Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More on Homosexuality

I don't know how often many of you happen to check my "Worth Your Time" link on my sidebar. And though I normally do not choose to make "plugs" for that link whenever I change it, I do want to this time...

This time, I have it hooked up to an online video, not a blog post. This video my buddy Holly came across and shared it with me--I was so glad she did!

[UPDATE: Since the publishing of this entry, I have changed the "Worth Your Time" link, so here is the link to video I am plugging in this post]

This is one VERY powerful video that an ACU student put together to preface the Soulforce visit to ACU that occurred this Monday.

This video is hard to watch at the beginning, both on the eyes (though not graphic, just shocking to see and to read--you'll understand it when see it), as well as on the ears...but the message that it portrays--the message of the hate that exists is heart-sinking...

Watch it and see what feelings arise in you...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Accepting

It’s funny how something that seems so little to some people can be such a big deal to another…

When I go for a long time without seeing some of my friends, it is not out of the ordinary for us to greet each other with a hug. Honestly, I am not sure I know exactly the significance of that greeting hug, but I have no problem with it, and many times am happy to get it. But it is like there is something accepting about a hug.

I know it can be a sign of welcoming in some cultures, so maybe that is the purpose behind it when I am reacquainted with my friends, but I don’t know. I like to think in a strange way, it is a sign of love and appreciate for getting to see that person again. It is an acceptance of that person in a way.

…just go with me on this one…

And for me, those reuniting hugs have grown in significance….

If you have shared something that you were not sure how it would be taken or experienced by others, you know the significance of acceptance, and you know the importance of “the little things.” If you’ve ever had to reveal “a big secret” about yourself before, you can appreciate the importance of those reuniting hugs.

My “coming out” experience was with my agnostic views. When I went, so to say, public (that means via the World Wide Web…HA!) with my views, there was undoubtedly a worry within me that I could lose some of my friends. And if not that, that it would for sure affect some of my friendships.

Today, I have many blessings to count, but one that stands out to me often is the friends that I have. It’s funny to me that I have yet to find one of my good friendships that have been affected by my disclosure of my religious stance. [Note: I say “good” in reference to friendships there, only because I have one individual who I consider to be a friend that I think might have it out for me because of my non-compliance with church and its functions, but other than that, I could say friendships in general…HA!] From my point of view, I haven’t even got the notion that any of my friends view me in any less of a light because of this, nor do I feel they think they are better than me. It is definitely a blessing to me!

But what’s really funny is how once I disclosed this information, immediately I became more sensitive to accepting gestures

…being met with a reuniting hug from people that I knew had read my blog and this was my first time to see or talk to them since their reading. Being chatted with on AIM as if nothing was different. Being invited to stay at their houses. Being invited to hangout with them and their groups of friends.

Signs of acceptance can be rather small sometimes, but they are enough to recognize that some level of acceptance does in fact exist…

What’s important to me is to remember that acceptance does not necessarily mean endorsement, agreement, or even approval.

I view acceptance as a sign of love. I believe acceptance should be a greeting for everyone, because I am willing to accept anyone as another human being. I might not agree with everything they say or do. I might not even agree with most of the things they say or do. And in my disagreement, I will most likely not approve of it for my lifestyle or my values or beliefs. So, it would most likely go without saying that I would not endorse it, but even amidst all of that, I can accept the fact that that individual is yet another human being and as deserving of my acceptance of their state of being who they are, as I am of anyone’s acceptance of me being who I am.

I did not ask any of my friends to accept my agnostic view. I certainly didn’t ask any of them to endorse it, nor did I say they even had to agree with it. And if they do not want to approve of it, I enjoy a whole-hearted debate with them about it…HA! But what I did ask of them, though not formally, was for them to accept me as a person. Through there acceptance of me as a person, they could see there was much more to me than my views on religion.

I have a name…
…a name that is referenced when I am invited into conversation.

I have a need to eat…
…a hunger that can be fed when my company is welcomed at meal times.

My having a name and needing to eat are what make me human, not agnostic. Similarly, having names and needing to eat was what made Soulforce Equality Riders who were visiting campuses nation-wide human, not homosexual.

Would you believe it if I told you that the mere gestures of asking these individuals’ their names and inviting them to satisfy their hunger with other human beings was the acceptance that stood out among so much un-acceptance to a group of HUMAN individuals who were facing their seventh attempt to be accepted as human beings?

Yes, it is possible that a higher level of acceptance was being sought through their visits, but I can assure you that no acceptances can bi-pass the beginning level of being accepted as a human being first.

I think many times in life we all just want to be accepted as another living and breathing human being. It is this first sense of love and acceptance that allows use to feel alive.

Maybe we don’t agree based on beliefs. I can accept that. But maybe, just maybe, we can share the same air and walk the same streets and agree to accept that we are all different and just as deserving of being a human as any other being out there.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Blue Like Monday Mornings

Blue Like Jazz Chapter 11 – Confession: Coming Out of the Closet

Random, but I think this is an appropriate time for this chapter since it says, “Coming out of the Closet” and a lot of talk right now is about homosexuality. Coincidence? Hmm…

He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.

I was discussing religion/God/Christianity with a friend just recently and she said something to me that I thought was really interesting. She was talking about how she is so fed up with a lot of Christians right now and how she feels she is at the point that she does not want to be associated with them and she said she prefers to not even call herself “a Christian anymore, but instead a follower of Christ.”

I like that. I think that’s cool. I have another friend that the impression I get from her, is that she does not feel like the going to church and the being a part of a church somewhere is really all that crucial, but she thinks it just comes down to the relationship she has with God herself. I think that’s interesting.

I am not saying I think either of these is necessarily right or wrong, I just like their ways of thinking. It challenges the “same ol’ same ol’” in my opinion, and that alone I think is something worth considering from time to time.

Why should we all just try to be part of the crowd and get the label of Christian? Especially if “Christians” are not setting the example we believe to be the true Christian example the Bible talks about.

I think that is what is being referenced in the comment from Donald Miller’s words. I think many times we strive for the main source, Jesus in this case, and do not want to get wrapped up in the structure below, especially when we can find faults in any un-perfect situation (which is all of them, considering the doctrine that only Christ achieved perfection).

------------------------------------------------------

Tony the Beat Poet says the church is like a wounded animal these days. He says we used to have power and influence, but now we don’t, and so many of our leaders are upset about this and acting like spoiled children, mad because they can’t have their way…They want to take their ball and go home because they have to sit the bench.

