About Hannah Siegmund @ThisVeganWhimsy

I'm a girl with more questions than answers, more confusion than clarity, and more ideas than strategies. I'm also a girl with more hope than pessimism. I don't always like the end result of my studies, but I crave the process of discovery and the chance to discuss issues with others. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions you may have. I might not know the answer, but together we can grow and expand!

Birth Control: A Few Words

These points were born out of a conversation about birth control on my facebook page, in response to this article: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/privilege-and-the-pill.  The article, by the way, is fantastic and everyone should read it.

1. Population control. It’s certainly no surprise that the world’s population may reach unsustainable levels in the near future.  This is a multi-pronged problem and cannot be addressed by birth control alone (please note that when I say “birth control” I include all forms in a general manner, not just the pill).  Part of the problem is our consumption levels.  The entire world cannot consume at the level that the West consumes without wreaking havoc on the earth and our ability to exist on it.  For example, the entire world cannot eat animal products like Americans do.  It’s not sustainable already.  Birth control cannot hope to fix the problem of overpopulation, but I feel that it is an important tool.  Less babies = less people.  There is evidence to support that those who have the most children are the most unable financially and socially to care for them.  In poor countries (and even poor America), free contraceptives could alleviate some of the burden placed on welfare.  Note that I said “some.”  Just as I previously stated, birth control is not a catch-all.

2. Why is birth control “vitally important” to women’s health?  I can speak from both personal experience here, and from my relationships with many women my own age.  I am rather psychopathic for about a week and a half every month without birth control.  That in itself might be manageable, if it were not for the debilitating cramps and migraines that come along with the emotions.  Prior to to starting a birth control regimen, my cramps would be so bad some days that I could not stand up straight, and could barely get out of bed.  Birth control has all but eliminated these issues.  I am actually terrified of going off the pill when I am ready to have children because I remember how awful it was before.  For me, birth control is “vitally important” to my health (and the sanity of my husband and those around me).  Many women I know share a similar story and could not imagine going back to life without birth control.  Yes, some women cannot handle the pill as it causes adverse effects on their bodies.  My own sister-in-law was hospitalized from a blood clot caused by birth control.  There are very real and potentially deadly side effects from the pill, just as with any medication.  Nevertheless, to the majority of women who have access to it, the pill is somewhat of a lifesaver.  Some medical conditions can be treated or made manageable with the pill.

3. Birth control as a “chemical assault” on a woman’s body.  I do not agree with this sensationalism, unless we are prepared to call every medicine a “chemical assault.”  Obviously the pill effects changes inside a woman’s body.  These changes do need to be, nor should they be, classified as an assault, unless related to one of the aforementioned women who cannot take the pill for adverse health effects (just as there are people who cannot take other medicines).  I do not feel “assaulted” by the pill.  In fact, I feel much better when I’m taking it, as it prevents my body from assaulting itself.

4. Does birth control lower the rate of abortions?  I do not have any studies to cite here, though I am sure there are some to be found if one is interested in doing enough research.  I can, again, only speak from personal experience and that of my female friends.  There was a time in my life in which I thought I was pregnant, and I was not yet on birth control.  I can say without a doubt that I would have gotten an abortion if I had indeed been pregnant.  I did not have the emotional, financial, or personal stability/resources to handle the birth of a child or pregnancy, and I was terrified.  Of course I do not pretend to discuss the situation lightly and I would not wish that decision on anyone, but I do understand both sides of the argument.  I know women who have chosen to keep their children, and women who have chosen to have an abortion.  In all of the cases I can think of right now (6), the pregnancies could have been prevented had the female been on the pill or used another form of birth control.  Four out of the six women chose to have an abortion.  So four abortions could have been avoided if contraceptives had been available and utilized.  I firmly believe that a female’s access to birth control is inextricably linked to the abortion rate.

5. Are all abortions the same?  Or, what do we mean when we say “abortion”? Clearly the answer to this question depends on your view of when life begins.  If you believe life begins the moment the sperm reaches a woman’s egg, then anything that causes that embryo not to reach full-term could be considered an abortion (incidentally, as is pointed out in the linked article, a female’s body has the ability to abort its own embryos).  The question is, does potential for life equal a soul?  Yes, an embryo is a living organism with the potential to grow into a human form.  But at what point is an embryo endowed with a soul?  If it is at conception, what about the embryos that a woman’s body self-aborts?  Will we have hundreds of children dancing about in heaven that we’ve never met before after we die?  If so, will they be children, or will they be adults?  In what form will these potential souls exist?  And if these souls include the embryos that woman’s body self-aborts, there must be billions of them.
Alternatively, if you believe that life begins at implantation, or when the heartbeat begins, or at any other point further down the line, then a contraceptive that does not allow implantation would not be considered an abortant by you.  Clearly our society feels very strongly that preventing an embryo from implanting is different than taking the life of a nearly fully formed baby in the third trimester.  There is no easy answer to this question, but each individual will likely have to form her/his own opinion.

