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On This Day

Today, I’m thinking about all the lives this date has touched.

And I mean all the lives.

here

I mean the victims in the towers that morning, and the victims in the planes. I mean their families and all the people their families knew. I mean the men and women who were there to help pull victims from the rubble, to make them well or put them to rest. I mean the ones in New York rushing their children past before they could see the wreckage. I mean people miles away who watched it happening over and over again on TV and thought, ‘How could this happen here? Where will it happen next?’

I mean President Bush, who will forever be remembered in the murky light of 9/11, and the people at the top who are people just like the rest of us, scared just like the rest of us, and who had to make decisions we will never have to make. I mean the soldiers who went off to war and the ones who never came back. I mean the young men and women tortured by the things they saw there, the things they did.

I mean the French when we alienated them, did something so silly as to call our fries “freedom fries”, because they still had the bullet marks in their own doors and weren’t ready to go see more. I mean the Middle Easterners who are fighting a war against America because we blew into their home like we had a right to be there, like they were the terrorists, the ones who might have sympathized with the hate felt by the hijackers and the ones who could never in a million years sympathize with it. I mean the families there losing loved ones just like the families here. I mean the innocents who’ve been bombed in the streets.

here

I mean the people who feel war is the only way and so better them than us. I mean the people who celebrate lost lives and think this is what it means to be living in our world today, this is what it means to be patriotic. I mean the people who still won’t get on an airplane and the ones who have to go through a whirlwind of suspicion before they’re allowed to board. I mean the people of Middle Eastern background who still get stares and ugly words even if they’ve been here for years. I mean my Muslim friends who have their religion treated like it’s something ugly because a few people made a terrible, deadly decision.

And, yes, I even mean the terrorists themselves, because I guarantee such hatred in a soul is never born, but built.

Because hatred, fear, and violence—these are not bullets shot straight through one target. They are stones dropped in an ocean, ripples that fan outward until they get so faint human eyes may not be able to see, but human hearts can always feel.

Fortunately for our broken world, love is the same way. So are mercy and peace. So is reconciliation. So is hope.

here

This morning, I stand waist-deep in waste, wondering if right now, there are people in the Middle East watching their televisions and weeping and saying, “They got what they deserved! Just look what they did to my country! My son! My husband! My parents! My children! I would fly a plane into all their buildings if I could!” And I don’t really doubt that there are because I’m sure on this side of the world live people who would blow a whole damn country up because this is what justice means to them. But I know, too, that there are Americans right now waging peace instead of war, helping the wounded, healing the broken, feeding the hungry, building bridges. And I know there are Muslims all over whispering for Allah to help us, heal us, feed us, build bridges of love in our hearts.

So I remember the past, but look toward the future and pray it will be brighter. I know no one can ever die in vain if we don’t let it happen.

From this tragic harvest, we can reap more hate.

Or we can reap more love.

And we always, always, have a choice.

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The New Year’s Intentions entry can be found here.

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After-Easter Thoughts: Beyond the Cross

 I’ve been going to a Bible Study with some friends on Fridays. I’ve had no split-second conversion, of course, but it’s interesting to be there and to watch the way they interact with one another. On Easter Sunday, when my grandmother came to visit me, she asked whether we’d discussed the Resurrection during our last study.

“Did you guys talk about the Resurrection?”

“No.”

“The Ascension?”

“No…”

“Did you talk about how, when Jesus—“

“We read a chapter of Ephesians.”

I know that Easter is meant to celebrate the empty tomb, see; I get that most churches do a special service about it. I’ll deny no one their holiday. Still, for me, it just drives home the idea that people only look toward Jesus to see his death and how it led to reconciliation between us and God. I’m interested in Jesus, but it’s not so much in the way he died or his mystical return from the grave. Like I told my grandmother, we’ve all heard that story. I’m more interested in the way Jesus lived.

The thing is, Jesus wasn’t simply here to act as a sacrificial offering; if that were the case, God could have sent him down in a blaze of light and burned him up so that no one would question what had happened. No, Jesus lived to make it possible for Earth to touch Heaven. Being both human and divine, he had our frailty as well as exact knowledge of what God wanted from him. He was the perfect example of what we are all supposed to be; we are not Christ, but in faith and action, if we’re doing it right, we should be damn close. Though Jesus is the Son of God, we also have that divinity in us—after all, God breathed man into life.

