Thursday, November 3, 2016

On Separation

Look at this.

These are human beings. If you don't know where this was taken, perhaps you should turn off cable news, so you can hear the sound of the drums beating. This isn't the middle east. It's America in 2016.

Look at the faces of the law enforcement officials who are doing their jobs outfitted in military grade protection, against people who only possess horses, blankets, tents, and prayers. Look at them. This is everything that's wrong across the globe, summed up in one photo. The violence and aggression, the theft of land and resources, the destruction of the planet, the corporations versus the citizen, and government turning a blind eye while heads get trampled. It is such a concise caricature of all that is wrong. Of the greed and self interest. We are bombing school children and hospitals. Ignoring the starving. Arming the rebels. Destroying the ground we walk on and water we drink while our leaders play Monopoly. And we play Pokemon. Rome is burning.

The root of this madness is the oldest and most vile deception in human history, the one that is the source of nearly all human suffering: Separation. This lie tells us that we are apart from the Creator, and from one another. There's a me, and there's a you. An us and a them. It's destructive to our society, and to our own souls.

Quantum physics under-girds what most every tribal and eastern religion proposes: we are one consciousness, one energy. There is no me, and no you. What you do to others, you are doing to yourself. If humans knew this truth, there would be an end to war, greed, the pursuit of self gain, and environmental destruction. Saying "he is my brother" does not get close enough to the truth.  And you can still selfishly harm your brother. But knowing "he is me"? That gun full of rubber bullets and canon full of burning chemicals could not be taken up. Not against oneself.

This lie of separation is an illusion perpetuated by the dark. When will humans begin their second evolution? We moved from the cave to the sky rise. Harnessed the power of the rocket ship to blast ourselves into outer space. Yet we cannot see two inches beyond our own self interest, and deny our own selves of love and harmony in the name of "personal gain."

The Syrian refugee is you. The Isis soldier is you. The starving child is you. The illegal immigrant is you. The klansman is you. How will you deal with yourself? Do you deserve poison water, violence, destruction, death? We stand against ourselves, we destroy ourselves. We will go extinct if we do not evolve, it's merely a matter of time. The drums are's time to wake up and rejoin ourselves. us all. We're going to need it.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The 2016 Election: When Your Gut says "No"

Something is wrong with this election, and you know it's true, don't you?

I could rehash the shit show this has been, but you've heard about these billionaires to death: Trump's taxes and twitter meltdowns. Clinton's emails and fainting spells. You got your neo-facist, racist, sexist, over-grown orange faced toddler in one corner. And in the other corner, the poster child for all that is corrupt in government: the creator of a mountain range of greed, deceit, lies and pandering that runs so wide and so tall and with valleys so terrifyingly bottomless that she makes her opponent almost seem like a logical choice. Let's face it, a trained seal could handily beat Donald Trump. And the fact that she has been polling within a few points of him for months has less to do with her vagina, her charisma, her husband or some vast right wing conspiracy to discredit her. And more to do with what she has embodied, promoted and accomplished. For the life of me I cannot figure out why people still refuse to accept that she is unlikable for the things she has done, not simply (and condescendingly I might add), because of what's between her legs or ears. (We won't talk about what's between Trump's legs and ears, but we've all heard the rumors by now.)

But this isn't really about them. It's about you. In mid September a Pew Research poll was released showing that 63% of Americans surveyed were unhappy with either choice for President. Statistically speaking, most of you don't like them either. For many who have happily chosen a candidate to support, I would wager that this selection is made out of complete and utter loathing for their opponent, as opposed to enthusiasm for your pick. Let's face it, there's something about this election that just feels....well....wrong. Isn't there?

Back around the first of the year when I finally decided I should start paying attention, I was turned on to this little old Jewish guy with a big New York accent calling himself a socialist, and spouting all sorts of crazy idealistic sentiments about equality and peace, and a government that worked for all citizens. He went on and on about exposing and routing out corruption, greed, and dishonesty in government. Saving the planet, so we can save ourselves. What a nutcase. But the more I heard and the more I researched of what this disheveled fellow in the ill fitting suits said, did, and lived, the more I was certain that he was the one for me. Seeing him in person, watching interviews with colleagues from both sides talk about what an honest, hard working and selfless senator he has been, I was sure. And when I watched that bird land on his podium in Portland at a packed rally in March, I felt something leap in my heart. This to me was as good as sign as I needed, and a message from the great beyond. Despite impossible odds, he was going to be our next president.

