Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy, I mean, Starbucks

Today’s coffee cup says:

“It’s tragic that extremists co-opt the notion of God, and that hipsters and artists reject spirituality out of hand. I don’t have a fixed idea of God. But I feel that it’s us – the messed-up, the half-crazy, the burning, the questing – that need God, a lot more than the goody-two-shoes do.”

-Mike Doughty, Musician

I realize that some people who only know me a little bit, might classify me as an “extremist” when it comes to God. I mean, I have strong beliefs, and they’re set in stone. They happen to be basically the same as what my parents believe and what the church I grew up in preached, but they are not my parents’ ideas. What I mean is, I have spent serious time thinking about them and evaluating them and deciding for myself if that’s what I really believe. They are my beliefs.But I also think that, at least in terms of this quote, I get to be classified as “the messed-up… the questing.” I know lots of people that would call me a “goody two-shoes,” and with good reason. But I don’t think they understand that I haven’t lived live on the narrow path necessarily for the reasons they think I have. I hate getting in trouble, and the fear of that is more powerful a motivator than guilt is for Amanda, and that’s saying a lot. Also, I honestly didn’t have a lot of opportunity to stray from the path. Well, I mean, I could have, if I had sought that out. I saw [what I thought was] a drug deal on my first day of high school, and knew plenty of people who did things with boys that I still haven’t done, or smoked, or drank, or any number of other things. I generally wasn’t interested, and was truthfully never offered to partake in any of the afore-mentioned. The closest I came to peer pressure was having to refuse multiple offerings of Mountain Dew. I know, such a sheltered life. I knew about all the other stuff that was out there, but it wasn’t right out in front of me. Most of my teenage rebellion would be considered tame to others, but to me it was still a rebellion. It was rebellion in this sense: “An act or a show of defiance toward an authority or established convention.” Anyways, that’s not what this post started to be about, and it’s quite a tangent, so I’ll just drop it for now.

A message board I read (that often infuriates me but has lately been tame and worth reading) for Christian singles recently had a discussion between two women who, among other things, were sharing a common experience of having doubts and questions in their faith and not having a place in the Christian community to work through that. I completely understood where they were coming from (though, to be fair, my last church was absolutely a comfortable place to work through that, as long as you weren’t staff, but that’s another post too, and one I recently made). I eventually came to the conclusion that I needed to create a place to do that. I’ve felt fortunate that most of my friends have been comfortable with me expressing my doubts and thoughts and feelings in terms of my faith. But I’ve also had a few friends/family who have been very uncomfortable with it, and who have unintentionally pressured me to “get back with the program,” so to speak.

But back to this forum that I’ve created for myself. I don’t have a “home church” anymore, one where I feel at home and attend regularly, where I know people and want to do social things with them, where I know that we all basically believe the same things, enjoy the same type of worship, and can basically be like family. It’s been a long time since I’ve had that. My church in Michigan was like that for the first six months, until all hell broke loose, that is. The church I grew up in was like that, but so many changes have happened that I barely know anyone there anymore, and since Mom has moved here, my connection has been even further severed.

And I would like to have a home church again, but it’s not exactly an easy process to find one. There are so many factors, like location (given my transportation situation) and style of worship and theological beliefs (conservative, but not overly so, because I’m progressively conservative, if that makes sense) and people of the right age and socio-economic class, and yet also diverse (because I don’t want everyone to be the same, and like in any family, diversity is good too). And there’s trying to find a church for myself, which would be on non-Sundays, or trying to find a church that both Prince Charming and I like are two different tasks.

Plus, I’ve been burned in the past, and am not ready to just jump in with both feet and hope a church gives me a big hug upon landing.

So tomorrow night I start attending a kind-of Bible study at a local church I attended a few times last fall. It’s Alpha, which is basically Christianity 101. I hope to… re-construct my faith in a safe environment. No one there knows me, and so the plan is to be absolutely honest about my doubts and feelings and thoughts (which I often find hard to do in comfortable, familiar Christian communities, because there’s the expectation that I’ve got my sh*t together). And while I don’t really need to re-construct my faith, per se, because my beliefs are still strong, it’s the practical application of them, and more importantly my relationship with the Christian community, that is really in need of a Band-Aid.

I will have to avoid the temptation to switch into Youth Pastor Kelly mode, where I have all the answers. I will listen, and I will ask questions. And I will not be afraid to sound heretical or blasphemous or sinful. Because how can I expect people to get to know the real me, be honest, or provide any sort of guidance or help if I am not, above all, honest and open? (That was a little pep talk for myself, in case you were wondering where I was going with that, because the idea really is a bit scary to me.)

And so tomorrow night at 6pm, I’m going over to the church to have dinner with a bunch of people I’ve never met (a terrifying prospect) and then sit down with a small group of them and make new friends. Or, at least, that’s the plan. It’s one of the reasons I’m only taking one class this fall, because I wasn’t sure that I could handle multiple classes, a Bible study, and time for my girls and Prince Charming. This is important, and so I’m making the time for it.

Two interesting news tidbits

From the Star-Tribune today:

A woman faces ex-communication for trying to become a Catholic priest [link removed]. Right on! Actually, I totally respect the right of the Catholic Church to disallow women priests, especially since I’m not Catholic and don’t think I have any right to criticize what I don’t know/understand. So really, what she should have done is become Episcopalian (which in many respects is similar to Catholicism), and then she could be ordained without incurring the wrath of the Catholic Church (which is not the same as the wrath of God, just to be clear). But, since it sounds like she is Catholic, I support her right to work inside the system (kinda) for change. I’m sure those statements could come back to bite me in the butt, especially if anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality in the church, but I’ll stand by them for now.

