You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

I‘ve decided to act like a grownup for Christmas this year. I should have done this long before age 39, but you must understand that I didn’t realize I’ve been acting like a child until some time in the mid morning of today.

When you’re a kid, your parents make holidays- from scratch out of love, and special parent magic. When you leave the house, you transition through stages: holidays with friend’s families, holidays with just friends, one horrible New Years Eve spent alone, several happily solitary Thanksgivings. And you enjoy the freedom, thinking that one year, not long from now, you will begin your own family; you will start your own traditions. You will tap into the parent magic for yourself and start building holidays as a gift to your own children.  Your heart will be made of chocolate and your spouse will know just where (and how) to hang the stockings.

That is, unless you remain (mostly) single and (mostly) childless. If this happens,  you will one day get an email from your boss asking you to work more in December, you may briefly compare yourself to Lucy Eleanor Moderatz from While You Were Sleeping, and then start sobbing in the middle of some house you are cleaning in Bellevue…

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Peace Like A Metaphor

Yesterday I was finally able to meet with my pastor after being delayed by that roundhouse car accident four weeks ago. On the morning of January 27th, as I drove, I mentally plotted out a sketch of the many things I couldn’t figure out or understand. But so much can happen in a month. The logistical life changes are in progress, and the spiritual dilemmas (at least a few) have had natural moments to untangle. Yesterday morning, sitting safely in Starbucks with Sam, I kind of stabbed at what hasn’t yet been addressed.

I’m usually pretty good at communicating complicated plots, but here I’m a little stumped, so I’ll head back into a metaphor that occurred to me while talking to a friend on the phone last night.

When I became a Christian in 1994, it was after having grown up in church, rebelled for a few years, and come back out of extreme depression. I put on my theology and beliefs like moving into a fully furnished house because I had nowhere else to go. I embraced all of it completely. There were uncomfortable things- paintings I found disturbing, rugs that I couldn’t pick up to clean under, smells I couldn’t eradicate, but it was home. I also added things to the house, but got rid of nothing, opting instead to leave those hard choices for another time, or maybe never. Because of some things that happened over the last few years, all of this became intolerable. It might have been smart to slowly tackle the issues, but what happened instead was total demolition. I was throwing stuff out the front door and lighting things on fire, smashing through walls and spending more and more time outside…

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The Outsider Inside

I may be in the minority here, but I see confusion as a useful tool.

Every group has its own slang. They have stories they retell, behavior they agree is The Thing. I was with some friends recently who are part of what I would call The Party Scene. I haven’t been a part of that scene for over 20 years, so there were several things they all did that were new to me. I found myself curious about the history behind things like everyone tapping their shot glass on the table/bar simultaneously before drinking those shots in unison.

Why do they do that?

It’s not that I need to fit in, but also I don’t want to offend people out of my ignorance. I’m both curious about the “why” behind all of the things people “just do,” and interested in who people are behind their behavior.

These “norms” can be found all over the world. When I’ve had extended visits to Germany, for example, I discovered that instead of drinking 7-UP when someone is sick (as people did when I was growing up in the USA), they drink Coca Cola. Also when sick, Germans don scarves. Now that I understand the reasons behind these rituals, they make sense to me and although I’ve never been one to drink soda, I do find myself sporting a scarf now when I feel under the weather.

If you’re a Christian you hopefully recognize these cultural idiosyncrasies also apply to you and your family or church….

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Splendid Spinsterhood

A year ago I was keenly longing for my own place- a kitchen in which to bake, a living room to invite people into,  wall space to hang my prints.

Three months ago I was making detailed plans for getting an RV to live in so that I could have my own home while still being able to travel.

I’m pretty happy staying in guest rooms and sleeping on couches, but at the same time, I find myself mentally decorating some imaginary home of my own. I spend a little time here and there “shopping” for things like area rugs and arm chairs. My dream house is the coolest thing you’ve never seen.

