Friday, August 19, 2011

7QTF: Points of View




'7 Quick Takes Friday' is a sharing situation generously started by Jen Fulwiler who blogs at 'Conversion Diaryand who also writes a column for the National Catholic Register.

Anyone participating in this blogging exercise submits a link of their post to Jen's site (so the traffic at Jen's blog might rub off on your own), and link back to Jen's post from here (where, besides Jen's great blog, you'll find a delightful list of other blogs to choose from for your reading pleasure).

Here's today's offering:

7 Points of View...
 
1.

Outside My Window:


Is a world with which I find myself increasingly at odds... yet one with which I feel an almost desperation to connect. A funny paradox, that.

I wonder how Christ handled this... in as much as he could see into the heart of our humanity, His divinity must have left Him feeling very much at odds... and yet because of that same divinity and humanity, he was obviously driven by who he was to connect with us.

I live on a very busy street corner, in a largely economically depressed area of my city. My window affords me a view I don't always want to see, yet I'm grateful for it, because I am never allowed to forget who I am created to be, and in whose name I am called.

My window shows me a world that needs my faith and compassion... I respond to the invitation... and I pray.


2.

In My Mind's Eye:

When I was first learning to drive I found it impossible to keep the car literally in my own lane, and on the road, until my Dad offered a simple observation: "Don't look at the front of the car, look to where you are going."

Though he doesn't realize it, my Dad gave me more than a driving lesson that day... I came to understand my life will reflect that toward which I consistently turn my gaze. Items which caught my gaze this week, and which I continue to ponder in the context of my own life, include:

At Accepting Abundance (isn't that blog name just the best... anybody else besides me have trouble doing just that?!):
"...when I focus on what transcends me I'm free from what misguides me."

Emerging Mummy speaks to my on-going struggle to give voice to the deepest groanings of my heart and soul:
"...let Love be my first language, my mother tongue whether its communicated in English or a thousand tongues for only angels to hear."

Beside Myself:

An aspect of the blogosphere that I am having trouble negotiating are those issues and topics that upset and, sometimes, literally TRASH  my equilibrium... but to which I am inexorably drawn... like a moth to a flame. These are issues I carry deeply in my soul... issues over which I weep, lose sleep... and, rightly or wrongly, the altar upon which I sacrifice peace. And that's why I can't talk about them just yet... I haven't found my love language in which to speak the words I need to say, such they are heard by those who most need to hear them. For now I'll just point with trembling hand:

4.

Underneath My Bed:

School looms on the imminent horizon - there are only ten days left until I have six hours a day all to myself and... honestly... I'm dreading it. I know that sounds bizarre to those of you who have several children, but I love the happy bubble the Divine Miss O and I create together. I struggle when she's at school: I hate that I don't really know what or who is writing on her mind and heart. Even though she is only beginning second grade, we know that there is a lot that won't be good for her tender soul, and which will bruise her budding sensibilities.... it's taken a good part of the summer to erase the harm from last year. Sigh.

The Divine Miss O had a very difficult year and we, her parents, had a horrible year doing all we could to make it less so. Yet she LOVES school (you wouldn't believe the explaining I had to do when she realized she could have started at age 4)... even though it raises her anxiety level to the point of making her physically ill. Yet... we have new strategies in place, the school is aware and prepared to be more supportive and attentive to our concerns, prayers have been said to cover every aspect of concern, and off to school she will go.

I stopped checking for monsters under my bed when I realized they were inside me... I also realized... so are the knights who slay them.






5.

Behind My Back:

This isn't a viewpoint I normally spend a lot of time thinking about (and one which most people usually perceive as negative), but it's been an interesting summer. My perceptions of myself, my daughter, Catholicism, the church, my faith, people I thought I knew have been challenged and, surprisingly, found to be somewhat different than I considered... in primarily good and delightful ways. Much has been going on behind my back of which I've failed to take notice.

So, I'm inclined to ask myself: "What is it I am eally seeing here (doing my best to suspend the judgements which rise so readily)?" "What is really going on when I'm not looking?" "To what am I paying attention?" "Does that to which I attend reflect my priorities?"

I don't have clear answers to these questions as such, but I'm going to be exploring them here. I'll keep you posted (pun intended).




6.

Atop My Night Table:

I read to challenge, myself, entertain myself, escape, inform, grow. Books have always been my very best friends, my consolation, my joy. Books are touchstones in my life. Every August I place an Amazon order for books I want to read over the course of the next year starting in September. My order arrived this week!

Spencer's Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Promise of God by David Shapiro
The Man With No Skin by Orfhlaith Ni Chonaill
Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
Seventy Times Seven by Salvatore Sapienza
The Harrowing of Hell by Stephen Seal
Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin (now a bit suspect, and marginally less attractive: check this out: Questions Over Greg Mortenson's Stories)
Mistress of the Vatican by Eleanor Herman
Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly



7.

