kindom musings

Thoughts and musings from a pastor in the peace tradition. Perspectives come from a progressive, justice-minded, feminist position. Responses are welcome.

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States

I am a Church of the Brethren pastor in my thirties. While I love what I do, I started out with plans to be a veterinarian. God has a great sense of humor, and I wound up in ministry instead. However, my sojourn into veterinary science did make me a vegetarian with a love of animals. (We have two cats and a dog at home -- only a small petting zoo!) My husband is also ordained, and we have a son (LB) and a daughter (KB). My husband keeps me up to date on baseball trivia, and my children keep me giggling. All in all, it makes for a well-rounded life. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved several times for school and work, and have recently returned to my home state. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFP.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Amazing generosity

I was at the 30th Annual Brethren Disaster Relief Auction today, the first I've been able to attend in about a decade. It's an amazing experience, bringing together about 10,000 (mostly) Brethren of all theological, social, and experiencial backgrounds. All proceeds from the auction of quilts and other handmade or donated items goes to disaster relief, and those who attend become some of the most generous people I have ever encountered. The morning began with helping to put together health kits for Church World Service. Last year, they put together over 10, 000 kits, and I suspect the results are even higher this year. I stopped to help for a few minutes and stayed for about an hour, packing items for basic health and hygience into gallon-sized ziploc bags, and later pushing full boxes to the loading area. In the process I saw very conservatively dressed Brethren (possibly Amish -- they used straight pins to fasten clothing rather than buttons, and the bonnets they wore could have been Amish) worked alongside folks like me dressed in jeans with my hair loose. Under my sweatshirt I wore a t-shirt proclaiming that all are welcome in the church (including gasp.. groups in the church that call for all to have a voice, woman's equality, and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons). It probably would have offended some people, and this was not a place where I wanted to get into a theological debate. Why I chose to wear it in the first place I'll only chalk up to being tired when I got dressed this morning. Anyway, the point is that in spite of many differences, everyone worked together for a common cause. It was incredible!

Later, I sat in on the auction and heard about a grandfather clock that had been made by someone who had recently been the recipient of a pancreas transplant. The auctioneer knew the family and shared part of the clockmaker's story. When the bidding ended, the clock went for about $5000 dollars, and the buyer immediately said, "Sell it again." I've seen this before at the auction when buyers will put up a quilt to be bid upon again so it can bring in more money for relief. I was blown away today when the clock was sold five times, for a total of $25000. Even the primary auctioneer, who has been doing this for years, broke down in the midst of one of the sales and had to have someone take over. After the final selling of the clock, the auctioneer led us in singing "How great thou art" on the spur of the moment, and while few besides the leader knew more than the chorus after the first of second verse, there was an indescribable sense of common spirit and the Holy Spirit in the room. Powerful.

That spirit was carried to a ridiculous degree when a commemorative plate sold the evening before had broken and been left behind. The auctioneers decided to sell it, and the four pieces went for $50, and that buyer also said to sell it again. The plate went three times at about $50 each time.

No politics, no weighty decisions, no haggling over little points of law. The auction was simply a matter of sisters and brothers joining together for a common purpose. I'm not one to visibly cry very often, but when I looked up in the conference hall of the auction and saw a banner simply stating, "For the glory of God," I felt tears in my eyes. To borrow a phrase from a friend, I believe "Jesus was smiling."

Friday, September 15, 2006

How much room do we need?

The local newspaper has printed several letters to the editor that talk about population growth. They began with someone alarmed by a lack of population growth and people becoming an endangered species. When someone challenged his assertions, he responded that Americans are not doing enough to contribute to world population. What began as, what seemed to me, an "out-there" but relatively benign opinion, suddenly felt similar to Aryan nation rantings. "Illegal immigrants" were described as if they were lesser humans, some sub-species that didn't really count in the total count of people.

It bothers me to think of the arrogance required to believe that born and bred Americans are some kind of superior version of human life and that growth in other parts of the world, particularly among those who may have vastly different cultural norms, would be a threat. If anything, Americans are among the worst energy consumers in the world. We already live comfortably on the backs of many less-developed nations.