Okay, honestly, the only part of that I really want to comment on is the last part, but I put the whole bit so the context would help the understanding of the sentence. I just LOVE that last sentence. Let me say it again…

They want to take their ball and go home because they have to sit the bench.

Wow. How funny and how true that can be! Isn’t it funny how we can all relate to that?!!? You know you’ve had those situations when you do not get your way, so you want to make sure no one else gets their way, only to end up leaving everyone unhappy. HA! I love the “take their ball…” The “their” is what makes it classic, because the ball is the only thing left that that person sitting the bench has control over, since it is “their” ball, so that use that last bit of control to ruin it for everyone by taking “their ball and go[ing] home,” leaving everyone else without something to play with.

HA! I can’t help but laugh as I think about it, because I can picture it, just as I’m sure you can, the kid sitting on the bench, fuming at the ears because he is not getting to play. He is so upset, and then, just then, this “ah ha” grin comes over his face as he realizes it is HIS ball, and he can “make them pay” for not letting him play.

We all do this, in one form or another. Maybe not as drastically, but still in some form. I suppose in a way, it can be utilizing our resources to better life for our self, but sometimes, it can be just down-right selfish. (But I still can’t help but laugh…HA!)

------------------------------------------------------

You never question the truth of something until you have to explain it to a skeptic.

You don’t know just how true this is unless you have been in the situation!

I many times get to play the role of the skeptic, but I have been in the other role with topics before.

I love a good religion/beliefs discussion. When it comes to Christianity and beliefs in a God and this such topics, I find myself loving the questioning of it all. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends who will discuss these topics in depth with me.

In all honesty, I strive to make them question their beliefs when we get in these discussions. However, I think it is important to note that I have NO intentions of leading someone away from their faith or beliefs. That is NEVER my purpose. Many of you know my respect for Christian believes, so that of course is NEVER my intent. But, having said that, I think it is only healthy to question a truth or a belief. I love to make someone really have to think about why they believe what they do. Because honestly, if you do not know why you believe it, maybe you actually believe something else, but you were not aware of it, because you did not know it even existed possibly.

Whatever the case, explaining your beliefs and your truths to someone that is skeptic of them is a challenge I would put anyone up to who thinks they are in firm standing with their faith; someone that thinks they know why they believe what they believe, as well as can explain it thoroughly. Find a skeptic to discuss your beliefs with, just be willing to be open to their thoughts as well, because you will be questioned.

Many skeptics are just that, someone who has questioned what they believed to the point of uncertainty.

Maybe questions can go on forever, but at least questions give room for answers, and it is in answers that one can establish a belief.

[Note: All the above text in smaller italic print has been quoted directly from Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”]

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Soulforce Eve…

It’s the eve of the Soulforce Equality Rider’s visit to ACU. Well, actually they will be arriving in Abilene today, but the actual visiting does not begin until tomorrow.

Recently I’ve been so wrapped up in school, work, and other events that I had basically forgotten about the upcoming visit, and lost my enthusiasm and interest in going out to Abilene and watching it all unfold on the 27th, but after I got my Optimist update email on Friday, and I saw that practically the whole issue of the school paper that day was about Soulforce, my interests were risen again.

As I read each article in the paper covering the upcoming visit I was excited, proud, floored, and sad, all at once. I was excited to see the agenda my alma mater had established for the visitors. I was proud of ACU allowing them to come and open speak their voice, as long as it was in a non-threatening manner, which was promised to the university. I could feel the excitement arising in me as I thought about what an important event this would be. A Christian University setting an example of being able to openly discuss topics that are controversial, as well as issues that go against their own beliefs. It honestly makes me smile just thinking about how proud I am of ACU being willing to open their campus to this group to come and peacefully discuss such topics. I firmly believe if someone has a strong belief one way, they should not be afraid to stand behind it and defend their stance to those with an opposite view. And I also believe this can be accomplished and peaceful manners, and no one has to be willing to give up their stance, just be willing to openly discuss.

I was floored however when I read the Optimist articles and found out how the tour for the Riders had been going thus far. ACU will be their 7th stop on the tour, and in the six previous stops, no school has allowed the Riders any schedule for open discussing with administration, faculty/staff, and/or students. Only two of the schools allowed the Riders on campus, but in both situations, no formal speaking situations were allowed for them, so they had to just talk to people as they could grab them, so to say, around campus. Of the other four school stops thus far, unfortunately, the Riders were arrested and removed from the property. Between these four schools, almost 40 arrests were made of Equality Riders. It’s sad. It’s a sad, sad thing.

I suppose I do not know the whole story, but from my understanding, I do not believe the Riders were causing any commotion while on the campuses. With their pledge to visit these institutions in a peaceful manner to only openly discuss topics, I am under the belief that their arrests while at these schools were totally on the basis of being removed simply because they were not wanted because of their differing beliefs. Please understand that I am not saying, had they been on the campuses causing an uproar in a manner of violence that I would disagree with having them arrested. That is NOT what I’m saying at all. I do not endorse violence to get a point across, but if the had come in a peaceful manner and were arrested simply because they had different beliefs and those belonging to the “private property” were not willing to maturely talk and defend their beliefs, I find that really sad.

By the time I had read through the four main articles in the Optimist concerning the upcoming visit (article 1, 2, 3, and 4), my interest was once again peaked to travel to Abilene and be amongst the viewers as this visit took place.

Upon my original understanding of the visit, my preparation for designing a shirt to wear to the visit was already complete.
The front of the shirt was going to read:
“I’m a proud ACU alumnus who…
…applauds my alma mater for their openness to listen!”


The back of the shirt was going to read:
“I’m a proud ACU alumnus who…
…applauds the ‘Riders’ for the courage to stand up for what they believe!”


Then the bottom of both sides of the shirt was going to have a small disclaimer that read:
“This shirt in no way endorses or protests homosexuality.”

I had no intentions of coming and causing any problems or causing a seen, I just wanted to come and express the support of at least some of the alumni who believe ACU has done the correct thing, in my opinion of course, in this situation.

It saddens me to read in the Optimist articles about how students say they have heard some of their parents are now reconsidering giving their moneys to the university now because of how the school has chosen to handle this situation. I think that is so sad, and unfortunately, I do not think that is a very mature example of alumni to show to the current students and the students of the future.

