s champions at the Boston Marathon today are both from the same country—Kenya. Kenya and its neighbor Ethiopia have won 27 of the last 30 Boston Marathons among the men (28 if you include an Ethiopian-born American). Kenya and Ethiopia have won 19 of the last 21 Boston Marathons among women. The results are not much different at the Olympics. These countries’ men have won 3 of the last 5 marathons, and their women have won the last 2 marathons.

Does their success come from national wealth? Not likely. The World Bank lists Kenya as having the 149th largest Gross Domestic Product out of 194 nations. Ethiopia ranks at 172 out of 194.

Other off-the-chart champion-producing nations are Jamaica and South Korea. Jamaican men and women have each won the 100-meter dash at each of the last three Olympics. That is double Jamaican gold in 2008, 2012 and in 2016.

South Korea has boasted great archers for several centuries. South Korean women have won 14 of the 15 gold medals in archery from 1984-2016. They have won all but 1 of the archery gold medals given over 36 years. South Korean men have dominated by winning gold medals in archery in each of the last 5 Olympics, 2000-2016).

What makes these nations’ athletes excel in these sports? Genetics, tradition, geography? Whatever the answer, who and where you come from shapes who we are.

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America’s Blind Spot

Slavery is a dark stain on America. Yet Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson proudly ran newspaper ads for runaway slaves. If they could not see the evil of slavery, what are we missing in our time?

Jefferson sought to find his escaped slave by pointing out that the man was a left-handed shoemaker who “swears much.”

Andrew Jackson’s ad is more horrifying with a $30 bonus for torturing the runaway with 300 lashes:
“Stop the Runaway.
Eloped from the subscriber, living near Nashville, on the 25th of June last, a Mulatto Man Slave, about thirty years old, six feet and an inch high, stout made and active, talks sensible, stoops in his walk, and has remarkable large foot, broad across the root of the toes—will pass for a free man, as I am informed he has obtained by some means, certificates as such—took with him a drab great-coat, dark mixed body coat, a ruffled shirt, cotton home-spun shirts and overalls. He will make for Detroit, through the states of Kentucky and Ohio, or the upper part of Louisiana. The above reward will be given any person, and deliver him to me, or secure him in jail, so that I can get him. If taken out of the state, the above reward and all reasonable expenses paid—and ten dollars extra for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.
Near Nashville, State of Tennessee.”
(Tennessee Gazette, 1804 October 3, page 3.)

The Freedom on the Move project at Cornell University is digitizing tens of thousands of such ads. They expose the blindness of slave owners such as James Norcom who offered $100 for 21-year-old Harriet who “absconded from the plantation of my son without any known cause or provocation.”

We can sneer down our pious, Pinocchio noses, or we can pause to ask ourselves in a moment of humble reflection: If our nation’s founders could not see the evil of slavery, what are we missing in our time?

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“My Lifelong Thanks”

flag-147x147On Veterans Day


“My Lifelong Thanks”


I was a great big second-grader as the Independence Day parade approached.

The first wave was men in old uniforms.

They did not walk,

But marched,

Firmly holding their flags aloft,

A shrunken soldier remembered Cuba and the Spanish-American War.

A grandfather with sagging shoulders had sailed to France for the Great War.

A strong man like my father had traveled the world—Europe, Asia or Africa—in World War II.

A young dad had halted the advance of communism in Korea.

I held my hand over my heart.

Here and there along the sidewalk veterans held a hand firmly against an eyebrow,

Their backs straight as iron rods,

Their toes pointed squarely forward.

These were the men who sold me groceries,

Barbered my hair,

Repaired our car,

Coached basketball,

Volunteered to rush to fires,

Drove the police car,

And sang in the men’s chorus at church.


The band blared and boomed.

The floats fired fusillades of color.

The horses whinnied grace and strength.

Walking back to our Chevy,

We passed the color guard.

These men in old uniforms huddled around a cooler.

Clutching their cans,

Chuckling at each other’s stories,

Remembering their buddies who were forever absent.


Soon after, my big brothers’ classmates came home from Vietnam,

Strong, razor-sharp young men.

When I began college their less fortunate comrades

Sat in the back of my classes.

They marched to the outdoor ashtray when class ended,

Then wandered the campus—lost.


Time marched on.

Far away I taught English where people rode on the roofs of buses.

The walls around my home each wore a Mohawk of embedded glass.

My friends were kidnapped and executed.

