My Muse, the Diva

Hi, my name is Bethany, and I’m a high-maintenance writer.

In Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals, a charming peek into the habits of creative geniuses over the centuries, I read about Frances Trollope, an English novelist who started writing in her fifties to provide for her family. She would get up in the middle of the night so she could finish the day’s writing in time to make breakfast for her six kids and infirm husband, and in this way, she produced over 100 books. Forget the ability to deflect bullets or to use one’s tiara as a boomerang of destruction; this lady was Wonder Woman.

I, however, identify much more closely with Frances’s son, also a novelist, who paid an old servant to wake him up early each morning with hot coffee and “no mercy.” In his autobiography, Anthony Trollope attributed his success to that arrangement. Now, I don’t have a servant, but I do have a husband with mad cappuccino skills and a kind heart whom I can directly credit for my state of not-in-bedness this morning (…aaaand just about every other morning of the past year). This isn’t really a matter of my being lazy; in fact, I spend my weekends looking forward to Monday’s arrival and that first blank document of the day. I love writing. It keeps me whole and sane and humanoid. However, my ability to write comes with an impressive list of conditions.

When I write, I venture into a different realm of consciousness. My focus intensifies on the elements of story behind the patterns of daily life, coaxing them forward like holograms in a Magic Eye image. Just as with those Magic Eye images, writing requires a delicate balance between concentration and relaxation; some muscles need to go slack in order to see the picture while others must tremble taut to hold it in place.

This is why I have trouble writing when someone else is in the room… or when I’m up against time constraints, or when some other matter has just been brought to my attention, or when I’m tired, or when our family routine is off, or when I’m frustrated about something, or when a head cold’s coming on, or when a favorite TV character has died, or when I haven’t started my day with that sandy-eyed sip of caffeine, or, or, or. I know. My muse wins for most ridiculous diva of the creative universe.

In her defense, however, she doesn’t require me to chain smoke or slip Jack Daniels into my tea or sell my soul to Chernabog in order to write. She lets me broadcast on my own brainwaves and heartbeats, and for that, I am grateful. Not all artists are granted that luxury. In context of all the mental illnesses and addictions that have traditionally plagued creative types, my reliance on quiet, unhurried hours hardly counts as a quirk, much less a neurosis. Still, though, I dream of one day being able to plop down on the bed where my chickenpoxy six-year-old is practicing her reading (to use a totally hypothetical example that has no grounding whatsoever in the realities of our home right now*) and crank out a work of art in between phonics tutorials and applications of calamine. If Mrs. Trollope could write novels before breakfast, surely I can learn to be a little more flexible in my writing habits. Not needing all nearby life forms to cease and desist while I’m working, for instance.

* on Opposite Day

I just have to get my muse on board first. She’s currently locked in her dressing room pouting about the fact that she and I can’t run off together to 1920s Paris and wear feathers in our hair and never have to think about anything other than being fabulous. The coffee is clearly wearing off. I don’t know; maybe it’s my lot in life to be a high-maintenance writer, ever at the mercy of loud footsteps and motherly concerns. I can’t tell you how much I’d like to move past that though—to be able to tap into my creative center no matter my circumstances. Even convincing my muse to pause her pity party for the next hour would be a step in the right direction. Maybe threatening to have four more children would do the trick…?


What Our Parents Did Right

We talk a lot about parenting here on ye olde blog. I love exchanging strategies to help us rock (or possibly just survive?) these early years, and I’ve frequently drawn on my own childhood for examples of philosophies to avoid. A friend’s recent comment, though, reminded me that there is a whole aspect of the parenting discussion that I haven’t yet touched on here:

“I’d love it if our adult children, and those of your readers, could share what they think their parents did right.”

What they did right. In a blink, his comment brought back a little document that I typed up one morning three years ago, a list of ways that my parents demonstrated love and made my childhood special. I didn’t have an agenda for writing it; in fact, it’s been gathering dust in the recesses of my hard drive ever since. All I remember about that morning is that I felt compelled to seek out and celebrate the positive in my life.

It’s the perfect time to resurrect that practice, don’t you think, here in the first bright exhalation of spring? I’d like to share highlights from my What they did right list today and then open up the comments for you to share some of your parents’ wins as well. We could all use the encouragement that no matter how we imperfectly we navigate this parenting gig, our efforts to love and champion our kids will not be forgotten. Ready?

My parents cultivated my love of reading. My mom is the one who taught me how to read, and both parents enthusiastically nurtured my resulting love affair with words—filling our home wall to wall with books, taking me to the library to borrow crates full, and letting me while away summer afternoons in the nook of a tree with Nancy Drew or Homer (the bard, not the Simpson) for company. We bonded over books as a family as well. Our weeknight ritual for years was to gather in the living room where we kids would work on crafty projects while our parents took turns reading aloud—a tradition that Dan and I carry on with our girls today. The tapestry of stories woven through my childhood still hangs on the walls of my imagination, lending its rich backdrop to everything I create, an heirloom of identity.

Bethany the bookworm

My parents let my brothers and I run… and skateboard and climb trees and play street hockey and roam the neighborhood on bikes and explore the woods and build our own stunt equipment and ride wagons toboggan-style down hills and generally have a fantastic time trying to kill ourselves in the great outdoors. This is an aspect of life that I realize our girls are missing out on living in an urban landscape and an era in which parents don’t let kids out of their sight until they’re twenty-five or so (and even then, not without a helmet). I loved having the freedom to explore both our geographical surroundings and the risk-taking possibilities of my small body. It infused life with the tang of adventure and, well, was just plain fun. I’m sedentary by nature, a total couch potato at soul, and these outdoor escapades are a large reason that I’ve spent my adulthood trotting the globe rather than moldering into the furniture.

Bethany in a tree

My parents invested themselves personally into my education. Beyond teaching me to read, my mom also provided my first introduction to math, history, science, music. She taught my fingers how to fly across piano keys and my arms how to sink elbow-deep into bread dough. She and my dad together taught me how to keep up a home, everything from applying wallpaper to cleaning the ceiling fans, and they made sure I had opportunities to pursue many different extracurricular interests—dance, sewing, creative writing, even politics for a while. They shuttled me to my first Shakespeare class when I was still in elementary school and, despite our unconventional schooling approach, made sure I had the solid academic base I’d need for college. Their involvement was as big a factor in my education as the coursework itself was.

Bethany at the piano

My parents let me do things on my own when I felt ready. I can’t imagine putting Natalie on a plane by herself one short year from now, but I took the first flight of my life all by myself for my tenth birthday. Layover and everything. By eleven, I was going out in the evening for babysitting jobs. At fourteen, I traveled to a foreign country with a group of people I didn’t know—an experience so life-expanding that I kept it as a summer tradition until the year my first daughter was born. I landed a real office job at fifteen and left home for school at sixteen, and though many parents would have balked at giving me so much independence so young, mine stood with me. They let me write my own definition of age-appropriate milestones rather than making me wait for others’, and to that I owe every joy of my adult life.

Bethany on top of the world

Your turn! Here in the comments (or over on Facebook), tell me something your parents especially rocked at, and we can all start our weekends basking in each other’s good memories. No helmets required.


Open-Source Parenting: Context

In a research-intensive book about couple communication that Dan and I are reading together, the authors emphasize how important it is to be aware of “filters” that might be affecting our conversations. A filter could be a bad mood, a distraction, an unspoken expectation—anything, really, that colors the way we hear and respond to our partners.

Immediately upon reading this, I thought of lunchtime. In our house, lunchtime falls anywhere from five minutes to an hour past my blood sugar threshold of niceness, and I inevitably become hangry. “Hangry” refers to the type of hunger-induced anger that, say, a cross-dressing Chris Farley might experience when denied French fries:

If Dan tries to speak to me when I am in this state of ravenous rage, I am liable to eat his head. This is an example of a “filter” through which his kind offers to help with lunch are interpreted as direct insults to my person and through which my attempts to express my feelings are interpreted as acts of cannibalism. Knowing that it’s my hangry hour, however, helps us get through it. (That, and compulsive snacking.) The point is that, by being aware of underlying factors, we take away much of their invisible power to manipulate situations for the worse.

8 - What the chef looked like

(This is the face of hanger, FYI… brought to you by lunchtime circa 2009.)

I was reminded of this charming tendency of mine when a wise grandmom wrote me following my last Open-Source Parenting post. She shared her realization that sometimes meltdowns (of both the child and the parent variety) happen when we don’t have enough nutrients in our system—when we haven’t had enough protein that day, or when we’ve been eating a lot of junk food. Of course! I thought, reading her email. It’s the hangry effect!

I don’t know why I had never connected that idea to my children’s behavior before, but she’s absolutely right. Sometimes behavior problems aren’t really behavior problems at all; sometimes they’re tummy problems.

Other times, behavior problems are actually sleep problems. I am firmly convinced that most children we know here in this Mediterranean culture of long, late dinners do not get enough sleep at night and that this makes their little brains jittery and contrary during the day.

I see it happening with emotional states too, how one of the girls will channel her sadness or frustration into unpleasant behavior. (Don’t we all do this, really?) It also tends to happen when our schedules are overfull or when there’s too little attention to go around. Sometimes, behavior problems really are behavior problems and need to be met with consequences, but sometimes—more than fifty percent of the time for us—our kids are acting out because of some underlying cause that needs to be addressed more than the behavior itself does.

This troubleshooting approach is not the easiest, I know. It would take far less work to pick a preferred brand of punishment and wield it each time our children misbehave. In fact, I’ve heard disciplinarians argue that because kids thrive on consistency, punishment should take a one-crime-fits-all approach. That’s terrible reasoning though, especially if we want to reach our children’s hearts. These are our children, not lab rats being taught to perform a series of socially acceptable actions. I’m not nearly as interested in how well my girls act as I am in how well they are. If my daughter is feeling stressed, that’s the issue I want to address above and beyond the fact that she yelled at me. If my daughter clearly needs some sleep (or a steak!), that’s what I need to provide before I even think about sermonizing.

When I pay attention the context of my children’s behavior, I often see that it’s not about the behavior at all, and this helps me to respond to their needs rather than react to their deeds. (Too cheesy? Feel free to turn that into an ironic cross-stitch wall hanging if you’d like.)

Your turn! What underlying causes have you noticed affecting your kids’ behavior? Do you have any tried and true methods for deciphering what’s going on behind your child’s tone of voice? The idea behind this Open-Source Parenting series is to share our collective wisdom for the good of all. I’ve learned more from other parents’ stories than I have from expert advice, and I’d wager you have too, so let’s continue the conversation in the comments below or over on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing your take!


Marital Work-Study

Earlier this week, two story endings collided with each other in my headspace. The first was the leave-all-the-lights-on season finale of True Detective. (Did you see it? And will you ever step foot on a nature preserve again?) Less than twenty-four hours later, I finished reading (and by reading, I mean listening to the audiobook version of) Gone Girl. If you haven’t watched or read these yet, don’t worry; my blog is spoiler-free. All you need to know for the purposes of this post is that both stories involve, to some extent or another, a marriage that is unraveling.

It’s so easy to follow the decline of love when it’s outlined in pithy narrative, isn’t it? We watch fictional spouses behave like idiots or ingrates and wonder how in God’s name they don’t see what’s coming to them. We see all the little tendernesses taken for granted and the little barbs of bitterness digging in. We groan when the unhappily married protagonist catches the eye of some young hot thing at a bar because we already know the trajectory of that eye contact, how it will brush against skin and burrow into bed before curving toward a final showdown of heartbreak. Relational cause-effect is obvious under the lens of story.

Without that lens though, out in the unfiltered single-take of reality, nothing is obvious. When I look at my husband across the breakfast table, I don’t have a camera crew helping me zoom in on the adorable curve of his grin. There is no spotlight positioned to bring out the color of his eyes, no director coaxing my perspective toward an unseen worry line, no narrator highlighting the nuances of his words. I don’t think to study him, not the way I do movie characters. It doesn’t occur to me to practice literary analysis on the open book of our marriage. It doesn’t occur to me to notice.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week while mulling over plot lines (and debating whether or not to set foot in the state of Louisiana again). I can see so clearly how fictional husbands and wives sabotage their intimacy, but can I see it in myself? Do I have enough perspective to spot the inattention or fierce bouts of selfishness that I wedge into my marriage?

We celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary this summer. I’d always thought that by ten years, I’d have marriage down pat, as if it were a skill that muscle memory could take over for me. I’ve come to see that that’s the real issue though—my ever thinking that long-term love should be as automatic and reflexive as pedaling a bike.

The following Fiona Apple song has been on repeat in my head lately, my mind reverberating with her line, “You’re more likely to get cut with a dull tool than a sharp one.” Isn’t that the truth of relationships? The hard, undeniable truth that passivity is lethal in matters of love? Here’s the song, every line razor-edged with honesty (I’ll warn you that the language isn’t polite, so listen at your own discretion):

“You forgot you have to try,
you have to try,
you have to try…”

The truth is that I don’t have marriage down pat. I do have to try, still, every day. Dan and I are continuously figuring out the practical implications of that vaguely ominous newlywed admonishment, “Marriage takes work.” (Best if said with funereal voice and knelling head.) I will freely admit that I had no idea what this meant when I first got married. What could possibly constitute “work” when it came to something as nebulous and giddy as love?

