Getting it Right

Most of us want to be Good People. We tend to think that, just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, everyone is at some stage of “growing up” toward maturity and greater independence.

A few months ago I posted something a friend of mine wrote where she mentioned a pastor who had committed suicide. Weeks later, another friend asked me about this- disturbed to consider a pastor doing such a horrible, desperate thing. Because of this idea we have that spiritual growth is a steep climb up a mountain made increasingly on your own, it is horrifying when someone “ahead” of us on the path gives up or slides dramatically backward.

We ask ourselves, “What is the point of my climbing if  someone like that can fall?” 

The bad news is that being a pastor or a missionary or a nun will not safeguard us from being Bad People, from getting depressed, from having broken relationships, from sin or from tragedy (a fact that is noticed easily by people who keep their distance from Christianity). Although we gain maturity and we learn lessons, we’re always light years away from being grown up…

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A Father’s Love

A Father’s Love: Father to the Fatherless
Guest Post by Thad Nelson

I was on a construction jobsite a few years back listening to a conversation between two of my co-workers about how terrible their fathers were and I interjected quite insensitively how awesome my own father was. This stopped the conversation and Charlie says to me, “Hey stop it. You’re spoiling our pity party!” It was at this point in my life that I really stopped and took stock of who my father is and what I had learned from him. Peacemaking, patience, joy, sticktuitiveness, self control, frugality, gentleness.

My dad never had an opinion when it came to eating out. He is generally not a picky person but it’s not like he doesn’t have favorite things:

Lasagna, 1000 island dressing, and carrot cake, to name a few, but I realized in retrospect that what he really wanted for dinner was for us to be happy and not to fight. When I was young I wanted a certain wood toy and so he set out to build it for me. I was so distraught by the noise of the saw that he stopped and never made it. I think about myself in a similar situation and I think I would say, “If you don’t like it, then go in the house” Turns out, I am not my father. I began to recognize that he had consistently modeled the art of peacemaking by setting aside his own wants and desires for the wants and desires of others.

I would say that I learned patience from my father from countless hunting and fishing trips, but it would not quite be accurate. At least not in the sense that I typically think of his patience. He is patient with people. He was patient with me and my sister and my mother and our stray cats and all our shortcomings…

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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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Theology Soup

I started going to church when I was a baby. Which sounds funny because clearly I didn’t think to myself at a few months old, “huh, I wanna check out these Jesus followers.” My mom became a Christian just before I was born and started going to a Southern Baptist church. Before you get a picture in your head of holy rollers, this church was planted in Northwest Washington where even self-titled Charismatics are probably not going to get too demonstrative. (This is a stereotype which several of my friends from home break, I’ll grant you.)

We didn’t holy roll. When it was time to worship, we just followed orders. Hymns, praise choruses, stand, stand, sit. No one said, “Amen,” no one raised their hands.

When I became a Christian for real at age 16, I wanted to be at church every moment. Still Southern Baptist. I devoured my Bible and tattooed it with question marks which I would frequently harass my pastor with through email. I did all the 12 week Bible studies you can think of, Experiencing God, The Mind of Christ, A Heart Like His.

Then, because I felt this call to be a missionary, I found myself at Moody Bible Institute. I was like a toddler on the loose, making friends, staying up late, listening to guys debate theology and kind of in awe of their adult sounding opinions…

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Call It The Past

When people hear the story of my marriage and divorce, they often remark on how healthy I seem. I’m not bitter toward my former husband- in fact, when I do think about him, I often consider the gifts he continues to offer the world. I make self deprecating jokes, I expound on the joys of being reintroduced to singleness.

But I will also correct my surprised audience because I’m really still just as messed up as everyone else. Maybe the willingness to forgive and be transparent about my faults is a sign of maturity I will own to, but it doesn’t mean I’ve leveled up.

What I mean to say is that when my former spouse was still my future ex husband, I was struggling under the weight of all kinds of neurosis. I got them the same way everyone does, in childhood. A difficult marriage may strengthen old triggers, but those triggers formed on the playground of youth, in the hallways of old houses with my feet sunk into orange shag carpeting….