Has anyone ever wondered why Jesus had apostles? One mustn’t think that he could not have shown people who he was without a gang constantly following him; the guy was pretty convincing. He did need someone after he’d gone on to Heaven to share the story of who he was and what he did. This is the most obvious reasoning. However, Jesus could have told all the apostles about this; he could have given them visions of it; he could have done any number of things and been sure of their loyalty because of who he is. He could have made the whole world sit up and listen. Instead, he chose to have the apostles suffer alongside him and see with their own eyes what he did. Every parable that he told, they heard; they watched the miracles he performed. They, too, learned to hang out around the prostitutes and tax collectors. He was their Rabbi, their teacher, as well as their Savior, and they learned to go out and spread his Gospel as they had learned it.

I think the Fall—that is, our foray into Original Sin—was tremendously important, and we over-simplify it by saying that humans suck and humans sin. What sort of temptation could the snake have offered Eve if she had been completely satisfied? In Eden, everything was handed to us. God’s love was like that of a parent’s, unconditional and gracious. The thing about that is, well, look at us; even if our parents dole out love and whatever else we need as children, when we get older, most of us still want to leave the house and fend for ourselves. It has nothing to do with not loving them. We simply want to test the waters. Generally, people have way better relationships with their parents once they’ve flown from the nest; it’s in part because we aren’t hanging around and annoying each other all the time and in part because, having done for ourselves, we’re able to appreciate all that they’ve given us. Of course, parents never really let their children go—they’re always on the outskirts, watching and letting us make our own mistakes, but willing to step in if necessary.

The point is, God didn’t make a mistake by letting Eve sin. He knew that she and Adam could never appreciate Him fully without having understood how things would be outside of his paradise. However, He couldn’t simply push them out of His house. They had to have a reason to want to get back in, and they had to be forced to leave without blaming Him for it. Having mankind hate God would probably not have been the best starting point for us. (There’s enough of that now, anyway, thanks to bad religious practice and confining God to a box…or a book.)

So we severed our connection with God. We left his house. We struck out on our own with our wobbly child-legs. The problem is that God is not merely a parent; He is everything for which we yearn. There is nothing better than the Kingdom He wants for us. So there had to be a way for us to come to that Kingdom or, better yet, for us to help build it. We would live in a world made up of the connection between ourselves and God, in a wonderland of that absolute divine love.

And along came Jesus, lantern swinging.

Jesus did not only make the ultimate sacrifice; he was showing us the way to the Kingdom, and that way is not only to believe in his death, but to believe in his life.

We wanted to leave Eden. We wanted to work for what we received. We wanted to build our relationship with God. We wanted to be a part of things.

Well, here we are.

 Guys, it’s not as easy as believing a story you’ve heard or even a little soul-tug that you feel. It’s not as easy as falling down at the altar when there is music swelling and people crying. Relationships take effort and time.

They say works are meaningless without faith, and this is true; even atheists have to be working for a reason, or it does nothing for them and little for the people around them. But faith without works is dead, too. If you love God, if you truly want His Will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, then you should be doing it. He’s willing to work with and through us, but He’s not descending any time soon. We are not children anymore.

So what do we do?

Well, you can learn from Jesus, for starters. He taught his followers how to live so that they could teach everyone else, but that path got lost somewhere along the way. The Living Church became a building, sometimes a multi-million dollar building, and love sunk into crap politics, who’s-in-and-who’s-out, fear-mongering, judgment, gossip, greed, and anger that is not at all righteous. This was not the plan, my friends. This is not what Jesus wanted.

Jesus chilled with the outcasts. He touched people no one else would get near.

Jesus never said, “You are not good enough to listen to me.”

He never snapped, “You can’t join this circle.”

He never told anyone, “I’m sorry, but there’s not enough caring/time/resources for you.”

Everything that Jesus did, he did in love. He really had no choice because he loved us and he loved the Father so much. That’s what I want—to love people so deeply that I have no choice but to do good because to do otherwise would hurt too much.

Jesus didn’t stick around after his death for a reason; he was meant to pass the torch. He gave it to his apostles, and they handed it off to others. It went from person to person by word of mouth, through music, through experience, through poetry, and though the Bible, however perfect or imperfect any of that might have been. The point is not that we don’t make mistakes—we are going to, because, despite our best intentions, we are not God—but that we keep trying through them.