I love the Dr. John Stevens’ (past ACU president) quote that Dr. Money (current ACU president) keeps referencing in the midst of all this Soulforce talk:
"There are no subjects on this earth, or in outer space, or in the metaphysical realm, which we cannot study on the campus of a Christian institution of higher learning. Everybody can know our basic commitment, but I hope that people will also realize that there are no closed minds and no off-limit subjects on this campus so long as in our teaching and practice we operate within the framework of our historic commitment."

Wow. That is so well put! I think it is so important that we as people, Christians or not, do not shy away from discussing topics. It is one thing to not be willing to change your stance on a topic, and that is perfectly fine, but it is another thing to say you refuse to talk about it. I think those who refuse to even discuss a topic are being simply close-minded.

I fully understand that a group of some 30 “Riders” coming to ACU is NOT going to change any of our 100-year traditions and doctrine that our great university is founded on—so alumni out there, chill out! What I do see happening though, is ACU being able to say we are not close-minded in a sense that we refuse to discuss topics.

Yes, Riders, ACU can be viewed as discriminating against homosexuals in the sense that individuals who is not legally married are not prohibited to attend our university and partake in sexual acts because the Christian views view that as sin. And unfortunately, or fortunately, same-sex individuals are not allowed to get married in Texas, meaning that homosexuals who should attend ACU will never have the option to partake in sexual acts and have it be permitted. But America also discriminates against those who choose to kill someone because we will throw them in jail for murdering because America views that as a sin. It’s the laws of our land, just as ACU has their own “laws” of their “land.”

I won’t be visiting ACU tomorrow. I have company in town right now, so I do not see it fit that I leave, but I still had plans to come, in my “signage” shirt and as alumni against the specific notes in the Optimist noting that signs will not be permitted during the Rider’s visit, as well as the “activities” being open only to the ACU community. I had plans to bring an ACU shirt to change into should my “signage” shirt be rejected by the community officials, as well as plans to carry my ACU identification card on me at all times…HA! Gotta love still having that thing around! I doubt I would have had any problems slipping into those forums and discussion times. But having said all that, I will be following what happens via the internet and word of mouth. I’ve no doubt I can keep up with the story on both the Optimist website and the Abilene news websites…HA!

But what is more important to me is understanding what is going through the heads of the community before this visit happens. It saddens me to hear people I am close to, who are ACU students, say things like, “well they [the Riders] better not get in my face!” While it is so sad, it makes me laugh at the same time. I’m so sure. I wish I knew what some of these students really think these visitors are going to do.

Unfortunately, I think so many homo-phobics view homosexuals as people who are going to be constantly trying to “hit on you.” This view is very unfortunate. I laugh when I say this, but honestly, I can assure anyone reading this, that the Riders are not coming to “make any moves” on anyone, nor are they coming to fight anyone.

It also saddened me to read in the articles that students had talked about plans of making shirts that had sayings on them which would be geared toward letting the Riders know they were not welcomed there. That is sad. Simply sad.

As I discussed this upcoming visit last night with my mother, she and I both agreed that people need to simply chill out and let the visitors come, let them voice their opinion, and let them go on their way. It does not have to cause any problems, and it surely does not deserve to be discriminated against and hated against.

Sometimes I am na├»ve. And many times I like to just assume that people think like I do (probably a BIG mistake…HA!), but really up until my most recent readings in the Optimist and my discussion with my mom last night, I had no real concerns about any big “problems” arising from this visit to my alma mater. I really expecting people to act in mature manners and for this whole day to “be a big deal,” but really have nothing to “drastic” happen, but now something in the back of my head wonders.

It is unfortunate that it can only take one or two immature individuals to ruin a situation for hundreds of mature people. I just really hope that tomorrow is taken in a mature manner at ACU. I hope anyone who might be currently planning something out of hate for the activities to occur tomorrow, I hope they rethink them and realize that the visit planned by the Riders for tomorrow is not that has been planned out of hate toward our university.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tagged by Nicole

I was tagged by Nicole...

List seven songs you're into right now. Old, new, whatever...

This is what is currently the top seven most played songs on my iPod:

1) Starts with Goodbye – Carrie Underwood

2) Be Without You - Mary J. Blige

3) Wisemen - James Blunt

4) Bad Day – Daniel Powter

5) I Just Can't Live a Lie – Carrie Underwood

6) Look Away – Chicago

7) You're Beautiful – James Blunt



Choose a band/artist and answer ONLY in titles of their songs...
Tim McGraw

1. Are you male or female?
"She's My Kind of Rain" (NOT "Real Good Man")

2. Describe yourself:
"Tiny Dancer" (NOT "Everybody Hates Me")

3. How do some people feel about you:
"I Guess You Get Used to Somebody" (NOT "Angry All the Time")

4. How do you feel about yourself:
my narcissistic side would say, "You Just Get Better All the Time"...HA!

5. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend:
"Illegal" (I really don't know this one for a fact, but it wouldn't surprise me...HA!)

6. Describe your current significant other:
"Who Are They?"

7. Describe where you want to be:
"Where the Green Grass Grows" just "For a Little While"

8. Describe how you live:
"Live Like You Were Dying"

9. Describe how you love:
"I Know How to Love You Well"

10. What would you ask for if you had just one wish:
"My Old Friend"

11. Share a few words of wisdom:
"How Bad Do You Want It"

12. Now say goodbye:
"Kill Myself" (yes, I know that was bad, but I couldn't find a different song...HA! Take it in a poetic/figurative sense...HA!)

I'll tag just whoever wants to do it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This is My Kind of Date!

Okay, this is obviously not the type of blog entry you tend to find on this blog, but I came across a random blog tonight and I started skimming it and reading, and I just couldn't help myself...

I'm sorry, but this is just HOT to me! Seriously! The kid (I can say that because I'm older than him...HA!) really is kind of cute too...HA! But seriously, I just thought this whole story was SOOO HOT! I'd TOTALLY be sold on that type of a "date."

And yes, I'm fully aware that this guy very well might come across this blog that I've written about him, because of site meters and all the other ways to track things on the internet, but I don't care.

Having said that...
...Hello, Owen Wilson-look-alike, boy! ;)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Blue Like Monday Mornings

Blue Like Jazz Chapter 10 – Belief: The Birth of Cool

This chapter is a big one for me. I love topics like values and beliefs. I think what one believes is so very important to their life in so many ways. Because of this, there are a many different points I want to comment on from this chapter. A very good chapter!

My most recent faith struggle is not one of intellect. I don’t really do that anymore. Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care. I don’t believe I will ever walk away from God for intellectual reasons. Who knows anything anyway? If I walk away from Him, and please pray that I never do, I will walk away for social reasons, identity reasons, deep emotional reasons, the same reasons that any of us do anything.

Hmmm…

I would say my doubts, or if you want to say, my “reason for walking away,” if I ever was officially there in the first place, would be for intellectual reasons. Many times I debate the existence of God with myself and when sometimes I have found my heart wanting to accept His existence, I can’t get my mind to agree with my heart. I truly believe my struggle is one of intellect.

With that being the case, I get the impression that Mr. Miller has been in that state too, before. It was that second sentence of his that brings me to that conclusion. With that being the case, I honestly wonder if my intellectual struggle is one of those “being in your 20’s” things. Though I’m not exactly sure of Donald Miller’s age, I realize he is at least in his 30’s, so it makes me wonder if I’m just in a phase right now. And believe it or not, I know many others going through God and/or religion/spirituality oriented struggles right now too. They too are my friends sitting in their 20’s. On Oprah not to long ago, it was said that your 20’s are a time of doubting things and figuring yourself and life out. I would agree. So maybe it is a phase.

But then I question Miller’s final part of that point. I don’t know if I truly agree that social/identity/emotional reasons are the only reasons why we do anything. If that’s the case, then I couldn’t say my state of doubts and reasons for not going to church right now is based on intellectual reasons then could I? But I truly believe it is. I mean if I was making a decision based on social reasons, coming from an ACU setting with all my the close friends that I have, I think we would both agree that I would be wanting to fit in and would be a church attendee.

Do you agree with Miller’s ending statement there? Or am I maybe just not understanding it right?

------------------------------------------------------------

I was wondering the other day, why it is that we turn pop figures into idols? I have a theory, of course. I think we have this need to be cool, that there is this undercurrent in society that says some people are cool and some people aren’t. And it is very, very important that we are cool. So, when we find somebody who is cool on television or on the radio, we associate ourselves with this person to feel valid ourselves. And the problem I have with this is that we rarely know what the person believes whom we are associating ourselves with. The problem with this is that it indicates there is less value in what people believe, what they stand for; it only matters that they are cool. In other words, who cares what I believe about life, I only care that I am cool. Because in the end, the undercurrent running through culture is not giving people value based upon what they believe and what they are doing to aid society, the undercurrent is deciding their value based upon whether or not they are cool.

Wow. I think I agree. It’s sad though.

Nowadays we all are so wrapped up in being “cool.” I do my best to be “cool.” I think most all of us want others to view us as “cool.”

And while I like to think I don’t jeopardize what I believe in order to be “cool,” I do agree that many times we will associate with people because we view them as “cool” without having any earthly idea what they believe. Which many times, could turn out to be beliefs that are very contradictory to what we ourselves believe. But like Miller pointed out, that is not what the concern is, it is all about who is cool and who we can associate with.

------------------------------------------------------------

Can you imagine if Christians actually believed that God was trying to rescue us from the pit of our own self-addiction? Can you imagine? Can you imagine what Americans would do if they understood over half the world was living in poverty? Do you think they would change the way they live, the products they purchase, and the politicians they elect? If we believed the right things, the true things, there wouldn’t be very many problems on earth.

You know, with as powerful and rich of a nation we are in America, we truly could fix so many of the world problems with some outpouring of love. And no, I’m not talking about moving in troops.

Probably the main reason why I love the Oprah show so much is because of the light it sheds on so many situations that are happening today on this earth that we call home. The exposure that that shows gives to so many situations and issues that many people, including Americans are totally unaware of is so beneficial to the viewers who tune in. And believe it or not, all the problems are not just in other countries. Many times Oprah exposes taboo topics that are occurring every day here in our own neighborhoods.

As Oprah often comments, I too agree that once we see or hear about these things that are going on, we can no longer say “we didn’t know,” meaning we are left to feel as if we need to take action. It is that action that can change so much!

------------------------------------------------------------

But the trouble with deep belief is that it costs something. And there is something inside me, some selfish beast of a subtle thing that doesn’t like the truth at all because it carries responsibility.

I think that is what I was referencing when I said once we are exposed to what is going on—once we accept the belief that poverty is a problem in most of the world, we are left feeling as if we have a responsibility toward addressing the issue at hand.

It is like how the education program has gone to six-week report cards now, instead of just quarters and semesters. Because it isn’t until that parent sees that six-week report of a low grade, that they begin to feel the responsibility of getting their child on task to be improved for the semester grades. Those in charge of the education in school districts realized that when they make the parents more aware of what is going on, they are more likely to accept the responsibility they have as a parent to their child because they are now in the light.

But back to Miller’s point here, he is so right. It is our deepest beliefs that drive our passions. It is those beliefs that make us passionate enough to behave in accordance with the belief, usually in a manner that is costing us one thing or another.

------------------------------------------------------------

If you believe something, passionately, people will follow you. People hardly care what you believe, as long as you believe something. If you are passionate about something, people will follow you because they think you know something they don’t, some clue to the meaning of the universe. Passion is tricky, though, because it can point to nothing as easily as it points to something. If a rapper is passionately rapping about how great his rap is, his passion is pointing to nothing. He isn’t helping anything. His beliefs are self-serving and shallow. If a rapper, however, is rapping about this community, about oppression and injustice, then he is passionate about a message, something outside himself. What people believe is important. What people believe is more important than how they look, what their skills are, or their degree of passion. Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn’t going to lead anybody anywhere.

Wow. I SOOOO agree! I LOVE that passage! For someone who is confident and passionate about their belief, they are more likely to get followers than someone who is simply stating they believe one way or another.

I appreciate healthy levels of passion! I admire people who are aware of what they believe and are passionate about it a manner that isn’t overbearing.

I agree that what people believe is so very important. However, it is important that I note that disagreeing beliefs does not mean one belief is right while another belief is wrong necessarily. I believe what someone believes is important because it should define how they are as a person and how they will choose to live their life and behave in their time on this earth. I am not saying it is important that people believe one way or another. Beliefs are important in that they guide our lives so much.

With that being the case, I believe it is important that we do have a passion for at least some of our beliefs. Having a passion in life can be so very important when viewing life as a whole.

------------------------------------------------------------

I like Andrew because he actually believes things that cost him something…Andrew is the one who taught me that what I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.

Yep. That’s it. It is your actions and behaviors that lead your life that will tell others what you believe. I admire those who can live their life saying less and doing more. It is because they don’t need to say what they believe when they are behaving in a manner that shows it.

