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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When Government Thinks It Is God

Persecution China church cross“Over the past two years, [Chinese] officials and residents said, the authorities have torn down crosses from 1,200 to 1,700 churches, sometimes after violent clashes with worshipers trying to stop them….

“The campaign has been limited to Zhejiang Province, home to one of China’s largest and most vibrant Christian populations. But people familiar with the government’s deliberations say the removal of crosses here has set the stage for a new, nationwide effort to more strictly regulate spiritual life in China….

“In a major speech on religious policy last month, Mr. Xi…warned that religions in China must ‘Sinicize,’ or become Chinese. The instructions reflect the government’s longstanding fear that Christianity could undermine the party’s authority. Many human rights lawyers in China are Christians, and many dissidents have said they are influenced by the idea that rights are God-given.

“’What has been happening in Zhejiang is a test,’ said Fan Yafeng, an independent legal scholar in Beijing. ‘If the government views it as a success, it will be expanded.’”

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Martyr in China Buried Alive

Martyr buried alive Ding Cuimei(Zhumadian, Henan—April 18, 2016) Two members of a church demolition team in China’s central Henan province buried a house church leader and his wife alive on Thursday (April 14) when they tried to prevent the destruction of their church. Though the church leader managed to escape, the wife had suffocated to death by the time she was freed.

On April 14, a government-backed company dispatched personnel to bulldoze Beitou Church in Zhumadian, Henan province, after a local developer wished to take control of the church’s valuable property. Li Jiangong, the person in charge of the church, and his wife, Ding Cuimei, stepped in front of the machinery in an attempt to stop the demolition.

“Bury them alive for me,” a member of the demolition team said. “I will be responsible for their lives.”

Subsequently, a bulldozer shoved Li and Ding into a pit and covered their bodies with soil. Crying for help, Li was able to dig his way free, but Ding suffocated before she could be rescued.

On April 17, a China Aid reporter conducted a phone interview with an officer from the local police station, who stated that the two perpetrators from the demolition team are currently criminally detained while a criminal investigation team from the public security bureau reviews their case. The officer refused to disclose their alleged crimes.

According to local Christians, the various government departments managing the area did not show up to oversee the demolition. Li himself reported that police took an uncommonly long time to arrive at the scene after a report of the murder was filed.

“Bulldozing and burying alive Ding Cuimei, a peaceful and devout Christian woman, was a cruel, murderous act,” China Aid president Bob Fu said. “This case is a serious violation of the rights to life, religious freedom and rule of law. The Chinese authorities should immediately hold those murderers accountable and take concrete measures to protect the religious freedom of this house church’s members.”

Because of widespread media attention, government personnel are already pressuring Li not to disclose the details of the case. Meanwhile, Li is urging the justice system to examine the motive and circumstances behind his wife’s murder.

A video showing the extent of the demolition can be seen below.

China Aid exposes abuses, such as those experienced by Li Jiangong and Ding Cuimei, in order to promote religious freedom and rule of law in China.

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Hospice Care

U Einar 1950s cropped“Are We There Yet?”
March 24, 2016

Eight of us stuffed into two bench seats.
No air conditioning.
Squabbling in the back seat summoned
The voice from the front seat,
The voice behind the steering wheel:
“Do you want me to pull over?”
No, we definitely did not want him to pull over.
Again and again and again—our questions:
“Are we there yet?”
“How much farther?”
“How long till we get there?”

Today we are there.
This is the there we never wanted to reach.
This morning’s text message summons my tears:
“Dad is going home on hospice care…
Hospital bed, oxygen, wheel chair…
Heart function…Kidney function….”

Next week I will cross the country to be there.
For nine days I will have the peculiar privilege
To be there in ways that make me weep.
Roles reversing…
Instead of receiving care, I will provide care.
Instead of being the first to bed and last one up,
I will be the last awake and the first to rise.
Instead of being interrogated,
I may ask uncomfortable questions.
Today we are there.

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Naming Evil: Can the President Say, “Genocide”?

ISIL_massacreThe first step in stopping evil is to call it by its name. Today the US House of Representatives voted unanimously, 393-0, “to back a ‘sense of Congress. saying the crimes committed against Christians, Yezidis and other ethnic and religious minorities in the region amount to war crimes and in some cases, genocide,”

“This is a threat against civilization itself when a group of people, ISIS–8th century barbarians with 21st century weaponry–can systematically try to exterminate another group of people simply because of their faith tradition violating the sacred space of individuality, conscience and religious liberty, you undermine the entire system of international order,”[sic] said Republican sponsor Jeff Fortenberry from Nebraska.

“It is clear that at least some of the war crimes are part of a planned genocide against the religious minorities in areas that ISIS occupies,” agreed California Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman.

Congress had already given the US State Department till March 17 to affirm genocide, but the State Department has declined to make any declaration.

The New York Times documented United Nations accusations of ISIL’s genocide:

Even Aljazeera has published the United Nations findings of ISIL genocide:

Will President Obama unmuzzle his State Department to say the word “genocide” against Christians and Yazidis!

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Private Solutions Beat Government

Voters who lean on the Bible agree strongly on compassion to the poor and marginalized. They strongly disagree on whether the best solutions are private initiatives or government.

kingml-crossCan compassionate action be legally mandated? Is merciful intervention most effective from a government bureacracy? Perhaps this was in the mind of our founders when they guaranteed “the free exercise” of religion in the First Amendment. Good religion cares for widows, orphans and aliens.

Karl Zinsmeister has a challenging article on private philanthropy versus governmental social justice: “In our country, private giving is a kind of alternate system of social action. For centuries, right up to the present moment, it has protected groups and viewpoints and styles of behavior that may be out of sympathy or fashion. Those who would tamper with the independence of philanthropy put those valuable protections, and their beneficiaries, in danger.”

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