Feeling Hurt – A Revelation


I was feeling hurt and angry yesterday . . . you can relate, right?  Hurt and anger – those emotions are almost like two old friends with whom I have a dysfunctional love/hate relationship . . . so familiar that they actually feel more normal than other emotions, like joy.  I began to wrestle with my feelings.  As a good Christian, I know that forgiveness is sort of the top of the list . . . “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”, and all that.  But when I feel that I’ve been wronged it’s hard . . . you know what I mean, right?  So I’m praying, wrestling, trying to disengage my self-esteem from what happened.  This morning I opened my Bible to Isaiah 58, a chapter that’s been “mine” for many years.  It opened in the last version I’d been reading, the Common English Bible.  Here’s what I read:

“Isn’t this the fast I choose:  releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke?”
                                                                                Isaiah 58:6

No other version I’ve ever read this in has said it quite like this.  Releasing wicked restraints . . . untying ropes of a yoke.  I know that the issues of our hearts, our hurts, wounds, and anger are complex. But I saw an aspect of the inner work that the Spirit of God does in our hearts in a new way this morning. 

It’s not wrong for me to feel hurt; something happened that hurt my feelings and made me angry.  These feelings are not sinful, they just are.  And it’s important to acknowledge them, accept them, feel them.  That’s the starting place.  Be honest about your feelings.  Lay them out on the table where you see them for what they are.  But what happens next is very important.  In the past I’ve been prone to scoop them up off the table (if I acknowledged them in the first place), stuff them back into my heart, and let them talk to me. And they say all kinds of things . . . things about those who’ve hurt me (that may or may not be true) . . . things about the situation (that may or may not be true) . . .  things about myself (that most certainly are NOT true) . . . things about God, about my life, about the world.  And I listen . . . and I hurt more deeply.  It’s kind of a vicious cycle of hurt feeding hurt breeding more hurt. I may not realize it, but I am bound . . . bound with an awful yoke, a wicked restraint.  In listening to the voices of my hurt and anger, I literally place a restraint, a yoke, on those who have hurt me, chaining them forever in my mind to that event.  They are tied to my pain, my expectations, my thoughts about them, their motives, and their character.  And because I have bound them, I am also bound.  I have effectively yoked us together with this terrible pain between us.  Now I cannot look at them without seeing it.  I cannot think of them without seeing it.  And the hurt continues to feed itself, making me miserable.  The other person is personally unaffected, but our relationship will always tainted by my hurt.  It will affect my thoughts about them, the way I feel about them, the way I treat them.  And it will never change until I set both of us free.

Without the breaking of the yoke there can be no real honesty, no real community, no healthy relationships.  We can be honest about our hurts and our anger while refusing to allow them to talk to us.  They don’t give us good feedback about the situation, do they?  They don’t tell us the truth.  They give us a skewed, distorted version of reality.  We must allow the voice of reason, the voice of truth to come alongside to speak to those thoughts.  Sometimes a trusted friend can give us perspective, help us sort out truth from fiction.  I think the Spirit of God helps us, bringing truth across our path in many forms to help us see what we need to see.  And sometimes we just need someone to hold us while we hurt, we want someone to acknowledge the hurt with us, to express sympathy or empathy.  That makes it easier to take the important step of silencing the voices of those painful emotions.  And then perhaps we can feel safe to untie the ropes of the yoke, and set ourselves and those who have wronged us free.

This is a part of what it means to be emotionally healthy.  It feels good to take charge of the voices in your head, to refuse to allow yourself to be mistreated by your own negative emotions!  It’s empowering  . . . and I’m all about that.


Hearing Voices


I have a nifty app on my phone called “Notes”.  It looks like a yellow pad . . . I’m sure you’ve seen it.  I use it to make grocery lists, to save important information, etc.  Silly things are recorded there . . . profound things . . . I wrote this there some time ago:

“Am I afraid of the power of my own voice?”

About a year ago, I was several years into my journey toward a college education.  I had declared ‘general sociology’ as my major, because I really didn’t have a solid direction to move toward.  I figured that if I got the ball rolling, God would lead the way.  Things were going well – I was a straight A student with an honors scholarship.  Then . . . we decided to see a movie.

I don’t remember the name of the movie.  I only remember that it was a beautiful weekend in fall, almost exactly one year ago.  We settled in our seats at the Warren, ready for a cinematic experience.  Now, I love cinema.  You must understand this; when I watch a movie I value the experience highly.  I take it all in . . . the cinematography (“What a fantastic shot!”) . . . the acting (“She/He is perfect for that role!”) . . . the editing (“Seemless!”) . . . the music (“Hans Zimmer scored this, didn’t he!  I’d know him anywhere!”) . . . I critique everything.  And I usually have an opinion on how it could have been better, if it wasn’t perfect.  I love the movies!  So on this beautiful autumn day, as the budding sociologist settled in her seat and the previews began, a voice out of nowhere (somewhere . . . but where?) spoke clearly, without pause or drama:

“I don’t want to be a social worker; I want to make documentary films.”

Stillness.  Silence.  “What . . . ? . . . where . . . ? . . . where did that come from?”  Then, running . . . running in my head, running far from that voice.  “I am knee-deep in my education.  I am on a track.  No.”

And life goes on.  Classes . . . tutoring . . . still asking God for direction . . . researching . . . frustration . . . it’s time to take a break.

My planned break was last summer.  Spring semester had been exhausting. Then came the unplanned break – no money for fall semester.  I enrolled in an 8-week course for the second half, holding out hope that the money would be there.  It wasn’t.

In October, my husband and I went to the Storyline Conference in Nashville. We planned a wonderful vacation, just the two of us, around this event.  It was everything we wanted it to be.  But I was still no closer to knowing what I was supposed to do with all the passion inside me or the knowledge I had been gaining.  I was getting pieces of the puzzle, but couldn’t find the lid.

We’d heard about a weekend seminar that a friend was having, and it sounded wonderful.  It was along the lines of everything I’d been reading, everything I’d been praying about.  We went with eager and open hearts.  No lightening bolts came . . . no booming voice from heaven.  And then, in a regular moment, sitting in someone’s living room, I spoke about the voice I had heard a year ago.  And someone said, “Me, too!”  And everything changed.

Am I afraid of the power of my own voice?  Because it was my voice that day in the theater.  It wasn’t the voice of God, telling me what he wanted me to do.  It was in first person.  It was my voice.  But it was a voice faraway, a voice from deep-down . . . a knowledge that decided that it must be heard. Perhaps it was a voice stirred by the working of God within . . . I don’t know why it came when it came.  Maybe I needed time to wrestle with it, to converse with this part of myself that I had not acknowledged.  I kept it to myself, for the most part, for a whole year.  And now it was more than a voice.  It was a force.

Things I had been thinking about, reading about, praying about . . . it all clicked into place.  Not every puzzle piece, but a large section finally made sense.  That didn’t make it any less scary.  In fact, it was so scary that I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud in front of anyone . .  or even to myself.  Thank God for encouraging friends!  Because in that place I was able to invite that voice to the table, to acknowledge it, and let it sit down. It was nerve-wracking . . . scary . . . but I had come far enough in my journey to handle the fear.  It wasn’t easy . . . but it was necessary.  To embrace this voice is to embrace an unspoken part of my heart . . . to allow my real heart to be heard . . . it is to grow, to change, to be what God always knew I was.

The cry of my heart is for social justice.  My heart breaks with every story of oppression I read.  I long to document the good in the world, those places where the kingdom of God is taking hold.  People need to see that for every story in which evil triumphs, there are stories in which love wins, mercy triumphs . . . that there really is good in the world.  So . . . I don’t want to be a social worker; I want to make documentary films.  And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Dreams That Really Change the World


I read a wonderful post recently that started my wheels turning.  Family on Bikes (on Facebook) shared a blogpost entitled, “Can we all really follow our dreams?” 


I read it again this morning, posted a comment, and I couldn’t stop there.  Ideas are bubbling up to the surface, and I want to share them here.

Nancy Sathre-Vogel offers some sage advice in her up-beat, encouraging post.    The question is posed, “If every single one of us chucked it all and took off to travel the world, who would be left to keep things running?”  Her answer lies in the life-affirming mandate to make conscious choices about our lives.  As long as we choose to be where we are, we are living our dream for that moment, for that season.  I find comfort in this wisdom, easily applying it to my own life.  At the age of twenty-three, I chose a wonderful man to marry, and we began a family immediately.  I spent many adventurous years raising my brood, homeschooling, laughing, crying, and living my dream of creating a large family.  A new season is upon me; my youngest is in public school and I am still supervising school work for two teenagers.  The oldest three are young adults, and I am working toward a college degree.  I’m living a new dream, one that I have chosen for myself.

We all have dreams, every human being on the planet.  Some dreams are huge and scary . . . others are simple and small.  But no dream is unimportant.  The system human beings have created on this earth requires that a great many people be engaged in the work of fulfilling someone else’s dream.  Everything that exists was once nothing but a dream.  Every physical item we use every day – our clothing, tools, kitchen gadgets, furniture, cars, roads, homes, office buildings, dams, lakes – every single thing that exists!  Think about it!  Someone had an idea that became a dream, that he or she worked to bring into reality.  And each one of those dreams required that other people come on board and help make that dream come true.  My question is this: “How do we create a system in which no one’s dream is sacrificed?”

I’m going to describe two scenarios; they will not be perfect, but this is the way I see the difference between the existing system and a better one.

In this first scenario, someone in a first-world country has a dream to own a nice hotel on an island.  The place is a virtual paradise, and he knows that it will be quite profitable once word gets out.  He finds financial backers, secures land, and builds a beautiful hotel.  He hires educated first-world folks to run the place, do all the important jobs.  This is great, because they have always dreamed of managing a hotel in an exotic location.  Next he hires a bunch of locals to do the rest – cook, clean, and serve.  They think this is great, too, because they see the job as a way to provide for their families.  People begin to come to the hotel, enjoying the island beauty and the pampering they receive in the care of the hotel staff.  Everyone is happy . . . right?

Now the second scenario:  Someone in a first-world country has a dream to build a nice hotel on an island.  But he doesn’t want to be the sole owner.  His dream is to partner with local people, to help them benefit from this venture.  So he finds financial backers, secures land, and works with local people and groups to set up the hotel as a worker-owned business.  The beautiful hotel is built, and locals are trained in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the business.  Because they have a vested interest in the hotel and are not just low-wage employees, the atmosphere is infused with a satisfaction and pride that can be felt by the guests.  Even the maids, janitors, groundskeepers – everyone – is part owner in this grand adventure, elevating the status of their work in their own eyes.  They all share in the profitability of the hotel, because they are more than just employees, working to fulfill someone else’s dream.  Now, they shareit.  They own it.  It is their dream, too, because they benefit directly from it.  They take pride in it.  And everyone really is happy.

Now, I know nothing about business.  I know there are problems with my contrived scenarios.  But I believe the basic principles are sound.  In scenario one, the man with a dream uses others to realize it.  In scenario two, the man with a dream invites others to dream with him, and in doing so makes the dream grow.  The dream urges others to dream even bigger dreams than they thought they could, to be part of something they hadn’t even considered.  “You mean I can be an owner, not just a maid?”  Sure you can . . . as long as we are willing to dream dreams that are big enough to carry others along, instead of doing business as usual.

So . . . to answer the original question,“If every single one of us chucked it all and took off to travel the world, who would be left to keep things running?”, I say this – “Keeping things running” can be a part of that beautiful dream, if only we will begin to dream differently, dream dreams that embrace others, seek to create businesses and systems and lives that help others realize their dreams.  If your dream is only about you, you’re dream is too small.

An Empty Space for Love


I just watched a short video about what one group of people is doing to transform their neighborhood and bring the sunshine of Jesus’ love to a dark, hopeless place.  It brought tears to my eyes and laid yet another stone in the foundation being laid in my own heart.  And yet there was an anger that rose up in me . . . a frustration.  It wasn’t new; in fact, it’s very old, but until today I could not really identify its origin.

Bob Goff’s “Jesus Does” also fed those tears and anger.  They welled up so strong in me it was frightening.  My heart was shredded, my tear ducts emptied, and my soul at once satisfied and empty.  I had no words to describe what I was feeling, much to the disappointment of my husband.  He loves to hear me pour out my heart, but the words wouldn’t come.

This foundation that has been in the process of coming together in me has much to do with social justice, what real Christian love looks like, putting feet to our faith.  But the missing element – the source of the frustration in my own soul, the anger that stirs my emotions – is the lack of connectedness that would enable all to participate.  Perhaps others feel it, too, so I will try to give voice to it.

I do several things that connect me to the larger world.  I make small loans through Kiva, helping entrepreneurs around the world to build their businesses, take care of their families, and grow their communities.  I sponsor several children in Uganda, helping to secure for them at least a shot at becoming what they were created to be.  I give to clothes, shoes, household good, books – anything at all – to thrift stores and free stores, because I know that what I don’t need can be useful to someone else.  On Facebook, I post stories and pictures that illustrate social justice issues.  I share posts from ministries and groups who are doing good work, so that others can be aware of them and perhaps be inspired to participate.  I purposely make attempts to connect with the larger world, but right here in my own little world, I feel terribly disconnected.

To the poor and disenfranchised where I live, I’m just a nice lady who drops stuff off every once in a while.  Perhaps they think I’m a well-off lady who gives money sometimes to help out.  But I don’t fit in.  I’m not a real part of anything.  And I don’t know how to be.  The truth is, I don’t fit in.  I thought that was the point, though . . . to take the disenfranchised and somehow reintegrate them into society . . . to plug them in so that they can experience the joy of giving as well as receiving, and so that we can all benefit from their gifts, from their unique presence.  If I don’t fit in, aren’t I disenfranchised now . . . ?

I don’t want to live alone in my comfortable world.  I don’t want to drop by with ‘help’ every once and a while or volunteer ‘out there’ then go back to my reality.  I want my reality to change.  I guess that’s what’s so attractive to me about the way some Christians have chosen to live their lives.  They don’t float back and forth between two worlds that never really touch each other.  They imagine a different world, then work to create it little by little.  They build community gardens.  They take care of each other.  They make sure no one is hungry or thirsty or without clothing or shelter.  They have created community.

No one is making sure I have what I need.  They assume that I do, because my family functions well in society.  We have good jobs, plenty of food and clothes, etc.  So we live in our house, interacting with people through work, through school, and the occasional conversation with a friend.  And I look through the windows of my life, the windows of books and my computer, and see a big, beautiful world loved by God, and I see all the heartache and pain that has been wrought, and my heart longs to be one of the instruments of healing.  So I do what I can, but . . . at the end of the day, I am still very much alone.

Something is wrong.  As much as my soul cries out over issues of social justice, there is another issue that separates people.  We all know that there is a deep divide between what some call the “haves” and the “have nots”.  However that divide was created, both sides must work to eradicate it.  I don’t want to drive over from the “haves” side, bringing gifts to the “have not” side, then drive back home where it’s safe.  I want to walk out into the empty space between us and pitch a tent.  Build a fire.  Plant a garden.  I want to imagine something new – a world without labels.  Because we all need to belong.

In Defense of Small Dreams


Inspiring images abound on Facebook.  Today I saw this one:

Now I think this is a great encouragement to folks to dream really big, to be courageous and not let anything get in the way of their dreams.  But lots of folks have small dreams.  And that’s okay.

Dreams come in all sizes.  Some dream of changing the world.  Some just try to make a difference in their own small world.  Some dream of touching hundreds or maybe thousands of people.  Others focus on touching the people around them. 

Dreams are infectious.  When someone is focused and passionate about their dream, others will take notice.  Some will resonate with that dream and climb on board to help, making the dream their own.  Others will contribute on a smaller scale, because they believe in the dream.  Dreams have  way of taking folks on a journey with many levels of contribution and passion.  And that’s okay.

Those who dream really big dreams are not necessarily more courageous than all the rest.  Certainly they are more courageous than some, but it takes courage to live your dream no matter how big or small it is.  It takes courage to love and protect the people in your circle, day in and day out, when it’s easy and when it’s hard.  It takes ingenuity and imagination to overcome hardship, figure out a better way, do things differently.

Courage for some is simply getting out of bed in the morning.  A big dream could be as simple as being able to give more of your income to causes you believe in or as complex as helping to revitalize an entire village.

Don’t worry about the size of your dream.  Your work is to discover all the wonderful, hidden gifts God has put within you, then to look around and see where they can best be utilized.  You were made to live God’s dream for you . . . and no matter the size, that’s BIG.


Walking Among Starfish


My old blog was called “Real”, and this was my first post . . . I was re-reading them all and decided to repost this one, because it really captures the essence of my thoughts and values, as well as my real purpose in blogging . . .

Awareness . . . it all begins there. The first moment that the reality of something enters your consciousness . . . what will you do with that awareness? You have a lot of options, you really do. You could immediately turn your mind to something else . . . get busy . . . forget what it was you saw or heard. You could rationalize . . . reason . . . make an excuse? Anger . . . you could get real angry . . . fume and fight and get on a soapbox . . . and then . . . ? Or you could just tell yourself it is none of your business . . . you have your own problems to deal with, after all . . . and what could you really do anyway? You’re just one person . . . what could you possibly do that would make a real difference . . . ? I think there’s something we’ve been missing . . . Every day we are confronted by the problems of this world. Footage of copper-haired African children with flies on their faces . . . emaciated infants who are not long for this world . . . men, women and children sifting through gigantic piles of refuse, looking for anything they can eat or sell . . . women dipping plastic buckets into polluted rivers and feeding it to their babies. The news keeps us informed about wars, drought, wildfires, political unrest, homelessness, joblessness . . . it is overwhelming. What the average person lacks is not compassion – it is power. What in the world can one person do to stem the tide of disaster and evil that seems to be never-ending in our world? I wonder if the average person knows about all the good things going on in the world? Do they know about all the hungry children being fed, all the homes, schools & churches being built? All the wells of fresh, clean water being dug? All the medical care being given? All the communities being rebuilt one family at a time? Those are the things we don’t see much on the news . . . but it’s happening . . . all over the world real people are making a real difference in the lives of real people. I’d love to show you . . . There’s a story I heard about a young man walking along the beach. The sand was covered with starfish, suffocating by the hundreds. The young man was walking along, picking them up one at a time, flinging them back into the ocean. Another man saw him and laughed at the futility of his efforts. “Why bother?” he said. “You can’t save all these starfish . . . this is stupid . . . it doesn’t matter.” The young man bent down, picking up one starfish and holding it high. “It matters to THIS one, ” he said, tossing it into the life-giving water. And that’s what this blog is all about. What you do matters. YOU matter. That’s what’s real.

Do You Care What I Believe?


Do you care what I believe?  If you really don’t know me well, do you care what I believe about politics?  About religion?  About anything?  If we were to cozy up at Starbucks to spend some time getting to know one another, would your first question be about current political issues?  Or would it be about my family, my upbringing, my favorite genre of music?  What would I ask you?  What’s your favorite book/movie/song/memory of your childhood?  Where do you like to shop?  How do you spend your days?

And what if we found we liked each other?  What if we found we had the same taste in music and movies?  Had read some of the same books?  Decorated our kitchens in a similar motif?  What if, right there in Starbucks, time stood still for a while while we explored a new found friendship?

When the conversation finally turns to more controversial topics, what if we have divergent opinions on some issues?  Now that we have a foundation of mutual interests, now that we “like” each other, what are we likely to do?  Discuss the issues?  Talk about how we came to our conclusions?  Reveal the values we hold dear that led us to our beliefs?  Banter back and forth respectfully?  Will we be motivated to try and understand each other’s viewpoints?  Are we willing to believe the best about each other, because we are ‘friends’?  Even if we never see each other again, we will both have benefited from the exercise of dialogue in an attempt to understand.

Now . . . if you and I are strangers, and we somehow engage in a conversation about politics or religion, finding ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, how likely do you think we are to keep it ‘friendly’?  How easy will it be for me to make assumptions about what else you believe?  How easy will it be for you to dismiss me, boxing me in with stereotypes and negative labels?  You and your latte will walk to your car, muttering under your breath about idiots who are the cause of all society’s ills.  I will take my Americano and fume about idiots who lack critical thinking skills.  We will leave much as we came, perhaps more entrenched in our personal beliefs and less willing than ever to even listen to anyone who has a different opinion, idea, thought, or value.

A Life Worth Living – My Epiphany


Have you ever had a moment when a bunch of life’s puzzle pieces suddenly come together? . . . when your thoughts converge in such a way that you have what can only be called an epiphany?  Not just a realization or a bit of knowledge you didn’t have . . . something big . . . life changing.  Something that sets you free . . .

That happened to me today . . . the truth is that this epiphany has been years in the making, but several things happened to day that brought the puzzle of life into sharp focus. I’m going to share with you what happened to me today.  I don’t expect you to understand my extreme reaction.  Some of you will absolutely understand . . . others will think something like “Duh!” . . . others might not get it at all.  None of those reactions will bother or surprise me.  The only reaction I’m not looking forward to is from those who will think they ‘get it’ when they really don’t, but there’s nothing I can do about anyone’s reaction to what I have to say.  It doesn’t matter anyway.

A friend on Facebook posted a blog by Hugh Hollowell.  Mr. Hollowel is the director of Love Wins Ministries where he loves the poor and homeless of his city.  I shared his post on my Facebook page, commenting that I thought it was the best thing I’d read on the subject of poverty.  His words echoed my heart about what the Christian response to the poor should be.  I’m no expert on the subject, but I have read more on it than the average person.  This blog post was the perfect summary of it all.  Here is an excerpt from Mr. Hollowel’s post:

“We like to see our prosperity, our good family, our happy lives, our full stomachs as signs of God’s favor, as evidence of our doing “the right things”.
But if that is the case, then I have a few questions:
Why did I grow up in a house with parents who loved me, who passed on a work ethic and taught me how to dream, how to set goals, how to love? I had nothing to do with it – it just happened. I was in the right place at the right time.
Why did my friend Danny grow up in a house where his mamma’s boyfriend beat him with a fan belt, where his mom had to sell her body to survive after Daddy went to jail and where the only male role model in his life was the local pimp? He didn’t pick that life. He was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
When it comes to the economically poor, you need to realize you are not better than these people – you are not smarter, you are not more in God’s favor, you are not more virtuous. You aren’t better, you are just better off.”  Please, please, PLEASE read his entire blog post . . . there is much more there than just what I’ve shared, and it really is full of truth that we all need to hear, painful thogh it may be.  You can find it here – http://www.hughlh.com/why-are-these-people-poor/

I went into the rest of my day with his words echoing in my heart and mind.  I’ve been busy with several projects around the house, and I was frustrated that no one has been terribly enthusiastic about helping me.  I decided to take a break from it all and go see a movie by myself.  At seven o’clock I found myself in a darkened theater enjoying an Americano and a Reese’s peanut butter cup.  I checked myself in on Facebook and settled down to watch the latest Woody Allen flic, “To Rome With Love”.

It’s been years since I’ve seen any of Woody Allen’s movies.  Honestly, when I think of Woody Allen, I always see him as a sperm.  “What if he’s masturbating?  I could end up on the ceiling?”  Okay, that was a bit crass, but you’re not really surprised, are you?  After all, you’re reading MY blog, and I’m writing about Woody Allen . . . anyway, it’s a great movie, if you’re inclined to see it.  My take-away was something I’ve been pondering and lamenting for a long time – nothing matters.  Think about that for a minute.  Nothing matters.  Nothing that we think is important is really important at all.  Nothing that we have created on this earth will endure.

I have to mentioned one last thing that figures prominently in this epiphany.  Not long ago a tragic drama unfolded in front of me.  A young life close to my family unexpectedly flew from this earth and into the arms of God.  I don’t have to tell you all the swirling thoughts and emotions than come when something like this happens.  It doesn’t make sense.  There is no way to make it make sense.  But it happened.  And it happens all over this planet every day of every year since the dawn of time.  Death is a fact of life that we will all face.

The convergence of my life experience to this point into a single day, Saturday, July 7, 2012, is this – the only thing that matters in this earthly life is how well we love.  It doesn’t matter who we are, what we do, or how long we live.  All that matters is how well we love the people around us.

Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that that’s all there is.  Yeah, okay . . . “nothing matters” . . . some ephiphany, right?  All I can tell you is that when I left the theater, lights were brighter . . . music was better . . . I was amazingly energized.  The thought that nothing mattered didn’t leave me in despair – it set me free.  I put on my headphones and played one of my favorite songs, one of those songs that you take into your soul and make a part of you.  And I loved it even more than I did before, because it didn’t matter.  I was free to play it and love it and dance to it and enjoy it . . . I am free!  I made a couple of stops on the way home, just wishing for someone to smile at, someone to talk to, to connect with . . . because nothing mattered – not what I looked like, what clothes I was wearing, what they looked like, whether or not they were nice to me . . . it didn’t matter if the guy in front of me on the road drove too slow, or if someone pulled out in front of me . . . it just didn’t matter!  It doesn’t matter if someone agrees with me or disagrees with me, loves me or hates me, treats me well or treats me poorly.  It doesn’t matter if they are like me or different from me, if they are male or female, gay or straight, black, white, yellow, brown, red, green or purple.  Our differences really, really, REALLY, don’t matter.  What matters is love.

I am free to make the most of the life that has been given to me.  I am free to let others do the same, without judgement.  I am free to love and accept myself, and offer that same love and acceptance to others.  I can relax and love others freely, without pretense, without selfish motives, without fear.  I don’t have to protect myself, and others shouldn’t have to protect themselves from me.  I am free to love, because nothing else matters.  And that is a freedom worth celebrating.  And a life worth living.

My Manifesto


Hello, interested parties . . . since your reading my blog, I assume you are interested in what I have to say.  For this post, I have copied and pasted my final exam in my intro to philosophy class.  At the end of it all, this is what I believe, making references to what I have learned in class . . .

 My Manifesto
            What is being?  What is real?  Why do we exist?  These are but a few of the questions philosophers have been asking for thousands of years.  It occurs to me as I ponder them that these questions have something in common – they all begin with us.    What does it mean to be human?  Why am I not like the grass or the flowers or the animals?   If I am sentient and intelligent enough to ask philosophical questions, to be curious about the world around me, that certainly sets me apart from the rest of the natural world.  My ability to raise my head above the flora and fauna of the earth, look toward the sky and somehow reach out with my mind or my soul to whatever is out there is, in my view, what makes me different from all of creation.  Descartes spoke truly those high-sounding words:  “Cogito ergo sum.”  “I think, therefore I am.”  I can think, understand, feel, and dream.  I am not simply a creature of instinct or drives.  I think, therefore I know that I exist.
Plato thought the highest form of knowledge was obtained through the use of reason.  Though I value reason quite highly, I must diverge from Plato on this point – if my own ability to reason is the highest form of knowledge that I may obtain, I am much to be pitied.  Humans in and of themselves are too small; they are incomplete.  Whatever I learn or think or know is still but a cup of water drawn from a vast sea whose end is beyond my ability to see.  Like Thomas Aquinas I believe there are mysteries which lie beyond our ability to comprehend through reason alone.  The ability to reason certainly defines us as human beings in a very significant way, but reason will only take us part way on this journey.
            As we look at the world around us it becomes obvious that we are looking out at it from a particular perspective.  We cannot really see ourselves as we are; we can only see our reflection.  We can look down at our hands or our feet, but we cannot really look at ourselves in the same way we look out at the larger world.  We are a part of it, but we are trapped inside our physical bodies.  We can interact with it, but we cannot escape the view from behind our eyes.  We are caged by our biases, locked up by our experiences of our world, or the lack thereof.  We are utterly captured, believing that humankind is somehow the center of the universe.  We shout our philosophical questions out into the universe, but we have no choice but to find the answers within ourselves.  They will resonate with our personal thoughts, our preconceived notions, our angst, our bigotry, our loves, and our hatred.  The answers will be tainted, infused with the particular odor of each one of us.  Bacon’s Idols are inescapable.  There will be no real answer, no real truth revealed from this heap of human thoughts, though there may be hints of it, faint shadows of truth and illumination.  We are condemned to access only a small portion of the available knowledge of the universe.  I must look beyond my own reason, beyond myself to discover truth that stands apart from my unique thoughts about it.  I must always be on my guard against infusing ‘knowledge’ or ‘truth’ with my own prejudices.
            Though it is good to approach philosophical questions with some measure of skepticism, I believe it is folly to be entirely skeptical.  If I really thought I couldn’t know anything about anything there would be no point in thinking at all about anything!  To follow the path of the Academics, to believe that “all things are inapprehensible”, or to suspend judgment as the Pyrrhonists did is to live life as a child, without understanding our place in the world or our affect on it.  We would doom ourselves to always thinking but to no end.  I will take the path of the modified skeptic:  there are a great many things we can know, but we must always approach philosophical questions with humility, understanding that there are will always be a great many things we do not know.  Even what I think I know must be reanalyzed in the light of new evidence.  I must never be guilty of the serious error of assuming that what I think I know is all there is to know.
            Moral judgments must have a foundation apart from what human beings decide is ‘good’ or ‘right’.  The Idols of the Tribe, the Cave, the Market Place, and the Theatre are intricately interwoven into the very fabric of our thinking and our understanding, rendering our judgments less than perfect, to say the least.  If something is ‘good’, it must be good because it is, in fact, good, not because someone has declared it to be so.  Humankind may look upon the good and agree that it is good, but that declaration does not make it good.  I believe that in Plato’s forms, we see a shadow of a much greater truth.  ‘Good’ does exist out there somewhere; I believe that God exists and is good.  Everything we call ‘good’ on the earth is a shadow of God’s goodness.
            I do believe in God; to do otherwise would be an affront to my intelligence.  The entire universe is filled with a beauty and complexity that assaults both our senses and our minds.  As beings who thrive on creativity and invention, it is unthinkable that all we see around us simply popped into being without benefit of a creative genius beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  To believe that everything came from nothing without benefit of a supreme intelligence is to place human beings once again at the center of the universe, a grievous error for anyone who values intellect and reason, in my view.  For humankind to believe that there is no being or intelligence greater than ourselves is to believe that we are the pinnacle of intelligence, the center of the universe.  This, in my view, is folly.  The incredible complexity of life on this planet gives weight to the teleological argument, I think.  Thousands upon thousands of life forms exist on this planet in balanced, symbiotic relationships.  The earth glides strategically around the sun, and all of life on this planet could not exist if its position were off to the smallest degree.  Earth alone has everything that is necessary for life to flourish here:  atmosphere, solar energy, water, and more.  The evidence for the intelligent design argument is heavily weighted in its favor, in my opinion.
            Humankind will never be able to ‘prove’ that God exists or that God does not exist.  There is no perfectly logical argument on either side of the debate.  Therefore the best that we can do is to examine what we perceive to be the ‘evidence’ and decide for ourselves what we will believe.  This is no way speaks to ‘truth’, because truth is what it is, irrespective of our opinions, evidence, experience, or belief.  When we talk about what we believe, we are not talking about what is true.  We are simply talking about what we have decided to believe is true, given the evidence.  Only those who are committed to logic can rightfully be said to have weighed the evidence and come to an educated conclusion.  Everyone chooses what to believe; they either believe that God exists, that God does not exist, or that they do not or cannot know whether God exists or not. To ‘believe’ because one has made a thorough investigation and come to a personal conclusion is admirable.  To ‘believe’ because you’ve always believed or because your culture has taught you to believe is irresponsible. 
            It is my sincere belief that free will is God’s crowning gift to humankind, but man is not entirely free.  There is much about my existence that is outside of my control – the place and time of my birth, my ethnic background, my genetic characteristics, my parents, the circumstances of my family, their socio-economic status, financial situation, etc.  Freedom and ultimate control are not the same thing, neither are they mutually exclusive in my opinion.  The raising of children provides us with a good example.  Children are born into families every day.  No one asks their thoughts or permissions.  They enter a world that was already constructed.  Little clothes have been bought for them, special furniture has been procured, and shelves are lined with books, toys, and all manner of items deemed necessary, all without their consultation.  They grow in the environment provided for them, exercising their little free wills within pre-set boundaries.  “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue one today?”  “Do you want waffles or cereal for breakfast?”  As they grow in their ability to reason, they begin to understand that there are consequences associated with the exercise of their free wills.  “”You chose to come home one hour after curfew last night; therefore you have lost your precious electronic devices for one week.”  The fact that I cannot choose the color of my eyes or the time period into which I was born does not mean I do not possess free will.  Neither does the fact that there are consequences to my actions.  It simply means that I exercise my free will within a pre-ordained framework.  It means that I am part of an ordered universe.  If I plant a sunflower seed I expect to grow a sunflower.  If I neglect it, I can expect it to die.  My free will does not demand the ability to plant whatever I want and grow sunflowers anyway, or that I be relieved of gardening tasks yet see big, beautiful sunflowers.  I do not raise my gloved hand and shake my trowel at the heavens, upset because I do not have free will or that I reaped what I sowed.  I had all the freedom in the world to plant whatever I wanted, cooperating with the sun, rain, and soil (which I did not create) and, finally, receiving the reward of my labors.
 I do not believe God’s foreknowledge cancels out our free will.  God’s knowledge of what is going to happen before it happens has much more to do with the concept of time.  If God exists outside of time, the terms ‘past’, ‘present’, and ‘future’ have no context for him/her.  In my opinion, the trouble comes in when we try to combine human existence within linear time and God’s existence outside of linear time.  God may have fore-ordained that before my life is over I will have skinned a cat, but there are many ways to skin a cat, and I believe he allows me great freedom of choice as to how to go about it.  I am both blessed with free will and cursed.  Blessed, because God wants to see me explore, create, and flourish because of it, cursed, because I alone will bear responsibility for the consequences of those choices.
Political philosophy brings up many difficult questions.  My foundational belief is that good government is government that works for everyone.  I am not concerned about whether that government is ‘big’ or ‘small’.  My concern is that we create within our societies truly level playing fields in which every person’s life contains the core ingredients of human dignity.  The ‘capabilities approach’, introduced by Martha Nussbaum, focuses more on desirable outcomes than on specific just procedures to achieve those outcomes.  A few examples of those ingredients are the ability to live a life of normal length in good health, the freedom to move about safe from violent assault, and to be able to laugh and play and enjoy recreational opportunities.  In these examples we can see the priorities of the availability of healthcare and an adequate police force to maintain the safety and peace of society at large.
In contrast, Robert Nozick’s libertarian views place the rights on individuals on a higher plane than the right of society collectively.    While I absolutely believe in personal liberty, I do not believe that liberty is absolute.  I live in a world surrounded by people with whom I must interact on a daily basis – at the counter at Starbucks, at the grocery store check-out, in classrooms, restrooms, traffic lights, in my own home.  Only if I were to live alone on a desert island without need of other people could I proclaim my individual liberty as paramount above all else.  I believe human beings are social creatures, whether they are extroverts or introverts – we all need each other to survive.  In contrast, Ayn Rand believed that rights are vested in the individual, never in the group, and that the state exists to protect individual rights.  There is no philosophy that I loathe more than that of Rand; her Darwinian philosophy which exalts the brilliant and creative above the unthinking, undeserving masses denies the value of every person in society.  It is elitist, proud, and unworkable.
In summary, I believe in a good God who exists both in our world and in a cloud of mystery just beyond it.  I believe in the innate creativity and beauty of individual people and in our responsibility to each other and to our planet.  I believe in our collective ability to create a just, peaceful, and beautiful world.

