Watch me paint this art of a World War 2 veteran holding a baby wrapped in an American flag in 1 minute (time lapse).
Is every institution and national day of recognition meant to be diminished, overshadowed and eventually abolished… “reset” until we forget (or irrationally despise) our homelands; until our sovereignty means nothing- even the sovereignty of individual human lives- until we’re nothing but a global populace of peasants ruled by depraved elites and appointed technocracy lapdogs? If Memorial Day means something to Americans, it would be prudent to say so. The things that once mattered are taken away when we don’t fight to keep them.
This is a special roadside American flag on the only way to/from Tybee Island. It was saved from flood waters by police officers after Hurricane Irma, on the anniversary of 9/11 known as Patriots Day. The flag, attached to driftwood, had been a familiar landmark on that stretch of Highway 80 since the 1980’s. The officers knew that evacuees returning home after Hurricane Irma would find their beloved flag to be a comforting sight. They were especially grateful to residents who took care of the weary officers with coffee and encouragement, while first responders were working 12 hour shifts before and after the storm.” – from the book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by Savannah, Georgia” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
All that for a flag? Why would the police officers go through so much trouble to rescue a piece of cloth? Why would anyone risk their safety for a flag? Why would anyone die for a flag? Asking this question will yield many different answers. It depends heavily on who you ask, and what that person is feeling at that particular point in time.
A flag usually stands for something- an organization, a religion, a political party, a mission or cause, a town, a state, a nation, a global entity, or a military unit. But that’s just what the flag literally represents. What it means to individual persons can be much harder to define.
Often, the feelings attached to a particular flag are strongly rooted by things that may have little attachment to the official meaning of that flag. If the organization that is represented by a flag operates with levels of secrecy, corruption, or even elements of pure evil, does the flag now mean those things? That’s what critics, protesters, and competitors/enemies of that organization say. But those who live under these flags likely believe that the corrupt elements don’t represent them; either by the flag or in any other manner.
When my dad died, they gave Mom a folded flag. He served two tours in the Vietnam War and got cancer when he was in his 20s. He died from it at age 37. He was not there when I was born, as he was overseas and didn’t learn of my birth until three days later. He was not there when I grew up, as he was dead. The folded flag was an acknowledgement of his sacrifice.
When our flag is protested against, trampled, or burned, I feel deeply offended. The flag is a memorial symbol to many of us. There is no respect for that, and yet we are meant to respect the causes that supposedly justify such malice and disrespect? How is it privileged to have no father? It is not. I owe no one anything, and they owe me nothing. But when they disrespect me in acts of hatred and destruction, I will feel something. It is my right to feel authentic emotions. I will never be disloyal to the memory of my father. No cause can sway me.
As people study wars for profit and evil reasons, nothing will change the truth of what was in the hearts of the young men who served. My father believed that they were fighting against communism, tyranny, and dangers to the people they loved at home, and to the human race worldwide. He was intensely loyal to religious, creative, and vocational freedom for all people, regardless of country of origin, race, culture, or gender. He saw government oppression as a big threat, and he therefore believed that serving in the military was his duty as a man, as a husband, as a son, as a brother, and as a father.
I have always had a jaded and cynical view of government. I have never found the answer to my questions to be satisfactory. Even as a young child I wondered, “was EVERYthing tried before it was decided that the ONLY way to resolve this was to kill people? (in war)”. Why was it the only way? Why couldn’t smart people figure out other ways? Why aren’t smarter people ruling over us if the best that they can come up with is to send our fathers to wars? But even after growing up without a father, I have remained loyal to that flag, the flag that was folded, the flag that still waves.
Because the flag still stands for freedom, though they have taken much of that away. The flag still stands for those who have loved their families and wanted to serve- whether in the military, the police force, as a first-responder, or a front line worker. Whenever someone is willing to put their own health and safety at risk to be of service to their communities, they honor the spirit of the flag as it stands. I’m of course not just talking about Americans. I’ve lived outside of the United States and the people of those countries loved their homeland and their families with the same passion.
The evils of one do not cancel the good motives of another. It is not wrong to love a flag that symbolizes the qualities we admire in humanity, and the values we wish upon the world. If we see loyalty, selflessness, courage, and freedom represented by familiar colors, raised high or clutched by a tiny wooden stick in a young child’s waving hand, we see the best in each other. When we wish goodness and prosperity for all people, beginning at home and spreading worldwide, we may feel optimism when we see others raise our flag in solidarity with our good intentions for humankind.
Those who want to tell us that our hearts are not noble, and we have wrong thoughts or wrong intentions, are lying. They do not know the heart of man. They do not have this power. Hatred toward a flag is propaganda, as is forced loyalty toward one. Authentic feelings toward symbols and flags are complicated, often based on a complex series of lifelong experiences that make each of us unique, which is why we may feel surprisingly emotional when someone outside of our homeland raises “our” flag to show support or sympathy for the people of our homeland during times of celebration or tragedy.
I’ve seen responses to videos from countries all over the world, by people outside of those homelands. Whenever the people rise up in common cause to support, celebrate, or defend the values they hold dear, it is universally sentimental and passionately stirring. The sight of people singing and raising their flags can bring tears, even to the onlookers who see the videos from halfway around the globe. “We the People”, regardless of national origin, recognize selflessness and courage, loyalty and love… and it is both common and natural to feel unity when we see these beautiful qualities in fellow humans.
Never allow political agendas, “activists”, or any other motivated entity to poison what you know is true and good. If you feel nothing but empathy, compassion, and connection to fellow humans, perhaps the sight of a happy person waving a flag doesn’t incite anger or malice in you. Perhaps it stirs up sentiment, thoughtfulness, a bit of sadness maybe… possibly we feel melancholic, and wistful, if only the nostalgia of what people once believed was the reality they were sold… we may feel a complex array of emotions, but at the core, we likely feel an authentic desire that our fellow humans have the right to the pursuit of happiness. When we see our flags waving in the wind, we may see freedom.
We are not responsible for the ills of mankind, nor are we infallible. We are neither accountable for the choices of others, nor are we tasked to control others. When the world operates with oppression and commits crimes against humanity, it does so without the power to cancel, nullify, or otherwise erase from existence the original pure intentions of the people who simply hoped for a reality that wasn’t distorted or destroyed by powerful forces. History can hide what is real, but the truth never really goes away. Good people are not bad because others label them so. Bad people are not good because others promote them as such.
Give yourself permission to honor the fallen, regardless of which date on the calendar is designated for this. Give yourself permission to feel hope at the sight of a flag. Give yourself permission to refuse to condemn yourself for the evils of others. Raise your flag.
Remember what it felt like when we were kids? Swinging carefree like this… do you still like to feel like you’re flying? Whenever you need to tap into positive energy, imagine yourself like this girl, playful and free. You are surrounded by clear beautiful skies, the green shelter of nature, and reflective waters.
This is your spiritual place that you can visit in your mind whenever you need to remind yourself of what it feels like to be free. Fight for your past, present, and future self, that you may always have the wind in your hair and the sun upon your face.
This is a tree on “Rock Hill”, a rural area in Ireland near Grenagh. Grenagh is a village close to Mallow in Co. Cork. In 2016 I lived there, off a boreen (a narrow road in which two cars can’t pass, and ours barely fit ONE, it was hairy). VERY remote. Even the native Irish couldn’t find us, they’d get lost. We had poor cell phone reception that only came in if we used a signal booster and stood directly under it. We had spotty, slow, and unreliable satellite service for Internet. Often a simple website would spin and time out. We had no rubbish (garbage) service and had to drive our trash bags to the dump site which was several miles away.
We were completely isolated, with no visible neighbors. Yet, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I never felt alone. Of course I had my family with me, so I wasn’t alone, but many people feel unnerved when in a remote location far from any stores, hospitals, and civilization. That wasn’t how I felt. I was at peace.
“Tree on Rock Hill” oil painting while still on my easel in the house we were renting in Ireland
I’ve lived in very remote areas and very urban. I’ve lived in the inner city of Minneapolis. I’ve lived in villages (Geisfeld, Germany) and in small towns, suburban neighborhoods and apartment communities. I’ve lived in rentals, “fixers” and a hobby farm with a house we built ourselves (partly ordered up, partly with our own two hands). I’ve had times of want and times of plenty.
Some say that home is where the heart is, or where our families are, but I would politely say that this is not true for everyone. Sometimes we are placed where we do not wish to be. Sometimes we lose family members and are temporarily or somewhat permanently without close ties, without any deep sense of family or community. That has been true of my life.
Through it all, my spirit and mind stay housed in the same body. Home is where I am. Home is wherever I go. I feel most at home when I am at peace, close to God. There are times in my life when I have the company of precious loved ones to share this journey, and times when I have not had that blessing. There are times when I feel a strong connection to the place I’m living, and times when I’ve counted down the days to leave.
Embracing LIFE is to seek joy regardless of circumstance. Even an enslaved person has free will, should they choose. Mindfulness is a commodity that cannot be stolen without our consent. Even if deceived, on some level we are responsible for delegating the responsibility of our independent thoughts to others.
Today I am in high spirits. I am ripe with fresh ideas for my art, work, and lifestyle. I was up early and transplanted seedlings that I’ve babied into sturdy lush greens. My garden is really taking off and it’s such a delight to see. I’ve already enjoyed compound butter and infused olive oil and vinegar salad dressing. One of the tomatoes is red and will be ready to pick soon. My strawberries are formed but still green. One day soon my garden will be bursting at the seams with goodness… all from a small patio space.
I’ve blogged several times about the painful sale of our hobby farm when my husband lost his job. One by one, flock by flock, all of our animals were sold or given away to good farming homes, including our beloved sheep that we had raised from lambs and the guinea fowl that we’d hatched as eggs in an incubator and raised into fully grown birds. I could list all of the animals and the losses, but it’s the garden that’s the point of this. We had a very large garden that was plowed down a hill.
The garden was my husband’s deal. It was too much for me. The ground was uneven and the area was buggy. I’m allergic to many insects and the constant threat of it was unnerving. The terrain was steep and rough. He planted the rows in a compact way that made it hard to push through without brushing up against the plants. It was really and truly not my thing. I tended to my roses and other flowers in the landscaped areas near the house.
My gardening role then was to can the tomatoes, bake the zucchini bread to freeze ahead, and cook/store all of the other garden foods as well. He grew the food and dumped it onto the kitchen counter. From there it was my job to see that the food went from the garden to our stomachs.
But now, many years later, I have a pretty garden of my own. I’m honestly quite hooked on the thrill of seeing my hard work grow into fruition. Every day there is something new to see and learn. I’m astonished at the world that has opened up for me. I didn’t realize how little I knew about food. I’ve discovered bloggers who are teaching me that there are many different ways to eat that I’d never thought of.
I’ll still do the things I’m familiar with, like canning tomatoes and making refrigerator pickles from cucumbers. My husband has his own gardening space too, so there will be zucchini bread-making again in my near future, just like the old days. We haven’t abandoned the things we used to enjoy. But I’m delighted to try new ideas. My tastes have changed over the years and I’m especially intrigued by the nutrition found in herbs. My husband actually thought parsley was “just for decoration” and was surprised when I showed him the many health benefits of adding parsley to our diets.
Embracing life is about feeding ourselves good food… not just literally, physically, but also good mental and spiritual food. I’ve been studying new things and expanding my ideas about philosophy. I’ve been learning more about science and botany. I’ve been learning more about chemistry and health. I’m pushing myself to see beyond what I’ve always known.
Last night I was in a foul mood. Everything was getting under my skin, especially the dark, somber, dystopia of “current year” (a trendy phrase I despise, but it suits). As I fell asleep, my mind was full of angry thoughts and pessimistic emotions. I woke up several times. My broken, disrupted sleep ended when I woke up with a splitting headache.
But I walked into the kitchen, poured myself a cup of tea, and opened the patio curtains. A tiny hummingbird flitted away and my garden plants seemed to greet me. It was a splendid morning, if I chose to see it that way. It was up to me. Would I allow the world’s perception of my future to control my thinking (mind), my health (body), and my emotions (spirit)? Or would I see the truth plainly in front of me?
Today I have chosen to embrace life. Every day I must choose anew. It doesn’t matter where I am, where I live, or who is with me. It doesn’t matter if I am in lack or plenty. It doesn’t matter if I’m in pain or full health. The choice is always mine to make.
I will have a good day today because I choose it. I will experience joy, regardless of my circumstances. Whatever pain or grief I have, I shall set it aside into the private healing space of my mind and spirit. I will see beauty and let the sun shine into my heart. Will you join me in embracing life? The choice is yours. Every day we are blessed to be here, we have an opportunity to choose joy.
A sheltering tree is a place we can go when we need rest. When we are weary, a literal tree is a good source for peace; visiting a real place in nature is restorative. But, what I’m talking about here is a metaphorical sheltering tree, a spiritual place we can visit even when we are in the middle of a busy day indoors.
Good sleep, nutrition, exercise, sunlight, healthy relationships, reading, optimism, and faith are just some of the many helpful ways to maintain a balance in energy levels to avoid becoming weary. Yet, we can’t always prevent spiritual exhaustion and physical fatigue. At these times, we must rely on our mind to provide shelter to our body and spirit.
Do you let your thoughts tumble into your brain at random, based solely on the circumstance of the moment? On an average day, this may be a habit that doesn’t affect you much. But when you are weary, your thoughts may quickly induce frustration, disappointment, melancholy, and even lead to depression and despondency. When we are in a weakened physical and spiritual state, our minds can conjure up negative thoughts that spiral downward.
Take control over your mind by rejecting random thoughts. Think with intention. Direct the flow of thoughts that fill your mind by choosing what to focus on. Imagine your mind as a television screen. Don’t tune in to whatever happens to be on, and don’t flip through the channels. Choose your show and go directly to it, allowing nothing else to display in your mind. Focus on “sheltering” thoughts, patterns of thinking that restore your spirit and strengthen your health.
“And this too shall pass” (this day will end)
“This won’t matter 5 years from now” (it won’t feel bad forever)
“When I get better sleep tonight, I’ll feel better”
“I can do all things through God who strengthens me”
“People love me and would be sad to see that I’m so weary”
“*I* love me and I will fight against weariness”
“God loves me and wants to give me rest”
“Time heals all wounds” (let the process happen naturally)
“Some of what makes me weary is not real”
The last one is significant. “Some of what makes me weary is NOT REAL.” When we instruct our mind to analyze the situation, we may realize that our weariness comes from being overwhelmed by issues that are exploited, manipulated, manufactured, propagandized, or steered to produce exactly this result: weariness. When we are weary, we may give up and submit to the thoughts and actions that others want us to have.
Attempting to control others by wearing them down is an abusive relationship, whether our abuser is a person we know, or a vast coordinated agenda by people who’ve never met us (world government/media/edu/establishment/etc. entities). Whether our oppressors know us personally or not, people who control others don’t care about us as individuals. They care about our compliance. This is an unhealthy relationship that we must instruct our mind to reject.
Fight against weariness that comes from outside sources who wish to control you. However, if you have analyzed your situation and you’ve determined that source of your weariness is not imposed upon you by an “enemy”, but is instead an issue of authentic circumstance, your response may be different. Choosing to fight against weariness in this case may do more harm than good.
If you’re weary because you are grieving a loss, it’s healthy to let yourself feel the fatigue, the heaviness, and the sad weight upon your body and spirit. Grief can be from the death of someone we love, or may be a similar type of loss that we may not be completely cognizant of. When life changes, either yours or theirs, you may miss someone more deeply than you expected due to estrangement, a life change such as being busy with a new job or a new baby, moving far away, distanced by poor health, or when adult children leave the nest. Change can hit us hard, and that process is completely natural.
Be mindful of any other types of changes. Some change may not directly involve relationships with people, but may instead be about how you spend your days. Have you changed the type of work you do? We don’t necessarily have to change jobs or careers to feel the impact of a change in how we work or how we spend our time. If our schedule has changed, we may initially experience an artificial boost of energy as we adjust to the new ways. When we settle in, we may “crash”, and then feel weary. This is normal.
Some types of weariness are completely natural and are a normal process of adjusting to life’s changes. It does not mean that we are doing the wrong thing, that something bad has happened to us, or that we have regrets. It could mean that, so it’s important to ponder our situation. But our weariness could easily be part of the process toward a healthy adjustment to change, and all we need is time.
Giving ourselves time means that we are patient and don’t rush the process when our feelings become uncomfortable. It’s common advice to warn each other not to respond in a knee-jerk way when we are upset. Wait, sleep on it. See how we feel in the morning. This is wise advice for avoiding acting on rash decisions that we later regret. But it’s also sound advice for our thoughts, not just our actions.
Recognize when your thoughts don’t flow in a logical, rational, calm manner that is loving and kind to yourself. Notice when your thoughts are jumping and overlapping in a knee-jerk way that you may later regret. Loose, unproductive, illogical thoughts can lead to a downward spiral of unhealthy attitudes that prolong a “bad day” into something more permanent.
When you sense that your mind is running amuck in an unproductive, unhealthy, destructive manner, reign yourself in with the image of my tree painting from the video at the top of this blog post. Let your mind rest in the peaceful shade of the Sheltering Tree. When we are mindful, we restore our bodies and spirits. Healing begins with our thoughts.
While the world condemns us, we must love ourselves and each other. We cannot love our neighbors “as ourselves” if we do not love ourselves. It is our responsibility then to love ourselves and pull ourselves back up out of the pit when we are weary. Humanity needs each and every one of us to be strong. If you are weary, go to the sheltering tree and stay awhile. Give yourself time. But not too much time… we need you.
Watch me paint this angel in 2 minutes (time lapse)
A tribute to the Turning Angel monument, built over the graves of five children killed in a factory explosion in the early 1900’s: She was recently vandalized, toppled, and had a broken wing. She is made whole here. This was my first time painting in only black and white, with no color at all. When I first heard about this statue being toppled and damaged, something about it tugged at my heart. When I found out that it was a memorial over the graves of five children, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I looked up the statue to see what it looked like… and decided to paint it. I understand how that feels… to create something to honor the deaths of people, and to have someone destroy it in a hateful action. That beautiful angel statue, installed as a memorial for children who died so tragically young- toppled to the ground with a broken wing…” – from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas
I know what it’s like to have my art destroyed, and I know what it’s like to be broken as a person. Because we share bits of ourselves when we create, when our creations are destroyed by hateful actions, all of the broken bits of our spirit are remembered and past brokenness is felt anew.
When “activists” (terrorists) listed me for ruination, threats, harassment, and more- committing libel against me and other crimes- they also hacked into my website and deleted my artwork. They uploaded a snarky devil cartoon in place of my blog about my dead parents, deleting this video that I painted in their memory:
My son helped me recover all of the files that they deleted. The original painting was safe. But the violation of my rights and privacy was deeply felt. They had seen my personal files that were stored in the non-public areas of my site, including pictures of my family, my children. They knew where I lived.
This is the complete handcrafted, handpainted nativity set that my parents made. It is the only thing I have left that is in this picture. Everything else- all of it- including the furniture, candles, decorations, and tree are all gone. We kept only a few of the small ornaments from the tree and the nativity set. Everything else was sold… including this house that we’d built after many years of working hard to earn it.
I’ve blogged bits and pieces about our journey of starting over, but that’s not the focus of this post. What I’m trying to share is that my heartfelt post about that nativity set and my painting video of it, held many layers of profound emotion. It represented a bittersweet letting go of painful loss, while honoring who I lost, and the life I lost.
When I chose to share such an intimate part of my spirit, it was my intellectual property alone. Deleting it was theft. When the devil cartoon was inserted in its place, it was a hate crime against not only my faith, but also a desecration of my parents. They have no grave to visit, as both chose to be cremated. I honored them with my public words and art. Terrorists destroyed my memorial.
So, when I heard about the “Turning Angel” memorial being destroyed, it touched my heart. I can only imagine the pain of those parents who lost their child that day. It happened long ago, and it’s unknown (to me) if any of the remaining families still feel that grief to this day. But even if no one from the current generation was deeply effected by the attack on the memorial, I believe that the energy of hate and destruction has an impact on humanity as a whole.
As humans, do we create or destroy?
Do we build each other up or tear each other down?
Do we say a kind word, or give a backhanded compliment?
Do we favor sarcasm and dry humor more often than whimsy and silliness? In other words, does “humor” become an excuse for mean-spirited interactions and exchanges that create pessimism?
Do we choose dark over light, or light over dark?
We don’t have to literally destroy an angel, breaking her wings as she topples to the ground. We don’t have to delete baby Jesus and a poignant story about dead parents. No, often when we destroy what others create the method is much more subtle. We don’t even always see evidence of it. There are no broken wings or snarky devil cartoons to show what we’ve done.
When someone creates a joyful spirit that fills the space of the room, and we destroy it with one unkind word, we destroy what others have created. We can do this without saying a word as well. All it takes is giving someone the silent treatment, the cold shoulder, or displaying a rude expression on our faces. In one second, the spiritual wings break.
The thought I kept going back to is that the person(s) who deleted my blog posts and my art had seen the story of why I painted that nativity set. Perhaps they didn’t read it carefully, but surely parts of it would have reached their minds. Why choose a devil cartoon? I truly can’t imagine seeing the grieved heart of a fellow human and choosing to delete their private pain that they’d decided to publicly share. It took several steps to hack into my site and do this, and they did it over the course of two days, with multiple messages left for me. The point is, they had time to reconsider their actions, yet still chose to hurt me in this way. It wasn’t a spontaneous action, but one that was done with full intention.
My guess is that these were young people who would have been too cowardly to confront me to my face, but perhaps not. It’s a dark soul who shows no empathy for another, who places one’s own agenda ahead of the grief of a fellow human being. It is this sociopath tendency that is quite chilling. To various degrees, we all have the capacity to destroy without empathy. How far would we go to destroy someone?
I believe that when we create, we aid in the redemption of the human spirit. We counter the heart of man that is capable of wickedness, by sharing something of ourselves. Creation is more powerful than destruction. While one unkind word is felt more deeply than a chorus of praise, in the end good always wins. The solution to destruction is creation. The solution to hate is never more hate. That’s not what justice is.
We live in an unfair world. Life is unkind. That’s how it has been since the beginning of time, and how it will always be. There’s good and bad; joy and pain, and sometimes we cause these hardships ourselves by oppressing each other or by allowing others to grow powerful enough to become an entity that oppresses us all.
We don’t set the wrongs right by hurting each other. We set them right by pioneering new ways to make the world a better place, and standing strong in the truth. Justice is about holding people accountable who are directly responsible for committing crimes. It’s not about acts of terrorism to coerce change through hurting innocent people. It is not about changing the definition of “innocent” until it excuses targeting people who have legally committed no crimes. Somewhere along the way, society decided that terrorism is OK and hate is OK, if we agree with the cause. Once we allow mobs to decide what the law means, we have no protection from destruction of ideas, property, and lives.
Terrorism is never legal, even if the cause is (supposedly) just. Terrorism is always criminal. People innocent of a criminal act are always legally innocent, and cannot legally be judged guilty for wrong thoughts, wrong associations, wrong beliefs, or having been born in the wrong type of body. A society that sanctions lawlessness destroys itself, as there is no protection for anyone- especially the vulnerable who are then twice victimized.
I was afraid for a while. I feared that they’d come after me again at any moment. But I’ve discovered that I’m not only a survivor of life’s hardships, but a fighter. I put my painting of baby Jesus back on my site, and I continued to paint more art featuring Jesus.
When we live unafraid, we don’t give in to terrorists. We continue to share organically, without self-censorship. We openly express love through the generosity of our creations. Stay strong. Humanity needs each and every one of you. Create loving words. Be that light in the darkness. The difference you make is incalculable. Don’t let hate intimidate you. Love is always stronger than hate- always.
Beware of false prophets. Or should we say, “Beware of false profits“? Fake prophets, teachers and experts lie and cover up the truth because they profit from:
misleading forecasts of future outcomes
manufactured data trends
Follow the money. Are the people who profit from a coordinated agenda involved in a public perception, fact checking, or spokesperson role, such as a “journalist” (oftentimes an agent of the State)? Are any “experts” profiting from the very events that they are supposedly the arbitrator of truth for? Are any of the persons who decide which opinions, claims and counter-expert professionals must be banned, silenced, or even declared “dangerous” to society- are any of the mouthpieces, censors, or experts profiting from the agenda?
We can say that these are unprecedented times of deceit, but that would be untrue. There is nothing new under the sun. In ancient days, we were warned of the same thing.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” – Matthew 7:15 KJV
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “ravening” has two meanings. The first is literal, referring to wild animals violently hunting for food. The second is “a ravening group of people try to get what they want in a forceful way”. The example used was “ravening journalists”, but we can apply the word “ravening” to any person or group who pressures, harasses, shames, threatens, coerces, or leverages compliance to get what they want.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing might be:
A pastor, priest, or any spiritual leader who aligns with government agendas, commercial interests, social agendas, and faux-religion ideology over the needs of the congregation; misleading people from a powerful pulpit
A teacher who preaches instead of teaches; pushing students to think the way they want, rather than to learn how to think critically and self-advocate
A doctor who knowingly withholds some information, while promoting propaganda that aligns with an agenda borne of ideology, profit, and job security for towing the line
A “journalist” who may not meet the definition of a journalist at all, as they may be working directly or indirectly for government entities and are merely posing as an unbiased journalist. In this way, they may meet two definitions of “actor”: an actor of the State (for their country of origin or on behest of foreign interests), while also performing as actors.
An “expert” who has been declared as such by the same wolves in sheep’s clothing as listed above
Any person affiliated with any form of government who says that they are here to help us, while their actions hurt us
Of course not everyone in a position of leadership or power is a wolf, but it is wise to always be aware of this possibility. Never give anyone full authority over your life.
You have only one mind, body, and spirit. You must protect yourself from those who wish to lead you astray for their own gain, whether they do so knowingly with full intention, or whether they do so because they are themselves deceived, or whether they do so because they believe in their cause with the fervor and blindness of a member of a cult religion… whatever the reason that others tell you how to think or what to do, what is good, and what is bad… always honor your own ability to make decisions for yourself.
“When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is… You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” – Luke 12: 54-57 NIV
How is it that so many people simply follow orders? Fear is a powerful weapon. New situations are frightening. But is anything really “new”? When we analyze any given set of people, situations, or events we can find common elements with people, situations, or events from the recent and distant past. Throughout all of history there exists a dynamic of shrewd powerful people enslaving innocent persons or an entire populace. This is nothing new.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 KJV
The technology for enslaving others is much more advanced than in days of old, but progress doesn’t change what’s at the core. Enslavement is enslavement. Lies are lies. Greed is greed. Death is death. I’ve been at the bedside of people who are dying, and none of them cared in the end about their manner of death. They cared only for the people they were leaving behind.
Fear is a distraction, meant to render us powerless. “This is new, you cannot fight it (us)” is an effective psychological warfare strategy to force a populace to comply. It is helpful to see the reality that there is nothing new under the sun, merely different attempts to accomplish the same goals as in ancient days. Progress and methods may invoke great fear, but ultimately we still have free will. Don’t let anyone deceive you into believing that you are powerless.
When we know that we are powerful, we attract spiritual strength. The spiritually strong are happier. Happier people are healthier. Healthier people have greater mental acuity. Mind, body, spirit – all of it works together to keep us safe. May God bless and keep you, may His face shine upon you and give you peace.
Watch me paint this rabbit in 2 minutes (time lapse)
This is one of my art videos that was routinely censored on social media. The video would appear with a sensitivity warning that it may contain objectionable content. It did not! It is only a painting of a wild rabbit among yellow roses, as you can see for yourself.
Our spirits are censored when the very act of painting natural images is blacklisted, marked with a warning label. When I share my art, I share a vulnerable human energy. That energy is mine to keep or share. No one has the right to judge my energy as worthy or unworthy of viewing. Even if this particular occurrence was a “mistake”, the algorithms that allowed this to happen were intentionally crafted to censor material that was predetermined- without verification or representation- to be objectionable.
It may have happened because I talked about my Mom’s death when sharing the video. The word “died” may have tripped the algorithm, as it could have indicated the possibility of a violent and graphic video. But of course it was no such thing. The story behind this painting is meant to share my experience with grief, to provide hope and comfort to others. The video itself is simply a painting of a rabbit.
The word “rabbit” may have been the triggering word. I don’t want to explain why that is, as it would involve a much larger issue. Regardless, my reference to “rabbit” was literally an actual rabbit. Algorithms don’t see intent or context, and apparently can’t yet recognize that the video image was that of a rabbit, and not what that word may refer to in the criminal world.
When I shared my art video, I desired to be a source of healing and encouragement. That desire, combined with the creative energy that I freely shared, is a spiritual commodity. Imagine this commodity like a physical product or intellectual (digital) property. Sabotaging it is property damage. Preventing it from being seen (taking the video upload and hiding it away from the intended audience without permission, representation, explanation or just cause) is theft.
It is a form of fraud when a service claims that the uploads of your intellectual property will be delivered/viewed in the manner that they describe (shown to your followers and potentially to the general public should your upload be discovered by them via hashtags, searches, etc.), but is instead secretly or openly censored for reasons that do not violate the stated terms of service. We must understand that our time, energy, and sharing has value. Our data is not meant to be used against us, to elevate some while suppressing others… and for worse motivations.
Some say that we have no rights when platforms are free to use. But we DO pay. We pay by registering for an account, participating on the platform (even if only scrolling through the feeds), and especially if uploading original intellectual content/property. These platforms generate profits when shareholders are happy with the popularity of the platforms. WE produce the data that shareholders judge when deciding to open up their wallets. Without us, platforms fail. Therefore, it is untrue that we don’t pay them. It may be more accurate to say that we work for them, without pay.
Even if you’ve never purchased an ad to boost your visibility, you have paid them with your participation. Every scroll, click, share, post, and upload are recorded as engagement- especially when we click on ads. So, in this way, we are customers even if our payment is more difficult to see. The customer relationship is so dysfunctional, it is as if we are indentured servants. We work for the platforms without pay, and must obey arbitrary rules (and secret rules) lest we be punished, banned, or even removed indefinitely. There is no representation for us, no union, no legal protections. Some are given a global online marketplace and free speech, others are denied.
I am no longer active on any social media for many reasons. I’ve been throttled, marked, hidden, threatened, listed, and “canceled”. But I don’t want to focus on these extremes, as they may not be a common experience. I want to focus on the small ways we are censored, the ways that most people don’t think about, but are nonetheless damaging… the negativity that creeps up on your spirit and causes you to SELF censor, by not sharing what you have the potential to contribute, if welcomed by a civilized society.
I would like to encourage you to give some thought about how free you feel spiritually. Do you have a Censored Spirit? No one but God has the authority to judge your heart. If you have broken no laws, no one has the right to cancel you, deny your voice, or label your art with a warning. We should not have to defend ourselves or explain our reasons for sharing what we do.
In a free society, the burden of proof is always on the accuser, not the accused. Under mob rule and communism, we are guilty unless we can prove our innocence. That standard is unjust and often impossible, especially if the mob wants to purge you from their world. Listing, silencing, libeling, harassing, threatening, and actively seeking to sabotage and ruin another person through their reputation and business/job/income, is a crime.
It’s possible that you’ve never been a victim of this type of crime, but you probably feel the effects of it. With every post you share, you may feel the weight of the risk you take- the risk that someone will find fault with you and want to punish you.
I’ve been a blacklisted person since at least January 2017. I am no longer interested in being treated fairly in the art world or on social media. I have chosen to go my own way. Even if it means that I will never be widely seen, it is more important to me to protect my spirit. It is damaging to second guess my every utterance, my every paint stroke. I have no strings on me and I’m happier for it.
Because, when my art is censored, or when I’m rejected for unfair reasons unrelated to my abilities, the seeds of doubt are sown. I waste precious resources- my time and energy- on rebuilding my confidence and restoring my focus. The joy of creating is tamped down, sometimes to the point where I procrastinate doing new projects. I can’t afford to let that happen. If I do, I’ve voluntarily let outside forces stop me from reaching my lifetime goal of 1k finished paintings.
Whether you open yourself up to subtle criticism such as uncomfortable silence when no one responds, or backhanded compliments (small insults disguised as praise), or much bigger harm such as being blacklisted by tech companies and targeted by “activist” mobs for ruination and terror, the effect on your spirit can be immense. Limit where you share, how often you share, and take control of the feedback you receive. Set boundaries for how much interaction you allow. This isn’t about being cowardly and unable to handle authentic critique. This is about protecting your greatest resource- yourself. You have only one spirit, and you must guard it as the treasure that it is.
You don’t have to be an artist to have your creations disrespected or stolen. When you share your heart, you share your energy. In a civilized society, a certain level of politeness was expected. Today, people cast truly vile responses to people they don’t even know, and this rampant crudeness has made the typical pettiness and catty behavior from people we DO know slip under the radar, completely unchecked.
Often, “friends” and family are emboldened to say unkind things in response to public posts. I personally don’t allow this to happen to me, as I quit those sorts of platforms years ago. Please consider how much hold this type of negative energy has on you. Is it time to cut back or quit dysfunctional habits that instill an anxious, addictive compulsion to check, check, check to see what you’re missing? Because what you could be missing is YOU… your natural organic self… the person you’d be if others weren’t influencing you.
I’m much freer, lighter, more focused, higher energy, and happier since I quit social media. I started by cutting back on how many platforms I was on until I was only active on one. Then I dropped that one as well. Most platforms I’ve deleted my account, but a few I keep open so that people can still see the art videos I posted in the past. I don’t visit those, so in my mind they are closed. You too might have to leave a few loose ends open, but as long as you resist the urge to go back to those platforms, it’s fine not to go scorched Earth. There may be a reason you want people to be able to contact you.
I urge you to cut back on the dysfunctional dynamic of social media if you haven’t already done so. Manipulated packaged contrived ways of socializing stifle the organic authentic nature of how we are meant to communicate as human beings. I think you’ll find that you are more harmed by this than you realized. We are not products to tick a like button on, or vote up or down. We are not gladiators thrown into a spiritual pit for the entertainment of mobs. We are precious human spirits.
If we imagine life as a balanced landscape with fresh waters running through the center, mountains sheltering the skyline, trees neatly arranged on each side and rocks as a protective boundary, we may visualize balance. Balance organizes tall and short, up and down, high and low, dark and light, stillness and movement, realism and fantasy. When we are in balance, we are in various stages of harmony.
Love job or schedule, look forward to daily routine
Working too hard, exhausted, hate job or schedule
There are good days and bad days
Strong, healthy, relaxed, and living “best life”
Often physically ill, depressed, anxious, fearful, or resentful
There are good days and bad days
I could go on like this for hours. The point is, life is about extremes. We experience highs and optimal living, along with lows and hardships. A balanced attitude sees harmony and embraces life as a moving orchestra. Instead of pursuing perfection in the highs, or focusing disproportionately on the lows, an attitude of harmony is about acceptance of what “is”. The reality is that there are good days and bad days, and often our perception of bad or good changes by the hour or even by the minute. May we change what we can and accept what we cannot.
Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions. Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” – Ecclesiastes 7:10-18 NIV
In our human journey there are extremes in our approach to life, like “wise” or “fool”. There are also extremes in what we mean by having a “good” day or a “bad” day. In times of crisis, tragedy, and loss, our pain may feel unbearable. On the contrary, the joy of falling in love, winning a hard fought achievement, or holding a new baby may make one forget all the pain. When we accept what is, it may be extremely good or extremely bad. Not every day is balanced in itself. It is our mind that must find the harmony in the bigger picture.
The totality of our lives is like an oil painting. Each blob of paint doesn’t look like much on its own. When isolated, it’s nothing but a splat of color. But when seen from a distance, all of the colors come together to form a picture. If we could see our lives from a distance, we may see how all of the good parts and the bad parts form a picture of who we are. And we are a masterpiece!
We may not always have a choice about what we experience, but we have free will for how we respond to it. We can choose to see bad events as part of a bigger picture. We can also choose to forgive those who wrong us. By “forgiveness” I do not mean offering a pardon to those who deserve justice. I mean the act of letting go of bitterness, lest it destroy us. Spiritual strength allows us to remain true to ourselves even if we have no other recourse left.
In our quest for balance, we must resist the tendency to see all situations as a sliding scale in which all things are made to seem equal. When we put all of the good things and the bad things on a see saw, it will balance itself. This may appear as if the good things and bad things are equal. No, they are not. They are simply arranged on the see saw in such a way as the weight of each is evenly distributed. But if we take an extreme of one side and pair it with a weakness of the other, the see saw will flip erratically, with one side down and the other side up.
We must also consider this paradox: while one strong element can flip a weak element, there is no such thing as a little bit of evil or a little bit of good. Good and evil are extremes. One small act of goodness has a lot of power, and can lead to bigger acts of goodness. The same is true for one small act of wickedness. One lie begets another. One resentful thought emboldens another. An act of malice from one, invites the hatred of many. It is not extreme to see the truth of this. Choosing wisdom over foolishness is a valid, honorable decision.
In a misguided effort to avoid extremes (or by intention to mislead others), some may not recognize that extremes exist, or may mislabel what is extreme, or may rationalize extremes to equalize all situations as the same. This is simply not true. The harmony in an orchestra is not found by making all instruments sound the same, but by hearing them all together. If one musician blares a sour note, it will indeed ruin the piece. No conductor would find this acceptable.
We cannot make life feel acceptable by accepting the unacceptable, or by pretending that a sour note doesn’t ruin the music. Life will forever be a paradox. It is good AND it is bad. In the big picture, we may see how it all comes together, or we may never know. We enjoy our days more when we accept what is, and live in hope that the good will outnumber the bad.
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.” – Ecclesiastes 3:10-14 NIV
As we approach another new week, may we find satisfaction in our days, be happy, and do good. May we enjoy good food, good weather, and good people. Everything is beautiful in its time.
Watch me paint “Daisies” in under 2 minutes (time lapse)
I hope you enjoy how the music and painting go together, a bit of fun for your Saturday- or any day that you land on this blog post. It’s wonderful, isn’t it, how we can connect across time and space. You may be watching this seconds after I post it, or years later. You may be in my same country or anywhere in the world. Wherever and whenever you see this, may you feel a cheery boost to your day.