Birthday gifts and a video blog

Friday night video blog for you!

(Please ignore the jump in the middle. Yes, I edited this.)

(Please ignore the loud sound at the end. I have no idea what that is.)

(I’ve never uploaded a video to  youtube before.)



How I Feel About Gay Marriage

My neighbor sent me an out-of-the-blue text this week.

“How do you feel about gay marriage?”

His first mistake was sending that message to me via text. That’s not a question that can be answered in 160 characters or less! Any type of relational question takes some serious thought and more than a few sentences.

Therefore, I give you the pleasure of reading my answer. This is how I feel about gay marriage.

Much of what I’m going to say come from observations, and not personal experience. I, sadly, do not have many gay and lesbian friends (that I know of) so I can’t claim these thoughts come from real conversations with friends. Take that into account with what you read, and forgive my ignorance.

I think, that it would be really difficult to be gay or lesbian. I’ve yet to hear a story of a child who, when asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?”, their eyes light up and they shout “I want to be gay!”

I’ve yet to know of a teenager who, after being ridiculed and possibly physically abused in school, says “I want nothing more in life than to be gay”.

I’ve never heard of an adult who wants to love and be loved romantically, who says, “well I’m going to choose to be gay because that’s the easiest route to eternal happiness”.

I think that being gay is not an easy life.

Gay marriage, I imagine, includes the same issues that straight (heterosexual) marriages have. Who’s going to take out the trash? Who’s going to pay the bills? I don’t eat tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I hate when you make that noise. I love when you look at me like that. I don’t want to be treated this way. I appreciate when you do this for me.

To  marry a person, means to commit to living with that person. It means sharing life together. It means experiencing great joys while working through the muck of life. Marriage is supposed to mean “when no one else is, I am for you. I am on your team. I want to get to know you more every day”.

Marriage takes a great deal of vulnerability and courage. Those two reasons are likely the reason I’m still single. Not exactly the person to be speaking about or making decisions regarding marriage.

Everywhere I turn, I see marriages that ended. Each marriage writes its own story, but our country does not hold up a reputation of strong, long-lasting marriages. Although I won’t give up great hopes for marriage, I’m not naive enough to believe that choosing to share my life with someone is a decision to take lightly.

A gay marriage, includes all the above, plus any additional pressure regarding sexual orientation. Which, as you already know, there is a great deal of outside pressure and, dare I say, abuse.

In summary, how do I feel about gay marriage?

I am sure that being gay and being married must take courage, strength, support, and trust.

In addition, I think a heterosexual marriage must take courage, strength, support, and trust.

Upon reading the condensed version of my response, my neighbor sent another text, “Do you believe gay people should be allowed to get married?”

Ah, so that’s what you really wanted to know.



A Tale of Wealth and Poverty

I planned on stopping for lunch at 12:30, so I’d have enough time to make my 1:00 meeting. The meeting was three blocks away from my office, and lunch about half way between.

As I approached the next intersection, I saw a familiar face. An older, homeless woman, who normally doesn’t like to be bothered and likely fights mental illness (I say this because of interactions with her, not because she’s homeless). She stood, with her overflowing cart, in the middle of the street, distraught because her cart had tipped over. From a distance, I saw three college-aged men briefly speaking with her, before they walked away.

I hung up my phone conversation and began to help pick up her belongings. As I did, she told me that the men I saw had tipped her cart over.

I couldn’t stop thinking that I needed to hurry and buy lunch so that I didn’t miss my meeting.

We finished picking up, what looked like rubbish to me, and she was on her way to finish crossing the street. I turned and ordered a vegetarian sandwich with Provolone cheese, and all the fixings.

As I ate, I wondered, should I have invited her to lunch? I mean, I had a meeting to get to but how important was my meeting compared to taking my chance to invest in her life?

I’d seen her before. Many times, actually. In the park, down the street. I’ve always said hello and she always angrily ignores or yells at me. One time, she asked for money and cussed me out when I offered to buy her lunch instead.

I finished my bread and vegetables, and began walking towards my meeting. When I made it to the same intersection as before, I saw this woman standing on the other side of the street. Apparently, still recovering from the earlier incident.

I crossed the street, and asked if she was okay. Her response? “Those Russians are new to town and they’re always fighting for their territory.” She then offered me coffee, and snack mix.


How can I serve God and still have a paycheck?

How can I serve God and still pay my bills? A University student posed this question to me as we waited to package meals for the homeless. I nodded in sympathy, he wasn’t the first to ask this question.

We went on to discuss what it looks like to live out our beliefs through action. We want to act on our calling. However, if I’m called to serve meals to the homeless, I may end up doing nothing else and become homeless myself. Where’s the balance (and did I really need a college degree for that?)?

Our culture asks a lot of questions about career versus calling. We want to know our purpose, our reason for being. We also want stability, to live in hope that our bills will be paid, food will be on the table, and we can take a vacation every once in a while.

I believe that our career and calling aren’t necessarily the same. A career is what we do. A calling is who we are.

I remember going to dinner with a church leader and talking about this very thing. As I caught him up on my life, I mentioned that I began another application for grad school. “I feel like I’m being drug into grad school, kicking and screaming”, I said, as I held back tears. With compassion, my friend responded, “is that the way God usually works in your life?”.

Those words hurled my anxiety into the Cumberland River. As we talked about what I thought I was supposed to do with my life and how I felt like I was failing, my friend continued with these words, “your career doesn’t have to be your calling. Your career can help you accomplish your calling.”

Well, that’s a different way of thinking.

With this logic, I could be “called” to rescue slaves, but I don’t have to be Aaron Cohen. I could work at a fast-food restaurant to pay my bills, and fight slavery on nights and weekends. Or, I could be the CEO of a high-profit company, and give my money to people like Cohen, as well as make sure that my company practices fair trade.

I  never went to Grad school, by the way. While I agree that it would be a good idea, every time I consider it, I can’t go through with it. Instead, I choose to practice my skills on small scales, learning as I go and giving all I can.

I’m convinced that we all play a role in the significance of the world. I’m also convinced that our “calling” isn’t keeping itself a secret from us. You already know who you are and what you were meant for. Go, and do that thing.


Guest Post: Lynn Bell

I’m pleased to share today’s post with you from Lynn Bell. Lynn brings up some challenges in family relationships, as she shares her own story. You can find Lynn on her blog or Facebook.

Family is an important topic in the Gospel of Matthew. The book opens with a genealogy, and among the 42 fathers in Jesus’ lineage four notable mothers are also named, plus of course his mother Mary. In fact, the word mother occurs more in Matthew than in any other Gospel.

In Matthew Jesus quoted Mosaic laws about honoring parents and not cursing them. He even rebuked religious leaders for creating loopholes that released them from providing financial support to their parents.

Amongst all this focusing on the family, some other things Jesus said seem almost paradoxical. After speaking on the imminent persecution of his followers, he ended this way:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

Matthew 10:34-38 (ESV)

With a subsequent reference to leaving “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands” for his name’s sake (Matthew 19:29, ESV), it’s clear that although family is important it must play second fiddle to Jesus.

Like you, I love my family. Family nurtures us, teaches us, supports us, loves us. Today’s younger generation enjoys especially close family ties. College students call home more than ever before, and many young adults are forced by the lousy job market to move home. Tens of thousands across theU.S.are blessed by loving parents who are helping them get by in rough times.

Yet, there is a sense in which even the best of family relationships can interfere with our spiritual relationships. We are unlikely to face the life-endangering betrayal predicted in Matthew 10, but in growing up we must face the fact that sticking too close to family can get in the way of sticking close enough to Jesus.

For example, parents may impose on adult children their own materialistic dreams for financial success. Or maybe they can’t quite let go of control. Sibling dynamics can stay mired in adolescent mode well into adulthood. Sons and daughters can consume parents with their daily drama. Families may have issues with manipulative control, financial dependence, physical illness, or emotional dysfunction. Family religious beliefs may differ markedly from our own.

