Friday, June 22, 2018

Where Is The Love?

by Jon Dunnemann

If the most powerful people living in America actually consistently lived in accordance with their Christian teachings then all other Christians and Non-Christians alike would not be so unfairly treated, unemployed, unskilled, in need of welfare, in need of food stamps, in need of rental assistance, in need of addiction services, in need of prison reform or subjected to police brutality or plagued by a growing list of clear evidence of failures of injustice that goes on and on.

Fact: This country has not faithfully practiced Christian values or 'fruits of the spirit' for more than two hundred and fifty years. Instead it has repeatedly resisted the strongest efforts to do so through the perpetuation of the exploitation and oppression of others (i.e., genocide, slavery, lynchings, school segregation, eugenics, nativism, exploitation, housing, hiring and wage discrimination, unfair lending practices, white supremacy, and voter suppression and gerrymandering).

This continent's spiritual identity had already been defined by multiple indigenous nations long before the first bible was ever brought to its shores. Foolishly in my opinion, as was the case with its earliest Western European settlers, America continues to turn a blind eye in the 21st Century to the broad and rich reservoir of elder wisdom of other faith and belief traditions when it comes to better and collectively addressing the fundamental issues of freedom, equality, happiness, liberty, and justice for all in our nation.

If the Office of the President and its administrative cabinet is unable and unwilling to display in whole the Christian values and practices that they formally pledged to uphold before God and that are meant to be addressed in the best interests of our countries many tribes of people that it swore to serve and protect then not only has that sacred pledge been ruthlessly forsaken but the current administration has also mischievously committed a grand theft of the people's highest trust. Consequently, as a recourse the people should give serious consideration to suing the President of the United States for the resulting damages incurred from so much egregious wrongdoing, and mental anguish and material suffering.

Sadly, it seems as though far too many Christians have been slow to fully recognize and conscientiously respond to this President's breach of his oath, his flagrant hypocrisy as a Christian, and the grave and ever-widening harm that he is continuing to unleash on great numbers of American citizens and visitors to this country alike (i.e., American workers, the disabled, the poor, women, Africa, Canada, Haiti, Mexico, Muslims, Puerto Rico, and Veterans of War).

Jesus gave us a beautiful and simple test for the measure of anything when he said, almost offhand, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt.7:16 NASB). A cut to the chase test. You can hold it up to reveal a church, movement, man, or nation. What is the fruit? What does it leave in its wake? I've found it an immediate and revealing test.  

~ John Eldridge Colorado, 2010

This President is repeatedly showing Cardinal Signs of Spiritual Heart Failure. Therefore, he looks to be in urgent need of spiritual resuscitation.

Friday, June 8, 2018

A Portrait of the Artist as a Healer

by Jon Dunnemann

"The Healer" by John Coleman, CA

It is the strong yearning within the artist that leads them to find a format for focusing, unveiling, and sharing their passion through the arts.

The things that they are able to draw out of the depths of their soul become the rich delights, the sweet nectar, and tantalizing treats that our hearts love to savor.

Without the Artist, humanity would starve from spiritual hunger and most certainly buckle at the knees from the ever pressing weight that is often haphazardly placed upon us in a ghastly world of frequent loss, pain and suffering.

It is the Artist's work that lifts us up to the sacred high place where our wings are able to unravel, our souls can take flight, and inwardly we are spiritually set free.

Out of the birthing experience of a dance, a painting, a sculpture or song we finally reach and catch hold of the courage to go forward, complete our day, and gratefully wear a blazing smile. The one that we thought we may have fretfully left behind.

This is the vast substance of the Artist's healing work which is so freely given to all who have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts still yearning to be touched.

May the Artist that is within you, forever be made holy and perfect.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

John Mackey on Conscious Leadership: The Hero’s Journey

By Gina Hayden
Written January 5, 2015

I recently attended the Success 3.0 Summit in Boulder, CO, where I had the pleasure of hearing John Mackey (co-CEO of Whole Foods Market and co-founder of Conscious Capitalism) speak specifically about his views on conscious leadership. What I enjoyed most about John’s keynote was that he took a balanced, pragmatic and business-like view of conscious leadership. Not for John an airy-fairy, loved-up view of being a conscious leader: in fact, he made a point of addressing the audience (some of whom were, in my view, in some danger of veering towards taking an airy-fairy and loved-up view of conscious leadership) by starting his speech with a warning that conscious leadership requires work, discipline and the challenge of picking yourself up when you fall down.

John is probably the business leader most frequently mentioned in connection with conscious leadership (he has done a great deal to promote and define it), and in his talk he outlined the qualities he sees that sets the conscious leader apart from other leaders.

Being conscious

It goes without saying that the first of these is that we need to be conscious, which doesn’t mean that we’re simply walking around and breathing, but that we are aware of the interpretations that we’re making, aware of how our consciousness is interpreting things. It’s pretty much a bottom line requirement that we have an awareness of what’s motivating us, right now, and why we might be feeling something at any particular time.

Evolving ourselves

It’s one thing to be aware but, hand in hand with this, comes the responsibility that if we want to see things happen differently in the world, then the change starts with us. And so conscious leaders carry with themselves the responsibility to first make themselves different, to change their own way of being. This mirrors Gandhi’s famous guidance that: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Qualities of conscious leaders

What qualities and virtues do conscious leaders aim to emulate and embody? These are qualities such as being connected with a clearly identified purpose (often bigger than themselves that makes them service-oriented), connected to their values and able to live these authentically, having a highly developed capacity for love and care, able to take stands and live these stands with integrity, being emotionally and systemically ‘intelligent’, and being spiritually evolved (in my view, this is seeking to continually evolve ourselves and expand our awareness).

Four intelligences of conscious leaders

In terms of intelligence, John defines the conscious leader as having three additional intelligences beyond intellectual or analytical intelligence. These are: emotional intelligence, systems intelligence and spiritual intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s work is well-documented in defining emotional intelligence (EQ) – our capacity to understand and manage ourselves together with our ability to read and empathise with others and manage our relationships. In Whole Foods Market, recounts John, EQ is considered to be the highest indicator of individual performance.

