Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

yes — July 13, 2022

yes

My boys and I are having conversations about the word yes.

Teenage boys are very familiar with no, they are very clear on what they do not want to do. Sometimes it’s not only teenage boys, it can be a 30 year old man who has recently lost his father and realized that his entire life was built upon who he would not be. That 30 year old is me, and I absolutely knew then that I did not want to be like my dad. I had a very long list of things I would not do, say, or think, and almost nothing on the side ideally detailing what I would. My boys know that they don’t want to go along, clean up, mow the grass, or eat the vegetables. But where do they want to go, instead? What do they want to eat?

In the Scriptures, we are commanded to rest. (Let’s just put aside that we don’t want to rest. Nevermind that the world will stop spinning and fall apart if we don’t produce for a day a week. This is called suspension of belief in the movies. Let’s pretend this is a world where we can and do want to rest.) The thing about rest is…well, God rested after 6 days of creation. There’s no rest without work, no ceasing if there’s nothing from which to cease.   

Part of the big problem with politics nowadays (Ha! I say nowadays because it sounds old-timey and implies that there was ever a time when it was different. And maybe it was, just not that I remember) is that we are given 2 choices and asked to choose which one we do not want. Have you ever heard or said the phrase “lesser of 2 evils?” We stare at the ballot and cast our vote against one of the candidates. Political advertisements scream, “Don’t vote for him/her!” and never “Vote for ____!” We hear what their candidate has done wrong, never what our candidate has done right.

Don’t eat sugar. Don’t watch so much tv. Don’t spend so much time on social media. Don’t worry. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. But what am I supposed to do instead???

If I simply don’t, there is a vacuum left that will be filled. This is probably why so many resolutions fail. I say I won’t eat chocolate, but when I want to eat chocolate, I think about not eating chocolate instead of what I will do, or eat, instead.

Of course, there are times for No. But no makes much less sense without a yes. Maybe I do want to go along, or maybe I do want to clean up. Who knows?

A burning desire for comfort isn’t filling us up with purpose and passion. Living from a negative posture hasn’t changed anyone’s life.

I know, I know, they’re teenagers and boundaries to differentiate, to discover where I end and they begin, are so, so valuable. And of course there is a place for knowing where we do not want to go, or characteristics we do not want. But when Jesus asks any of us, “what do you want Me to do for you?” Or, as God asked Jacob, “Who are you?” we might want to have an idea what that answer might be and why. Obviously not etched in stone, but the sooner the question begins to shift from ‘who am I not?’ to ‘who am I?’ (a super scary shift, to be sure) the sooner we can begin to move from ‘freedom from’ and into ‘freedom to.’ The difference between the 2 is shockingly wide, and it all starts with a baby step, a hesitant jump, a whispered yes.

Authentic Presence — July 7, 2022

Authentic Presence

In the new reality, we can see Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness opening weekend and then stream it about a month later. This is an ocean away from “how it was when I was young,” where we would see a movie in a theater and maybe a year later we could rent the VHS tape. We would always rent, because owning a copy would be $100+!!!!!

And there were those special weekends where my mom would take my sister and I to the video store to rent a VCR and as many movies as we could carry for hours and hours of varying levels of attention. There’s only so much one can take at a sitting.

Anyway, this time around I LOVED the Dr Strange movie. I liked it well enough the first time, but upon a second viewing, it was exponentially better. So, why is that? The movie didn’t change, I wonder if I did. And how much could I have reasonably changed in a month?

These Marvel movies now all have surprise cameos and shocking deaths and spoilers for the jaw-dropping reveals. We already know that the new Guardians of the Galaxy will break our hearts, we just don’t know exactly how. And that instills a certain amount of anxiety. And when we go to these movies, we’re watching, waiting for the rug to be pulled, or if Jim from the office & Some Good News is the new Reed Richards (he is), or if Tom Cruise will be in it (he isn’t), or if somebody dies (…).

The second (or 3rd or 100th) time, I know the answers to those questions. I’m not surprised anymore, there’s no breathless anticipation waiting for the next thing, so I am free to hear dialogue I missed, see unappreciated cinematic subtleties, and enjoy the performances of some very fine actors.

Now, why do I care about any of this?

