Sunday, August 30, 2020

What Bothers Me

I admit... I am tired!  Not because of COVID-19 and the guidelines that I am following.  Not because of the extended heat and humidity in the Southwest.  Not because of the natural disasters that are striking many areas of our country.

No, my tiredness comes from the division and disarray in our society.  There are so many reasons to come together and work toward a "more perfect union."  Instead, so many of us -- and myself included! -- are willing to label and accuse others of what is wrong with our world.

It feels so hopeless.  I don't know what to do?

Is your world in disarray?

I have been reviewing dialogue material studied a few years ago... with the hope of unlocking wisdom that has been forgotten.  A number of dialogue program graduates met via Zoom over several days this past week... with a desire to share our experiences and renew our energy.  I have mentored and been mentored... with the hope of understanding.

But, what happens when:

  • Facts are in dispute?
  • People don't want to dialogue (listen, share, and understand)?
  • Truth seems to be in question?

I admit... I am tired!

What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you believe?

What would it be like if we:
  • Set aside our assumptions and judgments?
  • Asked questions to explore another person's views?
  • Sought out aspirations in common (rather than differences that divide)?
I wonder what would happen if we stopped accusing others of lies and untruths and changed our language:
  • What are you experiencing?
  • Help me to understand.
  • How can I help?

Are you willing to add your piece of the Truth?

What vision of America do you have?  Are we there yet?  How do we move forward?

What piece of the puzzle do you have -- that must be shared -- to make this vision complete?  What happens when we exclude others who think differently?  The American Picture will never be complete without you... and without them.

I would pose that every puzzle piece is important and should not be thrown away!
I admit... I am tired!  I guess I am asking for your help to understand what is happening to our country... and how do we come together?  I will miss you if you are not part of the solution.  I hope you miss me if I am excluded.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Conventional Labels

Take a few minutes and write down 15 words that describe who you are.  Reflect on your list, and circle the most important descriptor.  Now, review the list:

  • Are the majority of the words roles and responsibilities (e.g., parent, child, relative, job)?
  • How many are adjectives (e.g., physical characteristics, intellectual, temperaments)?
  • Which descriptors are self-given?  How many are ways that people describe you?

Finally, mark those words that describe you as an individual and which describe you in relation to others.

It seems that we -- and others -- select words that describe the multiple facets of who we are in this world.  We try to understand how we are similar or different.

How do I define myself?
(Photo credit:  Cedric Richmond, Jr., Pledge of Allegiance,

Political conventions and campaigns use many labels to differentiate the candidates -- and followers -- from The Other.   Watching this week's Democratic Convention I noticed that I was "at home" (belonged) with some speeches but "felt distant" or separated from others.  I wonder if it will be the same next week while watching the Republican Convention?

Do I accept and perpetuate only those labels that bring me together with like-minded people?  Maybe I also accept and perpetuate labels that separate me from people who think differently.

How do we define ourselves?
(Photo credit:  RNC Convention 2016,,
Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)
Thirteen-year old Brayden Harrington spoke at the last night of the Democratic Convention.  He exemplified how labels can be overcome:  rather than being boxed in or shamed as a stutterer, he described how this characteristic allowed him to connect with another life-long stutterer, Joe Biden.  The courage of speaking out drew these two people together, to go beyond the label and see the true person.

Going back to your list of descriptors and the one circled as the most important:  how did it feel to limit yourself to one label?  Does this label connect you with others?

How do others define us?
(Photo credit:  Brayden Harrington, DNC Convention 2020,
Indiana Express)
I wonder how often our labels (of self and about others) are used to:
  • Build up or tear down?
  • Encourage exploration or hold us back?
  • Create relationships or separate us?

May Labels Used invite us to dialogue on their meaning and history.  May we seek courage to not allow labels to overrule the most important aspects of ourselves.  And may labels be used to bridge our differences.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Standing on the Shoulders

A few years ago my church was celebrating it's 90th anniversary.  The closing song each Sunday was "Standing on the Shoulders" -- an appropriate song and lyrics for the 90 years of people who had built and maintained this faith community.

What I didn't know about this song is that it was a women's rights suffrage song! (Click here to listen to the song and view some of our women pioneers.)

Some of the women in this video I recognized; some I knew by name only; others were unknown -- not part of my education or learning.

What else have I missed or not learned in my lifetime?

Do I know my history?
(Photo credit:  Women's Suffrage, History Channel)

Why is Standing on the Shoulders so important?  August 18, 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to our Constitution:  "declaring for the first time that they [women], like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship."

Also, in light of our recent protests and struggles, others in our society are demanding to be heard and to be treated with justice and equality.

Standing on the Shoulders is  an invitation to honor those who have preceded us -- expanding our American liberties and values.  It is an invitation -- and a challenge -- to "come in and learn."


Am I willing to "come in and learn"?
(Photo credit:  Women's Suffrage, History Channel)

As I ponder this significant anniversary in light of our dialogue practices, I am learning that dialogue sometimes is a messy business.

 We are asked to:

  • Hold lightly what we have learned -- or not learned.
  • Seek truth and new understanding -- even when we don't want to listen.
  • Accept the vulnerability that comes with not knowing -- as we heal together.

And possibly, becoming comfortable with demands for change in our relationships.

How do I seek equality?
(Photo credit:  Women's Suffrage, History Channel)
As we celebrate the century where women have had the right to vote, let us also remember the many women before 1920 who could not vote -- yet created a movement that promoted a future for others.

May we be thankful for the women who have gone before us -- our mothers, grandmothers, spouses or significant others, work colleagues, and friends -- teaching us and helping us to become better people.
May we pay attention to the dreams and needs of women and others who seek justice and equality today.
May we become the change that allows others to stand on our shoulders for future generations -- bettered by our actions of love, rights, equality, and acceptance.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Challenge of Rainbows

It's been a beautiful summer:  seasonal warmth, plenty of sunshine, and no rain for weeks.  But, to be honest:  I miss rainbows!

Each summer day brings predictable weather patterns for this time of year: patterns that are all too familiar.  And, with the continued "stay at home" restrictions, I have become accustomed to a COVID-rhythym as well:  pandemically-induced separation of people, places, and activities Ionged for.

I miss the unexpected encounters with nature and people.  The surprises and gifts that each day brings.

How do you respond when seeing beauty?

Though I understand the dynamics that create a rainbow ("reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky"), I always pause, stare, and reflect on their short-lived beauty.

There is something magical -- or spiritual -- about the message of peace when body and soul reconnect with nature.

Do you anticipate the unexpected?

I wonder about our reactions when we encounter others:

  • Do we expect to see beauty?
  • Do we stand in awe at the goodness revealed?
  • Are we touched to our core when a Spectrum of Light appears between us?

Can you see the beauty in others?

Dialogue invites us to appreciate the warmth of our relationships and share the rhythms of our lives' patterns.  I hope that we also would yearn for the rainbows that connect us:

  • Reflecting on words spoken;
  • Refracting the direction of misunderstandings; and,
  • Dispersing inaccurate assumptions and conclusions that separate us.


Let us Anticipate Rainbows this next week as we engage with others and stand in awe at Peace Renewed.


Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Maintaining What Connects

Over twenty-five years and the wisdom of Forrest Gump lives on!  Just think of the number of sayings that are now part of our culture:
  • You have to do the best with what God gave you.
  • You've got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
  • Stupid is as stupid does.
  • What's normal anyways?
And my favorite:  "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." (See Parade:  20 Classic Forrest Gump Quotes for additional sayings.)

How do you experience the world?
(Photo credit:  Forrest Gump Facts
No One Saw Coming

As I reflect on the importance of dialogue in today's divided world, my mind focuses on these wise words from a simple story:
  • The opportunities to experience the different flavors of our world.
  • The importance of letting go and moving on.
  • The possibility that normal may not be the anchor we seek.

If these words are true, how we do handle the ups and downs of today's pandemic-plagued world?

How do you respond to the ups
and downs in your life?
(Photo credit:  How to Do 5 Awesome Yo-Yo Tricks)

Our health professionals have provided guidelines to minimize the spread of the coronavirus: wear facial coverings; physically distance; and wash our hands frequently.  Can similar precautions  be used to address the societal pandemic of distrust and separation that contaminates our words and actions?

We not only are experiencing a physical illness spreading throughout the world, but there is a spiritual and societal virus that is undermining our relationships.

As we yo-yo through the ups and downs of today's modern world, maybe we are missing something important.

What do you do when your relationships
are stretched?
(Photo Credit: I'm a Human Rubber Band,
Human Puppets)

For instance, we seem to focus on the Up-or-Down, the Either-Or, the Right-or-Wrong of a situation.  The invitation for our dialogue practices is to explore a Third Option.  Rather than looking for the:
  • Up or Down movement  of the Yo-Yo:  how do we strengthen or maintain the string?
  • Expanding or Contracting of a Rubber Band: how do we keep the rubber elastic?

If life is like a box of chocolates, I wonder why I only eat the candies I like?  If I want to move on, why do I hold onto past slights?  If I recognize the stupid actions of others, am I guilty of stupid actions as well?

The challenge this week is to focus on the string and the elasticity of the relationships in our lives... looking for the third options that strengthen the best that God has given us.

Enjoy life this week... and try a new piece of chocolate!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)