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How to End Gun Violence

free photo/pixabay: user/DomAlberts

Ending gun violence begins before the gun is ever purchased, it begins before there’s a supply and demand. Ending gun violence, ending VIOLENCE: verbal, emotional, physical, spiritual; must begin with exposing fear for what it is: a liar whose tactic is to divide and isolate us, a liar that would lead us to believe in “us vs. them.”

Fear is real because we breed it. We believe something about “others,” ourselves, or a situation that’s simply not true, but we perceive it as truth.

When God made it all, us all included, God said it was, “Good.” Good. Period. When we ascribe anything other than that to ourselves or someone else, we are misaligned with God’s original design.

We have thousands of thoughts go through our heads in a day, but not every one of them is true or real. However, those we entertain, those we welcome or give space to, become real, whether good or bad, healthy or sick, hopeful or jaded, true or false. We are the ones created in the image of God to write and tell and live a better story, a story through the lens of God’s miraculous design, rather than through our limited perspectives.

No one is born an asshole. We become them with the layers and layers of filters that cloud our perception of God’s original design, in the mirror and when we look at the world.

Fear is the ultimate destroyer: the enemy kills, steals, and destroys its unsuspecting prey, people who believe and succumb to fear by isolating, retreating, over-protecting, controlling, projecting fault, and not owning our stuff.

One second ago, Adam and Eve were naked, and it was fine, in fact, it was, “Good.” Then their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil and their perception was that being naked wasn’t fine. Except it still was. God said this “knowledge” would kill them. God never said their nudity was “bad.” But God knew their “fig leaves” wouldn’t suffice in a world where their perception was off, so he fashioned them better clothes. God’s good like that.

I’m so grieved by the heinous sermons and historical movements that have hijacked God’s message of extravagant LOVE for God’s own creation. Man’s religion, each one of them, including systemic state “Christianity”, have attempted to box in the Creator of the Universe, God, the One who designed us and all that is, in caustic doctrine, dogma, and fear-mongering. It’s all come down to heaven and hell destinations, rather than reminding ourselves and everyone else that Jesus came declaring GOOD NEWS: LIFE, as originally designed children of God, NOW, Kingdom Come, sins forgiven, go and live abundantly.

Fear has no power in the presence of Love. And God is Love. Actually, God is perfect love, and perfect love casts off all fear.

So, we have to ask ourselves, “What is true? Am I functioning in fear or love at this moment, toward myself or another?”

Someone asked how they could be a practical point of help during a tragedy like a shooting. Shootings, suicide, rape, assault, violence…no one was born an asshole, remember, so when we live in the Light of God’s love, letting our light shine as a reflection of a bigger love than we could ever contain, darkness has no place.

So how can we help?

Show up BEFORE the shooting.

Show up BEFORE the violence.

Show up BEFORE the belief that isolation and separation are a choice, a safe, protective choice.

Show up without the platitudes and pre-rehearsed sermons and invite our neighbors to dinner.
Show up without words, but just be. Be there. Be present. Sit in the silence. Listen.

Show up BEFORE with authentic love, authentic community, authentic spaces where we don’t let fear win, but where perfect LOVE drives out fear.

Show up without pretense, on each other’s doorsteps, across the backyard fence, across the aisle, with a cup of tea and a gallon of repentance.

Show up with arms unfolded and hands unclenched.

Breathe. Let’s close our eyes and SEE the image of God of the handcrafted human in front of us.

Show up and share a cup of water together, and love each other, in spite of each other, before the assholes of fear and filters begin to layer thick and alter the perception with which we were designed:

The truth about each of us is that we are first all children of God. Treat one another accordingly, not as sinners in the hands of an angry God…God’s not angry. God is grieved over how we wield at one another.

Let’s not confuse our righteous anger with our self-righteousness.

We don’t need guns.

We need community.

We need to gather around tables and break bread, together, confessing we aren’t perfect because we all know we aren’t, and owning our stuff…all of us, not just “them.” WE.

Because if you’re passing me the bread, and I’m receiving it, we can’t be pointing weapons at one another.

And if we’re owning our imperfections, bringing them into the light, their power and strength weaken and are exposed for what they are: attempts to steal, kill, and destroy the Creation that God said was Good, the very Creation we are accountable to steward.

So, in the wake of another campaign season where words were just shy of murder…in the wake of another shooting in a nation that believes the right to own a gun is more important than the right to human life…in the days leading up to holidays that often leave people painfully believing there isn’t room for them at anyone’s table…on another day in America where we’ve forgotten to individually and collectively own our shit and stop pointing fingers, it’s time for our knees to bend, our heads to drop, our eyes to pour out, our hearts to rend at how we’ve treated one another.

And then it’s time to stop the mourning and start living, all up in each other’s business, real time accountability and face to face living, hand in hand, side by side, not divided, not cut into pieces…because there’s room for all of us and we must love and treat each other the way we were designed and the way we want to be treated, not like the assholes we’ve become.

 

Do You Suffer from Paralysis by Analysis?

photo: pixabay user/publicdomainusers 17917

My husband will press buttons on his keyboard…

…buttons or tabs or keys he may not know what they are there for, but he presses them to find out what they do.

You guys, the thought of this has me over here breathing in a paper bag! [Read more…]

WOKE!

6/15/14, taken by Vanessa Kruse Photography

“I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred, I get so many things I don’t deserve…”
– Bono, The Miracle of Joey Ramone
 
It’s no secret I’m a huge U2 fan. Their music has impacted and influenced every season of my life.
 
This morning I woke up before 5am CST. The lyrics above were the first things that came to mind, and I gave Thanks.
 
Four years ago I was in Mountain Time Zone on this day, and it was around *right now that my Mom’s presence left her physical dwelling and continued on into eternity. I had just drifted off, having pulled 2 all-nighters in a row, but something stirred me and I simply knew.

 There’s a 100% chance our earthly bodies will all come to a close. We all “die.” But what percent chance will we fully LIVE? What percent chance will we wake up and realize each day, every moment, is a miracle, and if we’re breathing in it, we’re meant to be part of it, bringing love and life to it?

[Read more…]

It’s a Beautiful Day

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Eleven years ago, it was bitter cold in Denver, Colorado. 2 or 3 degrees, if I remember right. The chill is still part of my memory, though most of me felt numb.

Jason went out to the parking garage of Children’s Hospital to pull up the car and let it warm up for a few minutes. I stayed behind on the 4th floor where I bundled up our 7 month old son, Noah, for a short drive across town. He had only gone outside one time during his 5 month stay at the hospital… [Read more…]

Sledgehammers are AWESOME!

Here’s the deal: We moved to Nashville in August 2016 to an Airbnb we thought we’d be in for 3 months. Between August and Easter 2017 we searched for houses on-line and in person, even making offers on some, and were out-bid 3 or 4 times. One house we spent 1.5 hours with an HGTV designer remodeling the whole thing mentally for a potential show, and as we left the house our agent got a call that the sellers accepted an offer while we were standing in it! To say the least, it was getting discouraging! [Read more…]

Theirs Was a Love Story

Summer Lovin'

Summer Lovin’- Bebe and Bobby, circa 1963, Devil’s Lake, Michigan

Growing up with Bobby (Bob) and Bebe (Betty), we witnessed affection, heard loving words exchanged, learned tooshie pinching techniques we would then test out on our grandparents much to their utter surprise and shock. Of course the reactions we witnessed made us want to pinch tooshies, all the more…well, I guess I can only speak for myself, but anyway…

Bobby and Bebe, theirs was a love story

…and it started on a warm night at a lakeside dance hall in the summer of 1963. [Read more…]

I Choose Life

1978

Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. [Read more…]

On Death and Living: A Series, Part 2

Two things about death that, I believe conjures, festers, fosters, and instigates fear, are the HOW and WHEN…sometimes to the extent of paralysis when it comes to LIVING.

If we have a foundational understanding that every single person on this earth is born and dies, then the question of WHO is already established: Everyone…WE will all die

So, I guess that also answers the WHAT question…

WHERE also has relevance, but the HOW and WHEN are where we can get really stuck, especially as it pertains to faith and perspective, and it’s what I want to hash out here a bit.

“She was too young…he had so much going for him…the other person was drunk…it happened in battle…they were in an accident…he was stillborn…she took her own life…it happened in a shooting…it was a hate crime…he had a disease…there were complications…she was old…”

We live and die surrounded by circumstance. Depending on where we are born and to whom we are born, our lives look differently. Nationality, race, affluence, power, culture, disease, religion, poverty, acceptance, love, neglect, genetics, charity, generosity…so many things influence our lives, especially the way we think and filter the day-to-day, our interactions with God, self, and others. These circumstances can also influence the way we die, unfortunately. As a stereotype, especially in the First World, a pain-free life and death, preferably in our sleep and around the age of 90, with plenty of money to leave to the next generation, is the ideal or dream, almost to the point of entitlement…as if we actually know what is best, almost as if we believe we are invincible…as if we can stave off anything, namely, death and dying, because we have certain inalienable rights?

This is really hard to swallow…the part where we aren’t in control of everything.

The book of Job is quite telling when it comes to the battle over our lives. The ugly depths to which the Enemy will go to deter our eyes, hearts, faith, trust, perspective, and relationship with a good, loving God, further festering the doubt planted in the Garden, is quite obscene, really. In the Garden the Enemy tempted us to question whether God was telling us the truth about dying at all. In Job, the Devil approaches God about mankind, launching first an attack on Job’s (or our) possessions or the things we think we own or can control, and the second part of the attack in the form of trying to steal Job’s health. Some might wonder if God was playing roulette with Job and his life, but I wonder if rather God had an eternal perspective, saw a bigger picture, knew something the Devil, and Job, didn’t, and so wasn’t swayed by the Devil’s tactics…kind of like where it says, “For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross…”

When Noah was in the hospital I had some serious heart-to-heart conversations with God. To state it mildly, I was totally disenchanted with our circumstances. My theology was rocked since I had faith as big as a mustard seed, even bigger, yet our son was sick, dying in a hospital, and God wasn’t answering my prayers the way I had worded them. Perhaps He wasn’t catching my drift?

Perhaps I wasn’t catching His?

And after I shouted to God, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LOSE A SON?!” a quiet came over me I had never known. I sat on the floor of the hallway of Children’s Hospital and suddenly realized, God did, indeed, know what it felt like…and my perspective began to shift:

  • What if God’s Word is true and my theology is off?
  • What if He does know the number of our days, and Noah’s days are shorter than what I want?
  • What if He is still good even in the midst of our pain?
  • What if “death” isn’t what I think it is and being in God’s presence really is just that amazing?
  • What if following and trusting God means giving up my entitled mentality?

Please hear me on this: Even though God’s perspective on death is likely different from ours, the pain of losing someone we love still hurts like a mother. Jesus even bawled His head off when He heard the news of His friend, Lazarus’ death. Loss hurts. Period. But this post is to start talking about the HOW and WHEN.

A few days before my Mom died she called me close to tell me something. She wanted to be sure I heard her clearly, “Boo Boo, it’s not cancer, it’s not chemo, it’s not the Devil…it’s not the food I’ve eaten or radiation…God, and God alone, decides WHEN we die…because if it’s any of those other things, then the emphasis or focus is on it.” (emphasis my own on “when”…)

Years before she reminded me of this, as I finally sat still on that hospital floor, I knew this was true…this topic of WHEN, and even the HOW. Watching my strong Mom’s body weaken under the effects of a disease rocked my heart, for sure, as did watching Noah quickly ail, but all the more reinforced in my heart that Jesus’ emphasis on living and loving well TODAY is what we’ve been called to and all the fear, worry, and attempts to ward off death would only steal time from life and living.

 

Lots more to come…

 

On Death and Living: A Series, Part 1

This will be the first of many posts on death and dying, fear, life, and living. I’m not even sure where to begin, so I’ve prayed a bit and will just start typing, I guess. I also will be welcoming some guest posts via interviews and podcasts on here, so stay tuned, and also, keep in mind, the views expressed here, as far as my personal posts, are my own, may not line up with what you’ve been taught or currently believe about death, dying, fear, life, or living, but are mine and THAT’S OKAY…AND YOU ARE OKAY TO WRESTLE WITH THESE TOPICS YOUR WAY…and THAT’S OKAY. My intention in opening this topic and even answering questions from others is not to pretend to be a death authority, but hopefully to bring to light the lies and beauty that surround the topic, one the world has tried for years to avoid, escape, and keep at bay. I’ll use sentiments like “I believe” or “I think” or “from my experience” quite a bit, so keep this in mind as you read and process, recalling this is simply my perspective and lessons from my journey.

I’ve had the privilege to be with a handful of people while they passed away, or shortly thereafter, before their spirits left their bodies, and after their last breaths and final heart beats. I say “privilege” because being with someone when they die is truly a sacred, holy moment…I’ve honestly never known more of God’s peace than witnessing that moment and I’d encourage anyone and everyone to sit with a dying person rather than try to avoid it, if you ever have the chance…not only for them, but for you, too.

I feared and obsessed about death quite a bit as a kid, into adolescence, until I went to my grandpa’s funeral. From 3rd grade on, without fail, until my junior year of high school, a friend or classmate or family member, died. I remember thinking that since I couldn’t imagine myself at an older age, like, for instance, in elementary school I couldn’t see myself as a kid in junior high, in high school I couldn’t conceive life in college, so I figured that meant I was going to die…and so on, these thoughts came and went throughout my younger years. I even envisioned my parents crying because I died. It was jacked up, for sure, and fueled by fear and ignorance of the unknown. Looking back, I know it’s because I never processed any of the deaths of my friends until I was a junior in high school and my grandpa died. I was FREAKED out to go see him in a coffin. Let me back up to say, I’m sure none of you did this, but when babysitters were over or when I’d go to slumber parties, let’s just say we snuck horror movies, so my imagination with death, the dead, and the boogie man were all intermingled and Hollywood-ized, so, of course, fear and extreme feelings were coupled with dying.

When my Dad stood beside me, looking on at his own father’s body laid to rest in the coffin that day, a sense of peace washed over me, I know no other way to describe it. I know without a doubt it was God’s presence showing me what happens when life and living and laughter and vibrancy and personality are no longer dwelling in arms, legs, and a familiar smile. The heart stops, but almost 30 years later my grandpa’s voice can still be heard in my heart when I sing, “How Great Thou Art” or hear Flight of the Bumblebee on a violin or think about chemistry and his contributions to science or enjoy boat rides or cherries jubilee. He took none of that with him, but left all that he contributed in life with us, the good and the bad…we all do. I looked at my grandpa’s body, then turned to my dad and said, “Huh. That’s not grandpa. That’s just his body.” And for the first time, as far as it had to do with death, I was okay.

Would I miss my grandpa? Of course. But the fear lessened its grip.

And FEAR is really the big four letter word, here. DEATH has five letters and DIE has three, but FEAR steals life from today, destroys future hope, and robs our energy, love, and vitality for living…and when we spend all our time fearing what is inevitable for every. single. human. ever. I suggest there is a lot of LIVING we’ll miss.

I believe FEAR is one of the underlying things that has to be discussed and exposed when it comes to the topic of death because FEAR of death and dying, sickness, pain, ailing, aging, loneliness, longing, doesn’t make death go away…FEAR paralyzes us by planting seeds of doubt, namely and especially, doubt that God is in love with us because we experience death and pain and separation at all.

LOVE and LIFE are inseparable from the topic of DEATH, too, so must be discussed in depth in order to be FREE to LIVE.

More to come…

Get Your Party Started

On October 11, 2014, my Dad, sisters and I threw a party we should have thrown years prior, but under different circumstances. Life gets busy. We have jobs and spouses and kids and appointments and things to do and budgets and we get tired and the thought of traveling with niños in tow is less than appealing, and so, the seemingly responsible and practical reasons for not doing WHATEVER it is that is very important, but could maybe be put off until our lives slow down a bit or aren’t as crazy, well, those things don’t happen. And then it’s too late, over, after the fact.

There were special milestones we looked forward to acknowledging, but planning for a 70th, 80th, or 90th birthday party or a “remission from cancer” celebration, well, those never happened.

My Mom even said to me before she passed away in June, “Boo Boo, I think I was waiting to get better before I did such and such…”

Every one of us has lives filled with things to do and places to go and sights to see, check lists to complete, errands to run, things, things, things, busy, busy, busy, some of it good, some of it mind-numbing, some of it slowly sucking the life from our bones. But when the day is done, it’s the people with whom we have come in contact with, from the guy at the checkout at the store to the person across the table at dinner, to the person reflected in the mirror, who matter the most…

I’ve sat with death on several occasions. I’ve held those I love, hand in hand, close to my heart as they took their last breath and moved on to the realm of real living, but the realm I’m not welcome in yet, the one I can’t see…the place where much of my heart resides and my mind wanders to, yet my eyes are blinded because I’m meant to live here, right now, fully engaged, beautifully intentional, eyes open to the present, heart wide open, loving and celebrating the gifts (people) of God all around me, on this given day.

And so, though we celebrated our Mom with daily phone calls and family meals and gatherings, trips here and there, hours over the sewing machine, snuggles on the couch soaking in her wisdom, we never threw her a party like the one we did in Arizona just this last weekend. It wasn’t that it was some fantastic venue or even that the food was super yum. This party was one of the most beautiful gatherings I’ve ever attended because the setting was love and the décor was a room full of friends, all people my Mom loved and who loved my Mom. Set in one of the wealthiest and most beautiful cities in the world, I looked around the room and realized with an overwhelming sense of awe that my Mom was one of the richest women who ever walked the planet…her heart had been filled with the gift of friendship, both in the giving and receiving, and everyone else there knew it, too, their presence speaking louder than words.

I think Kid President is onto something…personally, I’m not so much a parade girl…they are kind of long and I’m not a fan of having candy chucked at me from a distance, but, baby, say “party,” dinner party, cocktail party, well-digging party, dance party, charity party, beach party, garden party, wine tasting party, coffee party, fund-raising party, freedom from slavery party, cupcake party, impromptu party, just hanging out party, birthday party, divorce party, because the house is clean party, bad/good day party, anniversary party, because it’s Monday party, hiking party, biking party, whatever the heck kind of party, party,” the key word here is “party” and my heart lights up!

Life is short no matter the timespan. Sometimes waiting for tomorrow, scheduling, or “special occasions” establishes a mindset that TODAY isn’t miraculous enough…

I mean, really. What’s more special than right here, right now, and the people around us?

Forget Pinterest and go break bread and throw someone a party…because you still can!