And when one is willing to believe something that “cost” them, I see it as a sacrifice. One who is willing to sacrifice some selfish desires because of what they believe, they are gaining respect in my eyes.

------------------------------------------------------------

Tony asked me one time if there was anything I would die for. I had to think about it for a long time, and even after thinking about it for a couple days I had a short list…Andrew would say that dying for something is easy because it is associated with glory. Living for something, Andrew would say, is the hard thing.

Well, for the first part…
That really is a hard one. And the more I think about it, anything that I love enough to want to die for it, means there is a lot of “love” involved. And the thing with love is that it brings so much of a self-pleasing feeling that it makes it hard to dismiss that selfish desire for that love; dismiss it in a sense of willingly saying you would choose to die and miss out on the love experienced with that person or principle.

Willing to die for a person or a principle takes a very humbling spirit, which is hard to come by many times. I suppose if I sat down and thought about, I could come up with a list, but like Mr. Miller, it would be very short.

I think in my above explanation, it indicates my difficulty in agreeing with Andrew’s thoughts from the above point. Even if dying is associated with glory, the individual who died will not experience any of that feeling of glory, in that they will be bed.

I think what makes all this so difficult for me is my love for life. When one loves life as I do, death is not a situation to be thought about as pleasing in any manner. I love my time here and I would not choose to speed up my time to die in efforts of being glorified.

As for living for something, I do not see it as very hard when one has a defined purpose in their life.

------------------------------------------------------------

My life testifies that the first thing I believe is that I am the most important person in the world. My life testifies to this because I care more about my food and shelter and happiness than about anybody else.

I can admit to having times of complete selfishness and feeling like “I am the most important person in the world.” These are not times I am proud of, but they are times I experience.

I can, however, relish in fact that I do not feel that way all the time. I am also blessed with an interest in those that I care about, and with that blessing, I am able to give of myself in manners that put others before me. It is in these times that I am proud to be more than one living a life solely for myself.

I’ve heard it said that we truly grow up when we start living our life for someone other than our self…


[Note: All the above text in smaller italic print has been quoted directly from Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

As We and Time Pass On…

It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were…and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.
~From Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

I like to think after we die we can still see what goes on on earth, for a short period of time at least. I suppose my hope is that we can be “present” at our own funeral, in whatever form that might be.

I’ve had this hope for quite some time now…

I’m an interesting one, as most of you know, but I’ve always thought a lot about my own funeral. I’ve made lists in the past about things I want there, like people I want to speak, songs I want played, pallbearers, etc. I don’t know what exactly my fascination is with funerals, but for some reason I really want mine to be right.

I suppose deep down I see a funeral as one’s overall “report card” so to say. What people say about you at your funeral, what is written on your tombstone, what is remembered about you after you’re gone, etc. – it all sort of explains how your time on earth was spent, I guess. These sort of things are important to me, as I undoubtedly care a lot about what I bring to this world while I’m here sharing in the whole experience.

And if you don’t think I’m strange enough already, I can honestly say I sometimes find myself evaluating my friendships on a level of whether or not I think I have had enough of an impact on some of my friends, enough that I think they would take time out of their own lives to come to my funeral to honor my life.

Strange? I suppose. But I honestly really hope to one day be able to see who does come to my funeral, as well as to be able to hear what is said about me. Maybe it is how I plan to evaluate my own life overall; to see how I did during my years here. I don’t know…

I truly believe you can tell a lot about a person by who comes to their funeral. You can see who they have impacted—the young, the old, the in-between. You can see how deeply they impacted some, as well as how far their influence has gone.

People come from all over for funerals. Some will travel hundreds of miles, while others will leave their house just to drive a few streets over. But in the end, they all end up in the same destination, with hopes of doing the same thing—honoring the one whom they all share a common bond with.

It is that honoring that brings me to funerals. I do my best to attend the funerals of those whom have had an impact on my life, as I would hope others would do the same for me. I suppose in a way I hope to give them the respect and honor that they deserve from me, should they happen to be “present” as well.

Many times it is hard for me to swallow the whole idea, in reference to the one that passed, that, as Donald Miller puts it, “you never again will be.” But, even if that is the case, I still can bring myself to attend funerals in honoring. Sometimes it is hard to accept the fact that you can’t talk to that person anymore, especially if that person was a source of motivation and encouragement and influence for you.

For example, I still keep the email address in my address book of a friend who passed away more than a year ago. I see it, and it brings a smile to my face every time I look through my address book. I even emailed that friend about a month after their passing, in full cognition that they would never read that email.

I don’t know…

I don’t know the answer to “how should one deal with death?” It’s different for everyone, so I don’t know

What I do know though, is that I will be attending a funeral on Friday of an individual who had an impact on my life.

In times when support was needed, this individual was there for me. This individual smiled when I needed a smile. This individual wrote me a note when I needed a note.

Though it was my college years at ACU that brought us together, I was blessed to keep in touch with her in my years following my graduation…

I’ll never forget one night staying up at my computer emailing back and forth, LONG emails with this lady. It was late, after 10 PM when we started, and I would get her response and write her back, only to have another response back from her in a matter of minutes.

I go back now and reread those emails and it brings a smile to my face and tears of joy to my eyes.

One of her most recent emails to me read:

Thanks for making me laugh! I had just been thinking about you. I had found a note that you had written me and again felt very blessed to know you! Keep the funnies coming! Love ya, #####

One thing I noticed about all of our emails back and forth was how we both always signed them “love.” If anything, I can rest assured in the fact that she knew I loved and appreciated her and what she did for me through her encouraging words.

I may never get to thank her again in person for that, but I can be sure to pay my respects to her family by honoring her and her life at her funeral.

Monday, March 13, 2006

When the Six Came Together…

I’m not quite sure what it is, but spending time with groups of my friends does something to me that is different than just hanging out with one or two of my friends. Not that hanging out with just one or two friends doesn’t bring me great joy and inspire me as well, but when I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with a larger group of my friends, I tend to find myself afterwards in a state of being inspired in so many ways. I’m inspired to be a better person, to thank each of them for being in my life, to strive for a higher level of intelligence, to apologize for any of my short-comings I have had with them in the past, to use this opportunity to inspire me to adjust any of my other friendships that need adjusting, but most importantly, it inspires me to look forward to our next encounters together.

Each of these inspirations have hit me at some point over the past twenty-four hours, as I had an opportunity to spend Saturday and Sunday with 5 individuals that I admire and respect each in their own way. I don’t know what it is, but being with people we hold special places in our heart for can affect us in ways that even the most powerful individuals in our country, or the world for that matter, can’t.

This sense of power did not truly come to it’s fullest power until everyone arrived in the allotted destination. It was then, then when the six came together, that I truly felt the power and unity that a group of friends can bring to a setting in our life.

We had come from different areas. Some from the east, some from the north, and some from the far east, but whatever the case, it wasn’t complete until everyone arrived. I felt it. I felt the power growing as the groups slowly came together. As myself and two others made the last part of our journey to the destination in my car the unity was growing, but it felt stronger when I was calling over the walkie-talkie to the one in the car following behind us. It was that other voice bellowing into our car via the walkie-talkie that made me feel as if we were growing in strength. But it wasn’t until we were all united in the ranger’s station at the state park that I felt the power in full force as I looked around and saw us all together.

A “typical” group that you would have seen together a few years ago when we were all in school? Nah. But people who were all united in one way or another? Yep, and that was what brought us together this time and allowed for the power to be there.

I marvel at what can come from a group of people who are different, but still similar in so many ways.

You’re likely to read several different blog entries on this adventure from this weekend, and I can assure you they will all be different and unique in their own perspectives, but they all happened at the same time with the same group as a whole. That is what is so cool!

My perspective is most likely going to be very different from the other five’s, but that’s okay. We all will see things differently, even if they are the same things we are each seeing.

This weekend I had the opportunity to challenge my thoughts in so many ways! I love to observe and try to make connections and understand why someone does one thing and why someone else does something else. That’s what is so fun about having a group of people together. There is so much to observe!

First, let me share with you a few of the happenings of this weekend:
--Having teamwork in assembling two tents in the DAYtime.


--Getting to see the differences between camping “home” styles: tents, campers, “suitcases.”


--Seeing the difference between skipping rocks on a lake and nailing sperm whales with rocks on a lake.


--Getting to throw a softball and play catch as if we were the American Olympic softball team one day, and throwing it the second day as if we are 80 year old women’s hall of fame team.


--Playing games that included giving someone some bull, getting people to remember an author by the name of Orville, and scratching one’s own butt.


--Listening to and reminiscing over “old school” music and the memories that it brings about, whether it was too Vitamin C’s “Graduation Song,” Kriss Kross’ “Jump,” Dolly and Kenny’s “Islands in the Stream” or R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”

--Seeing and tasting the influence of West Texas wind on a sandwich.


Now, having had all that happened, here were some of the observations I made this weekend that really interested me:
--Making goals, or as I jokingly put it, “vows for the weekend,” can make for some added fun and something that tends to stick with people consciously. Whether the “vows” made were met completely or not, wasn’t really my purpose, but more that it was a pleasure to observe how conscious people became of them and how they were referenced on a few occasions throughout the time together.

--The three individuals who are in graduate school brought books along on the trip to read; none of which were class-oriented textbooks. The books brought included: Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Contemporary Cognitive Therapy : Theory, Research, and Practice by Robert L. Leahy, and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Note: all of those books are non-fiction. Each of the books were opened and read for some period of time at one point during the time we were all together.

--Peer pressure isn’t always going to get the best of someone, especially when it comes down to someone’s values, morals, beliefs, and desires.

--Cliques, groups, posses—whatever you want to call them—are hard to break down, but not impossible. They will be present, but not necessarily in control or dominant. And that inspires me and leaves room for hope!

--When differences, even belief differences arise, a sense of respect can keep things in check and keep problems from emerging.

Each of these observations came about from specific happenings this weekend. Things that intrigued me to watch as they unraveled before me, as well as brought a smile to my face as I realized they were happening. And none of them happened until the time when the six of us came together.

I was honored to spend the short time I did with these wonderful women and I look forward to another opportunity to inspire me, as well as to make me laugh again, to love again, and to learn again!

Blue Like Monday Mornings

Blue Like Jazz Chapter 9 – Change: New Starts at Ancient Faith

Something got crossed in the wires, and I became the person I should be and not the person I am. It feels like I should go back and get the person I am and bring him here to the person I should be.

Wow. That’s one of those things that you really have to read it a couple of times to follow it. But once you get what he is saying, either you can relate, or you can think someone who seems to be in that position.

We all have that person we are supposed to be. You know, “the person I should be.” This could be a person YOU think you should be, as in the person you want to be, or the person you think you should be for society. Or, it could be the person your PARENTS think you should be, or the person your BEST FRIEND thinks you should be, or the person your SPOUSE thinks you should be. Whichever the case, the key to each of these phrases is the “be,” meaning it is not the “I am.”

Though you might appear on the outside that you are that “being” that was planned to become of you, you are not fully it. Who you really are might be hidden within. In a way, you are suppressing who you really are, to display this “should be.”

It’s hard.

It’s easy to fall into what society or people, such as parents, who have a lot of influence over us, think we “should be.” But when we do fall into this state of being, if it isn’t who we really are, even if we feel content with it, are we “being” to our fullest capacity?

I think it is important to make sure your “am” is always a part of your story. Make sure you are not going through life fulfilling the “should be’s” and ignoring the “am.”

-------------------------------------------------

I was feeling bitter about the human experience. I never asked to be human. Nobody came to the womb and explained the situation to me, asking for my permission to go into the world and live and breathe and eat and feel joy and pain. I started thinking about how odd it was to be human, how we are stuck inside this skin, forced to be attracted to the opposite sex, forced to eat food and use the rest room and then stuck to the earth by gravity. I think maybe I was going crazy or something. I spent an entire week feeling bitter because I couldn’t breathe underwater. I told God I wanted to be a fish. I also felt a little bitter about sleep. Why do we have to sleep? I wanted to be able to stay awake for as long as I wanted, but God had put me in this body that had to sleep. Life no longer seemed like an experience of freedom.

Yep. I can’t say I’ve ever specifically thought of it in the sense of “feeling bitter about [being] human,” but I’ve definitely wished before that I did not have to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom.

I wish we didn’t have to sleep. Many times I “can’t” sleep, so it leaves me tired and restless in the days to follow. It is then that I find myself wishing we didn’t have to have sleep.

I wish we didn’t have to eat. Many times I find myself hungry and nothing really sounds good. Sometimes I just feel burnt out on all foods. It is then that I find myself wishing we didn’t have to eat.