From Within My Heart:

"Grace isn't a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It's a way to live."
Attributed to JACQUELINE WINSPEAR

A few things for which I am grateful this week:
  • a good natured and loving husband
  • a healthy, GROWING daughter
  • my sense of humour
  • that somehow I'm going into the weekend with my laundry all caught up
  • choices (have you ever noticed how some people have so few?)
  • kittens
  • everybody I love is alive and well... others haven't been so blessed
  • music
  • the moon keeping watch
  • supermarkets
  • raspberries
  • fresh figs
  • tomatoes
  • stories
  • my body, even in all its imperfections
  • the wonder that is the Internet, and bloggers in general



...all to the soundtrack of my week:
Love Reclaims the Atmosphere by Burlap to Cashmere:



"Send blessings to your critics and careful with the least of these
Release the prisoners free...
today we'll crucify the fear as love reclaims the atmosphere"


...until the next dance!




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dancing: An Important Lesson


















An old prospector named Charlie shuffled into town leading an old tired mule.

The old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat.

He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail. As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, "Hey old man, have you ever danced?"

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance... never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, "Well, you old fool, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old man's feet.

The old prospector --not wanting to get a toe blown off—started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet. Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers.

The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air.

The crowd stopped laughing immediately.

The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly. The silence was almost deafening.

The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands, as he quietly said, "Son, have you ever licked a mule's ass?

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No sir... but... I've always wanted to."

There are a few lessons for us all here:
  • Never be arrogant.
  • Don't waste ammunition.
  • Whiskey (or pride, or anger) makes you think you're smarter than you are.
  • Always, always make sure you know who you're talking to.
  • Be certain you're making the point you intend.
  • Make sure you're prepared for a response.
  • Don't mess with old people... they didn't get old by being stupid.


...until the next dance!

Dancing in the Rain... and Beyond

























This past year of my life has left me feeling rather brutalized on so many levels...

I've struggled to keep my sanity, my sense of joy, and a sense of order in my life through grave illness, pestilence, flood, and persecution... and I'm not sure I'm winning, overall.

We're a year post flood and I'm still struggling mightily to pull myself and my home together. In many ways, my capacity for the dance was so much greater a year ago. Right now it seems to me that I've forgotten the steps.

Perhaps reflecting back will help me move forward...

July, 2010: From 'Daily Word':

I think the Holy Spirit lives in my inbox... this came to me in the midst of the flooding:
"Standing in the fullness of my true nature, I am free. 
I am free. What a powerful statement! By speaking these three simple words, I create the space for true freedom in my life. I release the chains of the past and invite the possibilities of the future.
To be free is to no longer stand in a place of pain, anger and hurt but to move forward into peace, joy and happiness. It is as simple as choosing to accept my divine birthright of freedom rather than the restrictions I have accepted as truth. 
I am a spiritual being, unhampered by the limitations of the world. I am free. No longer do I buy into a limited story of my life. Instead, I stand in the fullness of my true nature. I accept that in Spirit and in Truth, I am absolutely and unconditionally free." 
This pushed my buttons on a number of levels... and brought into sharp focus much of what was going on inside of me throughout this current upheaval in my life (illness and pestilence continue, and now flood... I can't wait to see what comes next).

As we face what began as a potentially incomprehensible and inconsolable loss, I did something different from my usual... instead of trying to defend my perimeters, my possessions, my rights, my home.... I stood with my arms wide open and took it all in, without judgement, just as it was happening...

...I stood in the middle of the street in the unnatural dark of power failure in the city, in water up to my knees, and I let myself fully feel my helplessness and fear.

...I talked and argued out loud with God, and told him just exactly what I thought about this whole affair... no editing.

...I celebrated the lightening and the thunder as it shook my corner of the world. Remember that scene in Forest Gump when Lieutenant Dan is hanging from the crow's-nest railing at God as the storm tries to tear everything apart? I felt a little like that.

...I allowed my not so wee daughter (I've seen a maturity and understanding in her these last few days I would have never expected) stand beside me the whole night and share in the process of managing fear and awe (and LAUGHING despite everything)... because, despite the destruction, there is something inarguably awesome in the force of nature... it reminds me of how small I am, and just how very big God is. It puts things in perspective in ways nothing else can.

...I drove around the next day taking in the magnitude of what hit the city... for the first time in my memory there were parts of my city that were impassable for days because of water that isn't usually there... in the heartland, hundreds of miles away from oceans and incomprehensibly big water, we were suddenly and inexplicably submerged.

...I went about my business actively seeking out opportunities to speak to people about their experience in the midst of all of this... I refused to be too busy with my own concerns to connect with the experience of others.

...I didn't rush to put everything 'right' as best I could, I actually paused long enough to ask whether or not absolutely everything should be restored, or if in fact some things were better off lost, because I now see very clearly that we hold onto a lot of things for very wrong reasons.

I allowed people to see who I really am without apology... embarrassments (there were many), and grace-FULL-ness combined... and in not hiding the embarrassments, God's grace shone through me so much more brightly (there is no dignity in subterfuge). I stopped apologizing for myself, nor did I wrap myself in a blanket of angering and defensive behaviours. As a result, I believe, I experienced compassion beyond my current understanding; and as I felt so soothed by that compassion and gentleness in the face of my emotional and even physical nakedness (there is so much about my house that still reflects my insecurities and short-comings... I still have not caught up with the things that overwhelmed me while recovering from my brain injury, and people needed access behind my carefully arranged facade), I felt compassion and gentleness for myself and others rise up more strongly in my own heart.

This time I didn't, in any way, strive for some sense of control over what was happening.

I didn't worry about being smart... I tried to learn.

I didn't seek to know... I sought to understand.

I didn't try to fix anything... I struggled to move forward and beyond.

I struggled to lay aside my sense of loss, and embrace an attitude of opportunity.

I chose (sometimes just barely, and moment by moment) to respond from a place of trust, faith and abundance... rather than react from a place of fear, disappointment, need.

These past two weeks, instead of focusing on and fussing over the work we had to do, while I worked I focused on the people around me... my family, and these strangers who were now intimately engaged in my life (they held my heart - and in some moments my soul - in their hands as they cleaned up beside me)... I learned their names, I asked them about their lives, I listened to their stories... I wanted to understand what sort of person makes it their life's work to muck out detritus under the worst circumstances.

The Hazmat crew that mucked out our house were unbelievable. Seeing these men on the street, or in a bar, or in the tattoo parlour, no one would guess at the depth of humour, compassion, respect, and dignity that lives within them. They handled us, as well as every piece of our lives that they touched, with utmost care and respect. They didn't just clean up our mess, they made us feel better. I have never felt safer and more loved in the midst of strangers... nor did I feel my usual need to control every aspect of what was happening.

I now know what angels look like...
...angels sometimes look like people to whom I would not give a second glance, or that I might possibly even avoid in the midst of my daily meanderings.
...angels wear rubber boots, and loudly shout, "Let's go make a difference, boys!" as they do exactly that.
...angels eyes twinkle no matter the circumstances.
...angels are sometimes older, crusty, German gents who smoke Export A cigarettes.
...angels teach you while they save you.
...angels don't need you to explain just how hurt you are.
...angels see the best of you and don't concern themselves with your shortcomings.

Additionally, I believe I've finally come to a place where I understand the distinction between possessions and relationships. I believe hoarders and pack rats may be people overwhelmed by fears and grief.

Much of my life I've had a tendency to hang on to too much. As I've developed relationships which are fulfilling and healing and truly supportive, I've been able to let go of more things. As I nurture a truer and more compassionate relationship with myself I let go of even more 'stuff'. As I fill my life with joy, and love, and meaningful activity, material possessions seem to matter less and less... and those things which remain important are part and parcel of the means by which I can offer sanctuary and peace to others.

I found that it wasn't so hard to lose anything this time around... and I still don't have a significant attachment to pictures (though we didn't lose any). The piece of my life that delighted me the most as I came across it in the mess was a note I saved in a file cabinet (where everything was lost... all 4 two-drawer cabinets)... a note I wrote to the babysitter when  The Divine Miss O was around 14 months old. I read it over and over again delighting in the picture I painted of my daughter with my words.

I also discovered that I didn't grieve the loss of anything that related to any relationship where I have achieved peace. I didn't need any evidence of relationship... yes, some of the things were beautiful gifts... but they paled in light of the relationship. I am now free to stand on my own. I no longer need things or possessions to define me, to validate me, to express me. I simply am... despite and separate from anything I keep around me.

I now understand something in a way I couldn't before... we will have freedom, liberty and peace for all in the world when we can learn to live it fully for ourselves, and carry it within our own hearts moment by moment.













The Divine Miss O brought to me a bouquet a few weeks ago. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and when she asked what sort of flower they were, I told her truthfully that they were stink weeds. She drooped with disappointment and wrinkled her nose as she gave them a suspicious sniff. It was then I invited her to notice that even though they didn't smell all that great, the leaves and seed pods were heart shaped... dozens and dozens of tiny little hearts (for despite their reputation as weeds, stink weeds are rather delicate and  lacy).

Next came her inevitable question, "WHY?!" I smiled and told her that the leaves were heart-shaped because God has a rich sense of humour, and he never misses an opportunity to remind us just how very much he loves us no matter how much life may try to show us otherwise. The stink weeds held a place of honour in a pretty glass until they could do so no more.

So, if you find yourself surrounded by stink weeds, gather in a bouquet, and in the words of one angel, as he returned to work in our home after too little sleep, and likely not many of his own needs being fully or even adequately met, "Let's go make a difference, people!"


...until the next dance!





Sunday, August 14, 2011

7QTF: A Day Late...


So, for anyone new to this sort of thing (like me), '7 Quick Takes Friday' is a sharing situation generously started by Jennifer Fulwiler ("an atheist all my life until 2005.... now I write about what it's like to be part of an orthodox faith after a life of nonbelief."), who blogs at 'Conversion Diary' and who also writes a column for the National Catholic Register.

Anyone participating in this blogging exercise submits a link of their post to Jen's site (so the traffic at Jen's blog might rub off on your own), and link back to Jen's post from here (where, besides Jen's great blog, you'll find a delightful list of other blogs to choose from for your reading pleasure).

So here I go:


7 Reasons Why I didn't write this Friday...

1.

I was taking a picture of my daughter with this beautiful bird - a Harris Hawk - which, I learned yesterday, actually belongs to the reptile family - feathers are modified scales!

We watched this majestic bird swoop down and help herself to a mouse graciously offered by her handler, Kevin, as part of a wonderful presentation by a traveling unit of Ray's Reptiles.

We got to see - very 'up close and personal' - a crocodile who curiously sniffed at our feet, a huge snapping turtle (that grinned toothlessly at us before peeing on the floor and then literally RUNNING away in embarrassment), a 'baby' albino constrictor from South America (which was already 20 ft. long and almost as thick as my leg - contrary to the movies, constrictors will not harm humans because we don't smell like food to them!), and a lizard that hugged the handler with a tail that rivalled the agility of a monkey's tail.

They were wonderfully and fearfully made, and we were mesmerized.

2.

I was counting the number of darts it took (six) to break one balloon in order to afford the Divine Miss O her pick of stuffies. Picking ducks out of a paddling pool has been her game of choice the last several years (every duck wins). This year, it seems, a greater challenge was required.

She had not yet had the experience of throwing darts. As she awkwardly clutched the a dart in her still little hand, brow furrowed in concentration, she bit her lip a little and she threw it as if she just wanted to get rid of it. It was sharp... pointy... and she wasn't supposed to play with sharp, pointy things. With each successive dart, her grip relaxed and became more effective. She seemed to grow taller as she found her aim....

'Grace', a very pink bear, was carried lovingly home and is happily ensconced as part of the family: "Mom, Grace is such a special bear that I fell asleep just like this (closes her eyes and snap her fingers)!" It couldn't possibly have had anything to do with being one in the morning... about four hours past her bedtime....

I treasure the moments when I can actually see her grow.


3.

I was celebrating the Divine Miss O's first five minutes of fame!

Freddy Fusion invited her onto the stage of his science magic show. It wasn't Freddy's best day... his sound kept cutting out, his duck (Bill!) escaped and needed to be rescued by him personally because it seems his crew was on coffee break... but he was a pro, and so was my girl.

Much to my surprise, nothing distracted her from her task. She stepped way out of what I knew to be her comfort zone to be part of something that made her eyes sparkle. And, did her eyes sparkle when she returned to us to see herself on her Dad's phone LEVITATING for all of her world to see! I've seen this trick a dozen times or so, but it never felt so quite so magical.

My daughter wasn't the only one levitating a bit.

4.

I was agog at four foals close enough to touch, and Mamas that were happy to let us do so! We fed them oats out of ice cream cones, delighted in their soft noses as they nuzzled for more, and fuzzy coats... I'm not at all sure who was petting who.

The Divine Miss O and I pet every one... after all it was a petting zoo.

5.

I was eating caramel apples... or rather, aniticipating the eating of three carmel apples I purchased, to be featured as the main attraction at breakfast for the next three days. Yep, you read that right... I'm going to eat a carmel apple for breakfast every morning for the next three days. I'll eat it with a bowl of unsweetened steel cut oats and a glass of milk. Apples are fruit, and therefore nutritious, right?

Fruit is an appropriate part of a balanced breakfast. ;)


6.

I was riding the ferris wheel (in Kidsville - smaller version) with the Divine Miss O... just the two of us. It's a yearly event. The first time we did this I was terrified (rides made me terribly ill), but she wanted to go so badly, and my legs fit better than her Dad's.

As we neared the top during the loading phase of the ride, the bucket started to ROCK, and my anxiety began to rise, when I suddenly had a soft, little hand in mine squeezing. I assumed the owner of said hand was getting nervous, but before I could say anything to reassure her, she happily comments, "It's okay if you're scared, Mommy. I'll take care of you."

Well, I've overcome my anxieties about the height factor (at least in Kidsville) and, incidentally, my motion sickness. I now look forward to the ride and, every year as we near the top, loading and unloading, we two share secrets we didn't know we had.

We're creating a history... one ride at a time.


7.

I was riding the carousel... seven times... The Divine Miss O's favourite ride. Maybe it's the horses... or perhaps the music. Or perhaps it's because we can all ride together... she on a horse, and her Dad and I cuddled in a carriage. She watches us, grinning for ear to ear. We watch her grinning likewise.

We went to the Ex! ...our local version of a summer carnival and exposition of talent, services, products, and entertainment. It's been the Divine Miss O's most anticipated family outing since she was three!

The result? One very HAPPY family!




Don't forget to go visit Jen!


...until the next dance!



Friday, August 12, 2011

The sound you hear...





















...is my hand slapping my forehead.

I came across a petition today, via a Facebook page, which leaves me unable to decide if I should laugh or cry'. It states:
"In this horrific age of LGBT kids taking their own lives, they need to know that they ARE BEAUTIFUL and their lives are worth living. Aside from those that are committing suicide, the bullies that facilitate these tragedies need to learn that homophobia is NOT okay. They need to know that acceptance of their fellow human beings would indeed plant a seed of peace that will reverberate throughout the world. We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful. Only that they allow Bert & Ernie to marry or even add a transgender character to the show. It can be done in a tasteful way. Let us teach tolerance of those that are different."

I hope that sound I hear is your hand slapping your forehead.

I didn't grow up with Sesame Street (yes, I'm that old*). It appeared on my horizon when I was about fifteen. I very occasionally watched it with kids when I babysat and, young as I was, I realized I was in the presence of greatness. The show was unlike anything I had ever seen. It treated kids like people with their own ideas and with a valued perspective in the world. Generally, that wasn't something I was used to seeing. Sesame Street celebrated all that was wondrous about a child-like mentality, without patronising... and the songs were catchy! Not having regularly watched the show, I am still able to laugh like The Count, sing Rubber Ducky in its entirety, and 'grouchy' has a depth of meaning in my mind nobody could guess at.

Yet, I am now SO GLAD my daughter has never seen Sesame Street. And it's not because I think the producers would necessarily 'go there' at this point but because, given enough time and distance from the creation of the show, I can see how they certainly could. If the petitioner's Facebook wall is anything to go by, that time isn't as far off as I would like, and I don't want her anywhere near the possibility.

Sesame Street is aimed at children under the age of six. At this age developmentally, children are barely distinguishing between boys and girls other than to sometimes note a slight difference in anatomy. They aren't concerned with gender, sexual orientation, or marriage. A girl is likely to say 'I want to marry my mom' when I grow up. Boys are likely to want to wear barrettes and dresses like the older sister they idolize. I've seen little boys at this age pretend to have babies and breastfeed, and little girls pretend to pee with their 'penis'. At the risk of being accused of over-simplification, but for the purpose of clarity regarding what I mean, parents overly anxious to 'fix' their daughter will react by stuffing their tomboy into dresses, and will push her to play with dolls. Parents overly anxious to demonstrate their enlightenment will begin 'encouraging' their boy to wear dresses all of the time if that's what he wants and, lest they appear bigoted, will get rid of the 'boy toys'. Unfortunately either an attempt to 'fix' or 'encourage' would be a gross over-reaction, and is harmful to the child in question. Instances of child behaviour such as these are not signs of significance regarding gender or sexual orientation, they are simply signs of the gender/sexual neutrality and accepting nature of preschool children.

In her preschool years, my daughter would regularly say things like, "When I grow up I want to be a boy." "When I grow up I'm going to marry Tony (our cat)." "Mom, when can I get a penis?" Lo and behold, a couple of more years have passed and she would now wear a dress and high heels on the soccer field if we would let her, is 'in love' with a boy in the other grade one class who tragically doesn't love her back, and is going to be a fire fighter when she grows up.... and I don't rejoice over, nor do I take these assertions and self-expressions any more seriously than I did the previous ones. I'm still waiting for who she will be forever to emerge... and I will love her through it all and beyond. What I won't do is confuse her with a false sense of choice before it is psychologically and emotionally necessary... and while I encourage her self-expression on every level, I also gently challenge it with the balancing perspective, and through the filter of our faith and the teachings of the Church.

We live too much in a world that has become overly comfortable with pushing adult agendas on children before they are developmentally and psychologically ready to cope with them, or able to internalize them in a healthy way (Toddlers & Tiaras, anyone?). By nature preschool children are already free of judgement, and we are doing them harm by introducing them to, or inviting them to participate in, agendas that wouldn't even occur to them, and are likely to confuse them (why are we making such a big deal out of something that is perfectly obvious to them?).

Going out of our way to disseminate ideas of SSA (Same Sex Attraction) and 'gay rights' at such an innocent and vulnerable age (because Ernie and Bert marrying will inspire questions and thus discussion), is to plant the germ of a seed in children's minds which suggests that gender and sexual orientation are something they can eventually choose (as opposed to discover in themselves). The resulting risk is that they never becoming all they are created to be. I believe it is exactly this which creates difficulties for LGBT kids... they are now growing up in a climate that celebrates their developmental confusion (anything goes... sexuality is completely divorced from responsibility and integrity), rather than within a climate which provides a firm and loving foundation upon which they can constructively struggle. Accepting anything a child presents without question is to imply their questioning doesn't matter... when they instinctively know that it is a big deal. LGBT kids are often indirectly told that their 'orientation' doesn't matter, or that it matters more than their dignity and value as a human being, because everyone around them is either so excited about celebrating diversity, or they are trying to fix them without compassion or respect for the struggle. This would be a cause for depression in anyone, let alone a young and impressionable soul.

And please, don't put words into my mouth... I'm not in any way suggesting that external influences can 'make' a child 'gay'. I'm simply suggesting that irrespective of respect for the dignity of all people, there is a tendency in the minds of many young people today to divorce 'sexual orientation' from sexual expression... they believe it's just fine to 'scratch the itch' with anyone, any time, any place... it's no big deal. Creating an environment where they never have to sort out their inherent developmental confusion because 'it's all good' is as detrimental as is creating an envirment where judgement is feared. In both we are preventing them from ever being fully formed as human beings.

I don’t see this petition as so much a desire to “teach tolerance of those that are different” as it is an attempt to force pandering to a special interest audience (maybe it’s the cynic in me)... and here I'm referring to the parents, not the children. Additionally, bullying is a power issue not a sexual orientation issue, so tolerance of LGBT individuals has little to do with it.  Bullying has more to do with the issues of the bullier, than it does with those being bullied. The petition is confusing two very separate issues.

LGBT kids do need to know that they ARE BEAUTIFUL and their lives are worth living, but this is a wrong-headed approach, and absolutely the wrong platform… and they and other kids (bullies included) don’t need to see more LGBT characters on TV to learn that personhood and dignity are non-negotiable. I don’t need to condone the LGBT lifestyle to love and treat with dignity those who live it and struggle with SSA.

Rather than pandering to special interest agendas, shows for children need to raise the bar… many seem to have lost the wisdom in allowing that if they were to simply espouse the inherent dignity in being human first and foremost, there would be no need to solve all the world’s problems and shape children's characters through specific 'needs' programming. The former charm of Sesame Street, in my opinion, was not it's 'true to life' programming, but it’s ability to teach and witness to values and life without getting mired in the details. The focus needs to be on valuing what we all share in common, and the source of our dignity, not ‘tolerance’ (I actually find this word offensive, trivializing and limiting) for the endless enumeration of characteristics which make any one of us ‘other’ or different or vulnerable.

So, even if Ernie and Bert were gay** (I seriously doubt that was part of the original conceptualization of the characters over 40 years ago)… that isn’t why we love them, or why they draw us into their lives... it’s because they are human and universal FIRST. Ernie and Bert teach more than tolerance... they teach humanity and dignity.***

In the words of a blogger I admire greatly, Steve Gershom:
  • Being gay doesn't mean I'm special or extraordinary
  • Nobody lives without a burden of one kind or another
  • Is it hard to be gay and Catholic? Yes, because like everybody, I sometimes want things that are not good for me. The Church doesn't let me have those things, not because she's mean, but because she's a good mother.
  • I try to make my life a satisfactory answer, to this question and to others: What are people for? What is love, and what does it look like? How do we get past our own selfishness so we can love God and our neighbours and ourselves?
Isn't this what LGBT kids really need... to understand that their sexual orientation isn't the most important quality or characteristic for which they are valued? Don't they need to know they are FIRST amazingly human and universal? Isn't this what we all need (bullies and bullied included)?

...until the next dance!




* I actually came to the realization a couple of weeks ago that I predate Kleenex.

** "Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics...they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."

*** Incidentally, I believe this is where the 'gay pride' movement also misses the mark... they've set the bar too low and made the issue sexual orientation, rather than making it dignity and personhood.

'I'm a Man' an interview with Faith and Family Live!






Thursday, August 11, 2011

Amazing Grace



If you look closely...

...you'll see a tiny person, perched at the opening of that nest. In all it's absurdity (I'd also venture, poignancy), this picture is a jarring metaphor for what is going on in my heart and mind right now. A series of moments today made me realize that sometimes when I believe I'm creating a sense of security for myself, in reality, I'm actually constructing a prison.

Since I started this project of mine (creating a space and repository for my faith journey... and the thoughts and passions I don't know what to do with yet), I've been obsessed with 'setting the stage' for this great adventure to happen:

...carefully defining myself to those who might find their way here
(nipping in the bud any chance that someone might impose their own perception of who I am on me... yes, I do realize how defensive/insecure that sounds... a lifelong struggle that apparently continues)

...anticipating 'issues' and addressing them before they happen
(I've been reading blogs for a very long time and aching along with the most sublime writers every time some troll (aka the kamikaze commenter) comes along and explodes all over their space)

...creating an environment that inspires and feeds me every time I show up here
(I'm a 'nester'... even when I travel a few key personal items must be included in my suitcase: something to read, music that soothes, a picture or two reminding me of who I am*, a light I can control just in case I lose my way or the dark 'there' is too scary or too harsh or less than illuminating, and something soft to wrap around myself in the event that there are no arms available... and I rearrange for my own comfort** whatever space I'm allowed, tangibly defining where I end and everything else begins)

...doing pretty much anything except writing (odd, since this is a BLOG - an organism whose very nature is defined by WRITING).

As I've been planning, and arranging, and rearranging yet again, I've been keeping a list of topics and notes about what I will write when I'm done all of this.

And it's happening again... my enthusiasm for this endeavour is waning. Four years ago I made the mistake of asking a friend what they thought of my newly created space, and they told me. I never went back.

My nesting here tells me that I am struggling madly within that almost indiscernible space between excitement and fear, confidence and insanity, joy and anguish. I know once I start being here I will not be able to stop... I will not be able to put the words back into my head and walk away. People will read those words. Perhaps I don't really want that as much as I think I do.

This all changed a few minutes ago. I read something which moved me to tears, chased the shadows out of my heart and (for now) has inspired me beyond the need for the perfect moment to begin writing here. Today I can't just make a little note with references and go back to arranging 'space' (anybody else hear how ridiculous this sounds?!).

A blogger I follow 'Bad Catholic' is documenting his journey toward World Youth Day. Today he's reminded me about grace:

...how grace requires your uncensored presence, and sometimes going where you didn't plan.

...how the gift of grace requires an act of faith.

...how grace arrives when you least expect it.

...how grace is the language of the universe, and that speaking it doesn't require head knowledge, but a willingness of heart and a receptive soul.

Dancing with God requires a willingness to seek, accept and live the the grace He offers.

So today, I'm just going to be here. I trust grace to meet me.

