Friday, July 20, 2012

Learning from the Wildfire

I was in Colorado Springs yesterday for a production. We had arrived early to the area and so we were trying to kill a little time before we had to be at our location. My producer pulled off the highway and made mention that he wanted to check out this ranch that was iconic for folks in the Springs and around other Colorado areas.

Colorado Springs is a city that sits below Pikes Peaks and its sister mountains. Normally these mountains are lush and green and beautiful, just the way they were created to be. But not today. They were black and burnt. The trees and wildflowers were dead.  And as we approached, instead of seeing a ranch we saw a vast open pit that once was a place of joy for so many. The ranch and the surrounding neighborhoods fell victim to the great fires of the summer heat.

It was eerie to see the haunted mountains and even worse the black ash remains of someone's life, home, property.

I woke this morning to the news of the shooting at the movie theater in Aurora Colorado. I fell so deeply broken and hurt when I read about the tragedy, much like I felt when I saw the aftermath of the wildfires in CO Springs. But what hurt the most was the reactions I listened to and read about. There was a lot of anger in the air. Fire begins with a spark and with enough wind and momentum it can spread very rapidly without a bit of warning. And it can lead to a mountain of destruction

I can't help but cry when I see and hear the judgements, the anger, and the hate being fueled in the midst of this all. I'm not trying to justify what this young man did, but I am curious of the spark the initiated the flame that spread like a wild fire to lead him to do such a thing. You see, I am feeling the conviction that we all have this potential inside of us to hurt others, to cause disaster, to become desperate, hateful. Some of us use verbal abuse, some of us physical abuse to ourselves or to others... But what pushes us to that point that we actually allow it to burn everything in our path?

The anger you feel and express is only fueling the spark created. And that spite is going to spread until your heart is full of burnt up love and grace that all will remain is a burden of ash.

We were all created in love to love. To be green and lush and beautiful like the mountains. And if we're not careful and we're not aware, the heat of our emotions are going to continue to destroy anything that once was perfectly and wonderfully meant to be - Love.

In my own response to the shooting, victims and the suspect, I feel the great need to pray for both, and to love without conditions because no one is too far from salvation and redemption.

A great article shared with me today.

How to react to Colorado shooting
(hint: no dark knight rises)
The Colorado shooting during a screening of the Batman movie 'The Dark Knight Rises'
will evoke calls for ways to prevent more mass killings. But such tragedies only point to
Americans having to learn how best to react personally.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board / July 20, 2012
As with other recent mass shootings in America Columbine, Amish girls, Virginia Tech,
Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords – Friday’s killings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., has evoked
a desire to prevent another senseless tragedy.
People try to discern the motive of the killers, the means used, the lapses in security. And
simply bringing justice, such as a long prison sentence, isn’t enough for many.
The ultimate goal is reliable protection.
The most popular demands for ensuring public safety from mass murder will likely be calls to
better screen public places, tighten controls on guns, and demand less violence in media –
assuming that action flicks like Batman movies actually provoked the killer to open fire in the
Such solutions can change society on a large scale for the better. Gun laws do often work.
Young children do now watch less fictional violence. Law enforcement has become better at
detecting potential killers.
But the best protection lies within each individual, not only in improving one’s physical safety
but in the mental, emotional, and even spiritual ways we react to horrific events.
Killers often seek to evoke anger and fear in crowd shootings, perhaps out of a perverse
need to deal with those same emotions within themselves. Simply reacting to such murders
with anger and fear – while certainly understandable – may only reinforce such behavior.
The best antidotes are the opposites of those emotions. They include openness, empathy, a
respect for individual rights, and even forgiveness. These undermine the emotions that lead
to violence because they have a long-lasting reality, as seen in how human civilization has
advanced to embrace them as the core foundations for governance and daily life.
An open trial for this killer in a public courtroom will include many of these defining qualities,
such as a fair treatment of the facts and an adherence to the rule of law. Such traits may
take a long time to have their effect on violence-prone people. But history shows that
violence has declined as more societies adopt the humane ideals of justice.
Ultimately, those touched by the Colorado shooting – the survivors, the families of those
killed, and even the public at large – may be asked if they can forgive the killer.
The best example of this difficult but bold act was seen in 2006 after a gunman killed five
Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pa. The Amish families of those killed immediately went to the
home of the gunman’s widow and humbled themselves in Christian faith to forgive the killer
and his family.
“Our forgiveness was not our words, it was what we did,” said the father of one slain girl. The
families brought gifts of flowers, food – and hugs. Dozens of Amish attended the killer’s
The Amish faith compels such action. It sees forgiveness as essential to reflecting God’s
qualities of love for mankind and a necessary part of one’s own salvation.
For the nonreligious, modern psychology also embraces forgiveness as a part of personal
healing and as an antidote to revenge and hatred in society. Such good qualities are seen as
both necessary and natural.
That doesn’t mean killers shouldn’t be locked up, often for a long time. Others must be
protected until the convicted comes to accept those qualities that bred nonviolence in
individuals and thus society. They must find their own forgiveness for their acts, a process
helped along if they feel forgiveness from others.
After the Aurora shootings, the media, law enforcement, and others should watch to see if
Americans have better learned how best to react to such tragedies. All the better to prevent

Sunday, July 8, 2012

“When we truly discover how to love our neighbor as our self, Capitalism will not be possible and Marxism will not be necessary.”

Well.. this is a blog about my thoughts. And it may get lengthy and its going to go in many different directions but lately I've just wanted to write about it all.

I had a conversation not to long ago with Alison (previous roommate, forever my sister and one of my most trusted friends) and we were going down the road of relationships. I was telling her that I wasn't so opposed to the idea of being in a relationship as I once was, but the problem was I just couldn't find any man lately that I jived well enough with to actual consider dating. "The conversations I have with most guys these days are just dumb, superficial, surface, and pointless" I mentioned as I was telling her how frustrated and dumbfounded I was with how unoriginal most men were that I was meeting. She laughed, agreed, and said, "are we becoming critical or just real?" Good question. 

This isn't about why I remain to be a single lady but I often think of that conversation with Alison because of her question as I find myself being more and more frustration and dumbfounded with how we all live, act, and communicate. We, myself included, can be so so critical of others lifestyles, of our leaders, of religion. I've found myself so confused on how critical people can be of our government and our president. I see posts all the time filled with spite and hate on Obama or other leaders and I'm so sad and frustrated. First because our leaders are only as human and capable as you and I. Why do we put so much expectation on them and not on ourselves? We want them to fix everything, yet we're unwilling to partner with them and do what we can to help in that repair process. And at the same time we want them to be removed from our day-to-day. We don't want them to start programs or policies because it interferes with our 'freedom' Its very puzzling. What is it exactly that we're looking for then in these established positions and the people we elect? I see the division in our country, the open hate we have for one another, and the lack of personal responsibility and my heart just breaks. 

The same is with the 'church' I put it in quotes because there's many ways to define the church. A church can be a building, but it can also be defined as a group of those who gather, worship, and act based on the same faith. We can be so critical of the church, the leaders, the worship, the sermons, but what I've seen.. again myself included.. is that we're unwilling then to act on our own convictions. We're so divided and when someone on the outside looks in, they see the division, and the hate. Why would someone, who isn't a Christian, want to be a part of our hateful, divided church. You have heard the Ghandi quote, I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ. Christ came and led and taught about love, being a neighbor and a servant, giving to those in need, and above all grace. But in the church we bicker and criticize and then walk away frustrated. We think its ok to just be on our own, just God and I, doing what I want in life without worrying about those other Christians who have it wrong. We are disappointed with our leaders.. who are only human as you and I.. but yet we find no disappointment in ourselves. I've been there. I thought for the longest time I could be on my own and I didn't need to fix my frustrations with others, I just would do without others all together. But I've been learning a lot the importance of friends, of supporting our leaders, of working together through difficult times, how to not be critical and be more real.

My father often reminds me, when situations become hard and my minds becomes critical of my choices, that the road less taken is uncertain and requires a lot of pain, suffering, and endurance so that along the way we can endure together the struggles and offer ourselves to those we meet in tough situations. This year so far has been nothing short of painful, hard, and full of uncertainties. But I found a renewed sense of life, passion, and self in the midst. And its not because of my own abilities or strengths but rather because of my friends, family, and faith. I have seen a glimpse of the ideas behind the first church in my own life. And it works.
My heart is so full of hope because of the way some people chose to rally in my life when I was in need. What love has been expressed to me. And how much it has encouraged me to give love. I think that's what being real is all about. Recognizing the situation as what it is - sucky - but not stopping and accepting and leaving. But taking up responsibility, offering what we have, and moving towards a better day. 