I wept for a week when he endorsed her. I took time off from being a mother to go to Philadelphia and march in several consecutive days of 100 degree heat. I got called a "sore loser", heckled, flipped off  by Clinton delegates. But the tens of thousands of all ages, races, and demographics packed shoulder to shoulder told me I was not alone in my vision. We stood at that fence and screamed at the delegates to put the right candidate through. The one who could beat the buffoon that was making us a world wide laughingstock.

But they didn't.

I cried a lot that week. Not because America would be spiraling further into the abyss of war, environmental destruction, and corporate greed. But because my gut, my heart, my head - everything inside of me was screaming "No! This isn't how it's supposed to go." Each time I tried to listen to Jill Stein, whose platform most closely matched Sanders, I would turn it off before she got out her first sentence. When I tried to catch her speak in Philadelphia, something always got in the way. I donated to her campaign one time, and was nauseous and grieved over it for days after. Not because I don't believe in her, or she isn't a good candidate. But because I was demonstrating my lack of faith in the vision I saw. But how stupid would I be to keep hoping, when there was seemingly no hope left? I just couldn't deny what I knew. I decided I had to honor what my heart said and not entertain the hysteria of "what are we going to do now?!", and " oh-my-god let's move to Canada!"

Now, each time I mow my lawn, my 'Hillary supporting sign-in-the-yard five bumpersticker wielding' neighbors must hold their breath to see if the Bernie sign will go back in it's place. And each time it does. And the last time, I actually took a sharpie to it. Just so everybody knows where I stand. That man is my president. When I glance at the debate coverage, I don't see my president on that stage. When I see the headlines about Trump yelling incoherent off-topic run-on sentences, or Hillary nodding hysterically while she backpedals and twists everything she has said and done for the last few decades, I just keep scrolling. I don't want to read it. I really don't care. Neither one of those people are my president.

 Bernie is.

I know I look stupid right now. I know it looks like sour grapes because I didn't get what I wanted, and I just need to suck it up and use my vote to save the country. And you each have your opinion about who is less dangerous and might like to lobby me. But you can save your breath. All I care to hear now is what happens in the coming weeks when Clinton is no longer the nominee. Because she won't be. Her name will not be on that ballot November 8th. I am not afraid to be wrong and get picked on. You manifest what you believe. And I believe in Bernie. And many of you do too. Many of you have felt sick, grieved, hopeless and listless. You know it's wrong. You know it in your gut that this is all a mistake and it can't be happening. You can't let it go. It's gnawing at you isn't it? This election feels wrong. 

The day after I came home from Philadelphia and gave that hasty donation to the Stein/ Baraka campaign, I began using the hashtag #presidentsanders because I believe that WILL come to fruition. I believe he is our country's destiny. That he is going to lead us out of this dark corrupt system of government. I believe it is bigger than just us, it is what the world needs, and what God wants: love, peace, unity and justice.  Bernie is my president. If I am wrong, you have my permission to harass me the rest of my life about it.

But you won't. Because I am not wrong. Bernie Fucking Sanders is the 45th president of the United States of America.

See you on inauguration day, Bernie.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Soul Whispered "Yes"

It's been almost three years now since that night I was sitting in my bed, my bed which became my little island while we split up - a place where I ate and read, studied and cried, socialized, played with my children, hid, and planned my new life, that I saw the facebook post of a loose and distant acquaintance, exclaiming she had passed the ARDMS after years of hard work and was now a practicing ultrasound technician, and my soul whispered "yes".

It was a flurry of tears and research, paralyzing fear of both trying and not trying. I couldn't be one of those women who scraped by working two minimum wage jobs. Things were never on the rails with he and I, but now they were off for real. For good. And I was too smart to be a cashier, and the girls deserved more. I deserved more. But there was this huge chorus of "you can't"s to overpower my little voice that said "maybe...". I gave myself four months to think about it. To decide if there was anything else in the world, cheaper and easier to do, that felt right. And there wasn't. It was ultrasound or nothing. When I finally went in to see someone in MCC Admissions, and told them my goal, it was the first time someone said to me "oh honey. No one gets into that program. Why don't you just go for nursing?' Patronizingly patting my leg. I had half a dozen others over the subsequent two years do the same. In a deposition with my ex's lawyer, he pointed out for the record that I was wasting my time. "How many transfer students do they take? What is your plan B? What will you be qualified to do with your LAS degree if you don't get in to RIT?"
"Nothing", I said.
He made sure he got it right, wanted to hear me say it again. The suggestion was I just didn't want to work. I was foolish. Or lazy. Trying to build a case against me to take to a judge. I couldn't blame the guy. He didn't know me. He didn't know how deaf I had become to the word "no". Telling me I can't have it, just makes me want a thing more.

My first three days at MCC I sat at my desk and cried through the whole class. It was too hard and it had been too long. But I made it through with my A, as you know by now. The first day of Human Anatomy, I went home and looked at the syllabus, the sheer number of terms we were to learn and parts to memorize. I sat on bed island every day that week and wept, researching other things I might do if I dropped out. Every semester it was something: too many credits, physics class was too hard, science and math classes overwhelming. I had court dates and stressed kids and mountains of homework. I had to move, wasn't sure I had enough money or childcare or if there was enough of ME. I thought about quitting a thousand times, but always my soul said "no". This. This is what I am. I had to learn to turn off my doubts about myself, as well as deflect others' doubts in me. And embrace the people who said "you can and you will".

I learned a terrible lot since then about what is possible with belief, and making your soul your guide instead of your "monkey brain" (as our Buddhist friends call it). I recently read a lovely little book that explains how we are co-creators with God. Here on earth, we are making our own reality, shaping it. Attracting and repelling the things we desire or fear with our actions, words and intentions. It was beautiful to read that so articulated, because it was in support of what I already knew. At some point I decided I was going to have what I wanted, be whom I wanted, no matter what. And nothing in life: no class, no professor, no emotional strife or trauma, no physical circumstance, no emotional barrier was going to stop me. And then despite the impossible odds

I was right.

Tomorrow is my first day at my dream school. That impossible, elusive place that would give me the knowledge to be what I already am. And once again with gratitude and confidence, I have set an intention. I will be successful academically, socially, and professionally. And I will graduate with a job already in hand because I will be so valuable to one of those clinical sites, they won't be able to let me go. My focus is not on wanting this bad enough, nor on working hard enough for it. My focus is on already having it, and moving fearlessly through the incubation period ahead until I can take hold of it.

Whatever you want for yourself is yours. Not with greed and selfishness. Not so you can be famous or rich or get laid as much as you want. But the thing that honors your highest self, your mission in this life and on this planet at this particular time - it's already yours, don't you see? Because that is the desire of the heavenly realm - that you accomplish your highest holy vision. That your life be of use: loving, peace filled. Sharing yourself and unique talents. This has nothing to do with claiming your dream Ferrari (though you can), and everything to do with claiming your dream YOU. What is it you want? To make a difference with your art? To inspire others to live from a genuine and fearless place? To be genuine and fearless yourself? What does that look like? Do you need to conquer the highest peak on every continent to get it? Leave a job or place or partner who limits or exhausts you? Then you must make the choices that reflect who you desire to become and where you desire to land.

Despite how small and kittenish and terrifyingly vulnerable we feel in the world, we are not victims of circumstance. We victimize ourselves by being fearful, closed off, negative and reacting to life, instead of being proactive. I decided I wasn't going to wait to see how things turned out. If my marriage and my life partner would ever get better for me, if I could make it with whatever little scraps life handed my way, and chose to shape my life. Make my world bend to my will. And in the end, the only thing I had to fight, was myself. No voice was louder than my own saying I couldn't do it and didn't deserve it. But once I caught hold of the truth, that I literally could make my reality whatever I desired, I began to manifest success.

If you are scared you can't. You won't. If you think you don't deserve it. You don't. If the safety of your routine is more valuable than living a higher purpose that leads you into danger and uncertainty, you'll never have anything more than you have right now. Material abundance is nice, but that's not what I am referring to. I am referring to an overflow of love, joy, peace, contentment and satisfaction. I am talking about the tsunamis of terror and grief in the world washing right by you, as you stand calmly in the middle. Deciding what events mean. Whether you are victim or victor. Whether the difficulty is a means for expansion or shrinkage.

I know it's not easy, and it's counter intuitive. If I only had a thing (love, money, success, prestige), I could be a thing. But that's not how it works. You have to be a thing to have it. You want love, be more loving. Friends? Be more friendly. Success? Make the choices a successful person makes. Security? You'll have to stop being afraid. The world is at your feet. You can have whatever you wish, because YOU create it. Not God. Not your fellow man. YOU.