Please go read Marc's offering, "How to Speak Catholic". It's worth your time. More than anything in my life, I regret not being this sort Catholic in my youth. I regret all I squandered. I'm determined to not repeat myself in this last half of my life.


...until the next dance!



* anybody else forget who they are while they are 'traveling' ?!

** neglecting to receive the gift I'm given (one of my topics with notes)




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

About Comments... An Opportunity to Comment



"You have not converted a man because you have silenced him."
JOHN MORLEY


...if there is an argument or discussion to be had,
it should be about ideas and facts,
not personalities.

While blogging is new adventure, I am not new to the blogosphere.

The most disappointing aspect of blogs, in general, seems to be the miriad of problems associated with offering countless opportunties for anyone to comment about anything and everything, compounded by the added cloak of anonymity that ‘facelessness’ provides. For this reason, I will not allow 'anonymous' commenters a platform through my blog. If you want to comment here - agree or disagree - you are going to have to own your position... even if it is only with a false identity for this purpose.

Additionally, while I remain in awe of the wealth of generosity, and of the depth of the human spirit humbly offered within the realm of blogging, I have also been deeply saddened when subjected to what so many people seem to rationalize as being ‘free speech’ or ‘passionate discourse’ – when in actual fact it is just plain rudeness running rampant. As I've read on many another blog, try to remember that you are visiting what amounts to the cyper equivalent of someone's living room, and conduct yourself accordingly.

While I will always honour anyone’s right to an opinion, I will not support any commentary in which all speakers are not equally respected. If there's an argument/discussion to be had, let it be about ideas and facts, not personalities. It's easy to forget that there is a living, breathing person behind a blog or a comment, and that the person has feelings that can be injured by an unkind, maybe even hateful, word. In the spirit of fostering an atmosphere of generosity, and of reflecting the best of humanity - and to invite the greatest diversity of opinion - I ask that you read the following rules for 'commentary' before commenting.

I very much look forward to sharing many fruitful, challenging, and thought-provoking discussions.



"He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak."
MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE


ALEX AND BRETT HARRIS are Christian teenagers with a passion for God and for their generation. At the age of 16 they founded what has now become one of the fastest growing Christian teen sites on the web today. Following in the footsteps of their family members, 18-year-old Alex and Brett are speaking out for God with a message to their own generation. Recipients of six national championships in high school speech and debate Alex & Brett are applying their gifts in communication to the challenge of exhorting their peers to stop wasting the teen years and to rebel against the low expectations of an ungodly culture. Check them out at The Rebelution. Obviously these two have never heard that "youth is wasted on the young!" They have generously provided the following guidelines for respectful commentary (I couldn't have said it better).


 
Commenting for "Newbies"
(... and A "Reminder" for the Rest of Us)

You Have Entered “The Comment Zone”
It is crucial to a vibrant and healthy comment section for participants to understand the purpose of discussion, and to possess a proper respect for their fellow contributors. Whether you maintain your own blog, comment on other blogger’s posts, or both, you have most likely been frustrated by the lack of proper argumentation and the seeming epidemic of disrespect, primarily among your opponents (Insight #1: They feel the same way towards you).

The truth is that we all can use a helpful reminder every so often as to how we should conduct ourselves in the high-intensity role of “the commentator’s commenter.” For that reason we present, “Commenting For ‘Newbies’ (A ‘Reminder’ For The Rest of Us),” as an invaluable resource for bloggers and their readers; an aide-mémoire, if you will. Yes, logic, evidence, and respect still exist and can be realized—even in your comment section.

The Purpose of Argumentation

Critical to proper argumentation is an understanding of why we argue; we argue in hopes of persuading dissenting opinions to conform to our own. If we disagree, it is because we think we are right and others are wrong. We take the time to discuss our disagreements in hopes of proving the validity of our views. It is frustrating, therefore, when we find ourselves perpetually clashing with our opponents, while making seemingly no headway towards our goal of changing their minds.

In fact, at times it can feel as if, were we to publicly claim that rabbits exist, our opponents would deny it; even if one hopped up, said, “What’s up, Doc?” and starting burrowing into their heads. How do we get past these confounding doldrums and arrive at a place from which the discussion can progress in an intelligent manner?

Here are three steps to improve your skills of argumentation:

Step One: Remember that your opponents have come to their conclusions using more or less the same rational process you have. The difference is not necessarily their intellect, but rather the information they had at their disposal and the values they hold.

Step Two: Understand that this means your opponent feels just as confident about the accuracy of his or her position as you do about yours, and will only be persuaded otherwise if you prove that their information or values are out of line.

Step Three: Realize that successful argumentation will only take place when you make it your goal to inform and persuade, by supplying additional bits (or chunks) of information and by addressing the values behind your opponent’s conclusions.

8 Principles For Logical & Respectful Discussion

The key to respectful, profitable argumentation is to respect others and to be respected. You respect others by acting civilly and arguing reasonably. You cause others to respect you by not acting like a fool in your manner or in your argumentation. Here are eight principles that allow you to do both:

NUMBER ONE: Understand the ‘classical’ view of tolerance

The classical view of tolerance lends itself much more readily to intelligent argumentation than does the modern view. It teaches that, while we may strongly disagree with dissenting opinions, we still treat the person behind those opinions with respect.
  • DO feel free to disagree, even strongly, with other people, and say so!
  • DO feel free to permanently demolish opposing viewpoints. (Good luck!)
  • DO NOT attempt to demolish opposing “people.”

