When Advent Hurts

We went to a Christmas Eve service at my mother-in-law’s church the other night. Why they had a Christmas Eve service 10 days early, I do not know, but that is beside the point. The point is that I broke down crying while trying to sing “Joy to the World” because I just don’t feel all that joyful.

When we found out I was pregnant, before we got the official due date from the doctor, we estimated that we’d be expecting a baby on Christmas Eve. I loved the thought of expecting our own baby as we also anticipated the celebration of the birth of Christ. I thought about how special Advent would be this year, how much more meaningful. I looked forward to the lessons I would learn and the ways I would be able to identify with Mary. I was excited about experiencing Advent in a deeper way because of my own state of expecting.

But instead of singing Mary’s song of rejoicing, I find myself identifying more with the Psalmist: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” Instead of feeling like joy has come to the world, I feel like I’m still longing and pleading for it.

Maybe “Joy to the World” is just not my song this year. Maybe this year, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is the one for me. I’ve always liked it, but this year, I understand it more. Mourn, lonely, hell, gloomy, shadows, dark, death, misery – these are things I get. There are also things I want – Emmanuel (God with us), wisdom, knowledge, freedom, victory, cheer, strength, mercy, peace.

I guess in a very sad, unexpected way, I am experiencing Advent in a deeper way. It’s just not the way I wanted. So I listen to this version of it on repeat and try to think that maybe we all go through cycles of painful longing and joyful receiving all the time, and it’s just unfortunate that my own personal Advent isn’t lining up with the one on the church calendar.

Reality Check: A Follow-Up (Part 2)

I was just looking through the list of deadly sins, and it hit me: They’re all based on what we shouldn’t do, where we fail. This is a very common message – we’re sinners, we’re depraved, we’re unrighteous, our very nature is against the nature of God, and our only hope is Jesus. I don’t disagree with this idea, but I think the emphasis of it is misplaced. It’s not the church’s fault, really. What they want is to emphasize Jesus, to make him the hero, which he is, and that’s a great message. But what happens practically is that it sets our default thought pattern to, “I am bad. I am depraved. My very nature is wrong.” This leads us very easily to, “I am unlovable. All of this ‘God-is-love’ business is absurd and cruel.” Do you see what’s happened? We are still emphasized in this thought pattern. We are emphasized, but negatively and without the Good News part of the story.

Here’s my truth: I don’t think God has ever been disgusted with you. I don’t think he’s ever seen you as evil. I don’t think he’s ever been angry, upset, or disappointed in you. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” on the cross, I think he meant it and had the authority to make it true. I think he saved everyone in that moment, and the only thing left for us to do is/was to accept the reality of it and live in that reality. And when we say, “Yes, I like this. This feels real and loving and freeing. I’m on board,” Jesus says, “Cool. Welcome.”

Living in reality is a struggle sometimes, but if your default belief is “I’m bad,” the struggle is even greater, and for some people, this thought pattern will sadly always prevent them from being able to live in it. But when you live in the reality that Jesus established, there is no condemnation for you, even if you struggle. God is not surprised or angry with you because you struggle. He is sad, not because he’s disappointed in you, but because he wants freedom for you.

Imagine you have a friend who is addicted to heroin. My guess is you are not angry with your friend for having an addiction. Rather, you hate seeing your friend in pain and are sad to see your friend make decisions that hurt him/her. I think it’s the same way with God. He hurts for us because we make decisions that hurt us and take him up on so little of what he offers.

With that in mind, let’s talk about greed and sloth.


Greed is wanting stuff, more and more stuff, as much stuff as you can get, and getting it by any means necessary. You do this because you don’t know that you are loved, that who you are is exactly who you were meant to be, that you are accepted and cared for. In your mind, you are unworthy of receiving anything, so you take it for yourself, or you stew about not having it until it makes you depressed or drives you to go out and get it. You want more stuff because that means you have more money, and in almost every culture ever, having more money meant having more power, and having more power means you are worthy of more respect, and respect means people love you. Having not much stuff means you are poor or a hippie, and historically, poor people and hippies don’t have much power (although arguably the hippies have a lot of love anyway).

I’m going to start sounding like a broken record here in a second, but the message doesn’t change. You are loved. You can’t even imagine how loved you are. You are loved like crazy. You are loved immensely. You are loved beyond your ability to conceive of love. You don’t have to collect stuff to show the world how much they ought to love you. We can tell by looking at Donald Trump that it doesn’t work anyway.

You are free from that burden. You don’t have to keep up. You already have the love you desire. You already have the acceptance and respect and dignity you’re looking for. They are yours for the taking. God is yours for the taking.


My old roommates, the Joshes (Whitney and Lauren), used to say that sloth was my deadly sin of choice. It’s true. I was off work for snow last week and didn’t change out of jabambas for two whole days. I got tired from sitting around all day, so I took a nap.

But sloth as a spiritual issue is not about physical laziness. It’s about either not growing spiritually or not using your gifts to do the things you know are meant for you to do. It is not contributing to the world. It is not bringing to the table what you have to offer. It is about withholding the image of God you bear from the world. And a big reason why we do this is because we don’t think we have anything to offer.

Hear me well on this one, friends. When God created you, he didn’t look at you and go, “Well crap. I screwed that one up.” No, he made you in his image so that the world could see him through you and know that they are loved too. Who you are is exactly who you are supposed to be. You are a unique mixture of the attributes of God that he weaved together with your personality to make you you.

You have love to offer. You have grace, peace, kindness, service, strength, joy, justice, creativity, hope, art, encouragement and beauty in you, and we need it. Please don’t hide your joy from me because you think it’s too loud. Please don’t hold your creativity back because you think it’s not good enough. Please don’t keep your peace to yourself because you think it’s weak. Ladies, please don’t stifle your strength because you think it’s not feminine. We need the image of God you bear to the world. We need to see him. We need to see you.

I know this one is hard because it’s dangerous to let yourself be seen by the world. It’s risky to be vulnerable and to let people in, and you should definitely be cautious and wise about who you open up to because there are people out there who will take advantage of you or disrespect the gift you are offering to them. But with people who love you, it’s worth the risk, and you can take it knowing that you are already completely loved, that you are perfectly accepted, and that the God in you is good.

I’ll try to wrap this up next time with wrath, envy and pride. It might be spring break before I can get around to that, but I promise I’ll do it when I can. Love y’all.

Reality Check: A Follow-Up (Part 1)

Let’s start with a list. God is:

love, loving, lovely, kind, gracious, generous, helpful, a healer, good, merciful, funny, just, our protector, light, life, salvation, strong, joyful, holy, perfect, infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, at hand, sovereign, righteous, unchanging, active, caring, concerned, eternal, impartial, wise, true, transcendent, imminent, free, freedom, freeing, pure, unfailing, never-tiring, rejuvenating, life-giving, inspiring, available, powerful, sacrificial, sufficient, one who sanctifies, peace, our provider, our healer, victorious, accepting of people, against evil, our comforter, almighty, a good father, trustworthy, real, reality, trinity, one, beautiful, author and perfecter of our faith, creator, creative, happy, for us, crazy about us, hope, hopeful, encouraging, tender, warm-hearted, patient, honorable, a good listener, a good communicator, dignified, necessary, an artist, individual, universal, humble, glorious, welcoming… (feel free to add to the list)

All of these things are available to you (yes, you) always. God is available to you (yes, you) always. If you want him, he’s yours. It’s that easy. You don’t have to fix yourself up first. You don’t have to make amends first. You don’t have to kill a goat first. You just have to say, “Hey, I’m on board,” and Jesus responds, “Welcome.”

A friend asked me to do a follow-up to the last post with some more examples of what freedom from sin looks like in the reality of God. I’ll do my best. And just for funsies, let’s talk about the 7 Deadly Sins (that’s fun, right?). We won’t get through all of them in one post because nobody has time for that, but I’ll do a few today and a few next week, and we’ll see how it goes.


Oh wow, we’re just jumping right into the deep end here, aren’t we? Deep breaths, aaaaaaaaand go…

Lust is an excessive desire, usually for another person sexually, but not always. It could be about power or fame or other things as well. But just because it’s familiar as a term (and probably as an experience for most of us), we’ll talk about it in terms of sex. Sex is about connection, love, acceptance and knowing/being known. There is a very real physical element to it that I won’t go into right now because there are just so many rabbit holes that could lead us down, but spiritually and emotionally, when you want to have sex with someone, you’re looking for connection, love, and acceptance. You want someone to know you completely and love and accept all of you. You want to show love and acceptance to someone you know completely.