I am in so much need of people, of their gifts and love, and of their discipline. The give and take is that they have given to me so I will be able to take and be better equipped to give to others. I now have the responsibility and the motivation and the ability to improve my situations whether that was finances, health, car repairs, you name it. I always am encouraged by the lessons that come out of our struggles. Maybe that's why our country is now struggling.. there are lessons we need to learn and implement to gain back strength, health, and growth. Maybe that's why the church is struggling too. And I think we need to stop being critical and become more real. We need to start evaluating our own heart, and stop judging the heart of others.  And then we need to forget what we perceive as possible, or practical and begin living, working, growing, and struggling together. That's the only way to change our situations. It can't be one individual leader, it has been to a community of leaders and followers who share a vision, and walk together. 

I've been reading a lot of Shane Claiborne lately. I'm currently going through his collaborative book with Dr. John Perkins. "Follow Me to Freedom, Leading and Following as an Ordinary Radical" I'm learning a lot about what it means to be a leader, and what it means to be a follower. I've worked with Dr. Perkins, he was the subject of my first documentary. This man, a civil rights leader and a man of God, understands completely that we need leaders but we also need to be in a community that recognizes problems and takes personal responsibility together to create a change in conditions. It can't be carried on the shoulders of one President. A chapter of this book I just finished was on friendship and the importance of relationships. Dr. Perkins said, "Friendship is a compliment." And he proceeds to talk about how by being in relationships, having friendships, working in a community, authority is given to those who can see your ignorance and bring it to your attention. When we allow that relationship to discipline and motivate us to change, change across the board happens. What truth. 

These have been my thoughts lately. We must all be willing to invest and be invested in if we want change and growth to happen. But standing divided and holding hate towards others, whether that's your brother, your neighbor, your pastor, or your president, only holds us back. Being critical is a waste of time, in my opinion. Being real, seeing a problem and wanting to work towards change with others, is what we need the most.

There are a lot of filmmakers out there that are very critical in their documentary stories. But I want to be real in mine. I was trying to explain what that means to someone the other day, and though he was polite about it, he was also very critical and uncertain that my idealistic production company would actually encourage people to think and live differently. But I was glad for his challenging comments because they're motivation to keep me on track if I truly believe what I'm aiming to do is worth while. My father also reminds me often that if we had all the answers now, upfront, then there wouldn't be much point to continue on our journeys. Its a constant practice of laying down our nets and choosing to follow a leader, an idea, a path because we believe in the end, and through action and faith, we will achieve a better day. But we must stand united even when we don't always understand. And we must encourage even when we are discouraged by others. And we must above all love even when we are angry. 

This summer is three years living in Colorado. I was asked the other day why I've decided to stay here. Most would probably assume my answer would be mountains. But that's not even close. Mountains are beautiful and the climbs I've had to the top have been some of my favorite experiences out here. But not because of the climb itself but rather because I climbed them with the friends I've made here. My happiness in Colorado has come from the friends who have chosen to love me, to accept me, to fulfill me, and to live life with me. For the first time in my life, though I'm young, but still for the first time I want so much to be in relationships, to be involved in some political organizations, to be a part of a church because I love so much people and I am so blessed by those who want to love me. My friends in Colorado have been my hope to push past my frustration with humanity. 

So maybe where I see this all coming full circle is that by choosing to love, encourage, and put in effort ourselves, we can find the hope and prosperity we seek. And our leaders too will make better decisions. But if all we want to do is criticize and complain then well we will never get past all of our troubles. As followers we must be, as best as we can, united in love. And we ourselves must be willing to sacrifice along with our leaders. 

I don't think we'll ever be happy with our government, our church, or our world unless we learn to love above conditions and to give of ourselves. There are many amazing leaders in this world and they're amazing because they love and have received love.  My relationships have taught me to love and now I want to encourage others to love, love without conditions or expectations. And stop criticizing. 

“For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practice it. We can believe in CPR, but people will remain dead until someone breathes new life into them. And we can tell the world that there is life after death, but the world really seems to be wondering if there is life before death.” Shane Claiborne.