5 Things I Learned from the Dalai Lama

long-live-the-dalai-lama

“That person is so compassionate.”

Who comes to mind for you?

For Christian believers, we might respond that Jesus is the ultimate example of compassion. And through many of his followers we can find clear examples of compassion today.

But God plants seeds of compassion—companions to seeds of love—in each of us.

One place that those seeds have grown is in the 87-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, known as Gyalwa Rinpoche to the Tibetan people, and to most of the rest of the world as the 14th Dalai Lama.

In my research on compassion for my Year of Compassion a few years ago, the Dalai Lama’s name came up again and again.

So when I heard in October of that year that the Dalai Lama was coming to Birmingham, only a couple hours from my house, I bought 2 tickets right away.

(Here stated, Jeff is an awesome companion to play along in my adventures. Here is his selfie with a photo of the DL.)

Jeff-and-dalai-lama

5 Things I Learned from the Dalai Lama

Here’s what I learned and what has stayed with me after hearing and watching the Dalai Lama that Sunday afternoon.

1. LAUGH MORE

The man chuckles. A lot.

And because he laughed frequently and genuinely that afternoon, we did, too. Even though he spoke broken English and had a thick Tibetan accent and the audio at Regions Field wasn’t the greatest, it didn’t matter.

When he got tickled, it was contagious.

In the middle of his talk, the Dalai Lama pulled out a white cloth and did what he does in the heat of India: he put it on top of his head, snickered about his “special hat,” then kept on talking. He finished out his speech with this rag on his head.

Yes, keep the serious conversations going—the Dalai Lama sure did—but don’t take yourself too seriously. When you can bring joy into a situation, do.

Smile and laugh often to brighten the day for everyone.

2. HOLD HANDS

“Since our human life begins with affection, affection is important all our life.”

That’s what the Dalai Lama said.

But I noticed even more what he did.

When he was talking on the stage with Birmingham’s then Mayor at the time William Bell, the Dalai Lama would often reach for Mayor Bell’s hand. And he’d hold on for quite awhile.

It was a great visual to see this Asian Buddhist monk from Tibet holding hands with this southern Black mayor of Alabama.

Make friends with whoever is near you, no matter how different you think you may be.

dalai-lama-mayor-bell

3. SHARE YOUR SHADE

It was a hot afternoon that Sunday and the speakers’ stage was in full sun. A monk stood over the Dalai Lama with an umbrella to create shade.

But the mayor was several feet away. After a few minutes, the Dalai Lama noticed, stopped his talk, and told the mayor, “Come closer. It can cover both.”

So the two sat squeezed side by side under the shadow of one umbrella until someone else brought a canopy tent on stage that was large enough to shade them all.

If your comfort can cover you and somebody else too, make it happen.

4. KEEP YOUR PEACE

“Stop Dalai Lama!”

Outside Regions Field before and after the event, a crowd of Buddhist monks and nuns handed out fliers, sang songs, and demonstrated against the Dalai Lama.

We asked a nun about it who had traveled here all the way from Canada just to protest. She explained to us that the International Shugden Community shows up wherever the Dalai Lama does to protest his disapproval of their Buddhist deity Doria Shugden.

But it didn’t shake the Dalai Lama.

Even amidst their disapproval, he kept his calm and stuck to his message of peace, the oneness of humanity, and promotion of harmony among all.

“Real source of happiness is not outside, but inside,” he said.

false-dalai-lama

5. COMPASSION WINS

The Dalai Lama wanted us to understand how each of us depends on the rest of us. Even for his morning tea, he said, he depends on others.

We all come from the same creator and we all want to be happy.

He asked those below 30 years old to raise their hands. He told them that real hope in overcoming violence and hatred will be in their hands. “It is your responsibility to make a peaceful world,” to spread freedom as citizens in the leading nation of the free world.

  • Respect each other.
  • Keep dialogue central.
  • Resolve disagreements peacefully.
  • Act morally out of self-discipline, not just because of legislation.

“You seven billion human beings must work together.”

I agree, Dalai Lama.

Yes, there were things I disagreed with as well. But overall, I discovered I had more in common with the Dalai Lama than I would have imagined.

He’s a living legend and lesson in compassion.

tibetan_culture

* * *

Who have you surprisingly learned from lately? What did they teach you? Please share with us in the comments.

revised from the archives


Can You Tell Me Your Name Again?

We’re now in the room alone, just me and this young girl from Afghanistan.

I have to ask her name again. I didn’t catch it the first time. Or the second time. Not even when the other adults pronounced it.

And honestly? Even as the girl herself tells me her name now, and I try to echo it back, I still don’t think I’m getting it right.

But she doesn’t correct me.

She just smiles and we go on, doing our best to understand each other.

Her parents want her exposed to more English before school starts in the fall. She already speaks some, but it’s difficult for her.

I want her to practice reading to me. But the first book we open is too hard for her. She’s 7 years old. But she can’t read the book. Not in English anyway.

We try flash cards with the English alphabet. She doesn’t know the sounds of the letters. But she does know the names of each one. That’s something. Plus she thinks it is fun.

But we’ve finished the stack of cards. And now it’s time for reading again.

I pick up the second book. I’ll just read it to her, then we can talk about it.

I read the title first. And I immediately know this book. The girl had picked it out herself among the other books on the table at the beginning of the hour. She couldn’t have consciously understood the significance of it.

But I understand.

And as I read this book to her now, my heart both warms and aches.

The book? Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow.

Your Name Is a Song

It’s about a girl whose classmates and teacher can’t pronounce her name.

Saddened by this, the girl in the story walks home, vowing never to return to school again.

But the mother in the book turns it around. She teachers her daughter the beauty of names, including hers. She turns names into the beautiful musical lyrics that names are. The girl returns to school the next day to teach the message to others.

I finish reading this story to my new little Afghan friend, whose name I can’t pronounce. I doubt she sees the irony.

So I ask her name one more time. And this time, I also ask if she can write her name on a piece of paper for me. She can and does.

I try pronouncing it again.

I still can’t say it exactly right. But maybe I’m a little closer.

I don’t get to meet the girl’s mother at the end of our session. But I pray that her mother is like the girl’s mother in the book. That she teaches her daughter the value of her beautiful name, her unique heritage, and this amazing journey she is on.

I’m grateful that at least for this day, I get to be a witness to this portion of her journey. I’ll remember it.

And even if I can’t pronounce her name properly, I’ll remember her. 


Do people ever struggle to pronounce your name? Sometimes my last name is mispronounced, but never my first name.

Share your thoughts in the comments.


What Do You Really Have to Do Today?
—Grace & Truth Linkup

Image: What do you really have to do today?

What do you really have to do today?

Sometimes we create a long list of “must do’s.” We treat them as nonnegotiables. If they don’t get done, then our world will fall apart.

But then we get an urgent phone call or an unbearable headache or an unexpected visitor, and by the end of the day, we realize that some of those “must do’s” weren’t as important as we thought.

In my quest to schedule each day, I *try* to limit my “have to do” tasks to just a few [here’s my strategy for time management]. But most days, I’m still more off than on with my schedule.

It’s hard to predict at the beginning of the day what will be most important by the end of the day.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still attempt to order our days to be meaningful and to live out our purpose.

But on those days when things don’t go as planned, we can use them to remind us of this: Live with open hands instead of tightly-closed fists, wrapped securely around our self-imposed tasks.

So what do I really have to do today? I feel sure I know. But I’m so easily proven wrong. 

It’s a lesson in uncertainty, one I’m forever learning and never graduating from.

Maybe that is important.

Or maybe not.

I don’t yet know.

So for today, I’m trusting God that if there’s something I absolutely must get done, God will let me know and help me do it.

And we’ll start over with a new list again tomorrow.

* * *
In this year of Release, God knows I’m trying to figure out what to let go of and what to hold on to. But maybe God wants me to release even that? Hmm….

What do you really have to do today? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Grace & Truth Featured Post

Susan is trying to release some of her “shoulds.” Many of us carry around a long list of “shoulds,” things we think we must do. But often those shoulds only cause us anxiety and become burdens we aren’t meant to carry.

For our featured post, Susan writes about her journey to break free of shoulds by keeping it simple.

“So, I will continue to keep it simple and share another piece of my healing journey. My story is simple, but aren’t most beautiful things simple?”

Read all of Susan’s post here at her blog, then link up your own blog posts below.

Breaking free from anxiety by walking away from shoulds

Thanks for sharing, Susan! Here’s a button for your blog.

I’m linking at these blog parties


Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.

Now Let’s Link Up!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Is There a Future in Blogging? 14 Reasons to Keep Writing Your Blog – And a Book Giveaway for My 14th Blogaversary!

Find details at the end of the post and in this video for the BOOK GIVEAWAY.

[click here if you can’t see the video, “Book Giveaway – My 14th Blogaversary”]

Reasons NOT to Blog

In 1999 there were 23 blogs on the internet.

In 2022 there are more than 600 million blogs online. And 7 million blog posts are published every day, hoping to capture our attention.

Yet of people who start a blog, more than 90% quit within a few months.

Why do bloggers stop blogging?

  • It is time-consuming to generate content.
  • It requires patience to build an audience.
  • It costs money for hosting, plug-ins, domains, etc.
  • It can be technically challenging.
  • It takes effort to promote posts on social media.
  • It can expose privacy and vulnerability.
  • And it occasionally draws haters and who needs that?

I was naively unaware of these challenges when I started my blog 14 years ago today.

I fell in love with blogging despite it all.

My first blog post was Take the Pain on Blogspot on August 8, 2008. My most recent post is When You Become a Different Person on WordPress last Friday, August 5, 2022.

In the 3,480 blog posts in between, I have indeed become a different person . . . and partly because of blogging.

Image - 14 Reasons to Keep Blogging

14 Reasons to Keep Writing Your Blog

Here are 14 reasons to keep blogging for the long haul.

Keep blogging because . . .

1. You still have lessons to learn.

Many people blog to teach. That’s valid (see reason #2). But blogging also teaches you.

Writing your posts generates motivation to research, to self-reflect, to pay attention to details, to listen to others’ opinions and to clarify your own.

• Learn about life and yourself as you write.

2. You still have lessons to teach.

Every person knows a lot of things, each person with an angle unique to themselves. Blogging is a natural place to share what you know. No one else will teach it exactly as you do.

For example, I’ve taught series with my own personal twist on “20 Ways to Practice the Enneagram for Spiritual Growth” and “How to Uncover Hidden Biases.”

• Teach what you know on your blog.

3. You still have friends to meet.

Building relationships is a huge perk of blogging for years. Through comments, through linkups, through off-blog conversations, and occasionally through in-person meetings, you can create close relationships through blogging.

Participate in a weekly linkup to see for yourself, such as our Grace and Truth linkup each Friday.

Blogging is a group activity—find your people.

4. You still have things to give.

Maybe you sell things on your blog. Or maybe you give things away. Either way, as you send your craft into the interwebs, you’re making it a brighter place.

A few things I give away on my blog include:

Be generous with your gifts to your online community.

5. You still have skills to master.

Writing content is one skill that repetitive blogging can improve. But formatting and publishing your writing onto a blog requires another set of skills. There’s always more to learn about blogging platforms, designing graphics (I highly recommend canva.com), social media, editing photos, link building, and mastering SEO and CSS and HTML.

And then they make changes and you get to learn again.

Blogging gives you opportunities to master more skills.

6. You still have questions to ask.

Asking questions on your blog is a great way not only to generate conversations, but to receive legitimate answers to questions you have, whether about a sticky relationship issue or a question about God or even which BBQ sauce to use (Jeff would say Dreamland).

Don’t underestimate the wisdom of the crowd.

People love to give advice, if only you’ll ask.

7. You still have fears to conquer.

Hitting “publish” is no small thing, especially if you’re sharing something personal or something you’ve created. It takes courage to be vulnerable (like sharing an unrealistic expectation), to admit your faults (such as trying to change your spouse), or to reveal your quirks (does anybody else do this with ham?).

But every time you publish, you grind down the edge of fear a little bit more.

Use blogging to face your fears.

8. You still have things to share.

Blogging is a great platform for sharing your favorite things, whether books (I love recommending books every month) or products or even opinions. Whether you’ve found the perfect hack to fold sheets or a new phone app that is changing your life, share it with your blogging audience.

Heather Gerwing created Share Four Somethings as an easy way to share more about yourself on your blog each month.

Readers appreciate hearing personal details and recommendations.

9. You still have wrongs to right.

Many use their blogs to create awareness for social issues that need changing. Blogs are a place you can share personal stories or explain why a bill should be passed or shed light on racial inequities.

Let your blog help change the world for the better.

10. You still have faith to grow.

If you’re a believer, there’s always more God to see. As you notice God partnering with others to pour goodness and love into the world, document it through your blog, not only as personal notes but also as a witness to others who may also be looking for God.

Attest to your experiences with God in your blog posts.

11. You still have time to fill.

You’re still here for a reason. You’re going to spend your time on earth doing something, so if you find meaningful purpose in blogging, why not dedicate a few hours to do it?

Use your time wisely and intentionally with blogging.

12. You still have people to encourage.

A great benefit of reading blogs is finding encouragement. Whatever the issue, someone is probably writing a blog about it. If you have words of hope you can pass along through your experiences, your gift of encouragement and connection is invaluable.

Our memory verse group is a source of encouragement to those of us memorizing scripture, for example.

Restore hope to others through your blog.

13. You still have money to make.

This is not one of my reasons for blogging, but many people do make a living through their blogs. You might earn income through selling products or services or from hosting ads, enough to create a full-time business or at least as a side-hustle.

Your blog can provide a stream of income.

14. You still have stories to tell.

Every day you live fresh stories. And you repeat them to others. You tell some in person. But maybe you can tell some online on your blog.

I appreciate our One Word community linking blog posts with their stories each month. 

Speak your truth online.

Blogging Keeps on Giving

14 years ago, I had no idea of the life changes I’d experience from my little experiment with blogging.

I’m glad I tried it.

It’s been far from easy though. Blogging has made me frustrated, made me tired, and made me angry at times.

Blogging isn’t always enjoyable.

But overall, blogging has given me far more joy than pain.

If blogging is something you like to do, too, hold on to your reasons. Keep writing your blog now and into your future.

You never know what you (and others) may discover through it.


Your comment below counts as your entry for the book giveaway. A random winner will be selected and notified on August 28, 2022.

The winner will choose between these two books by two wonderful storytellers:

  1. Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling by Matthew Dicks
  2. Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff

What’s one reason you read blogs or write blogs? What reason would you add to the list of reasons to blog?

Share in the comments and be registered to win.


When You Become a Different Person
—Grace & Truth Linkup

Who were you 10 years ago? Have you changed in the last 5 years? How about the past year?

Each year—each day!—we’re a little different person than we used to be.

Think about how many experiences you’ve had just this past month. How many conversations. How many steps and rests and breaths.

Life changes us, God knows.

With big life changes, we change even quicker.

But even in ordinary, everyday moments, we are stirred and transformed, with every prayer and thought and activity.

Growing pains are uncomfortable, if not downright painful and unwanted. 

But thanks be to God for expansion, maturation, and progress.

Even when it hurts.

Image: When you become a different person

Grace & Truth Featured Post

Linda writes beautifully in our featured post this week about how our deepest shadows change who we are.

“We don’t grieve like those who do not experience the promises of Jesus. Yet, we will never be the same. And that could end up being a very good thing.”

Slowly read all of Linda’s post here at her blog, then link up your own blog posts below.

Deepest Shadows

Have you noticed changes in yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m linking at these blog parties


Review the rules here about adding your most recent Christian Living posts and how to be the Featured Post. Visit all four hosts social media here or websites here: Maree Dee, Lisa notes, Lauren Sparks, Tammy Kennington.

Now Let’s Link Up!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wait, What? Should We Add “Thoughts and Prayers” to the 2022 Banished Words List?

Lists are compiled every year of worn-out words. Would you add “thoughts and prayers” to the list?

Is It Cliché to Say Cliché?

Why say something worn out when you can say something fresh?

I’m ASKING FOR A FRIEND. (Phrases in ALL CAPS are words from the list of misused and overused Banished Words for 2022.)

I can tell you one reason why we stick with clichés:

Because clichés are easy.

It’s hard to think of new ways to say things.

Image: 2022 Banished Words List

What About “Thoughts and Prayers”?

Let’s take a DEEP DIVE into the current controversy over the phrase “thoughts and prayers.”

Should “thoughts and prayers” be on the banished words list, too?

For many people, sending “thoughts and prayers” is sending a gift of attention and faith so God will work wonders.

It’s their gift of NO WORRIES to the recipient.

THAT BEING SAID, to many other people, hearing “thoughts and prayers” means the person praying is done, with no plans to actually help in person themself.

To the receiver, “thoughts and prayers” sounds like a shortcut, a cop-out, a sidestepping of responsibility. They want to scream, “YOU’RE ON MUTE.”

WAIT, WHAT? So am I suggesting we should stop sending “thoughts and prayers“?

A Deeper Dive

Let’s look at it from both sides.

One Side:

As a believer myself, I trust God listens to my prayers.

God wants me to share my heart’s desires and needs. I ask God for help. My prayers naturally include my concern for others. I want my friends to receive help, too.

The Other Side:

But also as a Christian, even I tire of hearing myself say and hearing others tell me “I’m praying for you.”

Especially if what someone (and myself) really needs is an answer to prayer: a human being in the flesh sent by God to offer a helping hand or a listening ear or a shared meal.

In other words, we often need for someone to be the embodied answer to the prayer.

But does it have to be either/or? Either pray or else do something?

Can it be both/and? Both pray and do something?

Maybe we can keep the SUPPLY CHAIN from breaking if we combine “thoughts and prayers” with words and deeds.

If possible, can we allow our actions to speak louder than our clichés?

Our New Normal

Maybe our NEW NORMAL might be to not only say, “I’m sending thoughts and prayers,” but also do this: back up those thoughts and prayers, when possible, with something tangible.

  • Maybe that’s a hug.
  • Or a word of encouragement.
  • Or an offer to babysit.
  • Or a call to a legislator.
  • Or a closer listen.
  • Or a donation to the cause.

When I commit to pray for someone, optimally I also commit myself to be the embodied answer to that prayer, in whatever way God shows me.

“God, show me what I can do to help you help my friend.”

I don’t want to toss all the work on God when God intends us to work together.

Partnering with God is invaluable.

Circle Back

Maybe we can’t cure our neighbor’s cancer or stop the war in Ukraine with our thoughts and prayers, but we can ask God to move us—to use us—to check in on our neighbor’s family or be kinder to an immigrant struggling with English in our line at the grocery store.

So to CIRCLE BACK, instead of only sending thoughts and prayers, let’s think of new phrases to say and actions to do alongside “I’ll be praying for you,” such as:

  • I’ll check on you again tomorrow to see what you need.
  • This is hard, so I won’t leave you alone in this.
  • Let’s talk together to sort things out.
  • I’ll watch with you for God to show us the next step.
  • Tell me again so I can better understand how you feel.

And here are some more:

Image: New Ways to Reframe I'll Pray for You

AT THE END OF THE DAY, thoughts and prayers themselves can’t be used too often.

But saying only “I’m sending thoughts and prayers” can be overdone.

I’m not ready to add “thoughts and prayers” to the banished words list.

Maybe we can use more thoughts and prayers to hear fresh ideas from God.

Then use more words and deeds to spread God’s love to others.


See all 10 words here from the Banished Words List for 2022.

What word or phrase do you think is overused? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More to Think About: