Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Sunday Meditations on a John Wesley Quote

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I have been taken with this John Wesley quote for a while now. As it’s Sunday, let’s dive in!

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The above quote resonated with me the first time I heard it, which was sometime in junior high school. So I’d like to dissect this quote, starting with “do all the good you can.”

Too many of us think we can’t do any good at all, so we don’t do anything. And that’s not wise, nor is it smart. We can all do something to help our fellow man, woman, and/or child…it may be something small, like carrying in some groceries if you’re able-bodied and the person you’re helping isn’t. Or it could be something big, like helping someone fix a car when they can’t do it themselves but desperately need it.

(Note I’m talking about individual big things rather than societal big things. But I will get there.)

The key words there are “good” and “can.” Do your best, always; do what you can, always. And if you are in distress, and all you can do is offer good thoughts one day, do that. If you can offer a shoulder to cry on (even a virtual one, these days), that’s even better.

“But Barb,” you say. (Yes, I can hear you.) “What if I truly can’t do anything? I’m in a nursing home. Or I’m in the hospital. Or I’m just…tired, I guess.”

If you’re in a nursing home or in a hospital, the best thing you can do is to heal up. But while you do that, speak kindly to the nurses, doctors, and the staff. Encourage other patients, if you see them. Continue to learn whatever you can learn, via the TV or books or magazines or computer. And again, heal up.

If you’re just tired — and I know the feeling, because I often feel this way myself — you have to look at it a different way.

If you have had an abysmal day, just one from the Hells, and there’s nothing at all you can think of to do that’s any good for anyone, the best thing you can do is to calm down. Talk to a friend. Read a good book. Watch a movie that makes you laugh. Listen to some music that moves you. Whatever works, but do something to get your mind off these problems that are plaguing you.

Anyway, on to the next part of the quote, which is “by all the means you can.” Here, I think John Wesley was talking about the various ways you can help someone. Yes, you can help financially, but you can help emotionally, you can help physically sometimes, you can help spiritually (often we need that the most no matter what it looks like from the outside), and you can do it in whatever fashion you want.

The main thing is to not give in to despair. (Or if you need to, use my late husband’s Zen Buddhist trick and give in to it for five minutes. Then say to yourself, “Self, I’ve heard you. Now let’s get on.” I have used this trick frequently in recent days, and I know it works.)

Wesley here is saying again that you can make a difference by whatever means necessary. And that’s important.

The next part of the quote is “in all the ways you can.” I have already covered this, to an extent, in my previous paragraphs, but I will reiterate for the record: do whatever you need to do to help others in whatever possible ways you have available. Even if they seem small, they can do wonders.

For example, if you are at the grocery store in these days of Covid-19, you can be extra-nice to the cashiers. (Or just polite if you’re normally rude, I guess. Though I would hope none of my readers are rude on a regular basis. Yes, that’s a small joke. Probably very small. Moving on…) You can also help others get their groceries to the car if the clerks are too busy to do it or are unable to do it. You can be polite in the parking lot and make sure you give extra space and time to people walking to and from the store, and pay extra-close attention to the various cars in the lot because not everyone else is.

These are all small things. But they add up. And the clerks will appreciate someone who is not rude or abrupt. The people you deal with, in or out of the car, will appreciate that you are paying attention whether they realize it or not. And if you are helping someone get their stuff to the car, that is vitally important and will probably have made someone’s day.

Small things do add up, you know.

Wesley goes on to say “in all the places you can.” I think what he meant by this is for people not to stop thinking about ways to help others when they walk out the door of the church. If you can help someone in the store, do it. If you can help someone on the road, do that. If you can help a friend by listening even if it’s the tenth time you’ve gone over the same subject and you’re just tired of it — but you can rein in your frustration, and listen and empathize anyway — these things matter.

The next part of Wesley’s quote is “at all the times you can.” I think Wesley put it this way because of what I said before about “days from the Hells.” But it could also be that he dealt with too many people who thought the only time to be charitable was when they were actually in church. And once they walked out the door, that was it for charity for the week, almost as if they had “banked” the charity by going to church and enduring the hour-long sermon. (Or whatever.)

The message here is simple. We are all children of God/dess. (Or Deity. Or “Hey, you, big guy in the sky.” Call Deity what you wish; I don’t think it matters much to Deity.) We are all fallible, imperfect, mortal, all that — just as I’ve said in many other blogs — but along with that fallible, imperfect, mortal stuff comes some pretty good basic instincts. We, most of us, want to help others; we want to do good, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes us feel better to do it. (Maybe that was a biological thing Deity built into us, for all I know.)

And when we deal with those who just don’t seem to care, or don’t seem to want to do the right thing to help their fellow man (or woman or child), it can be frustrating to know that you’re doing your best but someone else is slacking off.

(I don’t know if that’s something Wesley considered during the writing of this, but it makes sense to me.)

The next part of the quote is, “to all the people you can.” I think here Wesley was saying that you should not stop caring about those you dislike. That you should try to find ways to help everyone, not just your own family, your own church, your own clique. That you should make a point to reach out, even when it’s hard (some days it’s very hard; I know!), to help someone who needs it. (Especially as some days, that person is going to be you. But I digress.)

And finally, Wesley closes his quote with, “as long as ever you can.” (I know that reads oddly to modern readers, but Wesley died in 1791. Word choices were different then.)