NUMBER TWO: No ‘ad hominem’ attacks, you moron!

Nothing more quickly degenerates a discussion than when people start attacking those making the arguments rather than refuting the arguments themselves. Remember that the character, circumstances, or political ideology of the person has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the proposition being defended.
  • DO NOT stoop to name-calling (moron, idiot, etc.)
  • DO NOT imply negative monikers onto people simply because they disagree. (i.e. “Anyone who’s even slightly intelligent will believe that cows are people too.”)

NUMBER THREE: Eschew obscenity & prohibit profanity

The use of inappropriate language and shocking statements is a sure sign that the author lacks the ability to communicate their position in a calm and reasonable manner. It shows tremendous disdain for others and will not be allowed on respectable blogs.
  • DO NOT be upset when your comment is deleted for inappropriate language.
  • DO NOT be upset when you IP address is banned for multiple offenses.

NUMBER FOUR: He who asserts must prove

This is one of the most critical aspects of proper argumentation and requires that you carefully guard yourself from making groundless statements. Every proposition should be supported by either logic or evidence.

Logic includes everything from complex syllogisms to plain ol’ cause-and-effect. Evidence can take the form of examples, statistics, and/or quotations from authorities in the field. Supported arguments stand until refuted. Unsupported arguments do not deserve a response and might as well not exist.
  • DO feel free to confirm other people’s points without providing additional support.
  • DO NOT make additional arguments or publicize your disagreement with someone else’s position without providing adequate support.

NUMBER FIVE : Respond to the argument, not to the spelling

There is no surer sign of inadequacy on the part of a debater than when they take issue with some small “error” on the part of their opponent, while ignoring the main point/s their adversary is trying to make.

If you are unable to refute your opponent’s position, don’t insult his or her spelling, grammar, or insignificant deviations from fact. Your opponent is most likely correct, and their small errors have nothing to do with the overall truth or falsity of the proposition they defend. Don’t make a fool of yourself by being a sore loser.
  • DO feel free to point out significant errors that impact the validity of a claim.
  • DO NOT point out errors solely for the purpose of embarrassing your opponent.

NUMBER SIX: Debating When Less Is More

A common tactic adopted by inexperienced debaters is to ask a long series of questions that place an enormous burden on their opposition, without actually making any particular point. Such an approach is not only unfair to your opponent, but it really isn’t argumentation at all. These kinds of “question avalanches” can hardly be responded to in the confines of a comment section, but will often foster animosity.

The same is true of those with too much time on their hands (or a gift for speed writing) who present far too many arguments at one time in hopes of “burying” their opponent under the supposed “empirical” weight. Both of these abuses inhibit true argumentation and inevitably degrade the quality of a discussion. Respect yourself and your opponents at all times by using moderation in your argumentation and questioning.
  • DO feel free to ask pertinent and probing questions about your opponent’s position.
  • DO NOT expect answers for loaded questions.
  • DO NOT ask loaded questions.
  • DO feel free to make powerful and relevant arguments against your opponent’s position.
  • DO NOT expect answers to your 5-page tome.
  • DO NOT write 5 page tomes.

NUMBER SEVEN: Do your own research

Remember that your opponents are busy people who are taking time out of their day to discuss relevant issues with you. Do not place an excessive burden on them by requiring them to go “off-site” to read lengthy articles or study ancient philosophers, scientists, etc. If Aristotle makes “your” point then “you” should be able to make the argument. Your opponent certainly will not (and shouldn’t have to) make it for you.
  • DO feel free to provide links to outside sources for your opponent’s consideration.
  • DO NOT expect your opponent to read them unless you make them want to. (i.e. “If you go read Maxwell’s five-foot bookshelf, then you’d agree with me!” never works)
  • DO feel free to support your arguments with outside resources. Just make sure you summarize what the resource says. Otherwise your opponents will consider your argument unsupported until they go read/see the support. Which they most likely never will.

NUMBER EIGHT: The fallacy of the majority

When the majority of participants in a discussion hold your position, it is common to start acting as if the last seven principles no longer apply to you. You feel you can destroy the dissenter, along with their position, since you have so many like-minded chums. However, the majority has no more right to silence the opinion of a minority through disrespectful, improper argumentation, than the minority would have, if it were able, to silence the opinion of the majority using the same methods. Victory by means of respectful, logical argumentation is true victory. Victory by any other means is no victory at all.
  • DO feel free to destroy dissenting opinions using respectful, logical argumentation.
  • DO NOT silence dissenting opinions by majority “piranha attacks.”


NOTE: Provided that proper credit is given to my twin and me, the preceding guidelines are freely available for use by any bloggers wishing to do so. May they serve you well. See the original post. Soli deo gloria! (means: Our salvation for the glory of God alone)
Alex Jordan Harris

...until the next dance!





The Giant Interent Hand of Spanking




a lamp unto my feet . . .

"Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets that are hearts of human flesh.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter brings death, but the spirit gives life."


2 CORINTHIANS 3: 1-6


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