When I approached my embassy,

Alert, erect Marines welcomed me inside.

On the 4th of July we swam together,

Playing hot potato with a 50-pound block of ice.

The Marines chopped the water with

Precise butterfly and backstroke,

Smiling and unaware that soon

Brigands would attack,

Bricks and weapons in hand.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed a hot dog and apple pie

Instead of my usual rice and lentils.


Home again, I re-entered the college classroom,

Now on the other side of the podium.

Some of my students spent weekends in the National Guard.

Others told me their stories from the Gulf War in Kuwait.


Time rolled forward.

My brother’s son flew to Afghanistan

And stood with his comrades against chaos.


Today my nieces and nephews sweat and strain in camouflage.

They risk their lives for me.

They tie their boots as the shrunken old men did in Cuba.

They cinch their belts as the slump-shouldered veterans did in WWI France.

They count their push-ups as my father did when he sailed to Japan.

They polish their boots as my father-in-law did when he trained to fight in Korea.

They salute as my PTSD classmates did in Vietnam.

They shout “Yes, sir” as my students did in Kuwait.

They sweat shoulder to shoulder with veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq.


Tonight I lay my head on a soft pillow.

Around the globe my heroes stand alert and erect,

Ready to bleed and die for me and for my family.

I humbly offer my lifelong thanks.

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The Power of Showing Up

Olympics Rio logo statueThe lawyer loves to run. Michalis Kalomiris makes his living as an attorney in Athens, Greece, but when he is not in the office, he sweats. He is not a sprinter, but he can run for a long time. He runs several miles per day. His favorite race is the marathon.

In March 2015, Michalis traveled to Rome to run a marathon. The weather was awful that morning—cold and rainy. Men could qualify for the Olympics by running the marathon in 2 hours 19 minutes, but the weather conditions militated against anyone running a personal best. “The conditions were tough, with constant rain and cold,” he explained. “Better athletes in the race decided to give up.”

Rather than waste an opportunity to run a qualifying time, excellent runners took a pass. Kalomiris, however, donned his gear. He made his way to the warm-up area and stretched and stretched. He thought about enjoying a free day in Rome. Instead, he ran.

Michalis ran well, 2:29. He was 10 minutes from automatically qualifying for Rio, but that was all right. Michalis was an attorney—not an Olympian. He went home to Athens, back to work, and he kept running.

Fourteen months later, in May 2016, the attorney read an article about the Rio Olympics. As he browsed the list of Olympic athletes, he was stunned to see his own name, “Michalis Kalomiris” from Greece! Because the Rome Marathon was a “Gold Label” event, any runner who had finished in the top 10 qualified for the Olympics. Since Michalis Kalomiris showed up on the day when the great athletes stayed in bed, he finished in that top 10.

In May, Michalis went to his law firm and asked for three months off to train. This aspiring attorney is not a world-class marathoner, but he has earned the right to become an Olympian. Michalis may never become a judge. He may never win a famous legal case.

Because he showed up on a difficult day, he will be an Olympian the rest of his life!

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Graduations Are Grand

Besant Hill Graduation 2016Why are graduations so great? A graduation ceremony celebrates both individual achievement and an intense bond of community. Graduation is the doorway between years of routine and an unpredictable journey into the future. It shines with youthful aspiration and shows flickers of childish uncertainty. It combines generations of family with lifelong friends. The sad note: At the moment a graduate pivots into a peer relationship with a mentor, the two face a farewell.

If you are very fortunate as I was today at Besant Hill School, Ojai, you hear precious words from graduates:
“There were days when I felt homesick, but there were more days when I felt at home.”
“I feel like Bill Gates in the making.”
“How can I possibly explain the endless love that I have received here?… It has infected my soul and changed the essence of who I am…. Besant Hill has made me who I am and who I want to be.”
“You can gain friendship and inspiration… This will be my home forever. I am always learning
(school motto).”
“I’m glad I ended up here…. That decision was made for me…. I want to thank all my parents.”
“I came to Besant when I really needed support, and that’s exactly what I got.”
“The tides of variety did not wash away my identity at all.”
“I was a closed book…. Now I’m open.”
“There’s no other school that is similar to this community.”
“As you start a journey, you should throw away the store-bought map and create your own.”
“I have learned friendship, leadership and relationship…. I am especially thankful to Randy
[Head of School] who suspended me.”

Graduations are grand!

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