Here is truth and freedom: You are already known better than any other human will ever be able to know you, loved more perfectly and more completely than any other person will be able to love you, and accepted as  you are – warts, skin tags, body hair, cellulite, fat, morning breath, dandruff, freckles, moles, worries, recklessness, volume, size, emotions, baggage, neediness and all. Sex will not make your body image issues go away. It will not manufacture the deep connection you long for. It will not make you confident that you are a lovable person. Even in a marriage that is safe, loving and happy, sex is not a magical thing that satisfies your desire for love and acceptance completely. And thank God, you don’t have to rely on sex for any of that. He provides it generously. Love and acceptance are yours for the taking. They are gifts God is holding out to you like an excited kid at a birthday party saying, “Open this one next; it’s from me!”


Thomas Aquinas broke gluttony down into six different sins:

  1. eating too soon
  2. eating too much
  3. eating too expensively
  4. eating too wildly
  5. eating too daintily
  6. eating too eagerly

I think these are kind of funny. Could someone please explain to me the difference between eating too wildly and eating too eagerly? Either way, I’m definitely guilty of that one around Girl Scout cookie time. And how dainty is too dainty? Are little girls everywhere going to hell for having tea parties?

Essentially, what it comes down to is using food (or money or other resources) for something more than just a tool to meet a basic need. I think we are meant to enjoy food (because come on…basil exists), but when we trust in food or money to satisfy us, and when we withhold food or money from others who need it, we are fending for ourselves. We are believing the lie that God is not for us, that he cannot or will not provide for us, and ultimately, that he does not love us. We are trying to get love and provision for ourselves, but we don’t have to do that.

Here is truth and freedom: God loves you. He just does. That’s what love does. And the confidence that we are loved is freeing. It frees me to enjoy food because it tastes good and fuels my body. And it frees me to give some of my resources away so that other people can enjoy food as well.

That might be enough for today. Next week, we’ll try to tackle greed, sloth (my favorite), wrath, envy, and pride. Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! You are loved beyond your capacity to understand it.

Reality Check

This is going to be a very Christiany post. If you’re not into that sort of thing, I’d encourage you to read it anyway. It’s something new for me, so maybe it will be something new for you as well. If Christiany posts are exactly what you’re into, this one might make you nervous. I don’t know. We’ll see. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts either way.

Anyone who knows me well has likely heard a little about the mentoring group I’ve been a part of for the past three years. After three years, it’s still hard to explain. When I go to meetings now, Will says, “Have fun at group. Enjoy listening and responding and crying.” That’s pretty much how it goes. There’s not always crying, but the listening and responding part is the best description I can give you. It’s deeper than that, though. It’s not the same listening and responding that we tend to do in life and relationships. It’s listening without judgment or agenda and responding with truth and love. It’s pointing out God in others. It’s reflecting the character of God by telling others how we see the character of God reflected in them. It’s naming and encouraging and truth-telling. It’s hard work, and it’s good.

A couple of weeks ago, we went on our annual retreat, and one of the exercises we did was to brainstorm attributes of God that we’ve experienced. Among them were love, peace, acceptance, grace, hope, and protection.

In another exercise, we were encouraged to consider why we do the things we do that are not loving, peaceful, accepting, gracious, hopeful, and protective, and I had a realization. When I choose to do something that goes against the character of God, it is because, in that moment, I want some aspect of God’s character, but I don’t believe he gives it to me freely. I believe instead that I must take it for myself.

Take vanity, for example (no really, take it – Ha! See what I did there? Comic relief). I care about my appearance because I want people to think I’m beautiful because I want them to accept me, to love me. I want to be loved so desperately, and I think the way to get that love is to make myself look good. Then people will compliment me, and I’ll feel good about myself. I’ll feel loved.

Or falsehood. When I tell a lie (or don’t tell the whole truth), I am protecting myself from something, probably shame. I’m not believing that grace, acceptance and protection are available to me, so I’m getting the closest thing to them – avoiding shame and punishment while believing I deserve them both.

What about gossip? When I gossip, let’s be honest, it’s probably because I’m either jealous or self-righteous (or both). I believe that someone else is loved while I am not. I believe that someone else is getting grace that they don’t deserve. I want to be loved. I want the grace that person is receiving. When I gossip, I knock the other person down a notch in my mind so that I feel more loved/lovable.

But here’s the truth. We live, currently (not sometime in the future), in an actual, physical, real world where God loves us perfectly, completely, and unconditionally. And he gives all of himself freely, liberally, without limit to anyone who’s interested. He gives us love, peace, acceptance, grace, hope, and protection.

The only requirement from us is that we accept this as reality. And I’ll be honest – sometimes that’s really hard.

Sometimes I don’t want a handout. I just want to do it myself. Sometimes I don’t trust that there are no strings attached, and my skepticism pushes my own agenda forward. Sometimes my perfectionist tendencies come out. I’ve made a mistake, and in my mind, grace is unacceptable. I know I don’t deserve it, and I can’t bring myself to accept that I’m fully loved and accepted, so I choose to punish myself rather than let grace in.

But when I can remember what’s real – that love, peace, acceptance, grace, hope, and protection are mine for the taking because the source of them gives them to me freely – I don’t have to fight for myself. I don’t have to take love at someone else’s expense. I don’t have to fend off shame by withholding truth. I don’t have to knock other people down so I feel built up.

This is not about behavior management. It’s not about behavior at all so much as it is about belief. I’ve been in church all my life, and I’ve heard theology, justification, sanctification, atonement, sin, redemption, and repentance described in a hundred different ways that never impacted me like this has. I thought for a long time that the message was, “Stop sinning.” Then I heard, “No, it’s not about your actions. It’s about your heart. Make your heart right.” Then it was, “No, you can’t make your heart right. Only God can do that. You have to surrender to him.” But the explanations for how to surrender to God, if existent at all, are always either vague or based on ME doing a prescribed set of spiritual activities, which doesn’t seem like surrendering very much at all.

But recognizing true reality (redundant, but you understand) and false reality (oxymoron, but you understand) for what they are and choosing truth has made things much clearer for me.

This is what I think Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection were all about. I think he came to open up this reality for all people in all places and all times who would accept it. It’s not about what we do; it’s about what’s true and real and available to us all.

Elaine’s Truth

I have only met my friend Elaine a handful of times in person. We both happened to be available on a weekday once, so we took a road trip together to WILKESBORO!!!!! to see Zach Galifianakis lead story time at the Wilkes County Public Library. It was awesome. We were also briefly involved in a writing group together where I admired her honesty and courage with words. Other than that, we’ve just stalked followed each other on blogs and social media for the last several years. Here she is to tell us her truth.

When I was invited to write a “That’s my Truth” blog post, at first I thought I might write something about motherhood. But life intruded with a more pressing issue: The question of the Law, and how much of it we as Christians are expected to keep.

Here’s the thing. I’m not going to make a theological argument. Paul did that very eloquently 2000 years ago, and wise and intelligent people have been dissecting his argument ever since. When I was in high school, reading the New Testament, I couldn’t reconcile Paul’s arguments with what my church was teaching me. Free from the law? How could that be? Everyone knew that you had to be a good person – no illegal activities, no sex, no smoking, no lying, etc. So what on earth did Paul mean by being free from the Law? It didn’t make sense because Paul was teaching something very different from what my parents and church were teaching.

I chose to avoid my confusion by doing the “safe” thing and obeying the Law, at least the parts of the Law that I had been taught applied to me. That meant I could eat bacon, but I couldn’t have premarital sex. I could drink alcohol, but I couldn’t get drunk. I could go out in public while menstruating and not worry about making a bunch of people unclean by sitting in public seats, but I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to be in authority over men.

But after college, as I meditated again on Paul’s words, I came to a startling conclusion: He really meant them. We are free from the Law. And not just the parts of the Law that Jesus addressed (like food), or the parts of the Law explicitly mentioned by Paul (like circumcision). The whole shebang.

The very first church council ever recorded was about this very issue – how much of the Torah were non Jews required to follow? (An aside: At the time, this meant the first five books of the Bible, along with all the rabbinical laws, known as the Mishnah. It didn’t just mean the 10 Commandments, or the literal Hebrew text in isolation.) In Acts 15, we see a group of new Christians struggling with this issue. And after much thought and prayer, they decided to pick 3 laws for the non Jews to follow. Three. Out of over 600 written Hebrew laws and countless additions and interpretations. And they weren’t chosen from the 10 Commandments either. Just avoid food sacrificed to idols, don’t get involved in sexual sin, and don’t eat meat that was strangled and still has blood in it.

Here’s my truth. When Paul said we are not under the Law, he meant all of it. We live under grace. The Law is valuable because it gives us insight into God’s will and God’s preferences. But it is no longer binding on Christians. We can choose to disobey any Law we wish, because we are not under it. We are not slaves; we are free heirs with Christ. We have already been purified and are holy in God’s eyes.

When we pick and choose which laws to follow and which ones to disregard, we are committing idolatry. Instead of putting our faith in the Holy Spirit and developing a sensitivity to His voice, we put our faith in a system of rules interpreted for us by other fallible humans. We seek knowledge rather than wisdom. Wisdom is life by the Spirit. It requires us to meditate on God’s word (yes, even on the Torah), and to spend time in prayer, and to learn how to hear God’s voice.

Many Christians are threatened by this and I have been condemned for it. But thank God, I live under grace. So even if I’m wrong, I am forgiven, I am free from condemnation, and I will stand justified in God’s eyes, no matter what. THAT is the good news of Jesus. That we are truly free from the entire Law. We live under grace.

To read more from Elaine, check out her blog or her other blog. Thanks, Elaine!

Scattered Thoughts on the Bible Judgment

Two things happened this morning. First, I was reading the latest in Rob Bell‘s “What Is the Bible?” series (which is very good, and I suggest you check it out). And second, I was reading back through the past few months of my own Twitter feed because I’m just that vain.

I realized as I was reading Rob Bell that SO often when it comes to theology, either I read and make an immediate judgment about what I’ve just read, or I read with judgment already in mind (or how I think the author wants me to judge). And a few times in the latest post, he’d say something, and I’d think, Yeah, that’s terrible, only for him to then say, “but that’s not a bad thing.”

Oh. Yeah, um, that’s what I said.

I seem to have trouble reading, just reading, anything theological, including the Bible. The problem with this is that when you read looking for flaws, truths, meaning, things you can apply to your life, things you can use to argue a point, or anything else, you risk missing out on the actual point. You also can’t enjoy it.

Friends I’ve been in Bible studies with tell me that I read the Bible aloud very well. Part of this ability is that I practice reading aloud A LOT in class, sometimes even doing accents and voices. The other part is that I hate hearing anything read all monotonously. I used to think other people were trying to read the Bible reverently and it just accidentally came out sounding boring, but now I think people are just reading it the way they read it in their heads.

When I read the Bible silently, it sounds boring in my head. It sounds dry and monotonous, and I feel like I should be “getting something out of it,” but I don’t. I feel like it should be magical and immediately transform my heart, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. When I read a fictional story, I get lost in it, and the words and characters stick in my brain for hours. When I read history or biography, I am fascinated by people that really existed and places and events that were real. I think about how they affected the future, how our world would be so different if not for them. When I read poetry or listen to music, I let the words flow off the page or out of the speakers, and sometimes out of my own mouth, and they are beautiful. And if I like the sound of a particular phrase or tune, I play it on repeat, in my car or my head, for the next two weeks.

But when I read the Bible, it is very serious business. And the serious-business-ness of it blocks my ability to get lost in it, to be fascinated by it, or to recognize the beauty in it. I don’t like this.

I think I make it more serious in my mind because I’ve been told all my life that God wrote it. You don’t get more serious than that. But even though I now know God to be completely loving, always interesting, and often playful, funny or silly, and even though I now believe the Bible to be a collection of stories, poems, letters and songs written about God by his people, I still read the Bible as though it were written by a stodgy old God who demands respect.

I think about God lecturing in the Bible like a very strict high school teacher, but I would like to come to see God engaging me in Scripture like Hilary Swank inThe Freedom Writers.

Which brings me back to my twitter feed. I re-tweeted a Love Does tweet a few months ago that said, “We try to figure out who’s right; God’s interested in who’s loved.” And I feel like this is related to my struggle. I’m reading the Bible trying to figure it out. I see it as some kind of theological challenge – to get all the right answers and justify my life choices based on them. But the whole point of the Bible is that God is real and here among us, loving us like crazy even though throughout the history of humanity, people have done weird and sometimes terrible things and used God to justify their life choices. We still do it today, and he still loves us.

This, I find fascinating and beautiful. This, I could get lost in.

Complementarianism, Secularism, Sexism, and Vocabulary

Note: These thoughts may be a bit scattered. I haven’t put them all together yet in logical string. Forgive me. Also please know that when I talk about what rubs me the wrong way about complementarianism, I don’t want to offend or put anyone down. I have complementarian friends whom I love, and I mean nothing against them. They’re my friends for a reason. I’ve just been having some thoughts, and I’d like to get them out so I can start to process them better.

In class last week, somehow the word “slut” came up. It’s an advanced class. You just never know what’s going to happen. Yesterday, during an open Q/A session, the word “fellatio” came up, and I am not ashamed to say I let another student handle that one. So anyway, we were talking about the word “slut,” and they understood and wanted to know what you would call a man who was sexually promiscuous. And I realized that there is no male equivalent to it. Sure, there are words – man-whore, player, womanizer – but none of them inherently carries the same connotation and shame as “slut.” It all depends on how the man being called these things takes it, and men always have the option of taking it as a compliment if they are proud of their sexual conquests. Women don’t. This led me to an astonishing revelation (astonishing to me anyway):

We don’t shame men for being sexual or having sex (or even masturbating, for that matter). We just don’t. Men are supposed to go out and sow their wild oats, “boys will be boys,” and all that jazz while women are supposed to protect their chastity at all times with an iron belt (figuratively or literally) until they get married.

The really big problem with this way of thinking is that it has crept its way into the church in what we’re calling “complementarianism.” Women, in the complementarian way of thinking, are supposed to be delicate flowers, standing quietly beside their husbands, taking care of the children. Men, on the other hand, are supposed to be the leaders, the deciders, the enforcers, the conquerors. This is probably an over-generalization, and the truth is that folks who subscribe to complementarianism all have a slightly different brand, and nobody can really agree on exactly what it is. To read more about that, check out this post by Rachel Held Evans. The point is that in this school of thought, men and women have separate roles in the world, in the church, and in the family based solely on gender.

My first point of frustration with the general complementarian way of thinking is that it seems to me to be largely secular. It is presented as a biblical concept even though there are numerous places in the Bible where women are considered equally as important/strong/valuable/reliable/capable/intelligent as men (yes, even at a time in the world when a woman’s testimony was not valid in a court of law). Furthermore, masculinity as defined by complementarianism seems to be the same as modern Western masculinity. As far as I know, there is no mention in the Bible of Jesus watching Ultimate Fighting and working on his truck, yet that is what one complementarian pastor says “real men” should be doing.

My other major issue with complementarianism is that it presumes to know what people have to offer to the church and the family based almost entirely on their gender, and only a tiny, secondary bit on who God made them individually to be. This is not a culture of calling or equality or giftedness; it is a culture of power. It’s not a question of who might be the best fit for the job; it’s a question of who gets to be in charge. And in complementarian churches, men are the ones with the power.

Now, I’m not saying to want to take power away from men just for the sake of equality, and I’m most definitely not looking for a complete reversal of power. If a man is better suited for a particular job, then by all means, he should do it. But the key word there is particular. If we start making blanket statements about which gender is better suited for what, we ignore the beauty of God’s individual creations. When we make boys blue and girls pink, we miss out on all the other colors that make the world wonderful and interesting. And more dangerously, we silence voices that have a right to be heard because they come from image-bearers of God. (If you’re ready to dismiss that last statement or get defensive about it, please ask yourself why.)

I believe we are all necessary in the world because each of us uniquely bears the image of God. I also believe that we are all in the time and place we are for a purpose. When Scripture talks about the church as the body of Christ, it does not differentiate between men and women. In fact, it says we are all one in Christ, that the labels of this world (position, gender, race) do not exist. Can we please act like we are one, function as one, and help each other find and foster our gifts and purposes instead of broadly prescribing them for entire gender groups? And can we have the courage to allow people to be who they are even though doing so might threaten our positions of power? I think we’ll all function better that way – when we give ourselves and others permission and grace and an open invitation to offer our true selves to the world.

Europe: An Update

Ok first of all, I’d like to point out that I’ve blogged more this week than I have any week in the past, what, year? In Europe without constant internet connection, borrowing other people’s computers, I’ve had more opportunity to blog than at home. Europe is good for me. So here’s a quick update:

I arrived in Madrid on Saturday morning, where I was picked up by Jorge and taken to the train station. I got on a train and rode to Caceres, where I was picked up by Tim and taken to Betsy’s apartment. I spent the rest of Saturday, all day Sunday and Monday breakfast with Tim and/or Betsy. They introduced me to lots of fun people, I got to go to church on Sunday with them, and we went up a big hill to a chapel where you can see the whole city. It was lovely. On Monday morning, they put me on a bus to Bejar, where Craig picked me up. I stayed one night with him and his lovely (Spanish) wife, Ada. Bejar is tee-tiny, y’all. Like I think I could walk the whole thing in about ten minutes. They were cool, though, and one of their sons force-fed me bananas all day. I definitely got my five that day.

On Tuesday, Craig put me on a bus back to Madrid, where I found AMARIS!!!!! waiting for me at the Ibiza Metro stop. I am not sure that Madrid was ready for us together, but I think it handled the situation quite well. We traded bags and headed out to meet Chris and Paul, two guys she’d met through her classmate Kent, who was staying in the same hostel with them. Are you confused? Welcome to Amaris.

The four of us (later five when Kent joined us) walked what seemed to be a large portion of the city looking for a restaurant that had vegetarian paella, but by the time we found it, it was closed, so we went across the street to a market that had absolutely delicious mozarella concoctions among other things. Then we hit up a bakery our friend Adam had told me about. Amaris bought me an empanada de dulce de leche that was aaammaaaaazziiiiiiiiiiinnng (I sang that) for my birthday, and then we made a video that I think she put on facebook. After that, we went up to a park that overlooks the city, where we took super silly photos. Super.

Jorge picked me up around 8:30 and took me back to his house, where I had dinner with him and his wife Elisabeth. They are both German but have been in Spain for 20-some-odd years. Jorge has actually been there longer, and the story of how Elisabeth got there is both hilarious and insane, so ask me to tell it to you later. I spent the night with them, hung out with them the next morning, and around 3 in the afternoon, Jorge took me back to the airport. As I sat on the plane, exhausted, I took comfort in the fact that I would only be in one city in Italy. One city! For two and a half whole days!! What joy! What bliss! I fell asleep.

When I woke up, y’all, we were flying over the Alps. If you have never done this, you absolutely must try to. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was really cloudy, and I couldn’t really see anything. Then we broke through a cloud, and holy crap there they were. Like RIGHT THERE. Like we could have dropped a skiier. I took pictures, but they don’t really do it justice or properly show just how close we were. I’ll show them to you when I get home anyway, but seriously, you need to do it. I just kept imagining the Von Trapps crossing them on foot (even though I know they weren’t the same mountains they crossed), and I was amazed.

Ok, so. I got into downtown Milan around 8:15 last night, where Daniel picked me up and took me to Ron and Amy’s house. They had prepared a delicious meal for me, and we chatted for a bit. Then Ron brought me back to Joi and Daniel’s, where I’ll be staying while I’m here. Bless their hearts, they had made up the sleeper sofa and turned down the corner of the bedding. All it would have needed to be a fancy bed and breakfast was a mint on the pillow. Oh but this morning…

Y’all, no mint is necessary with a breakfast like that. Joi made pancakes and homemade apple sauce. They had peanut butter, maple syrup, honey, bananas and walnuts to put on top. It was absolutely amazing. Then they drove me up to Lake Como to hang out and walk around. I will show you pictures of this too, but I’ll just say this: cute town + serene lake + snow-capped Alps + risotto alla parmigiana + knowledge that all this is accessible by train from Milan = Spain Who?

That’s been about it. On the way back, we stopped by a health food store so Joi and Daniel could get oatmeal. Joi said they sell it in regular grocery stores now, but they used to only sell it in health food stores and pharmacies. Yes, pharmacies. Because it’s a health food. I think they really just wanted me to see all the amazing vegetarian options available here. For the record, there are many. We came back to their place for a snack of dried figs, apples, walnuts and cheese.

Now we’re resting a bit before I go over to Ron and Amy’s again for dinner. Actually, I think we might be going out with an Italian guy from their church, but I’m not 100% sure about that. We’ll see.

Okie doke. That was your “short” update. If I have time again before Sunday, I’ll try to give you another one, but I don’t know if that will happen. I would love to tell you more when I get home, though, so please ask me lots of questions if there’s anything you want to know.

Love y’all!

Google Voicemail Just Doesn’t Get Me

Every woman wants to be understood, and until recently, I didn’t think I was that hard to get. I try to express myself clearly. I think I’m pretty articulate. But now I know I just talk gibberish all the time.

W-Josh has Google voicemail that texts her a transcript of each message she receives. Conceivably, this means that she doesn’t actually have to listen to the messages. She can just read them and respond accordingly. But it NEVER has a clue what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter how clearly I enunciate. It just doesn’t understand me. A few weeks ago, it thought part of my message was, “yeah yeah.” I wish I could remember the rest of that one. Maybe she’ll help us out by posting it as a comment, but I can assure you that at no point in that message did I say, “yeah yeah.”

So as you may have guessed by now, that cryptic message I gave you the other day was one of Google’s attempts to translate me. I’ll refresh your memory. It said:

Leading well in your private will give you indigestion. This word for the day. It’s not the by. Relax. Church.

And let me pause right here and tell you that when Whitney called me to read this to me, I thought she was saying, “Bleeding well in your private…,” and I was equally amused and grossed out. What the eff, Google? Is there not a logarithm in existence that determines whether or not these things make sense? Granted, it puts the words it’s unsure of in gray and the ones it’s pretty certain of in black, but it was sure about most of this message. The only parts it doubted were:

  • private will
  • It’s
  • the by

I wish I knew how to get the sound byte on here, but since I don’t, I’ll just tell you what I REALLY said.

Buddy, swallowing your pride won’t give you indigestion. This word for the day is brought to you by Freedom Life…Church on Fire!

Now. Lest Whitney and I be accused of having inside jokes, I’ll explain. On US1, close to I-85, there is a church called Freedom Life…Church on Fire. Seriously. Look it up. They have a facebook page. Four people like it. Anyhoe, we think it’s hilarious that that is really the name of the church, and whenever one of us drives past it or just thinks about it, we call the other and say, “Freedom Life!” to which the other responds, “Church on Fire!” Their marquis is always equally amazing. Once when I drove by, it said, “Stop, drop and roll won’t work in hell.” You can’t make this stuff up.

So as I was driving up to VA last weekend, I noticed the message and decided to give Josh a call. And as you now know, hilarity ensued.

But wait! There’s more.

We laughed about it for a while, and then I suggested that I try again, but with VERY CLEAR NON-REGIONAL DICTION (anybody catch that Anchorman reference?). She thought that was a good idea, and I said it would happen when she least expected it, to which she replied, “No. I want you to call me right back after we hang up and try it.”

I felt put on the spot to come up with something to say, but never fear. I went for an old stand-by. That’s right. Lyrics, dude. Recite her some lyrics. (Bill and Ted? Anyone?) I called and left this very clear message:

Rush. Rush. Hurry, hurry lover, come to me. Rush. Rush. I want to feel it. I want to feel you all through me. Oooo, what you do to me.

Here’s what Google thought I said:

Hey Rosh latch hurry hurry love her come to me rush, rash. I want. 2. Feel it. I want. Sincerely you. All the room with me. Ohh. What You do to me.

I give up.

Numbers Hate Me

So I just took a Bible test, which I’m pretty sure I failed miserably. It’s not that I don’t know what it says, it’s just that I don’t know where it says it. There were all these questions about where one might find certain verses or passages on certain topics, and I sat here staring at the screen going, “Uhhhhhh…,” and then just laughing out loud because I had NO. Earthly. Idea. At least one of them was even a verse that we studied IN DEPTH in Community Group like two weeks ago. Not a clue.

Yes, I have problems memorizing things that are not set to music or quoted in films, but the words are not as problematic as the verse references. I remember some verses verbatim, but I could not tell you where to find them. I just don’t think in numbers. I think in stories and voices and experiences. I remember movie quotes because all of those things come together as I put the quote in the context of the story, remember the inflection of the actor’s voice and think about where I was and how I felt as I watched the movie. I remember song lyrics because songs tell stories, recordings invite me to add my own voice to the story, and music always evokes feelings that come back every time you hear that song. I remember Malachi 3:10 because I said it every flippin’ Sunday of my life for about ten years.

I don’t have ten years to spend on each verse in the Bible.

So if you have a nifty trick for me, a recording of Scripture set to music, or a movie that quotes the Bible and isn’t boring or super-cheesy, please let me know because these numbers are killing me.