Do Not Be Afraid

Fear leads us to hurt, or to reject other people. John said, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

Because I grew up in the church, it’s easy for me to point the finger that direction, and say that the church often carries an “us and them” mentality. These are the rules, and we know who’s in and who’s out by who follows these rules. But why does this matter at all? Why do you have to know who’s in and who is out? What if you just lived in a house with a bunch of people from varying faiths, and with various morals, and you worked together like a family? How could it work, unless you loved, unless you didn’t fear what their otherness might do to you?

What will their otherness do to you?

When I was growing up, there was a pressure to not be close friends with Unbelievers. It probably says somewhere in Proverbs that “bad company corrupts good character,” but I’m beginning to realize that I am already the worst kind of company. We’re very, very afraid of becoming monsters, of being thrown out of the family, of becoming unacceptable, and unloveable, and this actually leads us to throw other people out first.

What if I’m friends with a gay person? What if (even worse in our current world) my neighbor has opposing political beliefs? What if I want to get drunk or have sex outside of marriage? How can we stop the world from becoming tainted by The Other’s ugly, wrong, oppressive, horrible view? How can we keep ourselves safe from tyranny, or keep ourselves from becoming tyrants?

Though I know very little now, I do know that one road that won’t work is the road of fear. Fear will lead us much more directly into suffering and monsterhood.

What defensive actions are we taking based on fear? How are those actions harming us, and those around us? What would it look like if what John said was true- that perfect love casts out fear? How would our daily lives be different?

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Motorhome Shock

Just recently (the beginning of July) I moved into a motorhome. For several months I used it like a spare room at a friend’s house- using their bathroom, and often eating meals with them. Two weeks ago I moved to a rented spot, so that I could plug in all of the things, and live in it like a tiny house.

It’s really a rubber meets road situation. Some of it feels a bit like culture shock (which is now called culture stress by many, but I like the word shock better because it includes that sense of disorientation that’s present in the struggle to accept a foreign environment). I always feel a little bit damp, and I worry constantly about the integrity of my plywood structure. I have a heater, but I’m tentative in using it, because I’m unsure how the cost of heating will accumulate. The towel I use after my shower never fully dries, and if my clothes get wet (from rain) there are few places to hang them. I hate the smell of propane, so I only turn it on to shower, do dishes, or cook on my stove…

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The Ones That Love You

I used to feel superior to road ragers.  I was like, hey man, calm down, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. You know, pretty zen about taking as long as it takes, and navigating the insane maze of the freeway.

This was before I became a regular commuter. Now that I drive to and from Seattle four times a week, I am prone to driving angry even when I’m out in the country (I live out in the country). A few weeks ago I was driving down Highway 20 to meet a friend for a mountain loop hike. In between nowheres, I found myself stuck behind three RVs going about 10 miles under the speed limit. I did not remain calm. I wasn’t traffic, they were, and I just wanted to have a day off from slugging along in my car behind people.

When I was younger (I mean, until a few years ago) I thought that as I got older, I would become calmer and wiser, I would work through my issues and be a really kind old lady some day. The older I get, the more I dig inside to clean things out, the more I find that deep down I’m basically a selfish asshole…

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Letters From The Void

In my current state of wrestling with expressions of faith, I may, at times, sound quite bitter. Not here, not on the blog, because I haven’t been writing much, but in person, I’m struggling a lot with an ambivalence which borders on hostility. I think these negative emotions are heavily stacked up around what I would call Religious Identity. That thing we use to comfort the fears we all feel about our humanity and mortality. I’m not talking about God himself here, I’m talking about all of our pet activities and thought patterns which we use to tell ourselves We Are OK.

Here’s the thing: We’re not OK. But that isn’t really the most important fact. The most important fact is that God knows, and he chooses us anyway. Christianity makes a really big deal about those who have chosen God and those who haven’t, but our choice is not actually the most important thing happening in the gospel. I’m not saying our choice isn’t important, but it’s not the main event, not by a long shot….

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Parenthetical Revelations

I‘m in the middle of trying to write two final essays for the quarter, but wanted to record somewhere the things I’ve learned in the last three months.

There were lessons like how to turn a fraction into a decimal, into a percent; how to more effectively edit a piece of writing; how to (and how not to) interpret literature (this distinction was difficult because it’s very different than interpreting the Bible). But these things are not as fun to explore as the few tidbits that have taken me by surprise…

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A Wounded Witness

A Wounded Witness: Forgiveness and healing after abuse.
Guest post by Kimmi

I have been exploring the idea of forgiveness the past couple years now and have come to a place where I really need to go to the next level of it and start to release people. I really don’t even want to think about these people who have hurt me or the circumstances involving them, but they haunt me. Every day they haunt me. It would be easier to deal with this in my old way, but if I go back to that or give up, then what in my life will change? It was brought to my attention how many people it would impact if I just decided to give up.

I have a tattoo on my arm that says “She who has been forgiven much loves much.” I want to love and forgive like Jesus. He has impacted my life with his sacrifice, but I often forget that his sacrifice was not just for me and my friends and the sweet people I have met along the way. It is for absolutely everyone. That racks my brain. Because he forgives, I should also forgive.

The idea of forgiveness is coming up now when there are also so many other things happening in my life…

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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….

[Click here for the rest of this post.]

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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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The Wild Quiet

Going for walks in the morning is like stepping into a fairytale as some sick, old creature. The woods are glittery and towering, decorated with a million invisible strands of web, still drenched by the rainstorm from several days ago. Naturally I listen to music while I walk, and this just adds to the beauty and romance of the trail.

I didn’t appreciate Robert Frost’s poetry until I moved to Warm Beach Camp, but walking through the woods every day from my apartment to the bakeshop, I got to know nature in a much more personal way than I ever had before…

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The Big Idea

Studying to teach is a beautiful and frustrating process for me. If I spend too much time on details, I am immediately lost. What happens instead, is I spend a few weeks just thinking about the book I’m supposed to teach. Clearly, I have read through it and I will often gather bits of big picture information to chew on.

I ponder.

At some point, in the  pondering (and attempting to study), I Get It. This usually happens much closer to the time I’m to teach than is really comfortable, but that also somehow suites me. I take the stress and I plunge head first into papers and my teaching outline. What I want to give my students is the Big Idea- the perspective they will not have time to discover for themselves in the two days they will get to study the book I’ve been studying for 4 weeks. But it takes me most of that four weeks to see the big idea clearly enough to teach it to them.

Something else happens while I’m studying to teach a particular book- God allows me to somehow experience or feel this Big Idea in a personal way in my own life. You can imagine because of this factor I was a bit nervous before I started studying to teach the book of Job!

Now I am currently working on the prophetic book of Hosea

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