On the off-chance that you’re wondering the same thing right now, here is by far the most practical definition that “work” has taken (is taking) in my own marriage: intentionality. Being present when we’re together rather than letting my mind drift. Making conscious decisions about our relationship rather than letting it slide into poor habits. Noticing my husband. Being curious about him. Paying attention to what’s going on behind the scenes of his words and actions. Considering what goes into my words and actions in response. Setting aside time to spend with him. Letting him in on what I’m thinking. Being proactive about everything from affection to problem-solving. Intentionality, intentionality, intentionality.

And goodness, is that ever an example of easier said than done. Dan and I have kids. We both work from home. We are busy (which I fully realize is code for “average adult humanoid”), and we both want our relationship to be a respite from work, a worry-free zone where we can kick our feet up in easy companionship. The last thing that we want to do most evenings is sit down at the table to hash out communication issues and try to delve into each other’s psyches. That’s when being present in our relationship really does constitute work. Hard work. Hard work that—despite my love for that man—I would really, really rather not put in most of the time. (Just being honest, folks.)

Without intentionality though, a relationship begins to slip as surely as a rock climber whose concentration has lapsed. I know this. I’ve watched it happen before in my own marriage, a marriage which started out so breezily that I couldn’t imagine a context for work within it. I’m aware there are many, many other factors that go into relationships—communication skills, compatibility, psychological elements, circumstantial ones—but this is a big one. Like Ms. Apple sings, you have to try, you have to try, you HAVE to TRY. Without effort, without the genuine inconvenient labor of being present, a marriage can crumble into the past tense.

I would rather live here in the muddy now working to harmonize my perspective with my husband’s than be an narrator omniscient with retrospect, aware of all the wrong turns we took but powerless to change our story. I don’t want this good thing we have here to slip away when [because] I’m not looking. That’s why I’m writing this post, in fact: not because I’m trying to join the ranks of lugubrious advice-givers but because acknowledgement is such a big part of intentionality. I want this down in writing, for myself as much as for anyone else, as a reminder that marriage can be hard—really hard—but that hard can also be good.

Really good.

Photo by Dalton Photography


Newton’s First Law Of Writing

I never know what to do with the wordless days—the days that dawn far off the map I’d charted for them the night before, the days that start with too-heavy eyelids and swampwater focus and maybe a child throwing up in the other room. Just show up is the right answer to every artistic indecision; I know this. But on the wordless days, showing up feels like wishful thinking and irresponsibility rolled into one—me, sitting blank-eyed in front of my computer while the minutes slip by unharnessed. I could be putting lunch together, paying the bills, writing emails, scrubbing winter grime off the windows. Wouldn’t it be better to spend this time attending to other responsibilities so that I’ll be unencumbered whenever inspiration does decide to hit?

I know the answer to this one too. It’s the law of inertia: an object at rest staying at rest and an object in motion staying in motion. In the long run, it is far easier to continue the forward motion of writing (or working out, or communicating with my spouse, or keeping an open house) than to have to restart it once the friction of daily life has been allowed to grind it to a halt. If I don’t show up today because I feel disconnected from my work, I will only be perpetuating that disconnect. Tomorrow will be harder, and the day after that even more so, and eventually I will need to exert tremendous effort to jumpstart what was once a flawed but fulfilling rhythm. (I should know this well by now; I’ve repeated the cycle no less than several hundred frustrating times over the years.)

Objects in motion stay in motion, and so I’m doing my best to show up even on these uncharted days when staring down a blank page seems like the least logical use of my time. Just half an hour. Just two or three unremarkable paragraphs. Just enough for forward momentum to win out over the slow drag of gravity and its pull toward the equal and devastatingly opposite inertia of wordlessness.


Open-Source Parenting: Write Through It

Reentering the atmosphere after a weekend away can feel like an exercise in crash-and-burn. Everyone is a little off his or her axis. The only thing in the fridge is a jar of pickles, that one duffel bag never manages to get all the way unpacked, and uncertain amounts of homework are due. We all start to run a little hotter than usual, but our unceremonious landing back into the daily grind is especially hard on the girls. Without giving away too many incriminating details, I will say that we had an epic meltdown of the daughter variety today, triggered by the fact that homework exists in this fallen world and will continue to be inflicted on humanity for the foreseeable future.