Maybe I talk about this a lot?

If it seems like I’m repeating myself, it’s probably because I’ve been in this flexible state for the last 4 years- not at all what I expected from life so near to 40. While I’m waiting and waiting to find out where “home” is, I learn more and more deeply how comfortable it can be to be homeless…

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Growing Young

I know Rich Mullins was not your typical kind of hero. From what I understand, he was a  very flawed and broken man. Nevertheless, the music and the words that God gave him have impacted me in a bigger way than I had realized until seeing  a movie about his life. He taught me two very important things about following Jesus.

His message resonated so quickly and deeply that I didn’t even know it was him that God was using to teach me. While this is about the influence of a musician, it’s mostly about the faithfulness of God to walk so near to me.

Lesson 1: Honesty

“These days I need more than just a line about Jesus.
I need to see his love, these days.”

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church. What I learned as a kid was that the best Christians looked good and shiny on the outside. They had two parents, and plenty of money, they dressed up for church and they never said bad words. I saw nowhere to express my confusion and pain over life (not to mention I was poor with divorced parents and started swearing in elementary school)…

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Land Mines

I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.

Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.

Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check…

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The Log in My Eye

Transitions often make it difficult for me to know who I am. I would like that to be different.

Oddly enough, one of my “Strength Finders” strengths is flexibility. I began to seriously question this “strength” sometime at the beginning of this year because I was flattened by a particular transition. Totally undone.

At that time I realized that what makes me flexible is my great intolerance for not fitting. It’s like a big splinter that I MUST get out RIGHT NOW.

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I’m not talking about morals or anything. I’m talking about cultural things which are not connected to morals- bed times, food habits, conversation topics, clothing, time orientation, what communicates respect or what is considered rude. All of these physical manifestations of culture come from underlying values and when I first enter a new culture those differences feel unbearable to me. So I have a tendency to wrestle hard with myself in order that those things not be points of conflict….

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Satellite Heart

Tonight I wrapped up a very mini series with the program staff here at Warm Beach Camp on Intimacy With God. What God gave me to give to them was pretty basic, on one hand, but also felt hard to execute. The two main things that I felt I was supposed to talk about were the spiritual principles of intimacy with God from Psalm 63:1-8 told through the lens of my own story with God.

The four spiritual realities that I found in those verses were these:

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Three Big Bites

I was listening to a podcast yesterday wherein the guy speaking was encouraging his audience (a group of students about to go out in teams for a few months of missions work) to be family to each other. He admonished them not to worry if these few months would be their only time together, but to live like family regardless of how long or short they had as a family.

This was timely for me to hear since I’ve been thinking a lot about Home and connection.

After struggling for several months with how to dive into community here, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to stop worrying about it. I don’t mean I won’t make friends. I have made friends here and I regularly run into more people that I would love to get to know better.
I think what I was really worrying about was capacity. How many people am I actually able to be a friend to? Behind that question was the fear of disappointing others.

Right here and now I’m going to publicly confess that fear, and let it go….

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Place to Be

Here’s what I’m thinking about today as I slowly sip a cup of coffee.

Home.

It’s one of the things I’ve been wrestling with this year. I’ve lived in Colorado for almost two years now but in many ways I still feel very new. Sometimes it feels like I’ve settled here, but to be honest it’s more like I’ve just become good friends with Colorado Springs. We’ve had a few fights (blazing fires, snow in April) and we’ve had some good times (hiking in the hills, summer-length summers) but I have known Home so deeply in WA that it’s hard to compare it. In fact, I don’t want to compare the two places.

One thing that solidifies my desire to understand all of it is a conversation I had with the last speaker in the school a few weeks ago. He used to travel around the world and teach the way I have been dreaming of doing and so I asked him if he would sit down with me and give me some pointers about doing this well. He had some really good tips. One of them was to have a home to come back to- not a house necessarily, but a community and a place where I feel grounded…

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