Real diversity demands that we hold loosely our preconceived ideas of what God looks like. Jesus didn’t dine with the sinners so that he could convert them all to Pharisees, but to remind the Pharisees that God speaks as loudly through prostitutes as he does through them. He was validating every story, always elevating the other. He was destroying the myth that spirituality needs to be dressed in the trappings of religion, that it has to be proper or conventional or uniform. We still struggle with this work because we are naturally a people of labels, always looking for neat and tidy ways of summarizing those who cross our paths, of easily categorizing them for quick understanding. Our labels help reinforce the ideas of who’s in and who’s out and make us feel safely sequestered in what we believe comprises our tribe. The problem is that people are far too expansive for any category we might place them in, and because of this all our efforts of relational shorthand fail. Whether our labels reference race, gender, sexual orientation, theology, or any other designation, they place in front of us a caricature of what we imagine that label represents — and they always fall short.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 90-91

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 12, 2015

All Grace

Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without also knowing the One who made us, and we cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of us. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize it in the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From this fullness (pleroma) we have all received, grace upon grace ” (1:6), or “grace responding to grace gracefully” might be an even more accurate translation. To end in grace you must somehow start with grace, and then it is grace all the way through. Or as others have simply put it, “How you get there is where you arrive.”

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 29

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 28, 2019

Finding Our Positive Intention

Our positive intention reminds us of the life goals that dwelling on painful experience has shifted aside.

The biggest drawback to telling grievance stories is they keep us connected in a powerless way with people who have hurt us. When we mull over our past wounds and hurts, we remind ourselves of a part of our life that did not work. Reconnecting with our positive intention reminds us of our goals and enables us to move forward.

Positive intention can be defined as the strongest positive motivation we had for being in the grievance situation in the first place…. All grievances start with a situation that did not work out. We had an experience where either we did not get what we wanted or we got something we did not want. In either case, we wanted something for our well-being. Our positive intention is remembering what that something was and expressing it in the most beneficial terms we can find.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 142

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 15, 2019

A Point of Light

Often when joy seems to fade, I recall Jim Brandenburg’s idea of allowing himself only one photograph per day. Then, turning my mental camera upon the day I’m living, I seek to locate in it the one moment that holds the most joy. No matter how dull or stressful my day may seem, a point of light always gleams. The more I focus on the light, the larger and brighter it becomes. By nourishing one ray of joy like a seedling, joy takes root in me and grows and grows until it fills my heart.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soulp. 114

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 7, 2016

A Choice

Reconciliation means you reestablish a relationship with the person who hurt you. Forgiveness means you make peace with a bitter part of your past and no longer blame your experiences on the offender. You can forgive and decide there is no reason to have any further relationship with the person who hurt you. In fact, every time we forgive someone who is dead you do this. Every time we forgive someone we only knew for a short painful moment (like the victim of a hit-and-run car accident), we do this. With forgiveness we have a choice. We can forgive and give the offender another chance, or we can forgive and move on to new relationships. The choice is ours.

— Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 75

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, January 26, 2016

The Defiance of Gratitude

Gratitude is defiance of sorts, the defiance of kindness in the face of anger, of connection in the face of division, and of hope in the face of fear. Gratefulness does not acquiesce to evil — it resists evil. That resistance is not that of force or direct confrontation. Gratitude undoes evil by tunneling under its foundations of anger, resentment, and greed. Thus, gratitude strengthens our character and moral resolve, giving each of us the possibility of living peaceably and justly. It untwists knotted hearts, waking us to a new sense of who we are as individuals and in community. Being thankful is the very essence of what it means to be alive, and to know that life abundantly.

— Diana Butler Bass, Gratitude, p. 185-186

And I couldn’t stand doing just one photo. Both photos: South Riding, Virginia, November 2, 2018

In All Our Grandeur

Being ourselves naturally proceeds from living our purpose rather than living for approval. Our purpose is what we, of all the people in the world, can do the best. If we do not do it, if we are not true to ourselves, who will be? Who can be? If we do not do what it is we have come to do, no one can do it. It is left undone until we are willing to give our part, until we are willing to be ourselves. Most people are frightened of their own purpose and the greatness that it seems to call from them. In being frightened of our purpose, we are frightened of our own love, passion, and happiness. Most of us feel unworthy, or we try to control our good feelings so as not to be overwhelmed. These are just symptoms of fear that lead us away from our truth, our vision, and our greatness. The greatest art, the greatest gift, is to be ourselves. Being ourselves in all of our grandeur shows how much we love the world. As we unwrap our presence, we give ourselves as the best gift that we can give to life.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 288