What REALLY Moves Us???

simply beautiful

By Kenneth Justice

~Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you cried? Although I haven’t cried at every wedding I’ve ever attended, I can remember a few in particular where I happened to notice the couple looking at each other in such a tender way that it brought me to tears.

It’s always interesting to find out what truly moves someone to deep emotion. For some people it’s a romantic or sad film, for others it’s a particular song or musician that touches their heart, and I am sure that if we opened it up for discussion we’d hear a plethora of different things that stirs our hearts.

In many ways, Western Culture is becoming more and more calloused and difficult. With so many people suffering from broken relationships, unemployment, out-of-control politicians, and everything else that plagues us, it is easy to spend too much time crying over the bad things…..and find that we never have the opportunity tear up over the beautiful things.

On Monday I clicked on the blogs of one of my readers and found myself crying as I read one of their articles. This morning I clicked on the same article and found myself tearing up again. I didn’t comment on their blog, sadly I often don’t know what too comment…..but what they wrote really touched my heart in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time….even more odd was that the article was written by a very conservative Christian; which are the people who give me the most hell on my blog. However, one of the weird dynamics of life is that 10,000 other people could read the same article and have it mean relatively nothing to them. Just because I find something to be so beautiful, intense, or filled with emotion….doesn’t mean you will as well.

Finding something beautiful is an important facet of life. More often than not our lives are simply too damn busy. Whether we are a parent, an employee, a manager, or a student; life in the Western World is one big time rush from one task to the next. Of course, we say things like ‘take time to stop and smell the roses’ but how often does this actually take place in our day-to-day life?

I love going on vacation….but sometimes I wonder if too much of my year is focused on the beautiful things I will do on vacation, rather than focusing on the beautiful things around me every day. Perhaps my life needs to be reordered in such a way that it’s not merely when I am on vacation that I take the time to be amazed at the beautiful things in life.

I have a lot of responsibility in my life. Without going into all the nitty-gritty details; my life is in many ways overflowing with a ton of obligations both inside-and-out of my vocation. Some days I wake up and fear that I will find myself 10 years older and have lost a lot of precious moments that I could have spent on the things that matter most. Often times I fear that due to all of my obligations and responsibilities; that I’m not really accomplishing anything in life of much significance. Truth be told, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t wonder ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’

No, it’s not a midlife crisis or an attack of depression…..it’s a desire on my part to spend as much of my time doing things of greater significance, spending time gazing at beauty, or spending my time making a difference….sometimes I simply get too distracted by the ugly things of life when all I really want to do is gaze at the beautiful.

To say I do not cry over my daily articles would be an understatement; they don’t move me. I read what I write and I wonder if I really have any business contributing to the blogging world. When I read the fellow blogger’s article yesterday I was moved…..when I read my own articles I see all the flaws and mistakes.

Blogging can be discouraging at times. Yesterday, a reader who identifies himself as a ‘pastor’ made a snarky remark to one of my old articles, “Kenneth, have you ever even read the bible before?” he asked. I wanted to give him a sardonic response and ask him ‘Have you ever been nice before?”…..but I didn’t.

Why is it that if I write an article that is merely aimed at promoting further thought on a subject; I inevitably end up getting my head chewed off by people? Have I ever read the bible before; hmmm, well my personal theological library numbers more than 2500 volumes. I have taken notes and written essays on more than 15,000 theological books….I have numerous degrees in multiple disciplines. So what the hell do you think?

The simple fact of the matter is that too many of my fellow Christians get apprehensive when somebody rocks the boats; but this is true of any religion. If you ask scary questions……people tend to get scared. But it is good to ask questions; if you are so confident that your belief system is correct, then you don’t have anything to fear if you ask tough questions about it….right?

Religion has turned a lot of people off. Religion in the Western World has in many ways ceased to be something beautiful and instead, is too often ugly. Religious folk harness verses from their holy books and use them as daggers to ‘prove other people wrong’. Instead of open ended questions where we allow people to learn at their own pace, or explore the truth at their own pace…..we expect everyone to see things our way, right away, and now!

When I read Gandhi’s autobiography earlier in the year I saw something beautiful. When I walk into St. John’s 100 year old historic sanctuary on Sunday mornings I see something beautiful. When I see people from different religions or different faiths talking together peacefully, working alongside each other and helping the poor or feeding the hungry I see something beautiful. When I see people talking together about the things that matter the most…and not biting each other’s heads off; I see something beautiful.

And yes…to the more than 100 snarky pastors and thousands of fundamentalist Christians who have emailed and messaged me this year and whom I still haven’t gotten around to responding to; Jesus still looks beautiful to me also.

Thank god for coffee, I really need another cup



Categories: Religion

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

72 replies

  1. Whenever I wonder if I’m making progress in my life, I stop and realize that there are many things that touch me so deeply I am moved to tears just from the intensity of emotion. That wasn’t the case not so long ago.

    Thanks for the reminder that there is beauty in life. All you have to do is look at it.

  2. Helpful and compassionate, I think your thoughts and writing are fantastic.

  3. Beautiful post. There is beauty in the ugly things too. People will always have an opinion and try to change who you are because they think they know better, but just stay true to yourself. Keep blogging because your writing is worth reading. Always remember that none of us are judges. I agree with you on coffee, going to get some. Peace, love, bliss. Tammy

  4. What occurs to me, when I read your post today, is this: There are different ways to be moved — to tears, to action, to change lives, etc. Thanks so much, for this post.

  5. Your post is honest. To me that is beautiful. Pointing to the real human being you are. Some of the biggest moments of beauty in my life also come in the most unexpected places. I have learnt to believe in the human spirit above all else in life. The human spirit and the way it manifests into something magical is, to me, the most awe inspiring heart stopping experiences. Thank you for sharing. It was a great read!

  6. I love your blog, and I think you’re right. Keep finding the beauty, and please keep sharing it with us. You’re awesome : )

  7. “we expect everyone to see things our way, right away, and now!” That is what you wrote and is so true. Now I am one who does no want religion for that reason. The pushy nature it holds these days.
    But I do have and will use what I learned from religions. And one to always remember. Is that we are not to judge. I believe there is one that shoots all down. Only God can judge. But maybe we tent to level ourselves to his level to much. we are no bigger than an insect to change levels.
    And that is what we do wrong. We see things at wrong level. We have to many levels. Look how beautiful the world is if you level yourself to an insects world. Your own backyard becomes a world to journey through.
    beauty s all around us if we are wiling to change our viewing level.
    Another great post. I like your thinking of making people think. It is needed.

  8. Thanks for another honest and interesting post. You don’t have to read it but I just happened to write about religion on my blog today. And I agree with you in the sense that I believe even religions that have hard set rules should really periodically evaluate themselves and improve upon themselves to better serve their believers and everyone around.

  9. I truly enjoy reading your posts—-one of the main reasons are your questions and the answers that you come up with; genuine and real–you are unafraid to write about the tough stuff and I admire that so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am working on publishing (looking to market right now) a devotional that goes from one end of the Bible to the other—about what this Word means for us today. As I have grown and discovered more than I ever dreamed on my journey I encourage others to do the same. If you would like, I would love to send you a copy when it comes out. It is meant to spark thought rather than tell what I think your thoughts about God’s word should be.
    In the meantime, keep writing–even when you may not think that you are touching someone–you ARE! (And I cry at everything, lol!) Blessings to you.

    • Dana, hmm, I don’t know that I’d say I’m “unafraid”, I publish only a tenth of what I write each week because I seriously doubt that I have the mental fortitude to deal with even more heated critics and attacks….I appreciate your sentiments though 🙂

    • I understand more than you know–being a pastor’s wife is tough. What you write means a lot, please keep going. The people you DO reach need to hear it. Peace.

  10. Hunk o Monk,
    Obligations are our substance and also weigh us down. Remember to play. I think that one of the most beautiful things you can find everyday is in your own heart. How you kept your cool when challenged and heard another person’s point of view. That is the beauty of community.

  11. Sometimes I worry that I am more deeply moved by fear and misfortune than I am by passion and beauty. This post, therefore, resonated with me. I would love to be Wordsworthian and look out on the daffodils and marvel (and sometimes I am) … but more often I am Poe, looking out on the darkness and the fear. At any rate, kudos for getting my brain revving. I like it !