In Spiritual Intelligence, John borrows from the work of Cindy Wigglesworth but also talks about the importance of being connected to a higher purpose, having discernment and ethics, an abundance of love, care and compassion, and the need for us to metabolise the timeless qualities of the Good, the Beautiful and the True.

He defines systems intelligence as both the ability to think intelligently about systems (such as seeing the bigger picture, anticipating consequences and seeing the system through the data – ever more important in the complexities of today’s world) and being able to ‘feel into’ the system – having a intuitive sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

Standing for a greater purpose

Conscious leaders see themselves and their responsibility as extending beyond their immediate world and so they have a sense of service towards something greater than themselves. Being in service of this purpose leads them towards servant leadership, as defined by Robert Greenleaf, and an attitude of love and care extends naturally from here. “Simply understanding that you’ve been called to service, love extends from you,” is the way John puts it.

Organisations based on love

Therefore, the conscious leader is able to extend this sense of greater purpose and service out to the world at large, and builds his or her organisation around this. John is at pains to ensure that Whole Foods Market thrives on a culture of love and care, not fear. People are promoted on the basis of emotional intelligence and their capacity for love and care. Appreciations are given at the start of meetings (even at Board level), as concrete transformative ways to promote a culture based on love and care and to reduce fear. “Love is what binds people in relationships,” John says. “When there’s fear, people contract and you can’t be creative when you’re contracted.” Keeping people open, connected and taking risks without fear of retribution is a critical factor for businesses to continually innovate in order to flourish and compete.

Integrity and doing the right thing

This might come from John’s character, where he is known to be outspoken about issues that he thinks aren’t being handled right by the powers that be, but integrity is also one of the mainstays of being, and remaining, conscious. A conscious leader needs to take a stand and authentically live that stand. They need to be trusted and living in integrity promotes this. They need to remain conscious of when circumstances and pressures threaten to pull them off the path that they’ve committed to, whether publicly or privately. All this points to integrity, which John defines as: “Doing the right thing under all circumstances.” In Whole Foods Market, for instance, lapses in team member judgement are tolerated, but lapses in integrity are not. Furthermore, “If you want integrity in your organisation, model it,” says John.

What do conscious leaders do?

What actions do conscious leaders take in their jobs as leaders? They create a shared purpose that everyone, all stakeholders, can buy into. They are obsessed with making a positive difference in the world. Conscious leaders say things like: “I create the future I want to live into” (Ibrahim Al Husseini, founder of Full Cycle Energy Fund) and “My metric of success is whether I’m making my own and others’ experience of life better” (Luke Nosek, co-founder of PayPal). They inspire others with their purpose and consequently mobilize people, creating workplaces of meaning and high energy. They are invested in others’ growth and evolution as well – becoming conscious leaders themselves. They are concerned with being their word and making tough ethical choices where they need to. Perhaps most importantly of all, becoming a conscious leader requires a high degree of intentionality and continual practice. “It’s not easy to grow up,”says John, “it means becoming a master of yourself.”

Growing and evolving

However, John continues, we have an ethical imperative to grow and evolve. I agree with him. If we’re not growing and evolving, we stagnating, and how are we useful to life if we are taking and not contributing? Being committed to our personal growth and evolution, and everything that goes with this, is our contribution towards life.

A crisis, says John, is the greatest opportunity we have to accelerate our own evolution. He gave his own examples of personal pinch points requiring him to raise his consciousness and his game. I have my own examples and wholeheartedly agree. It’s seldom comfortable learning the big lessons, but we often don’t grow without them – unless we take personal responsibility for our own ongoing conscious growth and evolution.

How do we then evolve by choice?

John lists a range of ways he thinks we can ensure that we keep evolving:
  • Making sure that we know ourselves and practise self-awareness
  • Discovering our deepest yearnings and following our heart
  • Ensuring that our personal purpose syncs with our organisation’s purpose
  • Looking after our continual learning
  • Striving to evolve our consciousness upwards. Freeing ourselves from dogma and fixed ideas is key to loosening up our capacity to see more of what is real.
  • Find good role models, mentors and coaches
  • Take care of our health – our physical casing
  • Be disciplined about our spiritual practices
  • Study the timeless wisdom of others
  • At the end of the day, personal growth is a choice

Our greatest challenge is to manage and lead ourselves. It requires honest self-appraisal, self-awareness and the willingness to be wrong about where, previously, we thought we were so right. Elsewhere, I’ve written about the role of the ego in maintaining our status quo. Our courage is shown in transcending this.

When we manage and lead ourselves, we have the opportunity to lead others through our example and through our actions as a conscious leader. When we are invested in something greater than ourselves, this becomes easier and natural to dedicate our lives and our leadership to contributing to others and the world beyond ourselves.

Following the theme of the Success 3.0 Summit, John’s interpretation of our challenge is to:
  • Wake up – Know ourselves
  • Grow up – Do our spiritual practices
  • Show up – And serve
  • According to John, this is the hero’s journey of the conscious leader.

Do you agree and would you add any other qualities to the journey of conscious leadership?

Monday, April 30, 2018

You have everything you need

by Jon Dunnemann

There hidden within the scope of our personal universe, we can find our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual entirety and it is all of this ‘stuff’ that in the end makes us uniquely who we are.

Anxiety and its shadow, depression, is a clown disguised as a ‘monster’ that takes great pleasure in persistently riding a person like they’re a bareback jackass.

Kick, buck and toss that fool into space every single time you see it coming your way.

This double-sided Joker, Anxiety and Depression has been constantly working at living within me for some time now. More often than not I manage to keep it secretly tucked away, closeted, out of sight, and undiscovered by people with whom I come into constant contact. But as I’ve aged, much like an old home, my body and mind is no longer as attractive, durable, flexible, protective or sturdy as it once was. Those cracks in my walled surface once thought finally settled have grown larger and are now deep enough to be counted as extra storage space. There within these recesses you will find the compartments that house emotional baggage, physical limitations, and personal vulnerabilities.

Those items hidden from plain sight include chronic insecurity, bipolar disorder, moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and as if there’s room for anything more, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and mild diverticulitis.

My natural inclination is to try to hide these things away from others for the sake of appearing invincible. However, nearly five years ago I reached the point where without my permission these troubling conditions ceased to remain invisible. The fear that emerged as a result of their falling into view caused me to produce buckets of uncontrollable sweat with the slightest increase in angst or excitability.

If you have never experienced having a meltdown I tell you it can be terrifying and it makes you feel as though you have lost all control over your person.

Of all the places to experience a feeling of public nakedness for me it had to emerge at work, fully observable to my peers and my boss.

It was embarrassing and made me look and feel like an incompetent fool. After that, I never knew when I might again become de-clothed , socially disconnected, and grossly out of touch in the day-to-day context in which I was working.

In case you're wondering what it's like to have Obstructive Sleep Apnea, in my case it includes snoring loud enough at night to wake yourself up and experiencing sleepiness during the day.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Symptoms

A person who has obstructive sleep apnea often is not aware of the apnea episodes during the night. Often, family members witness the periods of apnea. For me, it was my wife that alerted me to the fact that I would stop breathing in my sleep.

A person with obstructive sleep apnea usually begins snoring heavily soon after falling asleep. Often the snoring gets louder. The snoring is then interrupted by a long silent period during which there is no breathing. This is usually followed by a loud snort and gasp, as the person attempts to breathe. This pattern repeats throughout the night. This is something that can kill you. A couple of years ago, a very good high school friend of mine stopped breathing in his sleep and never woke up.

Many people wake up unrefreshed in the morning and feel sleepy or drowsy throughout the day. This is known as excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). I was experiencing the following common symptoms on a daily basis just a few years ago.

People with sleep apnea may:

  • Act grumpy, impatient, or irritable
  • Be forgetful
  • Fall asleep while working, reading, or watching TV
  • Feel sleepy while driving, or even fall asleep while driving
  • Have hard to treat headaches

Problems that may occur with this condition:

  • Depression that becomes worse
  • Hyperactive behavior, especially in children
  • Leg swelling (if severe)

The biggest problems for me were irritability, being forgetful, and falling asleep while working for brief periods that occur so quickly that I didn’t even know that they had taken place.

As I am sure you can understand, this puts a limit on the kind of work that a person with this condition can do without presenting a risk to self and others.

On a few occasions, I made more than one hundred thousand dollars a year during prolonged periods of peak performance. Today, I am paid an hourly wage. This has resulted in a major change in both my lifestyle and at times my sense of worth.

One day in my last job when my problems were mounting I took advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and began seeing a psychologist. I recall the psychologist telling me at the end of my sixth and last session that “You Have Everything You Need.”

Well you know what? I decided to believe that. I belief that God has blessed me with a beautiful mind. What I intend to do with it is exactly what my Grandpa told me to do at 12 years old when faced with a problem and that is to “figure out for yourself a way to make the very best of the situation.”

Let’s be clear, I didn’t choose this situation for myself nor would I wish it on someone else. It is, what it is. I can’t out run it anymore than I can run away from it. Instead, I am running to it in anticipation that it has a deeper meaning and purpose for my life than I could ever have thought possible.

When you get tripped up, knocked down off your horse or lose your A-game edge it is still your choice whether you intend to fight with everything that you've got to get back up and continue to move forward by making a further contribution to your life and to that of others.

May you take comfort too upon realizing and internalizing for yourself that beyond a doubt you have everything you need.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Powers and Principalities: King and the Holy Spirit And Why Today’s Activists Need the Power of Pentecost

This post by Eugene F. Rivers III appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Plough Quarterly No. 16: America’s Prophet

“I will pour out my Spirit on all people and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions.” —Joel 2:28

The night before his death, Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon in Mason Temple. A monumental brick-and-stone edifice in downtown Memphis, Mason Temple is the mother church of the second-largest black denomination in the United States, known as the Church of God in Christ. Near where King was standing was the marble tomb of the church’s founder, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, who had been born a slave and had gone on to become black America’s foremost Pentecostal leader.

Pentecostalism, now the fastest-growing branch of Christianity, emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit to transform every aspect of the believer’s life. The movement originates in the multiracial Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906. Just months after the revival began, Mason traveled to California to see what was happening with his own eyes; it proved to be the turning point of his life. As Mason would later recount, “The Spirit came upon the saints and upon me.… Then I gave up for the Lord to have his way within me. So there came a wave of glory into me and all of my being was filled with the glory of the Lord.”

Mason, having now been “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” as Pentecostals describe such a conversion experience, became a fearless evangelist for the new movement. By the time of his death seven years before King’s sermon, the Church of God in Christ counted four hundred thousand members in four thousand churches in the United States and around the world.

Your Sons and Daughters Will Prophesy

This sanctuary, then, was the place in which King rose to deliver his farewell “Mountain Top” address: at an epicenter of global Pentecostalism. In retrospect, this seems powerfully symbolic. For Pentecostals, a central scripture is the promise of the prophet Joel, which the apostle Peter quoted at the first Christian Pente­cost in Jerusalem: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people and your sons and daughters will prophesy, and your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). Heard in this context, King’s last sermon can be understood as a fulfillment of this ancient promise. He, too, was one on whom the Holy Spirit had been poured out, one empowered with the gift of prophecy.

As we mark a half century since King’s death, few tributes acknowledge that the spiritual and political movement he led was a movement of the Holy Spirit. Yet secular accounts of his life and message are inadequate to explain what happened to and through him. Nor do they recognize that the forces he opposed – white supremacy, economic oppression, and militarism – are spiritual realities in their own right, demonic powers that must be combatted with spiritual weapons. As the New Testament puts it, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

This is not just a matter of historical interest. Whether or not the Holy Spirit inspires our political and cultural activism is of urgent importance today. The virulence of white supremacist discourse is at a new low, while white supremacist action is at a new high, with innocent people being attacked in Charlottesville, Virginia, and at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina. This reality demands that the church reclaim the power of the Spirit to discern the most effective response. We must name, unmask, and engage the invisible powers that threaten human existence.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Don't Fence Me In Mr. President

by Jon Dunnemann

Dear President Donald Trump,

Please don't build your blankety blank wall. 

Need we remind you that what we stand for is liberty and justice for all. 

Of course we completely understand that you believe that you know it all 
but man you frankly and openly don't get to make that call.

A national decision of this magnitude should be left up to the people. 
Handling it in any other way for me seems to be down right illegal. 

Just because you got voted in as the 45th President doesn't give you license to negate the voice of our entire nation of residents.

Mr. President, let me ask you, what are the racial, income, and gender specifics of those who want you to address such a bill or have you failed to take the time or make an effort to look at these important factors up there on capital hill?

Allow me to give you just a bit of advice, the majority of American people do not think you're very wise because despite all of those fine schools that you were blessed to have attended you still failed to learn how to play nice with others or follow the same rules.

Lastly, why the heck should the U.S.military have to pay for a wall behind which all American citizens will be trapped and thereby forced to continuously deal your seemingly mindless crap.

No, Mr President we don't need no stinkin' wall. What we really need is to finally be rid of you once and for all.

The way thay I see it, there is no need for thanks.

We resolutely disapprove all of your childish pranks,

An American Citizen

Monday, March 19, 2018

UA professor's book explores hip-hop and religion

This post by Isaac Andrews was originally published Oct 9, 2017 6:00 am on The Daily Wildcat

In his new book, University of Arizona professor Alejandro Nava shines light on the enigmatic concept of “soul” and relates religious practice and history to the influence of soul on Latin and African American music, specifically hip-hop. 

"In Search of Soul: Hip-Hop, Literature and Religion" discusses the history and significance of soul found in traditional and contemporary art and literature, particularly within Christianity and Judaism. Nava, a professor of religious studies, suggests that this sense of spirituality is largely present in early and modern hip-hop and is heavily tied to perceptions of struggle, justice, liberation and self.

“Hip-hop opens a window into so many issues of our day,” Nava said.

These can be Issues of race, culture, injustice, inequality, poverty, gender issues and spirituality, as Nava’s book suggests.

The book is structured in two sections: “Sacred Histories of the Soul” and “Profane Accents of Soul.” The first section of the book is an exploration of soul through traditions, literature and recorded histories of the dimension of soul. Nava said the study of these histories began to shape his understanding of soul and what it means to gain a spiritual sense of self. Largely including the expression of soul in Judaism and Christianity, Nava analyzes the concept of soul as a human and spiritual discovery.

The second section explores soul as more of a cultural product, relative to traditional and contemporary hip-hop, R&B and Latin-influenced music. Nava points out the spiritual influence that the concept of soul had on traditional Latin and African American-inspired music and contemporary hip-hop. Musical styles like blues and gangsta rap are a product of each artist’s reality and represent their feelings toward the way their environment perceives and treats them.

Some of these styles may reflect a total absence of spirituality, while others adopt significant reference to spirituality and the finding of soul, according to Nava. The early use of sampling during hip-hop’s origins was a way for artists to pull particular sounds or verses from earlier songs and then deliver poetry and add their own lyrical representation of self-worth, self-redemption and self-appreciation.

According to Nava, during the 1950s and '60s civil rights movements, soul regularly surfaced in music and art; often, the result of segregation and prejudice on the human soul were expressed in music. Nava said these expressions sometimes seemed explicit or extreme because they were the product of overwhelming oppression.

Nava said the notion of soul was used to “resist and to oppose histories of mistreatment and oppression.”

While the common perception of hip-hop is that it's a secular genre, Nava said “it’s surprising how often the idea of God surfaces in the music."

Hip-hop has gone through stages of absence and then resurgence of spirituality and religious language, according to Nava. More recently, he said, this preoccupation has surfaced in artists such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Kanye West.

“I would say that there has actually been a resurgence of the kind of religious dimensions of hip-hop in the contemporary scene,” Nava said.

Nava said that, especially with artists who wrestle with suffering and injustice, the idea of God is particularly pervasive. Nava said the hip-hop generation fits the mold of “spiritual but not religious, so that there is still a very profound preoccupation with spiritual questions."

Nava said a key moment that influenced his decision to write the book was when he was working on his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in the 1990s, when he wandered into an “On God and Hip-Hop” lecture by Michael Eric Dyson, a now well-known scholar.

“That was the first time that I actually heard somebody speak really thoughtfully and intelligently and provocatively about the intersections of religion and hip-hop,” Nava said. “From that moment on, it kind of planted a seed in my head.”

He said Dyson’s lecture helped him realize that hip-hop commented on some of the issues in the neighborhood he was living in.

“Many of the issues that hip-hop was addressing and speaking of were issues that were profoundly relevant to the world that was just a stone throw from the University of Chicago,” Nava said.

The University of Chicago is located within southside Chicago, where Nava witnessed situations of poverty and crime. He said universities do not always do a good job of addressing the problems and needs of the community they are surrounded by.

“What is the value of knowledge and university education if it can’t somehow make a difference in the world that we find ourselves in?” Nava said.

Nava said he thinks the administration at the UA could be more vocal in representing the concerns of the Tucson community, particularly among underrepresented groups like first-generation and DACA students.

A UA grad himself, Nava said studying at a university is a time to develop your soul, or human spirit. He said he hopes readers will gain a greater awareness of the world and their spiritual self by reading the book, while also developing more capacity for compassion and empathy.

Nava created the Africana Studies and Religious Studies course 335 “Rap, Culture, and God” at the UA in 2005, during a time when hip-hop was not really being studied at universities. Now, there are several courses at the UA that include hip-hop analysis. In 2012, the UA introduced the nation’s first hip-hop minor at a major university. Nava said the last 10 years has seen a huge growth in hip-hop studies.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

White Evangelicals, This is Why People Are Through With You

This post by John Pavlovitz originally appeared on his blog on January 24, 2018

Dear White Evangelicals,

I need to tell you something: People have had it with you.

They’re done.

