Browsing the archives for the Personal Transformation tag

Wake Up Call! – Your Courage



Your courage to be guided by what sustains your life is a precious gift.

I was mesmerized by a formation of twelve hundred stones this week. I was on Robben Island and each stone had been placed by a former political prisoner at a reunion marking their years or decades of incarceration.

I could have viewed it as another cairn of stones but instead it was a place of pilgrimage.

Thinking of the great pilgrim sites I remembered their drawing us into truths more spacious than ourselves. I was invited to think of the courage of each person who had placed a stone on the cairn; the courage to believe in freedom and their own worth in the midst of attempts to destroy them.

The courage of ordinary people has filled my mind this week. It’s caused me to pause and acknowledge the dark moments in which I’ve had the courage to sustain my own worth and goodness. What courage sustains you on your journey?


  • Be thankful for the courage of those known and unknown to you

  • Be mindful of the courage you have in life’s challenging times

Notice how courage sustains you and give thanks for its many expressions.

Share a story about sustaining courage here.

Transform your life with The Book of Forgiving

Choose to make 2014 a New Year of love and trust

Finding purpose and meaning in your work

Pass this on! – 5 Tools for raising compassionate kids

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook

©2014 Robert V. Taylor

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Wake Up Call! – Your Labels



When people label you can choose to honor, reject or redefine the label.

What labels have been applied to you? I remember the first time I was called a faggot. I was 13 years old and I cringed with fear, shame, anger and rejection. I knew that I was gay and the label was intended to diminish and demean.

I could choose to accept the terror of the label or I could wrestle with a richer truth that seemed hard to articulate at that age.

Over the years I befriended the “f…..” label as I accepted who I am. When I hear that word I feel affection toward it even though I know it is still a weapon for others.

I’ve learned that a myriad of labels used to define me can be interpreted in many ways for good or ill. When I am grounded in who I am I can honor their goodness, redefine their intent, or reject them. What will you do with the labels used about you?


  • Remember not to cede your life to the labeling of others

  • Be mindfully grounded in the richness of who you are

Notice how a label can be transformed and free you for goodness.

Share a story about labels here.

Transform your life with The Book of Forgiving

Choose to make 2014 a New Year of love and trust

Finding purpose and meaning in your work

Pass this on! – 5 Tools for raising compassionate kids

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook

©2014 Robert V. Taylor

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Have you had your holy surprise today?

Robert V. Taylor

This piece was first published on February 10, 2013

A holy surprise will grab your attention. Holy surprises are the events and people which interrupt the expected plans of your day. When you live with awareness of them your own humanity is enriched and expanded. Will you choose to allow them to punctuate your day with their invitation to playful delight about life?

For many people the work week, a job, family dynamics, a marriage or their own self-image is something to be endured.  They have become so practiced at “survival” that the endurance seems normal when in fact it is life and spirit sapping.  It serves no one for this to be your “reality.”

Instead, these four tips for choosing to be present to holy surprises invite you to a more enlivened experience of life.

1. Live beyond the “If only” half-script of your life.

I frequently hear people suggest that “If Only” a particular circumstance were different then they would be ready to embrace the yearnings of their lives. This only cedes your life to fear. It results in you becoming a bystander to your own being and purpose.

Holy surprises are the events and people which interrupt the expected plans of your day. When you live with awareness of them your own humanity is enriched and expanded.

It is on the edge of my fears that I am open to even small steps that become a pathway to transformed living. I once allowed my fear of failure to keep me from writing. I thought that if it was not excellent enough it would disappoint those around me and the institution I served. Too many of us allow others to keep us from our script.

A half-script is a gatekeeper to life. When we view events or people that rattle our complacency or awaken our fear of ourselves as a holy surprise we discover that they are an invitation to make choices to live into our own script. Our choice to respond to the surprise invites others to do the same and experience a life of richer engagement and delight.

2. Cultivate imagination each day

My maternal grandmother was born in Nazareth in the Holy Land. When I was young she would tell me Bible stories with graphic descriptions of the landscape and characters. They were tremendous!

Decades later I realized that her Bible stories often bore little resemblance to the book she was referencing. Her imagination engaged me and the kernels of wisdom and truth of the stories remade in her imagination seemed radiant.

Somewhere between the age of 6 and 8 many children are told to stop being “so silly” in exercising their imagination. In the creation stories of many religious traditions we learn that humanity is made in the image a Creator. But what if you think of yourself as being made, not in the image of, but the imagination of the ever-creating, ever-expanding Universe?

The closest word to “human” in Hebrew or the Latin homo is Adam which derives from the Hebrew root word for “imagination.” To be human is to participate in limitless imagination! Cultivating imagination allows us to experience the holy surprises that interrupt our days with new eyes.  Instead of disbelief, fear or resistance, we greet them as possibilities engaging our imaginative self.

3. Expect life to engage you with unexpected people.

Our own story is not a personal treasure for only ourselves and those within the circle of comfortable friends. When we can hold the diverse elements of our story together – including wonder, shame, regret and joy – there is a seamlessness about who we are that reveals wisdom and truth in the arc of our story. The result is a new and heightened compassion for yourself and others.

When you share your story with others you experience curiosity about their story. It becomes a common, sacred meeting ground with unexpected people who are not in the usual orbit of your life. Real differences may still exist with unexpected people on this expanded field of life but it is marked by anxiety making room for delight.

The professional and business groups I work with yearn to know how a story can be used to engage more authentically with colleagues and clients. Whether it is in your professional or personal life, the holy surprise of engaging with unexpected others through story allows suspicion to give way to insights previously unimagined. Oneness with humanity is no longer a theory but a delight.

4. Choose to bring new life to others and yourself.

When you engage in acts of generosity or self-giving your happiness index increases. Instead of being overwhelmed by seemingly inextricable problems in the world or your community be open to a holy surprise inviting you to respond with a simple action.

Walking on a Florida beach I was surprised by a bevy of volunteers marking off sites on the beach with stakes and tape. They were protecting the loggerhead turtles’ nesting ground in the sand. One volunteer told me he was inspired to do this work after learning that only one of every one thousand eggs laid results in a surviving turtle. I marveled at his simple yet joyous response in becoming a midwife to the turtles.

The surprise is often presented by an opportunity. A grandson noticed his 84-year-old grandmother’s delight in surfing the Internet and using Facebook to keep up on her large family. He knew that her old computer could not be used for watching the videos posted of her great grandchildren. He decided to buy her an iPad. The grandmother relishes the new tool she has for connection and learning.

Will you allow these four tools for embracing holy surprises to grab your attention each day? Your own well-being will be expanded by the playful delight you discover.
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Tips to Claim Your Authentic Voice

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, January 23, 2013

I once believed that my voice was insignificant. Surely no one was that interested in my story or the way it shaped my views. It was a way of living with a half-script of my life. The Universe needs the fullness of your voice and the human family thrives when we each claim our voice.

Choose to be a participant rather than a victim. Victim-hood is not pretty or life-giving. It feeds on dullard choices and creates a cycle of spiritual, emotional and intellectual poverty. We become bystanders to our own lives. Instead of nursing victim-hood, life invites us to be full, active participants.

It begins with knowing that in the many elements of your story – the wonder, shame, regret and joy – ancient wisdom and Universal spiritual truths are revealed. Over many years I discovered that holding all the aspects of my story together allows new light to be shone on their interwoven circle of truth.

Instead of allowing others to define or diminish me I discovered that my story and voice are a gift. They connect me with unexpected people because our authentic stories offer a meeting ground. When I claim my voice the connecting stories reveal that my story is never just about me. It is about our need of one another.

What will you give your heart to each day? It’s all too easy to allow the day and its demands to define you. Choose instead to be expectant about the day. I begin each day with a simple reminder of the word I’ve chosen to be my guide for the year. This year that word is Awe.

I remind myself and the Universe that I am aware and open to awe in the day ahead. It may be in the dancing light of sunrise the beauty of a small park I pass by or the sight of a flock of birds. Or awe might be discovered in the wisdom a stranger, the kindness of a colleague or the playfulness of my Labrador.

Awe is present at the end of the day when I take a few moments to name the awe that I have experienced, marveling at it and giving thanks. The awe of life that I give and open my heart to becomes a blessing on the day that is ending.

How will you greet and embrace the day? In my work I’ve discovered that my own voice is shaped by making a mindful intention each day. Years ago I woke up on one of those numbingly grey and wet Seattle days and a torrent of complaints spewed out of my mouth. This was not like my usual enthusiasm for the day. My spouse calmly said, “Wow! Perhaps you can create your own sunshine today?”

It’s all too easy to allow negative thoughts, anxiety or even fear of the day to be overwhelming. On those days we become strangers to ourselves and others. As I remind myself each day of my word for the year I offer an intention to be awake, aware and open to the goodness of others and the day.

Celebrate time! I may have no ultimate control over the flow of time but how I view time is life-shifting. Time is a companion to be celebrated.

Having coffee with a friend or talking on the phone to a cherished person in my life is something I view as a feast in my day. Choosing to let go of looking at my smart phone or tablet is a choice to be present to the moment in those feasts. I’m able to enjoy or luxuriate in the feast at hand.

Celebrating time as a companion is a choice about letting your authentic voice enter the flow of life. My gratitude is expressed each day for time serving others or being with friends, family or colleagues. It might also include celebrating time for creativity or time alone. Each becomes an expression of celebrating the rhythm of the Universe.

In each of these four ways I am reminded of how essential my authentic voice, along with that of others, is to being alive and human. How will you live a full-scripted life by claiming your authentic voice?

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The Sword of the Lord – Transforming the Experiences of Fundamentalism

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

In speaking engagements around the country I hear stories of those recovering from the wounds or abuse of fundamentalist Christianity. In his new book The Sword of the Lord: The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family, Andrew Himes offers a path to healing and transforming those experiences.

In the telling of our stories a spiritual pathway of connecting stories is revealed. As we listen with attentiveness to our own story and those of others we are on sacred terrain in which the Holy is revealed through connecting stories.

I am a friend and admirer of Andrew Himes’ work. In The Sword of the Lord he offers a lavish invitation to discovering the Holy in our stories and experiences of fundamentalism that may have caused us to believe in a harsh, unforgiving and dour God.

Himes’ invitation comes through telling the stories of his own family who were formative leaders within American fundamentalism.  Among them is his grandfather John R. Rice whose opinions expressed in his weekly paper named The Sword of the Lord exerted more influence on twentieth century fundamentalism than any other single person.  

The book is an eye-opener in revealing the crucial role that fundamentalism played in much of American history from the Civil War and Reconstruction to Civil Rights. If love is the only commandment offered by Christ and justice is its expression you will leave this book wondering where love and fundamentalism intersect for those who are not part of fundamentalism’s restrictive and harsh interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

The arc of Andrew Himes’ story is the captivating glue of this book. As he journeys away from the fundamentalism of his own family to explore other teachings and traditions Himes travels a journey to a fuller, more expansive and generous love of the Holy.

As he enters into a mutual telling and listening to stories with members of his own family you feel privileged to be present for experiences of hearts cracked open to one another. It is in these powerful connecting stories that you experience the transformation of hearts and lives.

On one level this book is a must read for anyone seeking to understand or make sense of American fundamentalism. For any of us who have been shaped, formed or disfigured by fundamentalism The Sword of the Lord is an invitation to take some next steps on your own journey of healing.  

For anyone interested in the power of storytelling and the pathway that connecting stories offer on our journey to becoming fully alive and fully human this book is filled with wise, compassionate and  deeply engaging examples of how to authentically make such a journey.

If you buy The Sword of the Lord today on Amazon you will help make it on to the top ten best seller list of the day. Whenever you buy it and read it, it will become a familiar companion of hope, transformation and generous radiant living.

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Freedom Beyond Your Enclosures


Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

 Our journey is a dance between freedom and what encloses us. When we are active participants on our spiritual journey we assume responsibility for being willing to be transformed and free to grow into our magnificence.  Paul offers tools for this journey in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians. How will you use those tools?

     What is an enclosure? Enclosures are self-fulfilling actions and beliefs that keep you from being who you are meant to be. When we allow ourselves to be confined by unacceptable expectations and boundaries drawn by others – such as family, culture, religion and politics – we accept an enclosure, and so define a limited us.

     When hiding behind your own particular enclosure you choose to live with a cramped heart, a squelched voice, and often, a lack of compassion for yourself—and others. While the choice to be enclosed can happen subtly over time, enclosure is no small thing. Your life is at stake! Enclosures lock you away from the fullness of joy intended for you by the Holy, and deprive the world of the gifts that only you can give—shielding you from the people who most need your influence.

     The good news is this—since we choose our way into an enclosure, we can choose to break out. Life presents us with such invitations each day.

     In a workshop I led on the pathways to becoming enlivened one of the participants raised her hand towards the end of the day and said to the group, “I’ve had an unexpected epiphany that I’d like to share.” Martha said, “I’ve spent years engaged in contemplative prayer practices. They’ve been a gift to me.  But today I’ve felt like a bird breaking out of my shell learning to sing for the first time.” The other participants leaned in listening to someone who was clearly not used to speaking in public. 

     Martha went on to talk about her practices saying, “I’ve always listened for the voice of the Holy somewhere out there” as she gestured with her arms to the space around her. “I’d never imagined what I was missing is the Holy in here” pointing to herself. Smiling broadly she added, “I feel as though I’m beginning to learn a new song. The notes and the lyrics have always been there but I’ve never paid them any attention.”

     Our own song, once recovered in us, is a gift of freedom opening a pathway to a more richly layered life.  In the months that followed I heard from Martha who kept testing her own newly reclaimed voice. She wrote saying, “I used to believe that my voice was insignificant and that it would be a selfish thing to pay attention to it. This was normal for me. As I trust my voice I’m discovering that I listen to the voices of others with new ears. And I can discern which voices to ignore. My life has been like breaking out of a thousand egg shells since that moment of epiphany with you.”

     “I’ve begun to remember the voices from my childhood” said Martha. “Voices of those who loved me but who repeatedly asked me ‘Who do you think you are?’ or ‘Why do you think such thoughts?’ I’m realizing that the voice I’m appreciating as an adult is not a new voice. It’s my voice unearthed after years of storage.” The truth being revealed was the inverse of those questions that had resulted in putting her voice into a holding pen for decades.

     We serve no one’s happiness or life by trying to fix or mend. Detaching from those whose voices insist we fix or mend their lives is an exercise in affirming the humanity of all and the Holy present in each person. Each of us can only save the life we are responsible for—our own. By detaching emotionally and spiritually we say to another person “I love you; I want your happiness; I will be actively hoping for you to recover and claim your own voice and passion. Someday I pray we will celebrate our voices finding a new harmony.”

     As Martha’s enclosures opened, she began to listen and engage with other people in a new way, unafraid of what their voices might reveal. On another occasion Martha wrote to say, “For the first time I’m appreciating the Universe and the Holy in the voice of all kinds of people. My every encounter seems different. I’m appreciative, I’m learning and I’m filled with anticipation about what I will hear.”

     Paul’s Damascus experience was an opening of an enclosure. His own life and experience of the Holy was experienced through new lenses because he chose to break out of his particular enclosure. Is this why he writes with such fervent, urgent passion about being “called to freedom”?  Is this why he offers the “fruit of the Spirit” as guideposts for the journey?

     Like my friend Martha your life and mine presents us with invitations each day to live into the freedom that the spiritual quest invites. A freedom to be fully alive, fully human. Is this part of your spiritual positioning system for the journey?

This blog was posted originally on Darkwood Brew where Robert is a guest blogger for their online discussion on Galatians

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Pimp’s Ho’s and Other Paradigm Shifters!

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

“Are you a Pimp or Ho?” It is an arresting question. But you instantly get the message. It is the question of the movie Ghetto Physics: Will the Real Pimps and Ho’s Please Stand Up! It is an invitation to a paradigm shift about the lenses we experience life through.

Up front the movie declares that we’ll be looking at our own face in the mirror, viewing our own role in the power plays of life. Cornel West says, “You’ll get pimped if you’re naïve” about life’s realities. In the world of this movie the world is our ghetto? Or is it?

Audiences jump into the conversation. Will Arntz – director of the movie along with E. Raymond Brown – and I recently spoke with an audience about their reactions to Ghetto Physics. Mostly they resonated with the question of whether we are each a pimp or ho – in the worldview of the movie we are each both, because there is one in every relationship. That is, if you are stuck in the paradigm of pimps who want the ho’s to believe that he or she cannot change their circumstance. Or if your relationships are all about who is pimping or ho’ing. I get the point but that’s not always the way it is.

I was unprepared for so many in the audience zeroing in on the spiritual questions raised by Ghetto Physics. Probably not surprising given that Will Arntz is the acclaimed director of What the Bleep Do You Know?  –  a remarkable movie exploring the spiritual connection between quantum physics and consciousness.

Ghetto Physics

The audience was hungry to explore whether there is a new way of being that reflects the values of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” or what Ishmael Tetteh calls, “the reality within you.” I believe there is a new way to be human, to become fully alive. There are pathways that help us to navigate that big truth. They each invite transformation. 

Ghetto Physics only touches on this being a “time of transformation” because it is a “time of crisis” brought on by the pimping which it claims is found in academia, religious institutions, government and corporate life. E. Raymond Brown tells a student that “there are always options” but that it a copout for what transformation means. Ghetto Physics does not engage in the spiritual pathways of discovering a new way to be human. It only alludes to them but then takes a pass. But that is not the purpose of the movie.

It does use powerful imagery, humor and the hip-hop language of pimps and ho’s to suggest two things.  First, If you’re going to live in the global ghetto of pimp’s and ho’s know that you are not just a ho but that you can pimp as well.  Second, this is not the only game in town; it is not the only paradigm. There is another option – to rise to the spiritual journey. This is the sequel to Ghetto Physics that I’m waiting for!

In our conversation with the audience Will Arntz and I discovered a deep hunger for meaning, purpose and living a life of value. The film will likewise engage you. At the very least you’ll come away asking about the paradigm and lenses through which you choose to live.

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Hate Talk or Life-Giving Talk?

Robert V. Taylor

We are bombarded with people “talking” at us!  There is another way to experience talking that unleashes, invites, and empowers a fuller way of living.  In We Really Need to Talk: Steps to Better Communication (Sorin Books 2010), Paul Donoghue and Mary Siegel offer such a path. 

RVT:  I came away from reading your book deeply moved by your belief that how we talk with one another is transformative.

PD & MS:  We can talk in a way that truly connects us to others.  To do so we have to be honest and clear, sensitive and respectful to the person we are talking to.  By communicating in this way, we come to know ourselves—our real feelings, our true needs, our honest perceptions.  We also allow ourselves to be known and to be understood and ultimately to be loved.  Francis Bacon wrote, “Writing maketh the exact man.”  Well, speaking honestly and respectfully makes the responsible, loving man or woman. 

We really need to talk

RVT:  We’ve each experienced the despair and pain of unproductive communication.  You offer such practical steps in creating productive communication.  Is this a path to living life more fully?

PD & MS:  Life is rich and meaningful when it is filled with trusting relationships.  Distrust, suspicion, fear, rage, and loneliness are the consequences of unhealthy relationships.  So living fully means that we interact with others in a way that promotes trust, that nurtures as well is nurturing and provides a sense of well being and hope.

RVT:  For many people communication is tied up with the public persona they have created or the role they play in various relationships.  Are you suggesting that we can navigate through these realities while becoming more authentic about who we are when we talk?

PD & MS:  Definitely.  But you point to a significant hindrance to speaking honestly, that is role-playing.  All of us have roles: parent, son, daughter, male, female professional, boss, etc.  Too often we allow the role to distort and to limit our ability to be authentic.  A guy can’t share his feelings, a priest can’t get angry, a lady can’t be forceful in her expression, doctors and lawyers have to use professional jargon, a teacher or parent has to know all the answers.  Yet, roles can free us to be more of ourselves: tender and responsible as a parent, helpful as a professional, protective as a cop.  But we have to define the role that we have, not let it define us. 


Mary Siegal

RVT:  I’m struck by your belief that more fulfilling relationships–in our personal, family, workplace and community conversation–are possible as we try on the new skills you suggest.  It sounds like a new way of imagining ourselves in each of these spheres of our lives.

PD & MS:  That’s right.  A doctor who thinks she has to have all the answers and can never be wrong needs to learn to listen rather than to pontificate.  And that means forming new images of herself.  She needs to picture herself more humbly connecting with her patients demonstrating compassion and willing to admit to not knowing.  The woman playing the all available volunteer, friend and mom might need to start imagining herself saying, “No” to another request for her time.  She has to picture herself stating her personal needs to those whose needs she has consistently been attentive.

In order to communicate in a new and more authentic fashion, we need to be able to picture ourselves speaking differently.  We cannot do what we can’t picture and we can’t be who we can’t imagine.  Imaging, like any skill, takes practice.

Paul Donoghue

RVT:Your book celebrates our humanity becoming alive in unexpected ways through reimagining communication.  Your work is like a blessing which invites people to take new steps with expectancy.  PD & MS:  Thank you, Robert, for seeing our work as a blessing as well as a guide and a challenge.  We are convinced that people want to be more alive, more fulfilled, happier.  But all of us get stuck in bad habits of communication that deform the way in which we interact and that keep us from real energizing contact with others., even those closest to us.  We can grow to expect more of ourselves as we learn to be more authentic and more free in the way that we express ourselves and as we learn to listen, really listen, to the people in our lives. 

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Read my earlier blog conversation with Mary and Paul about their book Are You Really Listening? –  Listen? Stop Just Hearing

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Libyan Challenge to Free Your Voice

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

“For the first time in 42 years my voice is free.” Transformative words from a Libyan freedom protester in Benghazi. That truth is liberating. Her courage to claim her voice is inspiring. This Libyan woman challenges each of us to courageously claim our voice. Your voice is too important to be devalued in any way.

It is no easy simple thing to claim your voice when you live in an oppressive situation.  I remember the courage that it took for those fighting apartheid in South Africa to use their voices to never let go of a vision of freedom, human dignity and oneness that would ultimately triumph over the decades of a system designed to denigrate and deny the humanity of people.

As I began to discover the truth of the violence of apartheid I found it impossible not to speak about what I was experiencing. I was often greeted with, “you’re treading on dangerous ground; you should be quiet!” and “There’s never smoke without fire; the government must know what it’s doing.”

I was discovering that it is often those closest to us who seek to enclose us by offering their bad advice.  Not because they’re bad people, but because when we choose a path to new truths about who we are and others and how to exercise our voice, they feel threatened. 

When we choose to grow on the path of realizing that our voice is part of becoming fully alive, the anxiety level of those who choose to remain in their own enclosures increases.  Ironically, the more you find your own voice, the more insistent those other voices can become. 

It’s tempting to become co-dependent and buy into the bad advice shrouded in soothing tones about our own welfare.  I’m guessing that the Libyan woman along with millions of her fellow citizens knows the raw truth of that. Stories on National Public Radio and CNN certainly point to that.

In a recent workshop one of the participants raised her hand at the end of the day and said to the group, “I’ve had an epiphany I’d like to share.”  Martha said, “I’ve spent years engaged in contemplative practices.  They’ve been a gift to me. But today I’ve felt like a bird breaking out of my shell learning to sing for the first time.”

Martha went on to add, “I’ve always listened for the voice of the Holy somewhere out there” as she gestured with her arms to the space around her. “I’d never imagine what I was missing in the Holy in here” pointing to herself. Smiling she added, “I feel as though I’m beginning to learn a new song.  The notes and the lyrics have always been there but I’ve never paid them any attention.”

Martha, like the Libyan woman, was discovering that her life was at stake in claiming her voice. 

Our circumstances of being enclosed or penned down may be different than that of courageous Libyans.  But like them our own lives are at stake in the courage and choices we make about letting our voice speak or sing. 

Like the Libyan woman, it is a path that usually connects us in a profound way to the voices of others as we break out of enclosures and discover freedom and dignity through new lenses.  This is transformation!

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If you enjoyed this blog you might want to read Egyptian Protesters: Meekness Be Darned! and Dalai Lama – Invitation to Show Up With Compassion

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