Now, go on and make it happen. I have class to prepare for.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Divorce: Year One

It's been a little over a year now since our divorce was finalized. It has been wonderful, magical, terrible, arduous, joyful, painful, awkward, bumpy, triumphant and freeing. Not in that exact sequence, and many of those things all at once. Despite the growing pains, despite how long it took and sickeningly anxious I was and how terrifying being on my own with these girls can be at times, I'm glad we did it. And I would do it all again and again and again.

I am writing this to cheer myself up. Our family has had a hard few weeks. In fact, just 90 seconds ago I was kneeling on the living room floor with my head in my hands, sobbing like a lost child. Because the school nurse and the doctor's office have put me in the middle of this battle over vaccinations based on age vs. school grade. One is telling me my kid can't start school without this and that jab, the other is saying, we refuse to jab her it's not safe yet. And I am well aware that this is so not a big deal. It's just that my kids were safe off with dad for the evening, so that 'mother code' that says you have to hold it together for everyone was now relaxed, and it was frankly the last thing. I couldn't take anymore after these few weeks...the weight of it literally forced me down. And suddenly my bare knees, clammy from today's suffocating humidity, were pressed into the flat weave wool rug with the purple stain on it from where Maya tried to experiment with acrylic paint. And the tears came out so fast I was choking.

What you need to know is this is what it is to be a single parent. It is constant worry about the little humans you are in charge of and money and car parts and your health and your future, and being so busy you feel inebriated and unable to focus and like the room is tipping on you sometimes. You forget things and lose things, and that's when times are good. When times are tough, you either sweep around like the Tasmanian devil or stagger through the day like a zombie. It is nothing, this final event this afternoon. I am going to step out of it and let these two warring factions fight it out over my kid and her immunity to polio, but it was just one thing too many today. One thing too many this month. One thing too many after this wild, beautiful, distressing year.

But I would do it again. I am writing this to affirm to me and to you who are thinking of it and you who are in the process and you who long for fucking death because you are so miserable being married. I would do this over tomorrow. Even if the outcome was less favorable. Even if I couldn't have afforded to finish my degree and hold a great position when I am through. Even if I had had to move away or live with my parents or skip eating on the weeks my kids weren't here. Over and over and over again I will say to whoever wants to listen:

It's worth it.

Because I am free. Because my tears fell and sobs echoed into an oppressively empty room, and I still didn't feel half the isolation I felt when they fell in a room with someone who didn't care to hear them or comfort me. Because we can say what we want, and do what we want, and go where we want and no one is here to offer their opinion. Because I have been able to make beautiful relationships. Ones I would have never dreamed I'd have access to. And my anemic little heart, after being empty for so many years, has been filled to over flowing with love and compassion given and received. It did not come easy though, and often life is still like playing a game of Sorry. Sometimes the opponent knocks me out just as I round the corner to bring my game piece home. But I have been given incredible strength to keep playing, time and time again. And the kids are okay, you know. They aren't drug addicts or criminals. They are not sneaking out of their bedroom windows, flipping over desks at school, or swearing at me (yet). Because I discovered that love is enough. You don't have to be a super hero. If you just keep loving them, and you try your best most days - it's enough. Most importantly, through all of this I have learned to trust in myself, trust in God ever more deeply, and trust in the truth that there is plenty, we are all one, and everything will be okay.

Yes, I wept bitter hysterical stomach clenching tears this afternoon, and after I am done writing this I am going to cry some more. But then I am going to take a bath, and put on clean sheets, and read a little with a cup of green tea, and go to bed early. Because this whole three years of transition has taught me to take care of myself, release my white knuckle control grip on life, and let go of everyone's expectations. Cry if I want to. Laugh if I want to. Be who I want to. Just what God made me.

And if you are wondering: you can too.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Lesson In Contrasts

"Let me ask you something. How do you know what up is, if there is no down?", I asked my oldest, as she spun in circles on my rolling stool.
"Huh? I don't get what your asking." Spin. Spin. Spin.
"How do we know up is up, if there is no down? Or try this instead: if it was light all the time and everywhere you went was as bright as the middle of the day around the clock for forever and forever, would you know you were in the light anymore?"
She furrowed her brow. Then interrupted me because she is very astute, "but I don't want anyone to be sad!"

I was trying to make a point to this child who has been watching the people she loves have a rough time. Our family, the close ones and the extended ones have been struggling with some stuff as of late. Health concerns. And heart concerns; these of the metaphoric kind and not biological. Some confusion, some fear, some pain. Okay, maybe a lot of pain. And this child, who came slithering out of me smiling with her mouth wide open, does not understand why it has to be like this. I have tried gently to introduce her to the tragedies that exist in the world, for concern she will be disillusioned and crushed by her sunny optimism one day.

She just wants us all to be well and happy. She doesn't like watching anyone struggle. It offends her. Because she knows the truth: this is not how it is supposed to be. We are whole and healthy. We are one people. And love is all there is. But everyone else seems to have forgotten this and don't live the way she'd like them to. So I had to make this point about the way things are right now in the whole world, and in ours. If we were filled with utter and perfected joy every minute of every day it wouldn't be long before we didn't realize it was joy. How can something experience itself? It cannot, which is why contrast is required. Our part of the Universe (meant again, metaphorically, and not physically) operates on this very principle. We would not know plenty were there not want, peace without tumult. It is the tsunami of pain: war and drought and hunger and economic collapse that enable us to feel gratitude when we are ensconced in our relative safety and comfort. And in our own pathetic helpless little kitten personal lives, we wouldn't know the hysterical joy of being exactly where we want, with whom we want, and experiencing all the love our hearts can hold and some spilling out the top, if we hadn't walked there with a sorrow so deep and dark and terrifying it nearly swallowed us.

"It's been unhappy too long, when will it go back?" She asks in that way that children do, as if I had some sort of happy dust I could pull out of the mom purse and toss all across the landscape of her life. But I don't. So I told her the only thing that I could, a thing that sucks, but it's true and we do well to remember.

"This is how life works. It's easy, then it's not. Things are going well, and then they are not. All we can do is enjoy the heck out of it when it is going awesome. And then wait. Because it always gets good again. But don't confuse happy with easy. Happy is inside of us. It's not something the world does or gives to you, it is something you make. No matter where you are or what you have."

She hates that answer. I do too. But hating it doesn't make it untrue.

I had a hard time for many years. But I had this totally counter intuitive habit that the church folks taught me: say prayers of thanksgiving every time you suffer. Because it is due to the pain that growth and rebirth can take place. I am going to teach that to her tonight at bedtime. And remind her, that it is this darkness, which enables us to experience the enormous pleasure of stepping into the light once again.

I hope it helps you too.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dear Bad Guys,

I'm ready to die.

I typed that to my friend following his admonishment that I "be careful" before I climbed a mountain yesterday. I've heard that a lot in my life, as most women do; vulnerable in all the ways you don't need me to explain. I've written about the act of "going alone" before. Even when it is to a place where there might be danger. Which it seems, in today's world, is now - everywhere. After I typed that statement, startled, I realized it was true. I AM ready to die, and the words left my fingers before they'd been fully recognized by my brain.

I have no regrets about anything that I have done or left undone in these 36 years. I have learned the hard way to walk with my arms out to the world, to the people in her, to the emotions that may overwhelm me, to the adventures that cry out to my spirit that I go go go and see and taste and touch and hear. There is nothing to lament if I've gone. I've taught my girls well. I've loved as many as I could find. I've laughed every single laugh and not stifled a single one in my throat.

So. To the would-be terrorist who plans to detonate when I am at the movies with my children. And the sniper who plans to shoot into the crowded festival full of  the evil "them". And the police officer who will tazer me into a fatal coma at a protest. And the sicko lurking in the woods while I hike, waiting to do those things that you do.

You can have me.

But you know what? You don't win. I won. I won because I refused to buy a pistol or carry pepper spray. Because I didn't stay home while the glorious world spun dizzyingly around me. Because despite constant threat I will go to school, with all the potentially murderous and disgruntled young men, and go to a concert with it's blasphemous music, and protest injustice without anxiety of being trampled or beaten, and live alone in the city because I prefer it. Because I refuse to let you stop me from living my life while I have it.  Because to live fearlessly and with joy is a subversive act in a terrifying and unpredictable world. And with I, and you, and everyone else as fragile as china dolls, some even see it as foolish. But I will not be afraid. Because if you let fear rule your life, you may as well be dead anyway.

I used to look at classmates I was assigned to work with, the ones who were bright enough but pulled poor grades because they were lazy, and say to them "why bother to show up, if you aren't going to SHOW up?" To me, this applies to all of life. The preservation and safety of your person, your comfort and ease and security should not be your number one concern. I will not let the talking heads on TV, the ones who tell me how deadly it is outside my four walls, keep me in. And to those who live like that - who are afraid to meet new people, try a new hobby, explore a new place, leave a career or marriage you hate because it is emotionally, mentally, or physically dangerous and stay in and stay miserable and stay stuck there: you may as well be dead. Because you sure as hell aren't living.

There is a 100% mortality rate, so why aren't you running like you are on fire towards what you want? I am. Lord, let my time come when I am 95. But if it's tomorrow,

bring it on.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando and Orthodoxy

A couple years ago I was in my bedroom studying, while the girls partook in the semi-daily giggle fest and slap fight known as "bath time" in the next room.
"Lily, watch this. Ohhhhhhhm..."
"Maya! You shouldn't do that! Meditating is praying to the earth. And we pray to God."

I was up so fast the curtains swayed in my breeze.
"Who told you that?!" I demanded, when I came upon the youngest sitting with her legs folded, and hands facing the ceiling, forefingers and thumbs pinched. The oldest trying to wrestle her out of her pretzel position.
"Come on! Where did you hear that?!"
"I....I don't know!", my oldest said, concern mounting over my tone. I calmed down, then patiently explained to her what meditating is: an introspective practice with ties to various faiths. But that meditation could also be a very secular way to chill the heck out. She understood. And to celebrate, I taught her to meditate to ease herself to sleep. Such a worrier, that one.

When they were just born, an atheistic relative of my ex-husband's questioned the fairness of raising children in a particular faith tradition. "Indoctrinating them", he claimed. Not giving them the opportunity to try on and decide as an adult, as if faith were best formed from sampling all on the smorgasbord of options. I have to admit, he had a point. But there is another point: something is better than nothing. It was our belief system; and sincere in our hearts it was true, how could we not share it? Considering we felt it had a direct impact on the direction of our lives and the eternal delight of our disembodied souls it seemed more than a little important. Yet.

Yet I had to concede I wasn't sold on the idea of raising fundamentalist children. I had only been on "the inside" for a couple of years by then, and I couldn't help but to notice in my lucid moments, that orthodox faith was it's own subculture, as much as it was a religious practice. The facts were we listened to Christian music almost exclusively, and hung out with Christian friends, and only watched movies that were deemed "clean", and we prayed constantly, and there were Bibles everywhere in the house and scripture was always on my lips. Not to mention the Sunday mornings, and the Wednesday nights. The women's bible study, the small group, the Christian counselors. It seemed to be a tiny bit...insulating, to put it mildly. Further, if they were to attend Christian school 7 hours a day, how much more so would they be shielded from people who didn't look, or behave, or believe, or live like them? How would I raise them to not be narrow minded and exclusionary? How could I tell them about the world, and communicate that different was not bad? How could I raise them in a fundamentalist faith, then ask them to make room in their hearts for the outsiders?

I got my first opportunity in the summer of 2011.

"Mama, can a boy marry a boy and a girl marry a girl? Or does it have to be a girl marrying a boy only?", came the five year old voice from the back seat.
I smiled to myself. It was happening, and served to me on a platter by the first baby and her big adult questions.
I told her it was funny she'd asked, because that week our state had made it legal for two girls to marry. And we have a cousin who is about to marry her future wife, and it will be real! And legal! And your aunties are married already. And we love them, right?
"Well, some Christians think being gay is a sin. But we know that God loves everyone and that's just how they were made. Love is love."
"Okay!", she said. Satisfied with my logic.

Because, for better or worse, there is no larger "god" in a child's world, than a parent's influence. And I knew from that moment, my daughters would be okay. They could spend five days a week in a school that danced around creationism and evolution, that made intimations about certain "lifestyles" and our sin nature. A place where the colorfulness of society as a whole, and all it's creativity, was not well represented. And go to Church. And memorize scripture. And what they would get out of all of that is exactly what they needed, and none of the extras. Hope for the future, comfort in sorrow, and a sense of purpose and direction. Hatred, narrow mindedness, and fear were checked at our front door.

I was piecing this together in my head today, while reflecting on the terrorist act in Orlando. There is so much to tackle about our violence culture, our gun culture, the way society socializes young men, the easy accessibility to weapons, nationalism and religious fundamentalism that one hardly knows where to begin. I explained what happened to my children and they questioned the motive, naturally. I theorized that it seemed to be because he personally did not like gay people and perhaps his religion played a role. They scoffed that his religion must be pretty awful. "Well," says I, "his beliefs are not much different than what a lot of Christians believe."

