I Don’t Have to Be Right

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This week, it’s really been hitting me how much I truly want to stay a Christian. Ministry college was actually a lot of fun some times and I learned such valuable lessons. One of which was that no one on the planet is unequivocal

ly right about everything. I discovered the tragic Christian history where people majored on the minors and had my-God-is-bigger-than-your-god(s) debates that often ended in  bloody, drawn-out wars. Where I came from in my understanding of theology was akin to the Spanish Inquisition. People expect you to believe certain things to be called a “Christian”, but if you don’t believe those things, you are ostracized and treated unfairly by those who say they love.

And it’s comparable only in our sanitized, entitled American culture. Sure we don’t kill those who stand up for what they actually believe in, but we keep them out so that the “Truth” will reign in us. Being afraid of people who believe differently than you is not the mark of a true Christian. It is the mark of a coward. Someone who refuses to listen to other sides, for fear they may fall under the sway of the new argument and abandon God altogether, is being cowardly not courageous.

I have been a coward. Sometimes, I still am one.

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Taboo Subject #1 Gay Marriage should not be Taboo

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I love the idea of raising children with this perspective.

My deepest hope for this blog is that whoever reads it would feel refreshed rather than attacked by the perspective I’ve gleaned over the years. That being said, I want to talk about how God transformed my perspective on gay marriage and gay relationships through media.

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Christian Judgment and South Park

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I have taken a sabbatical of sorts from this blog and in doing so, have rediscovered its purpose in my eyes. God is our Creator, every creative inclination, every perspective that holds truth, He was extremely involved in creating. Thus, every movie, every TV show, every song put out by Hollywood and “The World” is expressing, on some level, a truth that is God-made. Therefore, such expressions of creativity are important and worth discussing.

God is in everything, because He cannot be bound. Everything I have written was written because God first breathed into me His breath of life and His power of creativity. So, I do not hate any movie (though I may always be personally uncomfortable with horror as a genre.) There is always something there to remind me of God.

Many have disagreed with this perspective. They say God can’t be in movies about

promiscuous people,

promiscuous people

those who drink to excess

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and the creation and redemption of a villainous character.

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As Christians, I feel, especially in our movies, we shy away from reality. We imagine this perfect world, clean of any evil and blissfully overrun by people exactly like us. Can that really be the purpose? To destroy Hollywood and every thought that doesn’t evoke the Name of Jesus, to sing only songs that speak of His awesomeness and none that genuinely struggle with understanding why hurt happens?

The world is filled with people, through Hollywood, friends and just strangers you meet in public, who have stories to tell. They have feelings to express and shows that resonate with them because the shows write out what they struggle to understand.

I guess I’ll just throw out the example of South Park. As a kid, I thought South Park was everything wrong with our society. Come to find out it actually points out the wrong that is already there. I have judged in the past people who enjoy South Park because it’s gross and raunchy and anti-Christian. But, as with most of the media out there, South Park is taking what has been experienced and broadcasting it. From a South Park perspective, Christianity makes no sense. You are a sinner and will live in eternal torture but Jesus loves you and wants you to pay TV evangelists money so they can heal you. To South Park, and from the perspective of many, Christianity is just a giant SCAM.

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The crazy thing is that, while He may look differently than expected, South Park’s imagining of God is actually pretty on-point. Jesus is level-headed, caring and transparent. But Christians are ridiculous. I love the interactions with God/Jesus and professing Christians. There’s always a theme: You guys aren’t getting it. It’s about living a life that brings joy to others, not beating yourself down because you suck or telling other people that they suck.

And to quote my own pastor, Heaven and Hell are not really places, one to which we aspire to go, one we aspire to avoid, so much as perspectives on life. The difference between open eyes and closed ones. Waking and sleeping, Love and hate. What if we lived it more like that, than a guilt trip on who is the best kind of Christian. What would that look like?

A quick review and lesson from each movie I’ve recently seen.

I mentioned in my previous post that I had seen four movies currently in theaters. These were Pitch Perfect 2, Mad Max: Fury Road, Tomorrowland and Spy.

In a few words I will summarize just as an exercise to return to blogging amidst my INSANE work schedule (no worries though, the bosses are working it out.)

Firstly, Pitch Perfect 2 met but did not exceed my expectations. It was crass as expected and I felt it very much followed where the characters might have gone after the win at the NCCAs (with the exception of Chloe who apparently repeatedly failed to stay in the Bellas for three years. Though even that is believable as she was clearly enamored with the Bella way from the beginning. It’s like Greek life, with singing.)

I would have to watch it again as I did its predecessor. Pitch Perfect upset me when I first saw it and then I fell in love with it. It may be similar with its sequel. I’m happy to further elaborate on what I learned from both (in later entries.)

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Mad Max: Fury Road was Transformers, meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (I kept expecting someone to rip someone else’s heart out.) It was dark, grotesque and strange. But, to an extent, I enjoyed it. I was surprised by it’s undertone of hope and valuing life. It was so dreary and was basically a badass car chase/ war throughout the whole movie. The movie revered innocent lives and centered around the protection of five wives to the creepy, decrepit, dictatorial Immorton Joe.

The violence is brutal. Absolutely garish and disgusting. But there’s that tiny flicker of hope that makes it worth my time. If nothing else, I very much enjoyed seeing one of the strange white men riffing on a flamethrower guitar to provide the metalesque music throughout chase and war sequences, persisting even when momentarily separated from his music. I think we can learn something from his determination.

Mad Max Guitarist flamethrower

After that movie, friends and I hopped on over to Tomorrowland. Despite being a Disney nut, I was not anticipating Tomorrowland. I just wanted to clear my palette of the gross intensity of Mad Max before moving on with life. After Fury Road, I was in need of some hope as it held very little. Tomorrowland put hope not only into its own plot but into mine as well. The message hit home. Being lazy and resigning ourselves to the negative projections will not stop them from happening. We live in a fallen world and in a failing one but, especially as Christians, we needn’t simply accept the world’s fate.

Some people have complained that Tomorrowland is about Global Warming. It’s not. It’s about looking at disaster as it happens or even before it happens and doing nothing to stop it. That’s where a positive message is found. When you see the world falling apart, find a way to fix it! So much of Christianity has become about rolling our eyes about the other side. We get so caught up in our own way, calling it “The Way, The Truth and The Life.” But our way was never The Way. It was Jesus’s and He entrusted us with the world to cultivate and protect it. Not to get annoyed with the people who care about it.

Their priorities do often seem displaced, shouting “Save the Whales” while fighting for a woman’s right to abort. But different people have different convictions and our job is not to destroy sin. It is to love the world as Jesus did, and that includes the material world.

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Finally, the other day, I caught up with another friend and despite both of our religious backgrounds, we went to see the movie Spy with Melissa McCarthy. Some of it was very unnecessary like the brief graphic nudity that comes out of nowhere, or quite a few of the f-bombs. But, when you go to see an R-rated movie with Melissa McCarthy, f-bombs are the norm. You should seriously expect them. This movie is hilarious even with the language. Truthfully, I don’t have a problem with language. It was a concern of the Christian crowd that this R-rated spy movie has language.

Whatever else she is, Melissa McCarthy is real and plays real characters. Her characters are expressive and open about who they are. Prior to her transformation with her biggest enemy, her character, Susan is actually the most demure I’ve ever seen Melissa McCarthy post-Gilmore Girls. But what she does, her language, her attitude, she does to survive and protect those she loves. Despite all that, I would take away from this movie that Christians really need to try not to be offended.

When we, as Christians elect to go to an R-rated movie with one of the raunchiest crassest actresses yet to come to Hollywood, we cannot expect the movie to be above reproach. If we are watching R-rated films we should know we will be offended. The friend I went with was Mormon but both of us enjoyed the movie. We liked how ridiculous it all was and the very spot-on comment made by Susan that the villainness looked like a slutty dolphin trainer.

slutty dolphin trainer
                                                                                                        She’s in the center! See! She totally looks like a slutty dolphin trainer!

We enjoyed the humor, even with all the raunchiness. And, as Christians, I wish we would realize it’s okay. It’s not necessary to tiptoe around everything and if you’re easily offended, just don’t go to R-rated movies and expect them to respect Jesus and Christians and general human decency. But, if you can go, try to see the good, laugh when it’s funny, smile when it’s sweet, cringe when it’s disturbing. You are a human being and are allowed to be such. React to life, movies like these remind me, I have that permission.

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Beyond the Mask: A Surprisingly Refreshing Perspective

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Spanning across continents, set in the Revolutionary War era, Beyond the Mask impressed me with its not-too-preachy message of redemption, its strong and beautiful romance amidst consistent action and its astounding effects and sets (for a $1 million budget.)

I stumbled upon it this afternoon when a friend wanted to go see a movie. I have recently seen four movies currently in theaters so I mentioned this one. After looking at reviews, we decided to check it out. My friend is in a laid back exploratory phase of her religious convictions so when the previews advertised preachy films, I felt bad. I had inadvertently led my friend and myself into a Christian-made film.

I braced myself for a slew of unnecessary references to the cross, constant discussion of the afterlife and a practically platonic approach to romance. I received none of those. Instead I was launched into a world reminiscent of some of my favorite movies. And not unlike those movies, there was redemption for a villain, this time redemption I’ve known to last.

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I say quite a few things on this site in question of my church-guided faith. I think a lot about the way I was raised and have struggled to recognize those places where my faith was coaxed rather than felt, forced rather than accepted. In doing this, I have tended to indict and convict Christianity more than uphold its truths in my writing. But it should be said that this movie resonated with me and that faith, deep belief that God is real and working and that He loves every single person on this earth, propels my very existence.

I roll my eyes at Christian obsession with changing the world media to be honoring to God. I honestly do not believe anything is at stake there. By getting so distracted with changing world media, we rarely create our own things. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as a persecuted class and join the world in living. We ought to recognize that there is much more to life than quoting Scripture.

This is why the movie was refreshing. It didn’t shove itself in your face. The advertising quoted a verse but the movie itself never did. It simply showed redemption from a Christian perspective and brought to mind favorites like Les Miserables, Count of Monte Cristo and Pirates of the Carribean. jeanvaljean

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The romance was clean but not without chemistry and tension, her desire to love a man who loves God was something I can totally understand. Still, her conviction did not run over the plot or raise her up on a pedestal throughout the movie. Moreover, the thing that made her attractive was her kindness, grace and determination to do something to stop cruelty from having the upper hand. What made him attractive besides his generally gorgeous exterior was his desire to thwart darkness, to learn and to be a new man.

william and charlotte

Though this movie seems to have fallen through the cracks with other moviegoers and critics, I thought it was very well done and it reminded me of something I’ve steadily started to lose. I am Christian. And I am very proud of that fact. I simply believe my Christianity is more about how I treat those in my path now than it is about what I will earn in my future. As it pertains to story and film, Christianity is so beautiful when nuanced and it’s so awesome when it’s a whisper in the wind rather than a blaring advertisement, when you almost miss its message but something sinks into your spirit and makes you smile, makes you remember there’s a God.

We forget that we are not at war with the world. We are at war with darkness, with Satan. Light has overcome the darkness, even the smallest of lights can pierce the darkness, whether it comes with screaming sirens or complete silence.

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This is a nearly unexplored territory for Christians, the action/adventure film. We have so much we could begin to explore throughout history. I for one would love to see a Dietrich Bonhoeffer movie with the redemptive/rebellious atmosphere of Amazing Grace and the latest Beyond the Mask. I’m excited to see these sorts of projects happening. Not so much for world redemption (I truly think Jesus has that covered, plus total conversion of the world seems a bit like world domination, not everybody needs revival) but so that Christians can learn about themselves and see that the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil approach does not work in storytelling. It’s entirely okay and wonderful to enjoy action movies and history and things that don’t always have the “Christ” approval stamp on them. We’d do well to realize he probably approves more than we think.

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Our most disturbing doctrine- finding pearls in fear and a new way of thinking

You know I was putting pictures to my old poem “Listen” when I came to the part where I mentioned Hell. I googled some pictures about it and was disturbed to see what’s out there. I couldn’t bring myself to post a picture but I wanted to discuss the nonchalance that’s out there about Hell. Either people don’t believe in it as it’s expressed, don’t believe in it at all or believe so fervently about it they’re scared for the eternal destiny of everyone they meet. And then there are those who use Hell as a scare tactic to prepare people for a life dedicated to Christ.

Here’s what I’ve realized we say when we throw Hell mindlessly into conversation: “God loves you. He died for you. So you need to either believe that to be true or experience an eternity of torture for your stubbornness against faith, and no matter how you cry at this point, God won’t listen.”

In my experience, God is far more merciful, patient and kind than that. Though He is a warrior, just and strong, He came as a human. And when He came as a human, He chose to come as the meekest, most humble kind of human there is. An infant, born apparently out-of-wedlock to teenage parents in a place that smelled like animal scat. Not what religious leaders were expecting in his day. That tells me that there has to be more to this Hell thing (or possibly even less) than we think.

When you step back, take a look at the pictures out there on Hell, recognize that people are saying it’s for eternity and that God ignores those in Hell (but does not ever ignore anyone on earth.) That’s a change in character that frankly, is borderline psychotic. And a contrast from what on all other counts a Christian ought to be.

I believe in Hell on Earth. But not eternal torture for those who did not accept Christ. I believe Hell is the evil in the world and people have lived through it and come out, because that’s the nature of God. He redeems. He saves. And He restores lives. If we as Christians were less pre-occupied with how to help our churches look nicer and therefore more inviting, we would be able to have an impact against Hell on Earth. We could be feeding the starving, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison. (All things Jesus, the Son of God and God Himself, commissioned His disciples to do.) We could be changing the world.

I encourage you to take a look at Hell and what we’re saying to the world when we hold so tightly to this disturbing and frankly, destructive doctrine. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear should not propel our faith or push us to share that faith with others. The only thing fear should do is alert us to a need for kindness, patience and perfect love. The only thing fear should do is alert us that it needs to be cast out.

I wish I could better underscore and encapsulate the depth of sorrow in my heart that this is an accepted and shared aspect of Christian faith. One to which I at one time heartily subscribed. There’s nothing obvious or inevitable about it. We don’t get to decide who goes to Hell. We don’t get to decide who goes to Heaven. We don’t even get to decide that either absolutely unequivocally exists.

The notion that God decides this troubles me as well. Since he formed every part of our being, including the propensity for belief and for sin, He, ultimately would be the reason for each person’s existence and for each person’s prospective set eternity. I’m sure many comments will be concerned for doctrine, but listen to what we’re saying. We’re going around spreading “Good news” that God’s love is unconditional, but preach that it is contingent upon a specific belief. If that belief is not held, then… well… you’ll be tortured for all eternity. Sorry to ruin your day, but, hey, that’s just how it is.

Is it just me or did that escalate rather quickly? Might we consider that we could be interpreting things wrong? Is it at all conceivable that since every other sect can interpret the Bible incorrectly, then we might be able to as well?

Since the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were wrong about His first arrival, might we be wrong about His second? And about judgment? And about many things? And isn’t that really okay? If we’re wrong and don’t have the right answers for these questions? What if we just chose to listen and to be there, rather than being so scared to be wrong.

I do mean for this to be a discussion so feel free to comment below. 🙂

Listen- A Spoken Word in continual reminiscence

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This thinking feels so surreal.

What if there’s a different purpose than choosing to kneel.

An option we ought not to consider.

A road we’re told will make us bitter.

All these warnings lead me to think,

In this chain of life, are we so strong,

And the world the weak and broken link?

chain-broken

We each have our views,

The thought used to drive me crazy.

To not “seek God”,

Throw your hands up in the air,

And say “I don’t know…”

Well, it just seemed lazy.

As always, I’m not leaving God,

Just questioning our method.

Truth is, don’t we really view this world

Like it’s actually dead?

And only we’re alive?

Like everything they say is a lie?

And we only speak the truth,

Especially when we speak into the lives of our youth?

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The majority of this world,

They don’t think like us.

They talk about they want, they do what they do,

They even cuss!

And we laugh at them and boycott their thoughts.

All the while, we think of them as caught.

If we think they’re so enslaved, so naive and stuck,

Headed for an eternal torturous path,

Then, tell me, why do we laugh?

And why do we ignore?

Do we really think God only spoke of having love

For the monetarily poor?

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Listen to their songs, listen to their hearts,

They just want to be heard,

to show the world their innermost parts.

We say eternity’s at stake, yet we laugh it all away-

As the shattered world barely lives another day.

The unbeliever is a fool, we assure ourselves,

But if we believe what we say we do,

Their ignorance sends them to a despicable fate

Of all eternity in Hell.

Do we believe everything we say?

There’s a Hell but the price was paid?

Do we tell that good news,

or listen to the world news and scoff?

Do we love in light

And laugh at the world in the middle of its fight?

Explore history and see

Why these people are fed up with Christianity!

Why they won’t listen to you and me.

At least eighteen centuries of violent religion,

People living without God were killed and persecuted too,

Or do we think the offensive things

only happen to us and the Jews?

All I’m saying is they have a right to laugh at us.

Take a walk through history,

Or even the now,

And we’re downright ridiculous!

People live their lives

Not knowing why in the hell

They’re on this earth,

Thrust into existence,

Suddenly feeling joy, love and hurt.

They don’t know why

And they don’t want to try,

They’d rather just live as much as they can

Until they die.

As strongly as we believe in our truth,

They believe in theirs.

Not that truth is relative,

That doesn’t work,

Just that we’re all,

On some level,

Figuring our own way

Through the muck and the murk.

God or no God, can’t you see?

Perfect devoted lives isn’t always

How He expects us to be.

We are to love and understand,

To listen to the qualms of man.

And not always for answers,

Not always for the good news.

Not always for paying that love token,

Those religious dues.

Just to hear and understand

And maybe, to become,

Through love, a brotherhood of man.

For straights to love gays,

For Christians to love Muslims.

For each group to dwell in kindness,

Not in hate,

To believe in the goodness of mankind

And to change his eternal fate.

We all have sinned and fall short of His glory.

There is not a single man above another-

Not in this story.

God’s mind is above ours,

So, truth is,

I think we might be doing it wrong.

So let’s choose now,

Let’s listen

To the world’s lonely, confused,

and beautifully realistic

heart song.

New Series! Hollywood Changed Things :)

Hey everyone! I’m starting a series for my blog, hoping to get back on track and to really speak up about my semi-unconventional understanding of Hollywood. So many people fear Hollywood, or make it out to be this twisted or evil thing. I’d like to help change that perspective if I can.  Many complaints against Hollywood speak of its desensitizing nature. The way that the violence makes people think hurting people is okay or that having sex with random strangers is a good idea.

But, I have observed also the good that has come of Hollywood, a good that I think is far more widespread than the evil. Just look around at the world now. They say it’s the last days, the evidence is in the depravity of the world, but look at the world now, post-Hollywood in comparison to a century ago and pre-Hollywood, or even to two millennia ago, in Jesus’ time. One hundred or so years ago, racism governed our country, including racism against Caucasian immigrants and the unfortunate history of the well-known Civil Rights battles. Prior to the all-inclusive influence of radio, TV and movies, parents beat their children under protection of the law. There is more, I believe, that has been greatly affected by the innovation of Hollywood. We’re so constantly talking about the media and its bad messages, why do we so rarely recognize the life-changing ones?

In this series, I hope to discuss the influence of Hollywood on a broader spectrum, drawing from music, movies, TV shows and life to show the positive outcome of Hollywood’s infusion into the world, especially America. Always, what makes Hollywood matter is the people involved. That is the foundation of the PVX Pearls vision and the only reason Hollywood has influence at all. So, let’s take the sandy outlook thrown around America all these years, capture it and find that pearl!

Seeking Commonality with the Rest of the world!

This weekend I had the opportunity to come back home to prepare for what I call the event of the century. I found myself staying in a home which disallowed movies and TV on the premise that it is a poison and a near demonic influence in the home. Of course I didn’t exactly obey the restrictions as I had my own laptop on which to watch all the horrendous shows provided by Hulu and Netflix (the most evil Nickelodeon, and the treacherous Disney Channel.)

I just get frustrated with people who dismiss Hollywood. One person, or a few people tell you it’s messed up (since they’ve seen soooo much of Hollywood and gotten to know every individual person really well) so you believe it and lump them all together to ignore, accuse and ridicule. Why? Gosh, how dare you be so quick to judge. Oh yes, I am certainly judging you. How dare you hate on people whom you’ve never met?

Christians… why do you hate your enemies??? When in Hollywood, we see ever so faint traces of Godly traits, traits which are barely present in Christians. I’ve really learned to love my enemies through Hollywood and the movie making business. Why paint those who have yet to show themselves to you, as enemies? Albeit those traits are in a concoction of crazy through which it can be difficult to see the beauty. But they are there. I believe that when given the breath of life we are also given a seed of truth. Not the big Jesusey Truth. Just truth in general, and we tend to interpret that truth differently as life goes on. So there are traces of truth in all things. All truth is God’s.

So, for example, when Lady Gaga or Glee Cast sings Born This Way, it is true. God makes no mistakes… this is not an attack of hatred on the Christian faith… it is almost an asserted answer to a question… Gosh! We know God makes no mistakes… so how are gay, lesbian, bi, transgender persons not born that way?? I’m not trying to say Lady Gaga isn’t strange… or even demonically possessed. It’s a nonissue. God speaks through what He wants to. We can choose to dismiss his beautiful and creative child, or we can listen to what she’s trying to say. Sometimes, she’s just saying she’s horny. Is that really so bad? Aren’t we all often horny? It helps me personally sometimes to know that others get horny to the extent where there are millions of songs about wanting sex. Why is this dirty, horrible, shameful? We are sexual beings, amongst other kinds. Our bodies respond to attraction, we don’t control the flush of emotions that come with lust. I don’t think Jesus was saying “You must never lust” He was saying “You lust, that makes you just as in need of my Salvation as someone who commits adultery.” It wasn’t a list of rules we must painstakingly follow. It was an invitation to be humble and therefore forgiven, to recognize our sins are just as horrid as the next person and not one single person is better than another. So, in conclusion, lust happens. We look at someone or think of sex and maybe even enjoy it… even act on it. Whether we act on it or not, either choice is in need of a Savior. Neither more than the other.

That does not mean that we must accept and befriend and allow ourselves to be influenced by those who act on lust, but it does mean we need to understand we are no better and both of us need a Savior equally. Why bottle the lust inside… writing about it, singing about it, crafting a story around it, these create empathy in the world. We understand one another because we all lust. Doesn’t make it right, it just makes it common.

And commonality breeds kindness, empathy, sometimes even friendship. I believe that all of us, we are attracted to transparency in people, to that gritty realness. Recognizing and being open about your own issues softens the blow when you find flaws in others.

What do you think? How many people do you know that you’re sure have never lusted? Do you think Jesus meant to convict and steer people away from lust with his words to the crowds? Or do you think He simply wished to show people their sin and understand their unworthiness?

* It has taken me years to come to these conclusions and I do not seek to offend, I seek to ask questions and spread kindness, even to those in Hollywood and those who some consider “The worst of sinners.”

Love you all whoever you are and thank you for subscribing to my blog!!!