6. If we are to adhere to the belief that life begins at conception, is the abortion of these countless pregnancies by birth control a genocide?  Perhaps in the sense that living organisms have been killed, yes.  But it is folly to suggest that this is on the same level as an actual killing of a person or group of people.  For one thing, an un-implanted embryo cannot feel or process thoughts.  It cannot be afraid of its own demise, feel pain or mental anguish, or even know that it is being terminated.  In effect, it is the potential for life that is terminated.  Obviously it is preferable to terminate a life that doesn’t know it exists over a life that does.  In the same vein, quantity is not the decider of qualitative differences.  Qualitative differences themselves can act as a decider.  The simple fact that an embryo can’t feel makes it significantly easier to terminate it.

7. Should businesses be forced to provide contraceptives?  This is also a difficult question, particularly amid the sensationalism the media has placed on it.  It is not as simple as “If you don’t like that they don’t provide birth control, don’t work there.”  as we have previously seen, contraceptives are desperately needed among the poor, who may not have the privilege to just “work somewhere else.”  In my opinion, unless the business is willing to provide insurance that completely (or very nearly completely) covers pre-natal and post-natal care, paid time off for maternity leave, and some form of child-care assistance after birth, contraceptives should be provided.  I will make an exception for churches and parachurch organizations (but only those who serve a specifically religious purpose), although I feel that they should state in their constitutions or charters their belief that life begins at conception.

Civil discussion is welcome, as are questions.


When Your Soul is Tired

Beautiful, wonderful, exhilarating life.

We live on a roller coaster with no stop button.  When we’re tired, stressed, broken, or sick, it keeps coming relentlessly.  No one shuts down the ride when its storming or its too dark to see.  There is no slowing down the pace or taking a breather, life doesn’t answer to our demands for a little peace and quiet, a little rest.

Ugly, devastating, exhausting life.

We can only travel at this breakneck speed for so long before we feel the strain.  It’s visible in the mirror in the dark circles under our eyes, the worry lines on our foreheads, and the emotional reactions over seemingly insignificant things.  What can we do?  We can’t just disappear from the world until we recover from the barrage.  Bills have to be paid, laundry and dishes pile up, and family and friends demand the attention they deserve.
So we trudge on
and on
and on.

Our bodies are tired, but more importantly our souls are tired.  When we have no rest for an extended period of time it is not just our physical bodies that suffer, it is our spirituality.  When we’re worn down and listless reading the Bible and talking to God are often the last things we want to do.  We want a vacation, or at least the phone to stop ringing for one day.  We want the cleaning to magically get done while we spend time in the sun at the beach.  We want to be lazy for a little while and ignore the demands of life.  All of these things can help us, provide us temporary relief and give us the strength to face another day.
So we take a breather, then trudge on
and on
and on.

And our souls fade, a little at a time.  Why is it that the last thing we reach for is God?

Jesus sighs, “How often I have longed to gather you together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34).  The best place for a baby chick is under her mother’s wings.  It’s warm and cozy there.  It’s safe.  She can sleep and relax, knowing that the mother is keeping a watchful eye for any dangers.  We have access to this place, to the open arms of God, but are we willing?

I’m sitting next to a window, and right outside under a bush is a mother duck sitting on her eggs.  She’s been there for hours, sometimes resting her head on her chest with one eye open, but at the slightest sound she is up and watchful, ready to protect her babies.  Every now and then she gets up, checks every single egg, then ruffles up her feathers and sits down again.  The ducklings don’t know how vigilant she is, or how much she worries over them.  All they have to do is grow; the mother will make sure they are safe.

Do we know how vigilant God is, and how much God worries over us?  Do we know that the safest place to be is under God’s wings?  It’s warm and cozy there, after all.  We can take a breath and relax, we can let our souls be revitalized.

Are we willing?

Keep Off the Lawn!

When I get old, I’m going to sit on my front porch and yell at the neighborhood kids when their ball rolls into my yard.  Kids, with their dirty fingers and sticky faces, and no sense of healthy boundaries.  I was one of those kids.  I ran wherever I wanted, usually disobeying specific signs that told me to stay off the grass, walk instead of run, or not to touch breakable items.  I’ve since grown out of this habit (mostly), but it manifests in different ways as we get older.  We are all guilty of ignoring notices that give us instruction, especially when it causes some inconvenience to us.  We are more important, after all.  We shouldn’t have to use the crosswalk one block up because it’s too far.  We shouldn’t have to eat like civilized people when in a restaurant because they pay people to clean up after us.  We should be able to walk on the lawn if we want to – after all, it’s just grass.  Usually, healthy grass can withstand this abuse.  But we don’t always have the healthiest of lawns.  

Sometimes we’re fragile, freshly laid sod, susceptible to both parasites and heavy rain.
Sometimes we’re brittle and slightly brown from drought, easily fractured by stomping feet.
Sometimes we’re choked up with weeds that block our ability to see the sun.

Life comes to stomp on our lawn no matter how healthy our grass is.  People say careless things and step on our feelings.  They might trip on something and fall on us, expecting a cushy landing.  They might intentionally hurt us, trampling on our spirit.  They might (metaphorically) let their dog poop on us, and not even bother to clean it up!  “They should know better!” we grumble.  “Didn’t they see our sign?”  


Our beautifully crafted “Keep Off the Grass!” sign, designed to keep us safe.  We want our lawn to be pristine and beautiful, a testament to how perfect our lives are on the surface.  If someone walks in our yard, they might notice the weeds, or that our grass is unhealthy, or that it’s sparse and hard instead of that lush green blanket we want people to think we have.  

Grass is so common most people don’t give it a second thought.  It is, however, one of the most resilient forms of vegetation.  After a forest fire, the grass comes back first.  In rocky and dry areas tufts of grass poke up from the earth, perhaps the only green for acres.  In Psalm 23 we read”He makes us lie down in green pastures” and we think of fields of sweet grass and flowers with a calm stream trickling by for refreshment.  This is an interpretation of that verse that fits our modern understanding of abundance.  In reality, much of Israel is a rocky desert.  There is not a large number of lush meadows, and the psalmist would not have had access to them.  The ancient Israelites were a mountain people, scraping out an existence among the rocks and hills of Judea.  A shepherd’s job was to lead the sheep through the dry and scraggly land, finding the hardy tufts of grass for them to feed on.  They usually had to cover a lot of land in search of these “green” areas.  Grazing a herd of sheep was not an easy job and it constantly required movement.  The pasture, no matter how green (usually not very) would be soon be depleted and the herd would plod on again, guided by their shepherd.

Daily the shepherd found food for his sheep.  Daily he provided what they would need to survive.  It’s hard for us when someone tramples our lawn, when we see a brown spot in the green, or we feel brittle and damaged from the weather.  It’s hard for us to trust that our Shepherd will provide when all around us we only see rocky desert.  In times like these we mumble halfheartedly “Give me this day my daily bread,” wishing all the while for a feast and leftovers to freeze for tomorrow.  We want security in things we can touch and see, security in signs that tell the world to leave us alone and stay out of our business.  We want proof that there will be food where we’re going, and we certainly don’t want to walk a long ways to get there.  

Yet we forget the first line of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack for nothing” (NLT).  Nothing?  That seems a bit far fetched.  We feel a lack when people say or do careless and hurtful things to us.  We feel a lack when people violate our boundaries and dump emotional problems on us without asking.  We feel a lack when we’re tired, stressed out, and doing too much.  We feel a lack when we neglect our relationship with God and attempt to fill that hole with other things.  The Shepherd knows this.  So we come back to that line in Psalm 23 with new understanding – “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”  The pastures where the ground is not so green, and the lying down not so comfortable.  The pastures just for today, because tomorrow he will lead us in a new direction, towards tomorrow’s daily bread.  The Shepherd makes us lie down because on our own we would keep going.  We’d keep wearing ourselves out, putting up signs, protecting our lawn.  It’s not our job to do these things – it’s the Shepherd’s.  The Shepherd keeps us safe, gives us food and rest, and shows us the paths to take.  All we have to do is follow.


Let’s Talk: Abortion and the Female Body

Let’s talk is a series dedicated to addressing tough issues civilly.  Comments will be moderated, and anything deemed hateful, a personal attack, or all around rude will be deleted.

Abortion is one of those things that people don’t talk about, like religion and politics.  Abortion is hush-hush business, especially among Christians.  Some studies estimate that 40% of abortions are obtained by Christian women, despite the violent rhetoric of the American church’s anti-abortion lobby.  40%!  That means nearly half of all abortions in America are obtained by self-proclaimed Christian women.

It’s important to note that there has never been a time in history with no abortions.  Abortions have always occurred.  Women have formulated many ways of terminating pregnancies, and will continue to do so, whether the practice is legal or not.  Making abortion illegal will never make it stop, though it may reduce the number. We can only attempt to change the hearts of women, and in doing so change minds as well.

1. Anti-abortion Does not Mean Pro-life.

It irritates me to no end when I see Christians picketing abortion clinics, while at the same time supporting war and the death penalty.  “Pro-life” means “Pro-ALL-Life.”  If we start adding stipulations to our principle of life, it becomes easier to judge one group that kills more than another.  If we are anti-abortion, but still support killing in other avenues, then we are not pro-life, but pro-birth.

“But soldiers are defending our freedom!”  But criminals deserve to die for their crimes!”  “But, but, BUT?!?!?!”

These sentiments are commonly held, but commonality does not inherently mean Christian.  What freedom are the soldiers defending?  Did God ordain this war?  Would we still say “God bless America” if we lost the war?  Does the criminal deserve to die more than you do?  Why?  Because his crime was worse?  In whose eyes?  Your eyes, or God’s eyes?  Do you believe in hell?  If you do, why would you support the death penalty for criminals?  Is it congruent with the Christian belief that all can be redeemed to kill someone, thereby taking away their ability to ever hear the gospel on earth?  We have to be careful to delineate which kind of life we support.

2. There are Many Reasons Women Chose to Have Abortions.

Please, let’s stop lumping all women who choose to terminate their pregnancies into one group.  The decision is different for every woman.  Are there some women who have no conflictions about ending their pregnancies?  Of course.  But for most women it is a difficult decision, influenced by many factors.  As a special note, the violent anti-abortion rhetoric put forward by the church actually serves to harm some expectant mothers.  I have personally spoken with several women who were more afraid of the judgement and ostracization they would face from their families and churches than they were of getting an abortion.  Like it or not, pregnancy out of wedlock still has a massive stigma attached to it.  Some girls are so afraid of how their parents would react that abortion seems like the only option.  Despite the fact that the man or boy plays an equal role in the inception of the baby, it is most often the female who is stigmatized.

4. The Unborn Child is Not Solely its Own Entity.

There are varying opinions on the level of rights an unborn baby should have.  Most Christians agree that the fetus is a human being, and therefore deserves a chance to live.  Christians also seem to disagree with the pro-abortion proclamation that “It’s the woman’s body!”  This is both true and not true simultaneously.  It is true that the fetus is an entity with the potential to develop into a full grown human baby.  In this sense, the fetus is not the woman’s body.  However, the fetus is not self-sustaining until 23 weeks.  The child cannot exist without the mother.  The mother’s dietary and lifestyle choices all affect the baby, because it is inextricably linked to the mother, or the female body.  If removed from the mother, the child will not survive.  In this sense, then, the baby is the woman’s body.  So we see that the two cannot be made into separate issues.

4. The Church Rarely Teaches Safe Sex.  Or, Making a Bad Situation Worse.

The Church has a long history of sticking its head in the sand when it comes to sex.  Should we teach teenagers and young adults to wait until marriage for sex?  Absolutely.  But teaching abstinence  has never stopped (or even slowed) the tide of relations among today’s youth.  Christian teenagers and young adults have sex at numbers comparable to non-Christians.  I cannot recall a single time in church or youth group gatherings that the actual process of sex was discussed. The process of a baby’s growth and development was also not ever discussed.  The typical conversation about sex in youth groups goes something like this:

Youth pastor holds up an oreo and asks who wants it.
Everyone wants it.
Youth pastor licks the oreo, or puts it in his mouth and spits it back out, then asks who wants it.
No one wants it.
Youth pastor makes comments about how a person who has had sex before marriage is like a slobbered on oreo.

This scenario is detrimental in two ways.  First, it teaches young people that they will be viewed as dirty and shameful if they have sex.  Second, it prevents any honesty from the youth who have already had sex.  Those who have “had their oreo licked,” so to speak, now know they are disgusting and they’ll never be good enough again.

As for discussing babies, it virtually never comes up.  There is no talk of how beautiful the gift of life is, the options for adoption, or the resources and support groups available for young mothers.  There are no trips to places where young single mothers congregate for the purpose of loving on them and helping them.  Despite the church’s promise that you can “Come as you are!” there is still a pervasive image of what a young female should be – read virginal, chaste, and definitely not pregnant.

5. Picketing Abortion Clinics is Not Going to Change Much.

Let’s think about this rationally.  A girl or woman is walking towards a clinic, most likely in an emotional state already, only to be screamed at by Christians holding a sign that tells her she’s a murderer.  Is she likely to turn around?  No.  If she does turn around, she will most likely come back later when things have quieted down.  What has happened, is that “Christian” has been cemented in her mind with the screaming people who made an already difficult day worse.

6. Love is All We Need.

How can we keep fetuses from being aborted?  Love.  How can we erase the stigma of pregnancy out of wedlock?  Love.  How can we make a person who has already had an abortion feel welcome in the church?  Love.

But what does this love look like?  It might be hard; we might have to work at it.  We might have to adopt the baby we told the mother not to abort.  We might have to drive mothers to their doctor’s appointments, and help pregnant teens study for school exams.  We might have to provide day care free of charge to single mothers who need to work.  We might have to pick up these children from school or cook dinner for them.  We might have to treat these mothers and children like they were our own family.  Because isn’t that what we are supposed to be, after all?  The Family of God?  I can’t picture Jesus snickering about a pregnant teenage girl, or picketing an abortion clinic, or telling someone sex outside of marriage turns her into a half-eaten oreo.

can picture Jesus being angry at those who pile shame on women, and ostracize them.  I can picture him bending down to pick up pieces of a broken life and put them back together.  I can picture him holding out his hand and saying “There’s room for you here, come inside.”  Shouldn’t we?

Veg Out: Being Vegan is Not a Cure-All

Lots of people ask me why I’m vegan.  Sometimes I say it’s for health reasons; sometimes I say it’s for the animals.  Sometimes I shrug and change the subject, hoping that the lack of meat in my life doesn’t make people start saying things like “BUT BACON!?#@@!??”  Truthfully though, before I cared even a little bit about the animals I stopped eating many animal products for health reasons.  It turns out that I am allergic to eggs and dairy, and consistently have digestive pyrotechnics that can make my life miserable.  I’m not saying this so that you feel sorry for me; please don’t.  My body is just doing at 24 what everyone else’s body does during middle age – rebelling against a lifetime of crappy treatment.

I bring this up only because I think people have a tendency to latch on the vegetarianism/veganism as a “Cure-All.”  If I’m vegan, I’ll be skinny.  If I’m vegan, I’ll be healthy.  If I’m vegan, I’ll never get sick.  This mindset does nothing but harm fledgling vegans.  It’s true, most people who follow a nutritionally responsible plant-based diet free from processed foods, unhealthy oils, and animal products become ill much less often than the average American.  But it still happens!  Vegans still get colds, flu bugs, and fevers.  Some still contract terminal illnesses that cannot be cured by diet alone.

Every time I have a bad day, I immediately want to throw my hands in the air and say “This isn’t working!”  Every time my stomach twists up with pain, I get disappointed and want to quit.  After all, if I’m not 100% better, 100% of the time, then it clearly isn’t worth it.  It’s so easy to forget that for every bad day, I’ve had 10 good ones.  And that the bad days aren’t quite so bad as they used to be, because my body isn’t exhausted from constantly fighting itself.  

A vegan diet is not a cure-all.  But it’s a cure-some (maybe even a cure-most) and that’s more than I can say for the medicinal options.


Complaining: Lament as a Means of Communication with God

Read these: Lamentations 1:11-12; 2:1-4, 17; 5:19-22 and Habakkuk 1:2, 5-11; 3:2, 17-19.  Does that fit your view of God?  Does it make you uncomfortable that the writers are so angry and voicing their complaints?

The passages in Lamentations and Habakkuk are striking, and unfortunately often left out of the canon taught in many American churches.  Why canonize such desperation, such wrenching accusations and cries for help?  Why preserve in sacred writings this anguish? It doesn’t fit with our modern view of a God who wants us to be “happy,” or our ever-popular prosperity theology.  The purpose of lament does not seem to be explicitly theological – by this I mean that general questions such as “Why do babies die?” and “Why do tsunamis happen?” are not at the forefront.  The foundation is personal experience.  The main problem is not that enemies ravaged cities, that famine and drought came, or that people are dying…it is that all these things happened and God stood by and allowed them.  And even worse than God allowing these horrors, God failed to respond when his people cried out for salvation.

I have a huge issue with churches who promote a health and wealth theology without making room for this integral part of faith.  We find laments in many parts of the Bible: in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the Psalms, and others.  I once heard a pastor say “We should never doubt our faith; if we doubt God then our relationship with him is in danger.” I couldn’t disagree more.  If our relationship with God does not have room for doubt, we need to go back and question what we have been taught.  Throughout the Old Testament there really isn’t punishment for doubt.  It is there for disobedience, self-absorption, unfaithfulness to the covenant, abuse of the poor, and failure to follow the law, but not for a broken soul questioning Yahweh.  There will always be times that require lament; there will always be questions rooted in personal loss and devastation that cannot be silenced.

I remember many times when I was younger being so afraid to voice any complaints to God because I was taught that it was disrespectful.  Finally a teacher told me “It’s okay to yell at God.  He can take it.”  While I don’t advocate “yelling” at God over petty life issues, her statement has merit.  I cry out to Yahweh because I do not understand, because it seems as though Yahweh has abandoned me, or worse – ignored my prayers completely.  I cry out because I want the relationship to continue, not because I want it to end and so am just spewing hate.  Lament challenges God, puts him on the spot.  Lament runs the risk that God will still choose not respond and that the silence felt now could last forever.  Lament takes sacred ideas about God and demands an answer for specific situations.  Overarching theological truths have no meaning if God does not respond here, and now.

Yet lament is hopeful.  It hopes that God will respond, that God will redeem, that by crying out God will be reminded his love and return to his children.  That God will once again become the “God who saves.”  It seems to me that lament, no matter how visceral or angry, ends with a question mark.  The lamenter wants a response from Yahweh and restored communication.  The lamenter wants a God-sized answer to a human question.

The most vivid example of lament in the New Testament is Jesus’ cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus knew the cup he was to drink; he understood his role and the awful things he would have to go through.  The problem was not that he was dying as a criminal – it was that the God with whom he had intimate communion and relationship had abandoned him.

There has to be lament for faith to withstand hardship.  This world is a desperately broken place.  Lament is, and should be, a step towards healing.

-as an aside, I would recommend Scott Ellington’s book “Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament” for anyone looking for more theological study on the issue.

Confessions: I am Mute

It is sobering to realize that after twenty-three years in the church, I do not know how to pray.  I do not know how to talk to God.  I only know how to talk about God.   This is normally fine, because my life is normally fine.  I have a wonderful husband, a cute apartment, and enough money to not worry much.

I am safe.
I am fed.
I am warm.
I am happy.

These are all good things.  But there are other things…things that gurgle about below.  The good things have made me bad.  Or, I was bad already, and I didn’t notice until I had good to compare it to.

I am materialistic.
I am shallow.
I do not like getting out of my middle class comfort zone.
I am lazy.
I am unforgiving.
I am entitled and elitist.

I think that all I have is mine and that I am the ruler of my kingdom.  Who has time for God in all this self-obsession?  Who has time for neighbor?

Love God, Love People.   I am not very committed to doing either.  Because I love myself, all dialogue is with myself.  This is a confession: I do not know how to pray.  Because I do not communicate with Love (God, who is all love) I have no love to give others.  Because I do not communicate with God I cannot love him.  How can I love that which I don’t know?  I pretend.  We pretend.  It is easy to speak of God, difficult to speak to God.  For what can we say, except “I repent?”  I would have to start every conversation by admitting that I am wrong, broken, hateful, selfish.

It’s easier not to speak.
It’s easier not to love.
It’s easier to be mute.

The Bible is full of stories, of prophets, of sinners, of great people.  None were silent.  The sinners proclaimed their sinfulness; they boasted in their success as if they had created it.  The faithful sang of their faithfulness; the doubtful whispered their doubts.  Silence is the enemy of relationship.  Relationships are messy.  They’re hard work.  People in relationship have to stop being selfish, stop trying to “win,” and stop ignoring issues.  People in relationships have to open their mouths.

Do you know how to pray?  Do you only speak with yourself?  Talk to God.  To God.  Start with “I’m sorry.”  Start with “I don’t know how.”  Start with “I don’t like this,” and “This is hard.”  You’ll get distracted; you’ll get discouraged.  But suddenly one day you’ll realize that you were talking to God without thinking about it.  Then listen.  For a minute, for an hour before you start speaking.  And then one day you’ll realize that God is talking back.

The deaf will hear.  The mute will speak (1).  We will love God, and it will be easy to love neighbor.

1: Matthew 7:31-37