Saturday, April 26, 2008

Searching for a Solution

I am now 61 years old – a fact which continues to amaze me. On my life’s path I have raised two terrific sons, headed numerous successful business ventures, and am now honored to have founded Common Tables and to be serving as its Executive Director. Along the way I’ve managed to learn a few things, one of which is the truth in Albert Einstein’s statement:

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.”

As applied to global harmony, this means simply that we can’t depend on the on the leaders of those systems which have formed divisions between peoples to bring down the barriers created by those systems. This is not to suggest that these leaders are “bad people”. We are simply acknowledging that our politicians and theologians may not hold the solution to the divisiveness they, at least in part, helped to create.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008



Festive & delicious! Guaranteed to please!!

Common Tables Tip: Plan on putting this one together before your guests arrive . . . then just pop it in the oven about 30 minutes before you plan on moving folks into the dining room. (NOTE: If assembled earlier in the day, be sure to refrigerate until time to bake. Add 5 minutes to cooking time if ingredients are chilled.)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

1 10 ½ oz. can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 10 ½ oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
¾ cup milk
¼ cup sour cream
1 lg. onion, chopped
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
1 Tbsp. dry taco seasoning mix
2 ½ cups cooked chicken, diced
12 corn tortillas
Cooking oil
Sour cream
Chunky salsa
Shredded crisp lettuce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine the soups, milk, sour cream, onion, green chilies, taco seasoning and chicken in a large saucepan. Heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Fry tortillas in hot oil, about 1 minute to soften. Drain on paper towels.

In a 3-4 quart buttered casserole, place a layer of tortillas, a layer of soup mixture and a layer of grated cheese. Repeat layers, ending with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pass extra sour cream and salsa and top with shredded lettuce.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Groundhog Day"

Monday's Media Review

It is tempting to look at this movie as being simply one (albeit great) series of lessons – lessons that you learn and take with you – and to let it go at that.

But here’s the thing: They don’t preach at you. You figure the lessons out as you move through the movie with Phil Connors (Bill Murray), and that makes for a far deeper experience than lessons received in “lecture mode.”

At its core the movie is a comedy – and a very good one. But it’s also a romance. With a metaphysical/moral message. Hmmm. A movie in the romantic-metaphysical-funny-morality sort of genre!

The lesson is a simple one, but delivered in memorable style: we can all change our lives by changing the only thing we really have control over – ourselves. And the only time we can make those changes is today. Remember, the time-loop only ends for Phil Connors when he finds perfect happiness in the present moment.

5 Stars for this one!!
Length: 101 Minutes

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Table Grace - Part 2

In March we shared a few examples from our collection of interfaith blessings. A month has gone by and it's time to share a few more of our favorites.

Here are our April selections:

Creator, Earth Mother, we thank you for our lives and this beautiful day.
Thank You for the bright sun and the rain we received last night.
Thank You for this circle of friends and the opportunity to be together.
We want to thank You especially at this time for the giveaway of their lives made by the chickens, beets, carrots, grains and lettuce.
We thank them for giving of their lives so we may continue our lives through this great blessing.
Please help us honor them through how we live our lives.

Native American

Heavenly Father, great and good,
We thank thee for this daily food.
Bless us even as we pray;
Guide and keep us through this day.

From a Collection Compiled by Carmel United Methodist Church, Carmel, IN

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More from The Pew Research Center

Returning to the survey from The Pew Research Center - the one we talked about in December: We find some areas for concern, an obvious source of divisiveness, and a hint about where we might look as we search for solutions. Here are some excerpts followed by our comentary:

1. “Public attitudes about Muslims and Islam have grown more negative in recent years.” Things are getting worse, not better.

2. “The biggest influence on the public's impressions of Muslims, particularly among those who express an unfavorable opinion of Muslims, is what people hear and read in the media.” The largest source of unfavorable opinion is the media. It is important to recognize that the influence of the media only exists because of our collective decision to look to sources outside of ourselves to tell us how to think.

3. “The survey shows that knowing a Muslim is associated with more positive views of the religion.” Could it be that increasing global harmony is as simple as getting to know one another?

Interesting to think about.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From The Interfaith Center at the Presidio:

Paul Chaffee, Executive Director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco:

"Most of us live in an unparalleled religious diversity today. But we enjoy scant dialogue with strangers from different traditions because we lack the context, the safety and 'permission' to talk openly about things that matter. As the Muslims said to the Congregationalists in San Jose when they showed up at worship two Sundays after 9-11: 'We are neighbors, and we don't know each other. We think we should get to know each other. '

"I love Common Tables because it delivers with so little baggage, so little institutional structure to encumber the safety and mutual respect required for initiating engaged interfaith dialogue and relationship. At the same time I appreciate how Common Tables is educating suddenly interfaith-friendly people about appropriate protocols, available resources, and the thousands of grassroots groups and organizations emerging in small towns, cities, regions, across the nation, and on the internet.

"This grassroots movement is a source of hope in a broken world. Common Tables' particular interfaith role, it seems, is helping unleash the power of the internet on a time-honored way to start new relationships - sharing food in someone's home. God bless you!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


The format most commonly used by our Common Tables groups has one guest bringing a salad, one bringing an appetizer and a third shows up with desert. Continuing on with that theme, this week we offer a recipe for an easy to assemble dessert . . . one which will be a pleasant surprise for all:


Reminiscent of a Key Lime Pie, but mysteriously cool, smooth and creamy. Fully ripened avocados are the “secret” ingredient.

Yield: 1 Pie (6 Servings)

1 cup avocado pulp, mashed
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk (1 can)
1 teaspoon lime zest
½ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 9 inch graham cracker crumb pie crust
whipped cream
thinly sliced lime, for garnish (optional)

Combine avocado pulp, sweetened condensed milk and lime zest in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour filling into pie crust.

Freeze pie for several hours (until solid).

Remove from freezer 15 minutes before serving. Serve with whipped cream. Garnish with lime slices (optional).

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Gospel of Inclusion

I sit here with my copy of The Gospel of Inclusion beside the keyboard. Inside Bishop Carlton Pearson has written: "To Common Tables. What a fantastic and radically indlusive idea! Peace is Possible!"
Combine Bishop Pearson's wonderful endorsement of Common Tables with my own personal belief that he is truly one of the great men of our time and I am left with the knowing that I really can't do a non-biased review of his book. Instead, I will share with you comments from others:
"A refreshing look at a religion that is at the center of the current International conflict. I salute Bishop Pearson for having taken a bold step in the right direction. A book for all sane people to read and digest. Gripping and outstanding!!"
Arun Gandhi, President of the Mahatma K. Ghandi Institute for Nonviolence
"Carlton Pearson's book, The Gospel of Inclusion presents a powerful new voice that is emerging in Pentecostal circles. The God Bishop Pearson is serving is a God of love not judgment, a God of universalism not sectarianism, a God of expansion not control. It is intriguing, provocative and hopeful, a surprising twist in our ancient faith story."
John Shelby Spong, author of Why Christianity Must Change or Die and The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Tenor of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
"I love the spirit of Bishop Carlton Pearson's book, The Gospel of Inclusion. It arrives to a generation whose fear of deception is often greater than its faith...Bishop Pearson has nailed a thesis to our church door and demanded reformation. He comes with the spirit of Elijah and the courage of John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle."
Dr. Mark Hanby, Mark Hanby Ministries
"If you are ready to meet God, read my friend Bishop Carlton's wisely, insightful and instantly life changing book. You will be stimulated to share these ideas with all that you love. I did, and I am glad I did."
Mark Victor Hansen, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul
5 Stars!
Original Release Date: April 30, 2007
Length: 245 Pages

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Scope of this Initiative

We are approaching social change pluralistically. The Pluralism Project, run by Harvard University, distinguishes between diversity and pluralism as: “Diversity can and often has meant isolation. The dynamic of pluralism, however, is one of meeting and exchange.”

Belief systems are the foundation for core values and that impacts the decision-making and alignment of all people. Meanwhile, individuals struggle to integrate and function in an increasingly diverse and complex environment. This is often based upon fear of the unknown. Many people feel a sense of separation that is perpetuated by the exclusive nature of most of the world’s religions. Add to this the fear of judgment by a deity or church leaders, and we have people that observe each other from afar but generally are reluctant to interact socially. Yet we wonder why world strife and killing in the name of an honored theology persist worldwide.

The 2003 Gallup Religious Tolerance Index suggested that in this country, 17 percent believe they alone know what is true and are labeled isolated or exclusivist. By comparison, 46 percent are labeled tolerant, or “sort of” inclusive. That leaves 37 percent who are called integrated or pluralistic, people who tend to be religiously involved as well as interested in others.

These figures should allay the fears which most of us have harbored at some point that “those folks over there are taking over everything.” Diversity reigns and is not going away, so we need creative ways to build relationships. That’s where Common Tables focuses. We know we can provide the support needed by the 37% that are pluralistic – and we believe we can influence many of the 46% that are tolerant to move into a pluralistic context of thinking.

With a target goal of three million Common Tables members by the end of 2008 – or 750,000 simultaneous dinner meetings - even a relatively small percentage of participation by the pluralistic and tolerant segments of our society will create the change we envision. This is a bottom-up approach that will span across the perceived barriers between our increasingly integrated yet isolated nations.

Friday, April 4, 2008

How We Do It

Every six months, Common Tables will set up a diverse Table of four to eight people in the same geographical area. The role of the individuals is to host (on a rotating basis) a Common Tables Dining Experience. The role of Common Tables is to provide proven interaction guidelines, ice-breaker exercises, and experiential feedback that will ensure a powerful and fun learning experience that gets beyond labels or separation to honor differences and celebrate commonalities and uniqueness.

After four dining experiences in six months, Common Tables will assign members to another diverse Table and the process starts over with new friends – while previous friendships continue to evolve.

Continuing education about religions, philosophies and cultures will be provided through online forums that will be led by topic experts. (In development)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why We Do It

To paraphrase a great American, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have a dream – a dream that will open the heart of the world forever. We see a day when individuals create relationships that build acceptance, harmony, and understanding that transcend religious or political differences. We see a day when people of any and all faiths and belief systems will come to see the value in each other’s uniqueness.

We each have the power and the opportunity right in our own communities to affect change. Towns across this nation and the world are becoming more heterogeneous, not less. This grass roots movement can leverage this opportunity. Through Common Tables, it is now so easy to meet and socialize with people outside of your circle of friends – while changing the isolation and separation inherent in our diverse and global society.

Our goal is to actively promote peace through understanding and the dissolution of perceived differences.

Look out your window and see young children of all ethnic backgrounds playing together. Will adult-realities eventually have these children taking up arms against each other because we – as adults – have failed to learn the truth – or at least the common ground – for peaceful coexistence?

This is a pervasive problem between all people of all religions. Look around. Most of the world’s problems originate from the inability of political and religious leaders to find a common ground of understanding and acceptance, or their unwillingness to lessen the reins of control.

In most parts of the world – and from many religious and philosophical teachers – we hear we need to promote racial, ethnic and religious harmony; pursue a relationship of oneness with all mankind, honor our differences and celebrate our common ground. These are all platitudes when they are uttered but not reinforced by action. Common Tables will help to change that by changing how individuals everywhere view diversity. It is happening already.