The Power of Words

In the Christian faith much is written about the power of words. In fact, the Bible mentions the power of life and death lies in the power of the tongue:

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

Proverbs 18:21

For those who are not keeping up with American politics, we have just come through one of the most divisive and damaging Presidential campaigns in my lifetime, and perhaps in the history of our Country. I have watched, feeling helpless as my friends took sides. Both sides fancy themselves smarter and sure of the ignorance and short-sided vision of the other.  Both sides shout with proud sarcasm statements which uttered at other times would be considered libelous and slanderous. 

In this age of quick tweets shared with little thought before posting, statements intended to prove and disarm opposing arguments are falling on increasingly deaf and uncaring ears. Accusations of liar, thief, traitor, ignorant, and fool are thrown around as casually as comments about the ever-changing Tennessee weather.  These words are wielded like a sword to slice at the integrity and credibility of those in opposition.  While the intended victim may be wrapped in a cloak of self-righteousness and not feel the sting of rebuke, onlookers and bystanders certainly feel the sharp barbs.

Never have I seen people more marginalized and individual humanity being stripped away as people are lumped into groups of “those people.” Trump supporters and Biden supporters alike have wielded their swords of “truth”, not realizing they are for the most part only speaking into the echo chambers of like-minded friends.  Those who think differently are simply not listening as they too are locked in their own echo chambers of those who share their beliefs.

I did not realize how different the type of information we receive daily is until I spoke to a friend recently. During a conversation, I realized the information, rhetoric, and “truth” I had been spoon-fed is not the same information, rhetoric and “truth” in his feeds. It seems based on our past interests, upbringing and grouping of friends, his social media and internet feeds were vastly different. While I had been fed fear and distrust of everyone, his information was not the same. It became obvious he did not understand where my anxiety was coming from. In that moment it became all too clear that I, too, was in an echo chamber . . . one of the past.

Even though I try to find balanced reporting, and to stay away from the damaging half-truths and fear wielding statements, I may still be trapped in misinformation. It is clear my social media and internet feeds have been shaped around current and past interests. They are not varied enough to reach the whole story. It was an alarming and upsetting moment. I can only hypothesize the predictive algorithms are trying to decide for me exactly what I would like to see. However, these algorithms cannot predict the changes of the human heart and enlightenment as we learn and grow.  (While much has been and could be said about the dangers of social media, that is not the purpose of this discourse.) I am increasingly alarmed at how I have been unable to find the truth even as I search for it.

 We have all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword. I had always heard the second part of the quote, but in searching for a reference, I found the full quote:

“Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword.”

– Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Although I appreciate the sentiment behind the words, I do not believe it is necessarily true, as the pen is also mighty when under the rule of men not entirely great. This is not a political commentary; I am not educated enough to speak with authority on that score. However, I can speak from my heart, which I know very well. I live in Tennessee, a state known for our Volunteer spirit. However more recently Tennessee is known for something else, a Christmas Morning bombing.  As “facts” come out about the accused bomber, it is clear the current climate of hate and fear fed his paranoia and contributed to his need to act. I am heartbroken to realize that his trigger for making a bomb, possibly taking his life, and causing damage to both people and the communications infrastructure of our state was fear of technology, and the current toxic climate and likely an echo chamber of his own making.

Careless words thrown around by those who have their own agendas, which we do not fully know, cause real damage to those who hear them. Whether fueled by the anger of being so sure the other person is wrong, convinced with pride their leader is speaking “truth,” or tormented by fear stemming from this uncertain climate in our country, each word takes a toll. In this case it took at least one life and greatly affected so many.

While people are cocooned in their smug assurance of their righteous agendas, others are trembling and heartbroken in the state of our country and the potential for further violence. This man with great technical knowledge who is so overcome by his emotions and closely held beliefs felt he had to act. While he provided a warning to clear the area in an assumed effort to save lives, the next person compelled to act may not take such a precaution. I wholeheartedly believe the careless words of others are partially responsible for causing reactions in people that cannot be easily controlled. We know based on history how much blood can be shed in the name of faith or truth. We see evidence of this in the comment section of almost any news story on the internet.

I do not know how all this will play out, but I do know words have the power to heal or hurt and once spoken they cannot be taken back. Remember what you say affects not only your own life, but also the lives of those you hold dear, and, unfortunately in this time, of those you despise.

Have a care before you say it, type it or share it.


The Feels

In the world of fandoms, “the feels” refers to the intense emotion we experience when remembering a powerful scene in a book, TV show, or movie. The most recent example I can think of is how everyone took a shot to “the feels” when we watched everyone fade to dust after Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. I think most of us who had invested so much in all of our beloved Marvel characters felt like we had lost actual loved ones. I could not speak of Loki without tearing up for at least a week! In many situations these characters feel more real to us than some of the people we deal with on a daily basis.

As a child, I have very distinct memories of experiencing “the feels” of almost everyone around me. I cried when they cried, and I wanted to help everyone. Though it seemed odd strangers would often tell me their life story. I simply attributed it to being a good listener. I thought everyone was like me, but I found out quickly few people have this gift. Everyone loves to be around someone who has this gift, at least for a while. Life with humans reveals we often have a heavy price to pay when we love first and ask questions later.

The first time I heard the word Empath was based on a character named Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek the Next Generation. I saw myself in her. I would know if someone felt afraid or could sense if they were being dishonest, but at the time I did not know to trust myself.  Often people would look at me crazy when I would walk away from a conversation and indicate a person was lying. I would say things like, “You can’t trust them. I just know it’s a bad idea,” or “They are furious at me and did not show it.” Anytime those around me or I would discount those nudges, we would pay the price. I have a trail of broken relationships (which I likely should never have invested in) because those I loved and followed did not listen to my warnings. I’ve learned the hard way to trust my instincts.

Life in the American Fundamentalist Christian Bubble does not make room for empaths. I was told it was simply “new age hooey” so I learned to bury my gift and hide a part of myself.  I do not believe my gift, and I do now believe it is a gift, was given to be stifled because it does not fit in the ribbon wrapped box of American Christianity. The case can be made that Jesus himself was an empath as He was moved with compassion to restore the crippled, heal the lame, open blind eyes, and raise the dead.  He even confronted the religious leaders as He perceived their thoughts revealing true motives and intentions. These things can’t be explained away with the simple explanation of He was God. Scripture says He was moved and He perceived which indicates He identified and understood their situation, position, and intention.

After walking away from the church system a few years ago, I have been able to fully embrace being an empath. I believe this gift was given for a reason, and I use it to help those around me. However, I’ve now learned I must set up healthy boundaries which I never had before. It is not necessary to always reveal what you may know as it’s the equivalent to tipping your poker hand, and all things tend to be revealed in the right time. After a lifetime of hurt feelings and broken friendships, I am moving forward. I recently listened to the song “Walk On” by U2 which I had always loved. However, this time it really spoke to me. “I know it aches, how your heart it breaks you can only take so much” just echoed in my mind. I have been learning to walk on for many years and suspect I will do so for years to come.  I will continue to embrace the feels because it’s what makes me who I am. Sometimes I will hurt, sometimes I will laugh, but finally I will be able to feel them without doubting myself or my instincts and that is a freedom worth walking toward.

Peace and Love!


Finding a Tribe

A picture hangs in my office of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a thoughtful gift from my boss. She bought it because she knows I love the Guardians of the Galaxy but I am not sure she understands why. Many people ask me why I like them when they visit and the easiest answer is because they are Guardians. And this is true. My work team’s name is “Guardian” and we have the shirts and work method that prove it. But, there is a second deeper meaning though that resonates with me.

*Spoilers if you have not watched the first and second Guardians of the Galaxy movies.*

There is a line in the second Guardians movie in which Peter and Gamora are arguing over Peter’s newfound dad Ego. A brief quote follows:

Peter: “I finally found my family, don’t you understand that?”

Gamora: “I thought you already had”

There is so much emotion in those two statements you really need to watch the scene to understand but for the purpose of this blog it is sufficient to read the words.

In the first movie, the group forms a team to have the common goal of getting paid. Saving the galaxy was not their original intent, but it became their primary focus as the movie unfolded. Over the course of the movie, they reached accomplished something they never intended: their disjointed group became a family.

In my vocabulary family also means a tribe or clan.

I have searched all of my life to find my tribe.

I have a great blood family. This is not what I am talking about.

I mean friends that become a tribe. I thought I found it a few times. But it turns out when you don’t go to the same “church”, work at the same place, or don’t believe exactly like you did, you were not that close after all.

I have had many close calls, but nothing yet has lasted.

I do not believe I am the only one searching for my clan. I believe there are others. I will find them.

You can’t manufacture it, and as with the Guardians, I don’t believe we will realize it as it forms. Forming this tribe just happens naturally as we walk out our journeys together.

So the search goes on. And it is a search I will continue until I find my people.

I believe this final quote from Guardians sums it up nicely:

Peter Quill/Star-Lord: I look around at us and you know what I see? Losers… I mean like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have, man, we have, all of us. Homes, and our families, normal lives. And you think life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it’s giving us something. It is giving us a chance.

Drax the Destroyer: To do what?

Peter Quill/Star-Lord: …To give a shit, for once and not run away

The Disease of Unforgiveness

My husband posts a great deal of his thoughts and opinions about the state of the institutional church and I agree with almost 100% of them. I do feel there are many fundamental problems with the American “Church” as a whole, but today I want to focus on what I can only describe as a cancer in the institutional church: unforgiveness.  At the end of our tenure at a church we had served at for 10 years I had reached the point where I would honestly say I did not love people. This was unfortunate as my husband was a message series on the book of 1 John  in which a very famous passage stated:

If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he who does not love his brother whom he has not seen cannot love God whom\ he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

I admit  I cried myself to sleep more than one Wednesday night because I felt so condemned by this whole book of scripture. I knew I did not love these people so this meant I did not love God. I had no hope and I felt like just giving up.  Over the course of many heated conversations and much prayer, I came to the realization that if my faith was going to survive I had to get out of the church system.

While this has confused many people and probably has made them fearful for our salvation, it was probably the wisest decision we ever made. I have found this truth, distance is a key component in the process of healing. I had to get away from the system in order to think clearly and begin to work with my core issue: unforgiveness. In the “church” system I was so heavily involved in, I ran across scores of people who carried the baggage of unforgiven hurts and anger toward those who had hurt them. It is a vicious cycle of reliving your pain, valid or not,  becoming angry at those who hurt you , deeply desiring that they suffer, and then feeling guilty that you feel that way, because you know the bible says you have to forgive. I know many can relate to this cycle, even if they cannot readily admit they are likely on this merry-go-round even as I type this. You see I knew that I should love these people but I did not have it in me to do it, not while I saw them at the store, at a family gathering, or at church every week.

I feel that unforgiveness is a cancer because it blocks the flow of love in our lives. I have found over time that it was not a lack of love, but an actual issue of loving them so much. That realization was key in my healing.  I love deeply so I also open myself to be hurt deeply. That was out of balance. So with the clarity that distance makes, I can see that I needed time away from the institution to let go of my anger and begin to forgive myself and others.

I have been taught that there are three things you cannot control: situations, possessions, and personal rights. I find this to be true, but the realization makes us try so hard to try to control what by nature we cannot control. I cannot control what others say or do, and I had to learn how to deal in a healthy way with those who strike out against myself and my family. I cannot control what they do, but I can control how I let it affect me. So I have been learning to forgive and that has allowed me to love again, so now I can more relate to 1 John in a much deeper way.

I am not sure why I am writing this at 3 in the morning and I have to get up at 5, but I can only hope this is for someone who is in this cycle and needs the encouragement that it can be broken. If you ever need to talk, you know where to find me. But even better, you can talk to the Lord.




Not Another Blog!

Why Blog?

For the past several months I have watched my husband expose his inner thoughts for the world to see. I have watched him struggle with revealing what we tend to keep inside, and at times I have envied him. Sometimes, when I felt I would burst if I would not share what was within me, I would hijack his blog and post as a visitor. However it is time I begin to document my story, on my own terms. It is funny I am well known as one who is fearless in asking questions, but when I find the answers to the questions matter most to me I hesitate to ask. The answers to these questions can set us on a path of hurt, realization, or derail what we believed to be a true foundation. I am long past the point of just accepting what people tell me because they are in a position of authority, and it is also time I stopped relying on others to dictate what I should believe as truth.

The past few months have found us without a “church home”. This is an uncomfortable place to be for someone who has spent my entire adult life, and most of my adolescence inside these church walls. I have learned some hard lessons: I am not as loving as I thought, words hurt, and not everyone likes or even loves me.  I am past the point of allowing these lessons control my life, so to heal I removed myself from the hamster wheel of outward proper action and hidden pain.  So here I stood, outside the door of the “safety” I knew and staring at a path that I instinctively knew would be a hard journey. And for a while this is where I have stayed. Refusing to go back inside, but too fearful of how to handle the world I really knew very little about.

There are core things I believe as Truth and that has not changed. However, I have chosen to tear down the house I have built that served both as a shelter and as a prison. Now begins the process of building something new. I plan to document this journey on this blog and it is my hope that it will be healing for me and helpful for others. Feel free to share your thoughts as I look forward to honest dialogue because I know I am not the only one who is in the process of rebuilding with no construction experience!