Sometimes we can’t truly take up the cross until we leave family, at least in certain aspects. I had to do that myself several years ago. It was a painful decision to make, but I left my parents’ conservative, legalistic denomination in favor of a freer, grace-embracing group of believers. I will never regret following Jesus down this path. I wish, though, that my parents could have accepted my choice without feeling so devastated. I am glad they still love me, but our formerly close relationship has been irrevocably altered.

Family really is precious. We love our family members, respect and honor them, enjoy them, desire their favor, and want what’s best for them.  Without them, it can feel like our hearts are left with a gaping hole.

So maybe when we must choose between him and them, Jesus made things a bit easier by redefining family: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).  Remembering that Jesus is family too, we have the courage to take up the cross and follow. 

Cross references:

  1. Matthew 12:50 : [John 15:14; Heb. 2:11]
  2. Matthew 12:50 : Matt 7:21; [Luke 11:28]

Lynn Bell is the author of a new women’s Bible study called “The Gentle Savior,” which focuses on seeing Jesus through the eyes of the women who met him. She works full-time as the director of development communications in the Education School at the University of Virginia. She and her husband Randy live in Charlottesville and have two lovely college-age daughters. She blogs at


Breaking The Cycle Of Violence

Mr. D, as we called him, was one of my favorite teachers in high school. Tall and thin, with an unforgettable face, Mr. D. couldn’t hide a twinkle in his eyes, as if he always knew something we didn’t. Imported mustache wax ensured the perfect handlebar mustache that framed a wiry smile every student knew well. You either feared him or you loved him, but either way you respected him, and when he talked, you listened.

Mr. D taught Social Sciences – mainly History, Humanities & Comparative Religions. I learned a lot from Mr. D., once I stopped being intimidated, including how to honor commitments and conquer a lengthy research paper.

“The only thing we’ve learned from history, is that we don’t learn from history”, he said, in a passing comment. I think teachers already know that their comments are never only in passing. I immediately decided that I didn’t want those words to ring true for me. That quote truly impacts my life.

I see how, in thousands of years of existence, humanity continues the same patterns with different colors. I consistently ask, “what can I do to break this cycle, so that I’m not repeating the same issues for another ten years?”

War and Violence have played a role in humanity almost since our inception. Once violence starts, it gathers speed and ground like a black snowball rolling down Mount Kilimanjaro. The only way to stop it from careening off of a cliff is to break it up or create a barrier. Unfortunately, “the only thing we’ve learned from history is that we don’t learn from history”. We throw focused snowballs to break up the giant one only to have the pieces begin rolling on a new course.

Violence begets violence.

If we want to break the cycle of violence, we have to be the ones to break it. And we must do so in a way that doesn’t lead to more violence.

In this week following the celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., I think we can honor his life by thinking about the violence we witness in our lives and how we can creatively dissolve a rolling snowball. He gave voice to breaking cycles of violence, and we celebrate his courage.

How can we learn from our history?


Growing Up, Giving More, and Going Forward

Last year, I added the tagline, “Growing up, Giving more, and Going forward” to the blog. You’ll see that phrase scattered throughout the site if you look closely enough. At the top of the page, the words, “Grow, Give, Go” categorize most my posts.

When I tell people I’m a blogger, they inevitably ask what I blog about. My elevator speech needs some work, but I thought I’d take this regularly scheduled Wednesday post to expand the tagline a little more.

I strongly believe in the importance of social justice, but that we can’t give to others if we aren’t first whole ourselves.

Social justice, bringing justice to the social parts of life (meeting basic human needs with dignity), I believe is a crucial element to living an abundant life. Going one step further, I am convinced that if Jesus is who he says he is, than my life is intertwined with everything that breathes. I want my life to reflect that belief.

Circling back, if I make decisions that reflect my beliefs, I need to know how to do that. Knowing how becomes useless if I’m emotionally unhealthy. In other words, knowledge becomes useless without action.

I also hope that through sharing parts of my story, others will find healing in parts of theirs.

Then together we essentially grow up, so that we can give more to others, go forward with our story and in turn, move forward the story of the world.

So that’s what we have going on here at This year, I hope to write within those three topics, and dig deep into what we mean when we say “I want to live a full, rich, (abundant) life.” 

Photo Credit: Amy Lynne Photography (used by permission)

If you’d like to contribute at any time, I accept submissions for Guest Posts. Also, while I’m great at speaking with authority, I’m not always right (I just act like I am). I often leave things out. Sometimes on purpose, others because I write at 10pm and can never stick to my “no communication after 10pm” rule.

I give you complete authority to help out with all the above by contributing in the comments.

If you’ve never commented in a blog before, it’s needlessly intimidating, and a lot of fun. Commenting on a blog is equivalent to a Facebook “like” or comment, or speaking up in class. All comments are posted without moderation, unless you get caught in my spam filter which I sadly can’t figure out how to access. Also, if you’re rude and disrespectful, I promise to engage my right to delete your comment.

Here we go…Growing Up, Giving More, and Going Forward.

Give, Go, Grow

How To Handle Criticism

When Holly and I drove to North Carolina last summer, we talked for a solid eight hours. We didn’t know each other before meeting at 4am that morning, so we found plenty to talk about. Then we spent four days at the Wild Goose Festival, and talked for another solid eight hours home. We built enough material in that one road trip to fuel this blog for years (including the fact that we both love to include extraneous details in story telling that are vitally important to no one but us.).

At one point, we talked about our approaches to conflicts. Specifically, how we respond to criticism.

In the past, I tended to take criticism extremely personally. Criticism felt like an attack on my character, my very being. Since I already lived with thoughts such as, “you’re not good enough”, and “it’s all my fault”, when someone affirmed those thoughts out loud, I felt like the scum of the earth (perhaps an exaggeration, but only slight).

As I’ve matured, I’ve learned how to sift healthy versus unhealthy criticisms. For example, criticism from my best friend, I usually listen to. Criticism from someone I’ve never met, well, they’re probably just having a bad day.

Holly passed down a helpful tool, that I now pass on to you.

When faced with criticism, I shift my thinking into “neutral”.

I take the emotion out of the situation, and look at it from as neutral a perspective as I can.

I consider:

  • the specific situation
  • the character of the personal approaching me
  • the level of relationship I have with that person
  • where the truth is
  • Is this something I should listen to, respectfully ignore, or boldly disagree with?

Often, a negative critique has more to do with what’s happening in the life of the other person, than it does with me.

Or maybe there’s a communication mix-up, and the relationship can be strengthened if we both pause, step back, and thoroughly explain our perspectives.

That one piece of advice changed my level of confidence. Sorting through the lies I hear every day can feel like weaving through Los Angeles rush hour traffic. Shifting my thoughts into neutral thins out the traffic, so to speak. I arrive at my destination on time, and in one piece.

Although, I don’t think that trick works in actual L.A. traffic.

Boundaries, Grow

2011 in Blogging

Hey again! Welcome to the first Wednesday post of 2012. For fun, here’s a few statistics from the last year on this blog. Since I redesigned in May, and switched platforms, some of the stats don’t begin until then. Enjoy! I’ll be back with something deep and reflective next week. 🙂

Top Viewed Posts:

Most Circulated Post: 

Top strangest search terms:

  • +how do you classify indian on your database
  • fourtune tellers for parties ky
  • rowing physiology
  • richard bath facebook
  • hes not listened to my ultimatum
  • things to do for a week offline

Top Commenters – Thank you!!

Guest Posts:

Guest Posters:
Again, thank you to all of you for being part of Here’s to another great year!

Last Wednesday post of the year, a 2011 personal recap

It’s the end of the year, and everyone’s talking about the events of the past year and hopes for the next. I’m jumping on that bandwagon, because I’ve enjoyed reading updates from everyone else.

Last year started off terribly. I remember an email I sent to my running partner early in year, “I’m depressed, I need to run, but I can’t motivate myself. Please help.” Help, she did. She picked me up that week for a run, paid for me to join a running group, and offered hours of conversation and words of encouragement.

When March came around, and I walked away from starting a nonprofit, I felt both lost and free. I made the right decision, yet that, combined with a few other losses (dating takes work!), my spirit needed some serious healing.

My New Year’s Resolution of 2011, “To tell the truth”, brought me a new motto, “Where there is truth, the darkness loses its power”. This phrase changes everything about my life, from the decisions I make and the conversations I participate in, to the depth of my relationships and my ability to be courageous in difficult situations.

Christmas 2011 with close friends

My Lenten fast taught me to give myself dignity and respect, which in turn allows me to offer those gifts to everyone I meet. A game changer, I believe. My trip to Maine reminded me that friendships can deepen even over distances, and beauty should be discovered and acknowledged.

The Wild Goose Festival was the highlight of my year. Those four days took me to the top of whatever mountain I had been climbing these last few years. I will never forget listening to Over the Rhine play at dusk and feeling the assurance that my past was gone, the future laid ahead, and I was sitting in the present looking at the most spectacular view. That weekend propelled me into rich friendships, colorful theological conversations, and the kind of peace that makes all fear disappear.

One week following Wild Goose Fest, I was in Pittsburgh hanging out with a bunch of Mennonites, and then traveling with a friend to stand next to my sister in her wedding. By the way, I highly recommend taking dates to weddings. I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find to ask Matt to go with me, and cannot emphasize strongly enough how glad I am that I asked. His gift of friendship has left me abundantly blessed.

The remainder of the year, I traveled a little, was a published author for the first time (I know!), and continued the practice of strength-training my courageous muscles. I began meeting with a Spiritual Director, warily joined a new church, renewed my vows as a Nebraska football fan, hung a fake window in my office, never skipped a Wednesday blog post, trained for a ½ marathon, and learned the art of a run-on sentence.

Taking the idea of an old friend, I dubbed 2011 “the year of the date”, and date I did. Within the first week of the year, I joined OkCupid, and allowed myself to go out on a slew of dates. After a little practice, I quit OkCupid but kept going on dates. I discovered that not only do many quality single men exist, but that I can trust my intuition, and reminded myself that I’m worth some effort. When a man told me I was the kind of woman he wanted to take out and show off to all of his friends, I decided that was the best dating advice I’d ever heard.

I can’t write a blogging year wrap-up without talking about blogging! I redesigned the blog in the Spring, which encouraged me to make a concentrated effort to write. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy writing! The hobby is one I want to practice and improve on, so I plan to keep this blog going strong. Maybe I’ll write an article or two or more. That could be fun.

To summarize, enjoy a list of the year’s top moments:

Top 11 moments of 2011 (in no particular order)

  1. Walking away from UJAM
  2. Mountain moment at Wild Goose Fest
  3. My sister’s wedding
  4. Meeting, traveling with, and talking non-stop to Holly on the way to Wild Goose Fest
  5. Road trip with Evan, one of the few men I know who can carry a conversation for 5 hours straight.
  6. A canceled ½ marathon race trip led to a spontaneous and perfect road trip weekend, complete with an incline railway, a missing cell phone, and an entire day of football games with my friend, Jon.
  7. Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in nearly a decade (I usually spend Christmas, but flopped the visits this year)
  8. Working with the Pittsburgh project
  9. People Loving Nashville Christmas Ball and publicly telling my friends how awesome they are. I try not to be redundant but when it comes to these folks, I can’t help it. I am overflowing with thankfulness for the people in my life. Amanda, Bethany, Brianna, Evan, Hannah, Shelly, Rich, Doug, Sarah, Ryan, Brian, Michael, Gina, Ashley, Laura, Matt, Matthew, Holly, Sally, Jennifer, Molly, Stacy, and Lauren. Much love to you.
  10. Vacation in Maine and reconnecting with Ashley
  11. Seeing my name in print for the first time

Happy New Year, my friends! You should know that you’re included in the list of people I’m thankful for. It’s true. I can’t lie, it’s still 2011.