The Examined Life in Practice, Step 2: Building Healthy Community

So what if one starts to "question everything" and to "think for yourself"?

How do you stay mentally healthy and keep effectively pursuing joy?

I am looking at these steps:

1) look at the way the individuals and groups that form your intimate and social circles affect you.
2) begin the process of deliberately building healthy, safe relationships.
3) start from where you are and who you are.
4) build healthy daily habits.
5) let yourself imagine a better tomorrow.
6) walk forward with continuity and kindness toward that better tomorrow.

Step Two: 

As my last post began, we are social creatures and creatures of habit -- and these characteristics are both the characteristics that allow us to fall so easily into the unexamined life and the characteristics that allow us to escape it permanently and with an effective impact on a healthier today and tomorrow.

If you read my last two posts, you have the overview of your goal in community and have begun the process of considering your current community and how it impacts your identity and your habits and your life.

At this point, you are ready to begin the process of owning your own relationships and of choosing to shape them and to add to them with new relationships.

Evolution, not revolution:

The process of changing our community does not need to be a revolution, but can instead be an evolution, and, in my opinion, usually should be slow and reflective rather than abrupt and disruptive.  However, there are times when we have no choice except to rebuild big pieces of our community around us -- for instance, after a cross-country move or after a career change or divorce -- and there are times when you may be the one who chooses to make hugely disruptive changes.  I would urge you to get support for grief and trauma in these situations, or at least to prepare for grief and trauma.  I would also urge you to avoid plunging yourself into situations like this unless there is truly no other option.

I took a whole year off from my blog primarily because of the impact of that kind of change on my family in moving from California to Minnesota when my husband and I are past the years of forming our adult communities and when my youngest two children are teenagers.  It has been a very difficulty year in terms of community and adjustments, but most of the stories are not mine to tell.

However, the issues of this series that I was writing are exactly the issues of my life right now; so this is a perfect place to pick up the reality of how to build the healthy community that drives and shapes each of us.

We each need to keep tabs on our own disappointments and our own drives, and examine them for evidences of the ways we need both to grow in our self-management and to grow our communities.

The dance of connection, attention, and detachment:

Our movies and our faith communities and our cultural values have indoctrinated us with the idea that we only need to find the right church or the right spouse or the right small group of best friends.  Even if we consciously reject the idea of our emotional and practical needs being met by a single person or small group of people, we often have internalized that hope to such an extent that we keep being drawn to spend too much time in a limited number of relationships.

There is no way to make extra time, energy, or motivation for healthy relationships when we are consumed with fixing (or just enduring) unhealthy relationships.  The solution to this is probably not in the unhealthy relationship or in ending the unhealthy relationship, however.  The solution is is a practice of detachment from those relationships that does not sever the unhealthy relationship but rather helps you to internalize a shift in your expectations for that relationship.

I find this practice to be largely untaught and unpracticed in our culture.  We are taught either to redouble our efforts to make our marriage or church or friendship all that it could be, or we are urged to end imperfect relationships in search of better ones.  We are not taught how to maintain our imperfect relationships in a healthy way while broadening our sources of input and connection.

To restate my point: we do not build healthy community by looking for healthy people and discarding the unhealthy ones.  We build healthy community by learning the dance of connection, attention, and detachment that allows a bigger set of connections to get time and attention.

Finding healthier people to form your community:

So then, if we are not to discard people and chase healthier people and healthier relationships, do we just trust God or life with bringing the right people our way?  No, we assume a proactive stance that really SEES the people who cross our path and considers who they appear to be and how we feel about them and how they seem to feel about us.

To repeat the questions I listed in the last post:

1) do they only seek to teach me and train me, or are they open to being taught by me?

2) do they use shame to punish me when I do things differently than they think is best?

3) what shared values connect me to these people?

4) how do they support me in those shared values?

5) how do they treat people who have different values?

6) are they actually after our stated goals, or do they care more about ego gratification, control, maintaining the status quo, or their own sense of safety?

We find healthier people by choosing each day to be reflective about where we go and who we encounter, and then by considering our emotional response to them and their apparent response to us, as well as the answers to reflective questions.  Then we spend more of our attention and time on those who bring us joy and peace and encouragement toward the values we have and the life we want, and we spend less of our time on those who leave us depressed or angry or distracted from the things that really matter.

Does this mean we should never use a dating site or visit new churches or seek out new groups to join?  No, of course that is not what I am saying.

What I am saying is that the groups we join and the churches we attend and the places where we center our lives should fit the life we want in the long run, rather than being just a way to look for new friends, and that the process of building a good strong long-term network of healthy people around each of us is a lifetime building project for which their are few legitimate shortcuts.

Legitimate Shortcuts:

There are a few legitimate shortcuts, however.  They are the practices of healthy people, and will get you to the goal of healthy community faster than if you do not practice them.

They are:

1) Have reflective time alone each day to reflect on your life and your relationships, both analytically and intuitively (ie your thoughts and your emotions about them);
2) Pray for and about the people in your life, individually and as groups;
3) Give yourself permission to decrease your time with people that your emotions and analysis show as a current drain on your ability to be consciously moving toward an examined and chosen life;
4) Make slow movements toward growing relationships that you choose to grow;
5) be part of groups and churches and workplaces that are good fits for your values and choices.


When we understand how thoroughly we are shaped by the people who have daily influence on our perceptions of ourselves and of the world, we must take steps toward building healthy community around us that will shape our future in the ways we desire.  Those steps are slow, daily, deliberative steps, and do not usually involve ending other relationships abruptly.  Rather, they involve daily self-management and daily responses that move us, over time, to a place where we have chosen the major players in our emotional lives and where we have cultivated a whole set of habits that allows us to continue to shape our communities over time.


The Examined Life in Practice, Step 1: Examine Your Community

So what if one starts to "question everything" and to "think for yourself"?

How do you stay mentally healthy and keep effectively pursuing joy?

I will look at these steps:

1) look at the way the individuals and groups that form your intimate and social circles affect you.
2) begin the process of deliberately building healthy, safe relationships.
3) start from where you are and who you are.
4) build healthy daily habits.
5) let yourself imagine a better tomorrow.
6) walk forward with continuity and kindness toward that better tomorrow.

Step One: 

We are social creatures and creatures of habit -- and these characteristics are both the characteristics that allow us to fall so easily into the unexamined life and that allow us to escape it permanently and with an effective impact on a healthier today and tomorrow.

We are manipulated by our connections with others and by our need for approval and by the pain rejection causes.  We can allow those characteristics to push us into choices and habits that play out poorly, or we can choose to focus on the people in our lives who support us both in questioning everything and in making active choices to set a course away from the crowd. 

It is easy to make the mistake of thinking that changing from one ideology to another (in faith, politics, culture, etc.) will accomplish the changes we are after.  This is only true to the extent that the people around you in your new community are healthy people themselves, rather than just enforcers of a new ideology by the same old social norming techniques.  

It is not nearly as important that you agree with the people you allow to surround you and build you as it is that they are capable of allowing you to grow and change even when they disagree wth you.

So how can you tell if the people around you are helping you to question everything, think for yourself, and build the kind of world you want for future generations?

Ask these questions about individuals and groups in your world:

1) do they only seek to teach me and train me, or are they open to being taught by me?

2) do they use shame to punish me when I do things differently than they think is best?

3) what shared values connect me to these people?

4) how do they support me in those shared values?

5) how do they treat people who have different values?

6) are they actually after our stated goals, or do they care more about ego gratification, control, maintaining the status quo, or their own sense of safety?

If you conclude that they are not as healthy as you want to be, it is not necessary to change them or confront them or lose them.  You can be kind and supportive while you look for ways to build a community that includes healthier people too.

My next post in this series will consider how to build that new network of safe, healthy people and groups.



The Unexamined Life is not worth living

If the unexamined life is not worth living, why not?

The unexamined life is a life where a person is carried along by their appetites and their caregivers, internalizing the values others teach that person through their need for food, shelter, safety, a sense of purpose, and a sense of social connection.

The unexamined life is not worth living because it ignores the deeper-but-less-immediate human needs: 

1) to examine reality as perceived by that particular individual, 
2) to examine an individual's own ability to make a valuable contribution based on the individual's own perception of self and of the rest of reality,
3) to examine dissonance between one's own perceptions and the perceptions of others,
4) to adjust course and adjust world view based on ongoing perceptions,
5) to build and affect a shared sense of reality (a social construct) with the circles of friends, family, acquaintances, and larger society around an individual,
6) to imagine the best world possible and to take steps to leave the world more like that for future generations.

The funny thing about those who do a good job at meeting those needs individually is that they often leave a culture that teaches the group to suppress and penalize those who question the latest social construct.

So, to build a healthy social construct, a person must deliberately teach oneself and those impacted by oneself to think for themselves and to question everything.

Think for yourself.

Question everything.


Pursuing Peace

Two white middle-class girls -- around eight or nine years old -- were walking home from school one day in the early 1970s in Omaha, Nebraska. They lived just around the corner from each other and were best friends.  It was a beautiful day and only a half-mile walk in a safe neighborhood.  

They heard a voice and turned to see a little black girl rushing to join them.  Amy was five or six and very bright and very friendly.  She assumed she would be welcomed to walk with the older girls, as she had been other days.

This was Missy's and Sally's time to chat and have fun.  They tried to be friendly but then hint that Amy should let them walk on without her.

Amy just kept on walking with them and chatting at them.  No hint could break through her enthusiasm to be part of their little circle.

The walk was short and they had almost reached Missy's house; the older girls were frustrated.  Were they going to have to give up their daily talk to accommodate this annoying little chatterbox every single day?

As they reached her house, Missy told the little girl that she couldn't walk home with them anymore.

Sally walked a few houses further and went into her house too, and Amy went home and cried.  

A few minutes later, Missy's mom answered the phone.

"Really?  I am so sorry!  Just a minute."
"Missy, come here."
"Yes, Mom?"
"We're you and Sally rude to Amy Williams just now?  Her mom is on the phone, and she says Amy is crying."
"Well, no ... not really."
"So why is she crying?"
"She was bugging us; so we told her we don't want her to walk with us."
"You can't not walk with her; that's not nice!"
"But, Mom, she uses bad words!"
"Like what?!"
"She said f@<%!

Then, into the phone,
"She says Amy said f@<% so they told her they don't want to walk with her anymore."
"Yes, I'm sorry.  Yes. Goodbye."

Missy went back to the book she had been reading, and forgot all about Amy.  

The next months were Amy-free, and Missy enjoyed her walks home each day.  She doesn't remember if she ever told Sally the whole story.

Missy's family was Christian, and she had been raised to pray to Jesus as she went to bed each night, and had prayed to ask Jesus into her heart when she was younger.  Just a year or so earlier, Missy had had her first real personal experience of faith, praying alone to Jesus to try to "do the things he said to do and not do the things he said not to do" after her first time of opening a Bible to the gospels all by herself and reading the words and story of Jesus all by herself.  

It had been an emotional experience for her, and she believed it was real and important.  It made her feel happy and safe to read the Bible and pray at bedtime most nights.

But the little lie she had told about Amy gradually snuffed out her sense of connection to Jesus.  She tried to pray at bedtime, but it stopped feeling like anyone was really listening.  It felt like the sun had gone out, and left her cold and alone.

Finally, many months later, Missy tried to pray in a bed in her grandmother's house at Christmastime.  She knew what she had to do in the morning.  Maybe that would fix the coldness inside her and let her feel Jesus again.

The next day Missy told her mom the truth, and asked her to tell Amy's mom for her.  When they got back to Omaha, Missy's mom did call Amy's mom and tell her. Missy was not punished, and her mom thanked her for telling her the truth, and said that Amy's mom was extremely appreciative of the phone call.

Missy felt happy again, and she could talk to Jesus again.  And she kept talking to Jesus -- all the way to now.

I do not tell this story to sell Jesus.  You may be turned off by her faith, or identify with it, or just explain it away.  None of that is my point here.

My point here is that even children can learn a way of living that keeps joy and hope going, even after joy and hope get squashed.

Missy's actions taught her four things:  

1) when she hurt someone else, it hurt her, too;
2) she couldn't feel okay again until she did something to try to fix what she did to hurt someone else;
3) all of her reasons for keeping silent so long were unreasonable in light of her pain;
4) telling the truth and asking for help to fix things did fix things.

I believe this story is also a story of racism.  If Missy was being racist, it was not conscious; she was just annoyed by a little girl intruding on her routine and on her friendship.  But to Amy, it had to add another layer to the layer-upon-layer experience of being left out.  And to Missy's mom and to Amy's mom, the lie about language likely had a whole different meaning than it would have had if Amy had been a little white girl.

And so I believe this story goes beyond personal life skills to cultural life skills. Tiny stories add up to mountains of injustice, and although we do need to respond to the mountains of injustice with big systematic changes, we also need to address each tiny layer, one by one.

This starts with telling the truth about each instance in our personal stories and in our history, and understanding that an intent to be racist is not the point.  

A better tomorrow starts today, by tasting it -- at least in our imaginations -- and then by teaching ourselves and our kids that we can tell the truth and endure pain to get something better than we have now.

As you go through your day, take time to imagine a world that offers peace and joy and hope to everyone.  Take time to feel the places that you hurt and to see where others have been hurt.  Let yourself come to a resolve to tell the truth and to ask for help to fix one broken thing.  Then do it again, tomorrow.


The Native American Christian

In the very early 1800s, when Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa were still the wild west, a young Native American maiden named Maw Waiquoi woke up from her sleep having dreamt of the handsome white man she had encountered near the trappers' settlement near her village.  The men there were mostly Frenchmen, but this man was Scottish.  From her dream, she knew he would be her husband; so she went to him and a few days later they were married.

Her husband was a surgeon, trained at the medical college in Edinburgh, Scotland before emigrating to America.  He was still in his mid-twenties, and fearless.  Maw Waiquoi was in her mid-teens, and her dream had made her fearless too, even though she knew that marrying a white man meant, to her people, she was no longer a member of the tribe.  Now she was one of the white settlers, as far as the Sak and Fox were concerned.

Maw Waiquoi adopted the name "Sophia Muir", and she bore two children to Dr. Samuel Muir before he was conscripted by the American army and taken south to fight in the Americans' war.  Although Sophia was no longer a member of her tribe, she also was not considered by American law or American society to be a member of their tribe.  She and her children not only had no legal rights; they were considered a reason for treason by the military, who had ordered all soldiers to abandon their Native American families and have no further contact.  So Sophia was alone with two little ones, with no way to feed them and with no tribe to care for her.

Sophia had a canoe, and she was not ready to let her children die.  She could scavenge berries, and she could fish.  She took supplies, the children, and her canoe, and she pursued her husband.  She traveled 800 miles over many months, and she reached him.  Her children were strong and healthy, but she was a walking skeleton.  She had fed her children well, but had not been able to feed herself more than enough to survive.

Dr. Samuel Muir vowed never again to be separated from Sophia and his children.  He left the army, and he was one of the founding community of Galena, Illinois, and built a home and life near Keokuk, Iowa.  They had two or three more children, and they were happy.  The women of Galena respected Sophia and did their best to be welcoming, although she never really fit in.  Sophia embraced Christianity, and raised her children to follow Jesus.

In 1832, Dr Samuel Muir took ill and died.  Their home of many years was taken away from Sophia and their children.  Sophia appealed to the governor of Illinois for the lives of her two youngest children who were still dependent upon her, and he granted her the relief of turning them over to the custody of one of the leading women in Galena, who would care for them.  Sophia took the children to the meeting place, but was late, and found the woman had left Galena without the children.

Sophia had no resources and no welcome in American society without her husband, and the Black Hawk War had destroyed her people.  Desperate to save her children, she again gathered what she could to provide for her children on a journey, and pursued the remaining Sac and Fox tribes.  She had Jesus, and she had hope and love and survival skills.

Sometime that cold winter, American settlers found the bodies of Sophia and her youngest two children, in the snow of what is now the upper MidWest.

Sophia is my hero.  She did what the best of us do:  she made her path through the realities she encountered as best as she could, with perseverance, grace, and hope.

In my imagination, Sophia calls me to do the same, but also to widen the path for others, and to heal the broken places in our world that make survival so difficult for those who are not fortunate enough to be born into the right family.

She missed being killed by American soldiers at the Battle of Bad Ax on August 2nd the year her husband died of cholera at their home on the banks of the Mississippi.  She successfully raised her two older children who grew up remembering her mad dash to save them and reunite with their father.  And she held her youngest two children as they froze to death in her arms over a decade later.

Our big question is not "Does God exist?", nor is it "Is Jesus my Savior and Lord?".  I personally answer both of those questions affirmatively, as did Sophia; I believe Sophia is present with Jesus now, and I believe I will be too, once I reach my end.  

I believe Jesus was with Sophia in her most terrifying and final moments; it was Christians who were not.  And so, to me, THAT is our big question: "How do I respond to real needs around me today, both to help individuals and to fix broken systems that oppress or abandon the people of today."

In all of Jesus' teaching, He called us to meet real needs of real people: our brethren, or enemies, and the strangers and outcasts.

Sophia echoes the teaching of her Savior:   Do not just teach what is true.  Live it.

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On Massacres And Victories

On August 1st and 2nd, 1832, we killed babies and women and children and weak old men, after the Sac Indian leaders (Black Hawk and a few remaining warriors) commanded his people to surrender to the US army while he and his few living men fled to the north.  He thought the army would spare the women and children, but that they would have killed the Sac warriors.  He thought wrong, because the US army massacred his people, lied about it (even to this day, although history has plenty of truth-tellers that have carried the real news report forward from that day to this), and then captured the warriors and kept them alive as trophies of victory.

I first became aware of this story when I was reading an early history of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa as part of my interest in my own family history, and read the author's horrified contemporary account of the whole Black Hawk war from her perspective as a founding settler of Galena, Illinois.  She told a compelling story, and it caused me to look up the Black Hawk War and the Battle of Bad Ax on Google.  What I read did not match her account; so I have been digging deeper ever since.  I even visited some of the battle sites, and drove to "Victory, Wisconsin" where the final massacre occurred.

I found it fascinating that two opposing stories of the war have carried down through all these years:  the official army version and the truth as relayed by early settlers and discovered by later settlers (they found mass graves with babies and little children) and memorialized by honorable writers who felt it was a tale that had to be told.

One of the most interesting recent books goes even further, and digs into the written record from the soldiers who committed this massacre.  It finds that the army had been brainwashed quite deliberately into seeing the world through a certain macho and racist filter that glorified the honor in exterminating these "savages" who stood in the way of white people settling safely into these new areas.  They very clearly saw the Sac as something other than real people like them, and very clearly valued male humans over female ones.  They did not see that they were inhumane savages themselves by murdering women and children and lying about the circumstances in which it happened; they were truly the heroes in the events that transpired, as they saw things.

This split view of history is echoed in so many other pieces of our past, from the civil war to other conflicts with Native Americans to Vietnam and Afganistan and Iraq.  It is emotionally important, when you are the aggressor, to have brainwashed yourself into seeing your actions as honorable and right; and in the aftermath it makes no sense emotionally to process guilt and horror if you have the option of maintaining a view where you were the hero in all that happened.  Even so, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) has stolen as much productivity, peace, and joy from our nation over these centuries as actual deaths, injuries, and monetary costs have stolen.

And here we are.  

If we want our present and future to be as free of the impact of PTSD as possible, and if we want to move forward in peace and joy and creative engagement with each other and with reality, we need to come to grips with "Victory, Wisconsin" and with all the other horrors of our past.  We need to understand the cognitive dissonance between a valuing of life and peace and a calling to be part of an ideology.  We need to understand our need to be part of a compelling ideological group and how motivating that can be.  We need to understand propaganda and social norming techniques that sell both healthy and abhorrent belief systems.  And, above all, we need to understand our individual responsibility and ability to evaluate ideologies and propaganda and the cultural norming techniques being used by us and on us.

You need to become mindful and informed, and start being the leader in your own story.  Your only alternative is to be led to believe and do things that history will show as the brainwashing of good people to accomplish the wrong things in the wrong way.  You may still make wrong choices and believe lies; but at least you will have attempted to push past that.  And in the end we will have raised kids and created a culture that is harder to fool and that has the skills to do better than the Battle of Bad Ax.

Figure out what matters.  Figure out what is true.  Figure out where you stand and what you should do with your time, energy, and money.  Figure out who you love.  And figure out what you want history to show about what you do today, tomorrow, and to your end.


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My answer to all private and public battles

I finally figured out my answer to all our political and cultural battles, and to the interpersonal conflicts in my own life. It came to me out of a distressing but normal conflict with my seventeen-year-old son. And, of course, I did not think it up. Rather, everything wise women and men and wise faith have been teaching me all my life finally won out in my head and heart, and put to rest my silly notions of “winning” and “losing”.

I will let you see my epiphany as most of you see so much interaction these days: as a series of text messages, written by me to my son after he had treated me poorly because he felt I was “on him” unreasonably, but then he needed a favor some hours later and so acted as if none of it even happened.Here is my response, which was also the written expression of my own eyes opening to my own struggle to communicate my reality in ways that made him (and the world) take it as seriously as his own perspective:

HimI need to … (his words are not mine to share)… so will you … (not mine to share)

MeI love you. My answer is going to be “yes” if you will bear with me and hear me out about this morning.

Me: When we are in community (ie family, coworkers/bosses/employees, students&teachers&staff, members of the same club or church, etc) we are committed together toward accomplishing certain goals and with efficiency and kindness to one another.

Me: In the community of our family, we are committed together toward : 1) providing daily routines that allow us all to be where we need to be when we need to be there with everything we need for our day; 2) planning together how we can each and all best move toward a future that brings us peace and joy; 3) using available resources to do a better job toward the above two things than we did yesterday; AND 4) growing, together and individually, into peacable and passionate (joy-filled) creatures.

Me: If you are not committed to those goals, but instead allow your anger to put you in a place where you work to destroy our ability (and your own ability) to achieve those goals, you do not win

Me: Nor do my goals change.

Me: I still love you.

Me: I still am after the same goals.

Me: I still know you can achieve those goals too, if you decide to do so, once you decide to do so,

Me: But right now you think anger makes destroying progress toward those goals a “win”,

Me: as if you are punishing me.

Me: I do not believe in punishment — not in the sense of retribution anyway. I do believe there are consequences to our choices, but I think life and society impose those consequences, not me.

Me: I think my role (not just as your mom, but as a fellow human being) is to keep my eye on the bigger goals and just keep trying to move toward them.

Me: That is the role of forgiveness:

Me: not some sickly-sweet useless caving in to an angry teenager,

Me: but a choosing to keep my eye on real goals that will bring joy and peace rather than to get pulled into a win/lose game where even the winner loses.

Me: So my answer is “yes”,

Me: But until you learn to use your anger to point you toward all that you actually long for,

Me: you lose.

Me: Because joy and peace and love ARE real

Me: and you are missing out.

Me: So each time one of us frustrates or angers the other, it is not a fight where there will be a winner and a loser.

Me: You ARE growing up. Neither of us can speed that up or slow that down.

Me: Each time we have conflict, it is an opportunity for each of us and for us together

Me: To grow in our ability to stay fixed on peace and joy

Me: and to get there

Me: together or not.

Me: That is all.

We each have our own perspectives and goals, and we cannot control others, and we cannot even set the goals we think those with us in community should be pursuing. They may pursue winning at the expense of everything that lasts.

However, we can choose to pursue peace and joy and love in the context of reality, and practice the forgiveness over and over and over that frees us up to KEEP pursuing peace and joy and love even if it is a lone pursuit.

We cannot avoid the conflict and tragedy that are outside our control, but we CAN each let all that conflict and tragedy direct us back to our ever-stronger pursuit of peace and joy and love.

And in our personal lives we will become amazing and experience full life.

And in our political and cultural conflicts, we will learn to listen and learn to value real progress over time, rather than just valuing the temporary triumph of our own current ideologies or the power to impose our own perspectives on others.

And in our collective life and history, over time, we will become whole and free, with real diversity and with real unity.

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Step One

Before I was out of bed this morning, I woke up feeling empathy for the 19-year-old young man in San Diego who was deported by INS this week.  He doesn't ever remember living in Mexico; he was brought up just like my boys in So Cal.  He was a DACA kid, and graduated from a CA high school and went on to study arts at a local school.  But, just like most of his safe white classmates, he had a tiny bit of weed in his pocket when he was stopped ... so now that kid is in Mexico with no resources.

I got up and googled to see more details, and saw something similar happened to a 23-year-old DACA student in Washington.  And the list of stories go on.

So we have become a country that does violence to the innocent and terrorizes all of us but particularly ethnic minorities.  I hear voices saying "but they broke the law", but if my white kids break the law they get a proportionate reaction -- not shipped to another country with no resources.  So I am sickened.

The best I can figure, as I consider the apathy or antipathy of voters, senators, congressmen & congresswomen, FOXnews, and many of my friends, is that we really see the world in "us vs them" terms and have no problem letting "them" "lose" when "we" were the ones who "won".  And then for those like me, who "voted right" and have empathy, there is a feeling of helplessness to help but then also a feeling of fear of helping and having that heartlessness directed toward us as "they" perceive us as "on the other side" and thus fair game for this national purge of people that didn't "play by the rules" in this current life-altering cruel game.  

My amazement is doubled by the economic facts, which make it clear that we will all be hurt by this purge, which is of good tax-paying social-security-paying workers and consumers, almost all of whom have state-side citizen nuclear-family members.  There will be fewer dollars spent at Costco, fewer dollars spent at Target, fewer dollars to every business in our economy.  And the jobs they leave empty are not the ones our unemployed college grads or unemployed 50-somethings or unemployed coal miners can fill.

And FOXnews is not covering it, and my FB and Twitter feeds only touch on it.

My first step in responding will be prayer and fasting.  Fasting is a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition designed not to make God hear me better, but purposed to help me hear God better.  It involves abstaining from some part of life that I will miss enough to remind me to pray.  I will be praying both for God to intervene on behalf of those living in fear of the INS and for God to show me how I personally should respond.

I invite you to join me.


Practicing Relational Engagement Across the Political Divide

No one can deny that conservatives and progressives find each other's perspectives troubling and perplexing, and that good people on both sides are committed to doing all they can to advance their ideological and political agenda.  This post is not intended to oppose political activism, which is a good and protected American tradition.

However, in the midst of our peaceful activism, we do not want to lose unnecessary ground in our mutual respect and kindness and understanding.

If you are after a United States of America and after a world that is kind and wise and secure, I invite you to commit yourself to these disciplines:

1) Maintain several daily friendships (with real face-to-face interaction several times a month or more) that are with people who have a political perspective that you personally oppose.  Engage with them in the things you hold in common, and do not let your engagement be focused on changing their political perspective.

2) Deliberately allocate a portion of the time and attention you spend on news and information to perspectives that trouble you.  

If you spend hours watching FOXNEWS or MSNBC, record and watch an hour of coverage from the other channel, even if it makes you angry.  Add in a third perspective, too, by watching an hour of a more neutral news program or by reading down the stories on news.google.com each day.

If you read the Wall Street Journal each morning, spend time skimming the stories on a less conservative or truly progressive paper like the New York Times, and vice versa.  And again, add a more moderate mix like CBS news.

3) Practice empathy with those on "the other side", and understand that you would have their perspective and make their choices if you were in their situation and had been formed by the forces that formed them.

That is not to say that you should not fight for the things you passionately defend and promote.  It is to say you should do it without violence or hatred, but with respect for even people that you rightly see as the enemy.


1) Maintain several warm face-to-face friendships that are with people who have a political perspective that you personally oppose.  

2) Deliberately allocate a portion of the daily time and attention that you spend on news and information to perspectives that trouble you, to be informed fully.

3) Practice respect and empathy for those “on the other side”  without sacrificing your own beliefs.

For support and accountability in promoting and practicing these commitments, join me here:


How I am "Pro-Life" and how I am "Pro-Choice"

About being Pro-Life:

▶️ I believe human life, at every stage, in every circumstance, is worth as much as my own life:
▶️ This is why I want good nursing home care for the elderly and infirm
▶️ This is why I want poor mothers to be able to take their feverish babies to a doctor today, now
▶️ This is why I want to make sure all world citizens who are in danger have access to a safe place, and then access to resources to rebuild lives that are not lived in crisis
▶️ This is why I want to protect all groups of people who are marginalized and face either legal or illegal discrimination; our marginalized minorities die earlier than our majority and live much harder lives; we need to change that so that it changes our understanding about their right to life! #blacklivesmatter #lgbtqaxlivesmatter #syrianlivesmatter #allLivesMatterIsaCopoutWhenTheyClearlyDoNot
▶️ This is why I want to teach and protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience
▶️ This is why I want to provide value-infused sex education to young teens:
  *️⃣ infused with the belief that they deserve to cherish their own bodies and their own hearts and their own futures, and to take care not to injure the bodies, hearts, or futures of potential or actual sexual partners
  *️⃣ infused with the belief that babies are so important that they should not be conceived until there is a loving home to bring them into
  *️⃣ infused with the belief that they are capable of making healthy choices and that their elders will stand with them as they learn all they need to learn in becoming responsible adults

I know we have differences of opinion about the things we believe and the things we should have as mutual goals.  

I know we have differences of opinion about how we can best achieve our mutual goals.

I know we have difference of opinion about what we decide together and what each person decides.

These differences are why I am glad to be a citizen of the USA, and why I am Pro-Choice in these ways:

▶️ I believe there is a difference between “ethical” and “legal”, and I believe there are many personal ethical choices that are devastatingly wrong but nevertheless must be allowed legally 
▶️ I believe an unborn baby deserves its mother’s protection, but that the mother’s rights deserve legal protection
▶️ I believe women who have been groomed culturally to see themselves as primarily sexual objects (and as morally bound to be mothers before they are real and free humans) deserve to know they are free moral agents, not the property of the men in their life, and certainly not the property of any government
▶️ I believe women must, individually and collectively, assume their individual and collective responsibility to grow up and become the free moral agents that have the wisdom to see how every choice – big and little – impacts the well-being of themselves and of all people
▶️ I believe the best way any local, state, or federal government can foster a pro-life world is to protect the right of each woman to own her own body and her own moral choices and her own responsibility to own her impact on others

To those who feel compelled to step in, guns blazing, to defend all the unborn babies being murdered:

▶️ Step back and look at all the innocent people around the world that are being starved, murdered, and oppressed, and consider how easily you dismiss your own personal responsibility to do anything – guns blazing – to protect them
▶️ Take your impulse to save babies and use it well:
  *️⃣ Educate yourselves about how our economy, health care systems, educational systems, and culture create the need to choose abortion over birth
  *️⃣ Create and rebuild systems and laws that provide all that single and poor women need to avoid pregnancy and to care for their children and for themselves well
  *️⃣ Commit yourself to providing for the babies that are born from the cradle to the grave

We all deserve to take a step back from battle and not just load up our guns one more time.

Our lives can be spent building together a saner world for our grandkids and for their grandkids – one where they can look back and see how pro-choice and pro-life ancestors made sure they were born and also made sure they had no reason to abort their own children as a means of birth control.


The Morning After

I have deep empathy for those who are deeply afraid of what a Trump win says about our country, and of what it will mean in policies that will hurt many.   I do not post this to disrespect your emotions of fear and grief.  Nor do I post this to disrespect the elation and relief that Trump supporters are feeling.  I voted for Hillary whole-heartedly (an easy and obvious choice in my mind and heart and spirit), but I had and have grappled with the larger dynamics that grip our nation and world:  We (on both sides) have allowed ourselves to value "winning" over valuing the people who hold the beliefs that we fear and reject.

My emotional world today is largely unchanged from my world yesterday.  I woke the boys up yesterday morning and then joked in the kitchen "it's the end of the world as we know it" but then went on to have the conversation with them that said that one side or the other "winning" did not change the fact that we all still wake up together in the same country the next day.

I love deeply people on both "sides".  I hold in common with many of them memories, deeply-held-and-lived values, and hopes for the future.  I intended yesterday -- and intend today -- to remind us all, every day, that we are in this together, and that "winning" or "losing", now or in the future, cannot be the goal.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

No "cowboys and Indians" games for anyone in 2016, please?  We share a planet.  We need to stop being willing to ride over the other side on our way to "greatness", and realize that we are all real people and that "the kingdom of God" is right here, right now. (Karen Kettleson, (Mom), this is what I was trying to say about history: we know from history that good people justify atrocities because they allow themselves to view "the other side" as less than human and necessary casualties in their quest for righteousness.  (That is a lesson for ME, and not just you: "the other side" is beloved by God too, and I am not permitted to sacrifice them on an altar to God.  God provides/provided another way.))

None of that is to say that there are not big issues at stake.  There were and are.  It is to say that we can work through them together if we can learn to love the people who believe things that we think are dispicable.  All of us.

I don't need to concede what I believe to be true.  In fact, I can't -- because I was raised by people who taught me that God's truth matters more than my own life.  But they also taught me that courtesy and kindness and personhood can be extended to those I believe to be wrong.  And so we have all been learning to practice that: showing kindness and respect to the other, even though we believe the other to be wrong and cannot understand how they can't see their error.

So today, for me, is like yesterday:

1) I question everything
2) I tell my story and affirm what I believe to be right and true
3) I work on my habits and in my choices to not be a hypocrite
4) I honor your commitment and your right to do the same

Last night was not the end of the story; but may the next chapter NOT be the story of how my side eventually "wins".  May the next chapter be the story of a changed culture and a changed polity, where we stop setting aside daily life to "win", and start respecting our need to build a single diverse community through daily kindnesses to the "other side".


An Update

Well, 2015 is almost over!

Brooks said to me this afternoon that it seemed like 2015 hadn't even happened, but that he just woke up today and he was here -- living in Northern Minnesota, away from the life he loved in Southern California, and not sure what to expect next.

We survived the end of Anderson Bat Company LLC and the sale of our home in Yorba Linda CA and our move to the north woods where my parents live with optimism but without really landing yet.  We dissolved my I.T. business after deciding it wasn't the best way to support or even partially support us up here.  Steven hasn't gotten very far with funding his new bat, despite many near misses, but is open to discussing the possibilities with interested investors. 

I am finding my own journey comfortable and not terribly interesting these days -- that is, not interesting to write about here.  I am finding life fascinating though -- especially the stories of real people, both now and in the past.

I plan to use this blog to write about other people that interest me, and that I think might interest you. 


Higher Standards for Leaders? (And a request for help.)

Part 1:  the big picture

One part of our current Christianity -- all the way from the conservative extreme to the progressive extreme -- is our divide between "professional Christian" and "layperson".  We use a few chosen scripture passages to justify our expectations of "leaders", and then ignore the weight of the whole of scripture that calls ALL of us to a life wholly centered on following Jesus.

I believe that we scapegoat our leaders:  we sublimate our own guilt (about the ways we ignore what really matters for things that don't really matter in the long run) by fixating on the example they live out in front of us, whether good or bad.   This creates strong emotional and social pressures for a perfect act on the part of our leaders and their families, and they are trapped (in their need to act like they are already perfected in their maturity in every area of living) by the threat of their 200 to 5000 bosses firing them if the truth of their humanity slips out.

Imagine if we did this to our kids as they grew:  instead of cheering the toddler who takes two steps and tumbles, we lectured him on his failure in continuing to balance.  Instead of praising the second-grader who stands at the plate and hits a foul ball after her first two misses at coach pitch, we rant about how bad she is.  Instead of praising the 15 year old who finds the guts to ask his first crush to walk with him to the park, we critique his approach and give him pointers on the right way to do it?

The truth is that we are all learning and growing in our ability to manage life at every stage.  We get past college age and learn how to manage work and relationships and money without parental supervision.  We keep growing in our abilities to discern and make choices that play out well for ourselves and others.  We fine-tune our map of reality, and we fine-tune the skills to respond in the best way to reality.  This is as true for pastors as for carpenters, and as true for writers and speakers and administrators as for accountants and engineers and lawyers.

If we can give grace to pastors and allow them to be human -- that is, to be seeking to practice what they preach in ways that get closer and closer to the mark, rather than requiring them to pretend to have been reborn fully matured -- we can learn to extend that same grace to ourselves, and be able to encourage ourselves and each other to keep up that "long obedience in the same direction".

The emotional, religious, financial, and social systems that we perpetuate create chaos for us all, as they lock pastors and their families in a space where they can't grow in the ways God intended, and lock us in a space where we have an excuse to lose faith as we see their stunted examples.

Part 2:  Money

Our current economy has divided us into entrenched Tea Party and Progressive stances, and we see those divisions play out in our churches in ways that add to the pressures on pastors and their families.  The elderly conservative trustees know how they made ends meet as they went through various life stages, and project that truth onto a screen that covers up the differences in the economy from the realities of the decades of their lives.  Pastors are saddled with expectations that don't match the reality of their costs of living, and compensation that doesn't allow them to cover necessities, let alone plan well or avoid consumer debt. Attempting to explain the reality of their situation simply pits against them those who are convinced that there is a way to live in the past.

We most frequently hear stories of "fallen pastors" who have stumbled into sexual or romantic improprieties, but the reality is that financial "bad stewardship" is even more prevalent, because of the dynamics I've outlined above.  Financial problems are common in our economy, and we create financial problems for our pastors, and we put them in situations were they cannot be honest about their situations without fear of falling off their required pedestals and losing not only their job but also their ability to get the next job in the only thing they are educated to do.

Part 3:  My Friend

I have a friend who is a pastor and who needs to remain publicly anonymous.  He can receive direct donations, though -- so if you are able and inclined to give toward his need, please contact me and I will give you his contact information.  Here is his story, in his own words:
"We are a ministry family in danger of losing our home. We fell behind on the payments this summer but received a forbearance that is about to end. The forbearance stated that the arrearage had to be cleared up by September 30. After that, they will not accept a partial
payment. The entire arrearage must be paid in full, and foreclosure proceedings could start at any time. We truly believe God led us to this pastorate and to this house. It is well-suited to our child's special needs as well as those of the rest of our family. We pray that your compassion will help to save it. 

We started falling behind last spring. One of our children is disabled and much of this child's care is not covered under insurance. We arrived at this current pastorate in the hole already due to the care associated with our child's disability. Each payday, I chase the overdrafts: much of each paycheck just goes to fill the "hole" created by starting the previous pay period in the hole. I am very ashamed to say I have turned to high-interest finance companies and even payday loans to try to fill that hole, which only means less money each paycheck to live on.

If a number of compassionate people can help just a little bit each, I can pay off the arrearage on the house and fill in the "negative" in the bank account so that I could start each month with a clean slate instead of trying to "fill the hole" each time.

Why have I waited so long? Shame. And I've been hoping and praying that something would come along. My family does not have the means to help, or I would go there first. If you can help us, I would be most appreciative."
Again, these words are from a friend who is a pastor and who needs to remain publicly anonymous.  He can receive direct donations, though -- so if you are able and inclined to give toward his need, please contact me and I will give you his contact information. 

The total he needs to be brought current is $5K; so many small gifts really could do it!


On Loving While Angry

The Synchroblog topic this month is  on loving our enemies.  I look forward to the reflections and stories on such a key part of our calling as follower's of Jesus!  Join me in reading through the list of posts this month, which I have included at the bottom of this post, my own contribution.

If you backtrack through my blog posts, you will find many posts about Jesus' commands and parables instructing us to love each otherthe stranger, and our enemiesHe instructs us to do this through actual actions that meet the specific needs of the people we encounter, and not just through expressing an ideology that talks about doing that.  He says that we have eternal consequences based on how effectively we actually do what we claim we do, rather than just saying the right things about it.

Unfortunately, we all build up our own ideas about the best way to live so that we feel safe and righteous or at least self-justified in our selfishness, and withdraw into that ideology and feel kinship with those who show in their words and actions that they are "with us" in that.  This is as true for progressives as it is for conservatives.  It is as true for the politically disengaged as it is for political activists.  And it is especially true for those who have found loving groups of friends, family, and members of a faith community.  We take comfort in knowing that we believe the right things and have aligned ourselves with the right people for our own spiritual well-being and for the future of humanity as God brings God's kingdom ... although we may express that in much more secular terms.

The deliberate practice of  "loving while angry" is an antidote to the ways our different ideological and sociological alliances can blind us to real love of our enemies.  If I watch my own emotions and actions for signs of anger, hurt, contempt, or even just the tendency to see people as their role rather than as real persons (whether "the grocery clerk "or "my mom"), I can use those signs as a spur to find a way to both really listen and to take real action on behalf of that person's well-being.

In practice for me this involves less introspection than it sounds like it might, and more awareness of others than "random acts of kindness" encourages.  It is a cultivation of the habit of responding to each twinge of dislike or pain or anger or frustration with the question "What might that person need from me?"  It is the cultivation of prayer in asking God what that person needs from me.  It is the cultivation of margins in my own time and attention and money so that I can afford to pay attention and give time or other resources.  And it is the practice of actual empathetic conversation, in which I let my own dislike or pain or disagreement be the very trigger that let's me remember to bracket that reaction, pray for understanding of both my reaction and of  that of the other, and then reach out to converse and listen and maybe even be changed.

This practice is not comforting.  It pushes me out of safety into war zones regularly, and it breaks the artificial bonds of alignment with others through relationship or sociological circumstance or ideology.  Much of our shared life is built on the unwritten rules of any subculture.

But this practice does give me the spiritual workout I need to grow strong and to stay strong, and it does allow me to cultivate a practice of the presence of God.

My exhortation to you is this:  resolve to practice "loving while angry", and start developing the habit of approaching all your negative emotions head-on as opportunities for prayer and service and healing. You will be amazed at the way you also learn to love and care for the real person God created in YOU as you become an agent of love to your enemies and your friends and to the stranger.

This month's posts in  the February Synchroblog are:

  • Todi Adu – Love is War, War in Love
  • Todi Adu – Love is Your Weapon; Fight for Love
  • Carol Kuniholm – Circles of Love
  • K. W. Leslie – Love Your Enemies
  • Doreen A Mannion – Easy to Love
  • Liz Dyer – Uncomfortable Love
  • Mike Donahoe – Love Your Enemies Really
  • EmKay Anderson – On Loving While Angry
  • Glenn Hager – The Opposite of Love is Not Hate
  • Josie Anna – On Love Because I am Loved
  • Edwin Aldrich – Loving All of Our Neighbors
  • Jeremy Myers – How do you heap burning coals on the heads of your enemies?

  • 12.17.2013


    This month's list of posts submitted for this month's synchroblog is out! I have added it to the end of this post. Please take time to read the other posts listed below?

    And here's mine:


    Earlier today I typed out a very long post about my last few years, and where I disappeared to.  The main thing that drove my timing in that was my desire to participate in this month's synchroblog, and a sense that I had to bring my friends up to date for them to fully get what I have to say next.

    There has always has been that essential human longing that drives me, as it drives you, and drove our parents ... and that is why I am joining the voices this  month writing about HOME and HOMECOMING in this month's synchroblog

    Freud wrote that all other energies are really sexual energy that we "sublimate" to fuel nonsexual passions.  My belief is perpendicular to his:  I think we all long for HOME, and that all of our other passions - including our sexual passions - are either a sublimation of that longing or a means to anesthetize our pain at no longer believing we can meet that longing.  Our deepest longings point to a desire for home that lets us rest and rejoice and dream, and that gives us the strength and resources to push out into wider territory.

    We see the longing for home from early in the Bible, for instance.  Adam and Eve are cast out of their home, and long to return, but the return is forbidden and the boundaries are patrolled.  Abraham leaves home for a better home, and that drives much of his story and the story of his children. Later we see Naomi - a Hebrew woman in a foreign land - has done such a good job of making a home for herself, her husband, and her sons and their wives that when her husband and sons die and she tries to send away her daughters-in-law to their father's houses, she cannot talk Ruth into leaving her.  Ruth's words of loyalty to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17  show just how well her mother-in-law made a home for Ruth.

    We see the same theme in the exile and return from exile, and in the Zealots' desire to wrest political power back from Rome at the time Jesus was born and lived.  Jesus recognized this so-basic desire when he responded to would-be followers by saying: "Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

    Jesus understood how easy it is for us to make the passionate profession of life-long loyalty to the person or religion or community or calling that we think will give us that true home that will soothe us and equip us for the life we want, and also how easy it is to find that even the right person or right faith or right calling is unable to provide us with that home that we need and so deeply long after.

    Christmas stirs up intense emotions in this drama for people at every stage of life and in every position (in terms of their feeling as to whether they have created home where they are, or whether they can ever return home, or whether the whole concept of home is a sick joke).  That is why suicide rates are so high at that time of the year, and it is also why we put so much energy into our traditions and gift-giving.  We want to create home or go home or at least remember home and believe that home is possible.

    If you take the time to read through my last post, you will see the way I served my own desire to create home in the last 3 years, and if you read my blog up to that point you will see much of my own journey in seeking home and in seeking to create home.  If you know my story prior to starting this blog you know the ways I chased after my desire for home, and the ways I destroyed my homes myself because of that drive.

    (Please read the following knowing that I am still a Christian who adheres to the tenets of the Apostle's Creed as literally true, and that that sets the context for all the rest of what I say.) What I have learned is this:  good religion give us a map of reality that lets us plot a way home, and also gives us legs to walk there, and arms to carry others there with us for a ways.  Good faith lets us forgive ourselves and others for the ways we have destroyed our own homes and have blocked access to home for both those we love and those we do not.  And God is the teacher who helps us internalize a map that is true and cultivate the skills we need to walk and to build, and also the parent who quenches our deepest needs for connection and for understanding and approval so that we will be free to offer and accept that kind of connection and approval and understanding to others.

    I have become a feminist and a progressive mainly because I no longer believe that I can enjoy my own ability to create home for myself and for those I love within a bubble.  Oppression and poverty hurts my home whether I can ignore it successfully or not, and will invade my world eventually if I don't keep the whole of reality in view.

    I cannot change poverty or inequality myself, of course, or right the many injustices of the world.  But I can be a voice that speaks to the reality of the whole and of my own little view of that reality, and my own experience of that ... and in so doing can have an impact hand-in-hand with others. 

    I have had many conversations over the past few years about culture wars and about the divisions within the world-wide church and within my own denomination, and I really think that the issue of homemaking is at the root of all the issues we have discussed.  We are in a finite world within the bounds of the present moment and within the bounds of our present resources and emotional and spiritual and physical energy . . . and we must make a home for ourselves here and now, together. 

    Those who are driven by fear think they can preserve their own worldview and their own control of their own resources at the expense of the evil masses outside their doors, and that that is righteous.

    The Bible tells me that that is a lie.  We are called to lay down our safety, and lay down our worldview, and lay down our control of our own resources, all in service to the HOME we are called to inhabit together.

    Jesus said  "There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

    In His great commission, Jesus commanded us to be about this business exactly:  bringing HOME to the masses by teaching them to live as Jesus taught His disciples to live, which was to love each other, and love the stranger, and love our enemies, and above all to love God and the reality of the world God created.

    When pastors or writers or mothers or politicians or lovers or marketers or investors invest themselves in any little aspect of life as though they can amass points there (in members or dollars or distribution records or votes or donations or orgasms or hits or any other kind of number) they are just playing a game of sorts.  That game can be good or neutral if it does not detract from homebuilding for themselves and for all of us.  But when it is done at the expense of  God's goals for all in view of God's kingdom, it is an evil game.

    Just as we must pour out our lives in service to the Triune God in order to live in the salvation and healing that Jesus was born to bring to us through His life, death, and resurrection, we must not pour our lives out in service to any job or calling or lover or ideology at the expense of home for all those whom the Triune God calls "Beloved".  To do so is to step over to "the other team".

    Jesus' best illustration of what we need to do to live in His kingdom instead of being on "the other team" is found in His parable of the division of the sheep from the goats.

    Whether female or male, whether clergy or laity or disenfranchised from any faith community, whether old or young, your primary objective should be to become a homemaker in the context of real life, not leaving out anyone or anything.  There is room for disagreement over what is loving and what is effective, and what is true (as real "love covers a multitude of sins") but there is not room to make life into a competition with "winners" and "losers" for points that feed nothing but your ego or your bank account or your balance sheet or your resume.

    Repentance has a bad rep among most circles these days, but sometimes the only way to go home for Christmas is to turn around and go home.

    Are you making a home, or are you trying hard to be one of the "winners" instead of one of the "losers"?

    Right here, right now . . .  that's all any of us ever have, even in eternity.  Use this minute to build a home instead of to "win".

    other bloggers writing so far about “coming home” this advent: