Loving

batman-2Batman Flew

Today, we made it.  On time.  Ready for the Kindergarten Halloween Poetry performance.  After getting my dates mixed up a couple weeks ago, we finally got to see the bats and witches, owls and ghosts recite their lines – full of excitement and glee.  They were adorable.  Today, we managed to get to school sans the tears and drama of our 1st attempt at the poetry morning…the morning when I got it all wrong.  As we walked to school, Nathaniel said, ‘Are you sure it is today?’.  I replied, ‘Yes, I’m sure.  Your teacher sent out a note just last night to remind us of the poetry morning today.’  He continued, ‘but, I feel a little silly in my bat costume.’  I could see him scouting the kids around us, looking for someone else in a costume or any kind reassurance that today would not be a repeat of our prior snafu.  I told him again, how sorry I was, for the morning when I got my dates confused.  I told him mommy had made a mistake, but this time we’d get it right.  He replied: ‘I trust you’.  My heart melted.

giant-meteorThe Day After

In less than two weeks, we will know our President for the next four years.  There will be a November 9th….a day when we begin to pick up the pieces of this political season.  The yard signs will come up, and we will decide how we want to move forward.  I haven’t blogged in a few days….partly because my kids have an early-release schedule this week (translation: I am getting NOTHING done) ….and, partly because like so many others, I’m just weary of the whole thing.  I saw a bumper sticker the other day that I think captures the sentiments of many.  We just want it over.

The day after the election, we will know our next President, but we wont know entirely how this will all play out; we will still have a lot of choices about how we as a nation want to move forward.  I hope we collectively decide that working together is better than fighting it out.  As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  I pray that grownups could show some grace and uphold the worth of others by saying, “I trust you – let’s work this out together”.

Understanding Race in MY LIFE

I’m part of a group of women studying racism and white privilege.  We went into it landscape-1437572064-gettyimages-481592935thinking that we had this issue mostly figured out.  But, I confess that we’ve all been challenged to shift our understanding of both ourselves and this issue.  At our last gathering, something clicked.  I’d never been able to figure out why I, a Caucasian girl from a conservative, Midwestern family, would be so drawn to Asian people and cultures.  Not that it’s wierd, but why?  As a child, many of my best friends were 2nd generation immigrants; their parents migrated from Asia as young Spicesadults, eventually starting families in the Chicago suburbs.  Listening to another woman talk about her faith background, the dots connected in my brain…something clicked.

Holy Rollers

Growing up in the Pentecostal church, we weren’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry, we couldn’t watch TV, listen to secular music or dance. With my school friends, I pretended to know about shows or musicians, when in truth I was clueless.  Eventually, we did get a TV, but when church friends came over, we told them it was only for watching movies.  Women had to wear skirts and couldn’t cut their hair.  I learned how to style my hair in ways that hid the fact that we’d trimmed my super long, thick locks.  We epitomized a ‘holy huddle’.  The outside world was one you could not trust.  Our church was 45 minutes away, so I only saw church friends on the leaf_on_the_windweekend.  In the days between services, I felt like a leaf blowing in the wind.  I was disconnected, uninformed and fearful.  Nothing felt right.  Nowhere was home.  Even if I epitomized the holy huddle, I wasn’t really in it.

Finding Friends

But, belonging was born out of my friendships with the Asian kids at school.  From their acceptance, grew curiosity.  And, over the decades, I came to love the colors, flavors and history of Asian history and culture.  I was learning to not be afraid.  The kids with roots in a world far away, were helping me find my footing in own backyard.

These days, I believe that the world is wonderfully diverse and inherently fascinating.  Its merits alone, were sufficient to draw me in long ago.  But, till that night, talking about racism and who I am as a white woman, I hadn’t really understood how the broken pieces of my heart had created a space.  The void was filled with kids who looked so different on the outside, but shared a common feeling on the inside.  It now made sense.  These kids, like me, were outsiders.  To be clear, this was not the club of loners and misfits!  None of us were bullied or overtly excluded.  Rather, it was this super-subtle sense of belonging.  We were all disconnected one degree from the world around us, but therein lied the key for connecting with one another.

13939504_1012819652150363_6244638166953430036_nBlack Lives Matter

Jen Hatmaker has written at length about how adopting two children from Ethiopia opened her eyes to the world of racism in our country.  In an RNS article published yesterday, she says, “My son is good to the core. When I think about him being viewed as criminal, dangerous, threatening, in any scenario — driving, walking, changing lanes, hanging around with his friends — I could just come unraveled. It terrifies me. I could cry my eyes out right now.”  I can’t claim to understand the pain and fear that our African American brothers and sisters face.  But, the small taste that I have known, being in a mixed marriage with biracial kids, is enough to make me cry my eyes out with Jen.  

Richard and Mildred

Today, I saw a trailer for a new film called, Loving.  #MoreCrying  It is based upon the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.   Over and over, I watch the trailer – it haunts me. 1468522346_loving_social_2-398x398 Folks, interracial marriage was illegal until just 10 years before I was born.  Only one generation separated Richard and Mildred from Dayna and Jay.  So, yes, it’s personal.  And, it’s scary to see the vitriol and hate that has been out on full display of late.  These are not the battles of some bygone era.

#NotSoProgressive

Since coming to California, I’ve enjoyed the relative progressiveness and diversity of cal-stanfordlogoSilicon Valley.  Racism was something other geographies grappled with – but not us.  We, especially here in the shadows of Stanford and Berkeley, knew better; we were smart enough to drive global technology, believe in global warming, love people of all colors or beliefs and, for sure, support investments in things like, education.

Sorry to sound like Trump, but WRONG.  Just like when I thought I knew the date and time of my son’s poetry reading, I was wrong in my assumptions of my own community.  In May, Menlo Park residents rejected proposals to continue vital public school funding (parcel tax).  Now that beloved programs like music, art, languages and more are on the au_mp_marketchopping block, many (especially, parents) are freaking out.  And, rightly so, but it’s been sobering to read comments by those who STILL question whether our schools need to be ‘that great’.  So much for living with the enlightened in the shadows of the Ivy Leagues.

Just a few days ago, our town made it into the New York Times, in an article recounting how a Latino woman (who is a citizen) was told in an upscale market that she should visit the Safeway across town, as this place was for ‘white people’.  Around town, the response afterwards ranged from calls to reject racism to skepticism that such events actually happen in our area.  Even as many have offered their own encounters with racism, there are still a few who worry more for the reputation of our local high-end grocery than for those on the receiving end of such discrimination and injustice.

Reading the online discussions that play-out on Facebook and Nextdoor.com in the days download-2following these incidents, you realize that fear, distrust and a fair bit of incivility lives on…..even in my beloved Bay Area.  Places built on change and innovation, can still struggle to accept ideas and people different from themselves.  My point here isn’t to beat-up on the Bay (because I LOVE California!!!) but rather to just make the point that we ALL have stuff to work on.

Tipping Scales

Part of the reason folks are so riled up this election season, is because those who thought they knew what our country was all about, feel like it is changing.  And, that’s scary.  And, 27161156those who have been pushed to the sidelines for a long time, finally see a fighting chance for greater acceptance or equality.  Whether the battle lines are drawn based upon race, gender, economics, religion, education or some other qualifier – the nation is waiting to see how the scales will tip.  And, trust me – they ARE tipping.  We can’t change that.  But, what we can change is our response.  J.D. Vance, in his new bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy, says “whenever people

mildred_jeter_and_richard_loving
Mildred and Richard Loving

ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.”  This November, we remember that democracy is not a spectator sport; we must be the people.  Whatever our color or creed, our choices DO matter.  Our vote matters.  And, on November 9th, we get another important choice about how we respond.  Regardless who is elected President, there will still be conversations at the grocery store and parcel tax votes.  From our attitude in the car line at school to our mindset at work…it all matters.  What happens at the national level, is often a byproduct of what’s happening at a more micro level in our own communities.

 

read-the-booksGet Over it – Nobody’s Perfect

Brene Brown says in Daring Greatly, that true belonging can only happen we offer “our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.”  Deep within all of us, is a desire to belong.  And, newsflash: the road to belonging is littered with messy, broken people – starting with me.  In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes, “To accept people is to be for them. It is to recognize that it is a very good thing that these people are alive, and to long for the best for them. It does not, of course, mean to approve of everything they do. It means to continue to want what is best for their souls no matter what they do.”  Guess which people God accepts?  Last time I checked John 3:16, it said, ‘For God so loved the world…’.  That kinda sounds like everyone….on planet earth.

Seriously, Let’s Play Nice

So, here’s the deal: we might not love every person or policy after November 9th.  But, we do have a choice of whether we make space for and accept those who don’t look or pray or love or vote like us.  We may even have to revisit issues we thought we had all figured out; maybe we were wrong.  There’s another great line in Ortberg’s book where he says, 150304-loving-grey-villet-03“Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”  Isn’t that the truth!  Too bad most of us stick these sayings on the walls of our home or Facebook profile, but rarely our heart.  The reality is that staying angry won’t help anyone.  Finding belonging by excluding others, won’t do any good.  In the Loving trailer, Mildred says, “I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.”  Maybe it’s time that others know they have a friend in us, even if we don’t always agree.  Maybe it’s time to let go of some things and just try to be nice.

#LoveWins

The Bible talks of childlike faith.  This morning, my son and I were running late.  Again.  As we hurried down the street, I slowed my mind enough to bookmark the moment when my son, with every reason to doubt me, said, “I trust you”.  The path to belonging is paved with brokenness, and sealed with forgiveness.  We don’t fall into trust through our perfect performance or constant alignment.  We get there when we let mercy, justice and humility reign.  We get there, when love wins.

download
The Love of My Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How NOT to raise a ‘Little Donald’

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 3Last night was something, huh?!?!  Trivia question for the history buffs out there:  who said, “our long national nightmare is over”?  Anyone, anyone ?  Bueller?

Okay.  It was Gerald Ford, during his inauguration speech after Richard Nixon’s impeachment.  Ford went on to say,  “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule. But there is a higher Power, by whatever name we honor Him, who ordains not only righteousness but love, not only justice but mercy.”

Even in periods of national turmoil or disappointment, in moments of upheaval and uncertainty, we survived thanks to our constitution and the rule of law.  During the third debate, you had to scratch your head when Trump said he’d leave us in suspense, when asked whether or not he would concede if he lost.  He doubled down at rallies today, saying his concession was contingent upon him winning.  Honest to God, this post is not about the 3rd debate; it is about how we hqdefaultraise the next generation to not be a bunch of spoiled brats who have little regard for people or the policies that govern our companies or countries….it is about how we can actually come back to love, justice and mercy.  Lord knows, the world does not need any more ‘Little Donald’s.’

NO GIFTS

About six years ago, we received our very first ‘NO GIFTS’ invitation for a birthday party.  I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s really impressive.’  I fell in love with the concept of making a birthday about something other than the gifts….that is, until I walked into the door.  OMG.  You’d think you had entered FAO Schwartz in NYC.  Not only did everyone bring a gift, but the bags and boxes all seemed to be on Hallmark steroids.  I felt like such a complete moron, walking in with nothing.  Nana.  Zilch.  Empty-handed.  So, believe me when I say that it has not been a cake-walk (pardon the pun) in adopting a ‘no gifts’ approach to birthdays for our family.

MY BABY TURNS 6 TOMORROW

14117776_10154452592693794_6351464695881975103_nMy little guy celebrates his birthday tomorrow.  I swear that he’s been asking how many days till his birthday, for the last 6-9 months.  He is the 3rd child, and he just can’t grow up fast enough (in his mind).  So, this cutie patootie WILL get gifts.  Dear Lord, I think he look for a new family if we took away the promise of those very specific Lego Bionicle sets on his wish list.  But, the clock is ticking.

BIG GIRL EXPERIENCE

eviteWhen our eldest turned 10, we decided it was time to adopt a ‘no gifts’ for birthdays approach.  We explained that when you cross the ‘double digit’ threshold, you are entering a new phase of maturity.  And, part of growing up, is to look beyond yourself in the way you see the world…to see not just what the world can give you, but what you can give back (I know, very JFK).  We didn’t want to just say the words – we wanted her to experience the joy and see the virtue of giving over receiving.

When we sent-out the Evite to her friends, we explained the reasons why we were making this a ‘no gifts’ party.  In addition, we provided links to charities that our daughter really liked, because of their work with education and helping girls.  What a pleasant surprise when friends actually respected our request and donated to the organizations we had suggested.  This was not like the party from preschool!

Full disclosure.  We did the same thing when she turned 11 and we did get some gifts.  But, with two years under our belt, we are now committed to a personal party policy (for age 10+) that says our kids will make birthdays a time to celebrate friendship.  Period.  And, to the extent that folks want to give, we will channel that generosity towards causes our kids are passionate about.

MAKE IT AGE APPROPRIATE

Looking back to the preschool party (where I walked away with a bit of PTSD), I think it’s hard to enhance-7explain to preschoolers why there are no presents.  Maybe it was a tad early to try ‘no gifts’…..maybe that’s why parents went ahead and brought something….or, maybe they didn’t want to end up like me, empty-handed.  Whatever the case, I think it’s possible that trying this when kids are too young could back-fire.  Ten seemed like the right age for our daughter….old enough to understand, but still young enough to make an impression.  Our middle child will celebrate his 9th birthday in 2 months.  (Note to self: better start talking about the policy so he’s not shocked in a year!!!)  So, we shall see how this plays out, in terms of gender and maturity.  Our plan is to stick with the ‘no presents after 10’ approach.  But, I think you have to be smart and reasonable about these things.  Every kid is different.

MAKE IT REASONABLE

61zofkudr1l-_sx495_bo1204203200_
#classic

I keep saying ‘no gifts’.  Let me be more specific….no gifts from friends attending a birthday party.  Mom, dad, grandma, close friends, aunts…..plenty of folks STILL give gifts to our kids on their special day.  And, let’s not forget the broader context here: this whole birthday party thing can get a bit crazy.  You can spend a ton of money, on the celebration and then on gifts.  And, truthfully – most of our kids don’t need anything!  Right?!?!?  Tell me I’m not the only one who loves half the gifts, but then wonders what the heck we’ll do with the other half??? This is truly a #FirstWorldProblem.  Why not turn it into an opportunity for something better?  Especially, for my boys, who have fall birthdays, they indulge in two months of non-stop birthdays, holidays and gifts galore.  Want to raise a child that doesn’t feel entitled?  I do.  And, I won’t know for sure till they’re grown, if I’ve succeeded.  But, reorienting birthdays around relationships and shared experiences seemed like a good place to start.

CHARITIES THAT ROCK

So, there are tons of great charities.  A few of them have gotten pretty savvy in this area of facilitating donations in lieu of gifts.  Their websites are set-up so that you can make a donation in honor of someone, and then print a special card, to take to the party.  Here are some of our favorites:

Water.org

  • Kids understand that water is essential to life.  2016-09-28-about-us
  • Water.org not only helps to provide clean water to those in need, but they have a ton of educational materials on their website, including videos that help explain the problem and the solutions.  This really helps kids to understand the issues better.
  • Link: https://my.charitywater.org/birthdays/

Heifer

  • My kids like this organization because you give an animal to someone for whom logoheiferducks or rabbits could be a life-giving and income-generating resource for their family.  We have some interesting conversations, talking about life in other places or how you can build a family business around raising chickens or goats.  At the same time, it is a perfect opportunity to teach them about poverty and hunger around the globe.
  • Link: http://www.heifer.org/gift-catalog/occasion/birthday.html

Second Harvest

  • Most kids are shocked to learn that kids in their own communities are hungry. child-hunger-300x300-exp0519 Second Harvest is an amazing organization that provides food to families in need.
  • I have recently learned that Loaves and Fishes, who provides the meals we serve at the shelter in Palo Alto, gets roughly 80% of their ingredients from Second Harvest.  So, not only is Second Harvest working direction with individuals, but they’re supplying shelters serving meals.
  • Link: http://www.shfb.org/birthdays

 

MAKE IT PERSONAL

Agros

  • A good friend of mine, Birgit, has been involved with Agros for years.  She introduced me to this organization, which works to break the cycle of poverty in South America by helping restore hope and prosperity through agricultural villages.  These villages labenedicion_fbsized1incorporate everything from infrastructure to pathways to land-ownership and more.
  • When picking a charity organization, it is MORE meaningful when you share a compelling story that’s linked to a person or family your kids know well.  Kids naturally want to help their friend.  So, when you say, ‘hey, we get to give to this organization Birgit works with to help people in Nicaragua!’ – it feels much more local, even as it teaches them to think more global.
  • Link: https://www.agros.org/do/oneseed

My New Red Shoes

  • Another one of my favorite people on the planet, Heather, founded an organization my-new-red-shoes-0016called, My New Red Shoes.  They help kids in need, especially the homeless, to start off the school year with the basics – like a solid pair of shoes that fit.  Since their founding, 10 years ago, they’ve helped roughly 45,000 kids.
  • This is about as local as it gets.  Not only do we know Heather and her team, but we know they are giving to children in need RIGHT HERE in the Bay Area area.
  • When you’re talking to kids about giving or charity, sometimes you can point to a 3rd world country across the globe.  But, it also helps to talk about the world they know, and to pull back the curtain on suffering and brokenness that is just down the street.
  • MNRS makes gift giving easy.  You can either donate on their website, or if your child likes the idea of actually picking out a pair of shoes, you can look them up on amazon.  Just search for the My New Red Shoes wish list.
  • Link: www.mynewredshoes.org.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU…….JOY FOR YOU

I am on this journey….not just for myself, but for the sake of my kids.  It’s been proven time and time again, that kids learn best through experience.  If we want them to truly understand joy and compassion…if I want them to practice love, mercy and justice, it makes sense to leverage life-milestones, like birthdays!

When we place that birthday cake in front of our kids, tradition mandates that we sing ‘happy birthday’.  But, the song our lives should sing is one that is more about joy than happiness.  Not trying to splice hairs here, but there is a distinction that matters.  David Rast and Henri Nouwen explain the difference in their book on gratitude.

Ordinary happiness depends on happenstance.  Joy is that extraordinary happiness that is independent of what happens to us.  Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy. The root of joy is gratefulness. We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.  We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

As unnatural as Donald Trump sometimes seems, his tendency towards looking out for #1 is not that unusual.  Young or old, the decision to look for joy outside of ourselves is not intuitive, even if morally right and psychologically true.  But, I think we’d all agree that THIS particular national nightmare is not one we want to relive.  I don’t presume to know yet the recipe for cultivating love, mercy and justice in my kids.  But, I sure as hell am going to try.  And, birthdays are a logical ingredient, with which to start.  You gotta start somewhere!  Why not here?

 

Raise a glass.

Here’s to you, ladies and Ladera!  The first autumn rain is falling, so I confess that at the moment, I’m still nursing my morning coffee.  But, you can be sure that tonight, there will be plenty of toasting.

LADERA

enhance-5
Grapes at Ladera, Ripe for harvest in September

So, my hubby had just walked in the door last night, after returning from a long business trip.  We were catching up, glass of wine in hand, when the phone rang.  It was Ladera, one of our FAVORITE wineries.  Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have loved visiting wineries around the globe, whether it’s the Margaret River Valley in Western Australia or the champagne region in Epernay or our very own Napa Valley.  The pastoral landscapes combined

enhance-4
Stone building dating back to 1886 – Restored 100 years later, when Anne and Pat Stotesbury bought the land and started this winery.

with the ritual of tasting wine, together makes for such a restorative experience.  You can’t rush wine tasting.  You sip.  You chat with the wine maker.  You pet his dog.  You gaze at the vines.  Whether you know what you’re talking about or not, you swirl the wine, talk about tannins, colors and aromas.  I love the fact that the VERY first miracle Jesus ever performed was turning water into wine.  I think He must have known that it is good to celebrate.  It is good to savor.

 

When our kids were very little, my husband hung up his golf clubs, exchanging that hobby for collecting wine.  Working in high-tech and parenting small children, he just didn’t have the time to maintain his golf game.  But, a glass of

enhance-3
Wine Tasting Menu

wine at the end of the day seemed like a logical remedy to stress we both brought to the table, inviting us to slow down and relish a moment at the end of the day.  Anyways, he dove into the study of wine, the regions in California, the various styles and varietals, etc.  Eventually, we landed upon the Howell Mountain region of Napa as a favorite for its deep, complex, rich Cabs.  Yields are low on Howell Mountain, but that actually sets them up for a dense, flavorful Cab that is hard to beat.  Surely, there’s some spiritual lesson in something so impressive coming out of the rockiest, hardest to cultivate soil.  Anyways, it didn’t take too long till our Howell Mountain tastings led us to Ladera.  Ladera was a tiny winery, but boy…did they make a BIG cab!

 

enhance-1
Grapes at Ladera, ripe for harvest in September

When the phone rang, it was a guy from their sales office, calling to tell us that they were logo_pjwinerybeing bought by Plumjack.  Did we want to buy wine, as they were discounting 2012 cases.  Ummmm….YES!  So, here’s to Ladera!  We have enjoyed many bottles over the years, toasting birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.  In fact, we visited Ladera during

enhance-6
My handsome husband at Ladera

a 10th Anniversary trip to Napa.   Plumjack owns another favorite winery, Cade (interestingly, we also visited Cade on that same anniversary trip).  And, I can’t say that Cade went downhill after their acquisition.  So, fingers crossed that our favorite red will remain a favorite going forward.  Still, there’s enhance-2something sweet and quaint about the mom and pop boutique wineries that have carved out their place in the mountains and also in the wine world.

 

 

LADIES 

fullsizerenderballot
My 2016 November Ballot

So, not only did my husband arrive yesterday, but so did my ballot.  As a busy mom, the convenience of voting by mail works well for me.  And, call me a poli sci nerd, but I try to take my voting right seriously; it typically takes a whole day, but I slowly work my way thru the ballot, going office by office, measure by measure, looking online and studying each choice before I color in that bubble.  Anyways, yesterday, my ballot for the November election arrived.  My hands trembled as I tore open the envelope and stared at Hillary Clinton’s name, listed amongst the other choices for President of the United States.  Wow.  We’ve finally done it – for the first time, we finally have a female candidate as a major party candidate for the highest office in our land.  You can love her or hate her, but she broke that glass ceiling.  Last night, my 11-year-old daughter and I watched Michelle Obama give an impassioned speech for Hillary, as she campaigns around the country.  God, I hope Michelle runs one day!  What a strong, passionate, smart woman!  I am so glad that my kids will grow up, seeing that dreams need not be limited by race or gender.  So, here’s to this milestone in election history.  I’ve got a feeling that this won’t be the last time we see a woman listed on the ballot.  Thank, God!

 

WELLIES

fullsizerenderbootsI mentioned Ireland yesterday.  This past summer, I got to visit a dear friend who lives in Cork.  While I was there, I asked her where she got HER rain boots (because I assumed all Irish must be experts on matters related to rain).  First, she told me they call them ‘wellies’ (not rain boots).  Then, she said, she got hers from Joules.  Conveniently, there was a Joules shop in Kenmare, so I could salivate over the boots that will only get used 2.5 times a year in sunny California.  Nevertheless, when I got home, I told my mom I wanted Joules rain boots for my birthday in September.  And, today, it is raining!!!  The tags are coming off.  I am wearing my boots ALL DAY (even if the clouds part later).  There’s really no connection between raising a glass and wearing wellies, except that I’m doing both today and it feels good.

 

 

 

BATS.

fullsizerenderbatman

Huge black bats swoop

Round your head,

Filing you with an awful dread. 

 

My 5 year was all ready to recite this poem in his kindergarten class today.  The sheet came home a week or so ago.  I quickly got the parent invitation details onto my calendar.    Yesterday, I even found multiple bat-related accessories at Target for my son to wear, as the kids were invited to dress-up.  #winning

This morning, we parked and started towards school.  As we walked, Nathaniel started crying.  He saw some of his classmates ahead of us.  None of them were dressed up, as if it were October 31st.  My boy looked like he was ready to go trick-or-treating.

“I’m embarrassed!”

With tears streaming down his face, he insisted we go home.  I barked back.  “No, we have a poetry morning and we have to go.  We are going to be late!”  For about five minutes, my five-year old and I went back and forth in what was a delightful public display of my fantastic mothering; his tear-count and my blood pressure increasing by the minute. Because, God Damn it!  I had set-us up for a successful morning.  All he needed to do was listen.  We finally found a compromise: he’d take off his costume in the car and save it in his backpack, just in case (I was still convinced that he’d see today was poetry morning, as soon as we got to school).  As we got to the classroom, I was surprised to see that none of the other moms seemed to be staying or planning on a poetry morning.  Uh-oh.

f463462eb980c03a2a66565f0327c158You know that moment when you realize that you’re wrong?  It sucks….especially, when you felt so secure in the ‘rightness’ of your position just 30 seconds prior.  Looking back, there were signs.  He’d repeatedly asked me if I was SURE today was the day.  In the middle of all the roadside tears, he’d even said, ‘Mom, just ask Siri!’.  Dear Lord…my child, in that moment, had more confidence in Siri knowing what was right, than in my own calendar confidence.  But, let’s face it – Halloween is still a couple of weeks out.  At the very least, I should have considered that October 27th makes a whole lot more sense than October 13th.  Or, maybe I could have looked at the sheet sitting RIGHT THERE on the counter.

Tuesday, I had lunch with a friend who attended the Belong Tour with me.  She reminded me of something that is such an obvious but elusive truth: Jesus did not heal or save everyone.  Think about that!  Even the Savior of the world gave us a picture of discipleship that doesn’t attempt to do it all….even when you are God in the flesh, with all knowledge and power.  My friend and I promised to check-back in the coming months.dscf0260  For two ‘I want to save the world’ types, we both need people who spur us to figure out what we’re called to, but also help us say ‘no’ to what we’re not.  I’m just starting Shauna Niequist’s book, Present Over Perfect.  At the start, she writes, “For me, this has taken the shape of a nearly four-year journey from exhaustion, multitasking, frantic and frayed living into peace, connection, and rest.”  A few paragraphs later, she shares the wise words from a friend who said, “no one ever changes until the pain level gets high enough.” I’m trying to change before the pain level gets untenable.  I want to be a disciple but I also don’t want to be divorced.  And, the reality is that women who try to shore-up the gaps in our societies, often do so at the expense of the people they hold most dear.

The quandary is very real.  There are homeless living among us.  There are foster kids who just want to be loved.  There are refugees who need an advocate.  There’s a city digesting the scathing report from the Justice Department, documenting abuse of power and bias. There’s a nation that’s waking up to the truth of its very big struggle with sexual assault.  Our world is broken and hurting.  Many friends inspire me with their big hearts and sharp minds, which together make for a powerful combination in combating some of these ills.  They make their faith tangible and real, taking up the crosses of those who need a helping hand or advocate.

Like huge black bats, the competing forces of helping at school or volunteering at the dallas-willardhomeless shelter or serving at church, swoop around us.  In addition, there are our friends and families.  And, these people closest to us do not deserve the scraps that remain after we’ve doled out pieces of ourselves to a dozen other causes.  John Ortberg writes of this great exchange between himself and his mentor, Dallas Willard.  He asks him how to be spiritually healthy.  Dallas replies,  “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

hand-painted-porcelain-coffee-mug-m-o-m-burton-burton-master-of-multitasking-ad289d44af9af021fcc93eaa1afa1931Show me a mom who isn’t hurrying MOST of the time, juggling about 101 different things.  They are a rare breed, which says something.  And, I admit that the tension between when I should drink that extra cup of coffee and attempt to do more good versus when I should just stop, pour myself a glass of wine, sit with my family and be still – that tension is real and palpable every single day.  When I get to heaven, I want to stand, in all my brokenness, knowing I left nothing on the table – that I’d showed up in the places God had put before me.  But, I know that God’s plan is not for me to show up at Heaven’s Gates, hallowed out and weary.  Jesus says, my yoke is easy and my burden light; we don’t have to hustle for His love.  Why, then do we carry so much? Why do we try to be masters of multitasking?  Why do we always try to be Martha?

Shauna challenged us at the Belong Tour to do the next right thing.  I don’t think that we can solve the problems facing our nation if only a few are trying to solve the challenges of the many…if only the well-resourced, kindhearted and civic-minded are charged with caring for the millions in need.  Not only is it impractical, it is inefficient and ineffective.  We can only move forward if we’re all taking a step in the right direction, looking for the best synergies between private and public collaborations.  Along the way, there will be superstars who inspire and motivate the masses.  But, at the end of the day, we are in this together.

Most Americans were probably ready to be done with the election, like 6 months ago.  As much as we’d love to just lock up these issues in a box and throw away the key – I hope blogrunningstartthat we continue leaning into these challenging conversations, because there is so much we can do, starting with finding the ways we can support women and families.  For example, Melinda Gates published compelling data on the time inequity between men and women.  When we fund our schools, we not only get a higher quality education but we free up stay-at-home moms to tackle other projects (rather than filling the holes where staff funding falls short).  When we pay for universal preschool education, we alleviate a very real childcare challenge.  Especially, in lower-income families, the ability of moms to seek employment without costly daycare, is a huge benefit.  Anne-Marie Slaughter writes of the American workplace, saying “For many Americans, life has become all competition all the time.” Isn’t that the truth!?!?  We are running a race that we can’t win and never ends.  When American workplaces and businesses acknowledge that the current pace is unsustainable (and even detrimental long-term), we will begin returning humanity to the people (men and women!) upon which our economies depend.  We are not machines or robots.  No matter where you are on the Totem pole, you matter.  And, we need to live and legislate as if that were true.  We collectively benefit when families up and down the economic scale can live sane, sustainable lives.

Drive down El Camino Real; you can feel the urgency that we all dash around bell_on_el_camino_real_santa_clarawith.  I am reminded of the way folks I encountered in Ireland seemed to march to the beat of a slower drum.  They could hustle when circumstances necessitated it, but they were not in a perpetual mode of running like a hamster on a wheel that only had one speed: fast.

One of my favorite examples of this mindset was on the Irish streets.  The roads were narrow, sometimes only one lane.  When two cars would meet, we’d begin a dance.  Maybe one car would back up.  Both would inch over to the edges of their lane.  What seemed impossible was always possible.  We always worked it out.  And, when we did, there was a split second of shared rejoicing.  Together, we’d wave to one another, always with a smile and sometimes with a thumbs up.  Please, please.  Can we try to pivot download-1as a nation to a posture that’s less about pointing a finger and blaming others, looking out for only ourselves and more of just trying to see how we can all do the next right thing?  Instead of refusing to budge, could we slowdown and see how we can work together?  I know, I know. Some readers are skeptically waiting for me to suggest we start singing Kumbaya.  This fuzzy stuff sounds naive and impractical.  But, IT IS VERY REAL AND VERY PRACTICAL when you are the family that can’t find affordable housing or your school is under funded.  Aside from the one percent, we have pushed our societies to the brink.

This afternoon, I was back at the OSC Life Moves shelter, serving lunch.  There are always a few people who are so exuberant in their gratitude or delight with a warm meal.  There was this one lady, who after getting a couple refills, said with a very satisfied look on her face, “It feels so good to be full.”  These folks wear on the outside, a hunger and brokenness that we all carry on the inside.  Jesus taught us that we will always come out ahead, if our posture is one of love and generosity.  God doesn’t ask us to fix every problem, but He does ask us to see others the way He sees them, and to just do the ‘next right thing’.

My thoughts are a bit all over the map today.  But, I don’t want the drumbeat of my calls to do more for the world to project a false impression that I’ve cracked the code on juggling it all.  More often than I’d like to admit, I drop the ball, I get dates mixed up, I’m short with my kids, I’m too tired to give my best to my husband.  There are days when I wonder why I try.  But, then I remember that lady who was so happy to be full, or the guy from a few weeks back who was so delighted by blueberry muffins.  Saying ‘no’ to some things in our own lives can’t equate to a macro rejection of everyone who needs help.  No where does the Bible demonize compassion and provision that comes from sources other than charities.  Maybe, we Christians were wrong to think that small government was always better.  Maybe that notion has more to do with ideology than theology.  Maybe Jesus can show up in places other than church and work through people who aren’t card-carrying Christians.

Reflecting on this morning, my heart still aches over the just tears of my boy.  He was right.  I was wrong.  I can’t wait to see him, so that I can look him in the eyes, and tell him I’m sorry.  Patsy Clairmont challenged us to lean toward mercy.  She said, what you give comes back to visit with you!  We all need grace and mercy.  Jesus says in Ephesians that it is not by our good works or our great faith or any other force…but, it is BY GRACE, that we are saved.  This is a universal truth.  It is the truth that saves our hearts.  It is the truth that lifts the dread and banishes the bats.  It is the truth that sets us free.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Women Belong

fullsizerender531I went!  I drank the Kool Aid!  It was a super fun weekend, attending the Belong Tour with friends.  Once the conference was over, I dashed to Santa Cruz to spend 24 hours with my family.  Last night, we drove back, returning just in time to watch the 2nd Presidential debate (talk about a brutal return to reality after 48 hours of bliss).  I promised a handful of friends that I’d pass my notes from the conference to them.  So, I’m going to start there.  As I sit here now, on the heels of last night’s political spectacle, I can’t help but end with a few political observations – in addition to my Christian conference notes.

Quick intro, for those not familiar: the Belong Tour is a conference for Christian women to spend time reflecting and connecting, to ultimately move closer to discovering who we are and whatfullsizerender537 we’re called to in this world.  It kinda takes the place of the Women of Faith conference, which ran for many years.  The main speakers are Patsy Clairmont, Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist.  Nichole Nordeman, Sharon Irving and JohnnySwim were the musical guests.

