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Aug 01


In my last column, I wrote about my bias towards staying married rather than giving up on a relationship.  ShareWIK member and regular columnist, Ginger Emas left a comment saying she and her ex-husband. John divorced after 14 years of couple’s therapy. She thanks her years of couple’s therapy for helping her and her ex have an “unbelievable divorce,” in which they are very close friends.

 

Not that she needs my blessing on her divorce, but I think we could all agree that working on a marriage for 14 years is a noble effort and if there is something primary that is still missing from the marriage after all of that effort, then divorce probably makes good sense.

 

In my last column, I talked about Bill.  Bill left two marriages in which he put miniscule effort into—or at least minimal effort compared to what Ginger and her husband did.  In fact, Bill only came in to see me after he had made up his mind to leave his marriage.  When it came down to it, Bill wanted my help justifying his reasons for leaving his marriage.

 

Each of Bill’s divorces ended up as contentious as his marriages.

 

Ginger’s comments started me thinking about my own divorce.  The first time I married, I was 25.  The woman I married was a woman I fell in love with about six or seven months before the wedding.  We were both obviously impulsive (how else would we get married that quickly) but also overwhelmed with passion and a shared desire to get our life started.

 

We married, I started graduate school and she soon became pregnant.

 

I won’t share the details of our failed marriage because it wouldn’t be fair to her since she has not decided to share her side of the story. Suffice it to say, we were equally as immature for handling the give and take, compromise and conciliation required of successful spouses as we had been impulsive and passionate. Even though I was getting my PhD in Clinical Psychology, at 27 years old, I only gave couple’s therapy a cursory try.

 

We separated and divorced before our son was three.  I’m not proud of how easily I gave up and got a divorce given that I had a small child. My only apology is that it was almost 30 years ago and as the wise older woman in “Moonstruck” said, as she explained to the hapless professor why his young lover emptied a full martini in his face, “What I didn’t know about being a man was a lot.” (Forgive me for my shameless paraphrasing).  

 

Let me tell you a few things about my divorce that I am proud of.  My ex-wife and I shared equal custody of our son and argued on and off passionately throughout the time our son grew up.  We both made huge sacrifices to make sure he got to important family functions of each parent’s family. I stayed in therapy to learn to better compromise and work with my ex-wife in ways I had not done when we were married.

 

The first time my current wife, Dina met my ex-wife was when my ex surprised us by coming into town unexpectedly and using her key to my apartment where our son was sleeping. Dina and I were asleep in my bed when my ex came into our bedroom to tell us that she was going to be sleeping in the spare bedroom.  I introduced Dina to her that night and they had breakfast together the next day.  There wasn’t anything weird about my ex-wife “crashing” in my spare bedroom so she could wake up with our son and help with the morning routine getting him off to school.  That was 20 years ago. 

 

One of my proudest “divorce accomplishments” was renting a house with my ex-wife for the weekend of our son’s graduation from college.  My wife and I, along with my ex, her husband and all of our children, spent 48 very good hours together in the same house.  The whole situation was completely…comfortable.  While in the past we were not always the model of the perfect divorce, that weekend we were.

 

A few years ago, my ex-wife called and said, “I couldn’t imagine a better ex-husband than you.”  She thanked me for being so wonderful and apologized for the role she played in our arguments over the years. Her words left me speechless because, trust me, I had behaved badly many times.   The truth is we are better together after the divorce than we were as a married couple. 

 

My ex-wife is a good person and I learned a lot from her about being a better man.  I was fortunate in my second marriage to marry a woman who helped temper my response to my ex, and enthusiastically took on the step-parenting role.  I think my ex-wife would say the same thing about her current husband. 


Hindsight is 20-20. If I had it to do over again, I would not have walked away from my first marriage so easily. At the same time, I am grateful for the marriage that Dina and I have built, and for our two beautiful boys.  Whenever a young couple with a child comes to see me and tells me they married too quickly because they were passionately in love, I have to be careful that my desire for their marriage to succeed isn’t stronger than theirs. Many young couples simply lack the maturity to make it work; commitment, empathy, assertiveness, perspective, tolerance, and self-soothing can take years to develop.  If, after all the work of therapy, a couple decides to divorce, I will try to help them learn those same skills.  That way they may not only experience a "good divorce," but they'll be much more prepared for a good marriage next time around. 

 

 

Gerald Drose is an Atlanta-based couples’ sex therapist.  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. Visit Dr. Drose at Powers Ferry Psychological Associates, LLC.   

 

More Gerald Drose articles, click here.

 

@ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

 

Dec 19

My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that adrenaline is as addictive as cocaine. My body wants a fix today and will every day for the rest of my life.  My therapist tells me that if I want my life to be long, I have to resist the overpowering urge to give in. 

 

There is no “cure” for this addiction. 

 

But I’ve lately discovered there is a path that brings healing.

 

The path called love.

 

Sadly, I’m not sure I have the courage to walk that path.

 

It scares me.  Deeply.

 

Why?

 

It is not a solitary path.

 

You cannot walk this path alone.

 

This confession may strike you as beyond odd. 

 

“Who in their right mind would want to walk alone, if healing is available?”

 

Who indeed.

 

The problem is my mind is not right.  My soul is not right.  My body is not right.

 

My body doesn’t want healing.  It wants a fix. 

 

My mind tells me healing is not possible.

 

I am emotionally disconnected, and something within desperately wants to keep it that way.

 

My heart, however, speaking to me in a still, small voice, is telling me to take the path.

 

Why am I so afraid to obey my heart?

 

I’m afraid of confronting the overwhelming pain and shame caused by childhood trauma.

 

My trauma occurred at the time I was unable to understand its personal impact and what to do with the pain.

 

Trauma is personally overwhelming, because we are not designed to handle trauma by ourselves.

 

I didn’t know that.

 

I dealt with it in a solitary way, but the pain overwhelmed me.

 

So, I did what any morally upstanding rugged individualist would do; I self-medicated with the social acceptable drug called adrenaline.

 

There are many trauma treatments.  I opted for adrenaline. 

 

The high that accompanies an adrenaline rush drowned my pain.

 

My adrenaline rush comes when I am involved in high achievement.

 

I started this treatment in my teen years and never stopped.

 

I channeled my energies into being REALLY nice, REALLY educated, and REALLY productive.

 

Achievement dictated every aspect of my life, including relationships.

 

I viewed all my relationships as tasks.  For me relational achievement meant being REALLY nice to the other.

 

It never occurred to me that being nice is something I can do, but love is something only “we” can do.

 

So rather than take time to slow down and be in love with my family and friends, I poured myself into achievement in order to generate the ever-increasing amount of adrenaline needed to numb the pain.

 

I lived for decades in a sleep-deprived, relationally deprived, and physically unhealthy way as though the laws of physics didn’t apply to me.

 

Last year physics took over and I emotionally crashed. 

 

In order to save my life, I had to slow way down and deny myself adrenaline.

 

My addiction is so acute that I can’t do this by myself.  Fortunately I have a team of people that won’t let me go back there.

 

Today I feel better, but it is of little consolation.

 

I’m told I look better, but that is of little consolation.

 

I still crave adrenaline.

 

Recently I discovered a path of healing I never knew existed.

 

Now I see it and I am scared. 

 

Of what?

 

Love.

 

Until now I thought love was a task.

 

I thought love was a command to carry out.

 

It turns out that love is not a task, but a state of being, and it is a command that can only be fulfilled with others.

 

Love is a state of being that we can only enjoy in relationship with other people and God.

 

Love is not something “I do,” but something that only dwells in relationship.

 

What so horrifying about that?

 

The gateway to the path says that in order to walk it, I have to love myself. 

 

Why?

 

Love is an activity involving our entire being, and unless I am willing to love myself enough to give others the gift of myself (as opposed to my achievements), I cannot love.  By myself I can only counterfeit love.

 

What is so hard about loving myself? 

 

I haven’t loved myself since the trauma.

 

The trauma defiled me.

It became me.

 

I’ve been trying to escape from me ever since. 

 

Yet I can neither escape myself nor heal myself.

 

When it comes to the wounds of trauma, we cannot heal ourselves.  Only love heals such a wound, and love is only found in healthy relationships.

 

Relating calls us to a gradual opening of our mind, heart and soul to the other and ourselves.  Love can only heal us if we allow love, through others, to access the wounds within us.

 

I am 52 years old and I now see that humans are made for relationship.  We are made for love.

 

So here I stand at the crossroad of love. 

 

To take this path I only have to love myself enough to take the first step.

 

My family and friends have their hands and hearts open to me, I just need to love myself enough to step into their arms and allow them to carry me down the path.  The path has always been there, but now I see it.

 

Will I live what I believe?

 

That I am made in the image of God and loved by God and therefore I can love myself?

 

My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict.

 

I stand at a crossroad and wonder which path I will take.

 

Adrenaline or love?

 

Love rescue me.

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

In the words of Eduardo Louring, "Love and justice are rooted in the broken heart." Louring runs an unusual ministry for the homeless, Open Door, that offers direct daytime services like showers and meals. By far the greatest expression of its generosity is the authentic offering of love and relationship.


As part of an "Experiment in Living," my 14-year-old daughter, along with a dozen classmates and two teachers, spent a school week on the streets of Atlanta, immersed in the world of homelessness. Other than a safe place to sleep at night (though still exposed to the elements), and the awareness that at week's end they would return to their families and their beds, these kids walked a mile (actually about 10 a day) in the shoes of another (literally). They volunteered at facilities like Open Door, getting to know the problems of homelessness from those experiencing it, themselves.


Upon their immediate return to "civilization," which I was privileged to witness, the lesson these kids shared that resonated most strongly with them was the healing, restorative powers of love and respect. Throughout their immersion they experienced the de-humanizing effects of assumptions and labels. They learned, first hand, what it felt like to be seen for their external circumstances and appearances, not for who they are as humans. 


At the same time, they witnessed the benefit' of 'being loved' on self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-acceptance. Open Door's mission profoundly links those two concepts. When people are treated as human, worthy of love, they are able to receive that love. That sense of self worth, in turn, has a validating and humanizing effect that allows for greater individual success.


It's a powerful message to be sure: people do better when they believe they are worthy.


Life is an uncertain journey for all of us. No matter how well we create our plans or execute them, all of us will arrive in difficult circumstances where we find ourselves wondering, "how did I get here?" or "why is this happening to me?" At those critical junctures in life, success lies in the ability to see beyond our condition to the possibilities outside our 'reality,' and the belief that we have a 'right' to something better.


So what does this have to do with pediatric cancer? After all, I'm sure we could ALL agree that children deserve and are worthy of good health.


While very often kids do feel worthy and deserving, it doesn't take much to shake their confidence. Why do you think we all bring so much baggage into adulthood? Let’s be serious. Kids blame themselves for everything from causing trouble to causing divorce. So kids with cancer run the risk of internalizing and blaming themselves for their illness and the hardship it brings on their families. Reinforcing the message that they DESERVE to be healthy, that they are worth the effort (and more so!), can have a powerful healing effect.


Another risk kids with cancer face is the potentially traumatizing experience of being and feeling 'different.' Whether it be a bald head, a missed term at school, having to miss or avoid certain activities, or undergoing 'procedures' on a regular basis, a kid with cancer -- or any severe medical condition, for that matter -- runs the risk of being seen as the disease itself, rather than as a person experiencing a disease. It can actually have a de-humanizing effect. Separating the person from the disease helps to keep a kid focused on his own value, his sense of self worth.


When we love our kids intensely and vociferously, that alone is restorative. But it pales in comparison to what a child can do to aid in her own healing by believing in herself and visualizing a healthy future. When a child sees herself as loved and worthy, and is therefore able to visualize a better future for herself, she becomes a part of her treatment, rather than a victim of circumstances.


Regardless of prognosis, children can be –  and should be, I venture to say –  empowered to choose how they look at their life, whatever their circumstances may be.  We can help them see that they are loved, that they are worthy of that love, and that they are so much more than their disease.


As Louring's quote suggests, despite the pain of heart-breaking illness, when we look beyond a crisis to see a human being, justice can come from the love we express. My daughter and her classmates learned that while they may not be able to end others' suffering in an immediate sense, they can provide tools to improve their situation with love and respect. And that gift -- reinforcing the belief that people are worthy – is a universal message of hope that surpasses class, race or health status.

 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Parenting Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching and ImpactADHD™.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

Jul 16

While I didn’t ask to be born, it must also be said that my parents didn’t ask to have me for a child. 


This thought occurred to me about 10 days into a two-week visit with my parents.  Aging is hard on everyone.  My parent’s home needed to be modified to accommodate the changes aging brought to their lives.  


Change is hard.  Especially when there is no consensus about what needs to be changed.  Change is still hard after the decisions are made, and you have to make changes when the heat and humidity are sweltering 24/7 and there is no central air-conditioning.


On the10th day my Mom was obviously having similar thoughts and wanted a break from the child she had been given.  She came to me and handed me an old pie box, and said I think Ruth would like this, why don’t you bring it to her? 


Ruth was my high school sweetheart.  We went together for about a year, before she broke up with me when we went away to college.  She still lived in the neighborhood.  Since high school, I had very little contact with Ruth.  In the 90’s Ruth and her husband hosted our family to dinner, and that was it. 


Truth be told, I didn’t want to have any contact with her.  Why?  Because 30 years later, I still felt shame about our break-up. 


There was nothing about our relationship that I was ashamed of, but she found it difficult to connect with me emotionally.  The lack of connectivity hurt her.  I still felt bad about it.


What my mother brought to me was an old box that contained a pie mix.  She and my grandfather got the box from the remains of a hotel fire in the 1940’s.  What made this particular pie box special is that it was made by the company Ruth’s family had owned.


Had my mother brought me that box on any other day and requested I bring it to Ruth, I would have said no.  But, I was so ready to get a break from the parents God gave me, I said yes.


So I got out the phone book, found her phone number, took out my cell phone out only to discover my palms sweating and my heart racing.  It was as if I were transported back to high school and I was getting up the courage to call her for the first time.  It took me 10 minutes to actually press the call button, and when I did my heart was in my throat and I was hoping for an answering machine. 


Ruth answered, and I was then confronted with the fact I actually had to say something.  How exactly does one call a former girlfriend, who, like me, is married, and out of nowhere say, “I was wondering if I could come by and give you a present?”


I still don’t know.  All I remember is that she invited me to come over and asked if I’d like to take a walk around the lake.  As I was no longer in control of my faculties, I said sure, and within minutes I was walking to her home.


That four-block walk was the longest of my adult life.  I had just signed up to have a four-mile walk with a woman I still felt badly about hurting.  


WHAT WAS I THINKING?


Fortunately Ruth is a classy woman.  (I do have good taste in women.)  She received the pie box and me, and before I knew it we commenced on the walk.  The first 3.9 miles of it was spent simply catching up on each other’s lives and families. 


As the walk was coming to an end, I felt this compelling urge to apologize for hurting her.  My head and my heart instantly engaged in brawl.  My heart wanted to apologize, but my head wanted to end the walk with grace and civility and not risk more hurt.


My heart won.  For the last few blocks of the walk I apologized for hurting her and we talked about how things ended. 


As we came to her home I thanked her for taking the time to walk and talk with me, and I said something to the effect that I was surprised she was willing to be with me. 


At that moment, she changed. She turned, looked at me, and with more emotion than I had ever seen from her said, “I’ve always loved you, didn’t you know that?”


Answering honestly, I said, “No.”


She replied, “I will always love you.”


Those words have changed my life. 


 Love is a word that is so over-used it has been bleached of meaning.


The Greeks had four words for love, and even those four aren’t enough.


The love she gave me was not the stuff of marriage, friendship, or romance.  It is the stuff of eternity, and it is divine.


It is what we yearn for every day of our lives.


It is what I yearned for but never knew existed. 


The love she gave me persuaded me I was loveable.


I had never believed that before.


Only a person who knew me, but didn’t want or need anything from me, could have penetrated the stonewall surrounding my heart.


She did.


I’ve not been the same since.


I didn’t ask to be born, and my parent’s didn’t sign up to have me for a kid.  But the same force that brought the three of us together also compelled my Mom and grandfather to visit the remains of an old hotel and take possession of a pie box.  A pie box that 60 years later would allow me to feel loved in a place within that I never knew existed.


Thank God.

  

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Aug 14

Yes, my friend, there is sex in the Bible, and it's a lot better than those funny Cialis commercials with the two bathtubs, and the guy is, well, “ready.”


Hardly anything matches the dimension of my work than me being under a wedding canopy with two young people in love and declaring promises to each other.  I see the groom clinging to his bride; his normally restless eyes are moist with rapture.


When the young man weeps, I have more confidence in the marriage, because it sends me back to another young man in the old Scripture.


In Genesis, normally associated with creation and argued over by scientists and protégés of Darwin, there is a story of a young man’s bursting tenderness for a woman.  Jacob loved Rachel so much that it made him cry.


The Bible is often pigeon-holed as a manual of miracles, a catalog of cataclysms.  It surely contains these types of wonders, but the truth is that the Bible is more the story of real people experiencing delicate moments than it is an anthology of supernatural interventions.  We are taught about the great floods, the partings of the seas, the breaking open of the earth, the thunder and lightning of revelation.


But the quieter moments—when fathers and sons bless each or hurt each other, when mothers and daughters heal or deceive each other, when two people fondle each other—outnumber the big moments of divine disclosure and celestial transformation.  Most of the Scripture takes place on the earth, in tents, in open fields, under the sky, close to the heart.  There are a lot of love stories in the Bible, simply because there are a lot of people in the Bible coming of age, struggling with loneliness, yearning for affection.


So, Jacob may have been the patriarch of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, but long before that, he was a young man in love.  In the 29th chapter of Genesis, Jacob longs for a wife.  He discovers his sweetheart in the fields.  The Bible is not embarrassed by sentimentality, or by the confession of a man’s heart.  Scripture speaks plainly:  “And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.”


Again, some readers of the Bible may be surprised to learn that such a direct account of human affection is part of the canon.  But this is how life is, especially when fresh love transforms two people.  It is a nascent, exhilarating condition that has as many biblical proportions as the freedom stories and the national dramas of sacred writ.  Romance, desire, passion, even lust—all appear in the Bible just as surely as people are what God created to make the Bible come to life.


In the throes of newly declared love, who hasn’t shed or at least considered tears?  Who hasn’t known the accompanying delicious, salty sensation that clogs your throat?  Who hasn’t felt the enlivening compulsion to “lift up his voice?”  Touched by romance, feeling the flush of a new future with a devoted partner without whom you couldn’t imagine living, who hasn’t at least thought of shouting or singing for joy? 


This breakthrough, this surge of relief and anticipation that only a human heart can know, is as old as the Bible and as new as what you feel this day as you consider the place of amore in your life.

 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.


More Ben Kamin articles, click here 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Aug 28

At the age of 53 I’ve become a romantic.  I find myself enthralled by love. I want to be consumed by love.

Why, having gone through male menopause, after 31 years of marriage, am I now finding such fascination in the exploration of love?

Because I have lately discovered I don’t understand it.  It is better than I imagined.

This is a counter-cultural statement in a time in which our society is losing hope in love.  Our relationship landscape is littered with carcasses of failed marriages.  Gazing on the carnage is so disturbing that more and more of us have lost hope, not just in marriage, but that we will ever be in a healthy long-term relationship that will grow as time goes by.

Sociologists tell us that our young people are increasingly choosing cohabitation over marriage, and that the delay in marriage, may not just be a delay, but a signal we are entering into an era where, absent relational hope, we will expect less and less from others and try to get more and more by ourselves. 

Our problem is not that we are losing faith in marriage and family, our problem that we are losing hope in love.

Why?  One reason is that sex has got in the way.

Now that my body shows outward signs of aging, I look different.  Now that my body produces less testosterone, life looks different.  Relationships look different. 

Earlier in life sex was for me was a mad master.  I am not alone.  Socrates and Sophocles discovered the same thing.  As Plato writes in Book 1 of the Republic:

I was once present when the poet was asked by someone, “Sophocles, how are you in sex? Can you still have intercourse with a woman?” “Silence, man,” he said. “Most joyfully did I escape it, as though I had run away from a sort of frenzied and savage master.”  I thought at the time that he had spoken well and I still do. For in every way old age brings great peace and freedom from such things. When the desires cease to strain and finally relax, then what Sophocles says comes to pass in every way; it is possible to be rid of many mad masters.

I am not opposed to sex, but for me sex was a dead-end on the search for love.

Lately I was sitting with a woman I had just met, and we entered into a fascinating, wondrous, in-depth conversation.  I quickly developed deep appreciation for this woman. I wanted to know her better.  Deeper.

In the midst of the conversation, the following thought flew through my head: “It would be neat to be married to her.”  Having only known her for one hour the thought was just that, but as I have considered this thought further it made me aware of two things. 

First, I have gone through menopause.  Earlier in my life my first thought would probably have been sexually motivated.  Not now.  I wanted to know this woman and wanted her to know me.  I wanted her to tell me her story just as I wanted to share my story with her. 

Second, I don’t need to marry someone to know them.  Neither does being married mean that there is no place in our lives for deep, healthy, loving  friendships with others. 

In college the phrase, “Let’s just be friends” crucified my heart. 

Now, the phrase is liberating. 

I’ve spent decades wondering if the thesis of the film “When Harry Met Sally,” that sex makes it impossible for men and women to be friends, was true.  On this side of menopause, it is most certainly not true.

I want to live in love with my wife, my children, and with my friends – both male and female. I want to know and be known.  I want to love and be loved.  I want to hear the story of another, and share my own. 

So what is love?

I don’t yet know.

For me, sex was a dead-end on the quest for love.  It is certainly part of the quest for many, but it is not and has never been the essence of the quest. 

What I now realize is that love in the West is bereft of oxygen.  We live in a land of brothers and sisters who are being suffocated by a lack of love.

Finally I have found love in the air I breathe.  It is found in the wonder of being known and loved for who I am by people I so care for that I love them enough to want to know them for who they are. What is wondrous is together we can discover what I could never have found by myself:  Grace, Forgiveness, and Love.

What I’ve come to realize is that every relationship has its own unique love song.  There isn’t but one love song for us, they are countless.  They are found in marriage, in family, and friendship. 

Eternity has captured me as love has captivated me.

On the other side of menopause I have found love.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Oct 08

I believe that the church is rapidly becoming one of the most culturally insignificant organizations in America.


If the purpose of the church is to be Christ to the world until He comes again, I think there can be little argument about the state and trajectory of the American church.  If, as is self-reported, almost half of Americans are Christians, as a group they make remarkably little cultural impact.  There are much smaller groups making a much larger impact.  Consider those who are working to change the definition of marriage in America.  What they have achieved in 20 years is social change the magnitude of which the Church has not made since the second Great Awakening in the 19th century.


I make this criticism as an insider. I was raised and have been involved in the church for my entire life.  I was ordained in 2000, and became a pastor of the Emmanuel Covenant Church in 2001.  I came to this conclusion about the cultural relevance of the church when I was in high school and I have not seen the need to revisit it – until now.


Pastoring Emmanuel Covenant has slowly changed my mind, and in my final days as pastor I am having a conversion experience.  I came to Emmanuel Covenant after a five-year battle with cancer.  When I arrived it seemed that Emmanuel was moving into hospice care.  It seemed that my job was to help its life to end well.


Years earlier I would never have consented to be part of a church burial.  But I looked at life much differently after my battle with cancer.  I realized that death was part of life, and I saw my personal brokenness in ways I never had.  I gladly accepted the invitation.  It seemed that we were meant for each other.  Little did I know.


I remember the church meeting, about six months after my arrival, when we finally voted to close.  We were open to re-forming if both our denomination and an area church would join with us, but while the congregation hoped, I had little confidence this would occur.  There was no earthly reason to invest financial and human resources in a congregation of 12 people three months behind on its mortgage, and emotionally burned-out.  I’m not sure I believed prayers of dying hope would be answered.


Much to my surprise, assistance came, and over the last decade we have been resurrected into a curiously healthy worshipping community.  Not only did it come back to life, it has given and sustained my life.  How? 


I don’t know.  Really.