They want nothing to do with you any longer, and here’s why:

They see your hypocrisy, your inconsistency, your incredibly selective mercy, and your thinly veiled supremacy.

For eight years they watched you relentlessly demonize a black President; a man faithfully married for 26 years; a doting father and husband without a hint of moral scandal or the slightest whiff of infidelity.

They watched you deny his personal faith convictions, argue his birthplace, and assail his character—all without cause or evidence. They saw you brandish Scriptures to malign him and use the laziest of racial stereotypes in criticizing him.

And through it all, White Evangelicals—you never once suggested that God placed him where he was,
you never publicly offered prayers for him and his family,
you never welcomed him to your Christian Universities,
you never gave him the benefit of the doubt in any instance,
you never spoke of offering him forgiveness or mercy,
your evangelists never publicly thanked God for his leadership,
your pastors never took to the pulpit to offer solidarity with him,
you never made any effort to affirm his humanity or show the love of Jesus to him in any quantifiable measure.

You violently opposed him at every single turn—without offering a single ounce of the grace you claim as the heart of your faith tradition. You jettisoned Jesus as you dispensed damnation on him.

And yet today, you openly give a “mulligan” to a white Republican man so riddled with depravity, so littered with extramarital affairs, so unapologetically vile, with such a vast resume of moral filth—that the mind boggles.

And the change in you is unmistakable. It has been an astonishing conversion to behold: a being born again.

With him, you suddenly find religion.
With him, you’re now willing to offer full absolution.
With him, all is forgiven without repentance or admission.
With him you’re suddenly able to see some invisible, deeply buried heart.
With him, sin has become unimportant, compassion no longer a requirement.
With him, you see only Providence.

And White Evangelicals, all those people who have had it with you—they see it all clearly.

They recognize the toxic source of your inconsistency.

They see that pigmentation and party are your sole deities.
They see that you aren’t interested in perpetuating the love of God or emulating the heart of Jesus.
They see that you aren’t burdened to love the least, or to be agents of compassion, or to care for your Muslim, gay, African, female, or poor neighbors as yourself.
They see that all you’re really interested in doing, is making a God in your own ivory image and demanding that the world bow down to it.
They recognize this all about white, Republican Jesus—not dark-skinned Jesus of Nazareth.

And I know you don’t realize it, but you’re digging your own grave in these days; the grave of your very faith tradition.

Your willingness to align yourself with cruelty is a costly marriage. Yes, you’ve gained a Supreme Court seat, a few months with the Presidency as a mouthpiece, and the cheap high of temporary power—but you’ve lost a whole lot more.

You’ve lost an audience with millions of wise, decent, good-hearted, faithful people with eyes to see this ugliness.
You’ve lost any moral high ground or spiritual authority with a generation.
You’ve lost any semblance of Christlikeness.
You’ve lost the plot.
And most of all you’ve lost your soul.

I know it’s likely you’ll dismiss these words. The fact that you’ve even made your bed with such malevolence, shows how far gone you are and how insulated you are from the reality in front of you.

But I had to at least try to reach you. It’s what Jesus would do.

Maybe you need to read what he said again—if he still matters to you.


I’m a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus.
I enjoy songwriting, exercising, cooking, hiking, and eating emotionally.
This is a place where I say stuff that I think needs to be said.
I welcome you to say what you believe needs to be said in response, knowing that ultimately the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Thanks for stopping by, and for reading the musings of a flawed, passionate, work in progress.


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Problem of Self-centeredness and the Paradox of Religion: Religious teachers have been battling egoicism for centuries.

This post written by Mark Leary, Ph.D. originally appeared on the Psychology Today blog on Feb 11, 2018

I started this blog ("Toward a Less Egoic World") to focus on two central themes – first, that many of the personal and social problems that plague human life are rooted in people's pervasive tendency to be excessively self-centered and, second, that we can minimize many of these problems by promoting a less egoic world. This is, of course, not a novel insight; people have been discussing the problem of self-preoccupation at least since the beginnings of recorded history, long before psychologists started adding their two cents to the discussion.

As evidence that people have recognized the problem of excessive egoicism for millennia is the fact all major religious traditions share the conviction that egoic preoccupation is a major impediment to moral living and admonish their followers to be less egoic. Various religions construe the problem differently, but they agree that excessive egoicism is a primary contributor to a wide array of antisocial behaviors, "sinful" actions, and social strife. And, they all maintain that their devotees should take steps to work on their self-centeredness.

This theme can be traced to the earliest written records in Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism, and indigenous religions probably held this view even earlier. The major religions of the West – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – have likewise confronted the problems that arise when people behave egoically.  Whatever one’s personal religious orientation – whether you are a theist, pantheist, atheist, or agnostic – the fact that religious visionaries throughout history have wrestled with the problems created by self-preoccupation is both intriguing and potentially informative.

Most religions agree that egoicism creates two distinct problems. First, most religions link self-centeredness to sinful thoughts and behaviors. Being self-focused, self-centered, and selfish leads people to act without regard for the well-being of other people. In most religions, self-centeredness, selfishness, and pride are singled out as particularly evil attributes. And, conversely, most religions teach that the spiritual person is “selfless,” although they often aren’t clear on exactly what that means.  

Second, most religions teach that paying too much attention to oneself interferes with spiritual insight and connecting with the divine. Of course, various traditions construe spiritual insight in different ways, but most religions regard excessive self-focus as a hindrance to making contact with God and pursuing other spiritual goals. According to the teachers of almost all religions, spiritual truths are difficult to discern when people are excessively focused on themselves. 

Most religious and spiritual traditions not only view excessive self-preoccupation as an impediment to moral behavior and spiritual insight, but they also offer ways to counteract its negative effects. In fact, religion itself may have arisen, at least in part, as a system for counteracting the undesirable personal and social effects of excessive self-preoccupation.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam tend to confront these problems by admonishing believers to change the nature of who they are. Although differing in specifics, these traditions agree that people can transform their sinful selves through faith, rituals, divine intervention, or diligently following moral commandments. Western religions try to change people’s selfish nature so that they will obey moral directives and live ethically.

