Watch your language…

I remember my parents saying that–“Watch your language”–when I was younger and my language began to stray beyond what was acceptable. It was a reminder that there were certain boundaries that should not be crossed.

I still remember the first time I ever said “Damn.” I was in college, upset over something…I don’t remember what. I was visiting with someone–and another individual came over to join us…someone I was in absolutely no mood to interact with. I was a bit shocked that that word came out of my mouth…and I didn’t say any of the “unacceptable” words for a very, very long time.

I still generally don’t. I know that for some that may make me sound like an old fuddy-duddy…but I believe those boundaries are helpful. I do recognize that there are times when there may seem to be no other way to express the depth of one’s feelings, and I can live with that.

What I don’t like is the common, everyday use of certain words. I think most of us know the words I’m talking about…they start with “sh…”, “f…”, “he..”, “d…”. If that’s not enough clue for you to figure them out, consider yourself lucky.

It seems to me we’ve lost something when those boundary words become common and everyday. We’ve lost their true meanings…we’ve lost some innocence…we’ve lost the importance of intimacy when we reduce it to four-letter words. We’ve lost our ability to use language to its fullest (in my opinion, to be true).

Unfortunately I see this a lot on Facebook. There are some cute and funny memes and stories…but I really get tired of reading ones that use four-letter words when they are unnecessary.

So please…watch your language.

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The indomitable human spirit

I’ve been enjoying watching the 2016 Olympics. Yes, I know there are problems–sometimes very serious ones–that can be found related to the games…from the cost of creating the site to some of the training methods used. But there are also some wonderful stories of the indomitable human spirit. These are some that have impressed me.

  1. The “Final Five”…Not only have each of them been wonderful performers themselves, it’s been clear that they really like and support each other. They have been genuinely delighted when someone on their team has done well–and genuine in their hugs when someone has had a problem with a routine.
  2. Aly Raisman…To watch Aly Raisman come back come back from disappointment four years ago, determined to show that she is one of the best in the world was exciting…and her parents were as much fun to watch as she was! It was easy to sympathize with their concern and nervousness for their daughter, but they way in which they showed it made each of us wonder how we would react in the same situation.
  3. Laurie Hernandez…She just bounces! She looks like she is having so much fun in her routines.
  4. Simone Biles…Who can ignore Simone her?! Her gymnastic ability is incredible–I can’t imagine bouncing as high in the air as she does. But the support of her grandparents (now her parents) through the years is special as well. I can’t imagine the pain of seeing your child lose custody of their children–much less making the decision to adopt them yourselves. But it says a lot about the special relationship they have.
  5. Ellie Downie…Her fall during her floor routine for the all-around qualifying was horrendous! I’m sure that everyone–including her sister–who saw it was scared for her and wondered what the prognosis was. But then to see her come back and insist on doing two vaults so that the team could qualify…and then to see her later do a wonderful repeat of the floor routine was wonderful.
  6. Kohei Uchimura and Oleg Verniaiev…Gymnastic decisions are often close, but the men’s all-around came down to the final performer on the final routine–and a decision of .99 point. Both competitors did wonderful routines and you sometimes wish that there didn’t have to be a winner and everyone else.
  7. 2016 Refugee Team…For the first time the Olympics acknowledged that the world is not a wonderful, peaceful place. Ten athletes are competing under the flag of the Olympics, highlighting the problems of refugees around the world. Just staying alive for some of these refugees makes them gold medal winners, even if they don’t win at the Olympics.
  8. Michael Phelps…Does anything else need to be said? I was delighted to see him come back in a better place than he was after the 2012 Olympics, and to see him delight not only in his own successes but also in the team success.
  9. Joseph Schooling…Each athlete has a hero they look up to. For this young man it was Michael Phelps. I cannot imagine how he felt when he beat Phelps out for a gold in the butterfly.
  10. Katie Ledecky…Does anything else need to be said about her? She absolutely blew everyone else away in the 400-meter freestyle…and she looks like she’s having so much fun as well.
  11. Simone Manuel…This young swimmer tied for gold with the 16-year-old Canadian Penny Oleksiak in the 100-meter freestyle, with both of them breaking the world record in the process. She is the first African-American to win an individual event in Olympic swimming–and the background to her win informed me of some of our racist swimming history, history I had not been aware of because it had not impacted me.
  12. Mo Farah…Who? Not a runner I had ever heard anything about, but his run in the 10,000-meter race was incredible to watch. He started at the back of the pack…took a fall on the second lap…and yet came back to win.
  13. Keri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross…I used to enjoy playing volleyball at church camps, but these two women take it to a whole different level! They are so athletic and manage to pull off almost impossible saves!
  14. Ibtihaj Muhammad…When I was in college I took a class in fencing. I haven’t fenced since, but I remember what a challenge the sport is. At a time when so much hatred has been expressed against Muslims, I am pleased to see a Muslim woman representing the United States.
  15. Adilende Cornelissen…I’ve always loved horses. I don’t understand much about the sport of dressage, but I do know that it requires a close connection between the rider and the horse. Cornelissen was the reigning silver medalist, but when her horse became ill, she put his needs to recover over her own desires to win.

I know there are undoubtedly many more–and will be more before the Olympics are over.

Perhaps one of the major values of the Olympic games is to remind us of the importance of the opportunity to do one’s best…the importance of teamwork…the indomitable human spirit.

My moral imperative

Generally I’ve tried to stay away from being overtly political on this blog. But I have to speak today. I have been around for a number of elections; some of them have had a lot of controversy, but this is the first one that really scares me.

There have been various articles and op-ed pieces trying to convince me to vote this way or that because I fit a certain demographic. Sorry…but just because I belong to a specific group, that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily going to vote a certain way.

However, I do have moral reasons for my vote…my moral imperatives, if you will.

First, I am a follower of Jesus. There are some scriptures that he lived by and that he is quoted as sharing with his followers that shape my beliefs:

…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

[When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said] “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39

[In another teaching to his followers, Jesus said] I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?  And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?  And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:35-40

When I look at the two major candidates and the things they stand for, I have to look at them through these prisms. That doesn’t mean that I am going to agree with everything they say or stand for–but when I look at the history, I find that my choice is clear.

I’ve read–as have most of us–the constant attacks and accusations about what Hillary Clinton has done (or not done). I’ve read the responses from a variety of sources…and I find little to support those accusations. Has she made mistakes? Sure…but who of us hasn’t? Has she done things I disagreed with? Absolutely! Are there things she wishes she had done differently? Yes…but hindsight is always clearer.

Robert Reich has given a valuable overview as to how our perception of her has been shaped.

There have been seven (7!) investigations of her actions in the Benghazi tragedy…most of them Republican dominated–and yet there has been nothing that she can be held responsible for. Were there mistakes? Absolutely, and they resulted in a tragic loss of life.

And then I look at Donald Trump. I see a man who has insulted all members of a particular nation…who has proposed a ban on all members of a religion…who seems to see women only as sex objects…who has reneged repeatedly on contracts…who has mocked those with disabilities…who has been caught in repeated lies but not admitted any of them…who says he upholds “traditional values” but whose marital and business history would imply otherwise…

I cannot go there.

I do not see love of neighbor…or dealing justly with others…or loving kindness…or supporting actions that will benefit “the least”…

And…on a personal level, because I have loved family members who are part of the LGBTQ community and because I attend a congregation that has become part of a welcoming network…I find my choice clear. Our welcoming statement includes these words:

We believe that we all need God’s unconditional love and grace, that all are of worth and all are welcome, and that no person should be denied this. All are welcome here with open arms, minds, hearts, and souls. We are all children of God! We celebrate the diversity of human life and believe in the respect and dignity of everyone. We value the diversity of economic status, social class, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental ability, cultural identity, and ethnicity. We promote the full inclusion of all people to a place where they can share in community without fear.

If I truly believe that, how can I vote for a candidate who has denigrated the respect and dignity of those who challenge him? who shames people for their physical ability…their ethnicity? How can I vote for someone who–rather than helping to create a community where people can share without fear–seems to thrive instead on creating distrust and division?

If you have read this far, thank you. I know that you may not agree with me, but this is my moral imperative. I find myself saying “Here I stand. I can do nothing else.”