To drive this message home, I recently took a test on my ecological footprint ( ) I try to be mindful of what resources I use and make choices that lessen the stress I put on the earth. According to the website, there is enough usable land for each person to have 4.5 acres. The average American footprint is 24 acres. When I got my results, there would have to be over four earths to sustain the current population if everyone lived as I did. It's humbling to think about. For all my efforts, I still make choices that decrease the well-being of others on the earth. If not for concern for the planet, a theological leaning pushes me to do something about it. A line from a song by Joseph Helfrich goes, "I will make a difference in my world... She has given me her hungry, her tired, and her poor, and I will stand upon their backs no more." It makes me think intentionally about the choices I make and the elbow room I demand as I move through life. No answers right now... only thoughts to consider.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Moment of Silence

It seems impossible to be in America or to American today without giving at least a passing thought to 9/11. Whether or not it has forever changed perspectives on life and living remains to be seen, but for those who remember where they were at the time (98% of Americans, according to one poll), it definitely marked the end of a kind of innocence.

My husband shared a comment he had heard recently that Americans seem to put more emphasis on anniversaries than (most?) other countries. I don't know how accurate that is, but we certainly do a lot to memorialize them here.

In even short stints of television watching, I was immersed in a sea of testimonials, reflections, and commentary. And now, here I am, adding yet another drop into the ocean of sentiments. Actually, what struck me most were the moments of silence, the spaces where no choruses sang, no politicians spoke, no names were read, no bells were tolled. In those moments, people just remembered... and breathed. Five years ago, breath caught in our throats as our eyes took in what seemed impossible. Plane crashes, collapsing buildings, wondering what was going to come next seemed to interfere with even basic requirements of living. And when we finally realized that we were holding our breath, we exhaled heavily and and raggedly, aware of those who would breathe no more. We were left gasping for comfort, to hold loved ones, to make sense out of the senseless, or to find justice, whatever that meant.

Five years later... what has truly changed? We have hunted terrorists and have destroyed other building and lives in the process. Our questions, confusion, and anger remain just below the surface. Unable to "track down the enemy," we have instead hunted others on a target list. I can't help but think that we have created more sorrow around the world than comfort. Some of those whom we named heroes now struggle with lung conditions from taking in harmful chemicals while they tried to rescue victims in the towers.

But today, today those moments of silence reminded me, and perhaps others, to breathe. To intentionally breathe is to consciously participate in life, to replace what is poisonous with what refills our cells with pure air. In simple breathing, I am reminded that God, spirit, and air are closely related. To be inspired is literally to be "God-breathed." Genesis speaks of God giving life to the first human by breathing into Adam, the creation made from dirt. Our intentionality to breathe without trying too desperately to fill emptiness may be our strongest defiance against death. It is easy to scream and yell for someone to blame. It is harder to listen to what others are saying and even harder to use our breath to utter words in prayer for our enemies. Hardest yet may be to whisper in faith that we will attempt to love in the midst of hatred, to forgive as Jesus forgave, to refuse to follow the example of those whose actions we deplore. Justice should be denied, and yet as a Christian I cannot condone violence as retribution. There must be another answer.

I begin with taking a deep breath...

Friday, September 08, 2006

"In Star Trek, humanity always wins"

I just heard this quotation on Star Trek in the midst of a commentary on ST's 40th anniversary. Yes, I am a closet fan. Despite the cheesy special affects in the original series, I got hooked on reruns when I was in high school. I remember reading that MLK, Jr. once urged Nichelle Nichols to remain with the show because it created a positive image of an African-American on television, a pretty rare thing in those days. Later, I became a fan of Next Generation, but I especially liked Voyager with such a strong role model in Captain Janeway. And of course, there are the movies. My favorite is still IV, when the Enterprise crew return to 20th-century Earth to pick up an humpback whale needed to save the future earth from an alien probe. (Wow, that sounds like a really convoluted story line when condensed to a sentence!) In theory, all the people of the world had resolved their differences. Women and men were seen as equals.

There are so many great theological and sociological issues dealt with in the series. By looking at other lifeforms, faraway planets, Gene Roddenberry and others were able to indirectly deal with pressing issues of our time. By providing some distance, we saw a lens into our interior.

It was a brave vision, even if it took conflicts into the "final frontier." Instead of fighting terrorists or other enemies on Earth, enemies became the Klingons, the Romulans, and others. Even so, there is still hope for a cessation of violence. Klingons later became allies (albeit uneasy ones at times). It teaches me that what we fear most is the "other." The more we find commonalities with those around us (religion, politics, country, planet?), the more we seem to be able to accept differences we find. Do we need to discover and fear life on other planets to be able to claim a common humanity among peoples of the Earth? I hope that's not the case; otherwise we may be in trouble. In these days leading up to the 5th anniversary of 9/11, I wonder what it would take to resolve hostilities in the "war on terror."

So, Mr. Roddenberry, in whatever space, dimension, or existence you now occupy, on this anniversary day I thank you for your vision, for the challenges you presented through a troup of characters as diverse as Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, Captain Picard, Data, Dr. Crusher, Captain Janeway, and oh so many others. You give me hope that there is a future worth exploring and struggling to understand. Live long and prosper.

How much? To whom?

I've been wrestling with issues of stewardship. What does it mean to give faithfully? How much is enough? In an affluent culture, when are we satisfied with what we have? What does it mean to commit to give ourselves to God?

As a pastor, it seems important to be a role model in terms of tithing. I've intentionally done it since my first pastorate (as well as less consciously before that), but it disturbs me a bit that I haven't thought much before now why I do it. I know it's not for prestige or some misguided hope to gain God's special favor. I don't resent doing it, but I can't honestly say it's been a special joy either. Maybe that says more about the relative value I place on money than on faith itself. I do get excited about serving in a soup kitchen, working on a Habitat for Humanity house, or sitting with someone who is going through a hard time. That's stewardship too, but it's harder to define or quantify.

I don't want to give out of a sense of obligation, nor do I want to urge others to do so. Right now, I'm not sure how I want to encourage people to find a deeper reason and motivation for giving. In the midst of this pondering, I wandered over to Real Live Preacher. At the end of a video clip, he said something about different ways of seeing God's presence and mentioned giving ourselves as the only thing we have. To give ourselves as a response to a pulse in the universe, in the faith or bold hope that God is actively participating in life and cares about what happens pushes me to respond in more than a passive way. It's something to think about...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What season are we in?

It's early September, LB has just started nursery school, and I just finished worship plans through Christmas Eve. While I shake my head in disgust at the way stores now bring out Christmas decorations around Halloween, in the church, planning almost has to begin this early if you want to do anything out of the ordinary. Since I've only been here a few months, almost everything feels at least a little out of the ordinary. I still have to fill in titles and other information, but scriptures and themes are set-- unless I wind up changing them. In the past, I've been overjoyed to have worship plans a month in advance, but the choir director here handed me the whole Fall schedule today (with just a little bit of wiggle room for changes), and I felt the pressure to line up services to compare to the anthems. I have this need to work on cohesive services where scripture sermon, hymns, and other pieces have a dialogue with one another and hopefully with all who participate. Now it feels like I'm chasing after the anthems, but with integrity. I had planned to preach on Fruits of the Spirit furing October and November,mostly using the lectionary, and I think it will still work. I'm just not preaching them in order. It's not like Galatians ranks them by priority -- at least I hope not.

Meanwhile, I haven't done much for THIS Sunday, but at least my long-term planning is way ahead of schedule.
On a completely different note, I learned today that LB passed his latest food trials (see earlier post), and we get to add four new foods before we have to do a scope again (sometime late November or December). Four doesn't sound like a big deal, but right now, he only has nine approved foods plus his special formula. I'll take strides forward wherever I can get them.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sabbath rest

I love Sunday evenings. Far from the going back to work blues, Sunday is usually the beginning of my day off. I have had the companionship of church family, often some time with extended family, and I am released from sermon writing, good or bad, for at least a day. It is an opportunity to reflect, to dream without really pressed for time, to catch up on reading or puzzles, and simply to focus on "be-ing."

Although I usually enjoy my calling, it is nice to rest. Sabbath is a good thing, even if I don't always take it in as fully as I can. It feels kind of gentle and mellow, a time that seems as ripe for boisterous laughter as it does for quiet bubblebaths. In the freedom of Sunday evenings, I am most open to recreation and re-creation. (Of course, this does not apply to Church Business Meetings or emergency hospital visits, but fortunately, these are rare exceptions to the rule.)

On this Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend, it feels especially worthwhile to pause and reflect on what a blessing it is to be able to live out my calling, to feel I am contributing to something worthwhile, to be able to use creativity, gifts, and inspiration on a daily basis. I am also aware of competing thoughts of the need to rest and be refreshed and the cries of those who long to have work from which they can rest.

Several years ago, I read a commentary on biblical texts from a Latino perspective. One of the chapters was on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 21). It had always seemed unfair that workers who had been hired late in the day received as much for their labors as those who had been hired first thing in the morning. I had always assumed the other workers were lazy or that they chose to come to work late in the day. However, the perspective in this book spoke of laborers who waited all day to be hired, who had no lack of motivation or refusual to work hard. They simply were overlooked until late in the day. Finally, they had their opportunity to serve, to contribute and to have the dignity of earning money for their family instead of relying on someone else's handouts. In this light, being given a day's wage, regardless of the length of the day, seems just and right.

May we all find and do work that brings satisfaction and fulfillment, and at the end of the day, may we go gently into rest from our labors.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Reflected Light -- the bulk of Sunday's sermon and an elaboration on earlier posts this week

The following is a myth, an imagining that never happened exactly as I will describe. Nevertheless, I believe it is true. Like many stories, it tells of the beginning of the world, a time when things got turned around, and a time that things began again.

A long time ago, when the earth was still very new and long before people had learned to fight with each other, God, the creator of all things, dreams, and ideas, used to talk regularly with all creatures, and they would talk regularly with God. With God, even the trees and animals could be clearly understood, and in God’s presence all living things simply seemed brighter, more alive, thriving. To borrow the description of another created place: “all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average.” Life was very good. And mornings and evenings passed.

But after a while – in these stories there is always something to spoil the paradise – some of the people began to feel jealous that God might be spending more time with others than with them. Others felt lonely when they couldn’t see God. On one level, they were right. As time passed, people did see God less, though no one could say for sure if it was because God did not appear as often or because they were often distracted by other things and missed seeing what was right in front of them. However, their uncertainty did not keep them from arguing. They fought with one another, and they forgot who they were. In the process, they completely forgot to recognize the presence of God in their midst. The animals and trees thought this was silly, and they began to separate themselves from conversations with the people. As a result, people felt even more disconnected from the center of life, and some creatures instead became adversaries instead of partners in creation. They were so caught up in their own images they lost sight of why and whom and by whom they were created.

It was all very sad, but God who first designed all things also continued to dream and imagine what could be. After thinking about it for what seemed a long time, God made a very large and very special mirror and placed it in the middle of everything. It sat in a grassy area with the perfect combination of sunlight and shade trees. Its surface was as clear as the calmest of lakes. Although no one saw its arrival, it was obvious that no human or animal could have produced such an exquisite piece. This was a sure sign that God still walked among creation and participated in their lives. But beyond its appearance, the mirror held an allure for those who came near it. This mirror was so special because it didn’t merely show one’s reflection. Instead, anyone who gazed upon this mirror saw the very image of God. It was almost the same as having God right with him or her. As long as someone looked in the mirror, that person would not feel alone or feel abandoned. This very special mirror also brought out all the good qualities that God brought out in a person. It belonged to no one and to everyone. Though nothing was spoken, people and animals alike knew that it had been a gift for all who gazed upon it.

For a while, all was well again. Then slowly, people began to complain that it was too far to travel to see the mirror. As wonderful as the mirror was, it still wasn’t enough to satisfy their needs to have God with them. Jealousy, greed, and suspicion still kept seeping into individual actions. Though the mirror had been freely given, some decided that gazers would only have a certain amount of time each day to look upon it. To make sure someone didn’t try to sneak in extra time, people were issued tickets they had to present in order to gain admittance to the mirror. Out of their own sense of confusion and fear, many people started doing wicked things. Some stole tickets to get extra peeks at the mirror. Others claimed that because they were older or larger that they should have more time than others. The tickets became highly sought after and became more of a focus than the mirror itself. As people fought to look into the mirror, they forgot what it was they were supposed to see in it. Soon, people cared only for their own needs and wants, and the land that should have had enough resources for all people became barren for some and fertile for others.

One night, a very unusual wind blew, and for miles out, creatures heard a loud crash. In the morning, the people and animals ventured out to the center of creation. There, they saw the mirror – or more precisely, what was left of it. Oh the beautiful mirror! In the night, it had blown over, or someone had pushed it over. Now it seemed nothing could be salvaged. The pieces were infinitesimally small, and could never be put back together. No one could pick out a piece to keep for him or her self. As the people watched, their hopes fell. Now how were they supposed to find their direction? Who would comfort them in their loneliness and in the times they were lost? What would happen to the beautiful world God had created? Even the animals, which had not been part of earlier arguing, sensed that something had changed forever. But as the people and animals wondered in their own ways what to do next, the great wind blew through the glen, and picked up all the pieces. A person could see them glittering in the air, scattering them to all parts of the earth.

Well, that was that, thought the people as they returned to their homes. Unless God chose to make another mirror, they were now completely on their own. Strangely, though, they didn’t feel abandoned or nearly as hopeless as they had when they first saw the broken mirror. Even stranger, in the following days, whenever people gathered and shared with one another, they had the same sense of meaning and purpose they had had when God first walked in their midst.

Time passed, and people began to realize that in the winds had not destroyed evidence of the mirror, but had merely spread its influence among all life. Because the pieces were so small, they clung to oxygen molecules, and all breathing creatures took the pieces into their very being. As a result, a little piece of God’s presence resided in each person, visible to all who looked for it. Each person carried a bit of God’s light, shining within them, reflecting in small pieces the fullness of God. As people worked together, they brought their individual pieces of the mirror, and the more they listened to one another and looked deeply into one another’s eyes, the more they remembered who they were and how God looked and responded to them. People couldn’t see it by themselves. They needed to see the reflected light in another person’s eyes, in their words, in their actions. Not everyone was willing to respond or believe God was still with him or her, but for those who could see, the world was beautiful.

To this day, tiny fragments of God’s mirror continue to float in the wind and reside in molecules of oxygen. We breathe them in, unnoticed, undetected. They become implanted in our DNA. Though they can never be detected under even the most powerful microscope, we can still see their existence in acts of service and words of truth. This is the same spirit that was present at the beginning of creation, the same glimmer of hope that tells us we are not alone in the world. And still we live in wonder. No one ever learned how the original mirror broke, though some have speculated that it was God’s own doing, and that perhaps this was all part of a plan from the very beginning.

As Christians, like Jews and Muslims, we read a different creation story in what we call Genesis. There is no mirror, broken or otherwise, but there is a similar theme of longing to experience God’s closeness and presence. We are created in God’s image, though Genesis never goes on to say exactly what that means. In Christianity, we take that claim further to say we model our lives after Christ, God’s very son.

In the book of James, God is called the Father of lights, and those who hear God’s word without doing anything about it are compared to those who look in a mirror and forget what they have seen as soon as they walk away. Those who look and see and remember are the ones who give themselves in care for others who need. They are the ones who are pure reflections of God’s image and essence.

The mirror is a tool for a quick surface check, but it cannot reflect what matters most. What we see is not accurate but is only a reflection of our own opinions and biases. Some see the beauty of youth and do not notice the passage of time. They are caught up in an image that does not match the appearance others notice. Others are convinced that they are utterly unremarkable or ashamed of what they see. Minor imperfections become horrible disfigurements in the eyes of some beholders. Either way, those who spend a lot of their time admiring or hating the image they see in front of mirrors see with only partial vision. They carry an image of what they believe to be true with them throughout the day, blind to what is truly in front of their eyes.

There is something powerful about mirrors and reflections in fairy tales and myths. In Snow White, the witch gazes into a magic mirror to determine who is the “fairest of them all.” In the story of the ugly duckling, a reflection in the surface of the water confirms the low feelings of the mislabeled duckling as well as the beauty in the mature swan. In mythology, Narcissus’s weakness is an overdone fascination with seeing his own reflection. It prevents him from seeing beyond himself. These stories and myths point to surface reflections but also to something that lies deeper in the psyche or the soul. To say that we are made in the image of God is not bound by what we can see or know in a mirror. Like the story of God’s mirror, people see much more when they join with others in acts that reveal their real nature. As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face.” We see ourselves most clearly when we are able to step away from our dependence and concern for meeting our own needs. When we spend our time peering into our mirror reflections, we see only what we have always seen, things bound to what is physical.

Martin Luther referred to James as a straw gospel, not as worthy as other books of the Bible with its emphasis on actions. It seems to counteract the idea that we find salvation solely on the basis of our faith by saying that faith is meaningless without works. Instead of contradicting the importance of faith, James states that what we do is an extension of what we believe. We participate in acts of faith, not because it brings us salvation or glory, but because they are a natural response to what we have received. The more we grow into the likeness of God, the more we feel driven to live our lives with care for others around us. The author of James gives examples of giving to the poor, caring for orphans and widows. Today, we may not have such clearly defined sources of care but may instead have a more general sense that the more we give ourselves away, the more we become like God.

When we are aware of our gifts and using them for the right reasons, we open ourselves to a light that comes from God and longs to shine in and through us. Instead of burdening ourselves with thought of duty and fulfilling obligations, our call to stewardship, to considering how we care for possessions and gifts, is about lightening our load by living in God’s light. Stewardship is recognizing that we have each been entrusted with incredible gifts, both tangible and intangible ones, and learning how to let go of our need to cling to them so they can be shared by all. In our own way, we are learning how to bring our individual pieces of God’s mirror to a common light.

Instead of looking to imperfect reflections to sort out what is rotten, what is selfish or worthless, James encourages us to see ourselves and the faith we claim by holding up our actions to the pure light of God. The word of Christ is implanted within us and can only be seen through the way we live and give our lives.

EIEI...Oh, that's not it

I just returned last night from taking my son to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, a nine hour trip from here. It seems crazy to travel so far for a short procedure (an upper gi scope -- all of seven minutes in length), but we began with this doctor and hospital when we lived much closer, and we continue because the doctor is both excellent and somewhat unique in his field. My son (LB) has what is called eosinophilic esophagitis (e.e.), a fairly rare condition that affects protein absorbtion and is triggered by multiple food allergies. We treat him by having him in a very slow food trial process -- he currently has nine foods he can eat in addition to a specialized formula that is both expensive and has a nasty smell. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to mind the taste. Ironically, he can have anything completely aftificial since sugars and dyes are non-reactive for him. After almost three years of diagnosis and treatment, that unwieldy condition name almost rattles off my tongue, even though it isn't much easier to say than it is to write. While there are plenty of doctors who could do the scope, there are very few doctors who work directly with this condition and directly with children. This doctor has written a number of articles about it, and his name pops up in conjunction with e.e. on many online searches. So, being the concerned parents we are, B.W. and I will continue to make the trek, at least as long as insurance will agree to cover it in network.

It's not so different from folks who travel for specialized cancer care or other health concerns. No, e.e. is not life-threatening by itself, but if the eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) build up, they could eventually affect his breathing. In the mean time, his ability to digest protein has an obvious connection to his long-term development. So far, he thrives. Although he's small for his age, you'd never know from his activity level that he has any kind of medical issues. And so far, little sister KB shows no signs of having the same struggles. As I write this, she is next to me with fistfuls of bread and turkey, and she takes sips from a cup of milk -- none of these things are part of LB's diet. But it is possible he'll outgrow some of the allergies. Maybe someday we'll all be able to eat a full meal together without switching out foods.

Things went well yesterday at the doctor, and the preliminary report looks encouraging. I feel blessed, even as I struggle with feelings of guilt that my decisions put extra weight on the back of the world. By traveling so far, I use much more gas and resources. I claim a privilege that I can travel for the health care I long for my son, and I'm not likely to give this up for the sake of greater justice. I feel torn between care for my child and a more general care for the children, and for now, I have to live with my decision to stand on the side of my son. I wrestle with the same feelings in many of the other privileges I use on a regluar basis -- plentiful running water for washing, laundry, drinking, and watering flowers in dry spells. Even so, I sigh for a world where one's benefit does not come at another's expense. So many values feel like they are in conflict with one another. I rejoice in my freedoms, even as I shudder at the image the US is largely projecting onto the world. I celebrate liberty and cry out that I don't want them to be preserved by violence. Sometimes I yearn for more innocent days when I wasn't aware of such disparities. But I have tasted of the fruit of knowledge, and choices now push me to look down the ramifications of many choices. God, guide me in, through, and by love in my actions...