Clarity of thought

pretending to be a journalWhat is going on here? Just look at that cover: it mimics an academic journal so well! I can dismiss it, of course: it is the journal for “Biblical manhood and womanhood”, but there is no such thing, and its writers believe the Bible is consistent, when it is not; but what do they imagine they are doing?

I start with “Biblical manhood and womanhood”. The Bible affirms examples as diverse as the man carrying a water-jar- Peterson Toscano suggested that this was such exclusively female behaviour, shameful for a man, that she was a trans woman; David, collecting wives by conquest and murder; Junia the apostle, and Mary and Martha, so there is clearly an acceptance in the Bible of a wide diversity of gender expression. A quick Google of “Junia the Apostle” reveals hordes of silly Evangelicals trying to weasel round her clear leadership role. So much for that.

Here is an “essay” by a “professor of ethics”, forsooth, affirming “biblical sexuality” (see above) but also asserting that “transgendered people undermine the public agenda of the LGBT movement”. Oh, Professor? How? He alleges that a trans woman’s conformity to female gender norms undermines the LGBT narrative regarding gender that any gender roles evident in society are the result of outdated cultural stereotypes.

This is merely silly. Arguably the word “feminine” has some meaning, though there are men more feminine than most women, and women more masculine than most men- even some who are cisgendered. I am feminine. If you accept the word “feminine” has any meaning, then “feminine” roles are for “feminine” people, whether men or women. TERFs assert that trans women reinforce gender roles by asserting that we are women, but so what? I am clearly subverting everything my upbringing and society says about gender roles, because my society formed me to be a man.

However it is silly in a different way from fools who say “God did not make Adam and Steve”. It is an essay of several thousand words, with a clear argument and examples, and even though anyone who knows anything about it will immediately see it is worthless, the writer and most subscribers will not. They will accept its academic pretensions, and may even squirrel away its arguments so that they can repeat them for comfort when their false world-view is threatened.

I am grateful that Evan Lenow states some of the arguments he attacks. Mandatory celibacy corrodes gay Christians’ capacity for relationship in general. But it does something else equally harmful: by requiring gay Christians to view all their sexual desires as temptations to sin, it causes many of them to devalue, if not loathe, their bodies. That might get through to his readers.

However reasonable the essay appears, I am tempted to reply to it not with a reasoned refutation but with an angry expression of emotion- Pah! Or Pshaw! if I am feeling particularly Victorian. An emotional response is too little valued in intellectual society. JBMW needs more than the appearance of argument to be worthy of anything else.

John Lavery, Anna Pavlova in part

Pillow Christians

A ‘pillow’ Christian is soft and accepting of all people, no matter their lifestyle. The alternative is to love people enough, and respect them enough to warn them there are eternal consequences for their moral choices. I heard that from this man. He deleted my comment, but I said something like,

Others want us not to marry, but you want us not to have  homes. I pray that God hardens your heart, so that people see your hatred, are repulsed by it, and come to God’s truth.

He emailed me. I am truly sorry, no one has had the courage to share these truths with you before. Well, people have. On the bus from Newport to Cardiff, a little runt of a man repeatedly evangelised passengers. He spoke to a woman and her partner threatened to thump him, and the driver threatened to throw him off. To avoid violence and out of interest, I talked to him. He rambled on about Christ, love, sin and hell, incoherently, in an impenetrable accent. And a colleague who believed all the rubbish which makes Evangelicals despised and ridiculed by reasonable, thoughtful people- creation less than 10,000 years ago, all that- tried to talk me into it. Fortunately, Christianity made me immune to such stuff.

I am a little worried at myself, shouting at the Internet like this. All that anger. Maybe it’s the election campaign. I would rather a useful outlet for all that energy, and found it in cycling to Swanston this morning: I was happy when I got there, with all that adrenalin used well.

I asked him, Have you any blog posts warning people of the eternal consequences of their choices, apart from gay people? Before he answered, I had a look, finding this insane comment about US Gun culture: God’s kingdom is within us, and the fruit of the Spirit within us are the strength and honor of this country. Self-control, meekness (strength under pressure), longsuffering, gentleness, patience. This is the heart of honor, the heart of the gospel, and the heart of America, that Jesus is developing in each of us. This is the love of God, and freedom worth defending.

This is the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, in right to bear arms. Should free citizens be allowed to own firearms to protect themselves, their families, and this country from enemies within or without. Emphatically, YES! He cites Jesus at the Last Supper, he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one, in support, and starts with a meme calling for armed guards in schools.

He also has a go at abortion, though only by reblogs: it is pre-meditated murder. He whines about the hypocrisy of the pro-abortion folks and the lengths they go to deny a baby is a baby but also says that Christians who have an abortion and repent will be forgiven. So that’s all right, then.

He claimed he had had a go against other sinners, listing ten posts. The first had nothing at all to do with bashing any particular sin, though it did have a vile picture of Christ on the cross covered in blood, and this silliness: Although the Bible says little about his first thirty years, the baby we celebrate at Christmas did not remain a child. Really? Amazing!

So I shout at the internet, and feel ashamed, but he feels he is being Christian and Loving. If it is loving to warn people of Hell, he can shout his hate at those he disapproves for ever, and call it Virtue!

The chief reason for not shouting at the unconverted about their Sin is that it does not work. It does not bring souls to Christ, it alienates them. It does not follow Jesus, who met people where they were with Love not thinly-disguised hatred. The sin will go as Jesus sanctifies the new believer, in His good time. Chris Walsh drives people from Christ.

Goya, fight with cudgels


TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network, is now available on Freeview. I would not pay for such a thing, but wonder what it is like. What have they to say to us? “For you- for life.”

The schedule is the same each day. At 4pm there is “Veggietales”: Join Bob the Tomato, Larry the cucumber, and all their veggie friends. Perfect for young families, this laugh-out-loud comedy seamlessly weaves good moral values into each episode in a fun, exciting…

I put aside my Yuck reflex. The episode I watch retells The Prince and The Pauper, updated- the prince is a pop-star- in a way you might see on CBeebies apart from the American accents. But Bob and Larry top and tail it with heavy-handed moralising- “It’s not good to compare yourself to others, and to want what they have,” intones Bob. It depends what you do with that want, I suppose. Then he quotes Jeremiah 1:5a, which appears on the screen, after a woman croons You see we know that GOD’s word is for everyone….

Before I formed you in your mother’s body I chose you. Before you were born I set you aside to serve me.  Actually, I am not sure that the call of a prophet is for everyone.

“We need to trust God that his plan is the right plan” says Larry. “Always remember God made you special and he loves you very much.”

Much of the programming is of rock concerts. The music is relentlessly optimistic- fast or slow, it is Thank you God for loving me, Everything is alright because God loves us, Jesus came to save, etc. Audiences sway, their hands raised in praise. This could get addictive- a stream of constant reassurance, drawing you in. However bad the World is, God cares, if only you believe enough. I caught a snatch of Joel Osteen, big hair, big teeth, big warm smile, crooning the same message- join a Bible-believing church and have faith. That is, insulate yourself from reality- though he has that get-out clause: if things go wrong it must be your faith which is at fault.

Pastor Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, originally from Sydney but now with campuses all over Australia and spreading into Europe, preached to the Hillsong Conference 2013, calling his flock into the Mystery of God, the great unknown, following God’s will: like Peter, stepping onto the water when he saw Jesus walking.  He started by shocking me: when John’s disciples buried his head and body, did they dig one hole or two? Who would think of that, apart from Brian? Preaching for fifty minutes, he has little content but much repetition: step into the Mystery where feet may fail. Go when Jesus says go, but how we know it comes from Jesus he does not say. Humans like control and predictability but God is full of surprises. There is nothing boring or mundane about the mystery of serving Jesus.

What service does he expect? That they will found more campuses for Hillsong church, buying buildings, taking new ground, preaching to the hurt and the broken and bringing them in. I disagreed with him about the tongues of angels- 1 Cor. 14:10, Paul values speaking in words but Brian says you can speak God’s own tongue.

I do not find this illusion and rabble-rousing healthy. Brian believes “the writings of Paul are clear” about gays.


Mascagni, Joseph sold into slavery by his brothersGod has inspired the Bible, which is literal truth. True Christians believe the Bible, and therefore have the basis for understanding life and reality. Atheists do not, and therefore are incapable of rational thought or argument. This understanding is called “Presuppositionalism”. From false presuppositions atheists will draw random conclusions.

How wonderful! If not everyone, a huge number of those who disagree with me are merely wrong, not even in an interesting way. This is not how I think. It helps to explain Tim, the Creationist I invited here in July. What day of the week was the Last Supper? Did God create animals then humanity, or man, then animals, then woman? A lot of people maintain their are contradictions, but honestly I’ve never found a truly provable one, he wrote. He came up with arguments, rather than mere assertion, but I did not feel they were sufficient.

Octavia Butler, in Parable of the Talents, brings together the worst possible characteristics of the worst possible Christianities to imagine “Christian America”. Andrew Jarret, elected US President in 2032, at his inauguration preaches on “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword” (Isaiah 1:19-20) neatly blaming all the problems of the country on “traitors and sinners, those destroyers in our midst”. “Decent, ordinary men,” writes Butler, can guard slave camps, believing that interning minor criminals there is necessary for the good of the country. Milgram and Zimbardo again.

All of CA is based on lies. The seminary dining room works hard at being as dreary and cheerless as could be managed, and the “hot cinnamon-apple tea” is tepid, slightly sweet water. If all the wickedness is in the Other, then my anger must be Righteous Love.

The book has a moment of self-abnegating love which made me weep. The mother finds her daughter, stolen from her in infancy, and addresses her by her birth name.

-My door is open to you, Larkin, always.
-Asha. My name is Asha Vere.
-Asha, she whispered. My door is open to you, Asha. Always.

“Think it possible that you may be mistaken” says Advices and Queries, quoting Cromwell. CA creates impossible contradictions, which must be denied- “Stupid faith was good. Thinking and questioning were bad.” “The working poor who love Jarret need to be fooled. They scratch a living, and they need a savior.”

Think it possible that you may be mistaken, and possibly I think that too much. It opens me to greater understanding, and makes me incapable of decisions. But the choice is between asserting you are Right, and seeking the truth. As Timothy Garton Ash wrote of the Velvet revolution, a great deal of what is happening is about words: about finding new, clear, true words rather than the old, prefabricated, mendacious phrases under which they have lived for so long.

Love and genocide

Tiepolo, the capture of Carthage‘How could a “God of Love” order the genocide of the Canaanites?’ ask my atheist friends. The idea is completely silly. How could anyone believe that? To answer the question, one needs historical sensibility.

The bloodthirsty bible verses are easy to find, and a resource for atheists escaping fundamentalism. You must not let anything that breathes remain alive.  You shall annihilate them, in Deuteronomy, for example. Sometimes, out of mercy, people are captured for slaves. Atheists collect such verses as enthusiastically as fundamentalists seeking proof texts. Fundamentalists try to answer- here CARM argues that because those killed in the Flood were “wicked”,  God was right to destroy them. Noah preached righteousness for a hundred years, and the people could have repented. That is not obvious from the flood story: here is the Answers in Genesis calculation putting it at 75 years at the most. To me, the 120 years figure in 6:3 refers to the limit for death from old age, but neither of these sites could accept that, as Noah was said to live for centuries. They cannot see Genesis as a mosaic of contradictory sources.

Tiepolo, the Triumph of MariusMy first answer was that atheists do not believe the conquest of Canaan stories, as archaeology does not support them.  We know that a peaceful people, without walls to their towns, lived in the area around 1000BC, and that Israel is mentioned on the Mereneptah Stele, from the 13th century BCE, but Jericho was not inhabited at the alleged time of conquest. But, say the atheists, the Christians do.

That was the way of the peoples at the time. I find the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem one of the most dramatic bible stories: the Jews tell the Assyrian envoy,‘Please speak to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the language of Judah within the hearing of the people who are on the wall. But he responds, Has my master sent me to speak these words to your master and to you, and not to the people sitting on the wall, who are doomed with you to eat their own dung and to drink their own urine? The Assyrian records boast of their conquests, destroying their enemies. Perhaps the Assyrian retreat was caused by cholera, which people at the time would call an Act of God.

The Romans were the same way. Here the Baldwin Project romanticises, for children, Cato the Elder’s demand that Carthage must be destroyed, and here it describes its destruction.

What was necessary for survival as a free people, with their own culture? I believe in moral progress, that people learn a better way of being together. John Woolman, born in colonial New Jersey, was led from discomfort at slavery which George Fox had tolerated, through small actions against it, to dedicating his life to abolition. So the best of us learn moral truth, guided by God. The Bible shows a progression in understanding of God, and our understanding continues to improve. The alternative to moral progress is moral luxury: we behave well unless under threat.

Rosaria Butterfield

Butterfield 1Rosaria Butterfield was a feminist academic who self identified as lesbian despite previously having had male partners, who was then converted to the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, married and had children. What do she and others say about this experience? What do I hear?

What I hear is the exultant conservative Christian message, that gay sex is sinful and God can save you from it, so if you are still gay your faith is wrong. People say that. Webutante steals lengthy passages from Butterfield’s book, in particular chapter two, “Repentance and the Sin of Sodom”. Butterfield there argues that the sin of Sodom is Pride and love of wealth, from which come other sins including homosexuality unless we discipline ourselves by God’s standards.Gay Pride!” exults Webutante, quoting Proverbs 16:18- Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. But you need not go to Webutante, because it is on Google Books. Just before the excerpt ends, Butterfield writes that anyone may repent and turn from that sin, seeing God’s power manifested. When she repented, Butterfield imagined that celibacy and the single life would be her way, but in the preface she gives away the happy ending of marriage and children, and, oddly, continuing love of Wealth: “get a pedicure, buy a new TV!”

Wheaton students protestButterfield has the odd dig at conservative Christians, who still scare me when they reduce Christianity to a lifestyle and claim that God is on the side of those who attend to the rules of the lifestyle they have invented or claim to find in the Bible… narrowly circumscribed lives… Republican politics, homeschooling biases, refusal to inoculate children etc. She is right to say that too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue. She values the human encounter: though obviously these Christians and I were very different, they seemed to know that I wasn’t just a blank slate, that I had values and opinions too, and they talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased.

There is value in her book. What you get from Webutante is “Gay is Sin!” But the evangelical Carl Trueman notes that gay perceptions of Christian hatred, intolerance and ignorance are too often rooted in reality. Julie Rogers, a gay Christian who feels called to celibacy, is sufficiently self-confident of her own position to welcome Butterfield’s story, for if she hears conservatives say that God can make you straight if you have faith, she can explain Christianity- sanctification- to them. That helped me, and prompted me to this post, though Rogers’ post has those vile, self-righteous and self-pitying comments from Lili, a woman unable to hear or see her own daughter.

Tell me who you are, what you desire, feel, think, believe, and at best I am enriched by it. Tell me I should be that way too and you attack me, aiming a blow which I must evade any way I can. I have been too conscious of the kicks, seeing too much as an attack. As I gain self-acceptance as a trans woman, through the love of Christ, I may be able to see Rosaria Butterfield past the facile gloating of Webutante and others, and allow even her to be herself too: but only when I feel safe to be myself. And- I hate the oppressors who use her, like these homophobes where I got the photo; and as she permits herself to be so used, she remains my enemy.


Heather's catsWhat should I call this post? “Pure Evil”, perhaps. “The smiling Villain”- a Shakespeare reference there. “The Subtle Knife”. A woman pats herself on the back for how nice she is, and others join in; and even her victim probably thinks she is a good sort. She might think the encounter is whatever word she uses for “synchronicity”- perhaps a small miracle. The good she does- really- makes the evil more profound and tenacious.

The facts are these. Bigot Katy was extremely generous with a teenager she barely knew, a German exchange student. She took him into her home, and helped him find his feet in Seattle. Making conversation, she asked, “So, do you have a girlfriend back in Hamburg?” James replied, “I don’t like girls. I like boys instead because I am gay.” And instead of saying, “Oh, sorry, do you have a boyfriend back in Hamburg?” like any normal person, she stopped transferring groceries and just looked at him. Then she “cupped his face in [her] hands” and said “Honey, you have come to the right place”.

Oh, that touch, and the melting eye contact, and the sympathetic listening, on top of that beautiful generosity! She climbs into his head, and then tells him that gay sex is wrong, a message he has heard life long. She tells him straight out or implies that he is gay because of his distant relationship with his father. She tells him that sex is God’s good gift, but only for straight married couples, and that all his sexual attractions are evil and he will never be able to have a partner unless he finds a female one. She may imply that this is more likely than it actually is. She cripples him.

Blogging really does not matter. Leviticus 20! cries Katy. Romans 1! And her sycophantic crew say how wonderful she is, and a few others argue, and it matters not at all. But then, this. Satan uses her very generosity to maim a vulnerable child. There comes a time when we enter adulthood, can make our own decisions, and a lie like Katy’s would have no effect; but James is probably not there yet. She condemns him to pointless misery, while imagining that she “loves” him.

End Times

Jan Luyken, the Rapture- one at the mill goesLet us laugh at some Christian nutters. The End Times tag should be a fruitful source.

Jan Luyken, the Rapture- one at the millDr Cindy Dillard, a psychotherapist, blogs at Remnant Refuge, about being part of the Remnant of Christians, who will be Saved. She is concerned about even these blessed ones, God’s servants: If the Flock remains befuddled and scattered, we are hardly in right form to take on the Great Battle. Fortunately she has a solution: she exhorts us to find true Christians, and pray together. We are … at the moment of departure. Climb aboard now or be left behind.

Jim Gallagher is pastor of Calvary Chapel. There is little doubt, we are living in the last days. The State of Israel, the climate in the Middle East, the rise of immorality being accepted as good, all point to the imminent return of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. The one question that remains is, are you ready should He come back today? Oops, “immorality being accepted as good”- does he mean Homosexuality? Under that tag, we find the likes of “The Biblical False Prophet has arrived”.

Jan Luyken, the Rapture- one in the bed goesBut Jim says something moderately sensible: it is important to live with Christ as Saviour and Lord, rather than obsess about end time prophecies. “No-one shall know the day or the hour.”

Now the End Begins reports that “Obama” is the friend of spiritual darkness. My COL here (Cackle out loud) was that the exorcism at the Satanic black mass on 21 September would be “toned down to comply with state health laws”. Why bother about an event for 88 people? He scrabbles around desperately. The Disney film Maleficent is evidence the Wicked One is coming. An American B&Q equivalent is embracing Sharia law. The proof is the colour of their logo, the same orange as B&Q’s.

So far, so silly, but Fuel for Faith is actually harmful. Americans should support Israel against the Palestinians because its “re-gathering” is a sign-perhaps the sign-that the “Day of the Lord” is not far off.

Jan Luyken, the Rapture- one in the bedTodd Strandberg said something sensible- I’ve always found it unproductive to speculate about the identity of the Antichrist– then spoiled it, speculating that the False Prophet of Revelation may be Pope Francis. The clue is his popularity. And the leader of the Armies of Gog and Magog may be Vladimir Putin.

Emerald Eye-Opener exhorts us to Become the pawn on [God’s] chessboard. Deliver your message before Darkness falls.

Bible Believer’s Journal (as if he were the only one) tags a post railing against Evangelicals in favour of equal marriage. Why “End Times”? I suppose the clue is in the title- “The Social Gospel is getting stronger”. Well, the Social Gospel is about caring for the poor, as well as not being beastly to gay people. Unsure, I asked, and he quoted 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Fewer laughs than I had hoped.

Jan Luyken, the Rapture- one in the field

How to cure a fanatic’re not the bullies. The “Gay” activists are the bullies.

My beautiful friend Pink introduced me to How to cure a fanatic, by Amos Oz. As there is only one fanatic I can cure, I offer this:

God created Heaven and Earth, and made humanity in God’s image: male and female created he us. In God’s image: we are loving, creative and powerful. We are beautiful. Since Creation, God has been tirelessly seeking to communicate with us, to bring us to our highest way of being. There are two principal ways in which God communicates with human beings in the 21st century: the person of his son our Lord Jesus Christ, in personal relationship; and through the words of the Bible.

I seek what is Right, the best way a human being can be, through relationship with God. In this, I continually fail: and God’s love lifts me up and enfolds me. God’s forgiveness cleanses me. I am perfect in my imperfection.

The atheist is also created in God’s image, but is unable to see the way in which God seeks to communicate with him. When they attempt moral argument, it is fatally flawed, because though they seek what is Good they reject the ways our Creator has given to find what is Good: His holy Word, in the Bible and the person of Christ. They are incapable of moral argument, knowledge or clarity. O God! Heal them! and female God created us, and that creation is beautiful in its complementarity. The man fits the woman as perfectly as two halves of a whole, physically and spiritually. Two people become one flesh. A penis is perfectly fitted for a vagina, and the male character for the female character: Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5:21-33– what makes that submission and tender care beautiful is human Love, a reflection of the Love which is God.

“Gay” people distort and destroy that. In place of the fitting love and complementarity of male and female, they put lust for a disgusting physical action, the misuse of their own bodies. This blasphemes the body made in the image of God.

“Gay” activists seek to pervert marriage, the symbol of the Godly union of a man with a woman, to their demeaning lusts. They demand that everyone bows to their idol: they are not satisfied with living together and pursuing their abomination together, they demand that we call their sin “marriage” and we participate in their “weddings”. They sue Christians who refuse to serve their blasphemy.

We’re not the bullies. They are.

Friends, this is not what I believe. I have taken something which is ridiculous- surely, no-one can believe That??- and made of it something I could almost assent to. I see that someone could assert it, without being a wicked persecutor. Instead she is someone who acts from Love to benefit us all.

Acceptable homophobes

kalb_triptych left kalb_triptych right Among the homophobic churches, there are bad and not-so-bad examples. There was the preacher who wanted gays stuck behind an electrified fence, to die out because we could not breed, and there are those who even accept gay people in their congregations, as long as they remain celibate.

I don’t know about the worst. They have the words of Jesus, “God is Love”, and of John, “Perfect love drives out all fear”, and they seem to subsume this love entirely in Judgment: “I love you but you’re going to Hell”. God loves by prescribing rules, demanding obedience and submission, and in the end by judging and casting people into Hell. The idea that God smites with weather systems, catching the Evangelicals and the Gays alike, killing people randomly in his smiting, is ridiculous and pictures a weak, neurotic God: but people say these things.

Homophobia blinds the Roman church to the pastoral gifts of gay men. In 2005 the Vatican decreed kalb_triptych centrethat men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or who “support the so-called ‘gay culture'” could not be ordained. Yet their catechism says gays “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” So, gay people should be accepted in congregations, as long as they remain celibate. Not trans folk, though: Maledict claimed we are destroying the very essence of the human creature through manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choices…when freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God. We would have to revert. I was welcomed at Turvey Abbey, but then, I was sniffing around, not seeking membership.

saliger_dianas_restIn the least bad, there may be “ex-gays”, who are a varied lot. Some are bisexual, and now have opposite sex marriages: they make money by preaching to gullible fools that God cures gayness, and the fools are encouraged to persecute gays. Others accept that their “same-sex attraction” will always subsist, but go along with the lie that it is necessarily sinful. I read of an ex-gay gathering, which an “ex-ex-gay” found terribly sad: it was wonderful to be with people just like him, and sad that they all felt their sexuality a Burden.

How much are they required to conform to an ideal of masculinity or femininity? Some imagine that the “narrow way which leads to life” is one of rigid conformity, rather than that way which is idiosyncratically you. Hence my choice of pictures, saliger_judgement_parisfrom this fascinating article. But only in the centre of Dante’s Hell is humanity frozen with no chance of movement: humanity’s natural tendency is to heal and grow, and cast off shackles.

Some Christians will have gay friends. Their aim is to convert, but some just might not be totally blind to the humanity of the other.

Whether I engage, or just refuse to as in yesterday’s post, is a matter of how sick of them I feel. For example, I can answer Maledict: when rules to promote humanity become rules to assuage the fears of the ignorant, then God is denied and humans stripped of dignity. Sometimes it feels too much like hard work.