There really is no “how” to report.  I’m not sure anyone can explain it in human terms.  We are the antithesis of church growth models.  The best characterization I can give to us is to say that we are a community of glorious misfits.  One of the few things we have in common is the understanding that each of us is a misfit.  We have wealthy misfits and less-wealthy misfits.  We have educated and less educated misfits.  We have Republican misfits, Democratic misfits and none-of-the-above misfits.  We have married misfits, divorced misfits, and other misfits. Being a misfit is the human condition, but our culture lives in denial.  At Emmanuel, for some strange reason, we are a collection of people who have been beaten down enough to be able to admit we are misfits to God and each other. 


How have we been able to come to this point? 


I don’t know.  Really.


I had little to do with it.  Some might accuse me of false modesty on this point, but my wife and other church leaders will attest that virtually nothing I proposed in the last decade ever worked.  In fact, very little that church leadership proposed ever worked.  We’d make plans and almost nothing we planned ever happened. 


So why am I so intensely grieving stepping down as pastor of Emmanuel; and, why has my time at Emmanuel restored my belief in the church? 


I don’t yet know.


I do know is that Emmanuel is a place where the love of God and each other abides.  All are welcome, as you are, for as long as you wish.  No one will ever ask you for money, and there is little need to ask others to do things, because if a need is made known, people respond.  They respond in ways that amaze.  It isn’t what they do that amazes so much as how they do it.  They do so without the desire for attention or reward.  Often anonymously.  To this day I suspect I don’t know the half of it.


What’s better, when people walk in the doors on Sunday morning they almost universally report the sense of feeling something special.  As it cannot be due to the smell or condition of the building, I believe it is the presence of God in His most splendored dimension, love.


This is a church that love has built and sustains, and since God is love, it is as it should be.


For the first time in my life, I have had the honor of dwelling in a congregation in which love dwells.  I can say this because love is healing and sustaining me.


I don’t know how all of this came to happen.  I just know that it isn’t of me.  I came as a person desperately in need of love. I came as a person more broken than my humility would allow me to imagine. 


I have committed some of the biggest mistakes and trespasses of my life with the people of this church, and I have not only been forgiven, I’ve been loved.


I’ve never known love like this before.  I’ve never known God like this before. 


I don’t know what the future holds for Emmanuel, the world, or me.  But I know for the first time in my life that love will conquer all.


The tragedy of the American church is not that it is culturally irrelevant, it’s that it doesn’t have to be.

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Nov 19

“Can two walk together, unless they have agreed?”  Such was the trenchant challenge about relationships put out by the Biblical prophet Amos—it’s as old as the Bible and as new as this morning, when several billion couples rose from the bed in one manner, mood, or another.


Audrey and I are as likely to have met as two falling stars from different galaxies.  But when the fates organized a plan, we found each other several years ago, long after the closing trajectories of two drooping marriages, and began a friendship, a kindred spirit, a mutually supportive discourse of relief and insight that restored a sense of hope and promise and even structure to days of frenzy, confusion, and not a little anguish.  We actually talked endlessly about what divorce will do to children, about what disappointment in love can do to the human spirit and to the body itself, and how mighty a matter is one’s guilt about leaving a partner who is the other parent of your children.


There was nothing frivolous in these conversations and they were distinguished and unforgettable.  We didn’t even know that they would become the inviolate foundation of a love so embedded in our blood that it survives both of our high-powered personalities, our family neuroses, the initial ambivalence and intermittent resentments of our shared four children (now a genuinely happy blended lot), and, above all, the complete career makeovers that came with our decision to formalize the love into marriage.


Audrey, frankly a brilliant woman with multi-task capacities who could have created the world in just four days (no offense, God), resumed a professional career in finance while faithfully raising two still-young children into healthy adolescence, embracing my now-adult daughters as a convivial and cool step-mom, all the while putting up with my sputtering transition from a full-time pulpit rabbi of many years to a fully realized journalist and author, interfaith activist, and part-time rabbi of an ideal and tender congregation of elders that entails only the purest aspects of ministry—teaching and leading folks in prayer!


After a couple of years of not “getting it” about how lucky I was (I do now), being stuck in my “transition,” while languishing in the magnificent study Audrey had built for me, and at first bemoaning her many business travels because I was lonely (and she was trying to raise her kids), we have come to a place that honors those initial life-conferences of years ago, when our hearts were beating with fear, uncertainty, and a flung sense of trust.


I have learned so much about the real world from her – a world where bills do need to be paid, seeds planted in the yard, carpets cleaned, tasks shared, rational decisions made and not co-opted by doldrums or drama.  She has taken in the nuances of pastoral tension, the measure of a lingering moment of extra words and spontaneous mischief, and we have found immeasurable wisdom to blend in each other’s work and experience.  I have taught her how to walk, and she has taught me how to run. 


We have agreed.


 

Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

More Ben Kamin articles, click here  

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Nov 30

Dear Mom,


Now that I am out on my own and have to clean my own bathroom, do my own laundry, make my own meals, and be my own taskmaster/cheerleader, I have a new perspective of the love, care and hard work you put into raising me.


Thank you for standing your ground when I tried to guilt you or out-negotiate you into letting me have whatever I wanted. I remember you told me that stuff "can’t fill you up." I’m beginning to understand what you mean. Like you said when I was eight, "We may not be rich in money, but we’re rich in love."


Thank you for calling me on my selfish behavior when it happened – not every time, but enough so that I knew you weren’t putting up with it. Like the time I smarted-off about having to unload the eight cases of water you picked up at the grocery store especially for me. After I sulked away you quietly disconnected cable for the entire summer. Boy, was I pissed when I found out. But I had to respect you; after all, you didn’t watch TV all summer either.


Thank you for listening to me when I felt you acted wrong in some way, too, and for apologizing when you knew you should have done better. (Thanks for not accepting my word every time I thought you acted wrong – some of those times I was just embarrassed by you, or mad that I couldn’t get my way, or irritated at something else and taking it out on you.)


Thank you for constantly correcting my manners and for letting me know the boundary between being funny and being mean. I’m sorry you were so often the butt of my sarcasm; I know I picked on you a lot, criticizing everything from your inability to remember stuff to your lack of knowledge about pop culture. I don’t know why I was so tense. Thank you for often just blowing it off sometimes and thank you for telling me when you had had enough.


Thank you for showing me what it means to stand up for yourself when you felt you weren’t being treated right, or when you thought someone might be trying to take advantage of my inexperience or lack of knowledge. Although these were the most embarrassing times for me (why couldn’t you just let it go when salespeople were inept?) I thank you for demonstrating that a person can be firm and clear without actually being rude – although at the time, of course, I thought you were horrible. I now understand the difference between what I thought of then as "ripping someone a new one" or "acting like a bitch" and what you were really doing – speaking up for yourself.


Thank you for constantly nagging me to try harder in school; you believed I was smarter than my grades showed (and I knew you were right).


Thank you for telling me again and again that drinking and using drugs can harm my brain and my future, and that I needed to learn to enjoy life without these things. I hated it at the time, but thank you for grounding me for months the first time I really did something stupid.


Thank you for making me take out the trash, make my bed, clean out the dishwasher, fold my clothes, clean my bathroom, write thank you cards – and sometimes making me do it over again if I did a shitty job. It made me a better employee and helped me feel the pride of doing a job well.


And by the way, thank you for making me get a job ever since I was 11 years old and making me walk or ride my bike to work.


Thank you for making me do volunteer work ALL. THE. TIME. It made me more compassionate and showed me that I should always make room in my life to help others less fortunate than I.


Thank you for never shying away from a topic, no matter how personal or weird or scary, you were there to listen and sometimes give me your opinion, and sometimes leave the decisions up to me. Thank you for being realistic about what kids do, and still holding the line at your expectations for me, and reminding me that choices have their own consequences.


Thank you for the loving friendship you created with Dad. It is an amazing (and sometimes weird) to have divorced parents who are best friends; who love and support each other. I never felt in the middle; I never had to choose. And thank you for showing me the kind of love you and Sean have, too. I learned that just because one relationship doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, doesn’t mean you can’t create another committed, loving, respectful one.

Thank you for making me put family first; it made me realize what’s really important in life and how hugely I am blessed with people who love me.


But most of all … thank you for creating a space around me in which I knew I was always loved by you. I could glance at you anytime, anywhere, and see in your eyes, your face, your smile, that you loved me no matter what I did or said. It felt so safe and freeing to be loved like that, just for who I am. I know you didn’t always like how I was acting, but I knew you always loved me. You were real – forgiving me when necessary, asking for forgiveness yourself when necessary – and I knew I could fall or make mistakes within this safe, loving environment. Even when we fought, I knew that. You always had my back and my best interests at heart. You were – and are – my biggest fan.


I know I didn’t thank you for all of these things growing up, and I know you didn’t expect me to (although you probably wished I would from time to time). You have always told me that I made you the happiest person in the world when I was born; that you feel honored to be my mom and share this journey with me.


Well, I feel lucky that you are my mom – despite your joke about me growing up at a time when my teenage hormones battled for space with your menopausal ones. The simple truth is, I love you.

 

Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

 

Dec 03

George Bernard Shaw is the only person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar, but he was no physician.  He said that “time is a great healer.”  He could not have been more wrong.

 

The first sleepless night of my life was after Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.  If I see a replay of the Mets winning that game, I am immediately transported to moment when I became acquainted with what New Englanders call the “Curse of the Bambino.”


The power of memory is so intense that the Red Sox Nation continues to live as if they have never won a World Series, with this past September’s collapse just another part of our tortured history. 


Winning isn’t a great healer.  Time certainly isn’t.

 

I remember the moment I allowed myself to be talked out of purchasing Apple stock when Steve Jobs has just reassumed control of the company.  Being spared the burden of paying a capital gains tax on over $500,000 is little consolation and time hasn’t changed the economic facts.


Failing biology the first semester of my freshman year of college conjures up such feelings of inadequacy that it is still difficult for me into walk the science building on our campus.


Having to take swimming lessons as a child when the ice was still on the Minnesota lake has translated into an adulthood where the only body of water I will approach with joy is a hot tub. 


In the 70’s there were several times when women I fancied looked at me and uttered the phrase that sent daggers into my heart, “Let’s just be friends.”


All I need to hear is a specific song from the 70’s that is associated with each young woman and I am immediately transported emotionally to the specific time and place.

 

When it comes to relational estrangement, time does not heal. 

 

Due to selective memory syndrome, the passing of time actually hinders healing.

 

Every estranged relationship stands still at the moment of the rupture. The only thing that changes over time is our recollection of what caused the rift and our motivation to work for healing.  The longer we get by without a relationship the easier it becomes to ignore it. 


But the scars remain and the moment of arrested development impact us whether we admit it or or not. 


Life is all about the relationships, and since every relationship matters so the estranged ones.  


So what heals hurts from the past?


The ability to confront the memories, and when possible the people, and find a path of reconciliation and healing that we did not see before.

 

To do this, the first thing we need is hope.  We will never seek relational healing if we have lost relational hope.


An indispensable part of hope is coming to know who we are and how we relate to others.  If used well, time can help us mature and gain self-awareness and other-awareness we did not possess before.


We cannot gain this kind knowledge by ourselves.  In order to know ourselves we need a reference point outside of ourselves.  Having a friend who loves us enough to be honest with us is the greatest gift we could ever desire.  Self-understanding and other-understanding only comes from those who love for us enough to help us see ourselves for who we really are, and not who we wish we were.


The truth hurts and sets us free.


News Flash: Therapy helps.


Therapy can take many forms.  It can come from a mature family member or friend who knows us well and cares enough to listen and respond with empathy and wisdom.  But the right professional can help us more than we imagine. 


Talking about the past is just the first step.  It helps us remember what we haven’t forgotten.


The memory demands a next step, of which there are two variations.


One is forgiveness.


Alexander Pope had it right, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”


Sometimes forgiveness is the only avenue available to us.  It only takes one to forgive.  Me.


If we are fortunate and the other with whom we have “fallen out” is willing to connect with us, reconciliation is a gift that lies in front of us bot.h 


In considering the prospect of seeking reconciliation observing children is instructive.  One minute they can be fighting, another minute they can be crying.  Shortly the adult in the room strongly encourages an apology and an acceptance, and within minutes they are playing as if nothing happened. 


Unfortunately when we grow up there is not an adult in the room when we need one. 


One of the unfortunate relational legacies of adults is their unwillingness to seek reconciliation with those with whom they have had a falling out.  


Reconciliation doesn’t mean going back to the way we were.  It means moving ahead, and moving ahead has many different looks.

 

Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa is the greatest example of the possibility and power of confronting people who have hurt us in the past.  It involves those people we have hurt and those who have hurt us.

 

The Commission is a divine example of the power of confronting the past in the name of reconciliation.  For some people involved in the process, it was simply the opportunity to confront those who they had hurt or who hurt them and their families. It was a chance to say what each needed to say, and even if the people involved never interacted with each other again, it allowed everyone to move beyond the place of pain where they had both been stuck.


For others it became the start of a new relationship, which has become a friendship no one could have expected.


For all it provided a gateway to a future they never imagined existed. 


Someone once said youth is wasted on the young.


I think it is more often the case that adulthood is wasted on adults.


A wise sage once said not to let the sun set on your anger. Another said, if you find yourself at the altar and know that another has something against you, leave your gift, go be reconciled and then come back to offer your sacrifice. 


Time doesn’t heal.


Forgiveness and reconciliation do.


There is a season for everything under heaven.  Let it be for all of us a healing time for relationships.


Every relationship matters.


And for those of us in Red Sox nation, I think it’s time to realize that “it’s only a game, it’s only a game, it's …”

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 


Dec 17

Shortly after my divorce was final and I was alone with my two young children, a wise friend said, “Keep a list of who gets the children for Christmas each year so you don’t get cheated.” I never kept the list. Their dad lived far away and didn’t see them much except for a few weeks in the summer. Further, his family “did” Christmas so much better than I ever could, and I wanted our children to have that experience. 


Through the years they were with their dad and his parents more often than they were with my mom and me. Thank God I learned early on to lose my “attachment” to the day, and instead found ways to be of service that included singing in my choir for two or three Christmas Eve services and giving coats to people who were homeless. It sounds horrible, but for several years my Christmas Day started with a call home to say I was too sick to join the festivities. I think I actually got sick so I would have an excuse stay at my home, read, and take care of myself. Single moms understand. Sometimes rest is the greatest gift!


And then came Buster. 


Buster is the Easter Westie; the West Highland white terrier the Easter Bunny brought to my children in April of 2000. They adored him from the get-go.


Buster is the most expressive dog I have ever known.  When he was two months old he won an award for being the “dog with the waggiest tail” at an event for Westie owners. He has an innate ability, as he watches television, to tell good guys from bad guys and believes he must bark to warn me about them.  He also has opinions on TV spots: When he hears that herald of warm weather, the “Ain’t no bugs on me” flea control commercial, he flies into the den to bark his disapproval of the “invading” Labrador puppy.  TV animals get him going; with Animal Planet as a family favorite, Buster barks a lot.


I overlook Buster’s flaws: barking, tunneling under pillows to get the bed just right, doing his “full body protest” on walks by just laying down and rolling over, because Buster is a great cuddler. Even as I write this column he is scrunched beside me in a one-person chair. This is his second favorite place to be. The first is, of course, is on the bed, curled up behind my knees.  And that is where he has been every Christmas since 2000, except for 2003, when I was in the hospital with pneumonia.

 

For the last 11 years – as we’ve moved three times, I’ve been laid off from work, changed churches, gone from busy full house to empty nest, and back – Buster's loyalty was never in doubt. The kids could be gone to Florida, and later South Carolina, and later Missouri. My mother and I could be put out with each for one reason or another. I could be exhausted from months of working full time and caring for two children without a break, and then sad when the break came, but Buster's joy in seeing me walk through the door has never failed to lift my spirits. And I have been the better for his presence, as are millions of other moms – single or married – who’ve opened their hearts to a family pet. We’re the better for dozens of reasons.  Pets teach children about responsibility. They bring great joy. Dogs are the single greatest deterrent to break-ins (funny, Buster just barked as I typed the words “break-ins”). 


Even though I was married six years ago, there’ve still been Christmases with just Buster and me, as my husband is a pilot and people want to fly on Christmas.


Through all these ups and downs, Buster has been a constant – as sure and as steady and as accepting as the love taught to us by the God-made-man whose birth we celebrate this time of the year.  You see, I believe God made Dog to remind us of His unconditional love day in and day out, and especially on cold and lonely Christmas mornings.  


So I say thank you God, for Dog. And I say thank you Dog, for loving me as God does, unconditionally, completely, perfectly. For making me laugh and smile. For lowering my blood pressure. For forcing me to walk some days when I simply do not want to.  For being such a source of joy to my children and me.  For helping me meet my neighbors, and for giving me a purpose when, as I faced an empty nest for the first time, I seemed to have lost a big part of my purpose. Just that orderly need to leash Buster and take him out put structure in my life when I was laid off from a job I loved. Thank you, Dog, for not worrying about my paycheck, my cooking, the relative cleanliness of my house.


As I ponder the love of God and Dog, I am saddened by the fact that in the U.S., between five and eight million animals enter shelters each year, and that three to four million of those innocent animals are killed in these “humane” shelters. They are killed for the crime of being homeless. God gave them to us and asked us to care for them, and we, as a society, don’t care for our children well (20 percent of U.S. children live below the poverty line, and that is another column) or our pets well.


So this holiday season, if you are adding a pet to your family, “Please don’t breed or buy while homeless pets die.” Instead, visit www.homelesspetclubs.org to see some adoptable animals in the Atlanta area, and support this group founded by Dr. Michael Good, a Marietta veterinarian, visionary animal rescuer, and tireless advocate for teaching children to be kind to animals, and kind to each other. 


Teachers can sign up for the free Homeless Pet Clubs membership for their schools; business owners can sign up for their businesses. You’ll help children and adults learn more about responsible pet ownership, and help homeless animals find forever homes. That’s a win-win for your school, business, and community, as well as the dog or cat you “sponsor.” It’s free to start a club, and for a school or business club to sponsor an animal: The pet gets a “no-kill” sign on its crate; you help promote it via email and Facebook. The Homeless Pet Clubs team lets you know when your sponsored animal is adopted. Outside the Atlanta area, please visit your local no-kill animal shelter or humane society to adopt.


Another way to help? Open your home to a homeless pet for a few days during the holiday season. In this economy, so many families have been devastated by the loss of their homes, and then further devastated by having to surrender beloved family pets. In the Marietta, GA area, call 770-971-0100; outside the area, call your local shelter.

Fostering one of these lonely animals for a few days will bring a lot of joy to your home. 


If adopting or fostering a homeless pet brings you even half as much love and joy as Buster has brought us, you will truly have the best Christmas ever! 



P.S. Full disclosure: Before I learned about the plight of homeless animals, I did buy Buster in 2000 and another dog in 2005. While they are both beloved, our third dog is a rescue, and were we to ever bring another animal into the fold, we are committed to only and always adopting rescue animals.


For more information visit www.homelesspetclubs.org

 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available atAmazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1

 

Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

Dec 30

So here I was, getting adjusted to a new life, when I entered into this relationship.  That started the tug-of-war known as the proverbial battle-of-the-sexes.  It was time for both of us to develop new skills and laugh at ourselves as we stumbled around the kitchen.


The aha! moment came when we realized that our battles were waged in the name of love and honor.  Now he snorks and I leer, and we appreciate the different people that we are.  It is challenging to learn how to dance with your new partner.  And that is what Second Life is all about...doing the same things better while being better at being ourselves.



The kitchen is where the power is.  Powerful are those who mess up and those who clean up in the kitchen.  This isn’t a joke.  We keep people close or keep them at a distance depending on how they relate to our kitchen.


For instance:


I do not eat meat.  It is not allowed to come into my kitchen.  Anyone who brings it in is relegated to the porch no matter what the weather is.  Vegetables, grains and fruits are welcome any time, but they have to be fresh, washed, and not made with meat soups or sauces.  Mine has been called a Mediterranean diet.  Add fish or cheese and I have my perfect meal.


I live with a wonderful man who I call Phang (not Phyllis Diller’s Fang).  He is a rip-roaring meat eater; a bar-b-q fanatic who loves that beef, pork and even lamb.  He and his leftovers are relegated to the porch.  Better to just overeat at the bar-b-q place than to bring that stuff home.  I know this will offend meat lovers, but truthfully, it reminds me of the neighbor’s cat bringing home a bird.


Then there is the washing and loading of the dishes.  Some folks like to put all the dishes and pots in the dishwasher.  Phang washes the pots and all the large serving dishes by hand.  So the dishwasher doesn’t get run that evening and there is a heap of dripping pots and dishes on the counter.  That saves on energy but wastes water and destroys my manicure. 


It’s a different story if we are washing my china, crystal and silver.  There is some dignity in treating these 

as fine objects.  It’s akin to respecting your elders. 


In every kitchen there is the drop area.  It’s the place where everything goes first, then gets sorted and then goes somewhere else.  This includes the mail, papers that haven’t been read yet, purses and keys.  The designated counter is not the glass kitchen table.  It’s a workhorse counter that can stand up to the daily drops.  This is the third kitchen frontier.


It used to be that a kitchen desk was standard in every home.  But no desk was large enough to do the job.  That is, unless you institute the one-drop rule.  That’s not the rule for eating food that has dropped on the floor.  It’s the rule that says if you pick up a bill, you pay it and mail it the same day.  It’s the same for newspapers.  They are to be read and put in the recycling on the same day.


Phang’s mail and newspapers can last on the counter for a full week.  I move them to his side; he moves them back to the counter in the middle.  I would move them to my side, but that’s already filled with magazines I haven’t read and the grandkids’ artwork.  These have much more staying power and I like to look at them more than once.  Actually, I just don’t really know where they should go.


When we started living together, I expected the power play would be in the bedroom.  But it looks like control of the house is really determined in the kitchen.   And I like a man in the kitchen.


Susanne Katz is a divorce coach with Mt Vernon Counseling, coauthor of A Woman's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce, an arts and living columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.com.  She is also a regular on ShareWIK.com.


More Susanne Katz articles, click here.


2012 ©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 19

Dear Children,


The years have turned over and suddenly you are 16 and 19 years old—a young man with a 4G phone and a young woman in college.  You have never known anything but wireless and mobility.



You are living in interesting times, dear children. You have seen our nation attacked and have felt truly threatened. You see acts of violence presented on television and on videos; did you know that you will have seen 100,000 murders, real or portrayed, on media screens in your lifetime? You have seen presidents and presidential candidates lie on television about their personal lives.  You have seen the first nonwhite president elected since the Republic was founded. 



You have seen corporate directors behave deceptively and callously. You have embraced sports heroes who make more money in a week than your best teacher who actually gave you something to believe in as a moral coordinate in your life will earn in his or her lifetime. You have seen kids and parents die in endless suicide bombings. You have sometimes seen religious leaders that compromise theological convictions while in service to the Bible they purport to teach you.



You have gotten used to cynicism and you have seen and heard patriotism – one of the best principles of human life – be turned over to marketing experts. You have been confused, scared, angered, and used. But I've watched you. And you have refused to become disheartened, and I stay certain that you remain optimistic and in good spirits about a world that just won't ever be as good as you are.



Your mother and I want you to be free, and we want you to be healthy. We want you to discover the sciences, the texts of the poets, the dreams of the stargazers, and the flights of the mapmakers. We thank God that, unlike your grandparents' generation, you will be able to apply in America to any university or college that gets your attention. You will be judged for admission by who you are and likely not by what you are.



We are thankful that you have not been raised in an era of abject racism and that most Americans with whom you will interact are free to vote and shop and eat anywhere that you do. We are certainly grateful as much as we are hopeful that you will come of age in a country that evidently cannot be stopped by terrorists. You will still be young when downtown New York City will finally be completely rebuilt. We are proud of each and every one of you and we will rely on you to turn the Scripture from just plain text into the ethics of your life. 



We can't fool you because you are young people who actually think and calculate and question and make choices. You have already chosen to take a stand in favor of moderation – even though you clearly know that these are not easy times for moderates and those who don’t just scream and even kill. 



I want to thank you for every question you raise, for every song you sing, for every hope you express, and for every idea you share.  Obviously, both of you are unique and different and separately challenged, but the quilt of our national youth is the blanket of our future.

 



Love ... 'Ben'

 



Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of seven books, including his latest, "NOTHING LIKE SUNSHINE: A Story in the Aftermath of the MLK Assassination."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 


More Ben Kamin articles, click here  

 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jan 29

The best thing I do every month is spend a Saturday evening with the inmates at the New Hampshire Prison for Men in Concord, N.H.  They are a gift to me and this year I’ve needed them more than ever.


2011 is not a year I’d like to repeat, and I hoped that on this past New Year’s Eve I’d say the magic words and 2012 would resolve into a universe in which 2011 never existed.


But like most resolutions this one fell on deaf ears and a stubborn heart.  My own.


In 2011 I experienced a recurrence of cancer, the grief of stepping down as pastor of a church I love, and additionally personal heartbreak of a depth I have never known.


In 2012 I am still dealing with cancer, my separation-grief from the church has not subsided, and I fractured the patella tendon in my right knee.  For each of these there is a prescribed course of treatment that experts assure will bring healing. 


My broken heart is a different story.  My pain is as acute as ever and there is no reassurance this fracture will ever mend.  Neither Humpty Dumpty nor anyone else knows how to put my heart back together.


Cancer, transitions, bones have their own unique pain, but nothing compares to the pain of a broken heart. Nothing. Were my heart to heal I might not consider anything associated with the others as deserving of the word pain.


My other problems I comprehend, but not my heart.  


I am searching for something to help me live with this fracture, and I believe I found it at the N.H. State Prison for Men.


Why do I seek to wax eloquently about the life of a prison inmate?  Because they embody what I seek.


You will not find me romanticizing prison life, nor explain why the lives of the men I worship with on Saturday night are exceptional.  


I believe any of them would trade places with me if given the chance, and I have no desire to make that trade.


The prison complex houses more than twice as many men than designed.  Except for solitary, there is no privacy.  Everyone knows everyone else’s stuff.  In excruciating detail. The past, the present, and much of the future.  


The food is what it is. The medical care is good, if they can persuade the system to provide it.

Virtually all the inmates have to depend on lawyers who work for free, all the while contending with a legal system designed by politicians to be increasingly harsh and vindictive.


There are many good administrators and guards, but given budget issues prison programming resembles bricks without straw. 


The men lack the comfort of the voice, the ear, and the touch of woman.


Every day is much like ever other as will tomorrow and every subsequent day they are in. Many men speak of the heartache of what is happening to their wives and children.  Others whisper the despair of what it is to know nothing of friends and family.  Each month a couple of new men tell me of what it is to be divorced without even a conversation or a forwarding address.


There are still others that have not received a letter or a phone call in years … or decades … from anyone.  Their families and friends are dead to them.


For most when it comes to those they love, they have no contact, no recourse, no appeal, and when it comes to blame, they only have themselves.


Contrary to popular stereotypes, I’ve never had an inmate tell me they were innocent of their charges.  Every inmate with whom I have spoken understands why no one would wait for them or associate with them.  Those whose loved ones stay connected have no explanation as to why.  

They are men who live as having no merit.


That demon called “Regret” speaks into them every waking moment. There is a reason they are in prison.  They made choices that have consequences, and as painful as incarceration is, that pain cannot be measured against the pain of the hearts they have broken, including their own.  

The penitentiary is a wall-to-wall city of broken hearts.  No exceptions.  Eye contact, or what passes for it, confirms it.


That’s why it is so good for me to be with them.  They teach me what it means to live with a broken heart.


How?


On Saturday night they come to chapel.  Cynics might say it is because they have nothing better to do or because they are under the false impression a volunteer will assist them in an illicit manner. 


But the cynics leave the room as soon as the singing starts. This is neither the awkward congregational singing so often associated with the high-church, nor the praise-band sing-along of the low-church.  This is primarily white and Hispanic men, learning to sing with the soul of our black brothers.  


There is no lyric that is not simultaneously painful and hopeful.  There is no stanza that promises the prison will be anything better when they leave for the evening.  But every note is sung through the lining of a broken-heart and in hope of the day when our hearts will be remade.

Saturday night is the fellowship of the broken-hearted, and it is my spiritual family.


When I sit in the room I see men who’ve committed capital offenses, violent crime, and all that is related to alcohol, drugs, and sex.  They come with broken-hearts that are open for others to see, and sometimes they smile.  Sometimes they tell you about a wood carving they’ve done.  Some nights they show you a birthday card from someone they’ve never known. The older ones look after the younger ones.  The younger ones look after the older ones.  They speak of the past, the present, and a future.  They speak of hope for the next life, if not also for this one.  


They live even as their heart dies.  


Those who have reconciled themselves to this, are finding what I haven’t – an increasing measure of peace and contentment.  


They are finding in the vortex of penance, what I cannot find outside of the walls.


I’ve spent the last several months, and most of the last 53 years trying to heal a broken heart.  So far I’ve failed and I’ve undoubtedly shortened my life span in the attempt.


My fellow inmates have helped me to understand this heart of mine will never again be innocent, and I will never be rid of the pain.


But this band of brothers has also taught me I can have what they have.


I too can smile, find joy along the way, and never have to walk alone.


Being with them is the best thing I do every month.  


What’s the best part?  The singing.


Other things happen over the course of two hours, but once we start singing I never stop.

Paul McCartney must have visited them a few years back as he sings of it so eloquently:


When you were young and your heart was an open book

You used to say live and let live

(You know you did, you know you did, you know you did)

But in this ever changing world in which we live

Makes you give in and cry.


Live and let die.

  

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.” He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 
Feb 12

What's Love Got To Do With It?
Eight years divorced and I’m still sending my ex Valentine’s Day Cards
.



I have always loved the greeting card aisle … I pick up the ones with indie-art designs or intriguing words and fonts, and I admit I'm attracted to those with a little bling. 


I like reading the sentiments inside, deciding if that’s how I would say it, or tossing it aside as too mushy or not clever enough. In fact, back when I was in college, I wanted to be a greeting card writer for Hallmark. I even wrote the company and sent some samples. (Big surprise, I never heard back.) 


When I have been away from home on a trip, I have brought cards with me to send back to my family. I have made my own {geeky} cards for a select few loved ones, and of course the cards I treasure most are the ones my son has drawn for me over the years.


When I was married, I remember standing in greeting card aisles during many a February, reading all the Valentine’s Day cards for “My Husband” and suddenly tears would be streaming down my face. Well-versed in optimism all my life, I so wished that I felt what the cards expressed … I wanted desperately to give my husband a card filled with love and thanks and hope for the future – and to believe it, feel it, want it.


Sometimes I would buy a card of love and promise, saving it for the day I knew would come; the day that the words on the card would match the emotions in my heart.


There were times over our 14 years together that I did feel it, to be sure.  I made a card for him with a picture of us sitting in front of our fireplace. There’s no date, so I’m not sure what year it was. But it starts, “Jonhoney … when I met you the air around me quivered. You made me laugh and made me fall in love…” Another time I wrote a song about how we dance to the beat of a different drummer ... but that he created the soundtrack to our lives. I recorded it on one of those cards that immediately start playing as soon as you open it.


How could I have written those verses, then stand sobbing in the greeting card aisle during all the in-between years, at a loss for words?


He also gave me cards, declarations of love, promises of trust, visions of our future. Beautiful words – words we both felt at the time. I have no doubt they were heartfelt and true.


I have some of those cards … both the ones I gave him and the ones he gave me. They are mixed together in an old paper box. Looking them over, there’s a sweet sadness at the naiveté of what was ahead of us; of believing that if I loved him enough, if we worked hard enough, we could overcome our obstacles and get to the other side. That’s how I thought of it back then, through more than a decade of couples’ therapy – that we would get stronger and closer and what we would have on “the other side” would be better than we could ever have imagined.


Today I took out one of those cards I had bought in hopes that it might one day be true. And you know what? It is. I’m sure that for my ex and me, it has a completely different meaning than the greeting card-writer ever intended.


But during the last seven or eight years – years in which we separated;  a year of rehab for my husband, individual therapy for both of us, where we could grow, assess, and learn to let go with grace … years in which we created a post-divorce relationship like none other, based on friendship and years of knowing each other … years in which I learned to love him differently, with care and support, instead of "taking care of" and enabling… years in which we’ve partnered and parented through the normal difficulties of raising an adolescent … years in which we showed remarkable compassion for our shortcomings, our idiosyncrasies, our  human-ness… years in which I fell in love with another man (a man to whom I can give the kinds of Valentine’s Day cards I used to cry about…), and my ex has embraced him as a true friend, and vice versa.


All making for exactly the kind of emotion-filled, definitely different, some-would-call-crazy, amazingly beautiful roller-coaster of a life that makes this card -- purchased more than 10 years ago – perfect to give my ex-husband this year.


What’s love got to do with it?  Everything.

 





Ginger Emas is a 20-year veteran marketing, web and business writer in Atlanta, and the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a contributing blogger for The Balancing Act, Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com; the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared on dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia.    


 For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

Feb 05

If the heart is the center of the body and the brain rules all of the body’s organs including the heart, then how do I know if I feel love in my heart or in my brain? Granted, there is a mind-body connection, but how do these two organs communicate? 

 

It all started with a heart-shaped valentine.  This symbol is what I will give Phang to help me express my love for him.  If my head knows how I feel then how, I wondered, did that feeling get to my heart…or vice versa?


“I knew I was in love way before you knew,” Phang revealed.  “I just felt in balance and it felt right.”  


I feel in balance when I have completed a great hour’s workout or when we finish our three-mile walk with our dog, Mazik.  My Second Life has felt more in balance as Phang and I have created a world for ourselves.  There is an intuitive feeling of well-being and a physical feeling of calm and satisfaction.  How can I express this with a heart-shaped symbol in a valentine?


I think there is an energy that connects our brains and our hearts.  With positive emotions, freedom from stress, good nutrition and a nurturing environment, both organs communicate or pass energy to each other.  Still, that does not explain how the heart has come to be the symbol of love.


My heart has a brain and my brain has a heart, so why not incorporate both of these symbols to express the true nature of love?  To complete the picture, I would have to include the five senses:  seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and speaking.  


When you see your loved one, hear them speak, speak lovingly to them, touch them and kiss them, you receive those yummy senses … as exciting as that red foil wrapped heart-shaped hunk of chocolate.  To me, love is a pleasure for the senses.  It is a gift that can be delivered in any shape at all, but pleases every time.


The challenge will be to express all of this in a card with a red-shaped heart that looks a bit like my brain and my heart and conveys the delight to the senses as well.  Maybe it would be wise to just stick to the traditional heart-shaped symbol that we see on every Valentine’s Day card. 

  

Susanne Katz is the author of “A Woman’s Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce,” the host of the radio program, “What Women Want Now” and a columnist for Atlanta Jewish News.  She is also a regular ShareWIK.com contributor.

 

For more Susanne Katz articles, click here.


 
 

@2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 
Jan 30

You don't know how beautiful

You don't know how beautiful you are

You don't know, and you don't get it, do you?

You don't know how beautiful you are 


I’ll never forget the moment.  We were at the U2 concert and the band was playing Get on your 

Boots. You were standing and singing along mindlessly enraptured.  


I don’t think you heard me singing to you, but I was singing all night.  Given the quality of my voice and the competition, I wasn’t offended.  But you weren’t listening to Bono either.  Song after song both held you and missed you. 


The more you see the less you know

The less you find out as you go


But I want you to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, sit across from me, and let me look into your eyes.  When you look in the mirror it seems that you see everything but you.  Given your obsession with what others see when they see you, it’s somewhat surprising that you miss something as big as you 


But only somewhat surprising.  You only see what you want to see. I think you worry that if you gaze into it at a different angle, or with a different focus you will see yet another wrinkle and additional effects of gravity; and your collection of perceived physical flaws is so large you can’t bear adding even one more to it. 


Don't look before you laugh

Look ugly in a photograph

Flash bulbs purple irises

The camera can't see


You have beautiful eyes. 


Don’t look away.  


Your eyes betray you.   Why can’t you accept a simple compliment about the person you did not make and cannot hide?  


We both know.  It’s your shame.  You look at everything through a lens of personal shame.  You listen to everyone with the same filter.  From the moment you awake to the moment you retire, you are in hiding.  From God, from me, from your friends, family, and most of all you.  


You've got to get yourself together

You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

Don't say that later will be better now because you're stuck in a moment

And you can't get out of it 


Don’t look away.  


I love you so much it hurts. 


When I get close, you push me away. 


When I speak, you aren’t listening.  


You spurn what you can’t believe.


Love. 


You've been running away from what you don't understand.

Love. 


I know you can’t bear to open your eyes, so keep them shut.  


But please listen. 


I love you and so much about you. 


Seeing you makes my heart glad.  Every moment. 


Your smile, your frown. 


Your honesty.  The heart on your sleeve. 


The intensity with which you live, and the gift you are to so many. 


I love the gift you are to me. 


I can see you pulling away from me just now.  I can see that every word I speak is like a dagger to you.  It's not that you disagree with me, you can’t even listen.  


I don’t know what hurts me more, the fact that you do not believe me or that you don’t hear me. 


I hate your shame and all who have shamed you.  


Your shame is so inhumane.  It tells you that to be human is to be perfect. 


And because of that you cannot understand how deeply I love your beautiful imperfection.  


"Human" perfection and love are incompatible. 


I can’t love your shame away.  Only you can love your shame away. 


You profess God is love, but in the physics of the divine, loving yourself is not optional. 


The reason I can’t hold back my tears is because I grieve so intensely what you are missing.  


And if you think I am grieving the fact you cannot feel my love, you still don’t get it. 


Loving you is pure joy.  You are wondrous and I know so little of you.  Coming to know a new part of you is the only gift I could ever want from you. You are divine.  You are uniquely you.  


I want you to experience what I am privileged to experience: the joy of loving you. 


Until you do, let’s not talk of loving God or neighbor.


Just know I will love you until the die I die.  I can’t help myself. You are so worthy. 


One day you'll look back, and you'll see

Where you were held now by this love.

While you could stand there,

You could move on this moment

Follow this feeling. 


It's alright, it's alright, it's alright.

She moves in mysterious ways.

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright.

Spirit moves in mysterious ways.



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 
Mar 23


Politicians, pundits, and social commentators, among others, are talking about the various challenges facing America, but no one is focusing on our most acute crisis: the crisis of relational hope.


We are losing faith in the possibility that we will be able to enjoy lifelong relationships of growth, maturation, and love.


This realization has been growing within me for some time, but it was brought home to me recently.  


I received an e-invite to visit a website called “Ashley Madison” that was created to expand “my relational horizons.”  As my therapist has been encouraging me to get involved in some new activities and groups, I decided to check out what the site had to offer.  


When I went to the site, the slogan immediately clued me into its essential purpose: “Life is short, have an affair.” 


I quickly discerned that “Ashley Madison” existed to expand horizons I didn’t want expanded. This site, targeted at married men and women, is one of the largest social networking sites on the web, and its membership rivals dating sites for singles.  


Call me naïve but I was astounded to find out that within seconds of entering my zip code there were dozens of married women living just a mile or two from me in search of a tryst with a married man.  


With my curiosity piqued, I then visited some dating websites, and a cursory search of the web revealed many different sites, with each having dozens of women looking for dates living a mile or two from me.  Almost all the women were over 30 years of age, and on virtually every site women seemed compelled to advertise their luring physical qualities.  There seemed to be little demand for great companionship and good conversation.


You could look at these sites and assume they reflect what has always been, updated for a technological age, but I believe they reflect something new: a significant erosion in relational hope. 


Married people have had affairs since the dawn of marriage, but I’d venture to say most of them were based on physical and emotional attraction and when they entered into their liaison they shared some relational capital.  “Ashley Madison” is about engaging people in affairs with minimal relational capital, and no sense of a longer commitment.


It is as if we live in an age where we are so relationally challenged we can’t even have a “decent” affair.

 

The various websites bring to mind a lyric from the song “Eleanor Rigby,”


"Look at all the lonely people, where do they all come from?"


These sites are signals to something deeper going on in our society.  Recent research is revealing the following about us:


  • More individuals over the age of 50 are getting divorced with the intention of growing old alone.
  • More young people are delaying marriage, and only 20% of 18-29-year-olds are married:  the lowest figure in American history.  
  • 45 percent of children in American are born outside of marriage.
  • Grandparents are serving as the primary care providers for an increasing number of children.


These are not merely statistics that impact a segment of the population with which we don’t socialize.  These trends are expanding across our culture and impact all of us.  Each of us knows people in all four groups; for virtually all of us, they have impacted our families, and the number of those we know is growing.


For many years I have criticized college students for engaging in the hook-up culture on campus.  What I failed to notice is that they are merely following the cue of culture.  We live in a hook-up culture. Unless you are married and wish to stay faithful, the new matchmakers in America are bars and websites.  They are  providing the primary social outlet for Americans of all ages who are looking for companionship, with step one being the one-night hook-up.  Dating and courtship are relics of the past.  We have very limited options for meeting others outside of a sexualized encounter.


It would be easy to say that these trends don’t matter in a society that values individual freedom, as no one is forced to opt into this lifestyle.


But we are more intelligent than that.


Choice only matters when you have meaningful options.


How do we know it matters?


We see it in the lives of our adult children.


Their children.


Our friends.


Our extended family.


This is a development whose significance is beyond what we can presently comprehend.  If trends were arrested at present we could not yet understand its full implications.  We will only know when those 0-18 grow up and enter adulthood.  Early reports from grade school teachers are not promising.


As there is no indication of the trend abating, about the only thing we can say with certainty is that this shift toward temporary relational connections will continue to change the relational nature of American society as we know it.


As our relational commitments become more temporary and less permanent, bonds of blood and long-term commitment will dissolve.  


Family life will fragment


Extended family life will wither.


Marriage will become less common.


Grandparenting will become more complicated.


Friendships will be more temporary.


The factor that all these changes have in common is the loss of long-term relational hope.  We need to get what we can now from our relationships because either party could be discarded soon.


Who will this most impact?  Those yet to be born.  


Lest I be accused of treating this with a “sky is falling” paranoia of Chicken Little, I cannot find a serious social commentator who doesn’t recognize the gravity of the social implications of these trends.


This is not just a crisis impacting individuals, families, and friendship; it is a crisis of democracy as well.


Democracy requires citizens who can engage in responsible self-government.  Self-government is not an individualistic term but a description of how men and women come together to govern us collectively.  Of all forms of government, democracy requires the most trust and relational hope. 


So is there hope?


Yes.


It is to be found in love.


Love is by definition a relational word.  


Love is not something we can do by ourselves.


We can be nice by ourselves, but we can only love with another.


Henri Nouwen said that love dwells in the space between us, and we can only experience it when we are in a relationship in which love is welcomed.  


It applies to all relationships and not merely romantic ones.


We are losing relational hope because we are losing touch with love.  


Love is the currency of human relationship.  It is the air relationships breathe.  


We live in an age that could be coined the “iWorld.”  A world all about “me” and every other “me.”


We are living as though the universe is designed so that each of us can live as we wish or as we please.  


Love is a better way.


What difference can love make.  Here is one example.  


How about if we use our religious meeting places and public spaces to create “Friendship Zones” on Friday and Saturday nights?  These “Friendship Zones” could be places where people can come and be with others in a safe place and a no “hook-up zone.”  People can come as strangers, spend a few hours getting to know a variety of others, and they can build on these relationships in subsequent weeks without expectations and with the luxury of time.


This wouldn’t be hard to organize and I believe that the demand would be overwhelming.  Why?  Because we are made for love and relationships.  Right now we are catering to the lowest common denominator.  We can do better. 


How sure am I of this?  


I am helplessly hoping.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 18

They were two anonymous young people born in the British mandate of Palestine about 20 years before the British quit and the UN unsuccessfully partitioned the territory into two projected states.  They were among just several thousand faceless heroes that created the State of Israel and miraculously fought a regional onslaught from the neighboring Arab regimes—which obviated the declared Arab state that Israel recognized in 1948.

 

The two of them, my father and mother, lost an alarming number of their school chums in the one-year war that ended with ceasefire lines and predicated more than 60 years of conflagration and terrorism.  But they were already pledged to one another and remained life mates till his sudden and dreadfully premature death in 1976.

 

My father was a soldier of Israel, and he wrote haunting poetry in Hebrew about war and fleeting youth and flames that consume trees and life and that burn people’s hopes.  He embraced America as a fervent immigrant when we formally arrived in 1962 and he loved baseball and Chevrolets and the privilege of voting in polling stations located in the simple halls of public schools.    He was complex and brilliant and volatile and, though bulky, remained fiercely athletic—from his days as a star collegiate soccer player to the night he dropped dead playing handball in a Cincinnati court.

 

This week in Israel is a bittersweet milestone for me and my large and extended family—although the family here includes my second daughter (now living in the hip metropolis of Tel Aviv), my younger brother and his family, and my mother—who returned here, with my father’s disinterred bones—after some 50 years in the United States.

 

Yesterday, I visited my father’s final resting place for the first time; tomorrow the family will celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday.  When we lighted upon the memorial field, and I saw the stone, and the copper slate of some of Dad’s poetry sealed on the tomb, I wept into the head and hair of my elder daughter, who has arrived here from New York. 

 

My tears were the salty waters of relief and acceptance.  My father, perpetually restless, appeared to have found a place to sleep at last.  Torn between his American citizenship and his Israeli blood (some of which he shed as an infantryman in 1948), his soul lingered comfortably above the field.  His long-traveling bones mingled with a number of the family elders; my mother’s plot laid next his, like an eternal bed that makes her feel safe.  It was all, well, okay.

 

I walked over to my mother, the cross-currents of life and healing thoughts lifting our spirits and softening the harshness of the realities—his absence, her age.  We embraced like we hadn’t in decades.

 

My daughter watched and learned a lot.  And it was evening and morning, a new day.  And it was good.


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."  He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To find out more about Ben, go to:www.benkamin.com

More Ben Kamin articles, click here 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

This is a hard one to write.  I could say I was too busy or have nothing new to offer on this subject.  But truthfully, my hesitation about facing this column is that words feel inadequate, hollow, empty.


All I want to do is tell you about my cousin Mark, present you with a slide show of his big life, create a documentary, share a thousand stories. But I only have 1,000 words and this is about what it’s like to lose someone we love.  


How do we bear the pain?  How does it change us? How can we thrive and not just survive?  

So there’ll be no bullet points, no “Top Ten Tips on How to Cope with Loss.” I’m just going to share my reactions and experiences over the year that followed the worst day of my life. 


Driving home from work on March 16, 2011, my cellphone rang. My mother was sobbing: an airplane crash, my cousin Mark in the plane, he was dead. 


I’ll never erase the sound of anguish in her voice as she cried those horrific words.  A sick feeling emanated from the pit of my stomach, crawled up the back of my throat. I left my body. This was not happening.  Sweet Mark, whom I’d known and loved like a little brother since he was born… 


I don’t remember the drive home.  At the house, in a daze I sat at the computer and Googled “plane crash Longbeach.” And there it was: scenes of wreckage, a plume of smoke, witness reports…then the victims were identified and there was Mark’s name and his smiling face.   This bad dream was only getting worse.  


Mark and five buddies were on a small plane headed to Salt Lake City for a ski trip.  Immediately after takeoff, the plane banked and plunged to earth.  Only one man survived.  


Mark was only 44, a gifted athlete, a kind and generous man, a devoted father to his three teenage kids.  He had made an indelible impact in his community.  His motto was “Go Big or Go Home.”  His memorial service included a bike ride, a beautiful outdoor service and a Hawaiian paddle out ceremony with hundreds of people on surf-boards wearing leis. 

