storytelling using mentor texts

Inevitably, every break brings time for reflection and renewal for teaching. What’s going well? What’s hurting the team? Over winter break, I found myself desperate for a reset in my classroom. Students didn’t even know each other’s names, much less stories; I was the bad guy without enough of the connection that grounds those high expectations; I was so busy trying to collaborate in an overwhelming amount of configurations that I lost my authentic teacher compass; I was buried in systematic behavior expectations that did not align with who I am…and that didn’t work. I felt like a failure…worst, I was uninspired and uninspiring.

Last semester, my colleague and friend started talking about the writing approach which consists of copying mentor texts. She’s all up in this book and talking about it all over the place. (You know, authentic and real PD…not the forced kind; rather the kind that evolves from dialogue and mutual eagerness to grow in our craft.) We implemented mentor texts with our juniors as a way to create real-life writing experiences: reviews.

Slowly these two bodies of reflection met and bowed to each other on the dance floor of my mind: how can I provide students the opportunity to share their stories and improve their writing with mentor texts? How can I create an opportunity for reset while encouraging students to write beyond the traditional (and boring) academic scope (read 5 paragraph essay).

And those two ideas danced. Beautifully and wonderfully, beyond my expectations. Here is how I approached it (some steps are modified for how I wish I would have done it):

  1. I decided on two mentor texts: Maus and Night. This would give students the ultimate choice: story-telling via prose or story-telling via art.
  2. Then I combed both texts looking for engaging prompts and mentor text sections that would elicit stories that matter from my students, the kinds of stories that bond at the heart level. Here are those prompts for Maus and Night.
  3. To begin all this, and to deepen my own connections with students, I also modeled the process, as did my student teacher. I chose for my brain dump a piece about my Mom I had published on this blog a while back. Then I altered it to mimic the mentor text. I also walked through breaking down the mentor text into moves I could mimic.
  4. Next students picked their genre and prompt followed by a rough draft. This draft is not based on the structure or style of the mentor text, but merely is a brain dump to get their stories onto the paper.
  5. Then began the analysis of the mentor texts’ approaches. This was a chance for students to be independently taught writing craft by the mentor text they selected. They were guided through this process using extensive graphic organizers. Here those are for Maus and NightOf course I shouldn’t have been surprised at how this organically produced the close and deep independent reading I’ve been trying to manufacture all year long. But that is exactly what happened. Three cheers for favorable instructional accidents!
  6. After the analysis portion, students transitioned to the remaking of their drafts into the style of their chosen genre. For some, this meant adding dialogue. For others, they rearranged paragraphs. For the artsy, they drew and divided into panels with shading and captions. No matter what, each student was nose deep in a text, looking for how to mimic it. It took a bit for them to get the hang of it, but they did!
  7. At this point, we did some peer workshopping. Secretly, the real point here was the sharing of their stories in partners to prepare them for a larger production. After all, in my head, this IS the reason for this entire writing project: community connections. All the academic benefits are bonuses. (Oops, did I say that out loud?)
  8. Then, the wondrous glory of storytelling: the sharing. I asked for feedback from students regarding which peers they felt most comfortable and uncomfortable sharing with, and then I used that data to place students into a variety of small groups. In those groups, I gave very specific directions to 1, read his/her story out loud and 2, each student was to write a note of encouragement/thank-you letter to the author after he/she shared. I provided sentence frames and colored cards. To me, these are the kinds of days I live for as a teacher. Students huddled together in small groups, sharing secrets of the heart, spinning webs of connection that are strong and trustworthy, a web upon which we build more learning and more connection. A web which catches the light.
  9. Finally, students self-graded using a narrative rubric based on CCSS. In the future, I will do a better job explicitly teaching these elements, because though they were inherent in the works the students produced, the students themselves did not have the language to self-evaluate with specifics.

The pieces the students turned in were breathtaking both in craft and content. Were there grammar errors? Of course…but honestly, who cared when I was seeing some of the best writing I’ve seen from students in my decade of teaching. The pieces were original and unique and authentic and individual and unfettered with the formulaic chains we so often think at-risk students need. The pieces were heart-wrenching with students exposing the dangerous truths of their lives: from gang violence to domestic abuse to homelessness to murder to drugs to suicide to anxiety to sexual assault to the grief of too many orphaned children. I was not reading papers; I was reading souls.

But THE most beautiful moment in this project came the day we shared our stories in small groups. Throughout the day, I roamed to different groups to pop in on students’ stories and leave them a note from my heart to theirs. In one group of two boys and two girls, one of my most difficult and often disengaged boys began sharing his story. As he worked his way through it, it was evident his exterior was cracking. His pace slowed; his face tightened; his eyes moistened; his words chocked. He collapsed into himself, a heaving pile of grief, shattered by bullets past. Literally. His peer, the other boy in the group, silently got up from his seat, walked around the table, knelt beside him, rubbed his back, and just stayed…a steady, silent, comforting rock. It was a moment so beautiful, so raw, I nearly lost my breath.

Who am I kidding? I did.

And things have been better with that student. Not perfect. Not a miracle. But a shaky bridge has been solidified.

And that is just the kind of story I want to write with penstrokes of my career.

 

brazilian wax poetic

I remember it very clearly. I was sitting in front of the computer while Dave sat on our blue leather couch. With my approaching December graduation date from North Central, we were discussing what comes next. What do I do as a teacher who graduates in December? It’s awkward. It’s unfavorable. It’s ill-timed.

And so, I uttered two dangerous words of adventure: what if?

What if we move to Colorado?

What if we work at a ski resort for the season?

What if we just spend a few months playing?

Those two words changed our lives. We moved to Colorado with everything we owned in a jeep. Found careers that we loved and that loved us back. Made new friends and new memories with old friends. Hosted family for holidays and vacations. Embraced the land and the lifestyle of the mountains. Became runners and yogis and cyclists. Experienced new dimensions of the Divine and new nuances of ourselves.

For the last eleven years, we have lived blessed and beautiful lives. Thank you God.

And now: what if?

Dave and I have been revisiting these very two dangerous words for a while now. Adventure calls.

What if we move?

What if it’s far?

What if it’s overseas?

What if it’s completely foreign and unlike any life we’ve ever lived?

Those two very dangerous words of what if have tumbled into two other words: I accept.

This past weekend I attended an international job fair in Boston, at which I found Graded. Before we went, I made a list of what I wanted in an overseas teaching gig: financially, personally and professionally. I pursued schools who met those criteria with a singular devotion. But in the end, or perhaps in the beginning, Graded found me.

And so, Dave and I will be taking this… freak show… circus… adventure on the road starting July 2017, at which time we will move to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a two-year contract. There are a million things to do and a million goodbyes to cry and a million freak-outs to stifle and a million questions to answer…but for now, I’ll settle into the wild-eyed lap of what if.


For those of you interested in the details of our adventure, I’ll be starting a new blog by the title of this post. Stay tuned!

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tidings of comfort

When I think of God, I think of Love.

When I think of Love, I think of Comfort.

And when I think of Comfort, I think of the holidays.

In the past year, we’ve lost both our pets. Our Christmas tree sits undisturbed in the corner of our living room, the sun through the windows its only companion. We don’t come home and play the game we so loved to be annoyed by: six ornaments rolling around on the ground, one broken, moving them further and further up the tree in some Jenga strategy to protect them from wagging hazards and pawing attacks.

Comfort.

Tomorrow marks the 5th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. My Dad loved Christmas music. He would sing along to it, or whistle along to it, from the deepest places of joy in his heart. To this day, I can’t hear “Silent Night” or “Jingle Bell Rock” without hearing his voice from some secret distance.

Comfort.

Two years later, my Mom joined my Dad. I miss her Christmasness. Peanut butter balls, fudge, all on a plate saran-wrapped, sitting cold on the porch. The buffets of food and a family packed around a festive tablecloth in an ivy-wallpapered kitchen. Mom, sitting near a frosty window cracked open so her cigarette smoke could escape.

Comfort.

And still we celebrate. There is joy in the holiday season. We are surrounded by those who love us and those whom we love. We live lives dripping with reasons to be grateful.

But there is also a sadness. An indescribable and inexplicable and inapproachable loneliness wraps around our heart like a scarf against the cold. A narrative of Christmas pasts of bonding and fighting reflects back at us from the twinkling lights. A deep ache to pick up the phone and hear that voice, that laugh, just once more burns as a candle on the windowsill. A longing for all the lost Christmases that will never be had drops in the belly, heavy like too many cookies.

Grief multiplies like frost on a window, intricate and beautiful and shattering lines of connection that disappear with the touch of a warm finger on lifeless glass.

Comfort.

I write this for me.

But, I write this for you, too: Jennifer and Jenny and Jen. Pam and Jo Ann. Mark and Regina. Cheryl. Erica. Fernanda. Heather. Doyle and Laina. Kathryn. Brandon. Dad and Mom. Juli. Jan. My family. Mel. Chris. Cara. Hilary. Melissa. Those of you not named, but nonetheless with me in sorrow during this season.

We stand together in the snow, icicles of crystal tears, and we hold each other up. Like wreaths, we circle in love and welcome those weights that break us and make us. We look for the light in the Bethlehems of each others’ hearts. We huddle together around the fire of comfort.

Comfort. For you. For me.


 

 

 

the ghost of grief past

I am haunted by grief. Like a ghost that fades in and out of the bedroom corner, sometimes it is silent, hovering beneath the floorboards; but sometimes it is devastatingly near, ice freezing through my veins.

Recently…I shiver.

Last year, I watched my cat die a long, slow death. His silky steel grey fur turned bristlecone; his oversized athletic body turned gristly; his ferocious appetite for salmon turned into aching refusal to eat; his impeccable potty and self-grooming habits turned sloppy spills all over the house. The cat who walked around the block with us could no longer hop up on our bed. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, crying in confusion. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of tears.

Six years ago, I watched my Dad die a long, slow death. His consistent commitment to a healthy breakfast of Total cereal faded into choking on undigested food; his appetite for walks in the neighborhood faded to police rides back to a home he could no longer remember; his strong able body faded into a bony skeleton; his obsessive daily grooming with an electric razor faded into a unoccupied man playing with his feces. The man who drove my teenage self all over creation could no longer remember my name. He wandered the house, unsure of where he was, looking and laughing at a stranger’s reflection in the mirror. Life oozed out of him, leaving a trail of fears.

I am haunted by the molasses pace of death, its grief sticky and icky.

This year, I watched my dog disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were camping and hiking and playing in alpine lakes with his girlfriend. He was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My house is empty.

Three years ago, I watched my Mom disappear in the blink of an eye. Just the weekend before, we were laughing and buffeting and playing the slots with the family. She was strong. Full of life. Then, sickness. Then, death. My heart is empty.

I am haunted by the wind-sucking swiftness of death, its grief whiplash and heartcrash.

I am haunted.1690184_10152245507652813_202266945_n

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welcome home to b261

The first day is everything.

My students spent their summer inundated with news reports about senseless, merciless and unjust killings of people who look just like them. They are afraid.

My students spent their summer working multiple jobs just to keep food on their families’ tables. They are hungry and tired.

My students spent their summer wondering which of their teachers from May would still be there in August. They are insecure.

My students spent their summer listening to a white man’s rhetoric about how they don’t belong in this country, how they’ll be shipped back to a place that is no longer home to them, only to have their vision of this country’s promise cut off by a wall. They are worried.

My students spent their summer surrounded by terror attacks of extremists who (reportedly) worship the same god they do. They are disheartened.

So, yes, the first day is everything.

When they walk into my classroom–into our classroom–they don’t just need a safe place. They don’t just need a restorative place. They don’t just need a grounded place. They don’t just need a comfortable place. They don’t just need a welcoming place.

They need a home where they belong.

  • Home is where the door is open and inviting. It is important that the minute students see our classroom, they know it is for them. I do this with welcoming signs and clear communication.img_8376
  • Home is a place that is tidy and organized. I bought a carpet to ensure the auditory and aesthetic quality of my room was on point. I have bins for students to store their stuff. All of the previous day’s handouts have a place to be with clear labeling. I have minimal decorations as this will arise collaboratively with students’ contributions and academic anchor charts throughout the year.
  • Home is a place where resources abound. My first year student teaching, my mentor had the students bring community supplies for extra credit. I have copied this every year since. We have bad days or forgetful days; when that happens, my students always have what they need in the classroom to be successful–partly because they provide those resources for each other. IMG_8421
  • Home is a place where students are known. I do not want students’ first day to be going over a syllabus.

    Rather, I give a survey the first day so that I can gather important information about who my kiddos are…in school and as a human. While they are taking the survey, I walk around and introduce myself to each of them individually with a handshake. Such a first day procedure ensures that the priceless first impression that our time together will not be about rules, but about them.

  • Home is a place where I as the teacher am known. This was my first year at my current school, so the reputation that in the past had always done so much prework for me was void. So, I brought my reputation to them…alongside my heart. Students walked into the classroom to find this letter.
  • Home is a place where students see themselves. Our first activity as a class was to watch and discuss this video about “what’s your WHY?” I shared with students that there will be times this year where it will be hard and discouraging, and that’s exactly why they need to know why they’re showing up and persevering. Some of their whys (more still to come from students throughout the year) now are on display at the front of the room as a visual reminder to them that this is not about a grade, but about a heart matter.
  • Home is a place where students honor connection. The day after I introduced the why concept, we had circle. In this time, with the passing of a talking piece, students shared who or what their why is and told a story about their why. It was tender and special and bonding. It was a beautiful way to establish the kind of feel we will have in our classroom.img_8387

Just as the circle, I end where I started. The first day is everything. For I know that for there to be great learning in my class, there must be great risk.

And everyone feels more comfortable risking when they feel at home.


For more of my thoughts on how to establish a sense of home where students belong in the classroom, check out:

 

 

 

 

 

THIS.

https://crawlingoutoftheclassroom.wordpress.com/2016/08/12/let-them-know-love/

here’s to the dog

Here’s to the dog who transformed from a scared, skinny, reserved mess into a brave, athletic, playful son. When we first met you at the pound, we took you into the yard to see how you’d interact with us. As Dad threw a ball, rather than fetching, you cowered, trying desperately to disappear into yourself.  Our hearts broke at the invisible story that brought you to such a sad place. For years, we didn’t think you had a voice at all. Maybe your box had been removed? Dad would give me such shit for trying to teach you to speak. But you learned, didn’t you. You found your voice and the courage to use it to protect us, to laugh with us, to tell us you were there, to tell us you were hungry. Our hearts applauded your self-discovery. We knew you came into your own when we’d let you loose on at the local park, and you would run like a freak. Unabashed. Insanely. Comically. Gleefully. Our hearts celebrated at the freedom you finally felt in love.

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Here’s to the dog who transformed us into ninjas in the morning. As our bodies eased out of deep slumber, we’d stealthily adjust in the bed so as not to awaken your bladder. Our even worst was when our bladders were awake. We’d lie there in pain, just so we didn’t give you the false impression that our day was, indeed, actually starting. Or sometimes, you went into the ninja business with one of us. So as not to awaken the other parent, one of us would coax you out of the bedroom as sneakingly as possible. But alas, your hummingbird tail always drummed the bed, the walls, the door, our souls: the imperfect perfect alarm clock.

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Here’s to the dog who was my dancing companion. You know as well I do, Momma don’t clean without some good music. And so there I’d be in the living room, blasting Rihanna or Britney Spears or Juanes, and well of course my feet and hips would catch on. And so would yours. You’d look at me from your bed, then your tail would mark time, then you’d raise to your feet and bow your chest to the ground, then you’d come to me, then I’d pat my chest, and what do you know, I’m in my living room dancing with a four-legged companion, upright on your hind quarters, paws on my shoulders, mouth panting in rhythmed ecstasy.

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Here’s to the dog who was just the goofiest kid who just wanted desperately to be liked by his peers. You hated water until you saw one of the cool kids running around in it. You didn’t understand fetch until you saw another dog doing it, then you tried out for the team but didn’t make the cut. Oh, you’ll eat a treat because that dog ate a treat. You loved to stick your nose in anything, even when you found it being exploded back into your face by a sneeze. You playfully wrestled with the ground. You looked like you were seizing when you tried to roll over on command.

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Here’s to the dog who was loved by all those we loved. You were the calm dog everyone felt comfortable being around. You protected the Doyle girls like they were your own. Your were gentle with my aging parents. You let puppies have their space (we’ll pretend this was your honor, instead of the fact that you were petrified by them). You cradled yourself into our families and into our friendships. You were our son, and everybody knew it. And they loved you.

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Here’s to the dog who loved his brother beautifully. You’d fight, and then you’d paw and makeup. You’d share your toys and your treats and your bed. You kept on eye on him when he walked around the block with us. You were compassionate and kind to him as he aged, and then as he died, and then, you stood steady for us our in grief.

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Here’s to the dog who was your Dad’s favorite. When you’d piss me off, he’d defend you. When I didn’t want to get fur bombed, he’d gather you between his legs and pet you. When I looked and looked and looked, he’d go right for that perfect spot around your ears that made you smile like a druggie. You were his dog, and he was your idol.

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Here’s to the dog who was the soul mate for our lifestyle. When we ran, you ran. When we hiked, you hiked. When we camped, you camped. When we melded into the TV, you slept in your bed. When we took road trips, you curled up in the back seat. When we took naps, you snored. When we lounged outside, you curled up in the grass. When we ate, you waited at our feet. When adventure called, you sat politely while we put on your collar. When home beckoned, you greeted us at the door with that one of a kind hip wiggle of yours.

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Here’s to the dog who made our life complete. Here’s to the dog whom we miss with all of the broken pieces of our heart. May you run, smile, rest, and wag in peace.

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one reflection

Charged rhetoric. Resegregation. Terror Attacks. Cop funerals. Black lives that don’t matter enough.

I weep for our world.

And as tears roll down my face and pool in my heart, I see the mirrored reflection of my humanity. Of our humanity.

Staring back at me is mi abuelo y abuela. Not mine by birth, but by my sister’s marriage. Growing up I remember their parties. Loud laughter; welcoming hugs; lively discussions; late night dancing under hanging lights; endless bowls of arroz con pollo y homemade mole. More than their parties was their presence: no matter what my brother-in-law and sister went through, they were there. They were there for Dave and I too, gifting us with a suite for our wedding night (espero que ustedes están leyendo esto porque quiero darle las gracias: gracias Abuelo y Abuela). And they were there in our home too. Mexican skin and tongue brought together by holiday family fests–the only translator needed was Mom’s chicken spaghetti or sweet potatoes. Brown Mom and White Mom were assaulted equally by breast cancer, and they quilted the tapestry of their hands together to comfort each other’s pain and fear. I, white, am them, Mexican; and they are me.

Staring back at me is the predominantly black fellowship that cultivated my formative years. Singing “black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in his sight” carried more potency when I held all those colors of hands and merged into all those colors of voices and hugged all those colors of bodies. I prayed with them. I ate with them. I served with them. I drove through ghettos with them to play volleyball. I dated them. I lived with them. And the rhythms of their souls and the swagger of their hips and the passion of their hearts became my own. I, white, am them, black; and they are me.

Staring back at me are the Muslim girls for whom I was a camp counselor. I greeted them with Allahu Akbar. I found reverence for their careful attention to cleaning rituals before meals. I saw the Divine in their five calls daily to prayer. I learned respect for their self-governed choices to cover their heads. I enjoyed the beautiful way they let go when they felt completely free. I, Christian, am them, Muslim; and they are me.

Staring back at me is the multitude of students who are at-risk in this world that should be guarding them. Their color and race does not matter, for they are united by the bedrock of poverty upon which others’ American dreams are built. They don’t go to the doctor when they are sick because it is too expensive. They are sequestered to schools where their success–and failure–is reduced to numbers. They hide in closets during territorial shootings outside their doors. They care for their mothers who have been beaten by abusive spouses. They work jobs at night instead of doing homework in order to keep their family together. They are pushed out of their neighborhoods by the oozing white tentacles of gentrification. They hide in drugs or gangs or sex because they have no other way to cope with the dark reality of their lives. And everyday I show up to educate them, but end up instead being taught by them. I, privileged and safe, am them, disadvantaged and poor; and they are me.

Staring back at me is my nephew-in-law. Day after day for years he has pursued a variety of assignments in his local police vicinity: first security detail, then cop, now detective. With a heart of integrity, he serves his community to build trust and security and prosperity for all parties involved. On his social media feed, he likes his black best friend’s white wife’s post of an image of their mixed son with the hashtag #mysonisnotahashtag. Meanwhile less than 800 miles away from his home, three cops left their wives and children in the morning never to return. He is not the enemy. They are not the enemy. There is no he or they. I, civilian, am him, officer; and he is me.

Staring back at me is the weight of my white privilege. To write a statement like “I am … and … is me” is something that I, a white woman, can get away with. I have a position of power that I recognize. But I also refuse to let it cloud my vision and steal my light.

I am done with lines and borders and binaries that cut bloody scars across communities.

Black/white. Legal/illegal. Cop/civilian. Muslim/Christian. Republican/Democrat. Poor/rich. Them/us. You/me.

They are us. We are them.

I am you. You are me.

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14 years and counting

Today marks 14 years of wedded bliss marriage for Dave and I. In all honesty, there were many times in our relationship I didn’t think we’d make it. But I am grateful that here we are, together. When I think about the “how,” I am drawn to the insights of expectation, communication, adventure, and independence.

  • Expectation. If “comparison is the thief of joy,” then expectation is the nuclear bomb decimating a marital landscape. Early on in our marriage, we spent the majority of our time together trying to fit into some preconceived mold of a godly marriage. Me: domestic goddess, children maker, quiet and humble, meek and submissive, the puppy dog following the master. Dave: manly man, leader extraordinaire and money maker, choice taker and future determiner, calculating and decisive. (I may be exaggerating, but sadly not by much.) It doesn’t work…because it was not who we were. It is not who we are. And living an inauthentic life alone is difficult enough, much less with another person also faking it. We have learned that the minute “should” enters into the conversation (“we should be doing x; we should have y; we should look like z”), trouble breweth.
  • Adventure. We left the midwest for a lifestyle that drew us…a life of adventure. From naps during afternoon thunderstorms to reading lazily in porch swings to traveling near and far to climbing mountains to yoga to petting wolves to brewery tours to nights in a tent to feet in a stream to identifying wildflowers and birds to shared goals of running in all 50 states. We adventure big. We adventure small. We adventure together.
  • Independence. We also adventure independently. I have traveled to Puebla and London. Dave backpacks alone in a wilderness. Dave plays his guitar. I write. Despite the plethora of shared interests between my best friend and I, what keeps us interesting is our individual commitments to our private selves.
  • Communication. Dave and I make a lot of mistakes and have some issues with which we perpetually contend. However, what I am most grateful for is that we talk about them. All of them. All of the time. Nothing is off the conversation table. We openly and freely and deeply talk about politics, sex, finances, fears, regrets, work, what-ifs, frustrations, pet peeves, attractions, dirty jokes and divine mysteries. And above all else, this has saved us. It is the key to identifying and working through expectations. It is the key to fighting fairly. It is the key to moving forward. It is the key to feeling safe and connected. It is the key to adventures together and apart. Communication. Is. Everything.

To Dave, the one I get to live this glorious life with, happy anniversary. I love you.

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on energy: weapons of mass destruction

I recognize that the minute the word energy enters a conversation, visceral reactions will rise: images of granola-eating-gurus, feelings of heebie jeebies, and slippery concepts like “consciousness” and “law of attraction” and “universe.”

I used to be that person.

Maybe I still I am that person.

But…as I find myself changing the way I view myself and the world around me and the God above (?) me, I cannot help but come back to that word: energy.

I have always believed in the power of language, but that confidence is grounded in the inadequacies of language to fully capture that which matters. When I say I love Dave, that word doesn’t capture the beautiful complexity inherent in our 14 years of marriage. When I used the term Daddy, that did not fully capture all my dad was as a man, husband, and father. And this disconnect between term and essence is all over our current headlines: how can tiny little pronouns like he or she really capture all that is in a full person?

And how much more so with God. How can God be bound by gender? How can God be bound by place? How can God be bound by belief? How can God be neatly wrapped up in letters and bow-tied with punctuation?

He can’t. She can’t. It can’t. I Am can’t.

I Am won’t.

And this is why I come back to energy. In science I learn it. In yoga I feel it. I life I live it.

God is the Epicenter and Origin and Destination of Energy.

And this profound thought intensifies with the knowledge that I am created likewise. There is a weight to what energy I put into the world. There is gravity to what energy we put into the world.

Which brings me to Orlando.

Reflected in the mirrored pieces of our shattered humanity, I recognize that Orlando did not occur because of guns or ISIS or insanity.

Rather the energy of hate compounded into senseless tragedy.  At Pulse nightclub, it was catastrophic. 49 lives lost on the bloody altar of hate. Ripples of mourning and loss and sorrow extend infinitely beyond that number.

But the energy of hate that led to that wasn’t singular. The hate between political parties. The hate among forms of Christianity. The hate between genders. The hate among sexual preferences. From gun owners to gun shunners, Southern “bless their hearts” to pulpit declarations of “for the Lord.”

Body-shaming. Mother-shaming. Zoo-shaming. Teacher-shaming. Sex-shaming.

Hate is rampant in our culture. And the worst part of it is that so many of us are self-justified in our hate.

I think about the little seeds of hate in my heart:

  • Lack of grace and patience for people not like me.
  • Bitterness and anger against those that have hurt me this year.
  • The refusal to boldly declare “I forgive you” to Dave’s apologies.
  • My acute anti-Trump, anti-Republican position.
  • My snap judgments of people, criticisms drenched in arrogance.
  • Internal eye-rolling at parents who let their kids out of their sight or annoying tourists on their phones.

Would I ever take a gun into a nightclub and decimate lives worthy of love?

No.

But aren’t my little seeds of hate invisible bullets of energy that slowly corrode peace?

Yes.

When I heard about Orlando, we were enjoying all the sunny delights of Cancun. But even there, I could not stop thinking about the short book of 1 John:

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light…Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer…love is from God…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…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 seen cannot love God whom he has not seen…

Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.

Not literally. At least not for everyone. But hate is an energy that threatens life and light and peace and hope and unity.

Hate turns “my brother” into “the other.” And living in a world of “the other” frees up warrant to hurt with weapons of mass destruction: energy. And as with the law of inertia, once energy is moving towards negativity, it will continue to do so.

Right into a nightclub of innocent victims.

And so I come back to this idea of making peace, not just praying for peace. What I do in the privacy of my own heart and home affects not only those nearest to me, but also the world. With what energy am I engaging? How do I close down my own mind’s gun shop, stacked with invisible bullets of hate?

Hate stops with me and my energy adjustments.

Love starts with me and my energy contributions.

Can you imagine a world full of individuals who did not just tweet condolences, but changed mindsets? A world bound by conversation instead of criticism? A world networked by threads of questions rather than accusations? A world rooted in common ground rather than straddling fault lines? A world of “and” instead of “versus”?

Hate stops with you and your energy adjustments.

Love starts with you and your energy contributions.


 

 

 

 

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