The first thing that comes to mind for me is how often we look at each other and make judgments based on surface appearance and/or our opinions and ideals without getting to know the person behind the burqa or the bikini.   It is so unfortunate that in the short term, making assumptions about each other seems so much easier.  Today, I remind you and I remind myself to stop using stereotypes.  Making harsh and often untrue judgments against each other is a one way express ticket to Hell.  Call me old fashioned, but what if we took the time to listen, to care, to show love, mercy and grace or at the very least ask questions and then really hear the answers.  Imagine a world where we chose to think the best of each other, not the worst.  

Sadly, this cartoon reflects our attitudes today.  Attitudes that continue to make the world sick, corrupt minds, polarize humanity and validate our decisions to turn against each other.  It is so sad because whether we see it or not--just like this cartoon above-- we're in bondage.  To our ideals, our self-righteous existence, our flawed sense of justice and our perceived right to live our life... all the while judging others for living theirs.  Heaven, help us all is the cry of my heart.  Help us.  Help me.  To live what I believe.  To love my neighbor as myself.  To treat others with love and shower them with grace, especially when I believe they are in the wrong.  To trust God and walk in a judgment-free zone.  Oh to realize that I am not always right.  That I cannot see the entire story from beginning to end.  To know that try as I might, I am not a Savior (Jesus is) and that ultimately I do not have the power to set all things right.  This doesn't mean that I just give up, either.  No, I keep fighting, but I know that what Gandhi said is true... "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind."  The thought of this goes against everything in me when I am wronged, hurt or just plain ol' pissed off.  You see, if my eye is the one that just got poked, this feels unpopular and uncomfortable, but it is true nonetheless. So I continue to fight with an arsenal of non-traditional weapons: vulnerability, authenticity, grace, prayer and love.  Keep fighting.  Especially when it would be easier to just give up, cuss everybody out and go have a turkey sandwich.  I don't really like turkey, but you catch my drift.  

To remember the words of Jesus whenever I am tempted to judge someone,  "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone..."  Nice way to say shut the hell up and go sit down somewhere, huh?  Jesus is so loving and classy like that.  I want to be like him.  I do.  Yet I am too quick to pick up a stone or poke the eye of whoever just poked me, which is why I ask him to help me everyday.  Left to my own devices, I am a rank mess that overflows onto others.  We all are.  'Tis true.  But when I tune my heart to listen to his voice and meditate on his words in scripture, I go from a rank mess to a work-in-progress-masterpiece.  That's an upgrade that I'll take any day.    

When I'm tracking with Jesus, I'm not giving anybody else the side eye, philosophically venting about someone through my status update on Facebook or Tweeting with the power and speed of an F5 tornado.  Instead I feel settled, at peace and able to walk in Love because this is what I hear in my heart and spirit: we are all the same kind of different; we are His... I also realize that I am often doing the very thing that I am judging in someone else, which is why forgiveness wins, a little Grace can go a long way and Love is the best motivator.  You know, the kind, patient, non-envying, non-boasting, non-judgmental type of Love.  Not the counterfeit, narcissistic and currently prevalent idea of love that says: do it my way, it's all about me and gimme mine.  I'm talking about true Love.  The Love that we all desire deep down... Love that keeps no record of wrongs, does not dishonor others and always protects.  If you want, you can read more about that kind of Love here.  I truly desire that kind of Love in my life.  I want to give and receive Love.  

Receiving Love... God's unconditional love is step one.  Accepting that God loves you.  Unconditionally.  Yes, you.  God loves you no matter who you are, what you've done or what you're currently doing.    He loves you even if you don't love Him and contrary to popular belief, He loves everyone.  Everyone, which includes but is not limited to: Gays, Straights, Lesbians, Transgenders and Bisexuals... Liberals, Conservatives, Bigots and Activists...Folks who are Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced, Re-Married and Blended Families (hello, Jesus was in the first blended family)... He loves Criminals, Liars, Thieves and Drug Dealers alike... He loves Welfare Recipients, Coupon Queens, the Rich, the Poor, Orphans, Haters and everyone in between.  He loves President Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton too.  He loves people who wear a bikini and He loves people who wear a burqa too.  He loves everybody and He don't play favorites like we do*.  Accepting that fact is the hardest part, I think.  I still don't fully understand why He loves me, but I do accept it and I will tell you this: His Love is so wide and deep that you just can't wrap your mind around it.  Don't even try because it'll give you a fierce headache.  Trust me.  This is a love that defies reason.  His Love is a truth that you have to accept and believe with your heart.  You know that true Love is the majorly lacking component in this world of ours.  I believe this is precisely the reason why true Love is the gift that Jesus brings to each of us.  His Love is beautifully pure and simple because it's for you and it's free.  All you have to do?  Believe and embrace.  You see, the crux of it is this: we have to receive it before we can give it.  Try as we might, our best attempt at love is counterfeit until we get a taste of the real thing.  You can read more about this sweet Love here.  Accepting this free gift of Unconditional Love is step one.  The hardest part, I think.  So hard but so worth it because His Love is what makes me see that Ms. Bikini and Ms. Burqa are my sisters.  This Love is what motivates me to embrace the truth that we are more alike than different and it continually reminds me that we are somehow the same kind of different.  That our journeys parallel, but we can only know this about each other if we open our hearts, authentically share and truly listen without preconceived thoughts, notions and opinions.  Love prompts me to be part of the solution and gently reminds me that I am the pot so I need to stop calling the kettle black.    

Endnote: This was a weighty post for me.  I've been pondering it for months now and still the words did not go how or where I thought they would...  Yet, I followed the trail to the end and clicked "publish".  While I was mulling everything over in my heart, mind and soul, I asked a few folks to share their thoughts:  

"...the naked tail chick thinks she's free since she can dress how she wants, but showing her ass to everyone isn't really freedom.  It plays into nasty fantasies, but she's bought the lie. ..Meanwhile, Ms. Cover-Up... shows how free and holy she is, but that still plays into a very controlled and male-dominated society...  Two extremes that are both wrong." -Cheray

" One is using her body to get attention and validate her self worth.  She's not even using her mind and ironically, she covers her eyes, which are the window to her soul.  She will show skin but hide her true self.  The other exposes who she really is (through her eyes), but her skin, which is private, is covered."  -Holly

"Touche."  -my Hubster

What are your thoughts? 

*I'm bound to get flack for this statement, but I don't care because I didn't make the rule up.  God did.  (Those who don't like it can take it up with Him.) It's 100% true and the Bible proves it time and time again.  His Love is like the sun, it shines down on everyone, so don't let anyone tell you any different.  If you receive His Love, it'll change your life for the better and in more ways than you could ever imagine.   I'm living proof of that.  Pinky Promise.  

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