The sound level in our house during the meltdown was something like you’d expect at a hog stampede. After making sure that the melting child was at least safe in her room, Dan and I slumped against the doorframe and looked at each other with “OMG” eyes. You know the ones. We figured we had about three minutes before our neighbors called the cops on suspicion of manslaughter, and we were really really hoping that the other would telepathically convey the magic parenting solution that would get us out of the mess.

This did not happen. (Though neither, thankfully, did the police intervention.) What did happen is that our worked-up girl raged herself to sleep, and while she napped away the drama, I turned to my Hail Mary: a simple lined notebook in which she and I exchange letters when other forms of communication fail.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to write—how do you reason with a child on fire?—but I wanted first to help her define what was happening in her emotional core (tiredness from our trip, frustration over a difficult homework assignment) and second to encourage her to write back and help me understand her experience. I ended by making sure she knew I loved her, no matter what.

I have no prototype for this parenting strategy, just inspiration gleaned from mamas like Erika Morrison and Meredith Jacobs and the simple fact that I work through emotional turmoil more easily through writing. I realized this about myself in my teenage years when I filled journals to their paper-blade edges with hot black ink. I wish I had started the habit sooner though. I think a lot of my childhood would have been easier to understand and process had I known to write through it, to identify my emotions and their causes, to root myself in perspective.

This is what I’m trying to teach my daughters now. In my letters, I do my best to ask good questions that can act as bridges between our separate viewpoints. I prompt them to venture into the messy territory of their emotions, and I try to keep our notebooks a safe place to be honest with each other in the mad hope that we can continue through their teenage years. Sometimes, the lines on those pages are the only open lines of communication we have, but they never fail to help my girls and I understand each other better.

I know I can’t speak for all children here, and maybe not even most children, but my daughters really love this method of working through issues. We don’t always limit it to writing; sometimes we draw pictures of how we feel, and we often incorporate some silliness into our letters because that’s how we roll. Few parenting experiences are sweeter to me than hearing a notebook slipped under my door and opening it to find my daughter’s heart scrawled (or scribbled, or illustrated) on the page. Especially when we’re in a rough patch, this practice helps me feel that we’re doing okay after all—that I’m not a hopeless failure and the girls aren’t wild hogs and we haven’t completely botched our chance to build strong communication with each other in the few remaining days before teenage hormones start waging guerilla warfare on our household. (Yes, the girls come by their dramatic flair honestly.)

I’m sure that my daughters won’t always confide in me to the extent they do now. I hope, however, that this word-processing skill will stay with them for life and that these early letter exchanges of ours will help them to center themselves when the stakes get higher. I also hope that the better we get at this, the fewer OMG-eyed meltdowns we’ll have to weather. A mama can dream, right? (Write?)

Mama letters

Your turn! What parenting strategies have you found effective when life gets too overwhelming for your little ones? For kids with whom writing doesn’t jibe (or those who are still too young to write), what are some other ways they can learn to process their hard feelings? The idea behind this Open-Source Parenting series is to share our collective wisdom for the good of all. I’ve learned more from other parents’ stories than I have from expert advice, and I’d wager you have too, so let’s continue the conversation in the comments below or over on Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing your take!


Judge Not, Lest It Be Legalized

I had planned to work on my next installment of Open-Source Parenting this morning, but my attention keeps being pulled on a single thread away from our own small family, across the ocean, and straight to the heart of Arizona.

I’m doing my best to understand both sides of the debate being waged right now over Senate Bill 1062 (which some frustrated groups are calling the Anti-Gay Bill). I’ve read the text of the bill itself as well as arguments by intelligent and well-meaning people on both sides of the issue, and I have some thoughts of my own that I’d like to share. First, though, if you’re not familiar with what’s going on, here’s my completely non-professional, non-expert recap:

Last Thursday, Arizona Senate passed a bill that exempts individuals and organizations from “any law” (yes, you read that right) that prevents them from using their property in accordance with their religious beliefs. The text of the bill stipulates that that these convictions do not have to be “compulsory or central to a larger system of religious beliefs” (i.e. – as long as you believe it, it counts). The bill does not mention sexual orientation at all, but Arizona policymakers claim that the bill was drafted in direct response to an anti-discrimination lawsuit won—wrongfully, they believe—by a lesbian last year. Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, has until the 28th to veto the bill if she chooses; otherwise, it will become law.

Everyone, it seems, is in an uproar. People on one side of the debate (which isn’t cut as clearly along party lines as you might think) argue that this bill will protect religious freedom while those on the other side see the bill as taking freedom away. I’d like to believe that this law would only be used to enforce things like a venue-owner’s right to turn down a group of Satanists who want to use the facilities for their necromancy party. That sounds reasonable, right? But let’s be honest—whether or not the bill refers to homosexuality, it is setting a new precedent in the LGBT debate.

Unless the governor vetoes the bill, it will soon be legal for Arizona restaurants to turn away gay individuals (and presumably even those who seem gay, as we are dealing solely with beliefs here). Based on sexual orientation alone, someone can be blocked from entering a movie theater, a civic council meeting, even a town square. Doctors, policemen, firemen, and social workers would be within their rights to refuse service as long as a “religious belief” is motivating them. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that hate crimes could be upheld in court.

Do you see how scary this is to me, this carte blanche given to individuals to exert something as subjective and unverifiable as belief over the law?

It’s easy for my mind to jump straight to other religions, to those whose belief systems go contrary to my sense of ethics, to all the vague possibilities of horror that a practicing jihadist could wreak under the protection of SB1062. I’m only qualified to speak for one religion though—Christianity. I’m quite familiar with our Bible, with what is described in its pages as sin. I have not seen the part of the Bible that requires us to judge, shun, or otherwise discriminate against those who sin, but many Christians feel differently, and based on the Bible alone, here is a small sampling of the people on whom Arizona Christians will have the right to turn their backs:

  • Anyone divorced (unless for reasons of infidelity) or remarried following a divorce
  • Unwed mothers
  • Couples arguing with each other
  • Misbehaving kids
  • Anyone with a credit card balance
  • Anyone with a tattoo
  • Women wearing boyfriend jeans
  • Anyone out or about on a Sunday
  • Overeaters

You get the point. By claiming the Bible as their witness, Christians can justify discriminating against pretty much anyone they want to. Actually, let me rephrase that. If this law goes into effect, Christians will be legally able to justify discriminating against pretty much anyone. I make that distinction because whether or not the government says it’s okay to kick a gay couple out of your restaurant, that doesn’t mean God says it’s okay.

Those sins listed in the Bible? The ones from which we pick and choose our preferred ammunition against those different from us? They’re meant to point us inward, to direct us back to the territory of our very own hearts where we can then work together with God to address our particular brands of un-love. (It is also worth noting that there are many “sins” referenced in the Bible that are limited to the cultures and circumstances of its original audiences. No matter how literally Christians may claim to read the Bible, very few still believe that eating pork or wearing jewelry are wrong.) If you’re interested in reading more about sin and Christians’ misplaced sense of duty in the “culture wars,” I highly recommend Micah J. Murray’s post from earlier this month.

Here is my stance, based entirely on what I’ve come to believe about God and my role as a citizen of humanity: My job is love. Period. It is neither my responsibility nor my right to judge my fellow humans as less worthy than myself. (In fact, Jesus had some pretty strong words against judging.) If you believe differently than I do, if your identity or choices do not line up with my own moral code, even if you’re straight-up my enemy, my job is still to love you.

And I want to be clear about something: Saying that a discriminatory action is made “in love” does not make it so. We love each other through our actions, not our semantics, and refusing to serve someone because they burden our religious sensibilities is about as unloving a gesture as we could make no matter how we try to spin it. What’s more, I would argue that those of us who follow Jesus are especially bound to kindness through the example of his life. How easily do we forget that Jesus spent his time on Earth serving the morally reprehensible? How easily do we skip over “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone?”

My heart is heavy today for Arizona, for the states considering similar ballots, and for all the people who will end up caught in the cycles of judgment. Every time that I think the American civil rights battle is well and truly over, something like SB1062 comes along to prod it back to life, and I realize just how far we still are from treating everyone as an equal. Yes, I care that we have religious freedom, but I also care that our freedom not be at the expense or to the detriment of others. I care mostly deeply that those of us who follow the Bible not twist its message into a weapon against the very people we’re here to love.

If you don’t agree with my stance on SB1062, that’s okay. I still respect your opinion. However, I hope you’ll carefully consider that our rights and what-is-right don’t always match up… and that the freedom to judge others’ worth for ourselves and treat whomever we want like a second-class citizen might not count as freedom at all.

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