Unsolicited Advice

I have been wanting to write this for a while now, but the words just weren’t coming to me. I feel like there were much more important things to think about and write about. I figured I might as well make a new category for my blog as this doesn’t fit within my journey of faith or my letters to my son. Unsolicited advice will be a series focused, maybe a little tongue in cheek, on giving unsolicited advice (and very unqualified advice at that) to someone or something pulling from my years as a youth minister.

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Honest Faith: The Lost Boy

Growing up my biggest fear above anything else was being alone. There were many different reasons for that, and it was also a bit hard to define. Like for instance, I didn’t mind playing in my room by myself if someone else was in the house. I could play on a playground alone if I knew someone else was on the property with me. What I feared was truly being alone. I feel like that has evolved more into a fear of being forgotten. That my life, my work, and the things that I do don’t make a difference. I can point to an episode of “Black Mirror” (Available on Netflix) that would define it rather well. There is an episode of a sort of dystopic future sort of run by a reality talent show. I won’t spoil it but the ending terrified me.

I was reminded of this when I was talking to my wife yesterday. It was the “Hey honey, how was your day?” talk that we usually have at the end of the work day. I was telling her about this podcast that I discovered that day by the pastor who gave up God for a year, and discovered he was an atheist back in 2014. I was telling her about the work that he was doing now and she asked me a question that is stuck in my brain. She asked, rather innocently, “Do you not want to be a Christian anymore?” Still now I don’t know how to respond to that question. I quickly said a “No, that’s not what I was talking about.” But the truth is I don’t know.

The truth is a very tricky thing. I think it takes the right question, phrased in the right way to help you discover what it really is. That question asked of me last night shook me. It helped me to see the truth about some things, and also made things a bit more cloudy. I used to feel God was with me every day. I used to see God in everything. I would be inspired by little things and their relation to the greater divine all around us. I used to. The truth is I’m lost more now than ever. I don’t know if what I was seeing or feeling was truly the divine or something I was just fooling myself into believing.

I look back on my life and wonder if I caused my own isolation. Ministry is a lonely and isolating profession. It is no wonder that many of those who are in ministry suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. While ministers are meant to journey alongside, many are pushed to the front and told to lead, yet few follow. I noticed something while I was in ministry. When I met someone new and told them what I did for a living they would, more often than not, take a step back. As if somehow proximity to me would cause me to add guilt to their life. So as a reflex to that I started walling myself off from people. I would protect myself from getting hurt by people by not letting them inside in the first place. I discovered now in my transition that I don’t have anyone that I feel really sees me for who I am. I feel forgotten, alone, and lost. As if my worst fears have become reality.

There is one place that I still see the divine. Every day I see it. It’s in the smile of my son. That little boy is delighted by all that he sees. There was a song that a friend told me that I should listen to after he was born, primarily because his name is Peter. I keep coming back to this song this year. He is my peter pan, and I am his lost boy.

I think while we have been so busy trying to find ourselves in this society we walled ourselves off from each other. We got so very lost while we trying to grow up. We got caught up in the digital not realizing that it was cutting us off from one another. Is it just me, or are we all lost? Have we forgotten to be human to each other? Have we forgotten how to develop real human connections? I ask because this lost boy is trying to find his place in the world.

I’m trying to find my way back to the place I was before. I still want to see the divine in everything. I want to be inspired by little things again. I hold so tightly to that little piece of the Divine in my life because at times it’s all I have. I think as human beings we are meant to see the divine in each other. I think that is why community is so important. To be honest I don’t know how to find a community that I would feel comfortable being myself in. I don’t know how to do that, but I’m going to try.

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Honest Faith: The Continued Dehumanization of Culture

2016 may well be a dumpster fire equivalent of a year. There have been a lot of horrible things that happened this year. There has been a large loss of life; human, animal, and other. Some things that we thought would never happen, actually happened. For many of us, some personal struggles finally came to a head. It certainly doesn’t negate the good things that have happened, but sometimes the bad is a lot easier to feel.

This year there has been a large number of celebrity deaths. Some of our most iconic heroes and artists passed away this year. John Glenn, Muhamed Ali, David Bowie, Prince, and Carrie Fisher to name a few. I have seen a lot of posts on social media talking about how 2016 is the worst or how people are complaining too much about 2016. It’s completely natural to mourn the loss. With a few exemptions I feel we celebrate those who have shown us what humanity is capable of. Artists, and Athletes that remind us of the divinity that resides in all of Creation. It makes sense for people to mourn the loss of those glimpses of the divine.

It is natural for those of us who grew up learning how to communicate digitally to share how we feel on social media. It releases dopamine when we get likes or responses on social media. It has become our norm. We millennials tend to live our lives digitally. It makes it very hard for us to have analog relationships and conversations with people. There has been a great video going viral recently that explains this phenomenon. There is a massive danger in this I think. The problem is that we who have become addicted to social media have begun to dehumanize each other.

I’ve talked about this issue before last year on arguments and other sprinkled references throughout my blog. I think that it is very easy for us who live our lives online to tend to see others as statistical views, likes, clicks, comments, and so on. We’ve become names and pictures, not real human beings on the other side of the internet. We can no longer see the forest for the trees or the internet for the people who make up the world wide web. This makes complaining a lot easier to do. Complaining about things like people venting feelings or needing some comfort because someone they looked up to passed away.

I think in so doing we not only dehumanize the other, we have dehumanized ourselves. We forget about the validity of the feelings of the other in so doing we are trying to protect our own feelings. By protecting those feelings we shut them down. I know that we do this because I’m guilty of it too. I have been guilty of getting involved in the shutting down discussion because I disagree with someone. I have been part of arguing with digital people because I thought I was trying to enlighten them. It’s tough. I don’t know what the answer is, truthfully. What I do know is that we have a big need for actual conversation. We need to stop dehumanizing and start talking… Just a thought.

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Honest Faith: Beauty in the Breakdown

A few years ago I was obsessed, like many people my age, with the television show Scrubs and Zach Braff. I particularly enjoyed his movie Garden State. He put together a wonderful mix of songs for that movie and there was one that particularly stood out to me. Still, to this day, it wells up “the feels” in me. It is Frou Frou’s hit “Let Go”. If you wish to give it a listen here’s the first youtube video that pops up when you search it:

My life, as one of my friends puts it, certainly wasn’t the one I signed up for. I have had several breakdowns emotionally, spiritually, and physically along the way. I could have let any one of those stop me along the way, but still, I persisted. There is one thing that through it all I’m reminded of. There is beauty in the breakdown. I can quote any number of things that kept me going throughout the years, but that’s not what this post is about.

On Sunday, my family and I attended a church service. It was only the second time we had gone since another such breakdown. Something there reminded me of this. The moments came together to suddenly bring me back to a place where I felt comfortable again at a small “c” church. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first time we had attempted to go back to a worship service. I broke down during the Eucharist. I felt unwelcomed and unwanted at the table. Because of this, I got very angry and upset. I realize it wasn’t rational. I know it is nobody’s fault. But it was something that just took me aback. I realize there are things that I could be justifiably bitter about in my life, but that would go to serve nobody. It doesn’t help me, and it certainly doesn’t help other people for me to hold on to grudges. It was almost enough to make me never want to go back to church again. But I made a promise to myself, my wife, my therapist, and my blog readers (Hey! Look you got a mention!) to try to find a way back.

Anyway, This week as I was sitting there preparing for the worst, as I am wont to do, something beautiful happened. Now, this may seem silly to a lot of people, but to me, it was one of the most beautiful and endearing things that have happened in a worship service in a long time. People kept missing their marks, there were misspellings in the bulletin, and the lectors read the wrong thing. Some may take offense at that, but to me it was beautiful. It was beautiful because nobody seemed to care. We were all just honest, real, and authentic human beings coming together to worship the Divine.

I think that is one of the reasons, out of many, that Millennials are leaving organized religion. It’s become too polished, too much of a show, and so much about the “entertainment value” that worship has become a shell of what it was. I did a youth group project a few years ago asking people why they go to church. One of the top answers was because my friends are there. I’m sure if you ask people what they love about a church, aside from disingenuous answers of the music, or the preaching, you’ll hear because they are family or some variation on that. Now let me ask you something, are your friends and family perfect, polished, and “showy”?

One of the things that Millennials value most is authenticity. I think that this is why I felt there was so much beauty in this breakdown of the service. It suddenly felt real to me again. It was a family muddling through the issues to do the traditions and rituals before us. We didn’t let the small things stop us. Maybe that is what the Divine intended all along for us. To be messy, to be real, and to be authentic.

What about you, reader? Do you find beauty in the breakdown? Is it easier to let go when others do? Am I way off base?

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Dear Son, In Your Eyes

Dear Son,

When I look into your eyes, it is almost like staring into a mirror. I see my own eyes looking back at me. In some ways, that terrifies me. In others, it fills me with hope. I don’t want you to have to face and see some of the things my eyes have seen. I also know that you will see a world much different than the one I grew up in. Though, every time I look into your eyes I still get an overwhelming and almost ineffable sense of joy and pride.

You look at everything now with a sense of wonder and discovery. You are just now starting to recognize things and how they relate to you. I love the look you get when I pull out the cracker box. You like to look around and observe everything around you. Right now as you play on the floor, you have to keep turning your head to look around at everything. I may just be reading this wrong, but you seem to be very curious, just like me.

There are many sappy songs that I could quote and refer you to at the moment, but by now I’m almost certain that you’ve heard them a dozen times over. one line keeps replaying in my mind, though. It’s from the first lines of Lee Ann Womack’s classic I Hope You Dance,

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger”

I don’t ever want you to lose this wonder, this hunger you have to discover everything around you. There is so much in this world for you to learn and understand. I know you will encounter that brief period when you think you know all there is to know in the world, but I pray that passes quickly. I hope that I will always see that look in your eye of wonder and amazement at all the world has to offer.

I also hope that you never stop seeing things around you. I hope you see the needs that you can fill, the comfort and support you can supply to your fellow human being who is hurting, the small gestures that you can do to make someone’s day better, and how big of an impact those small things can make. Your little eyes will see a lot of things as you grow. I pray that I will be able to help guide and support along the way.

Love,

Your Dad

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Honest Faith: A Mosaic in A Tower World

One of the things I’ve been struggling to come to terms with recently is the fact that my experiences aren’t linear or based purely on a defined path. If my life were to be described as a video game it would be more like an open world game where you can take tasks when you want to, or go waste time on side quests before ever working on the main story quests. Through a lot of help, here’s the big secret: I’ve been going to therapy for a while now, I’ve come to see my life as a mosaic.

Mosaics are artworks that are made up of different, usually broken, pieces of other things to make up a whole. I’ve always found mosaics particularly beautiful. Especially in the form of stained glass windows. Stained glass windows have always held a very significant role in my life. So that is why this image held particular resonance for me. Every little seemingly random moment or experience in my life comes together to form a much larger and grander picture.

I had a very difficult time with this because I have come to the understanding that suffering doesn’t hold meaning. Growing up in the church I was told that everything happened for a reason; good or bad it had a reason. Still, even now parts of me want to assign meaning to the broken parts of my life. The big problem with that though is I don’t think we are meant to know the meaning. I think on one level, yes, they are right. Everything does happen for a reason, but it is on a much grander and cosmic scale than we can possibly fathom. We try to figure out the reason for our suffering or the reason for the suffering of those who endure much greater hardships than our own (IE Syrian refugees). But the horrible and awful truth of the matter is that there is no meaning to that suffering on our level. It’s just suffering. If we can do something about someone else’s suffering, we are meant to. That is where we get our meaning, our reasons for being. Everything happens for a reason so that we may better see how we can alleviate the suffering of our fellow man, not our own suffering, but sometimes shit happens.

This has been on my mind recently as I’ve been noticing that here in this country we celebrate towers. I mean we celebrate those who stack accomplishment on top of accomplishment of the same type and fashion. Often times it is very hard for “normal” everyday people to live up to this because I’m pretty sure life isn’t structured in this way. We aren’t meant to be towers. I think there is a much bigger lesson in this and it might also be the start of a much bigger metaphor if I were to dig into it, but for now let’s leave it at the stacking of accomplishments.

We have become a tower society, celebrating the stacked accomplishment of those around us and looking at our own lives and wondering why we can’t be towers too. I think if you were to ask the “Towers” about how they got to where they are, they wouldn’t point to the stacking as their main purpose. Instead, I think our lives were meant to be mosaics. Every little moment in our lives is meant for something bigger and grander. A beautiful piece of art that is still in the process of being made. Our pieces coming together and separating in beautiful and unknown ways. The colors of the other people that come in and out of our lives helping to change our own colors. The experiences that shape us and reform the other pieces of our own experience. I think we have lost sight of the purpose of this art of life. We are mosaics, not towers.

What would it look like if we lived our lives this way? What if we took our experiences not just as training for something else later, but as a beautiful tile in itself? Life, in my opinion, isn’t stagnate. It’s ever moving, ever evolving, ever changing into something new, something different, a bigger picture. It is a grand mosaic made up of smaller mosaics.

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Honest Faith: An Introduction

Introduction

My name is Miguel. I’m a human being. I struggle. I fall. Sometimes I think of beautiful things, sometimes my thoughts are bogged down with darkness. I am. I exist. That is all I can claim is true in these moments. Recently I have set out on a quest to rediscover who I am, this is no easy quest. It is one that I’m often reminded has no end as our true selves are constantly in flux. But I wanted to really figure out what makes me, me. Finding the truest me that there is. So here is where I begin.

The Truest me

Recently I’ve been trying to clear myself of fluff. Both metaphorically and literally, I put on a few pounds during the pregnancy and first months of my son’s life. I decided to start cutting things out of my life that didn’t need to be there. I have been trying to very hard to figure out this question for myself “Who do I want to be?”. On the basest level, I discovered a few things that I want to be known of me:

A Loving Man

A few years ago my friend in his best man speech said of me that I was one of the most loyal and loving people he had ever met. Granted, it may have just been flowery language to pep up his speech. But a few years later a teenager who I had been working with at a church said in her goodbye speech to me that I was the embodiment of the love of God I so often taught them about. Both of these instances have told me that even if I’m not those things that I want to be those things. I want to be a loving man. I want it said of me that I loved with my entire being. That the love they saw caused me to be fiercely loyal to my friends and family, if you have met me you are one of the two to me.

A Safe Place

Recently the symbol of the safety pin has gained popularity. Despite it being another form of slacktivism, it is meant to show those who feel oppressed that the person wearing it is a “safe person”. Meaning that they will come to their aid in time of distress. This is another thing that I want to be said of me, that I am a safe place for all people. That no matter your age, race, gender, creed, orientation, mental ability, economic status, history, type of pie you love, or even if you hate pie (but really who hates pie?) that I will be a safe place for you. That when I am around I will come to your aid and defend you, even if you hate pie.

An Encounter With the Divine

More than just coming to the aid and defense a safe person is someone you can talk to without judgment or condemnation. I will talk more about my faith in a moment, but I want to be somebody who embodies the Imago Dei or for you non-latin speakers the image of God. That when you meet me or have a conversation with me that you can somehow through me have an encounter with the Divine, whatever the Divine looks like to you.

Out of everything else in my life I want those three things to be true of me. That in Miguel you will have a loving and safe encounter with the Divine.

Honest Faith

The name comes from a few things. I’ve been told that I was just trying to copy the popularity of the honest trailers on YouTube. But it’s really been something I’ve been considering for a long time. I tried to do some through my writing in here, an odd youtube video there, and all that I did in my career before. But I never was able to sort out what it was I wanted from this.

Honesty

Back in my college days, my theater director gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received in my life. She said that whenever I was on stage I portrayed the truth. I’ve never forgotten that. I’ve always wanted to be the most honest that I can be with myself and others. I haven’t always succeeded at this, especially when I feel cornered and trapped. Writing and theater are two things that I have been told that I’m good at. I want it said of my art that I’m honest. I want it said of those things that portray me the most are as real as they can be.

Faith

One of my favorite quotes is one from Frederick Buechner:

Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting.

In a talk that I gave to teenagers a few years ago, I likened it to being homesick for a place you have never been. There are so many of those things in our lives. There are so many fandoms nowadays that you can take your pick for a place you are homesick for that you have never been to Hogwarts, A galaxy far far away, the starship enterprise, Narnia, Tamriel, Westeros, Middle-Earth, the fringe division, S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, the hall of Justice, and on and on… I think that’s a form of faith, in fact, there is a wonderfully funny video about how religion is just the biggest nerdom of them all. I have been to many of these worlds through books, movies, tv-shows, and comic books. I’ve brought back many important lessons for life, and I think they are the relics and stories of our times. The divine is revealed to me in these things as well as Scripture, so all of my faith stuff is going to have a bit of a nerdy twist to it. It’s my movement toward the Divine in all things

I want my art to reflect these things both honesty and my own nerdy sense of faith.

My Honest Faith

I am a man that has been kicked by the small “c” church a bunch. Sometimes it was my fault, others it wasn’t. I’m not going to go into specifics because honestly, I think that would do more harm than good. But I have just about given up on the small “c” church because I know what the large “C” church should look like and have encountered it only a select few times. Recently, I haven’t been on the best terms with the small “c” church. I had given up on practicing for a while, but now I’m taking a journey back into faith with a newfound sense of purpose. I’m going to be encountering the small “c” church in a new way than I have before and I will write about that as well. I figure if I’m going to make true art, it would probably best be told from my true to life struggles finding my new place in the small “c” church. I want to share my journey with you, and I hope you will tell me about your own honest faith journeys as well!

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Dear Son, On Thanksgiving

Dear Son,

Right now, your mom is giving you a bath. You like baths. You splash around in the water and smile up at us while we attempt to clean you. You still try to look at everything and end up making it difficult for us to try to get our goals accomplished. This is going to be one of my fondest memories of your early years. Today is a day of memories and taking stock of all we have. We look at what we have to be thankful for. For us, your parents, that is a lot. It may not seem like it to us right now, but we have a lot to be thankful for.

I remember a long time ago when I was little, your Nanna K and Abuelo, would cook together. We lived a long way away from the rest of our family so we often had our thanksgiving meals at our home in south Texas. One of those years I remember being really warm. In fact, I think there is a picture somewhere of your Abuelo in shorts and a t-shirt, standing on the sink opening the bay windows in the kitchen to air it out a bit. I remember that we always had wonderful food for thanksgiving: Turkey, Tamales, shrimp, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, chips and salsa, sometimes guacamole, sometimes that salad your Abuelo would make with jicama and oranges, and pecan pie. We always tried to have  our family with us. Thanksgiving was a time for family. No matter who was around the table at dinner, they were family.

Food has always meant a lot to me and my family. Your Abuelo was a cook for the Navy. That’s probably why he loved those cheesy Steven Segal movies… He loves to cook. Your Nanna K loves to cook. She made experimental dishes. She shows people love through food. That is something that your aunt, uncle, and I  try to carry on in our own homes and families. We show our love to other people through food. You may have noticed by now that I try to do the majority of the cooking at home, it’s because I love you and your mom. That whenever we have people over, I try to make food for them. I want them to know that I love them no matter who they are. Thanksgiving is the time of the year when that idea shines the brightest and boldest!

Son, Your family will change over the years, but one thing I want to impress upon you is that no matter who is around our table at any time they are family. When you are grown and no longer living with us, I want you to continue that tradition. No matter the menu, no matter the meal, no matter the company when you break bread with someone they are family. Especially at Thanksgiving no matter who you bring to our table, or who you invite to your table when you are older, they are loved and family.

Love,

Your Dad

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I may be young, BUT…

More and more I’ve been seeing people accuse us millennials of being whiners or just plain coddled. Oh, and just so we are on the same page here this is what a millennial is. That’s right if you were born 1980-2000 I hate to tell you, but you are a millennial. You may not think you fit into the “mold” of a stereotypical millennial, but since when does anyone fit the stereotypes placed upon them? I’m not going to talk about why we millennials are great, I’ve already done that. I’m going to talk about why we can’t stay silent any longer.

At thirty-three years old, the last word I would use to describe myself is young. I don’t feel young. I’ve been through enough life to last a few lifetimes, and I know that I have a lot more life to go. The word is thrust upon us in an attempt to dismiss us or dismiss the ideas, and ideals we hold dear. The worst thing is those who are thrusting this word upon us are our loved ones, our parents, our teachers, our extended family. Now there is nothing wrong with the word young. In fact, I don’t mind being called young. I just don’t like when people use a word to generalize or dismiss a large group of people because they don’t think the same way. (See the last few weeks and last few years of news stories blaming millennials.)

I get why people want to dismiss us right now. We make up the large block of protesters and people who are upset at the election results in the United States. It’s easy to dismiss us as whiny, or angry. Heck, we are even doing it to each other. Half of Millennials voted democrat while the other half was mostly republican and third party. We’ve been pointing fingers at each other and calling each other names because we happened to vote for the “Hateful” or the “Corrupt” or the “Seriously, Him?” politician. Our nation is deeply divided and one of our favorite things to do as human beings, instead of actually sitting down and talking, is to point the finger and blame someone else. A lot of people, on all sides, are angry right now and somewhat rightly so.

Millennials are a generation that was raised to be accepting, to be tolerant, and try to get along no matter the differences. We grew up with tv-shows like Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Doug, Boy meets World, and so on. All shows that tried to be inclusive, some failing miserably and only having token minority characters. We grew up with books that were highly inclusive, Harry Potter (to name the major powerhouse). We were taught to believe in each other. That our differences of culture, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs didn’t matter that much. We grew up believing that “All men (and women) were created equal.” In fact, the overwhelming majority of the population believe that phrase came from the Bible,  it doesn’t. We were raised to believe that this is what America stood for.

America, the land of the free, and home of the brave. We believed in that freedom, we believed in that inclusivity, we believed in our bravery, and we believed in each other. Until we discovered differently. This election brought to light a lot of horrible things that were already happening in this country. These things didn’t just start happening, they aren’t going to begin happening under the new presidential administration, they already have been happening. Granted, many millennials are upset without knowing why, but I think this is why we are upset. We are angry because the veil has been removed and we can see that the better world we were taught to believe in as children was a false nicety, and now we are called whiny for not realizing it sooner. The problem is we turned on each other and point fingers at each other because of this realization. The truth is it’s always been there. Here take a few minutes and listen to the man that became the most trusted journalist of our generation, despite the fact he’s a comedian:

We voted, great! Our civic duty was done. A lot of us didn’t vote, and yet still complain. Okay, I guess there is that too. But the last thing that we need right now is more division.

Just an aside to millennials now: Shape up! Grow up! A lot of us are in our 20’s and 30’s now. It’s time for us to stop fighting with each other over who’s fault it is that one candidate got elected over the other, the truth is we still would be if it happened the other way around. The truth is the ideas, and ideals we were brought up to believe in, are just that ideals. It is time for us to rise up. We are adults now. Let’s be adults. Let us see the injustices done to our fellow human beings and work to stop them. The hard disgusting truth is that we have never been the home of the free, and land of the brave. We have been the home of the marginally oppressed, and land of the perpetually terrified. So now we rise. We fight. We proclaim as one that we hold this truth to be self-evident that all people are created equal. Stop pointing fingers at each other, start sharing a table. Stop calling each other names, start calling each other on the phone. Stop engaging in arguments about who got us here in social media, start being social in the community and get to know your fellow man.

To the rest of you, non-millennials, stop dismissing us because we are young. We may be young, but we know a thing or two. We may be young, but you were the ones who raised us. We may be young, but we, like you did before us, are now fighting to make our world a better place for our children. We may disagree on how to get there, that’s okay. We may be frightened by different things than you are, that’s okay. We may be angry now, but we are rising soon. We are turning that into action, and if you want to help us in making this world a better place, join us. Get to know why we are angry, don’t dismiss it. Understand our point of view, and help us understand yours. We can’t make the world a better place without you. We need you. You’ve been here longer than we have. You know a thing or two. Help us, let us help you too.

I may be young, I may be upset, I may be many things, but I’m only getting started. I’m going to fight for the ideas and ideals I was raised to believe in. I’m going to continue to believe and fight for a world where we can see our fellow human beings as equals. I’m going to fight to make the world a better place to live in, for myself, my wife, my son, and you. Won’t you join me?

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The Weight of Words

When I was young, my mom took us on a lot of road trips. We lived in the deep south of Texas, so you needed to road trip if you were planning on traveling anywhere. We saw a lot of the country on these road trips. We did a lot of things on these trips: played games, listened to audio-books (Side note: Did you know that you can buy an audio book at any cracker barrel and trade it in at a different cracker barrel for a different audio book for like a dollar?), read, slept, talked, listened to classic rock (Thank you very much for the education in good music, Mom!), and stopped at interesting landmarks. I’m not sure how my mom managed to do these without going completely insane.

On one particular road trip, I remember that we had stopped at a bookstore. I found a book that I really really wanted. It was a blue book with a lot of clip art graphics on the front of it. I’m not quite sure I remember the title of it, but it was a book about the history of words. It was in the style of a dictionary. My mom was not at all convinced that I was going to read this book, but I insisted. She bought it for me. Whether out of spite or actual interest, I honestly can’t recall, I read the book. I remember there were interesting little stories about the origins of each of the words in the book. Ever since that time I’ve been fascinated by words, and how they derived their meaning.

This helped a lot in my theater training and acting projects since. Every word is placed on a page by the author. Those words have meaning. I can remember, more times than I’d like to admit, a director giving me a note to go over my lines because I missed a word. This taught me that every word carries weight. Small, large, complicated, compound, simple, flowery, or grandiose every word mattered.

Our words have weight, they matter, they came from some place, and we meant them in one way or another. This idea was especially significant when I was working with teenagers. I worked with a group of teens who would often lash out at each other “in jest” or sarcasm that they didn’t mean. So we had a discussion one youth group evening about the power of words. We talked about how even if you didn’t fully mean the thing you said about someone you were joking with, that it still kind of hurt that person. We decided that we needed to start holding each other accountable for those things. I admit I offended as much as they did. I never realized how much my jokes were sometimes at the expense of another in an attempt to be endearing.

I was taught a phrase to repeat when I was being bullied as a child. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” No matter how many times I repeated that phrase, the words always hurt me. Maybe it was those experiences that taught me the weight of words. Words have the power to give life or take it away. Words have the power to create worlds. Words can take us on incredible journeys or stop us dead in our tracks. Words have weight.

I could go off and make this another political post about the horrible words used this year by all political candidates, media outlets, social media posts, etc. I could do that, but I won’t. I am not going to rehash all of that bluster because you know it all already. You have heard it, read it, lived it, or tried to ignore it. This isn’t about those words, this is about your words.

I know that many people are tired. We have been worn down by this campaign. No matter the side you backed, you know what I mean. This has made a lot of people irritable and spent. Whether you happen to be victoriously irritable and spent or defeatedly so, I imagine that most are. It makes it very easy for anyone to lash out at another. I have seen a lot of words being thrown around by these spent people on social media, in person, and in other ways. These are not light words either. These are things that carry weight. A lot of weight. The things we say, type, or otherwise put out into the world matter.

I just want to ask this question: Have you thought about your words?  ( Where they came from, what it is you are saying, are you hurting someone else and why, are you giving life or taking it away, are you trying to build something good or bad, what is it you are trying to do with what you are saying, why are you doing that)

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