I sometimes get the privilege of officiating weddings, and I always remind the bride and groom, parents, attendants, and everyone else I see to not miss any of this moment, to be fully present. In the Bible, Jacob wakes up from a dream with the revelation that “God was in this place and I was unaware.” I don’t want us to be unaware of anything. I don’t want us to wake up, saying, “oh man, I totally missed it,” like we often do.

I am also married, and it’s easy to take the Angel for granted. And I have 2 sons who were once 2 years old and now are not. 2 years old was a good, no, GREAT, age with a ton of significant moments. They don’t nap on my chest anymore (which was so awesome), and the last time they did, I didn’t know it was the last time, so I may have been thinking about what I’d do when they got up. Or what I had to do tomorrow. Or yesterday.

This morning I was driving with the windows down, that song, “Numb Little Bug,” which I like a lot, on the radio, and then it was over and that thing happened where we get somewhere and don’t remember any of the journey. You see, I was hurrying to grab something the Angel had forgotten and return it to her. Then I ran it over to her and got back in my car, without pausing to soak her in for an extra few minutes. I missed half an hour of a sacred moment. But they’re all sacred moments, right?

Anticipation is fun, and when you get the secret about Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense – it’s just amazing. But there has to be a way to marry excitement with attention. And there has to be surprise without anxiety. Where the 1st and 3rd time through Strange coexist. Where we are connected, eyes wide, listening instead of hearing, seeing instead of looking, untethered to the regret/nostalgia of the past and the worry/fear of the future, only here, only now. Can it really be as simple as authentic presence; an open-handed approach to living this beautiful life? I’m starting to think it probably is.

The Beach — July 1, 2022

The Beach

Earlier this week, we went to the beach on vacation. This is my family (I’m the one in pink).

I have been very very inconsistent in this space lately, and that happens sometimes. But I am here now, and plan to connect every week again (like my to-do list tells me to.) So I’ll see you soon, thanks for reading. I’m so grateful for so many things, and one of them is you.

Shorts — June 14, 2022

Shorts

I am writing this blog post on a personal website, typing on an iPad while streaming music on an Amazon Music app through a Bluetooth speaker across the room, and I am also hopelessly old fashioned. People are never just 1 thing. I know a guy who is a psychopathic maniac aggressively bent on destroying anyone and anything unlucky enough to be in proximity. He is also made in the image of God; loved, forgiven, covered by grace. This is sometimes very hard to understand, even harder to accept.

Last night, in a conversation with a woman who will be the bride in a wedding I’ll officiate, I was told that I didn’t have to wear a suit & tie. I could even wear shorts if I wanted.

I won’t be wearing shorts.

There are places that are different from other places. The Bible calls some things sacred, others common. Some time is sacred, other time ordinary. Not all things are equal. A wedding is different from a baseball game. A date with a woman is different than pizza with a friend. We hold these sorts of moments differently. Or at least I think we should.

Something gets lost when everything is common. As the villain Syndrome says in the terrific Pixar film, the Incredibles, “When everyone is super, no one will be.” Same principle, but we’re not elevating all moments. In Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron,” the exceptional people are hindered in some way specific to their giftedness, so that all people are the same. The end result is always the same, no one is super. No where is super.

A wedding isn’t a barbecue. One is a life-changing ceremony of love, devotion and commitment. The other is awesome, but a hamburger (no matter how thick and juicy, no matter how many condiments or kinds of cheese) isn’t a marriage. And evening them out never ever means bringing up the value of a barbecue.

Sexual intimacy is best experienced as the physical act of love and connectedness shared between 2 people. As that number increases, it doesn’t become more significant. It can’t. Baseball cards that are rare are more valuable for a reason.

See? Hopelessly old fashioned.

I pastor a church and I’m not writing this on that page because we are a very casual community – I teach on Sunday mornings this time of year in shorts and sandals – and shhh, I don’t really like it. I don’t say that out loud because I never want dress to become an obstacle or feel like an entrance requirement. I don’t want anything to keep anyone away, so we remove any barrier (there are plenty of those already). I absolutely know that suits and fancy dresses don’t automatically make our hearts soft and open, or add depth of meaning, but maybe it helps. Maybe mindful preparation helps.

The truth is, I don’t want anything to keep anyone away from anything. People are more important (100% of the time) than the t-shirts and flip-flops we wear. So, I don’t really have to like it, do I? I want super people and sacred spaces, I happen to loooove celebrating our differences, but much much more than that, I want presence and engagement.

You can wear what you like, free of any silly self-righteous judgment from me, but I’m still not wearing shorts to that wedding.

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4 — June 10, 2022

Pet Sounds, Side 2, Track 4

The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds has a track called, “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,” and I feel like that more and more every day.

The hook is just a repeated line, “Sometimes I feel very sad.” No kidding, baby. I’m pretty sure if you live and breathe, you have to. It’s practically a requirement for modern living. War. Lies. Manipulation. Violence. Abuse. Rage. Pain. Guns and the broken hearts that pull the triggers.

[Just as far as that goes. I think if we could have conversations without our political ideologies, we would all totally agree. Firearms are too easy to get without proper training and education. The people killing others are wounded and in desperate need of help. Both sides are totally right. If we could only see each other, address those who are walking warning signs of psychological damage, and set up some reasonable obstacles to immediate, boundary-less procurement of instruments of death, then maybe we could stop chanting our empty mantra of “thoughts and prayers” so often. I want that, and I believe you do, too. And so does your neighbor and the Speaker of the House and the President of the NRA.]

Anyway. Sometimes I feel very sad. And every day, it seems like there are 2 new arrows. That’s ok, I suppose. We choose. And I choose to listen and engage. I choose to be the one who walks alongside. I choose to help you carry. Again, probably you are, too.

If you’ve been here long enough, (and maybe just today), you are aware that I happen to believe more connects us than separates. I believe that we are mostly trustworthy and kind, helpful and loving. Of course, I also recognize that we are capable of unimaginable horror. My neighbor is blind and 99 out of 100 of us will help him find his way, and 1 will push him down. But would that 1 push him down if he/she was listened to and cared for? Maybe. But maybe not.

The song starts, “I keep lookin’ for a place to fit in. Where I can speak my mind. And I’ve been tryin’ hard to find the people. That I won’t leave behind.” We’re all looking for that, aren’t we? What if we find it? Would an 18 year old with a community around him shoot up an elementary school. What if he fit in? What if he found his people?

Brian Wilson said, about the song, “It’s about a guy who was crying because he thought he was too advanced, and that he’d eventually have to leave people behind. All my friends thought I was crazy to do Pet Sounds.” I don’t think I’m too advanced, and I’m not creating one of the greatest albums of all time. I just think the state of my heart (soft and in perfect working order) makes these days, taking so many arrows & wrecking balls, pretty hard to take. I don’t think I’m alone, though. I think Brian Wilson was wrong, he didn’t have to eventually leave people behind. He decided that for everyone in his life. We can’t make the same misguided decision anymore.

So. Sometimes I feel very sad. That’s all.

And I Am A Material Girl — May 16, 2022

And I Am A Material Girl

Just a few short months ago, I would have written a full series of posts on how much I disliked Madonna, how I thought she was sickeningly overrated. In fact, maybe I did. I don’t remember. But I do remember laying out terribly detailed arguments against her to anyone who would listen. Then, in a surprising twist, my sister had the 2 disc greatest hits set Celebration buried in a mountain of cds she had given me as trash for a project which I had intended to take on.

I would have immediately moved it to my garbage can, but track 1 on disc 2 is Dress You Up, and if you are alive, you love Dress You Up. I stopped fighting the losing battle against that song (pretending I didn’t love it, pretending I didn’t sing along at the top of my lungs) a long time ago. So I put the discs in my car only planning to listen to Dress You Up on repeat 15 or 20 times before they found their way to the landfill.

But a strange thing happened when I was late to repeat track 1 – track 2 began. Track 2 is Material Girl. We all know Material Girl is an embarrassing relic of the ‘80’s, bubble gum, disposable, pure sugar superficiality. Isn’t it????

“‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mister Right,” is a great line. Then, “Experience has made me rich and now they’re after me” is fine (better than fine, actually) but the way she sings “’Cause everybody’s living in a material world and I am a material girl,” is transcendent. My series of nasty posts would’ve surely included a huge section on Material Girl. And they would’ve been absolutely wrong. Vogue, Hung Up, Music, Borderline, Everybody, Burning Up, Cherish, I could go on and on, (don’t even get me started on Holiday) and the cds stay in for weeks until I can summon the superhuman strength to push eject.

Sigh, Madonna is awesome, but there is a bigger point here. Sometimes we are so familiar with something that thing loses it’s power. We take it totally for granted, we treat it as an everyday, common occurrence. We begin to see miracles as routine. The tremendous beauty of a sunrise or -set fails to register a second look. A hug, a wink, The Shawshank Redemption, my mom, Morrissey, throwing & catching baseballs, Oreos, so much just passes by unnoticed.

I remember the first time I kissed the Angel. I was wildly nervous and overwhelmed that I would ever have the opportunity to kiss such a lovely woman, and then we did and then we got married and we did a million more times and I am mostly no longer nervous and not overwhelmed enough at this even more lovely woman. When I think about her and her soft lips now, married nearly 22 years, she is way better than Material Girl, or even Holiday, I just forgot for many of those years.

I wonder how many things are like that in my life. The first time I held my boy Samuel, I wept at the enormity of this new life, how much I loved him, how much I prayed/dreamed for him, and what all of it meant. Tonight he and I had an argument over grades. Grades!??!?? He is the most wonderful young man, can I really be missing these day over a test score?

I know there’s room for grades AND appreciation, arguments AND gratitude, but too often it’s just grades and arguments. The Bible talks about ears to hear and eyes to see, and I think Material Girl is probably what those verses mean. We sometimes need new ears and eyes and lips to experience the familiar as brand new, so we can see our lives as the mind-blowing gifts they truly are.

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff — May 9, 2022

Strange, Moon Knight, and Wanda Maximoff

Yesterday I saw Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, last week Moon Knight wrapped up, and there is something quite interesting about them. They aren’t for everyone. I can’t remember previous Marvel films about which I could’ve said that.

Doctor Strange was a mind-bending horror trip through multiversal universes. I don’t even know if that last sentence makes any sense to you, but spoiler rules dictate that I can’t say anything else. I will say one of my sons and I liked it very much and my other son and wife, the Angel, didn’t at all. (That she didn’t is no surprise, we had come to terms with that long ago – however, that I took her on Mother’s Day is a term that we’ll need a bit more time with.) After the movie, I received a text asking me how it was, and I couldn’t exactly answer. I said it’s not for everyone, and that’s 100% true.

Moon Knight was a series on Disney+ about a relatively unknown… superhero? Avatar? A man who is awfully handsome and awfully mentally ill whose multiple personalities are being manipulated by an Egyptian god that may or may not be the skeleton of Kevin from Up. I liked the promise of the 1st episode, liked the series less and less through episode 4, LOVED episode 5, and episode 6 was fine. The first 5 were less standard superhero stuff and more painfully honest character study, until they lost their nerve and returned to a standard final act which resolved until the last 30 seconds, when it didn’t.

I feel a certain way about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that it is our mythology. Why those stories are treated with reverence and studied in English classes, and these films are treated as lowbrow trash is so confusing to me, maybe it actually is the perfect illustration. Maybe I am the lowest common denominator. Who knows? I don’t really care, though. I’ve long since left behind the term “guilty pleasure.” I am drawn to artwork that helps me understand the human condition and emotionally connect. I can’t think of a better wide AND deep, completely relatable depiction of grief than Wandavision. Or a more relevant dive into our complex mistrust of authority (sometimes we are paranoid and they really are after us) than the Winter Soldier. And though the movie was pretty disappointing, Iron Man 2 saw and highlighted our collective struggle with our own mortality in the middle of a backbreaking responsibility and a clear call to something greater.

I am not a witch destined to rule or destroy the cosmos, (at least as far as I know), but I have lost people, knew that my heart was irreparably broken, and wailed under the weight of “what do I do now, without you????” You too, right?

Anyway. What I think about these latest 2 installments of the MCU is, they were ok, not for everyone and it’s THAT evaluation that is so hopeful to me. The things that really affect us, that really mean something, probably aren’t the things that are sanded down to avoid all edges. McDonald’s “hamburgers” are engineered to be ok to everyone – that’s how you sell billions, but they’re nobody’s favorite. Your favorite probably has bacon and cranberries and a special kind of hot sauce or pickle, right? And maybe the person with you sits there wondering how you, how anyone, could possibly like that!?! Ask 3 people about Wandavision, 1 of them will have HATED every moment of it. And 1, like me, will think it’s PERFECT and go on and on, write blog posts about how deep and wonderful and real it was.

It’s funny to talk about a studio that makes movies that bring in billions of dollars like this, but I might really dislike this next Thor movie and that prospect thrills me.

Inertia — April 28, 2022

Inertia

These last few weeks, I’ve been a little… Well, it’s a little like running on a treadmill. More of a walk than a run, actually. The late winter months are usually pretty hard on my spirit, so recently I’ve made allowance for this heart sickness. A friend said last week in a contemplative retreat, “be excessively gentle with yourself,” and that’s what I’m doing.

Since I began this post last week – which was supposed to be about inertia and how if I get up and start working immediately, or jump out of bed, get dressed and go to the gym before my body can even argue, that seems to snowball for the rest of the day. And the opposite. If I come downstairs and sit down and watch an episode of Catfish first, it’s exponentially more difficult to get up and go. And it gets harder and harder the more things get between stagnation and movement. Right? It’s this way for all of us because of the simple concept of inertia: and object in motion tends to stay in motion and and object at rest tends to stay at rest.

Either of these is ok. I place no judgment on rest and no pride in motion, like we can easily do. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

But as last week’s post runs into late this week, my body is more and more achy and sore, my mind more and more dull, and my soul heavier and heavier, I wonder if this is simple inertia. Not that I’d have any idea what else it could be. Maybe I’m still wheeling this low grade illness around mindlessly like luggage at an airport.

Yesterday, at the Target, I spent an unreasonable amount of time scouring the supplements for anything that would address my non-specific symptoms. Of course, non-specificity breeds non-specificity, so that was obviously unsuccessful. As if there would be a bottle that said, “For General Blah.” Maybe there is, there seems to be bottles for everything else, but if there was, I’m not sure I’d take it. If they can’t tell me clearly what it’s for, then…

I still do the things I do, I’m still writing this post, lifting weights (though they are significant;y lighter weights than 2 months ago), still laugh easy, still sit outside and watch high school baseball games in the frigid cold. I am being excessively gentle with myself.

You know one of the most important things I’ve learned? In the past, I’d cancel appointments and hide away, but I don’t do that anymore, and that helps a lot. The Bible says it’s “not good” for us to be alone, and that’s really true. I agree that people are the worst, but people are also the absolute best. (A cool thing is that a very good friend is likely concerned and texting me as she reads these words. So to her: I am fine, just a little non-specific blah. Everyone should have beautiful friends like I do.) So I’ll keep connecting and wheeling this baggage around, driving the principle of inertia (or let it drive me). Maybe the low grade will fade imperceptibly, little by little, until it disappears altogether. Probably.

I’ll keep being excessively gentle with myself and I hope you are, too.

Patterns… — April 14, 2022

Patterns…

I can’t count how many posts I’ve written on Catfish, which I suppose would have to be called my favorite tv show right now. The last 2 shows on Netflix I’ve watched are Inventing Anna and Bad Vegan. There’s something about that…a pattern…

Bad Vegan was the account of a fancy vegan restaurant in New York City. Mostly, it was the account of it’s owner Sarma, her striking rise and equally striking downfall that landed her in prison for a few minutes. It was also the account of her husband Shane (or Anthony,) who was maybe insane or maybe just a lying fraud. I guess it’s possible he was just misunderstood, was actually fighting evil forces and was totally going to make Sarma and her dog immortal once the fight was over. For the first 2 episodes, I wondered how a brilliant business-woman could be duped by such an obvious con. But during the last 2, I wondered how I was duped by such an obvious con for 2 episodes.

One of my favorite things to say to my sons is, “You can’t possibly expect me to believe this – I’m not one of your dumb little buddies.” It’s condescending and rude, I explain, to assume I am the kind of person who is so incapable of reason and intelligent thought that I would accept the excrement you’re shoveling.

But maybe I am that kind of person. Sarma assumed I am exactly that kind of person, too. She also assumed you are, and so is everyone we know. And I DID buy it for 2 episodes!!!!

Whatever, I don’t really care about Sarma, her marriage, restaurant or her immortality. What’s interesting is how the vast majority of the things I like have everything to do with identity; who we are and the bizarre ways we contort ourselves to portray characters different than the ones we truly are.

I pastor a church and the main problem we all have with churches and the people in them is what we call hypocrisy. In the Bible, the word is an acting term, so calling me a hypocrite is exactly like saying I’m an actor, playing different roles for different audiences. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to the church. In fact, the harshest words in the Bible are reserved for these actors, it seems it’s not just our main problem. I spend tons of time on Sunday mornings talking about authenticity, being fully present as we are – instead of holding up this exhausting facade.

I bet this is so important to me, and why I gravitate to this sort of art, because I spent an inordinate amount of my life pretending to be someone else, someone cooler, more capable, smarter, more awesome. Once I was able to begin to set some of this baggage down and walk around as simply me, it felt light, airy, and wonderful, and I desperately wanted that for everyone.

Then of course I’d pick the baggage up again, and see the worst parts of me in that million-part Anna series and Catfish and in the kids in the high school where I work, and become overwhelmingly frustrated with them. That’s probably why I can’t stand hypocrisy, isn’t it? Because I just can’t seem to stop myself from acting.

On A Daily Basis — April 8, 2022

On A Daily Basis

Today is the most beautiful. The sun is brilliant in the cloudless sky, and that’s a pretty stark contrast to the past few days or weeks, when it had rained often and the sky was always the color of cement. The Angel tells me not to use the words always, never, and “all the time,” and I suppose she’s right. Maybe in the past 2 weeks, the sky wasn’t the color of cement for 15 minutes in the late morning. I just don’t remember it.

She tells me that because I am naturally inclined towards exaggeration. I’ll say I haven’t slept in weeks, but when pressed, I have slept but not well, and then when pressed on that, I realize that I had a night last Tuesday that was alright, so who knows what’s true anymore?

None of this always/never business matters at all because the point is that it’s a lovely day and lovely days feel like possibility, and not much has felt that way lately. This central Pennsylvania weather is an apt metaphor for the state of the world about now; raining, gray and depressing. We’re also in Lent and if you go for that sort of thing, it’s an invitation to self-reflection and, in a heart state that corresponds to late winter, melancholy. This week ahead in the church asks us to engage with the passion (which in this context means suffering), and in a culture that tries so hard to avoid uncomfortability, it’s no wonder we feel so torn apart. We simply can’t turn a blind eye to the near constant negative stimulation. So now what?

I’m happy I didn’t write this yesterday, because the tone would have been quite different. Yesterday it was raining and today is awesome. That’s enough, sometimes. Yesterday the best we could do was to just barely hold things together. Today we are 1 step away from changing the world forever, today is when my love pyramid scheme is not far away, when it’s not only possible but totally reasonable.

Tracee Ellis Ross is an actress on the tv show black-ish. She wrote a piece about the final season in Entertainment Weekly, and in it, she says, “black-ish was an opportunity for me to be free and to shine and to embody all of my values; to be able to strive for a level of excellence in the work that I do, and how I interact with the people that I work with, and to be of service and fight for equity and joy on a daily basis.”

I love it and her, I’ve read it a hundred times.

And as we’re talking, if you replace “black-ish” with anything, with whatever we do, whatever we care about, how we spend our time, and who we spend it with, her writing describes a design for our lives that is much bigger than a tv show. The “work we do” is loving each other, is holding each other’s hand and walking through the pain/suffering and flying through the celebrations, is picking us up and reminding us that we can keep going. “Fight for equity & joy on a daily basis.” Right??!!?? We continue to fight, in Lent and on Easter, yesterday in the pouring rain and today in the blinding sunshine, in late-February and in September. All isn’t lost when we’re reading horrible news while our hearts break, it just means we work the way we were designed (if your heart isn’t broken sometimes, that’s what is truly concerning) and the world doesn’t. And on those days, when we keep showing up, fighting for joy, we display an overwhelming courage that inspires us all when we wonder if we can go one more day. We can. And we will. We will be free and shine, embody our values, and keep fighting.