Monday, January 31, 2011

Despicable Me

The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination......365/365photo © 2009 Abe Novy | more info (via: Wylio)

The current series at our church is Grace Experienced. It's been a really great look at grace in our lives and I've really enjoyed listening to Pastor Tim's take on grace.

Yesterday he was talking about the relationship between grace and humility. I think this is a place where some of us can easily get tripped up. The Scripture clearly mentions that our pride can block grace and that grace is gained through humility. It says this consistently between the old and new testaments. Obviously pride is an enemy of grace.

But I think sometimes we confuse humility with self-deprecation or worse, with self-hatred. We want to be humble, but think that it requires us to ignore talents that God has given us. We want to avoid arrogance, so devalue ourselves. We want to prove that we love others, but we forget that Jesus told us that we love others as we love ourselves. 

Physical self-flagellation looks barbaric and horrifying, but how many of us practice emotional self-flagellation all the time? That maybe if we beat ourselves up about this past sin one more time we can make it right. That maybe if we treat ourselves like crap it can make up for the times we've treated others like crap. Or maybe we are simply unable to recognize the inherent worth that we have as a part of God's creation. We choose titles for ourselves to prove how unworthy we are. Unlovable. Rejected. Worthless. Unchanged.

But we forget about the titles that God has given us.

Loved.

Chosen.

Friend.

New.

Perhaps humility requires us to accept the labels that God Himself has given to us. To recognize that the names that He has given us are more important than the names that we give ourselves.

Do you have any labels that you give yourself that are at odds with the ones that God has given you? How do you work to overcome humility that beats you down?

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Here's a collection of some of the interesting or thoughtful or funny things I've read this week. I hope you find something here that interests you!
  • If you don't read a single other thing I post in this list, be sure to check out Matt Canon's post about fleece and grace. I absolutely adored this post.
  • Jay Bakker wrote a great piece for HuffPo about heading to a drag show and having a chance to experience grace.
  • This piece by Sarah about biblical womanhood just blew me away. 
  • Michael D. Perkins shared a beautiful piece of the Psalms on his blog.
  • My dear friend Kristin Tennant wrote a beautiful, compassionate post about her struggles with depression. I'm so thankful that her voice is a part of the conversation about how to deal with that. 
  • And Bryan Allain works hard at stirring the pot after the State of the Union. By making people think about hateful candies. Gotta' watch that guy.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Please feel free to link over to your own stuff. I'm always looking for new things to read and to share with my readers!

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Twenty-two-hundred pounds of death

angry car in the shadowsComposephoto © 2010 olle svensson | more info (via: Wylio)

The other day, Rich almost killed a guy.

Okay, that's not really true.

We were driving to grab a bite and a guy walked across the road as we were driving by. There was a second when Rich was surprised by this fellow in the middle of his path, but truly, no one was in danger. And once it was clear that we weren't going to be heading to jail, we joked about it. We thought that it would be pretty awful to be mowed down by a rogue minivan and Rich said that he was driving "twenty-two-hundred pounds of death." To which I said that I was totally stealing that phrase for a blog post. (Because that's what I do. I steal stuff.)

Twenty-five years ago today, many of us watched in amazement as the space shuttle Challenger tore into the clear blue Florida sky, defying once again our need to be tethered to the earth and to prepare to explore outer space. Our amazement turned to horror 73 seconds later when the shuttle exploded killing all seven crew members. Everything was normal and then all of a sudden, everything was as far from normal as it could be.

We're surrounded by potential heartache all the time. We can be just strolling along and then out of nowhere, we're completely devastated. Fear. Rejection. Loss. It comes out of the darkness like twenty-two-hundred pounds of death and can leave us bruised and bloodied in the gutter. And when you've been hit by something like this, it can be really hard to get your bearings.

In John 16, the disciples have been hit with some difficult news -- news they don't fully understand. Jesus tells them this same message. Hard times are coming. They are going to experience fear, rejection and loss. There is no escape from this. It's a fairly sobering passage of Scripture.

But Jesus does not leave them in despair. He leaves them with a promise. And I believe it's a promise that is available to any of us when we're hit by those unexpected tragedies.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

We can have peace. Jesus has overcome all of the rogue minivans.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Perfect Storm

I met Chad on Twitter a little while ago. He's a great, funny guy and I'm happy that we had the opportunity to connect. I'm so thankful to him for agreeing to write this post today. If you'd like to share your story, you can send me an email.

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It's been at least a couple of years now, but it seems just like yesterday: I had been working away on a piece of long form fiction. In my mind, it was vibrant, living, the characters weren't my creation, but real people. For this reason, though I'd never submitted before, I decided to query an agent. With little to no knowledge of the industry. (Looking back, I see that my query was a joke--it screamed "I'm nowhere near ready to be published!").
Reject_2127photo © 2008 Justin Taylor | more info (via: Wylio)

The letter (well, email) I got back wasn't harsh, or critical--it was kind in its own form-letter kind of way. In fact, it was the literary equivalent of the infamous "it's not you, it's me" break-up line. Only we were breaking up before even getting a chance to know each other. I put on a brave face, replied to the agency, thanked them for my first rejection letter. But honestly, it stung more than I was willing to admit. 

It would be disingenuous to call a 45-minute daily writing session a river of words--so let's call it a faucet, instead, shall we? Well, that faucet slowed to a trickle. Then dried up altogether. 

For some reason, I owned that rejection letter. The agency wasn't rejecting just my work, but me personally. And rejection was just something I was ill-equipped to handle. Coming from a broken home, with a very sarcastic, caustic, dad, I'd felt the sting of rejection all of my life.  That stupid form rejection letter put me in a tailspin, a funk so deep, that I was blocked. 

All of which lead me to reengage with some old familiar friends ("besetting sins") again. (Of which I shan't say anything here). Fortunately for me, God wasn't at all interested in leaving me in that place, and was faithful to clue my wife in. And I'm so thankful she drew her line in the sand, confronted me, loved me enough to not allow me to continue down a self-destructive path. This allowed some much-needed moments of clarity.

Those times when I was on a more even keel emotionally--akin to trying to balance solo on a teeter-totter--I became increasingly aware that I hadn't felt well physically in quite some time. I had been having night-time palpitations, bouts of nocturia, and according to my wife, apparent trouble breathing at night during sleep. 

So I scheduled a sleep study--which determined that I had sleep apnea (an airway obstruction which causes one's body to stop breathing during sleep; consequently, the body wakes itself up enough to start breathing again. The net result of which is one doesn't rest), for which I was prescribed an assistive breathing (CPAP) device. And for my palpitations, the doctor put me on Atenolol (a beta blocker). These seemed to work. I wasn't feeling great, but somewhat better, I guess.

But the Atenolol had a particular side-effect, which for someone of my--or any--age, was rather disconcerting. So back to the doctor I went. I even changed doctors. Had more extensive testing, including the glorious 24-hour urine collection (if this is on your list of things to do before Jesus returns, cross it off! I've done it, and it sucks!).

Turns out, my blood pressure was fine--but my Thyroid wasn't. All this time, I'd had undiagnosed Thyroid disease! 

It was the hypothyroidism that had precipitated my:

Sleep apnea
Heart palpitations
Wait gain
Lack of energy

And...

My depression

My own body chemistry worked against me, around the same time I got that rejection letter, to create a perfect storm of ick. Which took me tumbling down into the depths.

I'm still not 100%, but more in tune with my body, more aware of my symptoms. I still use a CPAP, and get about 5-6 hours of sleep per night. It may not be great rest, but thank God I'm alive! I will be on supplemental Thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. 

Thank-you for reading! May God bless you as you reach for healing and wholeness. You are not alone!


Chad Jones hails from Erie, PA, but has lived for over 30 years in the Arizona desert. He has been married to his wife, Lisa, for 20 years, and has two children, a boy and a girl. They being 12 and 4, respectively, keep their parents busy. Toughest job they've ever loved! Chad has always wanted to be a writer, so he started a blog in 2004, but didn't use it. He has been actively blogging at http://blog.randomlychad.com since last October. He would be happy if you would read his ramblings there. This is his first guest post ever, anywhere. Many thanks to Alise Wright for the opportunity! Remember: You. Are. Not. Alone!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I shovel well. I shovel very well.


I absolutely love the movie Mystery Men. If you haven't seen it, go watch it right away. It's just a great movie about a group of misfit superheroes who have, at best, dubious superpowers. What turns me on about this movie is that for the most part, they completely believe in themselves. They have told themselves that throwing forks or shoveling are superpowers and no one can convince them otherwise. 

I love the movie because even though there is a genuine superhero in the city, these guys don't let that stop them from doing their own thing. They recognize that they're not quite as talented as Captain Amazing, but they continue to go out, night after night, to fight crime. They don't let negative comparisons get in the way of them using their talents.

In my favorite line in the movie, The Shoveler (played by the always incredible William H. Macy) is arguing with his wife about his role as a hero. She is telling him that it's time to stop and he responds, "Lucille, God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well." (And if you imagine that in Macy's voice, it will make you a million times happier, I promise.)

I adore that moment. He knows what he does well and he's not ashamed to say it.

So today I just want to ask you, what do you do well? Not what do you do well compared to someone else (I fall into this trap soooooo often!). Not what do you do okay. Not what you want to do better. Don't marginalize your talents, just own it.

Yes, we can do things better. No, we should not be complacent. But that's not for today. Today, I just want to know...

What do you do well?

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Stuck in the Mud

Rain and Mudphoto © 2008 Sarah Moody | more info (via: Wylio)
It’s winter here in WV. While I like winter way more than I like the summer (I hate being hot, like, a lot), it’s still not a favorite. It would be one thing if we got a lot of snow. Then I could sit here and write about the redemptive something or other about snow and how it covers sins and is all white and beautiful. It would be poetic and eloquent and you would weep. I’m getting misty just thinking about it.

But generally speaking, we don’t get a lot of snow. Usually some, but it turns to slush within a day or two. And then everything else turns to mud. Sticky, cold, disgusting mud. And if we’re lucky, the mud gets mixed in with the salt and cinders so it’s extra fun. Gritty, corrosive, gooey mud. It’s much harder to write a post that makes someone cry about that stuff. Unless you’re just deeply offended by mud. But those aren’t really the tears I was going for.


The thing about this mud is that it gets everywhere. It’s tracked into the house. It’s flung up all over my minivan. It’s all over the sides of my cute new boots. And no matter what I do, it’s there all winter long. Even if I manage to eliminate it for a little while, it will be back. There’s just no escaping it.

You know what else I can’t escape? God’s love.

It’s sticky. No matter where I go or what I do, it clings to my heart. I might try to scrape it off by rejecting the gift of grace, but the remnants remain.

It’s messy. Relationships are never neat or pretty and my relationship with my God is no different. Every time I think I know how things are “supposed to be” with God or with other Christians or people outside the Church, God shows me just how wrong I am. His love coats everything that we want to tidy up and messes it up.

It’s corrosive. My heart is hard. It can be stony and stubborn. But when God's love is applied, it eats away at that hardness. It might make me more vulnerable to hurt and pain, but it also allows me to experience far more joy and peace.


Sticky, messy, corrosive love. I may tear up a little bit after all.

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This is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival. You can read the other submissions and add your own here.

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Tetelestai

Photo by Eustaquio Santimano
A friend of mine has recently experienced a pretty major hurt from a church. It's remarkably similar to something that I've gone through and it has opened up some old wounds in my own soul.

It's really strange to me how these things happen. I'll be going along with my life and then out of the blue, I'll be hit with some event that just knocks me flat on my back. It will catch me off guard and everything that I think that I've forgiven, everything I think that has been healed, everything that I think has been put behind me flies up to the front of my brain. It's maddening.

When I get into this mode and I'm feeling the least bit thoughtful as opposed to my normal not-quite-as-thoughtful-but-rather-just-plain-angry self, I wonder, "When will this pain be over? When will I stop feeling hurt by this event that is years in the past? When will I stop letting these opinions dictate how I choose to live my life? When will this be finished?"

I don't think I'm alone in this.

We wonder when we will stop feeling the pain of that broken relationship.

We wonder when we will stop worrying about money.

We wonder when we will stop feeling shame for that negative choice we made.

We wonder when we will stop falling into the same sin again and again and again.

When will it be finished?

And the Holy Spirit whispers a word to me. And I hope to you as well.

Tetelestai.

It is finished.

The work on the cross already addressed whatever it is the plagues you. Your sin, your shortcomings, your inadequacies. It's done. When Jesus uttered those words, it sealed the deal. The only thing that's required of you it to let that reality sink into your soul.

It is finished.

Tetelestai.


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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

These are some things I've been reading this week. I hope you find these posts as interesting as I did! If so, be sure to let the authors know that you appreciate their work!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you this week? Please feel free to include links to your work. I want to see what I missed!

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

B3AB8EFGGM7G

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Post at O Me of Little Faith

I am so honored to be a part of Jason Boyett's Voices of Doubt series at his blog.

Jason's book "O Me of Little Faith" was the very first doubt book I read when I finally decided to take a look at the doubts that I'd had since...always. He gave a voice to something that I didn't know needed a voice and I am grateful to him for that.

Anyway, I'm deeply humbled that Jason would allow me to post for him. And I would love it if you would swing by his site, read the piece and then maybe leave your thoughts? Because those are some heavy-hitters over there and this little dinky mom blogger would feel better if a couple of her friends would wave and say hi. Intimidating things like this are far less intimidating when friends are there. Thanks!

Shaken and Stirred

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Whirlpools

"Samurai" is one of my oldest blogging friends and I am so thankful to him for his willingness to share his struggles over here today. If you would like to contribute to the Not Alone series with your story, feel free to send me an email.


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Where to begin? I have mentioned this before but I will do so again... if for nothing else to help myself work through it.

I have really been struggling with depression lately. I have never been able to "get it". Meaning, I am not able to understand how or why people get depressed. I am even more confused as to why I am getting depressed.

I am not taking any sort of superiority train of thought here. On many levels depression is a selfish thing. The mind gets locked on to me/myself/I, all of the things that are not right in my life. Why am I not able to _____? Etc. The causes can be multifaceted. For some it may be poor mental choices, another things one dwells on, in others it is a side effect of medication or injury. Some can be chemical, that is imbalances within the construct of the body's systems. All of them are treatable, and none of them should be ignored.

To tell oneself to just "shake it off", or to advise someone who is experiencing it to just "get over it" is unhelpful at best, and devastating at its worst. Depression is something that is like a whirlpool. The process is slow and almost imperceptible in the beginning, but as it progresses it picks up speed and gets tighter and tighter as it pulls you down. The longer one does nothing about the predicament the harder it takes hold and the harder it is to escape... especially without outside assistance.Whirlpoolphoto © 2009 David O'Hare | more info (via: Wylio)

I am not entirely sure how long I struggled with depression before I finally sought some help. One person says that they noticed a "cyclical" pattern for as long as two years. For me the "trigger" that pushed it over the edge of manageability was when my beloved went back to work this past summer.

I grew up, for the most part, with a single mother who was rarely at home. This left me and my brother alone most of the time to fend for ourselves. As a young man I steeled myself to the task. It was what it was and I didn’t really know any better. I did the best I could to do the chores around the house, fed me and my brother (and he pitched in some too, it was not all me). I remember learning to do laundry and make mac & cheese, etc. When my beloved went back out into the outside workforce (as opposed to being a stay at home wife and mother), and she was not always home, I began to have an overwhelming sense of abandonment. I felt like I was losing her and there was nothing I could do about it.

The fact was, there was nothing my beloved was doing intentionally to make me feel this way. As a matter of fact, she bent over backwards to assure me, to comfort me, to let me know that she was indeed my beloved. For her, this job was in many ways a "life saver" for her too. It has renewed her sense of purpose now that our three darlings are older. It has been one of the better things to come along for her.

What was hard was I know all this... and yet I could not change the way my own body reacted. I would pray (and still do), and I would "preach" to myself these facts, but I just couldn't shake the bodily reactions and mental thought pathways. I knew i was not thinking clearly, and my attempts to talk with my beloved were causing her distress. One of our long time friends reached out to me... but for a variety of reasons I did not feel that was a good idea. I finally reached out to a Christian man whom I respected, and who was also a licensed therapist. While he felt it better to not counsel me himself, he did get me with another man of God who was very helpful. For me, my dose of Strattera has not only has helped me with my ADD, but it has helped with my rounds of depression.

I can tell I am still struggling with the "cycles" now and again, but just like me working out my own sanctification, I am working to stay "on top of" my own depression.





Samurai a Christian with a diverse array of interests... Part time science fiction writer (never published), The Carolina Panthers (American professional football), Necromunda (sci-fi tabletop wargame), Shadowrun (a cyberpunk - fantasy RPG), and he is deeply in love with his beloved wife of 18 years. You can read more of his writing at Samurai's Dojo.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Can't Do That!

Dear-Abbyphoto © 2010 Ray MacLean | more info (via: Wylio)
I once wrote a letter to Dear Abby. I was probably 12 or 13 and I was so upset because I wanted to be an actress when I grew up and my parents were realists who knew that it was a long shot. So I wrote my letter to Dear Abby, pouring out my teen angst about my non-understanding parents and my deep desires and mailed it off to the address in the newspaper, with my self-addressed stamped envelope.

About a month later, I got my response. I smuggled the letter up into my room, waiting to have Abby tell me that I was a super-star and she was going to personally contact my parents and tell them that they should be more supportive of my dreams. It was going to be awesome.

Except that it wasn't. 

She totally agreed with my parents. She wrote that I might be fine in my school, but that it's a rough business and odds of making it are minimal. She wrote that it was naive at 12 or 13 to think I knew what I wanted to do with the whole rest of my life. 

The letter boiled down to, "You can't do that."

I don't think I took it all that hard. I'm sure I cried for a minute and then moved on with my life. Because ultimately it was right. Being an actor was a really lofty goal and I had no doubt set my sights too high. I don't live my life in regret that I didn't study theater in college or run off trying to find acting gigs. 

But I learned a lesson that day. And I think I'm probably not alone in the lesson.

Some risks aren't worth pursuing. Some dreams are just not practical. Some goals are just plain unattainable.

You can't do that.

So we pursue safe avenues. We push our dreams aside. We set reasonable goals.

And those things are fine. We have families to take care of, bills to pay, people to answer to. Safety is not a bad thing. People don't get hurt or disappointed or angry when we choose the careful path.

But abandoned dreams can have a way of haunting us long after we thought we'd put them aside. We long for the excitement and beauty and adventure of the what ifs. We do what needs to be done, but we know in our heart of hearts that something is missing.

There will always be voices telling you that you can't do something. And you know, maybe you can't. Maybe you can't write that book or learn that new skill or repair that broken relationship. Maybe you aren't going to be a gourmet chef or a star vocalist or a world-renowned speaker.

But there IS something you can do. Something that all of us can do.

We can try.

And maybe we'll find that we can do a lot more than we think.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Power of Community

Happy crowdphoto © 2007 Alexandre Delbos | more info (via: Wylio)


When Jason and I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity back in November, one of the highlights of the day was going to a dinner that Hemant Mehta organized. Partly because the food was absolutely delicious, but mostly because it was just really nice to be able to sit and have a great conversation with another couple at our table. It was, admittedly, a bit weird to be the sole Christian in a group of 200 atheists, but overall, it was a great evening.