Alice and the Big Blank White Board


January one . . . the new year stands before me like a giant, blank white board.  I am small before it, my hands filled with markers of every color.  I don’t know what to write . . . draw . . . create . . . My heart is excited with the possibilities of the new year . . . and pained at the remembrance of failures of times past.  The blank board looms . . . like Alice, I shrink ever smaller. 

The truth is that the board isn’t blank.  This year has not yet been written, but an outline created by all the decisions of my life up to this point forms the framework of it.  That makes some decisions easier . . . I don’t have to find a husband or have some children!  But everything I have done so far, everything I have become is not everything I will be.  My life is far from over.

So I look toward this blank year ahead of me, thinking about the things I want to accomplish, the ways I want to change.  Here’s what I’ve decided to do about my so-called “New Year’s Resolutions”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” 
This quote, often attributed to Nelson Mandela, is actually by Marianne Williams.  I am a great lover of quotes, but this one is my very favorite.  With these courageous and powerful words in mind, I make my list of ‘resolutions’.
1.  No fear – never let fear stop you from doing anything, big or small.
2.  Accept yourself as you are – give yourself the same grace and acceptance you would want from others.
3.  Believe the truth about yourself – choose to believe what God says about you, and refuse to believe anything else.
4.  Let the light of the real you shine – be exactly who you are, even if it’s scary.
5.  Choose to see the light in everyone around you – everyone wants others to ‘see the art’ in them; be the one to see it and call it out in the people around you.
So there we have it . . . No Fear, Accept, Believe, Shine, See.
Happy New Year, everyone!