I wish we didn’t have to go to the bathroom. Many times I find myself wrapped up in an important situation and I really need to go to the bathroom, but I don’t want to leave my present situation. It is then that I find myself wishing we didn’t have to go to the bathroom.

Many times I deal with these thoughts and wishes, but it was a week ago, when I was doing some research for a school project that I came across something that reminded me of these thoughts that have crossed my mind, as well as Donald Miller’s mind…

Cathy suffers fro a disease called pseudo-intestinal obstruction (PIO). She hasn’t been able to keep food down since she was 6 months old, when she was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction and had her first surgery. After six similar surgeries, she was finally diagnosed as having PIO. Because so much of her small intestine has been surgically removed, she is not able to absorb the nutrients from food and has to undergo total parenateral nutrition, which reguires her to hook up to an IV every night. Cathy credits her father, who was there to “kick me in the butt” and said, “you know, this is your life, so get used to it.” As a result, she has learned to accept her conditions and tries to live as normal a life as possible. Now she has to deal with a blood infection called septicemia and persistent earaches. She get urinary tract infections frequently. Despite these chronic conditions, she is married, has graduated from college, and is working. She said:

A lot of times I’ve thought of suicide, that it would be so easy to just die. To this day, I can picture a way to do it that would be nice and clean and quick and easy…There’s a purpose for me being here. I mean, the amount of research that they did through me maybe someday someone else’s kid won’t have to go through the shit that I went through…My life has purpose because I know I don’t have the luxury to sit around and waste time. I have a certain amount of time every day, or every night, and I’m going to make these hours count…I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me, but I really feel like I’m ready for anything. I just want to enjoy each day, live each moment…Today is what is important and I’m going to make the most of it. (p. 85)

[De Vries, B. (1999) End of Life Issues: Interdisciplinary and Multidimensional Perspectives. New York: Springer Publishing Company, Inc.]

Wow. You read that and you think to yourself, maybe “having” to eat isn’t all that bad after-all. Boy do I really not have much to complain about, if I’m just wishing I could get more sleep, having something “different” to eat, or be able to hold my bladder a little longer.

-------------------------------------------------

I lay there under the stars and thought of what a great responsibility it is to be human.

This is going to sound weird, but I was thinking about this one and I was thinking, without God, or another “higher power” in our life, do we really have any responsibilities?

Where do our “apparent” responsibilities come from? It is only from sources of higher being? Is it our values and beliefs that place responsibilities on us?

I realize our different roles in life can place responsibilities on us, such as a mother has certain responsibilities to her kids, and an employee has certain responsibilities to his employer, but I’m talking about ultimate responsibilities. I mean the ones that we really can’t “get out of,” as we can with many of the “role responsibilities.”


[Note: All the above text in smaller italic print has been quoted directly from Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”]

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Company vs. The Event

I'll go with the company anytime!

I truly believe it is the company, rather than the actual event, that makes the memories!

Some of my most fond memories were spent with close friends when we had nothing "spectacular" planned. It was the company we were in with one another that made the time special. A lot of the time we just sat around and talked, whether at one of our houses, on a balcony, a back porch, in a parking lot, at a restaurant, in a car, etc. We didn't have to spend big dollars or go to some extravagent event in order to make that memory.

My original plans for this quickly approaching final spring break for me, was to take a road trip to Chicago with a few friends. One of my best friends and I planned it and even got tour guide books sent to us for the cities we planned to drive through. We had made out an itenarary (i think that would be what you would have called it) and figured out approximate tanks of gas based on distance. We were really getting set!

Then I had to back out...

Then my buddy ended up having to back out too...

[Good thing we hadn't invited but one other person at that point...HA!]

So now, I find myself a matter of days away from my final spring break and though I won't be leaving Texas, I couldn't be more excited!

I'm looking forward to hanging out with some WONDERFUL people. People I admire and people that I have no fear that we will have a good time, fire or no fire.

Though this won't be a week's worth of traveling, it will be a time to laugh, joke, talk, listen, and marvel at how we are all really growing up. And let's face it, probably grimace at the fact that we are all getting old and can't run and catch a ball as well as we used too...HA!

I'm going camping and I can't WAIT!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Blue Like Monday Mornings...

Blue Like Jazz Chapter 8 – gods: Our Tiny Invisible Friends

This chapter really did not have that many standing-out (as opposed to outstanding…HA…whatever that means…HA!) points, to me. So for those of you who are not fans of my longer blog entries, enjoy this, while it lasts. And for those of you who don’t mind the longer ones, know that while next chapter, chapter nine, definitely has more points than this one, I can assure you that chapter 10 will be a LONG entry, as it appears that I have more checkmarks in that chapter than there are pages! HA!

I like how Miller starts this chapter…

Every year or so I start pondering at how silly the whole God thing is. Every Christian knows they will deal with doubt. And they will. But when it comes it seems so very real and frightening, as if your entire universe is going to fall apart. I remember a specific time when I was laying there in bed thinking about the absurdity of my belief. “God. Who believes in God? It all seems so very silly.”

I can’t pinpoint a date of when my doubt started. Or even think of a situation that might have instigated my doubts, but I’m firmly implanted in a point of “doubt.” Maybe my stage of doubt is just a lot longer than some. Maybe one day I won’t doubt anymore; who knows. But, it all makes me wonder about what can trigger these times of doubt in Christians.

I’ve discussed my doubts with friends before and all of them seem to relate to Miller and admit to having their times of doubt. They explain it like it is a phase and it tends to pass, usually fairly quickly; well, quickly I suppose in relation to my potential “phase.”

So is it a state of cognitive reevaluation that goes on that leads one to doubt? If so, does that “light bulb” just seem to go out all of a sudden and the doubt disappears again? Or does one who is under a state of belief the majority of the time in their life, find them self in a state of too much uncertainty when they are in the stage of doubt, so they return to their comfort zone, so to say, of believing. For it is in their state of belief that they have answers, as opposed to doubting, leaving room for uncertainty.

I don’t know, and actually, it’s funny because, my original plans/layout for discussing this “point” from the chapter had no intentions of going the route that last paragraph did, but it just sort of happened. That’s one of the things I love about religious talks, they can be spurred on with so many questions and possible theories!

My original thoughts for this point was merely relating to the part about the phase of doubt feeling so “real and frightening, as if your entire universe is going to fall apart.” Is that feeling of realness in opposition to the feeling of when there isn’t any doubt? As in when one is in full belief of the idea of God. Or are they just as real in both situations, just different kinds of real?