When Jason and I were walking back to the train station to head home, I mentioned to him that I was really glad that so many people had come out for the dinner. He looked at me and said, "Really? You're happy that 200 atheists gathered?"

There was a brief second when I thought, "Take it back!" but honestly, I was glad for the meeting. 

In December, researchers Chaeyoon Lim and Robert Putnam revisited a study that showed that people who attend church are generally more satisfied with their lives. In the most recent study, they found that those who are happiest are those who have close friends in their churches. Even those who attend sporadically, if they have friends in their congregation, tend to rate their lives as very satisfactory. 

This makes a lot of sense to me. I don't want to downplay the God factor, but I know that personally, I have a more positive God experience when I have a group of people with whom I can share that experience. 

So when my husband asks about me being happy about a group getting together to celebrate non-belief, yes, that's still true. It's why, even though at times it feels like a conflict of interests, I still encourage Jason to attend things like Drinking Skeptically and meetings with the Morgantown Atheists. I want my husband to have a happy life. I believe that a large part of that is found through faith in God, but I also know that part of it is being a part of a community. 

Today we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday and remember his legacy. What I love so much about his message was the desire to see community develop. To look beyond our more obvious differences and see where we are the same. To find friendship with people who aren't just like you.

To be a Christian at a dinner with 200 atheists and be happy about it.

Have you been in a situation where you're the obvious odd person out? How did you make the most of it?

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

These are some of the things that I've been reading through the week. Take a look and give them some love!
  • Tara Sophia Mohr wrote an incredible piece about coming back to writing after living a long time away from what she was good at. I actually related to this more as a musician than a writer, but wow. Whatever your creative pursuit, I think this is worth reading.
  • My good friend KC. has a new blog up. In a sea of mommy blogs, he's got a daddy blog. I have no doubt that this is going to be a wonderful resource!
  • Matt Cannon wrote a beautiful piece of poetry, highlighting his "one word" for this year.
  • And Sarah made me cry heaving sobs with the stunning imagery she paints (not to mention her gorgeous kids!).
  • Matt Appling wrote a thought-provoking piece about advertising and the Church. I thought it was a really interesting counterpoint to this piece about branding by Danny Bixby. Both make some good points. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it's certainly a discussion worth having.
  • And there is a daily "newspaper" to follow articles written by and linked by the folks who regularly participate in the #coffeeclub. I highly recommend subscribing to it. (Or not, because then you won't have as much see here on Sunday mornings!)
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Please share links to your favorite posts -- I love to find new things to read!

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Useless

Useless at the momentphoto © 2009 Quinn Dombrowski | more info (via: Wylio)
This wasn't the post that I had intended to write today. I've been trying very hard to stay ahead of my writing here so I have more time to edit and polish and all of those good things that your writing teachers tell you to do.


But I read something yesterday that has wormed its way into my brain and I feel like if I don't write about it, I'm going to explode. So. Here we go.

I saw a comment yesterday on another blog post that really bothered me. Quoting another person, one commenter wrote (speaking about faith without works): 
I am not saying that we never sin. But sin, according to the book of 1 John, can no longer be habitual. We, now, are able to forgive and love the unlovable. If this isn’t evident in your life or mine, we cannot be fooled. We have not been converted. We have a faith that is without works and is dead. It is not enough to say we believe in God. There must be a new nature. It is like having a tree fully decorated but not plugged in. It is worthless and will be discarded and overlooked. Useless.
The last bit of that just rips at my heart. Useless. What an ugly word.

I think what bothers me about this is that the whole "faith without works" thing is pretty open to interpretation. How many works? What if you're one of the most generous people with your time and your money, but you can't help passing on the juicy story you heard about so and so? What if you can preach up a sermon that leads hundreds to Christ and live righteously, but drive a car that is way beyond what you need to get you from point A to point B? What if you exemplify the quiet and gentle spirit, but never met a carton of Ben & Jerry's you didn't love? 

And what if you don't really think that what you're doing is bad? What if you've examined the Scriptures and simply don't find what you believe is compelling evidence that proves you're sinning? 

Does all of that nullify someone's faith? Make it useless?

I don't think I believe that.

Look at someone like Rahab. She was the prostitute who took the Israelite spies into her home and then protected them. There's nothing in the Scripture that ever indicates that she ceased being a prostitute. Yet in Hebrews 11:31, she is praised specifically because of her faith. Despite doing something that seems pretty obviously sinful, her faith is not considered dead or useless. Rather, it is considered something to be emulated. Purposeful. Useful.

I'm thinking that if the Bible lauds the faith of an unrepentant whore, perhaps I don't need to be too quick to call the faith of others useless. 

And maybe my own stumbling, bumbling, sometimes-barely-there faith isn't useless either.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Not Just a Girl

. Alone .photo © 2009 Tafari Anthony | more info (via: Wylio)


I'm not an overly emotional 13 year old girl (at least not anymore).

What do you think of, when you hear that someone is writing about their depression? Exactly that; the over emotional teen who thinks no one understands her and no one knows the pain she goes through. Writing out her worries and concerns to the internet, because no one else cares.

When I write about my depression, it isn't because I believe no one understands me, or because no one knows the pain I go through. That is not why I do it. I write simply because it makes me feel good, and in some small way I want to be able to help someone.

Once upon a time I was an overly emotional 13 year old girl. I am going to date myself slightly, but when I was 13 the internet was not what it is today, and there was no outlet for me to cry out to...at least not in the way blogs and online journals are there today. I did keep a journal, however, and in many ways I'm glad I didn't post those thoughts publicly, because they were dark, unhappy, and not something I should be sharing.

A few times, however, I did try to share my thoughts with people. There were a few "mentors," women I really looked up to when I was a teen. They were great sounding blocks, but there was one thing in common with all of them. They brushed my feelings off. Oh, I don't mean they didn't care, far from it. They cared very much for me. They would listen, and nod understandingly, but at the end of the conversation, the outcome was always the same. Whether they said it or not, I now realize that they were simply writing me off as an over emotional 13, 14, 15 year old girl.

I remember one time I read an article in a teen magazine that talked about depression. It had one of those quizes at the end where you check off symptoms, and if you have 3 or more, you may be depressed and should talk to your doctor. I had several of those symptoms, at the time. The typical depression symptoms. Trouble sleeping, lack of interest in activities that used to give you pleasure, weight gain or loss, loss of appetite, etc. However, when I brought this up to a mentor of mine, I was told that those types of articles make everyone feel like they are depressed, and that it didn't mean anything.

I spent years depressed, off and on, and had no idea. These things that were told to me in middle school and early high school stuck with me, and I pushed the thought that I may be depressed aside. Now that I look back on it and realize what was happening, I'm shocked and upset, but mostly angry. Angry because I could have fixed this sooner. I didn't have to wait 7 years before I went on medication, or tried to treat my depression on my own.

I guess this is what I want people to know; this is why I write. I want everyone, no matter their age, to know about depression. To know it is not a shameful thing, that it really exists. I want them to listen to their hearts, and not take the advice of misleading but well-meaning friends or mentors. I want them to know they are not alone.


Megg writes the blog The Life of a not so Desperate Housewife. She is an aspiring librarian, working as an office assistant. When she isn't struggling with depression she loves to read, write, watch old TV shows long off the air and cuddle with her cats. She lives in Seattle with her husband, Geoff and two cats.






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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coffee. Prayer. Donkey Balls.

Love Coffeephoto © 2006 Ahmed Rabea | more info (via: Wylio)
It's 8:07 AM. The kids have been roused, dressed, fed, and sent off to school. The dishes have been emptied from the dishwasher and the first load of laundry is spinning in the basement. My kettle begins to whistle and my French press is sitting with a belly full of Mocha Java waiting to be bathed in hot water. I sit down at my laptop, fire up TweetDeck and pull up my favorite hashtag column.

The first rule of #coffeeclub is that you definitely talk about #coffeeclub. Because our primary goal is to get this hashtag trending.

#Coffeeclub is truly one of my favorite parts of each day. Every morning we gather around our computers with our cups of coffee (or in some cases, heaven forbid, cups of TEA!) and share a few moments of our lives. We share struggles, prayer requests, recipes, health updates, and opinions on the classiness of donkey balls vs. trucknutz.

I love this time at least partly because I feel a strong sense of belonging with these women (and the odd man that braves the waters!). We may be scattered all around, have vastly different backgrounds and life circumstances, but we "get" one another.

There is something tremendously powerful about being understood.

I believe that regardless of how popular we were or are, there's not one of us who hasn't felt on the outside at least occasionally. As an adult, I thought all of the cliques and popularity contests would be left behind, but often they still continue. If anything, they can sometimes be even more brutal as adults than they were as when we were kids because now your acceptance is tied not to hair styles and clothes, but to things like "values" and "morals." I'm constantly baffled by the number of people I meet who have made it through the fires of adolescence only to be burned by other adults for not following just the right set of beliefs or loving the right kind of person or aligning with the correct political world view. Now instead of name-calling like "freak" or "nerd," your core values are questioned. Maybe you don't really love God. Perhaps you don't really love America. You don't fit in. You're an outsider.

But maybe, just maybe, we can change the tone. Maybe we can say no to name calling. Maybe we can accept people who don't believe the same things we believe or act the same way we act or dress the same way we dress. Maybe we can spend a little more energy focusing on our similarities rather than our differences.

Because that other stuff? Well, as we say in #coffeeclub, that stuff sucks donkey balls.

Do you have a group that "gets" you? Do you have an opinion on trucknutz?




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Monday, January 10, 2011

Finding Me

Oliver in Nested Boxesphoto © 2009 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)
I love my site designer.

First, I don't have the tech skills to create a website. Having been on the interwebs for a pretty long time, I know a very little bit of HTML. But enough to create a blog template? Not even close. 

But even more important, I do not possess the ability to combine a person's personality with something that is aesthetically pleasing. When I was talking about color options and design ideas with some Twitter friends, it was incredible to me to read the different ideas that people had about what colors were "me." I had suggested some that were pretty, but in talking to these women, "pretty" wasn't really going to cut it. And that was just colors. When it came to other things like fonts and pictures and backgrounds, well, I didn't even get into that. 

It took numerous times to get even close to something that felt like it represented my writing style. Laura did tons of great work and all of the work she did looked great. It just wasn't a fit. I'm so thankful that she kept working with me and throwing new and different ideas at me until we were able to find something that felt like it fit.

And that's just a blog design. You try to boil your writing personality down into one or two definable traits and make something that visually represents your writing style without someone needing to read a word. I have deep respect for graphic artists and designers who are able to pull that off. It's a real talent and it impresses me every time I see it done well. 

My problem is that I try to do that with my life. I want to edit it down to a couple of manageable chunks that won't overwhelm people. Put out an image that is churchy enough or worldly enough or smart enough or hip enough (okay, that one not so much). The thing is, all of it's true. But I think sometimes I edit myself depending on who I'm interacting with. 

My good friend (and genuinely hip woman) Tamara has a fantastic warning on her blog. "This blog sometimes gets all Jesus-y and shit." 

I love that. No distinction between any of the "parts" of her. Nothing walled off or deemed inappropriate for a given audience.

I think that in the past year I've found a more consistent voice, but I know that I still box myself in on some level. 

I think it's why I really liked this design, even though it wasn't what I had in mind when we started. The ink spots just really grabbed me. They're not contained. They're not pretty or uniform. And they bleed all over each other. 

No containment. Breaking down boxes. I hope to continue to do that. And I hope you'll help me!


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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Welcome!

New welcome mat from my parentsphoto © 2007 The McClouds | more info (via: Wylio)
Thanks so much for making the trip over here!

It feels weird to be writing on a new blog. Like, seriously weird.

But good.

So, what can you expect from me at this blog?

This is where my "serious" posts will go. Posts that are actually about faith, family, friendship (and the occasional killer robot). I love the free-for-all feel over at my other blog, but it was feeling cluttered and I don't want that. I'm a naturally messy person, but this is one area in my life where I can keep things a bit more separated and neat.

As I said when I announced the move, I hope that by separating into two blogs, I will have an opportunity to improve content at both sites. It's important to me to not just put out content, but to put out something that is worth reading. Stuff that is informative, thoughtful, fun. I hope that this move will help me do that at a higher level.

My intention right now is to have three posts here a week, plus the (I hope) weekly posts to the Not Alone series. Maybe two posts. Maybe four. Something like that. But I'm going to shoot for a post every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

And personally, I'm hoping to be less obsessive about stats over here. I get pretty neurotic checking them at the other site, and my goal here is to just spend time writing and not really worrying about who does and doesn't read. I certainly hope that you stop by and read (are you there now? I'd better check...), but I'm going to try hard not to care. We'll see how that works.

Thank you for sticking with me while I sort out this whole writing thing. I appreciate those who have been with me on the journey so far and for those of you just joining us along the path, welcome!


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It's an Inter"faith" Christmas!

I've always been impressed by folks who can wrap really beautiful packages. I was helping the kids wrap presents for their class gift exchanges and was reminded, once again, that I am just terrible at it. I was able to find Christmas wrapping paper, but I don't keep a stock of ribbons and bows, and the edge of my paper was pretty wrinkled. Plus, I'm just not good at the mechanics of wrapping. I'm sure there's some tutorial online on how to wrap a beautiful present, but I haven't sought that out. And I'm definitely not good at it on my own.
Presents Presents Presents!photo © 2004 Dana Graves | more info (via: Wylio)

Anyway, this is our first Christmas "out" as an inter"faith" couple (I don't know what you call it when one person is a Christian and the other is an atheist. It's not really interfaith, since one has no faith. Mostly we just call it marriage, but for the purposes of today's post, I'm going to call it interfaith and just go with that.). And I don't think I'm coping very well.

Last year wasn't too bad. I mean, it was weird, but I chalked most of it up to an inability to share what was going on with people around us and the general newness of the whole thing. It had rough moments, but I didn't really pay it a lot of attention, figuring that as we settled into the new normal, things would even out.

And for the most part, this has been the case, until just the other night when we were setting up our Christmas tree. We had put in Relient K's Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer, which is a family favorite, and were all singing their version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Lots of laughing and fun.