SPEAKER HIGHLIGHTS – MY NOTES 

Jen Hatmaker

  • Our struggles flourish in the dark.
    • Things don’t just disappear because they can’t be seen – they merely hide them from someone else’s eyes.
    • The light is the only thing that reveals truth.  And, the truth is the only thing fullsizerender533that will set us free.
    • When we pull something into the light, we take away its power.  
    • Whatever it is, whatever we keep in the dark, God is big enough to overcome.
  • Personal adoption story + lessons
    • Most of the world’s orphans are POVERTY orphans.
    • It’s that nobody wants them or loves them – it’s that their families can’t afford them.
    • We should want EVERY mom to raise her kid in safety and security.
    • POVERTY = PAIN
  • He built us with things in mind.
    • Not one of us wasn’t built deliberately.  God has a plan for all of us.
  • Clues for finding your purpose
    • What are you good at?
      • Your playing small does not save the world.
      • Claim the gift you have – not the gift you want.
    • Pay your dues.
      • Do your thing.  Run your race.  Do not get derailed if it is small.
      • He did not ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
      • You are in charge of obedience – not outcomes. (God’s got outcomes)
  • Put your 1st yes on the table – DO THE NEXT RIGHT THING.
    • If He has set it in front of you – nothing is impossible.
    • Throw Aspirin at people running their race.
    • Failure won’t kill any of us – it will teach us.
    • “I used everything you gave me.” – Erma Bombeck

Shauna Niequist 

  • 2016-08-15-1471272657-4725875-shauna_niequist_present_over_perfectOften pain and clarity go together.
    • Lost track of what was important, prioritized projects over people.
    • Sacrificed the best part of herself on the alter of productivity.
  • God doesn’t forget us.  Sometimes, there’s wreckage along the way.
  • Pain is isolating – Joy is connective.
  • The story of God is ALWAYS a love story.
    • Sometimes you have to ‘fire’ your version of God…the version that has started to sounds like the meanest voices in your head.
  • Two new spiritual practices (and tattoos!)
    • Heart
      • There is nothing we can do to earn more love.  Nothing.
      • There is nothing we can do to ruin His love.
    • Yes
      • The things you say yes/no to define your life.
      • Now, she says no to proving, pushing, competing, hustling.
      • God’s unconditional love was there all along.

Nichole Nordeman 

  • She describes herself as, a “wrestling poet,” this singer/songwriter doesn’t shy away from life’s messier realities.  Her Opening the Garage story will stick with all of us.
  • Friend’s story
    • She started with the story of a friend who had avoided clearing out his mother’s open-garage-door-in-suburban-1garage (she’d recently moved into a home).  The friend had a very strained relationship with his mom, and was avoiding going thru the boxes, unpacking the memories and possibly confronting some painful reminders from the past.
    • His wife finally got him to go, saying that they’d just drive there, open the door, close it, and go.  And, they’d keep doing that, till he felt ready to actually go in.
    • Once he was there, he went ahead and began the task.  And, it wasn’t as bad as he’d thought.
    • Since then, for this couple and for Nichole and her family – this has become a mantra: Just Open the Garage.
  • Nichole’s Story 
    • She had her own pain and brokenness, namely in the form of a marriage that fell apart.
    • She hid this news from her grandma, who was the person who loved her most in the world.  For a long time, she kept the garage door shut. She was too embarrassed and ashamed.
  • Grandma’s Story 
    • Grandma loved her family – she was a fierce defender of her grandkids!
    • Late in Grandma’s life, when her father was checking into a hotel, the front desk clerk remarked how strange it was that there was a guest staying at the hotel with the same last name.  Long story short, it was a son that grandma had had years before this other family.  Turns out, Grandma had her own secrets, her own pain.
  • Missed Opportunity 
    • You could have heard a pin drop, as Nichole shared the sadness of realizing they’d each carried their own painful stories, yet neither had been brave enough to just open the door.
    • On the flip side, she shared how in recent weeks, as grandma passed over to the other side, her daughter was baptized on the same day.
  • Favorite song 

Sharon Irving (yes, from America’s Got Talent)

  • Do it afraid.maxresdefault
  • Love people with the same love we have been loved with.
  • Trust God to meet us in the rubble.  There is beauty in the breaking.

 

 

 

Patsy Clairmont 

  • Born with the ‘gift of correction’ (later realized that’s not listed with the other gifts in the Bible).
  • Learned the hard way that we have to ‘lean toward mercy’.
    • What you give comes back to visit with you.
  • Growth takes risk.
  • Former agoraphobic (fear of open spaces) – long journey of recovery.
    • Prayed: “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.”  She wanted to change the world,
      patsy-clairmont-0140-1
      Enter a caption

      but kinda hard to do that from bed.  So, God said to get out of bed.

    • When you are faithful in little things, God will give you more.
    • A course on listening to the voice of God thru creation was life-changing.
    • Open your heart.  Be kind to other people.
      • Husband: “You’re not angry.  You’re jealous.”

BEST ONE-LINERS 

  • Shut-up in Jesus Name
  • Do it afraid
  • Beauty in the breaking
  • Lean toward mercy
  • Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
  • Your playing small does not serve the world.
  • He didn’t ask us to be famous – He asked us to be faithful.
  • The story of God is always a love story.

Ra Ra Versus Crosses 

I’m still processing what this conference meant to me, and how I can use it as a catalyst for diving even deeper into the places God is calling me.  It was such a treat to see these teachers and musicians in person.  And, I had a great time hanging out with my BFF’s.  If I were going to make any tweaks (and, Lord knows, I’m a rare bird, so that might not be a great idea), I’d love to see the following:

  • No jazzercise.  Sorry!  I know many, including some in my own group, loved Angela Davis.  It was just hard for me to go from jumping up and down to techno music while she shouted *encouraging words*…..to a quiet reflection, as I consider my purpose in life, a little while later.  A little too ‘Ra Ra’ for me….
  • Tell me more.  I loved the moments when they briefly touched on poverty or racism or the issues that symbolize a world that’s broken and hurting.  But, I think that while the church has a few brave leaders speaking out against these things, you could have attended this conference and not felt convicted that we should do more.  As I told one friend, ‘We can not *World Vision* our way out of poverty’.  We should do World Vision – but, we need to do much, much more.  Like, oh, let’s say pay for better schools, invest in early childhood education (esp for lower income families), support fair wages, fight injustice in the criminal justice system, and the list goes on and on.  To be fair, I know these ladies have advocated for these things on social media – but I think that we need to step even further out of our comfort zones when we have these big platforms, and encourage the evangelical community to fill the holes in our gospel.  
  • Show me more.  Again, I am 110% behind these ladies.  I love their vulnerability and desire to make faith relevant for Christian women seeking their purpose.  But, here’s the rub.  Historically, the church has put the stay-at-home mom with her home-cooked meals and well-decorated, clean house on a pedestal.  This 33856bfhas made it hard for women, who have to work in order to put food on the table, or who want to work because they feel called into certain careers/callings.  One reason I personally hesitated to enter the blogging world, is that it seemed there were already SO MANY moms who had found their *calling* in writing.  And, let’s be honest – this is a bit of a fad.  But, here’s the thing: we need Christian women in medicine, technology, law, the classroom, the boardroom, non-profits, police/fire departments and more.  And, those of us raising daughters and even trying to find our own path, need the stories of women taking Jesus into the laboratory, courtroom, classroom, jail, food bank, start-up, etc.  WOMEN BELONG EVERYWHERE.  I would love to hear from women who have followed God into spaces, other than just being a Christian author/speaker.  We need to broaden the spectrum of examples out there for women of faith, young and old.  There are a lot of brave women, already coming alongside those carrying very heavy crosses – I’d love to hear their stories and maybe inspire others to do the same.

Dear Donald.

OMG.  Where do I even start?  I’ve made it pretty clear that I’ve never

cesbxniwsaa4lhk
Nate Silver: What the electoral college would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.

considered voting for this man, even for a single second.  In every way, from his policies to his character, I’ve found him not only wanting, but repulsive.  But, last night….I was physically ill, watching him threaten to throw Hillary Clinton in prison.   Going nuclear against his opponent felt like a punch in the gut for so many women – LIKE ME.  Afterward, Republicans and Democrats quickly came out, saying that it was ‘dangerously authoritarian‘ to even make such an assertion.  Still, he reeks of complete disregard for women – including the one who could be our first female President.  One reason his threats and vulgarity hurt so deeply, is because much of the pain felt across the globe is sexist...whether we’re talking poverty, access to education, sex-trafficking/abuse, time, equal pay, etc.  Our world needs leaders who will actively take up the cross and work on behalf of women (and other groups!) who suffer from bigotry or bias.  Nate Silver posted this map of what the electoral map would look like if women refused to vote for Trump.  Translation: evangelical women could have a major impact in this election.  

I WANT TO BE BRAVE 

I don’t know if others connect these dots, but I do.  When I hear someone tell me that the story of the Bible is a love story….when I am told that God created me with a purpose and His love is unconditional, I am driven to hope, to love, to mercy and redemption – away from fear, anger, aggression, revenge and greed.  The contrast could not be any clearer.

bravenicholeI am a feminist, in large part because of my faith.  As Laura Ortberg Turner explains, feminism is simply the belief that women are equally as human as men—equal in the eyes of God, equal in image-bearing, equal in ability.  From the very beginning, God called us out as warriors.  Sarah Bessey writes in her book, Jesus Feminist, “Neither one of us – woman or man – is secondary or backup; we are all key parts of Kingdom building, intrinsic to the story of God, right now.”

Right now, we need to be brave.  Right now, we need to stand up for the marginalized and oppressed.  Right now, we need to acknowledge the elephant in the room – and, it’s not Donald Trump.  It’s all of us.  It took decades to sow the seeds that he is now harvesting, seeds that have been watered intentionally or not by evangelicals.   Here’s the thing…  You can’t talk justice and advocate for stop and frisk.  You can’t act like you care for the poor and yet reject policies that lift them up, like fair wages.  You can’t say you’re not a racist and yet fail to acknowledge systemic injustice, implicit bias or white privilege.  You can’t declare yourselves the defenders of the family and yet offer late-in-coming tepid support (and sometimes opposition) to pro-family policies, like Paid Family Leave.  You can’t say women are to be loved and cherished and then turn a blind eye to mindsets and policies that subjugate and hurt them.  (Btw, kudos to Beth Moore for her brave and public words to both Trump and evangelical leaders.)  You can’t scream ‘the unborn!’ as your rationale for irrational candidates, especially when their policies actually do less to prevent pregnancy.  (Check out this article in the Christian Post outlining why Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for voters against abortion or this thoughtful post by Rachel Held Evans.)  You can’t say ‘character counts’ and then vote for someone like Trump.  You can’t just quote scriptures about suffering the little children and then ignore actual statistics on spending for children vs the elderly (FYI, it’s about 1:6.5) or turn a blind eye to child molestation by clergy.  You can’t say that the main message of the Bible is a love story, and then remain silent in the face of violence, hate and greed.  Right now, we need turn slogans of love, justice and mercy into both personal mantras and public policies.

I’ve already got a ticket to attend the Belong Tour next year.  When I go, I’m praying there’s not only a woman in the White House, but a broad-based willingness to keep constructive conversations going.  We will not stay silent so that others can be comfortable, for the battle does not end on election day.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’  So, we will meet God in brokenness and rubble, and we must sow new seeds.  I am reminded of a conversation Nichole Nordeman talked about, which happens to be the longest conversation Christ had with anyone – it’s the discussion between Jesus and the woman at the well.  This was a radical conversation for many reasons.

  • Jews weren’t supposed to speak to Samaritans.
  • Men couldn’t talk to women without their husbands present.
  • Religious leaders/rabbis were forbidden from talking to a woman, such as this.

Jesus didn’t just offer her the Kool Aid.  He wasn’t looking for a convert; instead, He offered living water, inviting her to open the garage, and find freedom in truth spoken with sincere love.  John Ortberg expands on this encounter in a sermon at Menlo Church:

“In John 4, the first sermon in the movement of Jesus, was given by a woman. A five times married/divorced/Samaritan woman. Jesus thought it was a good idea for the first sermon to be given by a woman. As it turned out, the entire town came out to listen and believed!”

He goes on to say, “maybe it’s women that ought to argue about whether men should be ordained to preach!”  We belong in a conversation with other women, and with our world, that that leads with love.   Till then, I am taking to heart the words of the Belong Tour speakers: I am raising the garage door for evangelical women.  Let us all bring truth into the light, and believe that it will set us free.

 

 

 

I want Joanna and Chip to build me a house, Jen Hatmaker to be my BFF and Michelle + Melinda to let me help them save the world.

Admit it.

600x600bb-85
#Shiplap

Maybe your list is different.  But, you have a list of celebrities that you’d love to have as your BFF’s….or, just hang out with for a day.  I think many of my friends would have at least one of these people on their list.  Joanna and Chip are so hilarious to watch; I feel the need to let them renovate my house, even though there’s nothing major that needs to be ‘fixed’.  Jen Hatmaker looks like so much fun…I can totally see it….her coming over, probably with chips and salsa (or some other yummy, Southwestern/Texas treat) and us ‘clicking’ from day 1.

28620edc-ec43-4223-9873-85dec91190c8_mw1024_mh1024_s
#SuperWoman

Oh, and don’t forget Michelle Obama and Melinda Gates – two strong women advocating for the rights of women and girls, using their position and power in admirable ways to fix what’s wrong in the world.  What I’d give to jump on that bandwagon.  Truly – I’d be in Africa passing out anti-malaria tents in a heartbeat, if I got to hang out with the likes of Melinda.

BELONG TOUR

There is something seductive about celebrity.  I happen to adore everyone on this list.  But, I’m trying to ground myself a bit, heading into a conference this weekend.  I am attending the Belong Tour in San Jose.  And, I am like a 6-year-old getting ready for their first trip to belong_brand_goldlogobasicDisney.  I AM PSYCHED!  This Christian women’s conference brings headliners like Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist together to inspire and teach women how to live ‘fun, faith-filled, purposeful’ lives.  It is going to be awesome.

In my post, The Day After, I talked about what we do after the big event.  And, this is true, even in noble pursuits, like a Christian conference.  I definitely credit the women in this line-up for changing the conversation in faith circles, advocating generosity and justice, and showing us by example what it looks like to be vulnerable about the brokenness in our world…and, even in ourselves.  Yet, the reality is that this (a conference) is not the end – this is just the beginning.  For sure, we all need the ‘ra ra’ moments…the moments that will motivate and inspire.  But, if I fail to take it one step further, I’ve done nothing truly spiritual.  I may as well call it for what it is, a girls weekend.  (Btw, there’s nothing wrong with girls weekends!)

LESS ‘RA RA’ – MORE CROSSES 

Faith is not about the ‘ra ra’ moments – it’s about God coming into the messy moments.  Ann Voskamp writes of an exchange with a homeless man, they invited to live with them:

The sun’s losing light as it edges across the floor. I can feel the world tilting a bit, its truth slipping right out and onto the floor between Gordon and me: Why do we rush to defend God to a broken world, and not race to defend the image of God in the world’s broken? Gordon’s eyes search mine. The light’s caught in his hair. Yeah, I’ve got no idea if he’s packing something, dealing something, trafficking something, but something holy’s caught in my throat. We’ve all got our crosses.

I love that.  We’ve all got our crosses.  What’s remarkable is that for so long, Christian culture has managed to stick a cross on everything….our Christian books, our Christian music, our Christian camps – even our churches.  Yet, most of the time, it’s symbolic – we’ve cheapened our faith to the point of forgetting what the cross actually means.  Let’s be honest.  If you are hungry.  If your parent(s) are in prison.  If you have no roof over your head.  If you are being trafficked.  If your country is falling apart and you are a refugee.  If your world is broken, you could care less about all the Christian conferences, camps, books, songs – you name it.  You just want help.  You just want someone to walk alongside you.  You’ve got an actual cross.

Read these brutally honest words, written by Mickey Maudlin, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor at HarperOne:

Eventually the scales fell off and I had to confront the uncomfortable truth that perhaps evangelical churches, books, personalities and programs were the most popular because the movement was the most accommodated to consumer culture. Seeing evangelicalism as a populist movement, subject to fads and personality cults, fit with many of the dynamics I witnessed.

Somehow, we so quickly forget that the real treasure isn’t in best-sellers or the number of congregants in the pews, it’s something much better.

1344
#ProofOfTheExistenceOfGod

OVER COFFEE AND CROISSANTS 

Yesterday, two friends came over for brunch.  We drank a pot of coffee, and ate a bag of croissants from Mademoiselle Colette.  It was divine.  But, the real treat was hearing their stories.  One shared stories of building schools in South America, while the other talked of how visiting orphanages in Asia and Africa has changed the way her kids see the world. I can’t help but think that this is church.  This is faith.  These are holy moments.

My Jesus Calling devotion for today, is titled Be Willing to Follow.  It says: “Some of My richest blessings are just around the bend: out of sight, but nonetheless very real.  To receive these gifts, you must walk by faith – not by sight.  It means subordinating the visible world to the invisible Shepherd of your soul.”

I have to be brutally honest with myself.  How often has my heart been captured by my eyes?  I am drawn in by the talent, the wealth, the intellect….  Like a shiny penny, my eyes quickly see that well-crafted package; it is so easy to open.  It is so lovely to read a book or listen to a song, and to feel good about my salvation.  On the other hand, if I let my soul be my guide, where would it take me?  What new things would suddenly become visible to me, if I saw beyond the safe and sanitary, tree-lined streets of Menlo Park?

LOVE WARRIOR 

Tuesday, I was at home with a sick kid.  After cancelling my appointments and plans, I suddenly had all this time I hadn’t planned on.  So, I decided to start a book that all my friends have been reading, Love Warrior.  Glennon Doyle Melton holds nothing back, in writing about her life and marriage.  As things fell apart, Christians were anything but helpful.  In the excerpt below, she’s at church with her daughter, when the judgment from folks there, revealed the gulf between our God and our religion:

I look away, farther down the hall, and I see Tish in line with her Sunday school class.img_01571692323  Tish sees me and her face lights up.  In that instant, I realize that I owe nothing to the institution of Christianity – not my health, not my dignity, not my silence, not my martyrdom.  I do not answer to this place, I answer to God, to myself and to the little girl in that line….She needs to learn from me that these four walls don’t contain God and that the people inside them don’t own God, that God loves her more than any institution God made for her.  She will learn this only if I show her that I believe it myself.  

I’ve been there.  I’ve been that little girl, Tish.  I am the collateral damage of a church that prioritized outsides over insides.  Jesus doesn’t mince any words.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity.

Tomorrow, I head to belong.  I can’t wait.  I don’t want to be blind.  I don’t want to be a clanging cymbal.  I don’t want to be that well-meaning woman in the church.  I don’t want a conference to be the beginning and the end.  The world doesn’t need any more books, CD’s (is that old tech now, should we say MP3’s?), camps or conventions.  The world needs us to just get OUT.  I’m nearly done with Brandon Hatmaker’s book, A Mile Wide, where he writes:

We become so consumed with our model or way of church, protecting our beliefs and fighting over doctrine that we become distracted from what’s most important….the Kingdom is for sinners, not the righteous…although Christ died for us and offers us what we cannot earn, we still spend way too much time trying to appear like we earned it.  

While he offers many tips for how to get out of our old beliefs and ways, two ideas stuck with me.  The first one, he learned from a friend, Alan, who regularly helped the homeless.  Alan, a church leader like Brandon, told him, “My job is to get as many people out of the pews sheryl-sandberg-facebook-cooand onto the streets of our city as I can, because I know it will change them.”  The second tip is that a deeper faith is rooted in trusted relationships…maybe like the relationships born over coffee and croissants, where families figure out how they can make the ‘love God + love others’ equation a reality in their lives.

I may love to dream big, of working with the celebrities of the world.  Heck, Sheryl Sandberg’s kids go to the same school as mine.  And, you can be sure that my ego sometimes whispers, that maybe I should try to find a way to get my ideas to her or see if I can get connected to her.  (For the record, I’m a huge fan of hers!)  But, that never seemed to be the way Jesus went about things….He almost always seemed to ‘go small’….to pursue hearts and minds, one at a time…to start with the people that are right in front of you.

This year, I’m kinda all over the map.  The homeless, low-income schools, my kids’ schools, a myriad of roles at church….and, now, a Christian women’s conference.  I’m trying it all….including, blogging.  And, I hope that the blogging never comes across as bragging.  Dear God, help me – if it does.  The blog is about accountability.  It is about documenting this journey, and letting others into the messiness.  I’m trying to see what faith actually looks like outside of the church.  If we are talking about belonging, I no longer want to belong to a cultural Christian club.  Rather, I think God is asking whether I am making space so the hurting, messy world can belong to me and I to it…whether I let my heart be broken, so that out of the pieces I may find how I’m supposed to live out my Micah 6:8 life.

It turns out, the real fixer upper is me.

 

P.S.

To the beautiful women I get to spend this weekend with, let me speak to you.  Let’s have fun.  We are hard-working mama’s who deserve a weekend away.  And, many of you inspire me with the way you’ve oriented your lives around helping those in need.  So, I’m kinda speaking to the choir.  But, let’s collectively commit to letting this weekend be the beginning of something bigger!  – Love, Dayna

 

 

Hello From The Other Side.

There is another side.

To the disenfranchised and disillusioned: not all Christians are finger-wagging, science-denying, ultra-conservative holier-than-thou hypocrites.

To the Christians who read the sentence above and are ready to stop reading, at best..or already have their nasty rebuttal ready, at worst – I’m here to tell you Christians are not a homogeneous, one-size-fits all block.  If you’ve assumed all these years that because you didn’t know anyone who was both passionate about Jesus and yet also a lifelong Democrat (gasp!), well, let me introduce myself….and, an entire community of progressive believers.

WHAT IF YOU DIED TONIGHT?

7-year-old-me
Me, age 7, with my signature Shirley Temple curls.

My journey to the other side began about as far right as you can get.  I grew up attending a Pentecostal church with my family.  I remember lots of loooooong services.  I remember thinking that emotional displays were good, so I’d conjure up the saddest possible thought in my little girl head, so that I could appear as spiritual as the others.  I remember asking my non-Christian friends, ‘if you died tonight, where do you think you’d go?’.  (That’s a nice happy topic for 2nd and 3rd graders to discuss in the middle of a play date).  I don’t remember any teaching or efforts to reach beyond our holy huddle, to help the poor or hurting.  We’d sooner hand you a tract than helping hand.  Not surprisingly, nobody was converted by my best efforts.  The rules forbidding TV, dancing, drinking, secular music, pants for women, makeup for women, jewelry….those didn’t make for a very persuasive sales pitch.

My parents divorced during my teenage years.  My mom was dropped like a hot potato.  Thus began our search for a new church.  We decided that it wouldn’t hurt to try the new mega-church in our backyard, Willow Creek.

THANK YOU WILLOW

I am not sure I would be a Christian today, if it weren’t for Willow Creek.  Instead of condemning those whose marriages are falling apart, they offered support and community.  Instead of preaching fire and brimstone, they talked about love and grace.  Instead of building walls to keep the outside world out, they invited the best thinkers and leaders to come in and share their ideas.  Honestly, I had no framework for faith that included these concepts, until I heard Bill Hybels give his very simple explanation for salvation.  All these years, I thought I was better than other Christians.  Now, I realized I didn’t even understand the fundamentals.  But, watching a church that refurbished donated cars to then give to single-moms or kept food pantries stocked across the Chicagoland…I started to see the scriptures come alive.  In the midst of turmoil and confusion, I met Jesus at Willow Creek.

THANK YOU KANT & RAWLS 

rawls
My own well-loved copy (now sans a cover), given to me by Dr Waite at Butler – I still have it!

About the same time that I was learning a new perspective on faith, I was also getting introduced to the world of history, government/politics and philosophy.  If Willow Creek saved my heart, Debate Team, Model United Nations and Junior State of America saved my mind.  Teens are like sponges and I soaked up as much as I could!  To this day, I still remember two theories that were my ‘go to’ arguments in values (Lincoln Douglas) debate matches.

  • Kant’s Categorical Imperative: act according to the maxim that you would wish all other rational people to follow, as if it were universal law. It’s ‘sorta’ like the Golden Rule, but with a concept of universality thrown in. 
  • Rawl’s Theory of Justice: In what he labeled, Justice as Fairness, Rawl’s advocated a principled reconciliation of liberty and equality, to be applied to the basic structure of a well-ordered society.  These notions of justice equalling fairness and liberty requiring equality have stuck with me.  Within the theory of justice, Rawl’s outlines the Original position in which everyone decides principles of justice from behind a veil of ignorance. This “veil” is one that essentially blinds people to all facts about themselves so they cannot tailor principles to their own advantage.

I’m not sure all teens readily dove into the study of deontological moral philosophy.  But, I found them incredibly illuminating; the principles of universality…of justice….of looking at life and others with a posture that questions, ‘what if I could not determine my wealth, intelligence, health, race….?’ – ‘how then might I want others to respond to me?’, were compelling.  These questions led me to a conclusion, that I would always error on the side of fairness and generosity.  These were not just values for Lincoln Douglas debates.  As I studied history, government, politics and international relations – they were principles for understanding the world.  We used to say in the Junior Statesmen Foundation, ‘democracy is not a spectator sport’.  That meant, my opinions could be more than just hot air – they could be the very oxygen upon which our democracy functioned.  And, the more informed and involved, the better we’d all be.

FALSE DICHOTOMY 

Justice and fairness were not just for the secular world.  They were theories that actually dove-tailed with my new understanding of faith.  Centuries before Kant, Rawls and many other philosophers, the pillars of these same tenants had been crafted in the words of the Bible:

  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah)
  • Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart. (Zechariah)
  • Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.  (Proverbs)
  • Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.  (Jeremiah)
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  (Romans)
  • He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah)
  • But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John)
  • “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew)

Matthew’s words sound a little like the Categorical Imperative and View of Ignorance.  The plea for justice and mercy that flow from the Old Testament into the New are very much in line with a theory of justice and fairness.  You get the picture.

I do not mean to suggest that all secular ideas support Biblical principles or vice versa.  But, I do think that a posture that sees the outside world as wrong, dangerous and irrelevant is wrong.  To put it more bluntly, the holy huddle mentality is not just a false dichotomy – it is complete bull shit.  The great commission is about going OUT – not turning IN.  And, by the way, that commission was not about creating converts but about cultivating disciples.

HELLO DEMOCRATS

When I was college, I got the chance to go to Clinton’s inauguration.  I remember walking donkey-and-elephant-1around the mall and seeing information on Hillary Clinton’s book, It Takes A Village, where she advocates for the well-being of children by encouraging groups to support families and kids.  I watched and listened as Republicans pounced.  During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Republican Party nominee Bob Dole had said: “… with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child.”[6] Well, yes, OF COURSE!  But, not everyone has the privilege of growing up in a upper-middle class home with two parents that are healthy, hold good jobs, etc.  Some of us were growing up in broken homes.  Some of us were growing up the ‘wrong’ skin color and/or with parents in prison.  Some of us were growing up food insecure.  Not everyone got the Norman Rockwell life.  Go back and read those verses.  Go read where Jesus says,”Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Or, in the chapter prior, “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”  I watched Republicans take low-blow political shots at ideas that were not only good, they were Biblical.  We are called to love and help one another.  It made no sense to me.  How was this the party of Evangelicals?

At this point, I’m sure there are many screaming at their computer (or iPhone), BUT WHAT ABOUT ABORTION!!!!!  This post would turn into a book if I tried to answer fully here.  But, here’s the short answer.  First, pro-life should mean that….a policy of valuing life from the womb to the grave, not JUST the womb.  Yet, too many want to scream about abortion, and then fall silent when it comes to assisting the children or single mothers who need help.  Too many scream about an unwanted pregnancy but do nothing about sex-trafficking or sexual abuse.  Too many scream about teenage mothers but want to cut funding to education programs that help keep kids in school.  Too many will condemn abortion one second and yet defend guns and wars the next second – even though those kill many more.  And, I’m not saying all abortions are good or all wars are bad or that I want to take your guns away.  I’m just saying that there should be some intellectual consistency.  Rob Shenck, a leading Evangelical leader writes in a Washington Post article, I’m an evangelical preacher. You can’t be pro-life and pro-gun:

I won’t be silent on this issue. The Christian gospel should quell our fears and remind us of our Christ-like obligation to love all people, even those who intend us harm. This generous view of the world calls us to demonstrate God’s love toward others, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what religion they practice. Assuming a permanently defensive posture against others, especially when it includes a willingness to kill, is inimical to a life of faith.And, more broadly, Republicans want to get rid of regulations and policies that protect life with safe working environments or fair labor laws, etc, but in the most personal of decisions – they want to stake a claim?  

We can argue till the cows come home and Jesus returns on what the ‘right’ policy is.  My goal here is not to say what I think the political views of others should be; rather, my goal is to share my journey of faith through the landscape of our American experience.  I don’t agree with Democrats on everything.  I don’t agree with Republicans on everything.  But, in picking 1-2 issues upon which our vote hinges, we’ve given politicians free license to legislate on an endless number of issues, and sometimes recklessly opening the doors to war, injustice and greed.  (For those interested in more indepth political analysis, read Where the Right Went Wrong.)  We cannot throw-up our hands, absconding all responsibility.  For me, I vote for justice, equality and compassion.  I vote for helping those in need.  I vote for education.  I vote for taking care of the world God gave us.  I vote for a love that casts the widest net.

THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S 

There is a God, and I am not it.  In my journey to live out Micah 6:8 (act justly, love mercy and walk humbly), I am reminded that my job is very different from God’s.  There are battles to be fought.  There are judgments to be made.  The Bible has many great exchanges between heaven and earth, but one of my favorites is found in the book of Job.  It is in the midst of this discussion in Job, when God reminds him who laid the earth’s foundations and the seas.  This passage is not only about God reminding Job of His awesome power and sovereignty, it was God reminding Job of His amazing, even un-strategic, irrational love.

As John Ortberg put it in a sermon called, It’s Okay to Not Be Okay, he sites this exchange in Job, explaining God is a god of gratuitous goodness.  Why would God water a wasteland where no one lives?  Why would he make an ostrich with wings that don’t fly or delight in the behemoth? Answer: He is good for no reason at all, because He loves to give.  

With that in mind, why should we shower love on the undeserving?  Because, as the Psalmist says, teach me YOUR WAY…the way of gratuitous goodness.  Or, as Jesus commands in Matthew, the greatest commandment is to love God and love others.  God’s way, is that of love that is beyond comprehension.  The Bible is full of many teachings and principles, but it is imperative to not invert the order and priority of God’s commands to us.  There’s this great song by The Afters, called Battles.  A line in it says, Your love is my armor, I fear no evil.

I love that…your LOVE is my ARMOR.

THANK YOU POPE FRANCIS AND JEN HATMAKER

brand_bio_bio-shorts_pope-francis-mini-biography_0_172238_sf_hd_768x432-16x9Thankfully, I’m not alone.  In my journey, I’ve discovered a community of believers who believe in a gospel that leads with grace and mercy includes everyone from Pope Francis and Jen Hatmaker to Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans and Jim Wallis.  And, then some.  Much to my delight, I read that in the Pope’s 2015 Encyclical, he applied the first formulation of the universalizability principle to the issue of consumption:

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. … To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.[21]

Turns out, the Pope reads Kant too.  Beyond observations on consumption, Saray Bessey writes in Jesus Feminist: “I want to be outside with the misfits, with the rebels, the dreamers, second-chance givers, the radical grace lavishers, the ones with arms wide open, the courageously vulnerable, and among even—or maybe especially—the ones rejected by the Table as not worthy enough or right enough.”  I love the phrase Brandon Hatmaker uses in his new book, A Mile Wide; he beckons us to what he calls a bigger gospel. There are plenty of seats at God’s table, and I suspect that it is not been Jesus’s gospel that’s too small to date – it’s been my own interpretation, born of fear and shame that kept it small and safe.

I AM NOT A HOT POTATO 

Thank God I found a church that didn’t drop the hurting and broken like a hot potato. In Matthew, Jesus says that if he sees the flowers in the field and notices even the sparrow, how much more does he care for us?  He promises a love that never fails, that won’t let go, no matter what.  Everything changes when we open our eyes to the outrageous love of Jesus.  It is a love that is bigger than kings and kingdoms, of politicians and political parties.  It is a love that sees us in our struggles and bridges the gap with grace.  I know a God who makes beauty from ashes, and who delights in my broken hallelujah.

To those who have bristled at most of my words, I’d urge you to re-read the Bible with the lenses of compassion, mercy and justice, to consider whether our present path is actually making a positive impact in the world – in either practical or faith terms.  I’d ask you to truly ponder what love looks like.  To those who have felt alone in a progressive faith, I declare you are not alone.  And, to those who have been skeptical of the church and possibly deeply wounded by it, I would say this:

Some of us believe taking care of our planet means just that.  Some of us believe taking care of the widow and orphan means just that.  Some of us believe that opening our doors to the migrant means that.  Some of us believe in science.  Some of us believe it is okay to not be okay.  Some of us believe that helping the poor or doing justice means just that.  Some of us love mercy.  Some of us believe that loving your enemy or extending goodness for no strategic reason means JUST THAT.

So, what if I died tonight?  I’d say, that I’d choose to bank my eternity on loving Jesus and loving others.  I’ll let God take care of the rest.