What does that mean, exactly? Well, I think Wesley believed you needed to keep doing whatever you possibly could to help others for the entirety of your lives. Period. Full stop.

Now, I did some digging into this quote. Wesley is attributed with it because of several sermons he gave during his career as a minister. This was seen to be his overarching philosophy, but Wesley probably never put it exactly the way this quote is put now during his lifetime.

(Which does make me wonder about that “ever you can” stuff, but again, Wesley died in 1791.)

What is important is that Wesley believed we all could and indeed should make a difference. That we indeed should do these things outside the church as well as inside; that we should do these things in the stores as well as our homes; that we should help those we knew and those we didn’t; that we should continue to pray for those we don’t understand and even those we dislike, along with those we know and do understand and deal with on a regular basis.

On this Sunday, take a minute and ask yourself, “What can I do to help someone else today that I normally don’t do?” And then, if you can, do that thing; if you can’t do it today but can do it tomorrow instead, do it then.

But do it. Because it matters. Even when it seems like it doesn’t.

Easter Musings: The Resurrection of Hope

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Folks, I woke up this morning — or afternoon, as the case may be (being the inveterate night owl that I’ve always been) — thinking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is not surprising. It is Easter, much though it doesn’t feel like it with a pandemic ravaging the world. And around Easter, we usually as a people talk about redemption, hope, faith, and of course the resurrection of Jesus.

But Jesus’s resurrection wasn’t just about being raised from the dead. It was about the hope that something good would come from Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. It was also about the belief that three women had, mourning outside Jesus’s burial site, for three days. And it was about the astonishment they had, along with the embodiment of their hopes, when Jesus rose again on the third day.

Other ancient religions had talked about resurrection, too. But they hadn’t been so much about hope, it seems to me. And they certainly didn’t talk about the folks who were left behind quite so much as early Christianity did, and has to this day.

We need hope right now, as I’ve said before. But we also have to believe firmly in resurrection, too. Those of you who aren’t Christian (some days I don’t identify with it, other days I do; I’m more like G.K. Chesterton, who once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”) can still appreciate the idea of resurrection in this sense, as explicated by the Cambridge English Dictionary: the act of bringing something that had disappeared or ended back into use or existence.

Right now, what we’ve viewed as the normal comings and goings of society has disappeared. Ended. And we’re mostly at home, wondering whether the virus known as Covid-19 will ever stop ravaging the Earth. Doctors and nurses and other medical personnel are struggling, as they’re the only ones who have the tools and training to help the rest of us deal with this. And as yet, there is no cure; there is no vaccine to temper the virus, either; there is no therapy; there is nothing.

It is a humbling thing, to know that you can’t stop Covid-19.

Yes, everything we’re doing right now — the vast majority of us in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. — helps to mitigate the damage. Staying at home lessens the reach of the virus and allows the amount of people sickened at any one time to flatten out, so hospitals and clinics don’t get overwhelmed. (Or at least not as overwhelmed as they could be.)

Some of you are probably saying, “But Barb. That is not nothing. We are being proactive. We’re staying home, even though we hate it. And we’re doing everything we can to let this virus die out.” (New Zealand, in particular, has been particularly good at squashing this virus flat.)

That’s all true.

But it’s not enough. People are still dying. And the world outside is radically transformed. Economies have crashed, and will continue to do so, until some sort of medical mitigation occurs. Our way of living has suffered; our way of belief, that we can come together as people, and enjoy each other’s company, and lessen each other’s sorrows in person as well as online, has been shown to be, at best, incomplete.

My view is, today should be not just about Jesus Christ, though his life and teachings are well worthy of study.

I think today — the Easter of 2020 — we need to believe in the resurrection of hope. The resurrection that our society will someday get back to some semblance of what we’ve seen before: openness. Being able to give hugs to loved ones. Concerts. Ball games. Being able to go outside, in public, unmasked and without fear…being able to go anywhere you want, at any time you want, without being hassled (or at least being worried you might be), and without risking your life either. And our first responders — our medical personnel, police, fire, rescue, etc. — not to have to risk their lives every day in every way because they have no idea who’s carrying Covid-19, no idea who’s had it, and no idea whether or not their protection is good enough to keep them from getting it.

I think Jesus would appreciate us believing in all of these things, in addition to believing in Him today. (Or at least believing in what he showed us can be possible.)

And that is all I can say today, prayerfully, because I know it to be true.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 12, 2020 at 2:36 pm

By Their Fruits, Ye Shall…

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Folks, it’s Sunday. And I’ve been thinking (always a dangerous enterprise, believe me), mostly about Matthew 7:16. (A Biblical verse from the book of Matthew, that indicates.)

The King James version of this verse states:

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

But for whatever reason, in the modern era, we’ve turned that around. I’ve mostly heard it the other way, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.” And it is a warning, in either sense, of falseness — false prophets, false witness, prevarication in all forms.

So, when I hear something on CNN about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe being fired less than two days before he could’ve taken retirement, I am outraged. Whether you liked McCabe or hated him, he was a career public servant and deserved his pension. And firing him — supposedly with less than twenty-six hours before he could’ve put in for retirement — is flat-out low-class.

There is no reason whatsoever to do this. If you have any tact, decency, or even a working knowledge of the federal government at all, you let this man take his honorable retirement and go. He worked hard and he deserves that money. End of story.

The corollary is, if McCabe was such a “bad actor” (not that I believe he was), why wait until only twenty-six hours before he can take retirement to fire him? And why do it on a weekend, when it’ll be harder for him to respond or get his lawyers involved, as now they must, to fight for his pension?

If there has ever been a clearer statement of “by their fruits, ye shall know them,” I don’t know what it might be.

But let’s step away from politics, shall we? (I know that’s a mine-field.) And talk about personal dealings.

I’ve been sick now for at least a month. (Yes, this is germane, I promise.) I finished up an edit, and have been working very slowly on two more, and I haven’t given up. But I want to talk about the responses I’ve gotten since I admitted how sick I was. (I’m going back into urgent care this morning, BTW, and I hope they’ll find a way to get me a consult to an ear, nose, and throat doc.)

Two very good friends I hadn’t talked with much about this stepped up immediately and have asked daily about my health. They are honestly worried and I appreciate that. They care. That’s good.

By their fruits, I know they are worthy people.

Another very good friend brought me some food and went out to breakfast with me, on one of the few days I felt I could get out at all.

By her fruits, I know she is a worthy person.

Any number of others have written or inquired and asked me how I am, including my friend Tajwarr in India, who’s just finished up her training to become a MD. I very much appreciate this, too.

By their fruits, I know they are absolutely wonderful.

And not everyone knows I’m sick, and I get that.  Certainly not their fault I’m sick, and some people don’t know how to speak to someone who is sick…though I do wonder about them, and what that says about their fruits, if they know and say nothing, or know and choose to say nothing.

Jesus believed that you help the poor, the meek in spirit, the sick, the damaged, those in need of healing. He believed that you should comfort the afflicted. Nurture those who need it, out of the goodness of your hearts, out of the kindness of your souls, because when you do that, you are tapping most strongly into God’s love for us. (Or the Goddess’s, if you prefer, and I definitely do prefer.)

Anyway, I appreciate those among my friends who’ve tried to do that in their various ways. I will never forget it.

And those who have known, but said nothing?

Unfortunately, I will never forget that, either. Because their fruits have proven to be rotten. And I don’t need that in my life.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 18, 2018 at 7:10 am

Sunday Thoughts — Advice for the Downtrodden

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Folks, it’s Sunday, so I’d like to reflect a little bit on what’s been going on, both with me and the world (as far as I can tell, at least from this little corner of it), as I have a tendency to do on what most of the Westernized world considers to be the Sabbath.

Right now, I’m working hard on three different edits. I also have several writing works-in-progress I’m trying to devote some time to, and I also do what I can to help family and friends enjoy life (or at least not hate it quite so much) by reminding them that they, too, are valuable.

Life shouldn’t just be about work, you see. As wonderful as work can be — and I do enjoy, very much, my work as a writer and editor — it isn’t enough to give you personal satisfaction at a deep level.

Caring for others matters. Even when they can’t show you, it still matters. Because it’s done not to help you feel better, but to help them feel better. And virtue, sometimes, has to be its own reward…even if it does not seem like it at the time.

But how do you keep caring, keep trying, and keep reaching when you feel like your own, personal well of inspiration is dry?

I don’t have the answers to that. But I do know that if you give yourself some credit for all the effort you put in, even on the worst of days, you can get up the next day and try it again.

Everything you do matters. Whether it’s tangible or not, whether others realize it or not, it still is important. And I believe we were put here on this Earth to realize that very fact; that we are meant to not only improve ourselves, but to help others, and to feel less alone while doing it.

I may not be putting this the world’s best way, mind. I’ve still been fighting the vestiges of bronchitis, and also have been working a great deal (thus the not-so-much blogging I’ve done over the past week to ten days).

But I know this to be true: You do matter. To yourself, to the Deity, and to your friends and family, whether it seems like it or not. And whether they can show you…or not.

And you need to keep doing your best to use your talents productively, while encouraging others to do the same thing, because that, too, makes a positive difference in this world.

So if others are telling you that what you are doing doesn’t count, don’t listen.

And if you feel like your life is over, please believe me: it’s not.

Your viewpoint, your inspiration, your drive, your passion, are still there, whether you can feel them today or not. And you will use them to their utmost tomorrow, after you’ve rested.

Please, folks: Believe in yourselves, and believe there is a purpose for you being here. Do not believe in those who tear you down, and do your best to rise above, and keep rising no matter what negativity finds you.

That’s the best way to do good in this world that I know. And while doing your best, you may just find your way back to personal and job satisfaction…just a thought.

A Meditation on Forgiveness

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Sunday tends to bring some serious thoughts out in me, so I thought I’d discuss something that’s been on my mind lately. Namely, forgiveness…why is it so hard, and what are we supposed to do when it seems nigh onto impossible?

I was thinking about something Jesus apparently said any number of times, as quoted in the Bible. “Go, and sin no more.” Usually this was after someone had asked Jesus to absolve him (or her) of a sinful action. (Sometimes, it may have been because it was expected of Jesus, for all I know.) Which means the people who went to Jesus were looking for divine forgiveness, just showing that forgiveness has always been somewhat of a difficult art.

I don’t think you need to be as good of a soul as Jesus Christ was to forgive someone, mind. But Jesus helps to point the way when times are hard, bad, and it seems nearly impossible to forgive. (Mind, my late husband used to make the point all the time that someone has to ask for forgiveness, otherwise it doesn’t mean much. Without someone asking, there’s no acknowledgment from the transgressor that there was a problem in the first place, making any proffered forgiveness a moot issue.) Jesus pointed out that we should do our best to forgive, and hopefully that person would “sin no more” against us.

I would imagine it wasn’t all that easy for people to go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness or any sort of help. People don’t change that much over time, and we’ve always been a stiff-necked lot, we humans. As affable, as warm-hearted, and as caring a personage as Jesus undoubtedly was — without those qualities, the Twelve Apostles never would’ve followed him — it still took courage for people to go to Jesus and ask for help, especially at first when Jesus was not known as a prophet, healer, or Son of God.

So, why did they do it anyway?

My best guess is that people, then and now, want to be absolved of guilt. They may have hurt someone, without wishing to do so. They may have coveted another’s wife or goods — in this day and age, we don’t seem to worry about that as much so long as people don’t act, but back then, coveting was definitely seen as halfway to action. They may have had a horrible fight with a loved one, and now want to know how to come back from that mess and let their loved ones know that was an aberration, something they’re going to try to get past…

Something they don’t intend to repeat, if they can help it.

Maybe they tried to go to the person they hurt, and the words came out wrong. Maybe the person they hurt wouldn’t listen. Maybe they were so injured in spirit, they didn’t hear the remorse…or perhaps the person now seeking forgiveness truly doesn’t know how to ask, so it came out sounding like mockery instead.

I don’t know about you, but I have tried to ask for forgiveness in the past, and that is exactly how I sounded. And I’m sure I’m not the only person among all the human beings who’ve ever lived on Earth to sound this way.

That’s where Jesus came into play. He was willing to listen, and people were willing to go to him and confide, because of two things: Sometimes, people are more willing to tell a stranger their troubles than a loved one, because the stranger doesn’t matter as much in the long-term scheme of things nine times out of ten. And if you’re lucky, that person you’re confiding in, that stranger, is a good person who truly wants to help you, and will point the way toward a better resolution for you and the person you have hurt without injuring your pride too much in the process.

See, that’s another thing about we humans. We are also a prideful lot. And half the time, we get our backs up precisely because of pride.

Yet another thing that gets in the way of asking for forgiveness is our unwillingness to admit to making mistakes. (As a perfectionist by nature, I understand this one, too. But we aren’t called upon to be perfect; we can’t be. As the old bumper sticker used to say, “I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.”)

So, we need to get past our pride. We need to admit to making mistakes. And we somehow have to keep from getting our backs up when we need to ask for forgiveness — or when we actually do our best to forgive someone.

Now, that’s the next layer in this forgiveness onion that makes it tough. Too many people say they’ll forgive someone, and then they mouth the words but don’t actually feel the actions. They don’t feel their heart get lighter. They don’t try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes. They don’t try at all to do anything other than go through the motions, maybe because they don’t know that forgiveness is a verb — or at least, it should be.

So, if you decide you’re going to forgive someone — after they’ve no doubt asked for forgiveness — you need to make damned sure you’re actually going to do that very thing. It may not be easy. It may take a while for you to forgive. But you should search your heart, and your soul, and do whatever you can to empathize with those who’ve transgressed, because that’s the best way forward overall.

Anyway, I don’t know if I, or anyone else, can “Go, and sin no more.” But what I do know is that I can do my best to care. And try to rectify any mistakes, while being humble enough to admit I do not know everything and cannot know everything.

None of us can, except the Almighty/Higher Power. And that personage (of which Jesus is surely a part of) is not telling us everything, probably because that takes half the fun out of living.

And yes, making mistakes, and having to ask for forgiveness (as humbling as that is), is also part of living. So if you can’t “Go, and sin no more,” keep doing your best.

Because life, as we know it, is a work-in-progress. And we forget that at our own peril.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 7, 2018 at 5:08 am

Why I Can’t Stand Roy Moore

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Folks, Roy Moore is a candidate for the United States Senate in Alabama. He’s a Republican. And he has been accused of serial sexual assault, with many of the women he’s allegedly kissed, groped, fondled, or worse being under eighteen years of age.

And I can’t stand him.**

Maybe this sounds weird to have to point out. But in this day and age of extremely partisan, tribal politics, I have to do so.

Mind, I didn’t like Moore before this. And had good reasons for disliking him.

Why?

Well, the man has always been a holier-than-thou sort. There was the whole issue of putting a monument of the Ten Commandments from the Bible up, commissioned by Moore while he was the Chief Justice of Alabama, and how he refused to remove it until he was successfully sued.

To my mind, while I dislike that, it’s not so horrible I’d be writing this post. (Not without the allegations of serial sexual assault, many of his accusers being under eighteen at the time, some as young as fourteen.) But one of the other things he did before all these other allegations came out was extremely troubling, too.

What was that, you ask?

Simple. Moore told judges and justices in his state of Alabama not to honor the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that LGBT couples would now be allowed to marry legally in all fifty states, and was removed from his post as Chief Justice because of it.

So, Moore doesn’t seem to believe the rule of law applies to him. We know this by both of these decisions.

And getting back to the current accusations against Moore, I must point out that some of the accusers who’ve come out against him — again, some being as young as fourteen — have said Moore was a District Attorney (and in his early thirties, at minimum) at that time.

I have a real problem with that, too.

Look at the evidence of the things we do know for absolute facts, that of the Ten Commandments decision and the refusal to allow LGBT people to marry legally in Alabama despite SCOTUS’s decision. These two things show that Moore seems to believe only in himself, and his own views, and dislikes, distrusts, and disbelieves everything else.

If that’s the case, it’s much easier for me to believe that Moore may well have believed that anything he did, said, or felt was right, and didn’t even hear any of the young (or younger) women who have apparently said “no” over and over again.

That Roy Moore may still win the Senate seat in Alabama really vexes me. He is, at minimum, hard-headed, difficult, frustrating, and believes only in the most narrow-minded version of Christianity (the type of Christianity, I think, that Jesus Christ himself would neither condone nor accept). He hates the LGBT community, he doesn’t seem to like women, he doesn’t seem to like anyone other than himself…

And at maximum, Moore has probably assaulted many women. Some as young as fourteen. Which should be an immediate disqualification from office…period.

So why am I writing all this? Because Moore has no shame. Anyone else would’ve gotten out of the race, but not Moore. Instead, he’ll stay until the bitter end, and is making a great deal of money from small, grass-roots donors (who either don’t believe Moore’s accusers, or don’t care; I’m not sure which is worse).

That is disgusting. Shocking. Reprehensible. And should not be borne.

And yet, the GOP Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, has said two contradictory things:

  • She believes every single last one of Moore’s accusers.
  • But she will still vote for Roy Moore.

This makes no sense.

So, here’s the upshot, folks. I am appalled that this man is running for the Senate. I can’t stand him, and I wish he’d get out.

But since he won’t get out, I hope the voters of Alabama will do the next, best thing: vote for anyone else. (Including their dogs, their cats, or a wet piece of carpet lint.) Because any of them would make a better Senator than Roy Moore. Guaranteed.

—————

**Before anyone asks, I am against this sort of behavior. I detest it with a passion. I would hate it no matter who did it, and no matter what his/her political party affiliation. (That I have to even say this in 2017 is both maddening and frustrating. How tribal have our politics become, that I can’t even say I am very angry that a man accused of serial sexual assault is running for the high office of United States Senator without pointing out I’d detest that a Democrat, a Libertarian, or an alien did the same thing?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 17, 2017 at 6:16 pm

Sunday Reflection…about CHANGING FACES?

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Folks, over the last month or so, I’ve told you a lot about my new novel, CHANGING FACES. I’ve told you some of what I was about when I wrote it, and about my process in writing it, and about all sorts of other stuff…but as it’s Sunday, I thought I’d tell you the real reason I kept going.

After my husband Michael died in 2004, I was absolutely devastated. (I think everyone who regularly reads my blog knows this.) For a while, I didn’t recognize myself, at all…I was in so much pain, I could not create, could not write, could not play music, and saw no purpose to my life at all.

In the middle of 2005, one of my good friends asked me to come to Kansas City for a convention, ConQuesT. I had another friend offer to pay for my expenses while I was there; she and her family put me up in her house. It was the first time I’d tried to go that far away since Michael died, and because I was worried about the length of the drive, I took the Amtrak train from Chicago.

Little did I know that doing that would change my life. But it did.

I went to the convention, stayed with my friends, talked with my other friend (who was also at the convention), met some writers, all that. I felt a little better, being around people who were more like me; they didn’t see me as inherently flawed, inherently broken, or inherently irredeemable, just because my beloved husband was dead.

But that was not what changed things. (I’m getting to that, trust me.)

On the way back to Chicago, I met a minister and his wife. His name was Reverend Evans, and was an older black gentleman. He told me about his life, and his work, but mostly listened to me as I told him about everything going on — my frustration, pain, anger, rage, all that. And about how I couldn’t write, but had two novels in progress — ELFY, and CHANGING FACES. And that I wondered if there was any reason, any reason at all, I was still alive.

Rev. Evans could’ve easily thrown platitudes my way. But he didn’t.

Instead, he said that God is love, and that I knew that, because I’d seen it. Reflected in the eyes of my husband, for one; and in every word I wrote, and had ever written, for another.

This all made sense to me.

And he talked a great deal about CHANGING FACES. He said he thought I was still here to finish it. Because the world needed to know that we all need love. Regardless of race, creed, sexuality, gender preference, love is what matters.

And finding love, reflecting that love, is what’s most important.

But believing in yourself, and your talents, is also important.

Why?

Because that’s how we best enhance the Godhead.

See, our creativity comes from the Higher Power, and as such, when we are creative, we are reflecting that love and faith…and it gives back to the universe, which gives back to us.

I view talking to Reverend Evans as one of the most pivotal moments of my life. He reminded me that I still had things to do. And that even though Michael had been embraced by God/dess, and was no longer here for me to embrace, I could still be a testament to that love, so long as I kept trying.

And I’d like to think that in getting ELFY published (albeit in two parts, as AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE) along with CHANGING FACES, I have done some of what I was put here to do.

*****

There are two guest blogs I’d also like to point you to, before I go. The first is new today, and is up at Kayelle Allen’s blog…it’s about writing bisexual characters. (Or at least a bisexual character.)

Here’s a bit from that:

Now, as to why (Elaine) still couldn’t accept herself as gender-fluid easily? Well, as a society, we’re only beginning to learn about people who don’t always feel male or female. Sometimes they feel one way, sometimes another, maybe a third time they have a mix of both traits. Gender preference is not the same thing as sexuality; not by a mile.

So, Elaine has dated women and men. She sees the worth of a person and is not automatically attracted only to one sex. In a way, Elaine isn’t attracted by anyone, sexually. She’s only attracted mentally and emotionally, and then, much later, sex comes into the picture. But that’s not that strange, considering she’s a scholarly sort. She can see into a person, and evaluate who that person is, in a way most people don’t. She doesn’t even think to do this because how she views people is part of who she is.

Ultimately, love is love. Who you love is far more important than what gender your love happens to be. Seeing a person’s soul, seeing a person’s heart, seeing a person’s worth, is far more important than whether that person is straight, gay, bisexual, or Martian.

Obviously, I believe this. (So did Reverend Evans. So did my late husband, Michael.)

And the second is an interview with Mayra Calvani; here’s a bit from that about my favorite authors (hint, hint — I mention Katharine Kimbriel, Jason Cordova, and Chris Nuttall here, so do tell your friends):

First, Lois McMaster Bujold is one of the best writers working today. She combines humor, scientific expertise, world building, romance, characterization, heart, and much more in a package that is incredibly appealing. She’s considered one of science fiction and fantasy’s modern masters by many, and for good reason.

Second, the work of Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is phenomenal. She has written three hard SF books in her Chronicles of Nuala series, and three alternate history/fantasy books in her Night Calls series. They are all excellent books with great writing, wonderful characterization, world building to spare, humor that arises from the characterization…just can’t say enough about her books. (And that she isn’t as well-known as LMB just vexes me. Writing of this quality should be celebrated far and wide, methinks.)

Third, I’m fond of Linnea Sinclair. She combines romance and SF in a way I find very appealing.

Fourth, my early mentor, Rosemary Edghill, writes exceptionally well in a wide variety of genres, from detective stories to Regency romance to urban fantasy (and beyond). The way she uses language is wonderful, and I always learn from her work, whenever I pick it up. (It’s like meeting an old friend.)

“But Barb,” I hear you protest. “What about the male authors?”

Oh, I have a number of favorites there, too. Robert A. Heinlein, Stephen R. Donaldson, David Weber, Dave Freer, Eric Flint…and don’t discount my friends Chris Nuttall or Jason Cordova, either. (Chris is so prolific, he’s put out at least ten books a year in various genres for five years running. Chris has gotten so good, he just might end up with one of those major awards like the Hugo or Nebula one of these years. And Jason can write anything…just give him time, and he’ll figure out a way to write it and sell a ton of books. That’s just how he is.)

So, there you have it.

Have a good Sunday, folks.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 19, 2017 at 4:17 pm

Easter Week Thoughts: Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

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Is it possible for human beings to comprehend that other people have burdens, too?

Sure, we know our own burdens — the problems we carry mile after mile, day after day. They’ve become so much a part of us, it goes without saying…they’re just there, and we keep on shouldering them because we know no other way.

But we don’t always know what burdens the other person is carrying, just as the other person doesn’t know our burdens.

Yes, there’s a way around this problem. You can ask what’s going on. Maybe you can help shoulder the load for a while, if the other person allows it…if the other person lets you reach inside, so you can see them in the same way you see yourself.

Because it’s Easter Week, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I know all sorts of people, and every one of them has problems. Some are more profound than others; some are of more immediate concern than others, too. But every single last one of us has problems.

Buddha recognized that, in his time. So did Jesus Christ. So did other notable religious figures…it’s one of those universal truths that everyone respects, but no one knows how to solve. (Though Buddha’s dispassionate look at suffering is certainly worth a try, to be sure.)

Is it possible for us to carry each other’s burdens? Can pain be halved, if someone else knows of it and cares about you and wants to relieve your burden(s)?

I hope so. I believe so. But I don’t know for certain.

What I do know, for certain, is that if you don’t talk about what’s bothering you — or worse, you can’t talk about what’s bothering you — for most of us, that pressure builds and builds like heating food inside a pressure cooker. Eventually, as in the pressure cooker, that heat is going to escape…and it might escape in all directions.

That’s why discussing your problems, discussing your pain, discussing your burdens, can give comfort and peace even if there’s no ready solution for any of them.

Try not to be upset if you need to unburden yourself. Why?

Two examples:

  • Mother Teresa talked of how depression could overcome her, in her diaries. (In her case, she was definitely unburdening herself to the Higher Power.) She gained comfort and clarity from this, and was able to go back to her work with the poor of Calcutta with a lighter heart.
  • And Jesus Christ, the night before he was taken to be crucified, seems in retrospect to have wanted his friends to know he was aware of his fate and accepted it. (If that doesn’t show just how much comfort can be gained by discussion, I don’t know what will.)

Maybe this is why unburdening yourself to a friend tends to help, even if your friend cannot solve your problem(s) for you. By doing so, you remind yourself that you’re not alone, and that someone else cares about you and the burdens you carry.

That, to my mind, is an important thing to keep in mind. Especially during Easter Week.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 22, 2016 at 4:18 am

Time to Forgive Mel Gibson?

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Yesterday, journalist Allison Hope Weiner (writing for Deadline.com) asked an interesting question: Why won’t Hollywood forgive Mel Gibson?

Most of us remember Gibson’s rants during his split with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2010, as they were heavily publicized. He sounded demented, and there was no plea from Gibson for the media to back off that was ever publicized — something I found a bit odd at the time, but dismissed considering the state of the media, as  sometimes a Hollywood star’s denials are given but not publicized widely, depending on what other stories happen to be going on at the same time that might crowd out the denial(s).