The major Eastern religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, and Jainism – as well as many indigenous religions, tend to use a different approach. Rather than trying to change or control the person’s beliefs and behaviors directly as the Western religions do, these traditions generally try to reduce people’s self-preoccupation. These religions have moral precepts that should be followed, but the assumption is that quieting the egoic self will reduce self-centeredness and selfishness, leading the person to behave in a more moral and compassionate way.

Thus, Eastern traditions tend to use self-quieting practices such as meditation and yoga to minimize egoic thinking, leaving the mind clearer to perceive spiritual insights and removing the source of selfish behavior.  Other practices take the opposite approach.  Rather than calming the mind, believers subject themselves to sensory overload through chanting, drumming, dancing, or physically painful activities, all of which reduce the capacity for self-relevant thought. A person in the throes of ecstatic dancing, drumming, or chanting can not easily dwell on his or her  selfish desires.

Although most religious and spiritual traditions recognized the problems associated with egoic self-thought long before psychologists arrived on the scene, ironically, the institutions and dogma that accompanied the development of organized religion also created a new venue for egoic beliefs and actions.  Even while teaching about the evils of self-centeredness and urging their adherents to reduce self-preoccupation, organized religion often encouraged followers to view their own beliefs as superior to everyone else’s, to condemn those who did not share their views, to force their views and practices on others, and even to go to war against those who disagreed with them.  The fact that teachings and practices that initially arose to counteract the evils of egoic preoccupation led to systematic and widespread increases in egoic thought and action is undoubtedly one of the greatest paradoxes of human history.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Are We Being Short-Changed On Our Democracy?

by Jon Dunnemann

What is it about the American way of life that requires this level of expenditure on militarism and an expanding arsenal of weapons of mass destruction to protect ourselves and others? 

Is it really what is best for the average citizen? 

Is a decision to take funding away from other important areas the morally responsible thing to do? 

Unsurprisingly, the illustration below makes one feel short-changed rather than like highly valued citizens who are being developed into the greatest possible human capital in the world, who are being provided with safe bridges, roads, train tracks, drinking water, a stable economy, good jobs, fair wages, and comprehensive healthcare and a world-class public education system.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Shame On You America

by Jon Dunnemann

Please don't attempt to make me feel ashamed of being who I am because of the way that I praise my God, or how it looks, sounds or feels so different from the way that you do.

Kindly withhold the insensitivity of making me feel completely empty inside because my hair, eyes, skin color or physical size does not match your own self-image. Just like you, I am here to add beauty, diversity, and uniqueness to a world filled with so many wonders and opportunities. 

Don't crown me with thorns because I have come here with a different message, or don't wear a suit and tie to the house of worship or because I am a more feminine male or masculine woman. I deeply love humanity along with all of God's other creations. I even love you despite the cruelty that you are so inclined to display towards me.

Please don't make me feel as though I am some sort of mistake, evil or to your mind a worthless human being. How can this really be so, how can you if you genuinely care be so easily satisfied with this, and how can you continue to go on adding more greatly to my pain and suffering by damning me and yet still call yourself a decent person, great nation or sacred space in which to live?

Have you no shame? Shame on you America!

But, I will tell you now, today, that I forgive you, that I love you, and will continue to do so long after you have exhausted all possible excuses and justifications for being very unloving towards me: your native son. It would please many to see you behave less offensively toward others our beloved America.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

America Land of the Free

by Jon Dunnemann

Let us stop laboring at being democrats or republicans and simply be full-fledged Americans.

This requires a willingness on our part to let go of our past positions and the courage to start anew.

Real and lasting progress can only be made if we accept the common understanding that we all wish to be seriously listened to, to be treated with loving kindness and a sense of fairness, to uphold civility, to be protected from the misdeeds of self and others, and to acknowledge and respect the morality that we each find in our inherited culture and belief systems, and thereby act as members of a much broader humanity.

This outlook completely changes how we see and respond to the most threatening dilemmas that we find ourselves presently facing (i.e., alcohol and drug abuse, child prostitution, corruption, domestic violence, fraud and misconduct,  gang culture and gun violence, global warming, homelessness and poverty, infectious disease, prejudice and religious intolerance and terrorism and war).

This is our America, 'Land of the Free'. And we don't have to nor should we ever allow ourselves to settle for anything less than who we are in terms of our collective national identity and yet to be fulfilled.  

It should be abundantly clear by now that a constant and narrow focus on special interests never were and never will be in the best interests of all Americans.

That is what presumably makes the American idea an exceptional one right here in the land of the brave and in the hearts and minds of newcomers yearning to thoroughly experience freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as welcomed residents and eventual citizens in the land of the free..

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Seek After That Which Is Spiritual

by Jon Dunnemann

Try to live your life as one who has chosen to walk unobstructed and in the direction of truth.
Abstain from every form of evil.

Do not permit yourself to seek after fame, glory, and other things that are of no real lasting value.

If ever you find yourself being victimized, ostracized, and left wondering I humbly appeal to you in the very name and spirit of all that is holy and sacred in this world, to continue onward steadfastly in the pursuit of that which is highly known to be righteous and true.

Above all else, do not allow the manifestation of evil to occupy space within you nor fall prey to becoming the sort of human being who would simply standby idly while cruelty is horribly heaped upon others.

For your own protection and sanctification, begin this day to build a solid fortress of character around your heart. May you be divinely empowered and well-equipped to best fight battles on behalf of those who come to depend on you for both their overall well-being and our collective sustainability.

In darkest of times, whereupon, bold, daring, and self-sacrificing examples are few and a cold, callous and deceitful kind of evil mindedness is a foot may you always remain aware, active and intentional about living your life in a manner that is deemed fruitful, life-affirming, nurturing, and universally pure thereby spreading the greatest measure of comfort, joy, and warmth throughout the entire world.

And yes, I claim openly if not you, then who else shall I and others turn too, to take on the responsibility of willingly creating this greater good?

Seek always then, after that which is Spiritual! And in doing so, may blessings of a thousand-fold be fully bestowed upon you and not only those whom you love out of familiarity but those others who are in desperate and urgent need of love as well.

For this unselfish service unto others, thank you and may your heart forever remain full of immense gladness and inexhaustible strength.

Chucho Valdes & The Afrocuban messengers - Begin To Be Good

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Practicing Martin Luther King Jr’s 6 Principles Of Nonviolence

This post originally appeared on IL improvised the archive of possibility thinking on 1/15/18

William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

We’ve often wondered at Dr. Martin Luther King's ability to maintain his non-violent stance in the face of numerous threats and arrests.  Was he born with it, or was it driven by his powerful faith, or was it something he had to work at daily… a practice?

Practice is, most likely, what it would have to be for us mortals. We found some insight into how we might do that at The King Center, as we read King’s 6 Principles of Nonviolence, and actions he advocated based on them. We’re taking the day to think about how they work in our life. What would it be like to truly live non-violently, in even the smallest interactions?


  1. PRINCIPLE ONE: Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
  2. PRINCIPLE TWO: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
  3. PRINCIPLE THREE: Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. PRINCIPLE FOUR: Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. PRINCIPLE FIVE: Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. PRINCIPLE SIX: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.


The Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change are based on Dr. King’s nonviolent campaigns and teachings that emphasize love in action. Dr. King’s philosophy of nonviolence, as reviewed in the Six Principles of Nonviolence, guide these steps for social and interpersonal change.
  1. INFORMATION GATHERING: To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position.
  2. EDUCATION: It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. PERSONAL COMMITMENT: Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. DISCUSSION/NEGOTIATION: Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. DIRECT ACTION: These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. RECONCILIATION: Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step closer to the ‘Beloved Community.’

04 Sep 1958, Montgomery, Alabama, USA — Police officers O.M. Strickland and J.V. Johnson apply force in arresting the Reverend Martin Luther King for loitering near a courtroom where one of his integration lieutenants was on the stand. King charged he was beaten and choked by the arresting officers. Police denied the charges. —© Bettmann/CORBIS via

improvised life archive of possibilities thinking

Friday, November 17, 2017

Unfatigable, Unforgettable, And Unshakeable

By Jon Dunnemann

Elisabeth (Nana) Greene
Feb 12, 1911 to Nov 15, 2017

We are like the moon. The moon shines anyway, but it does not produce its own light. It reflects the light illuminated onto its surface by the Sun and is never proud to say "I am the source of light". God shines through us, hence He deserves the glory; not us.
Israelmore Ayivor

God, who is all seeing and knowing, gave Mrs. Elisabeth Greene a long, fruitful, and cherished life because he knew that in her he had chosen a faithful and obedient servant who would forever be both willing and able to operate in the world, in her church, in her community, and in her family as one whose work was seemingly never done. Yes, as we continue to witness, God is good. All the time. 

Though little in stature, Nana was unfatigable about finishing the long and hard work of being a devoted daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, great, great grandmother, great, great, great grandmother, an unforgettable matriarch, and a good neighbor and friend to all. Even now, her divine light continues to shine ever so brightling because she has always been first and foremost a believer without a trace of doubt in her mind. She knew and routinely acted in accordance with her Christian identity and the complete understanding that miracles are always possible when you consciously choose and purposefully act as a child of God holding firmly to an unshakeable faith. The kind of faith that is impossible to change, rattle, or beat down. 

However, to complete or fulfill your responsibility to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, you absolutely have to talk to him. It’s not complicated but it is inescapable. How many times can we each recall Nana telling us to take it to the Lord in prayer? What should by now be indisputably obvious to a good number of us is that every relationship worth having on any level requires an investment of commitment, dialogue, and sincerity. Is that not what her life has vividly demonstrated for us, that she would be there through thick and then, hear us out, not judge us, forgive us, and always find a way to come alongside us and aid us in some measure with clearing whatever obstacle may have temporarily blocked our path, caused us to stumble or possibly led to the questioning of our sensibility and worth, and foremost that she would always out of unconditional love appeal to the Lord on our behalf? 

There was never a failure on Nana’s part to demonstrate what Jesus would do. Now that Nana has "gone up yonder" to be with her Lord we have but to ask ourselves what would Mrs. Greene, Mother or Nana have us do in all manner of circumstance and situations? She earned this honoring and it is the collective inheritance being gifted to all of us: One hundred plus years of grace, faith, hope, love, and joy. The mantle that she held for so very long is ready and awaits being passed on to us with the fullest expectation of all of our ancestors, Nana, and her Lord and Savior, for us to continue to build Thy Kingdom, here on earth, as it is in heaven. Accomplishing this mission requires nothing less than the maximizing of the fruits of the spirit for each and every one of us.

Let me leave you with a great source for continuous inspiration which can be found in the New Testament of the bible in the book of Matthew Chapter 22:37-40
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 

May you find the way to live a life that Mrs. Greene, Mother or Nana will be especially delighted to view through the eternal eyes of God!

Thank you and God bless you.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

One thing doesn't make a man

By Jon Dunnemann

In 2016, Kaepernick gained nationwide attention when he began protesting by not standing while the United States national anthem was being played before the start of games. This decision was motivated by what he viewed as the oppression of people of color in the United States. His actions prompted a wide variety of responses, including additional athletes in the NFL and other American sports leagues protesting in various ways during the anthem. Kaepernick's current free agency status has also been the subject of discussion and controversy (
It takes a great deal of courage for a person to decide to take a position on an important matter knowing full well that they will be criticized, misunderstood, and possibly even rejected by past friends and others alike. Nevertheless, it is and has always been an important part of learning to be "true to oneself and to others" for any young man or woman regardless of the platform on which they may some day find themself standing.

If you do not have the stomach to do what it takes to "speak truth in love" about any overlooked injustice then you are probably better off moving out of the way and letting another person take the lead who can act of his or her own choosing in a free way without worrying about normal social rules. I believe this to be at the core of what Colin Kaepernick did in taking a knee. He's a young man continuing to question his ideals, as a constantly adapting person, willing to take personal responsibility for his process of values integration, and seeking to operate in a way that will hopefully also benefit others. Throughout history this has been the substance of the moral character that has distinguished American society and its contributions to the notion of justice, liberty, and freedom from that of other less democratic and emergent societies.

