Accuser or Redeemer?

I prefer to see life as a rich tapestry of colors and hues, however on occasion it is helpful to view life in black and white terms.

Speaking of black and white, then, it seems to me that there are two forces at work in the world, the force of accusation and the force of redemption. And all of us at any given moment are acting more like an accuser … or more like a redeemer.

The voice of accusation is the loudest and most common voice. In my humble opinion, people spend far more time looking for fault in others than looking for the good.

My Dad kept a saying posting in his office for many years, it read: The way some people find fault, you’d think there was a reward. Now I realize that uttering that very saying seems to contradict the very point that is made, that by saying that some people are always finding fault … you are actually finding fault with fault-finders. Be that as it may, the people who are disturbed by fault-finders are generally the people who don’t practice finding fault.

So, how do you live most of the time … acting like an accuser, or acting like a redeemer?

I encourage you to be a redeemer, to spend your days looking for the good in people, be an encourager and tell others what you like about them, and when you are talking about someone who is not present, speak about that person in positive terms.

If you cannot make a practice of being a redeemer, an encourager, of being someone who looks for the good in others, then please quit tearing down the world and others with your tongue.

The New Testament says that the tongue can be a flame of fire, and that it is set on fire by Hell itself … with the tongue we bless God, and then turn around and curse others with it. My friends, that ought not to be.

Do we really think God is stupid? Some people spend all week trashing other people at work in a vain attempt to make “friends” and get ahead, and practice criticizing other people outside of work (neighbors, relatives, whoever), and then show up at church or temple or synagogue or mosque or sitting or wherever, and say “Bless you, God”

That’s nothing but a damn joke, and not the least bit funny.

Make up your mind and choose one path or the other. Be an encourager, speak well of others, be supportive, build up your fellow human being and humankind in general … or, like my Dad once said to me when I was still a small child, “If you don’t have something good to say about someone else, keep your damn mouth shut.”

Ouch! That hurts, eh?

Fight or absorb?

We live in a physical world that most of us can see, touch, hear and taste … and it is easy to let our physicality dominate our experience of life. Most of the time we are working and even fighting to increase our share of the physical world. But the physical world is temporal, and does not last.

Our spiritual self, though it is intertwined with the physical, transcends the physical. Spirit is eternal … and if our spirituality dominated our experience of life, we would be happier and more at peace in the physical world.

It gets tough to live spiritually when we are confronted by situations where our physical world is threatened, and even tougher when confronted by people who deliberately threaten our experience of the physical world. These tough times in the physical, however, are the times where our spirituality can grow the most, where our depth of character can be most significantly forged.

So, how should we react when we are surrounded by others who are focused on the physical world and not the spiritual? What should we do when our physical world is threatened by those who are not interested in our spiritual well-being? How should we react to others who gang up to beat us down? Should we fight to keep our place in the physical world, or detach from the physical and absorb the maltreatment in our spirit?

I like the way Jesus of Nazareth handled this dilemma.

The temple administrators were not focused on the spiritual world, but instead they let the physical world dominate their administration of the temple sacrifices. To put it bluntly, they were focused on profits even if it meant screwing the poor. Well obviously, this really pissed Jesus off … so he turned the administrators’ physical world upside down, flipped their cash tables over and spilled their money, and drove them out of the temple (probably hollering at them while wielding a whip).

The message that I get out of this story is that it is okay to focus on the physical world, to focus on defending physical turf when you are doing it on behalf of the marginalized. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, fight for the rights of the oppressed, wage war against tyrants who enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, but remember to exercise your “righteous anger” in a lawful, moral, and spiritual way.

When it comes to defending your own physical turf, however, it seems better not to fight … and instead be more like Jesus and absorb in your spirit the physical maltreatment. Absorb, absorb, absorb … whether it be slander spread about you by others, theft of your physical well being, shunning by those you thought were your friends, deliberate personal attacks on your reputation … whatever maltreatment you experience at the hands of others in the physical world, do not fight fire with fire and further enflame the world, but absorb it all in your spirit.

I’m not saying anything about politics or national sovereignty, for I don’t think that terrorists are focused on spirituality or on goodwill toward humankind. I am simply talking to you and to me about what we can do in the Spirit when confronted by those who are focused on the physical world … absorb, don’t fight.

Puerto Vallarta – Day 11

It is Sunday, January 4, 2009 … this is our last day here, and we are sad to be leaving.

This morning we went for one last swim in the pool, and lay poolside until 11:30 AM. After we check out of our room, I walked the two blocks downhill to the center of old town and hailed a cab in no time flat. I suspected we might be in for a wild cab ride to the airport, for this particular taxi cab looked a little different than the hundreds of other yellow Nissan Sentra taxicabs around town. The muffler had been modified to sound like a sports car, the driver had a small pinata hanging from the mirror, and there was a scantily clad seniorita posted to his rear view mirror. He dipped in and out of traffic, blew through at least 2 stop signs, stopped and checked traffic but then proceeded to drive right through at least 2 red lights, and otherwise put the pedal to the metal. I want to find this guy the next time I’m in a hurry to get somewhere.

Checking our bags and passing through Security went very smoothly, and now we are at the gate waiting to board our plane. It looks like our flight is delayed about 30 minutes, so we still have an hour before we are scheduled to depart. We started talking about this trip 3 years ago, and we decided to take a 10 year anniversary tip instead of a 50th birthday trip because our anniversary came sooner. Seems logical, eh? Now we can take a trip in 2 years to celebrate our 50th birthdays … or even better, in about one year to celebrate our 49th birthdays.

As I write these words, we are in the air headed back to Utah. It was 85 degrees in PV when we left, and it will be in the single digits in Salt Lake City when we arrive in about 2 hours. We’ll definitely feel the cold when we are dropped off by the shuttle bus, and then have to schlep our 5 pieces of luggage the rest of the way to our cold truck sitting in the dark in the parking lot. But experiencing the cold climate in Utah is just part of the deal if you want to live in magnificent Utah, and we chose to live here. We could have picked Dallas, or Florida, or California, but neither of us wanted that. So, cold and all, it will be home sweet home … and we are looking forward to being welcomed home by our sweet doggies, Maple and Mocha.

This trip has been everything we hoped it would be, and more. Warm. Sunny. Fun. Relaxing. Enchanting. Adventurous. Invigorating. Enriching. Rejuvenating. The Good Lord willing, we shall return one day to beautiful Puerto Vallartamuy bien!

Puerto Vallarta – Day 10

We had yet another great meal to start the day, breakfast at Freddy Tuscans … which was followed by some 11th hour shopping. We found some great stuff at a local pewter artisan shop, as well as at the local tile manufacturer. At the tile plant and store we could watch the craftsmen and craftswomen hand painting the pieces before they are fired in the kilns.

We also enjoyed strolling through the well-heeled “gringo gulch” area of PV, where a number of gringos own property which start at about $500K.

We again spent the afternoon at the pool, and we are going out for sushi tonight.

We are sad that our 10 year anniversary trip is coming to an end, but we hope to return here before too long … perhaps for our 50th birthday celebration in 2 years.

Puerto Vallarta – Day 9

We slept over 10 hours last night, maybe closer to 11 hours. It’s 8:15 AM … I’m enjoying some hot tea, but we need to get in the shower soon. We are going to breakfast at 9:00 AM with our next door neighbors Randy and Charlie. It will be interesting to learn how they became partners.

Earlier in the week Randy had told us about a small little family owned cafe “east of the tracks,” where you could buy breakfast for about $4 U.S. dollars. So the 4 of us set out on foot to find it, and soon found ourselves being greeted at the door by a smiling face. It felt like walking into someones kitchen and being seated at their table, which just may be the case … for the steps in the corner of the room probably led to their bedrooms and living quarters. Breakfast was delicious, and the bill for the 4 of us was less than $20. Just for fun, we decided to give her a generous tip of $10, and she tried to give some of the money back … but we refused. The big smile on her face and the hearty “muchos gracias” was definitely worth it.

We learned a lot about Randy and Charlie on the breakfast outing. Charlie is 54 years old, Randy 50 … they met in a bar while “cruising” (i.e. pursuing) the same guy, and they have been together for 22 years. Randy is an attorney who specializes in representing low-income housing development, and Charlie made his living as an IT Consultant. It seems that most gay guys are highly educated (Randy has a dual MBA-Law degree from Case Western), and high income earners. And because they generally don’t have children, they have plenty of expendable income … and any smart industry (like travel and tourism) would be smart to cater to their buying power.

It was also clear by the way Charlie spoke that he has some health condition … and he told us that he found out 11 years ago that he has Parkinsons Disease. Interestingly, it progressed so rapidly that as of 4 years ago he could barely speak and only shuffle along slowly to walk. So he underwent this fairly new procedure called “deep brain stimulation” whereby the surgeon implanted signal receivers in his brain, which respond every 60 milliseconds to signals sent from metal devices in his chest. The procedure was done years ago (which has a 5% total failure rate), it was tremendously successful, and now he can talk almost normally and walk fairly normally. Evidently, as many as 25,000 people have had this procedure done.

After some afternoon shopping, including the purchase of a small oil painting by a Mexican master painter named Manuel Martinez, we spent the afternoon by the pool. Then we showered and got ready for the big game.

This year’s Sugar Bowl pitted our hometown Utah Utes against the powerful Alabama Crimson Tide. Though the Utes came into the game sporting an undefeated 12-0 record, none of the prognosticators gave Utah much of a chance. We watched the game at a sports bar that has multiple big screen TV’s in an upper open-air eating area. AND WHAT A GAME IT WAS!! Utah won the toss and elected to kick-off, held them on defense, and proceeded to score 3 straight unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter to lead 21-0. It seems that the huge, but slow, Alabama offensive linemen were no match for the smaller, quicker, tenacious Ute defense … and the inexperienced Alabama secondary was no match for our senior class QB and our 4 fast and highly skilled wideouts. I could go on and on, but the final result was a convincing 31-17 Utah win, an undefeated 13-0 season, and what will probably be a season-ending final ranking in the top 4 of the country.

This trip has been fantastic, made even better by exciting bowl victories by our two favorite teams — the West Virginia Mountaineers, and the Utah Utes.