And those weren’t the first of Gibson’s problems, as he made widely publicized anti-Semitic remarks once stopped by a Jewish policeman after driving while intoxicated back in 2006. Again, Gibson’s pleas for forgiveness were not widely covered, which in retrospect is very odd.

Consider, please, that Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears or any number of other Hollywood types have asked for forgiveness. This is something many celebrities do as a matter of course, often in as insincere of a manner as can be possibly imagined. And most of the time, the media is all over it.

Not necessarily the case back in 2006. But again, I dismissed the thought as irrelevant.

But to Ms. Weiner’s mind, that thought was and is very relevant. Which is why she’s made her plea to Hollywood that they should just forgive Mel Gibson and be done with it.

Ms. Weiner’s plea with regards to Mel Gibson is significant for more than one reason. She’d been harshly critical of him back in 2006 and again in 2010, and even now isn’t shy about saying so. His actions were reprehensible, she said so, and she hasn’t changed her mind about those actions.

What has changed, she says, is how she views Gibson’s actions now that she can put them into better context. Gibson is someone who’s helped many other actors, including Robert Downey, Jr., when they’ve been down and out, which is the sign of someone who cares. But he’s never wanted publicity for that, or most of his charitable pursuits, or most of the good things he’s done outside of the public eye, because as a moral person who believes in the Higher Power, you’re not supposed to do these things for any reason aside from wanting to glorify God/dess.

And it makes Ms. Weiner wonder about other Hollywood celebrities who’ve been vilified by the media for comments that seem off the wall or even flat-out wrong, too, such as Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise: Could it be that we are not getting the full picture about these people?

As Ms. Weiner says:

It might sound naïve after 20 years writing about celebrities, but my friendship with Gibson made me reconsider other celebrities whose public images became tarnished by the media’s rush to judge and marginalize the rich and famous. Whether it’s Gibson, Tom Cruise or Alec Baldwin, the descent from media darling to pariah can happen quickly after they do something dumb. I was part of that pack of journalists paid to pounce, so I know. I consider myself intelligent, someone who makes up her own mind, but just like readers do, I have accepted some reports at face value. The press said that based on Gibson’s statements, he was a homophobe, a misogynist, a bully, an ant-Semite, so he must be. What he was, I discovered, was an alcoholic whose first outburst was captured after he fell off the wagon. What the later release of audiotapes showed was a man with a frightening temper, capable of saying whatever will most offend the target of his anger.

Later, Ms. Weiner discusses what Gibson has done quietly and outside of the public eye to try to redeem himself from such things:

In his second apology on the anti-Semitic statements, Gibson promised to reach out to Jewish leaders. Gibson followed up by meeting with a wide variety of them. He gave me their names when I asked, but Gibson asked me not to publish them because he didn’t want them dragged into public controversy or worse, think he was using them. The meetings were not some photo op to him, he told me, but rather his desire to understand Judaism and personally apologize for the unkind things he said. He has learned much about the Jewish religion, befriending a number of Rabbis and attending his share of Shabbat dinners, Passover Seders and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur dinners. I believe that effort, along with our conversations, helped him understand why Jewish people reacted as they did to The Passion Of The Christ and why there was Jewish support for the Second Vatican Council. Gibson has quietly donated millions to charitable Jewish causes, in keeping with one of the highest forms of Tzedakah in the Jewish faith, giving when the recipient doesn’t know your identity.

In other words, Ms. Weiner is saying that Gibson basically has hurt himself in Hollywood because he’s not been the typical self-serving actor/director Hollywood generally sees. And because Gibson’s sense of responsibility is strong, but very quiet, Hollywood continues to feel good about its collective self because it continues to ostracize Gibson — one of the highest-grossing actors the world has ever seen, and one of its best directors and producers, too.

Her essay is an intriguing portrait of a difficult, yet vivid man. A sinner among sinners, perhaps, if you use the terminology of Christianity as seems appropriate during this time of Lent. Far from an altar boy, but much less than an unrepentant anti-Semite, Mel Gibson is a human being, with all the quirks and talents of any other human being.

But because Hollywood insists you must be perfect all the time — “fake it ’til you make it” — and Gibson is demonstrably not perfect, it’s OK to vilify him?

After reading Ms. Weiner’s essay, I came away with three thoughts:

  • We are all human beings who make mistakes, sometimes bad ones.
  • Most of us would not want those mistakes to be broadcast to millions upon millions of people due to the basis of some sort of international celebrity status.
  • Why isn’t forgiveness viewed as essential any longer in contemporary American society?

Because make no mistake about it: if forgiveness was important in the United States, Mel Gibson would’ve been forgiven — or at least forgotten — long ago. And while Gibson didn’t publicly ask for forgiveness, he certainly did so privately.

And really, isn’t that more than enough?

12-year Veteran NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out as Gay in Sports Illustrated Article

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Today was a watershed moment in American sports history, because today was the day that Jason Collins, a 12-year veteran center in the National Basketball Association, came out as gay.  Collins is the first-ever professional athlete in any of the four major professional sports — hockey, baseball, basketball, or football — to come out while he’s still playing.

My first reaction: Hallelujah!

Then I read Jason Collins’ three-page, first-person story in Sports Illustrated (written with Franz Lidz).  There are many relevant things here, including why Collins felt the need to come out, what his background is (he’s Christian and believes in Jesus, who promoted tolerance and mutual understanding), and why being gay is not a choice.

Instead, it’s just who Collins is, right along with his basketball ability, his love for history and the civil rights struggle, and many other admirable qualities.

Here’s a relevant quote from the third page of the SI story:

Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start. It all comes down to education. I’ll sit down with any player who’s uneasy about my coming out. Being gay is not a choice. This is the tough road and at times the lonely road. Former players like Tim Hardaway, who said “I hate gay people” (and then became a supporter of gay rights), fuel homophobia. Tim is an adult. He’s entitled to his opinion. God bless America. Still, if I’m up against an intolerant player, I’ll set a pretty hard pick on him. And then move on.

I agree.

Speaking of Tim Hardaway, as Collins said, Hardaway has completely changed his opinion.  Michael Rosenberg wrote at Sports Illustrated about how others have reacted to Jason Collins’ groundbreaking announcement — remember, Collins is the first-ever pro athlete to come out as gay in a major male American professional sport while he’s still an active player — and he included a quote from Hardaway:

Several years ago, (Tim) Hardaway made some harsh anti-gay comments, and the backlash was severe enough that Hardaway decided to educate himself about homosexuality. His views have changed radically. He told me he was wrong several years ago, and that gay people deserve the same rights that heterosexuals have.

Hardaway, who now works for the Miami Heat, also said this:

“If people on teams were to come out, people would get over it and accept it and move forward. I really do think that. Any sport. If one person or two people, whoever, comes out in any sport, that sport will accept it and go from there.”

My second reaction: Amen!

Then I read this story by openly lesbian professional tennis player Martina Navratilova, also at SI.  Navratilova knows a great deal about professional pressure to remain closeted, as she was the first major pro sports player in any league to come out as lesbian back in 1981.

Navratilova praises Collins, which makes sense, and then gives a brief history of how difficult it’s been up until the past few years to get support in any professional sports league for gay rights, including the ability to be open about your sexuality rather than closeted.  But she stumbles a bit, in my opinion at least, when she references the late, great Reggie White.

White, as any Packers fan knows, was one of the greatest defensive ends in the National Football League (see this link from Packers.com that summarizes White’s career nicely), and was enshrined in the NFL’s Hall of Fame in 2006.  He was also a Christian minister, and had been raised with fundamentalist Southern Christian values.  Because of this, while White loved everyone, he was not particularly tolerant of gays and lesbians and actually took part in a well-advertised TV campaign to try and get GLBT people to “cease” their homosexuality.

This was offensive, and both the NFL and the Green Bay Packers objected — but for the wrong reason as they were more upset that Reggie actually wore his football jersey in the ads than anything else.

White also could be verbally awkward, as when he went to address the Wisconsin Legislature in March of 1998.  White said something about how Asians are endlessly inventive that sounded awful, like a racial stereotype, rather than the compliment he had intended.  And his comments about other races, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans were no better.

All of these things caused White to lose out on a professional announcing gig after he finished playing football.  So White did suffer censure.

White died in 2004.  And at the time, he was attempting to educate himself in ancient Aramaic, as he believed that certain scriptures of the Bible may have suffered by translation — which means that he had apparently had a consciousness raising of sorts.  But he didn’t get the time he needed to learn more, as he died of sleep apnea.  (Here’s a link to the Reggie White Sleep Disorders Foundation, which is located in West Allis, Wisconsin.)

Now, whether this means White would’ve evolved on this issue is unknown.  But I do know that in 2004, President Obama was against gay marriage.  Hillary R. Clinton, while adamantly for gay rights in most senses, was also against gay marriage, as was her husband the former President.  Tim Hardaway was still against gay rights (which, to be fair, Obama and the two Clintons were for), and hadn’t yet educated himself on this issue.  And there were many, many people in all walks of life who said ignorant and bigoted things about GLBT Americans — so Reggie White was not alone.

Look.  I met Reggie White in the summer of 1996.  He was promoting one of his books, which was a Christian missive about how you need to make the most of every day you’re on this Earth and treat people with kindness and respect.  I got to talk with him for fifteen or twenty minutes, without handlers of any sort, as I apparently impressed him because I didn’t ask for an autograph and just talked with him as a real, live human being.  (Thank God/dess for book tours, eh?)

I related to White as a minister, and didn’t see him solely as a great football player.  And White was a compassionate, caring man — he wanted to know what was going on in my life, and he gave me some advice that’s stuck with me to this day.

I truly believe that had White lived to see 2013, between his studies of Aramaic (he even was studying the Torah itself) and his knowledge of people and his love for everyone, he most likely would’ve changed his opinion.  He may have even worked with Athlete Ally, which is a group of straight athletes supporting gay athletes — something that didn’t exist in 2004.

We all have to remember that when White died, he was only 43.  He lived a good life.  He loved God (who he couldn’t help but see as male, but also saw as all-inclusive — I know this from talking with him).  He cared about everyone, and he loved everyone.

But he didn’t get to live another nine years.  And in those nine years, anything could’ve happened.

That’s why I wish Navratilova had picked a still-living athlete with a homophobic stance.  Because there are still quite a number of those, and with one of those she could’ve had a good, spirited and honest debate as to why whomever she’d picked is still so closed-minded in this day and age.

But as she didn’t — and as I’m a Packers fan who once got to speak with Reggie White at great length — I felt I should respond.  Because it’s only right . . . White was a great man in many respects, but yes, he was flawed on this issue.

Still.  He was a great man, and he is now deceased.  It is time to let the dead rest, while we continue to support progress in all aspects of American life.