  12. I am a Christian, and I agree a lot with your views. Christ is perfect. Christians, sadly, are not.

  13. “Truth be told, there is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t wonder ‘what the hell am I doing with my life?’”

    May I suggest that you are living it? It’s really about all we can do with this life. We live it, experience it, interact with it; grow and change.

    But I think you may be asking a deeper question about the purpose of your life. It is my belief that we only find purpose and meaning through giving. Some try to define themselves by their possessions or accomplishment but I find that it is only through giving of ourselves that we discover who we truly are.

    I’m sure that you give in many ways but this blog is one of them. I for one really appreciate it. I’ve enjoyed reading it every day. It’s good stuff and it’s uniquely you. No one else could do it quite the way you do.

  14. Ha! THIS made me cry. (as I am sure you know why by now) But yeah, I notice so much more beauty in the world now, and to be quite frank, don’t want to concentrate on the ugly. I will avoid it at all costs.

    In a poetry class I am observing, the instructor asked the class to write an “anti-Love” poem. Since I chose to personify Love (or Love chose me) I decided NOT to participate in the assignment.

    The above probably has nothing to do with your blog, but my coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. 🙂

  15. Your honest sincerity moves me, Kenneth – avoid religion, keep the faith!

  16. I cry too easily, so I’ve had to learn to toughen myself up a little. But I think that most people are afraid of real emotion- they prefer to just skate over the surface of life, don’t want to think too deeply about what is going on. And there are plenty of distractions in our society, ways to keep us busy so we don’t have to pay attention.
    I’m working on mindfulness. It’s an ongoing process. What I find is that it’s all about paying attention to the small things, finding beauty in everyday life. Not waiting for something bigger or better or more beautiful; but being content with what I have right now. And just trying to be kinder to people around me, being more open.
    Nice post- I really like the honesty here 🙂

  17. Amen. As a recovering Pharisee, now non-snarky pastor and follower of your blog, I think your posts are thought-provoking and much needed conversation. Blessings. 🙂

  18. I never cry . . . even when I was a kid . . . even when I watched people die . . . I ain’t no sissy dammit!

    except when I hear certain music . . . or observe a women playing a guitar and singing . . . or observe too deeply the beauty of these woods I live in . . . or . . .

  19. You are correct about Christians molding religion to conform to their personal beliefs. But haven’t they been doing this for thousands of years, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the civil wars in Ireland?

  20. Kenneth, I’m a pastor, and I love your honesty. Keep seeking truth and showing us the beautiful things you find.

  21. I see you have a rate of 80 % comments over likes of your essay. I don’t remember to read a post in the same situation. And all of them are positive, in accordance with your topic, same beliefs.I don’t get why the negative comments are cowardly sent only in your email ?
    Then if you think you need a break from this blogging and to find a reason to be…, I’m guessing we’ll be here, still. All the best and thank you for the lessons, life, language and style. Dana

    • Dana,

      I do get a lot of emails…but I also get a lot of comments every day on old articles I’ve written. So, many of the negative comments aren’t ones you’ll see unless you go through hundreds of my old articles….

      And I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon…I’m still enjoying blogging 🙂

  22. Call me a sap, but I tear up a lot. I didn’t used to. I went through a few years where I genuinely thought I’d lost the ability to cry.. I thought that meant I was strong. It turns out, it meant the opposite.

    I’d consider myself a “very conservative Christian”, hopefully growing more conservative by the day. But not so that I caninflict wounds on others.. only Because I desperately want to be more like the Lord.

    Sometimes I do inflict wounds though. So do you. So does everyone else. Sometimes, even when our heart is in the right place, our execution is lacking and where we hoped to bring good things, we leave the opposite.

    What I appreciate about your writing, even though much of it doesn’t resonate perfectly with my own thoughts or opinions, is that you force people to think outside of themselves, not simply “for” themselves. We share this planet with one another for better or for worse and in an odd way, I think that when we injure another, a part of our own soul is injured in the process whether we realize it or not.

    It’s good to be reminded that we are all obliged to remember that each person we meet, regardless of race, intellect, religion, or anything else, was fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of God Himself.

    As a believer, my greatest prayer is to learn to love people as God does. So even where you and I don’t agree, I admire your underlying drive to do exactly that. Without love, even the most “perfect” Christian is powerless to please God.

  23. Don’t forget that your writing and the thoughts you get going are beautiful things.

  24. Great post, Kenneth 🙂

  25. Kenneth – thanks for the post. I applaud your honesty and authenticity. Keep writing from your heart leaving the inner critic outside. I know you know – the critical words of others are about them, not you. Love, Pat

  26. There were some blogceptions here, I feel you man. “When I read the fellow blogger’s article yesterday I was moved…..when I read my own articles I see all the flaws and mistakes.” This happens to me all the time, but really this can be said about a lot of things in life.
    As far as the negative pastor, I wouldn’t get too caught up.
    Also, it has only just now come to my attention that you have a MASSIVE readership. [lol, scrolling down to make a comment was like swimming the Atlantic] So I’m not surprised you get a lot of mixed feedback from readers – pos/neg.

  27. People have become so busy, overloaded with technology and too focused on making money that they often fail to cherish the simple things. But, it’s the simple things in life that matter the most.

  28. If I really need to see something beautiful, I Google Landon Donovan haha! Okay, all kidding aside, Kenneth, I’m really sorry I didn’t get a chance to read this particular post this morning. This is beautiful. Trust me, as I’m sure you know, I definitely identify with the not so sure my blog is successful bit or that I’m contributing at all, but you are… a lot. I agree with you wholeheartedly about taking the opportunity to see the beauty in everyday life. I love how you make examples of the little things, such as a smile on a child’s face, etc. I see it now that I’ve been doing my volunteering and follow that group on Facebook. The volunteers talk about who they help and they help each other – that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t cry at movies even when it was emotional but “Saving Private Ryan” really got to me. It’s the one movie, not only did I cry, but I was flat bawling my eyes out and curled up into a ball in the theater seat. I think I found it so emotional because it felt so real and I could just think about all those men who made such incredible sacrifices. That truly moved me in more ways than one. I’m really glad I found this blog. You’re a great writer and I love that you challenge readers, particularly me. That’s a good, beautiful thing. 🙂

  29. Reblogged this on Shell Ochsner and commented:
    This gives me a lot to think about.

  30. I like your post, and I have to say something ” When the wrong people leave your life the right things start HAPPENING”! So, it’s true 🙂

  31. I don’t have enough time to read all the responses to this post but in case no one has said this…I think that if you have been getting a lot of heat from conservative fundamentalists then you must be doing something right. When I started my blog I actually expected to get some heat myself and have had…none, LOL! Probably because I am a hinter rather then a confronter. I admire your honesty and courage. Keep going! 😀

  32. Your posts create some of the best conversations I’ve ever seen. You are doing a wonderful thing and should certainly feel pride in your work. No other blog is like yours. Let the critics be made uncomfortable by your calls to THINK!

    There is an over-used saying that “Every day is a gift, that’s why it’s called the PRESENT”. For all it’s a cliche, it IS a reminder to be mindful in each moment as that moment is very special in and of itself. Look forward to vacations, but take a moment every day to look around you and thank Creator for being right there, just then. I guarantee you will always see or hear or feel something incredible!

    Thank you for enriching my life (and the lives of many other readers, I’m sure) by bringing us such words of wisdom and seeking. And for providing this forum for the discussions between absolute strangers who find ourselves having coffee with you!

    • Ethelandeverett,

      Well we probably should be glad that no other blog is like mine cause I thnk the word can only handle one of me…..I can be pretty annoying if ya ask me…..u just don’t have to look at myself in the mirror everyday….unfortunately I do!

  33. I marvel at the way you write….it flows so effortlessly (It appears)….keep it up. As a christian, I struggle with all of the man made trappings we have put into organized religion…I don’t shy away from it, but I wonder what happened to the spiritual joy of Christ’s teaching via the Holy Spirit? I just read a great book written by a Presbyterian pastor on the joy and celebration of the holy spirit…not on “rules’, but on celebrating life and each other…very uplifting, more of what I am seeing in some of the non-denominational mega churches. Keep up the good work, it evokes thought and discussion, both useful for growth!

  34. You know I cry a lot in movies. I used to cry all the time, now it seems only movies. I went to Gandhi’s mausoleum in Delhi. I didn’t cry but I did have a profound moment or moments, one could say time stood still
    beyond that talking about it here is too personal…..cheers


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