 You can look at Jesus as a real person or as a bridge metaphor; it’s to your taste, and it matters little to me. Either way, he passed us the torch. I have it now. You have it. It’s burning in that little spark of divinity breathed into us at the beginning of all Creation. We must keep kindling it, keeping using it to set others aflame, and when all things come together in the end, it will be our sun—because it and the light shining from God are one in the same.

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Open (Door) Minded

Every minute, about one hundred and eight people in the world die.

Before I finish writing this entry, so many last breaths will be taken, so many eyelids lowered, so many hands gone limp.

And yet, here we are. We still wake up every day with thousands of opportunities spread in front of us, a breakfast fit for kings. Even the people who seem to have nothing, who don’t even know when or if their next meal is coming, are able to choose what attitude they’re going to take. They can choose what to do with their bodies to the extent that they are able to use them. They can decide which words will leave their lips. Those of us who have the necessities—and, usually, far more—are blessed with opportunity beyond reason.

But somehow, somehow, it doesn’t seem to be enough. After all, if I were more beautiful, I would have so many more options. People would likely be sweeter to me, and potential lovers would take more interest. If I were thinner, I could buy cuter clothes and not have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for them. If my feet were smaller…if I had more money…if my hair was nicer…if my college had bigger dorms…if I had that television set…if I’d only gotten that job…

It seems so hard when we see the things we wanted pass us by. We make decisions we aren’t happy with, our relationships don’t work out, and we don’t get the promotion. Sometimes these things are mildly annoying; sometimes, they’re downright earth-shattering.

You know what, though? Either way, life goes on. We find ourselves smiling, and eventually, laughing. We meet new people. We get a different job.

Life does not offer one chance to be happy; it gives us a nearly infinite amount. Until the day that we, too, take our last breaths, we have the opportunity to feel joy in our lives. How silly would it be to waste that opportunity because we’re too busy bemoaning the happiness that slipped past us?

We never really know how anything is going to turn out. You could go on a blind date to appease a friend and meet the love of your life, or you could marry the love of your life and find you didn’t understand that person at all. Either way, you won’t know until it happens. There is only one choice you can make that has a predictable outcome, and that is the choice to do nothing. When you make that choice, you’re choosing not to find joy. You’re choosing to relinquish all the other decisions you could have made. You’re choosing to give up on a life that’s waiting for you.

Life is a hallway to walk through, a series of thousands of rooms with thousands of doors. Sometimes, those doors are locked when we reach them, and sometimes, they bang shut right in front of our faces. But for every door that closes, another one must open. While it’s true that you can’t gain without the possibility of loss, it’s also true that losing one thing may very well allow you to gain something else.

There are no dead ends.

Rock bottom is still a bottom, not an abyss; you can climb back out.

Every minute, about one hundred and eight people in the world close their eyes for the last time.

…And about two hundred and fifty open theirs for the first.

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Play Your Tambourine

♥ here ♥

When I was little, I played the tambourine for Jesus.

This probably wasn’t as strange as it sounds. I’d spent the night at my grandmother’s house and I had a dream that Jesus was hanging out there, chilling in the back room with the musical members of our congregation while they played and sang for him. I wanted to play my tambourine and sing the way I did in church, but I felt too shy and the tambourine seemed like a stupid instrument compared to the piano or guitar. After a couple of songs had been played, Jesus gestured for me to come over to him. In my little girl dream, he looked the same way he did in pictures—sweet eyes, white robes, brown hair—and he asked why I wasn’t singing with them. When I told him that I couldn’t really play anything, he handed me my tambourine. I can’t remember exactly what he said now, but it was something along these lines:

“Don’t worry about what they’re doing. You do what you can do. Play your tambourine. I like to hear you play.”

When I told my grandmother about the dream later, she said that it meant I should do something with music. That explanation worked until I got a little older and could see the more obvious meaning—that I shouldn’t worry about what others could offer God, but give instead what I was able to give. Of course, even this was in the context of Christianity. Now that I’m no longer associated with the religion, it, too, seems confining.

Still, I’ve been hesitant to toss the dream aside. It’s one of the few from my childhood that I remember, and I’ve always been a strong believer in the idea that these things happen for a reason. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, though, that I realized what this dream means to me now.

I may not subscribe to any particular doctrine, but I do know that faith has made amazing things happen. God and spirituality are not my enemies; discrimination, hate, and fear-mongering take that unfortunate role. I am not a Christian. It’s been years since I’ve tried to tell anyone about how it feels to be born again. I’m unable to so much as attend a Unitarian Universalist church regularly because there aren’t any close to where I’m living. I still can’t play the piano or guitar well. There are probably a lot of people in this world who would write me straight on into Hell.

But you know what?

I can play my tambourine.

There are Christians out there who are doing marvelous things, just as there are Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Wiccans, atheists, Muslims, and people in every other category you can think of who are doing marvelous things. They all have their part to play. Each of those parts is important.

There will be lost souls who are looking for the love of Jesus Christ, and there will be troubled minds longing for the peace of Buddhism. There will be those who need to let go and flow with the Tao. I probably won’t be able to give any of them what they’re longing for spiritually, but there are people I can help. Besides, the fact that someone is of another religion doesn’t mean I can’t fill his hungry belly or help her recover after some monster has abused her. It doesn’t mean that we can’t learn things from each other or that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with our relationship.

Being an atheist doesn’t mean that you’re unable to look at the world with wonder.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re irrational.

Being a Unitarian Universalist doesn’t mean that I can’t fulfill the obligations presented to me in a dream I had of Jesus Christ.

Jesus told me to play my tambourine and not to worry about measuring up to other people’s standards, so I won’t. I am performing in the only way I know how, and even if no one else thinks it’s worthy, I know that it is just as important as anyone else’s effort. I can be nothing other than the best version of what I am. I’ve given up trying.

Play your heart out.

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Valentine’s Day

♥ here ♥

At some point I stopped referring to Valentine’s Day as Single’s Awareness Day. It didn’t happen because I was in the joyful throes of a relationship. It happened because, eventually, I stopped caring that I wasn’t.

During the holidays, opinions are bounced around a lot. Is Christmas about Christ, family, or presents? Is Easter about Jesus or a bunny rabbit? Is Halloween about candy, about witchcraft, about Satan, about spirits, or about something different altogether? There is no right answer. What’s historically correct doesn’t mean much. The world is constantly changing. What a holiday means to someone has to do with how that particular person decides to celebrate it, not what anyone else dictates.

So is Valentine’s Day about sex and roses? Sure. Just not to me.

For me, Valentine’s Day is about having fun and feeling love. I’m not only talking about romantic love, either. It can be love for your partner, your friends, your family, or yourself. This year, I wore pink and yellow eyeshadow, stockpiled candy for friends, wrote a card for my roommate, got an “I love you!” text from my mom, was treated to Logan’s with my family by my grandpa, treated my stepdad to dinner at Panera, ate cookies with heart-shaped sprinkles, and felt pretty much delightful. Before the clock hits midnight, there will be no kisses, no surprise dates, no bouquets. Still, my heart is full.

Life is the big romance. -Francesca Lia Block

I have an awesome family, and for all our disagreements, I know they love me.

I’m blessed with friends who are witty and kind and who know how to cook a lot better than I do.

I get to go to work three days a week to watch cartoons, draw pictures of princesses and baby seals, and see adorable little faces beaming up at me.

I know that, if I try, I can find a place in the world where I will feel happy, appreciated, and useful, and that if the place isn’t where I thought it would be, it’s probably because there was a better place somewhere else.

If I had a word to explain my vision of God, it would be Love…because even if you can’t always see it or feel it, it’s there. It’s mysterious and sometimes hard to find and even harder to define. It’s scary and it’s infinite and it’s wonderful. It might come easily or with difficulty, but if you call it long enough, it will always come.

I am drenched in, filled with, awed by love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

(Bonus: You can read Francesca Lia Block’s short story, Safe Love, here. It’s where the above FLB quote is taken from, and there are some things in it that I think are important to keep in mind during times like Valentine’s Day.)

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2011: These Hands are Mine

Flashback to the last few minutes of 2010. I’m standing between two people of whom I’m rather fond, surrounded by many more I hardly even know, holding a shot of sparkling something-or-other because I’m hardcore like that (besides, house parties run by parents don’t offer adult beverages to the under-21 crowd), and trying to learn Auld Lang Syne in a hurry. I didn’t know if the delightful corniness of New Year’s Eve 2010 could be topped, but the Disney karaoke has managed do it. Still, I’m feeling great…and that’s saying something, since the music blaring from the television really, really sucks.

Hi, 2011. How do you do?

from here

I guess the most normal thing to do for a New Year’s entry would be to write a little review of last year. Instead of chronicling all the events of my life from 1/1/10 to 12/31/10, I’ll just talk about my resolutions and how they panned out.

One of my resolutions for 2010 was to get healthier. This was broken down into starting a skin care regime, slacking on soda, and making a spiritual journal. I managed to carry through with the first two; though my face could use a little more TLC, I now have a cleanser I like and—gasp!—use moisturizer on a regular basis. I also did the 21-day soda detox and ended up deciding to do away with pop altogether. I’m not hard on myself about it—if I feel like a Dr. Pepper or Mello Yello, I’ll have one—but that situation may crop up once or twice a month. The spiritual journal I began for myself didn’t get very far, but I did start a group one that has yielded some lovely results and, I think, taught me more than I ever would have learned on my own.

Another resolution was to get more organized. I try to be honest on Breadcrumbs, so honestly…this resolution failed. Big time. I’ll continue to work on it, but I’ve also accepted that I’m probably never, ever going to be the sort of person who has a color-coded anything.

The third resolution was to be more myself. This I’ve done, though not as thoroughly as I’d have liked. I went out more, and I stuck with two out of my four clubs and half-heartedly with a third (mostly because of time constraints). As for working on and writing the 101 in 1001 List, I did check off a few more things, but since I’ve decided to abandon it as a project (at least for now), I never finished the actual writing of it.

My last resolution was to focus on the things that mattered. This came and went in flashes, but I did gain an idea of how very important it is to master.

If that was what happened in 2010, then now, I suppose, would be the time to write about my New Year’s resolutions for 2011. There’s just one problem.

I didn’t make any.

from here, but really from Spongebob

Calm yourselves! I haven’t jumped on the resolutions-are-useless bandwagon. To the contrary, I think they can be very powerful if used correctly. The thing is, resolutions should be broken into specific, measureable goals. You need to be able to know exactly what you’re doing so that you can hold yourself to it and be able to determine your degree of success at the end of the year. I wrote an entry last year about making good resolutions, and I could add a ton to it now, but funnily enough, I found someone today who’s already taken care of that for me.

His name is Chris Brogan, and you can read the entry I’m talking about here. Chris wrote briefly about SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) goals, and these are what I believe New Year’s resolutions should be. However, he wrote about this under the context of setting intentions for the New Year. All of your SMART goals will relate back to your main intentions.

Now, I’d already planned on creating a New Year’s intention for myself—a theme for the year, if you will—after reading what Gretchen Wilson of the Happiness Project had to say about it. However, I was having a problem coming up with just one theme. How could one word or phrase encompass everything I wanted to strive for in 2011?

Luckily, Chris’s entry came to the rescue. He suggested three words instead of one. Problem solved for my overly-verbal self.

So, after much Zotz-eating and thinking, here are my three words for 2011:

Detox. Discover. Do.

Detox has a lot to do with removing myself from the way the media and the educational system and even family and friends have taught me to look at the world. It also has a lot to do with stripping off my own lovely layer of negativity and bitterness. There is so much bullshit we believe just because we’ve never known better. There are ridiculous ideas about what we accept and what we should accept, of what healthy means, of what sexuality is, of what we can do as individuals, of how we should treat other people, and of how worthy we are of anything, including love. In 2011, I want to remove these negative, unrealistic views from my life.

Discover. I’ve reached a point in my journey that has left the future looking pretty hazy. I know more about myself than I ever have before, but I want to dig more into what really makes my heart churn so that I can go after it. I want to discover more about who I am and what I can offer, I want to discover more about the people around me and what part they play in my future, and I want to swandive right into that haze.

Do is pretty self-explanatory, but, of course, I’ll explain it anyway. I do a lot of talking. I do a lot of thinking. I definitely do a lot of worrying. But how much do I literally, physically do? Not enough. In 2011, I’m going to change that.

from here, and I love Neil Gaiman

So what about you? Resolutions, intentions, a handful of hopes? Tell me what’s going on with you in 2011! Who knows? Maybe we can help each other.

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