They can't wrap their heads around that concept, because to them, their brand of Christianity is it's essence. The one where all are welcomed, accepted, and appreciated and none are condemned. The one where science and faith can dovetail if we are creative and flexible in our understanding of scripture. The one where the highest call on our lives is love and service. The one where they see Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Animists as their spiritual cousins. The one where we are all sinners, yet at the same time none of us are - we're just people. The one where they concede that if everyone believes something different, and each insists upon their rightness, then many of them must in fact be - wrong. And their acceptance that they could be within this group. And then I saw this montage of scenes in my head:

The outrage over Trump suggesting Muslims should be banned: "What about M?!", my distraught oldest cried over a Muslim friend, who babysits on occasion. Whom they love.

"C is a boy now," the youngest casually mentioned after she came home from playing with a little girl they'd been hanging with for years, who's parents enabled her to identify herself henceforth, as him.

"Am I understanding this picture, right? Did we come from apes?" the oldest bravely asked after seeing a cladogram at the zoo. Patiently listening to evolutionary theory, she didn't seem to care how science conflicted with a story she'd been told her whole life about human origins.

And all these memories made me concede that his cousin was both right and wrong. On the one hand, I've known plenty who were raised with no exposure to religion at all, even educationally, and it has made them less likely to investigate faith as an adult. How many of these miss out on walking a spiritual path that could have deepened the experience of being human? It's impossible to say. That said, being raised atheist or agnostic is not the danger to society that raising children in a fundamentalist faith seems to be. Can I compare an adult who believes and teaches their children that homosexuality is caused by demon possession, with another who walks into a homosexual nightclub and blows fifty people away? Is it fair? Sort of. It grows from a similar seed, doesn't it? While it may be that it was nationalism that loaded his gun, it is no coincidence that it was pointed at a room full of "sinners".

Spirituality is great. I talk about how great it is, in general terms, all the time. But fundamentalism can be, and often is - dangerous. The insular culture, out of necessity, creates a mentality of the righteous "us" and the unrighteous "them". Those not in the fold, not like you, are dangerous. Many come to see them as a threat to their beliefs, their safety, their very way of life. I attended churches that advocated we not be pulled by the lure of unbelieving friends that could lead us down the path to destruction. I find it interesting that while I was adhering to this, I instinctively knew it would be a bad thing to impart to our children. And so gradually I turned off the Christian rock, and let them stay home from church at their choosing, and decide for themselves when they felt grateful or afraid and wanted to pray.

Religion, lets face it, has been the catalyst and excuse to wage the most despicable wars, horrific acts of terrorism and barbaric crimes against humanity. From Christians shooting up abortion clinics to modern Jihad via terrorism. From the Crusades to the biblical grounds for segregation and slavery. From the least to the greatest, religious orthodoxy has been responsible for more destruction than any one other human-driven cause. It has to be said - I can't name an atheist who shot up a movie theater or women's health clinic, in the name of science.

No, religion doesn't produce crazy people. Crazy knows no religion. Neither does hate. But beliefs that inherently exclude other people and their behavior, that label outsiders as unacceptable, when taught to a child, can and do produce intolerant adults. That come to hate those who are not like themselves. That can then funnel their inner fears and rage and psychic pain into eradicating people who are easiest to blame, though they've done nothing but live to the fullest expression of their humanity. Adults who can be so afraid of that otherness that they persecute, and maim. And kill.

Though I know very little for certain, one thing I am absolutely sure of, is that God does not want, need, nor honor these human sacrifices. But weeps over our ignorance, and violence - our foolish, childish, destructive ways as we battle one another for dominance.

I want to challenge any religious parent within the sound of my voice to consider the effect you are having on your children's ideas about other people by insulating them from those with different beliefs, and by telling them that people without heteronormative, biblically based lifestyles are sick, or evil, or doing something bad. Kids don't separate "doing bad" from "being bad" too well. And isn't it best to err on the side of love? It is not ignoring the directive of scripture to teach them to love their neighbors. All their neighbors. It actually sums the whole thing up quite nicely, according to Jesus. How about we leave the separation of sheep and goats until they are much much older? Or preferably, never.

May the souls viciously ripped from their human houses in Orlando yesterday, be received into the eternal light and love of God. And may the light of love always and forever overshadow the deep darkness of hate. Let all the people say: