She said no.

I just read a news story about an 11-year-old boy who killed an eight-year-old neighbor girl because she said no.

She didn’t say no about sex. It wasn’t over something so charged with emotion as sex.

It was over a puppy.

He wanted to see her new puppy and she refused. So he went inside his house and picked up a gun and shot her.

It is so easy to say that this is a matter of a parent not locking up their guns. He was easily able to open up the closet door, pull out a shotgun and shoot this girl in the chest, killing her instantly. That is certainly an issue. But more than gun-control, we need to have people control. How have we gotten to the point where young boys feel that the way to deal with rejection is to kill? How have we gotten to the point where being told “no” means someone has to die?

It is to the point where we really shouldn’t be afraid of Muslim men with guns. What we need to be afraid of are young white boys with guns. They are responsible for far more murders in America these days than anyone else.

This has nothing to do with “America being a Godless nation” as some commentators say. You don’t need religion to know you should not kill someone.

Perhaps violent videogames are to blame. Perhaps neglectful parenting is to blame. Perhaps this kid (and all the other ones, too many to name) were left alone for too long, ignored, left to fend for themselves, unguided, unwanted. Perhaps it is all of this, and more. Whatever the reason(s), we as a nation need to figure it out soon, because too many deaths have already occurred.

I feel the root of this particular murder is the word “no” – and how he handled it.

If he didn’t kill her over this, it is entirely possible that he would grow up to assault or rape a different woman who told him “no”. Is this what our society has come to, where women cannot say “no” for fear of being harmed? Is this what our society has come to, where men can’t hear the word “no” without causing harm?

There was no way to predict that this would have happened. He asked to see her puppy. She said no. So he killed her. Something doesn’t add up. This equation does not lead logically from one step to another. And that is the problem. We say we want to stop gun violence, but deep down if we are being honest we really just want to not be the victim of gun violence. It has become random, uncertain, chaotic. Anyone can be a victim.

Long gone are the days where attacks follow a logical pattern. Someone was abused for years and kills his abuser. Someone was in a “bad” part of town and got mugged. Someone got into a fight and got shot.

These days, just going to school can be dangerous. Just going to the movies can get you murdered. There is no logic to it. All the victims are innocent. Often they aren’t even known by their murderer.

Why are there too many guns and not enough parents teaching their children right from wrong? Sometimes it isn’t even as easy or simple as that. Sometimes the parents need a few lessons themselves. Often the parents are less than stable. Giving birth does not suddenly improve intelligence or aptitude. It isn’t a surprise when their kids go off the deep end.

Stronger gun laws will only result in a greater imbalance. More “bad” people will have guns. They don’t obey laws anyway, so gun laws will benefit them and harm everyone else. It is too late to regulate guns – there are too many out there. What we need is to regulate people.

We need to teach our children from an early age how to handle loss, rejection, and pain. We need to teach them how to deal with their feelings, good and bad. We need to teach them how to be with other people in healthy ways, ways that are life-affirming. We need to teach people how to have dialogue versus having debate. We need to teach people about many other cultures and ways of thinking, so they learn there are many ways of seeing and understanding.

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Human / Animal

The first test for humans was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We were told “Don’t eat this, it is bad for you.” We failed that test. God gave us our minds for reason and wants us to exercise self-control. This is what God was testing – were we humans or were we animals.

Self-control is the mark of a human versus an animal. Delayed gratification and restraint are the hallmarks of a human being – not just someone who is in the shape of the human but someone who actually is able to act like one. Saving versus spending, planning ahead – these are hallmarks of a mature human.

Yet God didn’t abandon us there when we failed that test. God stuck with us. God keeps giving us chances. God says “I set before you a blessing and a curse.” We have a choice about how we spend our time, our money, and our energy. We can use them for ourselves or for others. We can waste or use wisely.

Sure we have free will. But we also will experience the consequences of our choices too. If we choose to go against God’s commands, we will suffer. God doesn’t punish us because of our bad actions, we do.

It is like being told “Don’t touch the stove – it is hot.” When a child touches it anyway and burns her fingers, it isn’t the parent who his punishing her with her burned fingers. She did it to herself. The parent knows better, knows that this otherwise safe item, usually cool to touch, isn’t safe right now and warns the child. The child has a choice. She isn’t being forced to obey. If she chooses well then she has proven she is mature. God gives us these same kinds of choices.

People blame God for their heart disease and diabetes when they are the result of their unhealthy life choices such as eating salty fried processed food and not exercising. The problem is that they blame God for their own bad choices. They don’t take personal responsibility for their actions. They are acting like animals and not like humans.

On carrying cash only.

One of the most common things I hear when I tell people that I carry cash instead of credit cards is that they are afraid. They don’t say the words that they are afraid, but the next sentence does. They say “It is dangerous to carry around large amounts of money all the time.”

I think to myself – why would you need to carry around large amounts of money all the time? Do you have a sudden need to spend large amounts of money? That alone should be something to look into. That indicates deeper problems – ones that can be addressed by taking on the discipline of carrying cash.

For everyday occurrences, simply carrying at least a 20 on you will do. Even before I started carrying only cash, I would have a 20 under my ID as an emergency backup, and a 20, a 10, a 5, and some ones. That meant I had whatever change I needed for whatever circumstance. It also meant that I had enough to pay for my meal when the credit card machine reader was broken.

I have experienced enough times with myself and with observing others that not every place takes credit cards, and not every credit card reader works all the time. It is safer to have some cash on you.

I know a guy who was ‘running on fumes’. He just barely managed to get to a gas station before his car ran out of gas. Ideally, he would have filled up long before the gauge hit E, but that is another story. He gets to the gas station and pulled out his credit card. The card reader did not work. He knew that he did not have enough gas to start the car and drive to the next gas station. He did not have any cash on him. He was stuck. Fortunately someone nearby, (someone older), had cash and lent it to him.

You don’t need to carry large amounts of money on you at all times. You know when you’re going to go to grocery store or the hardware store. You have an idea how much you’re going to spend. Bring that amount. Otherwise keep it at home or at the bank.

I think that all of this anxiety about carrying large amounts of cash is a disease that has been spread to us to make us afraid and controlled.

Think of the stories you’ve heard in the news of people who have been robbed. Then start going backwards. How many people do you personally know who have been robbed? If you know anyone who was robbed, how often where they robbed?

Have they been robbed every week?
Have they been robbed once a year?

How big is this problem, really? More importantly – how small is it?

Then think about the numbers of times you’ve heard about thousands of people experiencing credit card fraud. Their wallet doesn’t even have to be stolen. They won’t even know they have had their information taken from them until it is too late. It is less traumatic at the beginning, sure, but way more expensive at the end. Lots of time has gone by, and lots of money has been spent. Lots of money that isn’t even there to be spent – it is all on credit.

I believe that all the stories we hear of people being robbed are exactly that – stories. I believe that we have been told these stories to keep us afraid, and in line. I believe that the world is exactly as safe as we choose it to be. But also – it is exactly as dangerous as we will let it be.

I would rather have cash on me than credit cards with huge limits. Not only is it dangerous to have the ability to mindlessly spend up to $15000, it is also dangerous that someone could steal my purse and could swipe my card and max it out all the way up to the limit of my credit. These days, if someone steals my wallet, the only thing they’ll steal is the amount of cash that is inside it. That is at most 50. On grocery days it is 100. I’d much rather have $100 stolen than $5000.

But what about unforeseen accidents and problems? My car might break down? What then? What did we do before credit cards? Think. We have created our own monster.

I can live in fear that I’m going to be robbed, or I can live in fear that I’m suddenly going to have to spend lots of money because my car is going to break down.

I chose to not live in fear.

The soul and the body – the rider and the horse.

The soul is the rider. The body is the horse.

A horse has a mind of its own, and will want to wander. It wants to veer towards the fun things, the pretty things. It gets distracted. It gets bogged down, lost. If left on its own, it will lead you astray.

The rider’s job is to learn how to get the horse to go where is best. The rider’s job is to make sure the horse has good food, enough exercise, and proper shelter.

If the rider takes good care of the horse and controls where it goes, the horse and the rider will both benefit.

If the rider lets the horse have control, lets the horse eat whatever it wants, and only takes the horse out when he wants to go somewhere, they will both suffer.

If the soul does not take care of the body, the body will be in charge. The soul will feel trapped. The soul will not be able to do what it needs to do. It will not be able to complete its mission.

Sometimes the horse is difficult. Sometimes it is headstrong and willful. Sometimes it has a genetic weakness. Sometimes it has a bad leg.

Sometimes the rider is inept. Sometimes the rider lets the horse take over, so they end up where the horse wants to go, but not where the rider wants to go. Sometimes the rider neglects to feed the horse healthy food and the horse isn’t able to go anywhere at all.

Blinders help. Training helps. Discipline helps. This requires constant, focused work. It is OK to ask for help – you don’t have to do it all on your own.

If you can’t control your cravings, then seek help in a therapist, minister, books, or friends. Find someone or something that helps you get back on track. Make sure you aren’t exchanging one crutch for another. Learn why you keep letting your body lead you astray, or what are you doing that isn’t nurturing it.

Where is your weakness? Dig down to the root. Where did you learn that flawed coping mechanism? Unlearn, to relearn. It is never too late to start over.

Asking for help is a sign of strength. It means that you want to get stronger. It is the only way out of that hole. You’ve tried to do it yourself and failed. This is part of the test. Pride will kill you.

Every lesson is repeated until learned. You will stay in this body until you can’t learn any more from it. Then you will leave it. You may come back to try again, or go further.

Death is realizing that this body can’t get you where you need to go. Sometimes you don’t have the tools. Sometimes the body isn’t strong enough, and you don’t know how to get it that way.

Exercise exorcises

I don’t exercise to fit into my clothes. I exercise to fit into my body. I exercise to fit inside myself.

My body and brain don’t feel right when I don’t exercise. I feel sluggish and stupid. I feel out of sorts.

I exercise so my joints work without hurting. I exercise so my muscles are strong enough to lift what I need to lift. I exercise so I can sleep well.

I exercise so I don’t get angry all the time, so I can think more clearly, so I can have some space in my head for the thoughts I want to think.

Exercise shakes out all the rusty bits. Exercise stops me from feeling rusty in body, mind, and soul. Things just work better when I move.

Every now and then I’ll take a break. Every now and then I “cheat” and I’ll not walk at lunch, or I’ll sit while checking in the inside book drop. Every now and then I just don’t want to go to the Y. Usually I’ll spend the same week eating sea salt caramel gelato, sour cream and onion potato chips, and drinking Yoo-hoo chocolate drinks.

The only person I’m cheating on is myself. I feel fine for a bit, and then it catches up with me. Then I feel terrible, and I hate being inside my body. I’ve put bad stuff in it and I haven’t done anything to get it out.

Exercise exorcises.