Monthly Archives: December 2006

Sharif Abdullah is a friend of mine. From his name you might be lead to believe that he might be of Middle-eastern descent, but he is, in fact, a black man who grew up on the streets of Camden, New Jersey. Sharif has dedicated his life to peace-building. Among other projects, he has spent many years working for peace in Sri Lanka with Sarvodaya. He is the author of the book, Creating a World That Works for All.

This message from Sharif moved me; I think it might move you, too.

May the spirit of Christmas be with us all throughout the year.

Peace on Earth; Goodwill to all.


Howdy— I want to share something with you, something that’s been so personal to me that I don’t think I’ve shared it with anyone before.

Last Thursday, 14 December 2006, while sitting at my computer, I suddenly burst into tears. Tears of joy. On the radio, I heard a holiday song sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This put me into a time tunnel — back to two holidays ago, when my appendix blew on Thanksgiving Day, and I was rushed into two emergency surgeries. (There’s nothing like being wheeled into a second surgery, with the nurses asking for your next of kin, to get you focused on how serious your situation is.) I lingered in the hospital for days, my other organs failing.

Because my adrenals had completely disrupted my sleep cycle, I found myself awake at around 2 am, flicking around the TV channels in my hospital room, trying to find something non-offensive. I settled on a PBS documentary of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, specifically because I assumed that they would end with the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah”. The “Messiah” is the Choir’s signature piece, and was my paternal grandfather’s favorite piece of music. He sang bass professionally, so he would sing along with a recording of the Choir. I would love watching his Adam’s apple bob up and down as he sang.

Anyway, I’m watching this documentary, Walter Cronkite narrating. I’m learning a lot more than I ever knew about the Choir, and about the Mormons in general. (As a student of religions, I already knew a lot.) About 3/4 through the show, they played the “Messiah”. Now I was intrigued: what could they possibly sing that could top the “Hallelujah Chorus”?

As the program draws toward its end, Cronkite says something that I did not know – that every member of the Choir is an unpaid volunteer. They not only have to take unpaid leave from their jobs in order travel with the Choir… they have to pay their own transportation and expenses. Singing with the Choir is an act of faith for each of them. I am witnessing their faith, their sacrifice, and their glory.

Although the “Hallelujah Chorus” is their signature song, the song that they ended with was the song that was most meaningful to the Choir – the song that Mormons sang while they pulled hand-carts 2,000 miles, across the Rockies, to their promised land. It’s an American folk song called “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. (I had never heard it before.)

Right before the song, Walter Cronkite said, “When they sing the words, “Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it” – they really mean it.” I cried all the way through that song. I’m still crying.

There I was, lying in a fairly comfortable hospital bed, nurses on call at the push of a button – if the Mormons could cross the country on foot, carried by that song, my faith could get me out of that hospital bed and on with the rest of my life. Their song became my touchstone for my faith. The next day, I checked myself out of the hospital.

Having faith means everything. There is a gene, hard-wired into our very being, that demands our faithfulness. When we live our lives as though faith is some outmoded or silly concept, or can be replaced by THINGS, or (worse yet) by REASON, we do so at our own peril. Faith doesn’t mean that things are going my way, or that I’m going to get the pony that I’m praying for.

Faith means that I GIVE MYSELF to the Divine, that IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. Faith to the Mormon pioneers didn’t mean that they were going make it as they walked (walked!) across the country to Salt Lake City. Many of them didn’t make it. Faith meant that their every step was dedicated to God, not to themselves.

Faith is tied to sacrifice. Sacrifice is pain… elevated to the level of the Sacred. Sacrifice is to find the MEANING in the pain. The Choir has to give up so much in order to sing – their time, their paychecks. It is their giving up that sweetens their voices. Ask yourself: what is it that you have given up? Not giving up alcohol, drugs or overeating… you are doing that for YOU. What are you giving up for humanity? For the Earth? For God? Where is your sacrifice?

Faith has nothing to do with whether or not you make it. Faith has nothing to do with what’s written in the Bible, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad-Gita… or the Book of Mormon. Faith has nothing to do with “playing it safe” and not taking risks. The purpose of your life is not to make the next mortgage payment (regardless of what the bank tells you). The purpose of your life is not to put your kids through college. Your life goes DEEPER than that. You can’t find that purpose while clinging to the surface of things.

There are times when I forget this. There are times when I question whether giving all of my time, efforts and money for this path to a new society is “worth it”. Then I remember: it has nothing to do with whether or not I “succeed”. Here’s my heart, Lord…

Prone to wander,

Lord, I feel it,

Prone to leave the God I love;

Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, Seal it for thy courts above.

Peace, Sharif ************************************************************************* Sharif Abdullah COMMONWAY INSTITUTE P.O. BOX 12541 Portland, OR 97212 (503) 281-1667



Christmas Giving Where It Counts Most

This story came to me from Tom Atlee, who received it from some remote source. The original author is unknown to me, and whether it describes actual events or not, the message is clear and inspires me to do likewise.With love to all at this hopeful time of year, Tom 

A Christmas Story…….It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription.

It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas — oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it, overspending … the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.

Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church, mostly black. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, I wish just one of them could have won, he said. They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them. Mike loved kids — all kids — and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.

That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years.

For each Christmas, I followed the tradition — one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had
burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.

The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer.

When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by
three more.

Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing
around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.

Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May you enjoy the season.

— Djs.

Saudi Arabia is the “Elephant” in the Middle East “Living Room.”

Greg Palast is one of the few remaining investigative journalists with the guts to dig deep into current political realities and to report them. You can subscribe to his email newsletter or consult his website. His recent newsletter article entitled, The Baker Boys: Stay Half the Course: Iraq Study Group or Saudi Protection League? Concluded with the following observation:

Behind the fratricidal fracas in Iraq is something even more dangerous than bullets in Baghdad: a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia to control Iraq’s place in OPEC, the oil cartel. What is painted by Baker’s Iraq Study Group as an ancient local clash between Shia and Sunni over the Kingdom of God, is, in fact, a remote control proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the Kingdom of Oil.

Giving up my wheat-based diet

I’ve been having some digestive problems lately — pain in the gut, gas, and bloating. One day a couple weeks ago I ate a bagel with butter together with a cup of yerba mate (tea). The reaction was almost immediate and dramatic — spasms and fluttering in my upper left abdomen, lots of burps and pain.

That led me to suspect that I might have developed an allergy to wheat, something that is said to be quite common. I have always been quite fond of bread, pastries and bakery goods of all kinds, so making the decision to quit them was difficult, but that’s what I’ve done and I can report a big improvement in my problem. The pains and fluttering are gone and my bowel movements are more normal and regular.

Pertinent to this is an item in Dr. Mecola’s newsletter, Break the Bread Trap. I recommend you read it.

Here is an excerpt:

Bread and similar wheat products are ubiquitous throughout much of the world. For many years, the USDA’s food pyramid recommended 11 servings of grains and grain products. However, modern wheat is very different from the wheat our ancestors ate.

The proportion of gluten protein in wheat has enormously increased as a result of hybridization. Until the 19th century, wheat was also usually mixed with other grains, beans and nuts; pure wheat flour has been milled into refined white flour only during the last 200 years.

The resulting high-gluten, refined grain diet most of us have eaten since infancy has created health problems in the gut, the bloodstream, the brain, and sometimes also the joints, cardiovascular system and endocrine system.

Root Canals Pose Health Threat

Here’s another important health alert from Dr. Mercola. It’s an interview with George Meinig, D.D.S.