Then, out of nowhere, it hit. The song I Celebrate the Day came on and I was totally thrown into this place remembering that my husband and I don't share our faith.

It's weird how that happens. Most of the time things really are pretty normal. We're just the same people we've always been. We share almost entirely the same interests and truly, he's just one of the most fun people I know. We're best friends and I love spending time with him.

I think part of the deal is that during most of the time, our faith is kind of an undercurrent thing. When we both shared a faith, it wasn't something that we talked about all the time, it was just...there. Sure, we'd go to church together and we'd have discussions about spiritual issues, but for the most part, it wasn't something at the forefront of our relationship. It was a reliable foundation, but not something that we pulled out and examined constantly.

But at Christmas? Well, that's a time when faith has always played a pretty big role. Being church musicians, we'd spend time working on and listening to sacred music. We'd read stories that had Jesus-y themes. We would set up a nativity and marveled one year as a 18 month old Deborah placed all of the characters prostrate in front of the manger. Faith has always been a centerpiece of how we've celebrated Christmas.

Standley chasmphoto © 2009 Alberto Otero García | more info (via: Wylio)
Now that's changed. Most days it's like it was. We laugh at The Daily Show. We talk about spiritual things (though conversations are a little bit different now). We like to eat hot wings. It's mostly the same. The difference is there, but it doesn't define our marriage.

But I've got to be honest, during weeks like this, it just plain sucks. It feels like a huge gap between us. My Christian guilt will kick in and I'll think that I should be feeling this bad all the time and why am I not trying to make him a Christian again. Then my doubt-y brain will combat that and say that I hate being "fixed" so why on earth would it be okay to want to fix someone else and shouldn't I just be happy that he's happy? Then I'll feel bad because I shouldn't be so complacent about his eternal destination. Then I'll think that maybe I'm not so sure that I can follow a God who would be cruel enough to send people like my husband to hell. Around and around I go.

And what's really frustrating to me is that I've been wracking my brain writing this post, trying to figure out how to tie this all together into a nice little package that is suitable for Christmas. But I'm bad at wrapping presents and right now, I don't have the tools here to make this look pretty or to bring it together into some kind of neat, tidy conclusion. The best I can do is quote Fred Rogers who said, "The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self," and promise you that even though this is messy, it's definitely all me.

I think the main take-away I've got here is simply that relationships, with people and with God, are hard. Even at Christmas. But they are worth the effort. Even at Christmas.

Living On the Edge

About to Jump Over the Fjords with Parachutephoto © 2009 Mike Rosenberg | more info (via: Wylio)
When I hear about someone "living on the edge," it conjures up the image of someone who lives a very adventurous life. I'll think of a person who is fearless and who lives their life with abandon.

But there's another kind of "edge living" that is a little bit less exciting. And I've been finding myself there more than I'd like to admit.

The picture I picked today is titled "About to Jump Over the Fjords with Parachute." The person in the photo is just moments away from what looks like a really thrilling experience. He's got his chute on and he's going to experience the wind in his face and an experience as close as any of us can get to flying. I don't know if he'd done it before, but I imagine something like this doesn't get old.

What if he didn't jump? I'm sure just standing on that ledge is a pretty awesome thing. It looks like a breath-taking view. At that height, there's no doubt a good breeze going on. He's out in the open air, in nature. Not too shabby.

But I'm going to guess that if he didn't jump, he'd be disappointed. He had packed his chute and learned how to use it safely. He made the trip up the mountain. He probably told at least a few people that his plan was to go and jump off the fjord. There was no doubt a financial investment in the preparation for this event.

Yeah, I'd say it's a safe bet that he'd be bummed if he skipped the jump.

Last week I tweeted, "98% is really, really good, but some endeavors require 100%. The courage to finish that 2% can be hard to find."

At the time this picture was taken, the person had done 98% of the job. That's impressive. That's more than a lot of people do. But that last 2% is the pay-off. It's what makes it all worth it.

How many of us go 98% toward our dreams and then chicken out at the end?

I do this all. the. time.

I recently was approached about an opportunity that scares the living daylights out of me and which I dismissed immediately. Several good friends were encouraging about it, but my super awesome husband is the one who framed it in this light for me and gave me the kick in the rear that I really needed to give it some serious thought rather than a knee-jerk reaction. And to examine why it is that I allow myself to live on the edge, but not to jump.

I start something. I'll work hard on it. I'll pour money, sweat, tears, time into it and then, right before it's time for it to really take off, I'll stop. What if it fails? What if someone laughs at me? What if I'm not good enough? What if I succeed and then it gets taken away? What if...?

And that "what if" will stop me dead in my tracks. I'm frozen on the edge. The view is beautiful, but it's bittersweet because it reminds me of what I didn't pursue.

What dream have you put off because of fear? What endeavor have you poured into only to back out at the last minute because you were worried about someone else's reaction?

And perhaps more important, is today the day you're going to stop living on the edge and just jump?
 
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