Sometimes it takes an actor, a comedian, a basketball player, a boxer, a musician, a singer or even another football player to disturbingly wake us up to the unfairness of things occurring outside of the more familiar sports arena. The real tragedy though lies in any rush to judgment or our mistakenly coming to hate the messenger more than the harsh realities of their message.

Colin is not the first celebrity to humbly, nonviolently, and yet radically appeal to our greater common good in the hope that it might evoke more serious attention to a gross inhumanity nor is he likely to be the very last.

Clearly accomplished as a young professional athlete it would have been far easier for Colin to confine himself to the standard role of that of a sports figure in our society whose voice we assume is only meant for selling merchandise. Albeit a valuable piece to any NFL team and a widely appealing player to fans. As a human being, it is possible that at times he may have felt like little more than another dispensable pawn piece in a chess game.  However, like a number of other elite athletes before him, he reached the self-realization that being only one thing doesn't make a man. What actually does more to enduringly "make the man or woman" is what he or she is willing to become as a person through their heightened attention to unmet needs and collaborative service unto others.

For the life of me though, what I find very difficult to understand is how the American public can so easily overlook a multitude of sinful behavior by our 71 year old sitting President of the United States of America while on the other hand being enormously unwilling to forgive a trouble free 28 year old for attempting to "man up" and find a way to protest and thereby draw the nation's attention to the longstanding and insufficient accountability that prevails when it comes to minority mass incarceration, police brutality, stop and frisk practices, and the well-established unequal sentencing.

It's altogether baffling and frankly downright shameful. For a time at least, we should all allow ourselves to feel as deficiently motivated and morally responsible as Colin Kaepernick does for what often does not but should happen when it comes to advocating for the fair treatment and uplifting of people who are less fortunate than we are.

I have no right to life's abundance until everyone has received life's necessities. - Ralph S. Cusham

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Let's admit we made a mistake

By Jon Dunnemann

This president's inferiority shows when it comes to healing hurts or unifying people. The primary emotion that he elicits in people is that of anger usually directed towards others or strongly felt by those being victimized by his unkind comments and loathsome conduct.

This probably stems from an attitude of entitlement, being out of his element, and a basic insensitivity. The good qualities of empathy, concern, honesty, humility, kindness, and love are generally absent from public view with the president.

Because of this he is not a giver to hope but a taker and destroyer of what is "just, humane, and whole" thereby undermining what is intrinsic to decency and democracy. Moreover, he repeatedly tramples underfoot the culture, gender, rights, traditions, and worth of persons that are different from himself. Worst of all, he is neither self-aware nor apologetic about his own lack of knowledge, inappropriateness, and harmful actions and utterances. He is blatantly dismissive and frequently vindictive toward others and yet shamelessly self-righteous in his morally bad behavior.

All of this together, is what the current President of the United States of America has become most known for. Today, I think it fair to say that his business accomplishments now pale by comparison to his striking record for cruelty, malice, and tirade in and outside of the nation's capital.

Given these troubling factors, I think that it is time for us to admit to one another that we undeniably made a regrettable and serious mistake -- And as one nation under God, we can ill afford to continue to allow a person of such egregious conduct and ineptitude to remain the standard-bearer for American leadership at home and abroad.

We, the people, must demand civility from our president and owing to his lack thereof we resolutely request his resignation. If he refuses, and we should expect that he will, then we must petition to have him impeached now on the grounds that he has become the most polarizing figure in modern American history and in doing so he has also become the greatest "internal threat" to the further development and maintenance of healthy race, religion, and gender relations, and an increasing risk to our national security and shared values, and the overall well-being of our collective consciousness.

As citizens of all faiths, races or ethnic groups, incomes, political affiliations, ages, abilities, and so on, we can no longer overlook, ignore or accept the cascading impact of Donald Trump's destructive and irresponsible violation of America's well established presidential code of conduct.

Yes, we made a mistake. It's time for us to address the absurd Elephant in the room.

Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people. - Dennis Prager

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Happy Birthday Jonathan

By Jon Dunnemann

Today would be Jonathan William Smithers-Dunnemann's 32nd birthday. Daniel's brother and Dr. Wilda Smithers-Dunnemann's and my first child. Jonathan left this world at age 11 and I can't begin to tell you what his absence at the table has been like for the three of us and the rest of the family for the last twenty-one years.

Jonathan had enough energy and warmth of spirit for everyone. And, he was a conduit for the untapped potential in his younger brother Danny Boy.

Losing a child or a sibling is a sharp pain that never completely dulls.

Today, it is Daniel who really has the best perspective on this tremendously challenging life event. He says, "Mom and Dad, I would rather have had Jonathan as my brother for eleven years then not to have been able to enjoy him at all."

As a man, a husband, and a father I am enormously thankful that I got to see Jonathan and Daniel's tender and loving relationship for those eleven years. My two little boys are so beautiful, complementary, and unique in every way. Who could possibly ask for more?

For Wilda, a daughter, sister, wife and physician but always a mother first and foremost, it has entailed an immensely heartbreaking loss. Jonathan had his Mommy's tough will and smile . The sort that enables you to get back up after having the life knocked out of you. With help from her Dad, Pastor and Prayer, she fought through the dark night of the soul and managed to climb up and out of the pit of despair and pain to put her other baby first and nurtured him with remarkably dedication, love, sacrifice, and wisdom to young adulthood. 

For other parents out there who have also experienced the loss of a child and to those of you who have lost a brother or a sister I'm thinking about you today too.  I am absolutely confident that if Jonathan were here today that he would tell you to be sure to enjoy your life, to wear your most magnificent smile, to trust in the power of the almighty creator of all things, and to always bare in mind that everything works together for good even though this is very often beyond our capacity as mortal/sentient beings to understand and at times to accept.

Happy Birthday Jonathan. We hope that you are proud of the way that we are carrying on in your honor while we are temporarily away from you.