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Holiday Equilibrium

The Christmas season is upon us. I think I’m finally beginning to reclaim some joy for this season.  It’s amazing what an idyllic childhood of Christmases will do to hinder and taint your attempts to enjoy the holiday as a single adult.

Christmases past are perfect in my memory and all of that had to do with my mom.She was way better than Santa Claus. Most of the year she was pretty stressed with work and taking care of three girls on her own, but at Christmas time she was the Happiest Little Elf version of herself. Her happiness would spill over to her three daughters in a way that caused us to fight less and love more. The weekend after Thanksgiving she would pull out the boxes and the whole house would be transformed. A stack of the best Christmas records would sit on the record player and when they  had played through we would just flip them all over and start again.

As the youngest in the house, I always got up first on Christmas morning. Sometime around age 7 or 8 I crept down the hall before daylight and there in the living room, in the magical glow of the Christmas tree lights, sat a shiny, red bicycle. I knew it was for me. After gaping at it for a few seconds, I slipped into my mom’s room to wake her up. Before I said anything, her sleepy voice came from under covers, “I missed The Face.” Of course she meant the face I made when I saw that glorious bike, so I replayed it for her….

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Level Up?

Today I advance one year in the age game. I’m not bothered by the number, although since I spend most of my time with people a decade younger, I joke that I’ll be turning 29 again.

The day did not start out so good. I woke up a little after 5 to work out…

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otherwise known as walking to Starbucks. The weather report had predicted snow, but this wasn’t as much snow as tiny shards of sharp ice – all flying at my face, regardless of wind direction. About a block and a half from home I slipped on the ice just in the way you see a person encounter a banana peal in the cartoons. Yes, I did laugh at myself, but I also landed in daintiness square on my right hip. If there were a movie of my life, it should start with that moment. It also may end with a  similar moment in fifty years.

Because I’ve been watching this tv show lately about spies, I actually considered the rest of the walk as a stealth challenge.

For a second.

Then I considered what it could feel like to fall on my throbbing hip again and I decided that studying today is quite enough of a challenge.

No other incidents in the last three hours since The Fall, but I’ll keep you updated. In the mean time I’ll be here with a mocha my roommate bought me and my nose in this commentary on Philippians.

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Once More With Feeling

I used to write poetry and now I write to-do lists. I used to go with the flow and now I keep a calendar.

It’s not that I have lost my soul to the daily grind. Just the opposite, actually. I have discovered a motivation that surpasses my melancholy or my desire to always be comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not so fundamentally different that my desk is now always tidy. I still wrestle with life and try to take time to think about the why’s behind action and existence. I still feel like I’m in a foggy dream for at least an hour after I get out of bed, and I still get ideas stuck in my head that poke at my guts until I give them words. My identity as a daydreamer is intact….

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Withalittlehelp

Sometimes a bad evening happens and all you need is a person (or two) to hear you and sympathize. Nothing major, just friends who care.

Even friends like your own mom. (Thanks, mom!)

It’s a bit like shushing a frightened, crying toddler. Only a scrape… kiss the wet cheek, snuggle a moment.

Except today I was the toddler.

It was nothing. Really. Some crazy people, driving dangerously and flipping me off for not also driving dangerously (you know that strip between Co Springs and Denver where it’s narrow and curvy and everyone drives like maniacs!?). Then some technology issues, then running around and retracing steps because I did things wrong (without knowing the rules) to start….

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The Un-Adult Truth

The house is napping and I am in the basement with the books. It’s a daylight basement, which is really more of a rainlight basement.

Although I grew up in the great Northwet of

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Washington, I have spent just enough time away to gain a nostalgic perspective.
In small towns like Carnation (where I am today) I look outside and immediately remember movies like The Journey of Natty Gann, which then make me think of logging trucks, and big men wearing plaid and big beards.
Or I remember walking  from school like a pencil line connecting the dots of puddles the whole way home….

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