You know, I wonder if it takes truly having felt “real” in one’s belief of God, to be frightened to the point of feeling “as if your entire universe is going to fall apart” when you are experiencing doubt. I say this because, though I am in a state of doubt, I don’t feel frightened, nor do I feel as though my world is going to fall apart or come to an end.

------------------------------------------------------

I wish I were the sort of person who liked everybody and everything. I feel so negative sometimes. I have friends who can listen to any song, watch any movie, or read any book, and they think everything is just great. I truly envy people who can do that.

While I obviously do not think it is possible to like “everybody and everything,” I do make it my goal in life to do that to the best of my ability.

I’ve been told I am not one who is quick to judge, whether that is true or not in your opinion, I don’t know. But I do know that I like to give everything and everybody as much of a fair chance as I possibly can. I naturally tend to go into situations with a positive view and have to be influenced to otherwise to sway from that view.

I believe we act and behave in manners that are pleasing to us. I have developed in a manner where I am pleased in positive settings. Seeing the positive in situations. [I say that in full belief that it is possible for people to be pleased in negativity. I believe some people truly are pleased by seeing the negative in situations] With this being the case, I tend to be the one that Miller seems to reference when he mentions his “friends who can listen to any song, watch any movie, or read any book, and they think everything is just great.”

I know a lot of people who can’t listen to slow country songs that are referenced as being “depressing” without getting down in mood. They don’t bother me. I love them! I have cds of total slow country “sad” songs and I love to listen to them. I view them as mellow and calming and peaceful, rather than “down.”

Some of my favorite movies are ones that are viewed as “depressing.” Movies like “Million Dollar Baby” and “Life as a House.”

Though Miller states his sense of envy, as if it is an unachievable state of being, I view it as a matter of perception, in which some cognitive restructuring could direct one’s views in a different direction. Envy in itself is such a negative state of mind! ;)

[Note: All the above text in smaller italic print has been quoted directly from Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”]

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Death, the Dying Process...and Spirituality?

Today I have spent a lot of time in the dying process on my bedroom floor...

...I've skimmed through some 8 books today on the topic of death and dying in preparation for a group presentation I have coming up soon for a class. A couple of the books were fairly interesting, but trust me, I'll be glad when I don't have to hear about Kubler-Ross anymore (that is the individual who came up with the 5 stages an individual goes through when be faced with their impendent death).

Luckily for me, the last book I had left on the pile to go through ended up being one that really interested me. I'm going to reference the book right now, so I can quote from it throughout this passage: "Handbook of Death & Dying" by Clifton D. Bryant.

I enjoyed all the quick reference statistics throughout this book. Let me start with just throwing some out that interested me...
  • From a survey in 2000, heart disease was of course the leading cause of death; however, more people die from influenza and pneumonia than from Alzheimer's disease, and more die from Alzheimer's than from suicides.
  • When considering deaths by unintentional injuries in the U.S. in the year 1999, motor vehicles of course was #1, with a total of 40,965, but the third unintentional injury listed was poisoning, with a total of 13,162. That must suck. But then I took careful not of the sixth injury on the list, "drowning," for my own personal reasons...HA!
  • When looking at statistics of methods of suicide used in Ancient Rome and Greece by gender, the top method for males was weapons, representing 46% of the suicides, while for females it was hanging, representing 34%. The method of "jumping" was used by more females than males, 22 to 13% respectively.
  • Trends from 1930-1975 have always shown higher suicide rates in whites than in blacks.
  • Numbers of executions in the U.S. by method since 1976: Lethal injection--654; Gas chamber--11; Electrocution--10; Hanging--3; and Firing Squad--2.
  • I always knew that Texas was the state with the highest rate of carrying out capital punishment, but I had no idea it was THIS big of a difference... Executions from 1977-2002: Texas had 289 and the second place state was Virginia with 87.

Then there were some direct quotes in the text that really interested me:

  • Hanging a condemned inmate correctly is practically a science. The know must be placed in exactly the right location under the jaw, the weights must be precise, the trapdoor must operate efficiently. The electric chair, under the best of circumstances, is ripe for human and/or mechanical errors...The gas chamber is the most dangerous and complex of the five methods.
  • Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of the discipline of sociology, claims that it was the fear of death and the dead that led to the creation of religion.
  • The anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski calls religion the "great anxiety reliever," asserting that it functions to relieve anxiety caused by crisis. According to Malinowski, religion provides individuals with the means for dealing with extraordinary phenomena; it functions to restore normalcy.

The first quote there was just for your FYI, but I also thought it was interesting, as the death penalty interests me. But it was those last two that really made me think, yep. Durkheim's thoughts support a theory I've had for quite some time now. And then Malinowski's assertion goes along with my thoughts on religion being quite possibly the greatest therapy out there.

It's interesting because whenever you talk religion with someone, and one person is a firm believer and the other a skeptic, the topic of what happens after death is bound to arise. This text said this:

There seem to be four possible answers to the question of what happens to us when we die:

  • Annihilation: It is simply the end
  • Immortality: An imperishable soul lives on without the body.
  • Resurrection: After an intermediate period, the dead person rises to live again, in a re-created body.
  • Reincarnation: Something of the essence of the dead person is reborn into another form of life.

I suppose that pretty much is all the options you have to what you might believe happens after death. I can answer the question based on my beliefs with one of those, as I'm sure you can too. I think that is probably where religious beliefs probably come into play.

While I might not consider myself to be a religious person, I do believe myself to be a pretty spiritual person. Because of this, I liked the spirituality section in this book on death. There was a section within it called, "Achieving self-conscious spirituality." I thought it provided a nice scale of questions to consider when evaluating your spiritual nature.

I'll end with that list of questions for you to enjoy as I did:

  • When you are discouraged and despondent, what keeps you going?
  • Where have you found strength in the past?
  • Where have you found hope in the past?
  • Who have you looked up to?
  • Who inspires you?
  • What does death mean to you?
  • What does suffering mean to you?
  • What does [religious] community mean to you?
  • What does healing mean to you at this point in your life?
  • What is your attitude to your death?
  • Can you forgive others?
  • Can you forgive yourself?
  • What would bring you inner peace?
  • Can you find strength in yourself?
  • Do you love yourself?
  • Can you perceive yourself as being loved by others, by God?
  • How are you relating to yourself?
  • How are you relating to others?
  • How are you relating to the universe?
  • How are you relating to your God?

Many of these are the types of questions that I LOVE discussing with close friends. How interesting the topics and discussions always turn out to be!