 

For weeks afterwards, my mind flashed with images, which triggered a fresh torrent of tears.  Alternating between images of the crash itself, was the gut-wrenching pain I felt for those who’d be most affected by his loss on a daily basis. I’d picture Mark’s mom losing her beloved son, his kids who’d experience a gaping hole in their lives. I’d imagine Mark’s two younger brothers and the indelible bond of this threesome since losing their Dad when they were kids.  I’d cry for Mark’s wife and the responsibility she’d feel to be strong for their kids.  I grieved that he would be missing from our family gatherings, that my kids wouldn’t experience a life-long relationship with their uncle. 


Mark was such a large presence that he seemed invincible.  I always felt that our family was blessed with good fortune, but deep down I feared that one day our “luck” would run out.  Mark’s death was so sudden, violent and unexpected that it shoved my previous world view off its axis.  I never imagined that THIS would be the unforeseen tragedy that the Universe had in store for our family.   

  

In those first few months I wondered what other tragedies were waiting around the corner. I started imagining horrific scenes of tragic accidents, deaths and losses happening to those I loved.  Anticipating worst case scenarios, my mind was trying to ward off death.  


Those first few months were an emotional roller coaster filled with flashes of pain, fear, sadness, disbelief, and then spells of denial.  But each morning I’d wake up, slapped by the harsh truth that Mark was really gone.   

 

As the denial wore off, I became more aware of a profound and deep sense of the fragility of life.  Even though I felt more vulnerable, the panic subsided.  While the pain and sadness were still very present, a new sense of peace was taking its place.     


Eventually more life-energy returned, which I experienced as a deep connection to Mark. He had a “Go-for-it,” “No-Excuses” philosophy of life.  Connecting to his drive, I found myself saying yes to new projects and no to things that didn’t feel like a valuable use of my time.  I took on new challenges with renewed optimism. 

  

I also started to experience each moment more fully.  I’ve become more present with my children, aware that in the blink of an eye they’ll be leaving home.  And because I know that at any moment I could be taken from them, I fill their love cups to the brim, pouring every drop of me into them.  I take extra time to focus on them, listen to them, touch them.  I’ve become more appreciative of all of my relationships and try to infuse more love into my interactions with others. 

  

I have also found myself feeling greater empathy to anyone experiencing grief or loss.  I now know from the inside how hard it is to navigate this world with a huge ball of pain in your heart.  


I still cry a lot in my car listening to the radio. Two popular songs can trigger a flood of tears: “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry and “Live Like We’re Dying” by Kris Allen. Rather than turn the station when these songs come on, I cry without regard to the concern of people in the adjacent vehicle.  The other place I weep is at my computer.  I click on certain Facebook pages- Mark’s page, his kids’, his wife’s, his brothers’, his mothers.’  Their words and pictures help me feel connected to the community of people who love, miss and were impacted by Mark’s life.  This alleviates some of the loneliness of the grief.  My heart needs these Tear Releases.  It doesn’t feel right when I go too long without crying. 


Near the anniversary of Mark’s death, my family flew to Salt Lake City to ski, embarking on the trip that Mark never got to complete. I wondered if I’d have a panic attack on the plane, but instead a feeling of calm washed over me. As we flew into Salt Lake City, a bright moon rose over the Rocky mountains.  “Hello, Mark.”  


I felt his presence traveling up the lifts, surveying the gorgeous craggy mountains and watching daring skiers carve turns on the off-trail runs.  Mark would’ve been one of those guys hiking with his skis on his back, then whooping with joy as he gracefully dominated the mountain.   


I stuck to the groomed trails and wore a helmet for the first time in 45 years of skiing (no more illusions of invincibility).  I warned my boys, “Be careful!” and caught my breath as I watched them ski away into the woods.    

        

Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally-known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.

 

For more Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC.


Apr 22

Shortly after I answered the phone, I realized this was not just any call.


There was a voice speaking to me with great sincerity, and that was all I could understand.


I kept asking, “Who is this?” until I discerned the voice saying, “This is Tut from Sudan.”  Not knowing anyone named Tut from anywhere didn’t give me enough information to quickly make sense of what else he was saying.  I could, however, hear the words “church” and “ride,” and I gradually figured out he wanted a ride to church the next morning.  After several more minutes I did my best to learn his address and tried to communicate a time when I would pick him up. 


Even so, I wasn’t sure until Sunday morning that we actually understood each other.


There is misunderstanding and then there is not understanding.  


We rendez-vous-ed at the right time, but it was about the only thing I understood.  


For instance, why did Tut call me?  It took me weeks to figure out, but Tut and his family were members of the Covenant Church in the Sudan.  As far as Tut was concerned, even though we were thousands of miles away, since I was a pastor in the Covenant Church in America we were brothers.  We were part of the same tribe, and as kinsmen, why wouldn't he call me and why wouldn't I help?


That's how things looked to Tut.  That's how things should have looked to me, but I had to be taught to see.


In the last decade Tut and his countrymen have given me a tutorial on life and faith.


My city is a refugee resettlement city, and this was my first encounter with the Sudanese.  Our new neighbors have enriched the life of our community, and while I am grateful for the many who have come, it seems to be cruel and unusual punishment to send the lost boys of Sudan to a climate that includes fall, winter, and spring.


Driving Tut and assorted “relatives” to church on Sunday became both a welcome and uncomfortable routine. Welcome because Tut is joy.  He smiles virtually all the time; even with little apparent reason.  He was cold all the time, in a strange country, separated from his family by the uncivil war, and had no knowledge of whether his parents and most of his family were still alive.  When the war came to his village with no warning, those who could escape did so, with nothing but their lives and no means to discover the fate of friends and family.  


But no matter the weather or the personal challenges, he always greeted me with the smile that comes from the soul.  Given the contrast of his white teeth and dark complexion it was impossible to miss.  


At first I couldn’t relax with him. He had a smile I didn’t understand and it unnerved me.  I always felt that there was something I should do for him and his “cousins.”  When I drove to his meager dwelling, and when he emerged in a winter coat when I was wearing only a shirt I sensed inequity I couldn’t solve.  Learning his life story only compounded it, especially when I saw firsthand the difficulties of being removed to a foreign country, with few resources, a minimal understanding of English, and less understanding of New England culture.


Despite the fact I have travelled the world, Tut helped me come to see the sheltered shallowness I tolerate within me.  I  fancied myself a "Good Samaritan until I met Tut.  But I am not the Samaritan who dropped everything to help a stranger in need.   Had Tut not called, my new neighbors would still be strangers.  


I do not hold onto things lightly.  I am not free with my time.  I am not spontaneously generous, and I don’t how to relate to someone who lacks the world and only wants to connect with my soul. 


When I was with him I was always conscious of what I possessed and what he didn’t.  He, however, was wired differently. He’d ask for rides to church and somer help in navigating life in New England, but never money.  When I was with him I knew I was holding back, but I wasn’t aware of precisely what I was withholding.


As the years have passed I’ve come to appreciate Tut in a deeper way.  His unassuming demeanor and faith has impacted me.   God has provided, not just for Tut, but also through Tut.  Tut was always caring for his Sudanese neighbors.  To hear Tut speak of them, the many young men I drove to church with Tut were brothers or cousins.  At first I understood him literally, but as time passed I came to realize that even without family planning, it was not humanly possible to have so many relatives.  


Tut has shown me what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.  I can’t do it as well as he, but now I can see what I’m missing.


Tut has helped me develop a profound appreciation for Africa. I now pay more attention when I hear Africa on the news.  Almost always it is in the context of disease, corruption, and their need for charity and justice.  I’ve had friends visit Africa and come back in love and I’ve never been able to understand why.  Until now.


Tut has shown me that God has made something wonderful under African skies.  People who embody, with a depth I've never known, faith, hope, and the greatest gift of all-- love.


Africa may need our help, but we need Africa even more than Africa needs us.


Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Apr 22

Loudelle Riggs Smith was a food visionary who fed my body, mind, and soul so well, that she continues, long after her death, to feed my children and me.

 

My tiny grandmother, with whom I was blessed to spend many days and nights growing up, loved nothing more than turning the riches of her little garden into a groaning board of food-as-love.  

 

She could see a little plot of land as a fount of all blessings, and take that vision to reality with her precious seeds from the prior year’s garden, her rake, hoe, trowel, pie-pans (to keep the birds away) and the fastidious attention of someone who deeply, truly, madly loved the earth and the mysterious opportunities growing from it. I think that came, in part, from her being part Cherokee Indian, and her having fed so many children during the Great Depression.

 

As soon as she could each year, my grandmother would get at the dirt with her mule and plow. A hard two or three days later, I could FEEL her thrill at having those rows splayed open, ready to receive her precious seeds or seedlings. There was so much promise in that dirt!

 

Thinking back, I don’t doubt that she said a blessing over them as she carefully buried each seed or seedling in the dirt made richer by the special mix of stuff she had composted throughout the winter.

 

I am remembering this from 50 years ago, that she composted before composting was cool. She saved every coffee ground, eggshell, fruit or vegetable paring or peeling she had to put into the earth. Under this pungent fusion, her green babies were to be watched and tended and loved and then picked, prepared, and offered up as the fuel that would keep her family able to do their chores, schoolwork, fishing, and hunting.

 

There was so much Good Orderly Direction – God – in that cycle of saving the seed (hope) having the vision for the garden (faith and inspiration), putting her faith into work, using the seed to create abundance, and then working through the seasons of the year and cycles of the moon and the days of the week (except Sunday, of course), and the hours of the days to produce the produce for the days, months, and year(s) ahead.

 

There was spring for planting. Summer for gardening and harvesting. Fall for harvesting and putting up cans and jars of food for the winter, along with the seeds for the planting in the spring.  No doubt when, in a fit of rage at his father, my daddy ran away from home to join the Navy, that calm order of the seasons, and the way my grandmother was so in tune with them, was part of what he missed most. Grief over that loss was probably a big part of why he drank so much. Grief and fear.

 

I didn’t know it when I was a child, of course, but the comfort in that year-in and year-out cycle with my grandmother – all set to the music of her humming her favorite hymns, and punctuated by her Bible readings, soap operas, Sunday School lessons, and Sunday dinners – put a rhythm in my life that probably saved my life.

 

Psychological studies of Children of Alcoholics (COAs) show that those children who have at least one person who pays special attention to them are the ones who tap into the COA resilience that empowers us to be resourceful survivors.  I had three; my grandmother was chief among them.

 

Loudelle Riggs Smith paid special attention to me, to share her earth-wisdom while she gardened. I was probably a lousy helper, as I was usually much more interested in the summer litter of kittens, bugs, frogs, and fish at her place, where she and my grandfather had pecan and pear orchards, lakes, and a big pasture. But I did let in some of that love she had for her dirt and her hymns; her God and me.

 

And I did realize, many years later, that the order that came from my being with her rubbed off on me, and helped me as I worked to break the cycle of addiction that killed her son and had been passed on to me. It was a cycle that I did not want to take me or my children.

 

She might wince that my family traditions with food didn’t always include growing it, but instead centered on ordering, for my children and me, the same quesadillas and chicken soup at the same Mexican restaurant at about the same time most Friday nights.  

 

But I will say that I did think of her often as I savored the avocados, tomatoes, corn, onions, and potatoes in the soup I was so good at ordering when my children were little and time was short, and that I became pretty good at making, and making a ritual out of, as they grew older.

 

Those rituals that bring sanity and order into the lives of children of chaos help lead us out of chaos, and feed our bodies, minds and souls. A calm family food ritual is nourishment against the insanity of addiction, I believe. It is nourishment that builds the character muscles needed to make good, healthy choice; choices that bring joy to nurturers like my little grandmother, whose love of good dirt, great food, stirring hymns, and curious children, lives on in me, thank God.


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here. For more columns by Carey Sipp, click here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


 

Apr 25


It’s possible to reflect on this since my daughter was released from hospital and will recover.

 

I passed through this with some professional perspective: too often, like any clergyperson, I have assisted parents whose child was ill—or worse.  Have been, and leavened by, the vicissitudes of the mortality drama, the stomach-turning sojourns in hospital waiting rooms, the phone calls skewed by both static and caution, the attempts to be civil and helpful to well-meaning friends who want information, the inability to forbear the intrusions of others who just yearn for gossip or control.

 

My second daughter, Debra, an accomplished international journalist living happily in Tel Aviv, just recently engaged to a wondrous young man who is now—and immediately—proving his mettle as a life partner, was sick with some kind of meningitis.  Debra, with pinwheel eyes and hearty laughter, just spent two grueling weeks in the hospital, finally under the care of the neurology department.  

 

The doctors at last determined that her condition, indicated by an unyielding wave of excruciating and inexplicable headaches that have turned over the sockets of my daughter’s soul, was ultimately treatable.  They have yet to offer a conclusive diagnosis, which is maddening.

 

The full slew of the most ominous outcomes has been eliminated; I know that Debra will recuperate, now at home.  But I also know that she has been sick and uncomfortable and certainly frightened and beyond exhausted.  Like anybody in her situation, she has endured IVs, injections, scans, painful spinal taps, eye pressure tests, a few classic hospital missteps, and the general gloom of clinical incarceration.

 

I live in San Diego, some 9,000 miles away.  The cyber-miracles of this era, from Facebook to Skype to Whats-App texting to cellular phones in general, have served to somewhat bridge this harsh geographical gap.   The technology, for which I’m of course grateful, has nonetheless failed to cure my most urgent need: to be there with and for her, to really see what her situation is, to touch her hands, to tell her things that live in my heart that cannot be transmitted digitally.

 

And yet, she is a grown woman, with a dedicated partner, and a host of friends.  Even if I had proximate access, I’d have to accept the boundaries and rules that are attendant to “parenting” an adult child who wants my attention but does not need my coddling.   I can’t read her a story, or cleverly soothe her anxieties with platitudes that worked when she was a little girl.  I can only listen—even as I clearly understand that whatever anguish and frustrations are peeling my skin have no analogy with my daughter has been physically and emotionally enduring.

 

It doesn’t matter how old she is or where she is.  When your child is sick and vulnerable and scared, her location is right in the middle of your heart—the one place that cannot be dialed.  It can only be felt and it only hurts—with the exact measurement of your love.

 


Ben Kamin is one of America's best known rabbis, a multicultural spiritualist, NYT Op-ed contributor and author of eight books, including his latest, "ROOM 306: The National Story of the Lorraine Motel."   He is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 


To find out more about Ben, go to www.benkamin.com.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Jun 12



I can identify with almost any song written about love.  “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” “LoveHurts.” “Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone.” “Two Hearts Beat as One.” “Love Stinks.”  I could go on.  If I were a poet I could add my voice to the joy and lamentations of the generations.


An enduring favorite of mine is “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.


And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?


Shakespeare said, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”  Shakespeare assumed, however, that love would live to be lost another day.  He doesn’t tell us where to look when we can't find love.


Love has been the subject of poetry and ballads since the beginning of time.  It has an elusive quality that compels us to rejoice when we find it and lament when we have lost it. 


And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself
My God!...what have I done?


Almost all of us have been in relationships in which we believed love dwelt, only to be mistaken.  At times we believed we were loved, but were discarded for another.  Sometimes we were the ones who did the discarding, and other times the unpleasant discovery was mutual.  As love is such an essential part of life, one would expect humans to be good lovers, yet we are often deceived by others who are themselves deceived, or worse, by clever counterfeiters.


When we discuss love gone wrong, it is romantic love that immediately comes to mind.  But love is multidimensional and encompasses all human relationships. We have one word for it in English, the Greeks had four words for it, and there is no reason to believe they understood every dimension of love.  Love is the foundation of all relationships, including family relationships, business relationships, and friendships.  We don’t often associate love with business or politics, but relational betrayal of every sort cuts to the core of our being, and romantic betrayal isn’t the source of even half of our pain.  There will never be a recession for therapists because relational hurt is never in short supply.    


Were love not essential for existence, our ancestors would have cast it into the dustbin of history.  But we cannot live without it, which is why we continue our search even though it often feels that love will be our undoing.  Try as we might, there is no substitute for love.  Nothing, not even wealth can suffice.  The stories of lottery winners, along with the pain that fills the faces of the rich and famous on the tabloids, testify to its indispensable nature.  Without love we cannot live.  Coroners aren’t allowed to attribute cause of death to a broken heart, but this needs to be changed.  Very few people die from alcoholism, yet their cause of death is almost always a broken heart.   


Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the money's gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.

Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...
Same as it ever was...Same as it ever was...


Despite the difficulties involved in understanding, let alone finding love, our quest continues.  Consider the curious phrase “true love.”  Its loaded meaning is immediately apparent to all who hear it precisely because of the relational misunderstandings and betrayal we have all endured.  This experience is so universal and pervasive that a child can understand it, witness the use of the phrase "true love" in virtually every fairy tale. 


Anyone who has ever lived bears the scars of relationships that were not true.  Socrates said that that the very best of men would be hung on a tree, because no one is exempt jealousy and betrayal.  Love has never been tame, and like our shadow, it possesses an elusive quality.  

Yet I believe presently we are facing a crisis of love that few generations or societies have ever faced.  Love amongst us is becoming an endangered species.  


The evidence is overwhelming.  Marriage as an institution is withering.  Only 20 percent of Americans under the age of 30 are married.  It is the lowest figure in recorded history and signals that we may be to the point where a majority of Americans will never be married.  


Some commentators surmise that young people are merely delaying marriage. I beg to differ.  I believe an increasing number of young people will not marry because they are losing relational hope.  The idealism of youth is being replaced by relational cynicism at an earlier age.  Why?  Children and adolescents, when they look at the lives of their parents and the families of their peers are provided scant hope that they will find security and love in marriage when they come of age.  Little wonder social networking and avatars are such an attractive alternative to the messy world of relationships.  


It is understandable why an increasing number of adolescents, rather than looking for their "true love,"  the one person with which they hope to spend their lives raising a family, live in the hope that they can find a couple of relationships, romantic or not, that can sustain them to the grave.  

The loss of relational hope is not confined to young people.  An increasing number of us over the age of thirty are losing relational hope as well.  The rise in debt and consumerism among the Baby Boomers betray self-absorption grounded in a decline in relational hope.  It should not surprise us to learn that an increasing number of unmarried boomers over the age of 50 profess to prefer singleness for the rest of their lives.  


With relational hope in decline among younger grandparents, parents, and children, I find an increasing number of students telling me, “The world of relationships has always been this way, it’s just that people used to be more tolerant of bad marriages.”  In their next breathe they tell me that today we are better off because people are getting out of bad relationships.  


We are right to reject those who romanticize the past, but it is important not to commit the fallacy that relationships are the same as they ever were. There are good marriages today, and there have always been.  There is domestic abuse today, and there has always been.  But all marriages are not equal and never have been.  All cultures are not equal, and never have been.  Marriage and family is in crisis in the West, but it has not always been this way.  


What is constant is that there is not an example of a society that survived the relational breakdown of family.  Why?  I believe it is because humans cannot live without the type of love nurtured in family life, and particularly in the extended family.  Psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists can all see the adverse long-term impact family breakdown has on the lives of children.  


It is not just alcoholics who die of a broken heart,  Nations and civilizations die when their is widespread outbreak of broken-heartedness.  Rome was not undone by external forces, and as historians have never quite found the words to describe Rome's cause of death, I think we can attribute it to broken-heartedness manifest in self-destructive personal and social behavior.


There are few constants in this world, but one of them is our need for love.  What the world needs more than anything else is love.  In the midst of all the talk about economics we need to remember that ove is the only thing that can save us.  


Can it be found?


It has always been here.


We merely forgot where to look for it.


It isn’t found in roses and contracts and guilt.


Philosophers and the great religions exhort us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Some also emphasize the importance of loving God, self and neighbor.   Love is not something we can do alone.  It is not an “I” activity, but a ”we” activity.  Love is not a task to perform, but something that lives in the relational space between two or more people.  As we love God and neighbor as ourselves, love will grow in the relational space between us.


Love can’t be bought, but it can be found anywhere on earth, including the most humble of circumstances.  People were not drawn to work with Mother Teresa because of the smell.  They were drawn by the love they found in the relational space between her sisters, and the people for which they cared. 


It is in loving our neighbor as ourselves that love dwells.  


Same as it ever was.  



Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking Relationship Beyond the Age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at Saint Anselm College and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College. Dale serves the Evangelical Covenant Church of America as an ordained minister. He a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.  


Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jul 13

“We were at a local arts festival,” I explained to our friends, “and I found a booth with very contemporary rings.  It was just what I always wanted.”  


“And that is why we got engaged,” Phang added in jest.  “Because we found the right ring.”


Actually, we got engaged because it felt right.  We knew each other in high school, served on committees together in the community, worked out together at the gym and became a couple seven years ago.  Being together just felt good.  For the first few years we kept asking each other "…so you like this?” 


We are engaged.  We are planning to be together the rest of our lives.  At first, life was about me and my first life and Phang and his first life.  Now, life is about our being together in our second life.  Getting there, though, was a growth process for us both.


Being better in your second life means growing and changing your patterns.  We are aware of each other’s limitations and have learned to accept them.  We have learned to talk…even argue …about tough stuff and push each other’s buttons.  We have struggled with each other’s boundaries as if we are living out a sibling rivalry.  


I love being engaged to this man.  He loves planning a future with me.  We are parents, grandparents, friends and lovers.  And we are learning how to take care of each other daily.  He does mornings.  I do afternoons.  He gets the paper, makes the coffee, walks the dog and takes out the trash.  I get the mail, walk the dog and make dinner.  Planning a future is as much about what we are doing now as it is about what we will do later.  


It is different in this life.  First we talked about powers of attorney and health insurance.  Now we talk about long term care and advance directives.  So many of our discussions relate to planning a future that is starting at an age when we have grown children, grandchildren and grey hair.  Our legal status will change and there are many decisions to be made.


Friends ask when we will tie the knot.  We don’t really know that yet.  Right now, we are happy being engaged.  


My best advice to a couple in their second life is to be all there in the present and to make today the best day in your life.  The tastiest meal ever is the one before you now.  Relish every morsel.  


And, on some days, that really is enough. 


Susanne Katz is a GODR registered mediator and partner in Atlanta Elder Decisions, LLC. She is co-author of the book A Women's Guide to Managing a Mid-Life Divorce and writes about divorce and care giving in her Second Life columns on ShareWIK.com.  She co-mediates elder issues with Atlanta Elder Decisions and divorce mediation with Mt Vernon Counseling in Atlanta.  A former museum director and curator, Susanne's arts and living columns have appeared in many Atlanta publications.


 ©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Sometimes death feels sudden. But when you stop and think about it, your loved one has been suffering from a chronic illness for several years.  In my work in the bereavement center with community clients and with hospice families alike, this is a common theme.

 

Consider this.  Your loved one had heart failure.  There were multiple times where he or she went into the hospital and then came home.  Relapse and remission became part of your vocabulary. One day, the doctor said something different.  He said that it’s time to go home with hospice or it’s time to admit your loved one into a nursing home. You were completely caught off guard. Perhaps you were able to make  arrangements or maybe your loved one died before even leaving the hospital. The death certainly feels sudden.

 

Perhaps your loved one had diabetes. Along the course of the illness, there were many hospitalizations. In addition, there may have been other losses – including the loss of eyesight or a limb or there were heart issues. The same thing happens. Instead of going home to recover, the doctor suggests hospice.

 

Dementia.  People die from dementia. Caregivers are surprised at this. Their loved one may have dementia for five to 10 years and there are countless losses along the way.  One day, death happens. It seems out of the blue and feels like a sudden death. No one told me you could die from dementia.

 

What can we do?  Well, I won’t get on my soap box and talk about the need for physicians to be honest with patients, provide complete information about the trajectory of the illness and let families know what is on the horizon.


I will talk about grief – about what I know.

 

Whether the death is sudden, feels like it is sudden or has been anticipated for months, the pain of grief is not diminished. GRIEF HURTS. You need to be kind to yourself.  Allow yourself time to wrap your head around what has happened.  Don’t let others disenfranchise your grief with sayings like but she was sick for so long. Don’t disenfranchise your own grief.  Grief is hard work that takes a lot of energy. Suggestions come from many sources, but trust yourself to do what is right for you. Talk with others. Seek a professional counselor if that seems helpful. Please know that you do not have to grieve alone.

 

Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at  http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.

 

Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.   She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.


Read other Diane Snyder Cowan columns here

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


 

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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