The Great Divide

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I was raised in a tiny hick town. Hay, apples, hops and cattle. If you didn’t own a pair of wranglers you weren’t from there. Even the kids that hung out at the skate park (me) owned a pair of shit kickin’ boots. There is a small university. The big to-do is the rodeo, 4-H shows, and jazz festival.
My first job was shoveling horse poop and cleaning stalls, my brothers was bucking hay. The country lifestyle was rooted deep…

When I was in high school I met a young woman named Medina. Her family is Muslim, and she was (and is) one of the most accepting, loving, joyous and vibrant human beings I have known. She was the same age as me, and we just clicked in the most ‘no labels’ kind of way. Her family was my introduction to the world of Islam, and I’m so thankful for that. My small town was void of much in the way of religious diversity. And I can count on two hands the amount of African Americans who lived there. Medina was, but I never bothered to see it as some do, as a difference. As small and closed in as we all were, the color of ones skin was not a definition or label, but a unique and wonderful addition to who one showed themselves to be on the inside.

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I now live in the Midwest, in a large city. Our children are being raised surrounded by amazing museums, parks, a zoo. There are no farms to be seen, no weekend horseback riding. Universities and other centers of learning are scattered between the hospitals, skyscrapers. Our home is not far from all of this, but it’s far enough that I can’t see the buildings and my kids don’t hear traffic all night. A gateway to the rest of our world…

My children are friends with a vast and unique melting pot of other little humans, all of different races, faiths, backgrounds. I had hoped that raising our kids in this place would help to resonate my own beliefs deep inside them that we are all beautifully created equals…and that we all have a place to fill that only we can. (In a city that offers so many opportunities to learn and grow.) Never was I more wrong, or so unprepared for what real racism, bigotry, discrimination looked and felt like.

Our city is at war with itself. Armored vehicles patrolled city streets, riots and the burning of people’s livelihood. Lives lost, taken. Not one person matters to the other, despite the chants that they all do…or rather should. The racial divide is astounding. The socio-economic divide is mind blowing. The fear of those with a different faith is well, scaring the hell out of me.

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How am I to teach my children/how can any parent teach their children to be accepting of others and themselves if we, as tall and take charge humans, can’t live without placing others below us. How can I tell my child/how can you tell your child that they are not defined by their race, sexuality, faith when the community surrounding them is smacking labels on every forehead, building, neighborhood. Help!

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I worry for my daughter Birdie. She will be in middle school next year. More kids, more teachers. More intolerant behavior. Her best friends are not pasty white like she is. They are African American, Vietnamese, Russian, Muslim, Christian. They are girls, boys, and a sweet child whose name is that of a boy, but calls them-self a very feminine Linda. Will this shove into her teen years take away from her acceptance? Will it put her in a position to be judged or God forbid – to judge??

I, obviously do not have all the answers. But I hope a real conversation can be started. I long for the childhood I had to be that for my daughter, her friends. I have felt the pain of judgement and intolerance of society. Though I know it’s nothing compared to hardships others face simply because they are of a certain race, sexual identity. I believe in God, and I am sure in my heart that He didn’t create us all so wonderfully, so unique…only to have it used as a means to wage war, isolate, hate. We are all capable of choosing to accept, to love, to take just one step in the right direction.

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Take away the labels, the wealth or the lack of, and you are human. Your choices matter, who you are matters. Taking who you are and using your choices for the uplifting of mankind as a whole, rather than a tool to divide…it matters.

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Love Matters

 

Gia ónoma tou Theoú…

 

The ability to see beyond our own lives, and reach out to those who need to be seen, no matter our own struggles is such an integral part of what makes humans, well, human. It is also one of the most healing things to do. It is agape love, biblical if you believe, and at the very least inspiring if you do not.

Love, as with our personalities, lives, unique abilities, cannot be contained or simply placed in one category.

As a small child I was raised attending church and often there more than just Sunday morning. All the different churches we attended taught the importance of accepting, loving, passing it on. (Accepting that Jesus died on a cross for us, was risen to fulfill Gods plan for him, us, the world…and to love others as He loves us.)

‘A man makes plans with his heart, but the Lord guides his steps’ (Proverbs 16:9) is one of, if not the most life altering reading in the bible I have ever come across. I will admit that I have not memorized the bible cover to cover, but I have read it, and some of it many many times. There was a period that I literally fell asleep with my arms wrapped around His word. It is the reason I’m still married, and the reason I forgive myself and others, why I am alive.

As human beings we are often fickle with love, and in a society that has become so narcissistic, all too often use the word and minimize, trivialize its value. Love.

The biblical or ‘agape’ love is what holds society together, and once it dwindles war breaks out, our neighbors sue us, our employers hire cheaper labor that’s inept and our children grow up to be mindless drones who do nothing for their fellow man. People go hungry, homeless, and forgotten. The intimate, ‘philia’ love is found in life long friendships, the bond between men who fight for our freedom and what causes them to never leave a man behind. Our philia love is what, as mothers, We should strive to have with our children. Without it, our lives are without a sense community, our child without intimacy and a sense of deep belonging that will center them. ‘Ludas’ and ‘eros’ love (some say the two are very different, I beg to differ) is what gives us courage to take risks with those we fancy, if you will. We ask for the dance, a hand in marriage, brings our sensual desires to verbalization and sexual fantasies to fruition. Without this love, our courtships would be many, and our desire to receive or show passion would disappear. Our ‘pragma’ love is the ‘forever and ever’ love. It is the matured, time consuming love. Found in people who have been together for years, and is practiced and not just simply ‘there’ for the taking/giving. It is selfless, much like agape love, but harder to achieve with the day to day activities, mountains and valleys of our lives, and the lives of our children. Pragma love is also the most rewarding. It is the tie that binds us, keeps us from walking away. Last, and for myself the least…’philautia’ love is to love yourself. Not to be mistaken with being a narcissist, it is vital to our mental well being and an integral part of how we feel that others view us. For myself, the biggest hurdle in my faith is to love myself, and more importantly not rely on others to do it for me. Philautia is what happens when one looks in the mirror and says ‘BEAUTIFUL’ no matter the hour, income, relationship woes, anxieties. There is no place for a broken mirror in philautia love.

Why the break down you ask? Because it’s crucial to know love, and knowledge is understanding. Our hearts, our love, guide most things women say, do, act out. And that’s wonderful, if you know who’s guiding you.

As a Christian I choose to believe, because that’s a key point of my faith, that God guides me. He guides me by being my starting point and who I look to for love when I can’t find it, feel it, see it. For though I may make plans for my heart, He is there first, to make sure my walk is not at a painful price, to carry me when I can’t take one more step. How you ask? The Word of God.

The bible is not just fire and brimstone, nor is it sin, forgive, sin, blessings, sin, heaven. It is a map to being a person Who FEELS worthy of each and every love. It’s a walk filled with compassion. (If you read the bible and all you feel is guilt, I’ve been there. Guilt is not from God. Forgive yourself, as God did before you even asked.) Jesus came to live out a life as we do now to be able to say ‘I feel you, I have been you and I love you.’ That sense of worth comes from understanding and accepting God created you. He didn’t just snap a finger, do a dance and you appeared. He took a piece of himself, his love and devotion TO YOU, and molded it into this amazing, one of a kind beautiful woman or man, and blessed you. Your uniqueness (or what can make us feel different, and not in a good way) is what He loves most, and if you let Him, will use to change lives.

So you see, in our humanness our love falters, as can our devotion. Gods love doesn’t end because we stop reading our bibles, don’t attend church twice a week. He loves us so much, and was so certain that would never change, he gave us Jesus. He allowed His son to die for our sins. I can tell you that I wouldn’t do that for you, myself, my husband, no one. He sent Jesus to heal the sick, not the well. If you struggle with illness, whether mental or physical, He came for you, was sent for you. For it is the least of these that shall inherit the Kingdom of God. Why again you ask? Because He is devoted to us, loves us. God LOVES you, as a father, friend, physician, the creator of your heart. He loves you. Pass it on. 💜