@kameronbayne's Posts

“Patriotism can be a dangerous thing if it leads to amnesia about the dark patches of our nation’s history,” writes Shane Claiborne. When we go digging into the lesser known aspects of our past, it’s clear America has never lived up to its own ideals. But this very fact is one of the catalysts pushing us forward, even if it is only inch by inch. This is the unfinished American dream totally worth celebrating — the dangerously subversive idea all people are created equal and have an important voice regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, or religion. May it someday be fully practiced and realized.

If patriotism is a love for one’s own country, then it matures and grows up when we recognize patriotism is a love for the people of our own country. To love another is to ascribe infinite worth, without stipulation, condition or reciprocation. To love someone is to stop trying to recreate them in our own image of who we think they should be. To love simply means we allow others, especially those “different” from us, to be themselves and to accept the depths of our truest self without shame. Anything with conditions — hidden or otherwise — isn’t love at all. Thus it ceases to be patriotic.

Who are we to love? The folks at Love Has No Labels shed some light on the average American of today and, in the process, remind us what it means to be a genuinely patriotic American (with a love that goes far beyond the walls of our borders). We truly are an interdependent and diverse community.

Happy “Interdependence” Day! #weareamerica

To celebrate our national interdependence more deeply, Claiborne offers a couple inspiring suggestions:

1). Track down old teachers and mentors. Let them know the influence they have had in your life.
3). Try to go a whole week without spending any money. If you have to, barter or beg a little to make it through.
14). Track to its source one item of food you eat regularly. Then, each time you eat that food, remember the folks who made it possible for you to it it.

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“We are, I know not how, double within ourselves, with the result that we do not believe what we believe, and we cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.”

Michel de Montaigne

“Human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.”

Barbara Brown Taylor

All my best days begin with you in my arms.”

Jesh de Rox

 

Life can be so hard sometimes, but there’s something beautiful and magical about facing those hard moments with honesty. Somewhere in the middle of never ending laundry runs, a mountain of dishes with a life all its own and the tornado of toys left behind when my kids leave any room, I stop taking in moments to breathe. I start to shut down inside to do whatever it takes to get through the day. But if I catch myself, I realize there is something more than meets the eye — there is something extraordinary going on.

These are the best days of my life.

Last night was such a moment. My wife and I took a 10 minute break in between after the kids went to bed and before we tackled the kitchen (for the 5th time that day). We sat snuggling for a moment in each others’ arms, gently swinging on our porch watching the sun go down and let our minds wander. Surprisingly, our thoughts both rested in gratitude. For a moment we looked at each other — past the peanut butter in her hair and the bags under my eyes. The life we’ve always dreamed of is here. We’re doing it. This is it.

Soak it in and let yourself smile. Let yourself enjoy your life just as it is.

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How do you put color into words for someone who has never seen it for themselves? How would you describe red? Or blue? Or burnt amber? How would you experience a sunset without color? Watch as these colorblind folks see all of that for the very first time. It’s an incredible personal and intimate experience most of us take for granted. What a breath-taking gift!

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When Communication Breaks. Communication is fundamentally about bridging differences to form a connection of understanding. But sometimes an understanding is never reached. Sometimes those differences turn into disagreements, and sometimes those disagreements come loaded with hostile threats — at least it can feel that way. Most of the time, these misfires are politely ignored or stepped over, but they always cause some form of distance we may not really want in our relationships. Have you ever experienced a pleasant conversation that took a sharp turn? Perhaps it was a complement from a friend that felt more like a slap in the face where the sting burns a littler deeper because this friend still thinks he just gave you a complement. Or perhaps you’ve been surprised by the defensive posture of a loved one in need, when you offered a solution because you sincerely wanted to help.

What’s most heartbreaking about these kind of exchanges, about stepping on these relational land mines, is the surprise. It’s never our intention to cause insult or inflict damage. In fact, it’s usually the exact opposite. Our friend thought he was giving a complement; our advice was offered as a sincere effort to help. Taking a couple steps back, I believe we are taken off guard by a widely practiced, yet subtle communication deficit… I call it negative defined value.

Negative Defined Value. By “negative defined value,” I mean defining the value of a specific idea, thought, or point of view, not by it’s own merits, but by the criticism of something else compared to it. Criticism is easy. It’s much more difficult to put intangible value into finite words — to bring a shapeless void to life, to inspire, to ignite a light that dispels darkness. But that’s exactly what genuine communication does. It’s the difference in saying “you neglect other people’s needs” when we really mean “I need a hug from you” or saying “that is nothing compared to this“ when we mean “I have something that’s been valuable to me and I want to share with you.”

For most of us, we have no intention to criticize; we fall into the trap of talking negatively about alternative viewpoints as an attempt to draw distinctions. Naturally we want to show the unique benefits of our idea, but when we go down this path, the sad reality is we actually don’t share anything positive about what we value. Instead our criticism becomes the main topic of discussion while we put our listener on the defensive (even when they have little to be defensive about). A critical startup is an attack, no matter how subtle; it frames our value as opposition rather than something with substance and worth of its own. I’m a guilty as the next guy; even with this post, I find myself at a greater loss than I hoped. It humbly teaches me there’s lots of room for growth in areas of creativity, vocabulary, specific vision, articulation, listening and understanding.  But it also galvanizes my belief the better we do this, the more distinctions will make themselves apparent by the contrast.

Practical Steps Forward. You can join me in a little personal experiment if you want.  See if you can catch yourself engaging in this “negative defined value” and count how many times a day — not for an exercise in guilt, but one in greater awareness and hope for the future. My vision for the coming year is to grow in sharing my thoughts, ideas, and perspectives in ways that do not come at the expense of something or someone else. The good news is we get better at the things we practice, right? So here’s to practice… Cheers!

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It’s ok to feel disappointed… even if it’s uncomfortable.

Of course we believe that’s true for big things; we give ourselves permission to feel disappointed for losing our job, being involved in a car accident, or finding out someone close to us has cancer. We wouldn’t purposely deny the heartache of those. But what about the small things? They may seem petty in comparison, like when we finally get to our morning coffee and it’s cold, or rip a hole in a favorite pair of pants, or a loved one subtly rolls their eyes when you try to connect with them. So we tuck them away, to unsuspectingly carry them with us all day long where they blanket us with a vague sense of gloom or evolve into an angry outburst over something insignificant.

When I get down, it’s good to remember the weight of depression can often be traced back to a series of small unacknowledged disappointments. They, like you and I, just need to be seen. If that simple request is honored, we can move on without skipping a beat. The wisdom in the old cliché “there’s no use in crying over spilt milk” is only gleaned after we can admit to ourselves the tears behind it all are very real. It’s only after we give ourselves permission to feel disappointed, that we can clearly see a bigger truth. Spills can be cleaned up.

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I spent 10 years as a wedding photographer, and it allowed me to see the joys of young love over and over again. I’m so thankful for that time because love is one of the most beautiful things in the world. As we all know, however, not everything that blooms matures into a deeply rooted relationship that goes the distance. Sadly, I’ve seen a few weddings I’ve photographed end in divorce already. Statistically speaking, it’ll happen to half of us — it’s a frightening thought!

So if you’re a bride or groom to be, how do you know if your marriage will have what it takes? How do you build it to last? I believe everyone has the potential; here’s my advice how to get there.

Take some time to thoroughly examine the following. Be sure both of you know how to 1). communicate your feelings, 2). fight fair, and 3). and are capable of following through with commitment. If you have these three relational ingredients, I believe you have everything you’ll need for a beautiful marriage — you’ll have a lifetime of discovering treasures together.

1. COMMUNICATE

your feelings with vulnerability

Do you know yourself well enough to have a good handle on your feelings in most circumstances? Can you easily share how you really feel with your fiancee? If so, great! If not, why? If there’s anything you’re afraid of, that’s a red flag. Honestly look at what is holding you back and ask yourself if you want to bring that into your marriage with you? Sharing your feelings and giving names to the experiences you share together is what intimacy is all about. The fruit of which is a deep internal rest in knowing you are seen, accepted, and cherished just as you are.

2. FIGHT FAIR

without blame or attacking words

All relationships have inherit conflict. Avoiding it isn’t what makes a good healthy connection — it’s the dealing with it honestly with no attacking or blaming statements. What throws most of us off track is the heat of the moment. When we have strong emotions, we often stop communicating what we feel and jump right into reacting to what we’re feeling. Feelings are vulnerable center; not the defensive retaliation to protect them. For example, if someone starts pushing our buttons, we might say, “Cut it out. Stop irritating me!” We might even attach a feeling word disclaimer and say, “Stop it, I feel like you’re being rude and insensitive.”  Although all of these statements may be laced with feeling words, it’s far from being honest with how we actually feel or does it give access to the other person to see us clearly. Digging deeper, expressing how we feel might look more like this, “I’m feeling hurt and annoyed; I need some space for a little bit.” Practice this now, for it sets the path you’ll find yourself years later.

3. COMMIT YOURSELF

to a lifetime of integrity building

Before you say “I do,” ask yourself the really hard questions. Are you capable of following through with your commitments? Ask the same of your partner. Is integrity carved deep into his or her character? Does he or she have a tendency to back out of things when they get too hard? If you know how to commit to one another, you’ll develop the foundation for your love to grow and you’ll be able to endure anything life throws at you. I’ll have no doubt that you’ll be one of the successful ones. Your wedding day will just a drop of goodness compared to the oceans of joy you’ll share as you grow old together. May you have 50 or more increasingly beautiful years!

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