A series of interviews with people in the Twin Cities who are homeless [link removed], particularly relevant to the recent discussion we’ve been having here about Las Vegas. If you haven’t talked to someone who is homeless before, you should read this article and try to understand what life is like for them.


Well, this is definitely bad news [link removed]. Not for me, really, I guess. But no one likes to read a story like that and then realize it happened a mile from their home.

Additionally, this wasn’t surprising news [link removed], but it still makes me sad. I realize it’s quite a controversial subject (they were nearly split 50-50 on the vote), and a lot of people here in Minnesota completely disagree with my opinion/belief on the matter, and for a Friday morning, I just really don’t feel like getting into it. Suffice it to say, I’m not surprised, but hope that it remains a Minnesota thing and doesn’t make it nationally. As someone who used to work in a Methodist church, I know they’ve been struggling with this for years (as well as many other mainline denominations), and this has been in the works. I’m almost surprised it took this long.

This article held some good news [link removed]. It’s just a small step, but it’s something.

In funny news, Prince Charming’s horoscope this morning says:

Results are starting to show, and people are starting to notice. Work your mojo!

Why don’t I get good stuff like that?

I think I failed to mention that Bryan moved in Tuesday night. I was outside using pirated internet for most of the night, and then on the phone with Prince C harming and totally didn’t notice that he’d moved in until I saw the light on in his room.

And… I got nothin’ else. Boring work today that needs to get done, and I just have to push on through. At least it’s Friday. Actually, I don’t feel that urgent “thank goodness it’s Friday” feeling that I get most weeks. Maybe it’s because I didn’t start my work week until Wednesday at noon. Hmm. Think I can find a job where I only have to work half-time (and still get paid full-time)?

Just do it cuz I told you to

Wish me a happy one year anniversary! That’s one year ago today that I had my last day at the church and then drove away forever. OK, drove away from the idea of youth ministry as a career. Not from the church entirely. Amanda reminded me on Tuesday that I had said when I first left that I thought a year away from church would be about what I needed, and how did I feel about that now? I have mixed thoughts on that. I know that if I drag my heels too much longer, I’ll be back in school and busy enough that the luxury of sleeping in on Sundays will seem like a necessity. But I also know it can be easy to get sucked in and hyper-involved, and I don’t want that either. I’d like to find that happy balance in the middle, somewhere between “ChrEaster” (Christmas and Easter churchgoers) and being a deacon (church every week, committee meetings several times a month, visiting the sick, prayer meetings, small group meetings…..). That happy balance where church (and faith) are an important part of my life, but don’t define my existence.

I’ll blog more about last night and the potential roommate I met – but for now, I’m off to get coffee before the girl on phones goes for lunch.

Welcome To The Mess

In case no one has told you, it’s Good Friday, and since I’m bored and have nothing else to say, maybe I’ll talk about that. Call it Kelly’s Church Lesson for the Day (/week/month/whatever).

Let’s start with Lent. This is the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays), starting on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of preparation, for one to reflect upon one’s own life, one’s spirituality, whatever. I’m not sure why people give up things for Lent – it’s not been part of the faith traditions I grew up with.

Palm Sunday is the week before Easter. It celebrates when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem during the Passover Feast. Everyone thought He was the promised Messiah and was going to come free them from the Roman Empire. It was like a parade, everyone was so excited. Once they figured out it wasn’t going to be a political overthrow, however, their feelings turned.

Maundy Thursday is the celebration of the Passover Feast. It also happens to be the Last Supper, you know, the one that Jesus shared with the disciples right before the whole Good Friday part that I’m getting to. It’s when He washed their feet, and talked cryptically about His death that they didn’t understand, and revealed that He knew Judas was going to betray Him.

After the meal, He went up the Mount of Olives to pray. He brought a few disciples along for a while, but then left them behind, asking them to keep watch. They fell asleep (it was pre-dawn). Obviously, His conversation with God, His Father, was difficult, seeing as how what was about to happen was not exactly a happy thing. This is where, “not My will, but Yours” comes in. And Jesus comes down from the hill, finds the disciples asleep, is obviously disappointed, but then the soldiers come to arrest him. One of the disciples gets a little excited (I think it was Peter) and chops off a soldier’s ear with his sword, but Jesus goes peacefully (and I think He heals the ear, too, but my memory’s a bit fuzzy – if you really care, go look it up in the gospels).

Good Friday, then, begins with the imprisonment of Jesus, the religious trial, where the Jewish leaders decide to turn Him over to the Roman Empire since that’s the only way He’d be executed. Pilate, the judge, finds no wrong but is swayed by the angry crowd. He tries to give them the chance to let Jesus go free, but they choose Barabbas, a hardened criminal, instead. Thus begins the whipping, the beating, the mockery, the disrobing, of Jesus. Finally He’s made to carry His cross to the hill, is nailed on it, and hung up to die.

The sky turns black and it’s this scary few moments in history when God turns His back, which must have been incredibly painful for Jesus, seeing as how they’re Father/Son and also two of the three persons in the Trinity (which, I know, is confusing, seeing as how they’re all God but there’s only one God and not three, and just think of it being like three states of water – liquid, ice, and gas, and maybe that’ll help). Jesus says some things on the cross, everyone cries, and then He dies. He gets buried in a tomb, and there are soldiers placed outside to guard it, so that none of His disciples can come and steal the body and claim that He came back from the dead.

Angels, however, get around this plan, and on Sunday morning when some women come to treat the body with perfumes, the tomb is open and Jesus is gone. And He appears later to the disciples, several times actually, including times when Thomas puts his fingers in the wounds, and times when He seems to defy physics (and just “appear” in locked rooms).

That’s Easter. Jesus hangs around for a while, teaching the disciples, and then goes back up to heaven in a spectacular display. And we’ve been waiting ever since.

But the story doesn’t fully tell all that really happened at Easter, because there’s a lot going on behind the scenes that’s much more difficult to explain and understand, but the basics are this:

  • Everybody has sinned. (Romans 3:23)
  • Sin separates us from God. (Isaiah 59:2, Romans 6:23)
  • The only way to “pay” for sin is with the shedding of blood. (Hebrews 9:22)
  • Jesus stepped in and did this on our behalf. (Romans 5:8)
  • So we can have a relationship with God. (Romans 8:38-39)
  • When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin. He sees Jesus. (That’s good, since God can’t look at sin.) (Romans 5:1)
  • So we’re always forgiven, for everything, as long as we ask. (Romans 8:1)
  • And the promises of heaven and eternity with God, those are all ours for the taking. (Romans 10:9)

It’s a pretty sweet deal, really. Not to make Christianity seem easy, because there are plenty of times when it’s not. Like when you want to be mean but know you should forgive. Or when looking temptation in the face and turning it down. Or when you don’t. Or for people who live in those parts of the world where it’s not OK to be Christian, or even if you hang in certain social circles where it’s not OK (or just some parts of it aren’t cool, like not drinking to excess or having sex outside of marriage or… fill in the blank). There’s these lovely things called grace and forgiveness, however, that make it all possible.

And that is really what we talked about, all those years I taught youth group. Sure, it may not have seemed like it all the time. When we talked about prayer, or fighting with friends, or peer pressure, or having crushes, it may not have seemed like it, but Easter was always present, even if not center stage. And though it definitely hasn’t taken a major role in my life this past year (or, rather, I haven’t been focused on it), it’s still there. While I may be on hiatus, in a bit of a lull, living stagnantly, I never stopped believing any of it, even the fantastical stuff. Trying to figure out “me” outside of church hasn’t meant changing what I believe, but figuring out… what else there is to me besides church. I guess it’s not really all that healthy to define yourself entirely by your career and faith, both of which are so intricately entwined when the career is ministry. So hopefully I’m a bit healthier these days, and know myself a bit better, and see the world… more realistically, less black-and-white. [Editor’s note: there’s still a lot of black and white, don’t get me wrong, because I’m totally about right and wrong. But there’s a lot that’s fuzzy and gray, too, and I think now I can acknowledge that and make peace with it.]

So maybe I didn’t spend this Lent preparing for Easter. But maybe I spent the whole last year preparing. Not for this Sunday, but… for life after Easter, in the figurative sense. The life that goes on, day after day, after Jesus went back to heaven and the disciples were left with… a lot of confusion and messiness and real life.

So welcome to the mess. As you can tell, it’s pretty much that way here all the time. Brief moments of clarity and order, that are usually overtaken by… my inability to put thoughts into complete sentences that others understand.

Getting Caught Up

In attempting to catch up from vacation on all the reading I normally do on the web, I ran across these words that made me … think, I guess, and I thought I’d blog about them. You know, before taking the time to talk about my vacation and the rest of life. Which is coming. Really. But I’m trying to catch up at work as well. And maybe squeeze in a load or two of laundry. It’s a balancing act. Really, the trick here is to attempt to explain myself well and truly without revising in light of who I know will read this (because, you know, blogs really are just supposed to be a place where one can think aloud, and sometimes I treat this one more like a letter to friends than a journal, which is all fine and good until I go and have journal-worthy thoughts). [All that to say I’m trying to be honest but to not put too much stake in what I’m saying? I’ve really got to work on brevity.]

While I was too busy investigating whether this was the “right” puzzle piece, I forgot that love isn’t a puzzle at all. It’s not a search for one perfect piece or else all is lost. Instead, it’s a mixture of following God’s will, finding compatibility, and—the part I forgot—choosing to commit. Dating isn’t about finding what you think may be the “right” puzzle piece and then holding your breath through the vows to see if you picked right. It’s about choosing well (with an eye to compatibility, chemistry, and God’s guidance) and then committing to make it work. Love says, “I’m gonna stick with this even if I’m angry at you. Even if I hate you right now. Even if I’m miserable. Even if I’m bored hanging out with you. I choose to love you.”

With that realization, I felt tremendous freedom. No longer was I bound by infrequent emotions or what I thought was the “right” one or not. Now, I could listen wholeheartedly to God, realistically evaluate my compatibility with my girlfriend, and work to make our relationship the puzzle piece that fits.

I’ll readily admit that I fell into the idea of soul mates and “the one” and perfection and all that. It sounds great, doesn’t it? If you find your soul mate, then obviously everything in life will be wonderful. Clearly, if you’re soul mates, you won’t have any problems. Um, right. At least I came to realize that soul mates don’t come solely in the form of spouses. Betsy has been someone whom I have referred to as being my soul mate because we have that kind of relationship, and in many respects conversing with her feels like talking with myself, or like coming home. I’d probably say the same thing about Alison, but I just consider that our sisterly bond, I guess. I don’t think that your spouse/lover/whatever-you-want-to-call-that-person has to be your soul mate, or that you only have one soul mate. I do think he/she should be your best friend, but those two things are not mutually exclusive or inclusive. One or the other or both – it’s all good.

Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. I had a professor in college who challenged my belief that “there’s one right person out there for you.” He said God’s will was much more like a field, and you could run into any number of people that are right for you and you can choose and each would be acceptable to God. I still don’t agree with that, but as we all know, I have a pretty strong view of the sovereignty of God (and a much weaker belief in free will, but that’s not really what this discussion is about). I do believe that God has a plan and there’s one right person and here’s how that plays out: if you’re interested in someone, or dating someone, or whatever, and it doesn’t work out, even if you think that person was “the one,” they obviously weren’t. You can’t screw up your “only chance” with “the one.” Call it the steady hand of God, call it fate, or just call it crap if you disagree with me, but that’s where I’m coming from on this.

We all know (well, those of us who have grown up enough to know that life isn’t all roses and chocolate and once you get married or the closing credits roll, real life continues and it’s messy and hard and not always fun) that finding the right person is hard, and that even once you find that person it doesn’t mean everything is easy. Just because they’re “the one” doesn’t mean they don’t have flaws, or that you don’t have parts of you that annoy the crap outta them, or that you won’t disagree on potentially huge and important issues. I think it means, however, that it works anyways.

But back to the article I quoted. The point isn’t even about finding “the one,” but what you do with that find. The idea of sticking to our commitments is a foreign one in today’s society. But that magic combination the author referenced:

following God’s will, finding compatibility, and… choosing to commit

that’s a brilliant statement right there.

And now, as usual, I get to the point of my post where I realize I haven’t really said what I meant to say, but can’t figure out exactly how to express what I originally thought when I read the article. Crap. Well, maybe I’ll try again later. Those are my unedited thoughts for today.


I’m much better today. It was good just to leave the office yesterday – my mood improved as I got home. Add to that spaghetti, a phone call from Prince Charming, SNB with good conversation with Amanda and Liz, and I was doing alright by the end of the day. Plus, Amanda drove me home and we engaged in one of our favorite illicit activities. Now, I know how much you disapprove, Liz and Prince Charming, but in our defense, we’ve jointly owned this one pack of cigarettes for 2 1/2 years now, and it’s still only half empty. Plus, I’ve never figured out how to inhale. But smoking on the back porch, just that simple act, is one of the few ways I’ve ever managed to let my guard down enough to talk about things that I can’t often put into words. We seem to talk about things that only roam about in my head but I never manage to tell another living soul. Maybe can describe in the comments why it’s different than other conversations.

So we talked about death and boys and religion and faith and change and all sorts of stuff. At some point we realized we were freezing our a**es off, seeing as how we were sitting on the porch and it was probably 15* at the most outside, and we went inside and continued talking for a while. Romeo took the opportunity to love-up Amanda. I’m chopped liver, don’tcha know.

All in all, getting things out of my head and into words, starting to process, I just feel good today. Or at least as good as one might expect. The mood here isn’t nearly as bad as it was yesterday, though I’m sure when the final report comes in that my co-worker is gone, it’ll be bad. But I can cope with today.

So very surreal, to leave my house this morning all bundled up because it was 11* outside, open the front door and see the sun shining and songbirds chirping. Hard to put two and two together and have it make sense there. Not complaining – it’s why Minnesota winters are so much more bearable than elsewhere in the Midwest (or at least, that’s my opinion). [For those of you who are shocked that my past behavior as actually been my idea of tolerating and/or enjoying winter, yeah, sorry, but that’s about as good as it gets. If anyone can figure out a way that I can live somewhere that it’s sunny year-round, preferably with an ocean and mountains, and still be half a day’s drive from my family and even closer to Alison, let me know. Maybe global warming could help. Just kidding.]

I’ve got peanut butter cookies sitting here at my desk, staring at me. They want to be breakfast.

Quote for Inspiration

I keep a running list in Blogger of little things for inspiration. Old fortunes from cookies, quotes from books I read, that sort of thing. I realized today I have nothing particularly interesting to say, and actually remembered the list, and thought I’d put it to good use.

“What do you want to be?”
“I would like to be myself. I tried to be other things but I always failed.”

Trying to explain my thoughts on this without people reading the wrong things into it is proving difficult. But I’ll just start where I start and see where it takes me.

Since I was 16, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Before that I was trying to decide between being a teacher, a psychologist, or a lawyer. (Yeah, I know that last one is pretty laughable.) But once the whole ministry thing came into the picture, it all came into focus and became clear rather quickly. And that was the path I was on from that point.

So when I graduated college and started working full-time in my chosen profession, it would make sense that I had some sense of arrival, that I was finally “there.” And I think there was some of that, though it’s hard to say really, because the situation in the church went downhill pretty quickly and most of my time involves memories of the arguments people had and the hurtful things they did to each other. Thankfully, I was almost never caught in the crossfire, but any personal growth and maturing or accepting adulthood that I might have done got put on the back burner, so to speak. And then I moved to Minnesota and into a job where I was very unhappy and really began to question if ministry was right for me. But (to put it in the nicest, healthiest way possible) I was delivered/removed from that situation (OK, I was fired, if you want to split hairs) and the next… six months were more about recovering from that than they were about evaluating my career path. I took the next Church job for two reasons: it was temporary, and it was part-time. All I knew was that I couldn’t commit more than that to a church, after my last experiences. My “temporary” position lasted nearly 3 years, and I’d still be working there if I hadn’t taken a proactive stance on my future.

Back around Christmas 2004, after several conversations with people (who know who they are and that they’re partly responsible for major life changes that ensued), I realized that I didn’t want to be working at the Church any longer, but that I needed a way out and a new direction for my life. I ran through the possible careers that involved working with teenagers. I’d already tried several different social work venues through volunteer opportunities, and really wasn’t inspired. Psychology wasn’t the way I wanted to go either. I suppose I could have thought about coaching or music lessons or something along those lines, if I had any amount of talent in those arenas to be able to make money at it. When teaching crossed my mind, it felt right. It was, after all, the part of my ministry jobs that I enjoyed the most and spent the most time on (much to the chagrin of many junior high boys, who would have rather played football in the parking lot all night long). I tried to be smart about the decision, job shadowing to see if I could really do the work all day long (having now worked full-time for five years and knowing what I could and could not handle), talking to teachers, going to the preview night at my chosen school…. And all the signs pointed to moving forward.

Once accepted to Hamline, I turned in my resignation and waited for time to pass. And it did. And then I realized I needed to take some time off, that I’d jumped a bit quickly into the grad school thing and needed a breather. It wasn’t that my decision was wrong or I was doubting my new career choice, but that I needed to take a step back and just be me for a while.

Part of leaving the Church that I was looking forward to was not attending services for a while. Years upon years of required attendance at 1-2 services every Sunday plus all the special stuff, on top of four years of required chapel attendance in college, just meant I was a bit burnt out on the thing. And I wanted it to be a choice again, something I wanted to participate in, not something I felt like I had to do. Worship should be a joyful choice, not a task or a job. For the most part, I have really enjoyed Sundays off (with the exception that it is sometimes hard for me to remember when Monday comes, because I can’t define Sunday by early morning services anymore). I’ve been to exactly two services since May 22nd, and at the moment really don’t feel compelled to go. And I’ve already blogged about a bunch of this, so I’ll just instead of repeating it all.

That was a very long, roundabout way to get to this statement, which I will explain right away.

When it comes to “being myself” these days (see inspiring quote), I am feeling quite lost.

This really isn’t the personal crisis that it could be, I suppose. I mean, I don’t think about it all that often. It doesn’t keep me awake nights. I don’t have weird dreams that when I throw the symbols into search engines they give me interpretations that are bizarre and confusing. In fact, I haven’t had a single conversation with anyone about this (that I know of, at least). So really, it’s not all that big of a deal.

Life is good. I am happy. I have job security. I have good friends who are willing to put up with my melodrama and listen quite well, and then, at the right times, smack me upside the head. (They’re also very fun to hang out with – girls, we need some margaritas one of these days – Amanda, perhaps when we go shopping to spend your winnings?) My family continues to amaze me and get healthier as time goes on. I actually met a boy, despite my complete inability to make new friends or talk to strangers or generally interact with people (OK, that was quite the overstatement – I’m just a little shy, OK, a lot, and have a touch of the social anxiety, not enough to put me into panic attacks or anything, just enough to avoid people… often). I have a new direction for my life that, while I’m not currently pursuing, makes me happy and I will find fulfilling (I can handle being in a holding-pattern of sorts with that for now, since it is self-imposed and greatly needed for my emotional health and sanity).

But having defined myself for so long in terms of church and faith and belief, and trying to come up with new ways to define myself, has left me a bit without a working definition. I no longer feel like I’m on a path (even if the path gets rocky, or one gets turned around and doesn’t know which way is coming and going, or one comes across a fork in the road and doesn’t know what to do). I’m in the middle of a field. A really big field. Generally, I can tell where the field is (to use the analogy, I could get specific in terms of North America – United States – Minnesota). I can’t see the edges, and it doesn’t really seem like there’s a right or wrong way to go about things. Climbing the trees is fun and all (maybe there’s even a swing to spend an afternoon in the breeze on), but at some point, if I’m going to get headed towards a goal of some sort, it will be helpful (one might even say necessary) to know where I am. (I hear directions work best that way, if you know both the starting point and the ending point.)

It’s like Kathleen Kelly (played by Meg Ryan, whose hair I am still jealous of) says in You’ve Got Mail:

Sometimes I wonder about my life. … I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.

Good night. (Well, good afternoon. After all, it’s only 12:07.)

Bragging On My Kids (And Me)

So last night in youth group, the adults and kids met, sans moi, and prepared a time so the kids could get to share memories etc with me before I leave (since next week a lot of kids won’t be there and then the following week is our end of year picnic and last event). I wanted to share what the kids wrote down because it made me very happy, the things that they said. If you knew them, especially specific answers, you’d be amazed. It’s such a wonderful gift they gave me, to write down answers to these questions, then share some with me, then we prayed, and I got to take all the answers home with me. Beautiful. I’ll include their names so credit goes where credit’s due, and also because Amanda and Liz know the kids. I also thought I’d stress what I liked best, and add my own comments.

1. Funniest thing you remember Kelly doing or saying

  • The funniest thing I can remember Kelly doing is when we went to the Halloween party at Clearwater and she dressed as Miss Piggy! …And oinked… LOL. -Katie I need to find that picture of me – I really enjoyed this too.
  • The funniest thing I remember Kelly doing or saying involved the Taste of Minnesota, a few missed buses and a long time in downtown St Paul… Also Kelly being able to beat Shane at “Honey If You Love Me.” -Liz
  • Cake fight with Randy. -Tim Can I just say that this may be my favorite memory of my time at the church. I completely forgot to think before acting, but it was a lot of fun.
  • When Jade and I started laughing and got Kelly to laugh is something I will never forget. -Jazz
  • When she was in the “your mom” jokes at one youth group that shut Will and me up. -Shane
  • “Your Mom” jokes and cupcake fight. -Will
  • The cake fight with Randy. -Jade
  • Playing wacky-ball. -Sam Everyone should get to play wacky-ball sometime in their life. It’s kickball, but with a football, and the bases are run 2-1-3-home. It’s a great equalizer because everyone’s bad at it.
  • Getting yelled at at Happys for going down the slide. -Randy
  • Miss Piggy at Halloween Clearwater Retreat. -Ana

2. What has Kelly said to you that will remember most (or that sticks out in your mind)?

  • I will always remember how Kelly always gave me a look when I did something wrong (she smiled with a mad face)… funny. -Katie
  • That I am fine right now. -Liz
  • God loves you. -Tim
  • Kelly always said, “They don’t have to like me!” -Carla
  • I’ll remember forever when Kelly gave Jade and I the “boyfriend” talk. -Jazz I so don’t remember doing this, but I’ve given a lot of girls the “boyfriend” talk.
  • All the different words for “butt.” -Shane and Will patookis, tookis, tooshie, rear, seat… the kids apparently came up with 20 while I wasn’t in the room.
  • That I’m funny and cool to be around. -Jade
  • Everybody is special through God’s eyes. -Sam
  • Randy be quiet. -Randy
  • I loved it when you read “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe” and then you made the lion prayer thing.

3. What will you remember most about Kelly?

  • The thing that I will remember most about Kelly is her smile/laugh… her smile and laugh are the same… if that makes sense. -Katie
  • Her teaching me about God. -Liz
  • How you stood up for your beliefs. You taught me to stand up for mine. -Tim Since Tim is one of my adult volunteers, this really means a lot.
  • You always had a welcoming smile on your face. -Carla
  • I will never forget how Kelly always made me laugh. -Jazz
  • How she taught us that worship can be fun and not boring. -Shane
  • Her hair. -Will
  • She’s nice and awesome! -Jade
  • She’s a vegetarian. -Sam I love that everyone remembers this, but no one seemed to be able to remember when I stopped being a vegetarian. But the church was great about being accommodating of this for most of the 2 and a half years I was there.
  • The curly red hair. – Randy
  • You’re the only person I know who is like you. You’re your own person. -Ana

4. Funniest or strangest thing you did in Kelly’s presence

  • Me and Ana always did funny or strange things in front of Kelly…. I’m strange… I know it!! LOL. -Katie
  • Broke a fan at church. -Liz
  • Dress up at Clearwater Forest for a party or play. Walk on crutches for my picture. -Tim
  • Took off my pants (twice). -Shane I think I have to add that he had shorts on underneath, but two weeks in a row he took off his pants in youth group, and then took off his shirt too (he had another one on underneath), and I just ended up saying, stop taking off your clothes!
  • There are too many and I can’t think. -Will
  • Laugh attack with Jazz. -Jade
  • Rolling myself in the rugs. -Sam

5. Best memory of time with Kelly

  • My best memories are at Clearwater… we always seem to stay in the same room… fun times! -Katie
  • The night at church before I left for Africa with the “laying on of hands.” -Liz
  • Mission Trip to Chicago. How tired we were on the last day but we kept going. -Tim I have never been that tired in my life. I remember just looking at Tim and thinking I could sleep standing up right there.
  • Supervising Kelly and the P girls in catching baby sunfish at the cabin was really memorable and a lot of fun. -Carla
  • Best memory with Kelly was at the winter retreat with Kelly walking in the snow. -Jazz
  • All of them. -Shane and Will
  • Winter Clearwater retreat. -Jade
  • I remember when you took me to Caribou to tell me the story from the Bible and when we were playing Cadoo, Malarky, Scattergories Junior! -Molly
  • The most part of the memory that I will remember about the Hands on Helping! I had a great time with you on the retreat! And when last year she used to drive me home every single Wednesday! And even when we went to the sleepover! And when we went to Panera Bread! For breakfast! -Molly
  • Playing wacky-ball. -Sam
  • The cupcake fight. -Randy
  • When you and Katie picked me up in summer to go work on the construction of the well for the skit we did. -Ana I love how memories evolve over time. This was actually Spring Break. The best part was when we spray painted the floor in the youth room, not on purpose. We made such a mess.

6. What have you learned about God or your faith from Kelly?

  • I had fun when you (Kelly) taught about Bible study… you made it funny.. so I remember (kind of)… Fun fun fun! -Katie
  • There’s not enough room on this paper… -Liz
  • I learned a lot about praying, having God be a large part of my life. Relying on God in all things. -Tim
  • I have learned that fundamentalists and liberals get along just fine as they share their faith. -Carla Most of the people at the church are much more liberal than I am, and it was really OK almost all of the time. I stayed away from teaching certain topics, but other than that we really were able to have intelligent discussions and disagree. I liked that.
  • I learned that you really do need to get to know a person in order to like them. -Jazz I’m worried about what this might mean…
  • She has taught me to believe even when I’m in doubt. -Shane
  • That there are a lot of unlikely heroes in the Bible. -Will
  • Too much to write. -Jade
  • I have learned a lot with you and the Bible story and when we made the wax candle. That was fun! -Molly
  • I learned that God was really mad at the Israelites. -Sam
  • It’s like the book “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.” -Randy
  • We learned to be more accepting of God and faith from you. -Ana

7. What is your wish for Kelly as she moves onto another stage in her life?

  • Kelly… I hope that you have fun… you are a fun teacher and kids will like you!! -Katie
  • I hope that you are happy where you are, and able to always find joy in your experiences. -Liz
  • I wish you to be happy and fulfilled in your life. To be secure in your call to be a teacher. To know that you are a talented and special person. -Tim
  • Kelly, I hope that your life contains fulfillment. You will be in my continued prayers. -Carla
  • I hope Kelly will never forget us and have a great time teaching. I also hope she will visit. -Jazz
  • I wish/hope that the children who learn from her get to experience all the great memories we got to experience. -Shane
  • Don’t forget to have fun. -Will
  • I hope she has a great life and that her students aren’t as cool as us (they prolly won’t be). -Jade
  • My wish is that I hope you like being a great teacher! -Molly
  • Do well in her school and new job. -Sam
  • To be successful. -Randy
  • I don’t wish anything for you, because I know you will do well in life because you’re you, and no one can change that, only help it. -Ana

I’m humbled.

Two good verses on Wisdom

Proverbs 19:8

To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.”

Proverbs 24:14

“In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul. If you find it, you will have a bright future, and your hopes will not be cut short.”

Let me tell a story

Or, rather, quote a story from the book I’m reading (see below).

Story starts out with the creation, and Adam, being like God, both male and female. Then God splits Adam into the separate genders. That’s where this story begins.


The Woman had long hair that hung loose, and it waved like the serpentine sea. And as they lay in love together, it smelled to the Man of cinnamon. And to the Woman, the hollow under his arm smelled like apples warming in the sun. And they were as close as any two can be.

Then the Man said, “Get below me!” The Woman smiled, for she thought he was jesting. Bug he said again, “Get below me!”

And the Woman did not smile so much and she said, “We were made equally and together of the same dust from all the four corners of the earth.”

But he said again, “Lie below me!”

And she said, “We were one body and one being, for we were made he and she together in God’s own image, and we cried equally to God out of our loneliness. And that is the only reason God made us two.”

But the man said only, “Below me!”

Then the Woman said – and now she spoke more loudly and faster – “Together we named every animal that prowls the earth, every bird that wings the sky, every fish that cleaves the waters. And the angels so envied the glory and the vastness that was equally ours when we were undivided, that they cried to God, ‘What is this creature that you are so mindful of it?’ And yet you say to me, ‘Get below me!'”

And in anger she cried out the ineffable name of God. And the power

of the name was so great it lifted her into the air, and she hovered above the Man. And he stood up and called, demanding, after her. Then she was gone, and he saw her no more.

Break in story, Woman does some bad stuff, becomes Lilith, has half-demon children…. Not exactly relevant to where I’m going with this.

“The Plotting of the Angels”

So the man, having lost the Woman who had been the other equal half of him, cried again to God of his loneliness.

This time, as he slept God took out a rib from him and fashioned that small part of him into a Woman. And God braided and tamed the Woman’s hair, and covered her with a sheet of light smooth as a finger-nail, and adorned her with four-and-twenty rings and bracelets and necklaces. Then did God waken the Man. And the Man saw her, and kissed her. And they lived together in the Garden of Delight. And this Woman did as the Man wished.

Another break in story, describing the angels’ desire to not honor humanity, thus several begin to plot to do harm.

And while he had waited, God divided the creature into two, first a Man and a Woman with long loose hair who was as proud and passionate and powerful as Sammael [one of the angels] himself and who left the Man, and later out of the Man alone God had made a Woman with braided hair, to do as others wished her to. Then Sammael laughed for he knew the moment had come. For this one had been made only to please the Man, and had no strength of her own.

Now, I’m pretty sure this author is a feminist and a scholar, and while her work is based in ancient stories etc, it is still, as she claims, legend, so I don’t want anyone reading too much into it. In the introduction, Berg says she tried to separate the stories from morality and religion, so one can assume we’re not supposed to see them that way.

Very interesting, however, the way that whole story of the fall of man is laid out here. Man and Lilith, then Man and Woman, and that last part, about her being made only to please the Man and having no strength of her own. I’m very interested to see what, if anything, happens next with these characters. I’m fairly certain the author doesn’t believe all womankind to “have no strength of her own.” I think she was trying to get at something else. However, if it is really to be read only as a story and a legend, and not as any claim on morality, spirituality, or political and sociological ideas.

What do you think?

  • Rockin’ out to: mix cd, favs from last fall
  • Wisdom Source: Yeah, that whole not reading till I moved thing didn’t work. I pulled out a book I bought this weekend at Borders (hey, it was under five bucks). Now I’m reading The God Stories: a celebration of legends, by Leila Berg. Very good.
  • Today’s Wisdom: A loving heart is the truest wisdom. -Charles Dickens

Sex diseases continue to rise in Minnesota

Courtesy of the Star Tribune, this article was published yesterday [link removed].

I want to put something “out there” on the record. I am a firm proponent of ABSTINENCE. I myself have been practicing it for going on 26 years now. It works (no STDs, no unplanned pregnancies). Why have I chosen to be abstinent? Mainly because I believe that it’s what God wants (check out His book – The Bible). I made a promise in junior high that I would remain celibate until my wedding night, and I intend to keep it, even if I never marry.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of abstinence-only teaching. I think that abstinence should be offered up as the ONLY SAFE SEX. But I also think that youth should be taught how to prevent STDs, pregnancy, etc. I also think they should be taught the consequences of having sex before you’re ready. I think that parent-teen dialogs should be open enough to share thoughts on the matter. If I had kids, I would say to them, “I don’t want you having sex. But if you do, use a condom.” I don’t think that teaching kids to practice SAFER sex (because abstinence really is the ONLY SAFE SEX – I did a report on this in college) means you’re telling them it’s OK to do it. It just means you value their life over their sometimes wrong choices.

That’s all I have to say on the matter. I am wondering what you think….

Calvin Miller

I started a new book last night (after having finished book 2 of Lord of the Rings and being too broke to purchase book 3 right now) by Calvin Miller (see the link for biography information). The book I’m reading is “A Requiem For Love,” which is basically a dramatic, poetic retelling of the creation story. Here’s the part that caught me last night:

[God speaking to man] “… There is no such thing as ‘giftless’ love.
The very words accuse each other.
My gift to you is love, but
Worship is your gift to Me.
And Oh, most glorious it is!
Worship always calls Me ‘Father’ and
Makes us both rich with a common joy.
Worship Me, for only this great gift
Can set you free from the killing love of self,
And prick your fear with valiant courage
To fly in hope through moments of despair.
Worship will remind you
That no man knows completeness in himself.
Worship will teach you to speak your name,
When you’ve forgotten who you are.
Worship is duty and privilege,
Debt and grand inheritance at once.
Worship, therefore, at those midnights
When the stars hide.
Worship in the storms till love
Makes thunder whimper and grow quiet
And listen to your whispered hymns.
Worship and be free.”

&!@%# it!

Could life be more complicated? This is what I get for making blanket statements. I rashly said this weekend that I wasn’t reformed in my theology. Well, guess what, that’s totally wrong! I spoke out of my butt, apparently. I AM a reformed theologian. Who knew? Wanna know why? Well, even if you don’t, you get to find out.

Here’s my simple explanation of reformed theology, based widely on this document [link removed].

The Bible – it’s a good thing. Use it. As the basis for everything. It’s authoritative, it’s true, it’s written by God.

God – He’s sovereign. As in, in control of everything. EVERYTHING. And over everything and above everything and generally the one in charge and BETTER than everything too. Sovereign = ruler, king. That’s the God of reformed faith.

Calvin – yeah, we like him. A lot. TULIP, all that, it’s good. We believe it. Yes, I’m a Calvinist. Always have been. I should finish reading the Five Points of Calvinism. Hmm. Where did I put that?

The World – yeah, go into it and DO something.

Surprisingly enough, I can’t really find anything specific about Jesus. I mean, He’s mentioned in TULIP, but… I’m looking for more. I’ll try to get back to this.

This weekend (part 2)

I got to go to a really awesome concert this weekend. I sponsor a child named Iriseth, who lives in Columbia, through Compassion International. Compassion emailed some of us a while back because they needed volunteers to work at their booth at a concert at the Xcel this weekend. I was free, so I decided why not. I figured I would get to listen to a bunch of cool music (if not see it, since I figured I’d be busy working the whole concert) and do something good with my time. I like Compassion. I joked all week that I was going to be “selling children” at the concert, but really, it’s a pretty serious thing. On the top of one of my piles was a little boy who was not even 4. I don’t know all of the criteria for how they select children, but what a sucky life, to start out so young, being in need of so much help. I gave him away first.

The cool thing was that I got to see most of the concert, since I ended up being a rover and not working at the table. It was a combination concert – the iWorship tour and the Adoration tour happened to come to the Twin Cities at the same time, so they joined up, which meant that everybody cut their gig in half, but you got, like, 4 times the concert. It started at 6:30 and didn’t get out until almost 11!

I had an awesome time. I stood in the back of the main level (not the floor, but the seats) right around door 117 (if any of you know where that is) and had a pretty good view the whole time (except when this one guy between me and the stage would stand up, but he didn’t do that much). What was great was that I really felt free to worship. In college, all of a sudden worship looked different than it had at my church growing up. We barely clapped for the little kids’ choir growing up, and all of a sudden, people were praising God with their whole bodies! It was strange and unnerving at first, but God gave me the gift of eyelids – seriously, He showed me I could worship quite well with my eyes closed, and then I wouldn’t be paying attention to anyone but me & Jesus. I had quite a few friends who were charismatic in their worship styles, and secretly longed to be able to express myself freely like they did, with hands lifted high, jumping about, whatever. I could never seem to escape myself (or thinking about others around me) though.

Since college, I’ve worked at quite a few churches, all of which have been conservative in their worship. It’s a struggle to get my current church to clap during a song to the beat. And when Amanda & I go to The Rock where other people are worshiping freely, I feel overly-conscious about what she (and others) will think of me. It’s irrational, I know, but it’s always been that way. Well, this weekend I was alone. No one there knew me. And I finally felt able to praise God with all of me, hands lifted, dancing, voice. It was wonderful.

More later.

Listening to: Jeff Deyo & Rita Springer, “Bless the Lord” on Worship Leader’s Song Discovery, volume 43