Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What you need to know right now

The three things I want you to know right away?

One, my blog has moved.  You will now find it at

and Two, posts may be sparse for a few weeks (how will that be any different from the last year?)

finally, Three:  posts may be sparse for a while, but my new web address will be one of the cornerstones of my thesis project for my master's degree.  So, keep an eye out because by the middle of May, I expect to have it launched online.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Christmas Devotion for Ashlee

There's a lot that we can say about the Christmas season, and this year is shaping up to be no exception.  We're no strangers to the blessings and trials of the holidays, and by now, we've all certainly heard the popular yearly reminder as to who is really the reason for our season.

This year, however, I've been reminded to take another look at some other things that we maybe gloss over during Advent.

There is a reminder that we can catch in the Christmas season:  our God is the God of Deliberate Action, and His deliberate action rarely takes the form we expect.  How often to we stop to recognize the subtle acts of our Savior? Like this song suggests, the coming of Christ was a deliberate action that took a very specific form.

He is a God of process, presence and relationship that was delivered in a very small small package, with ten fingers and ten toes.

We'll hear much over the next several days about everything that can possibly be related to Christmas, from Santa, to sales, from Season's Greetings to "Jesus is the Reason" and we are tempted to find the whole thing overwhelming. But, like the song says, God came quiet, soft, and slow, and in the midst of everything that we are told to believe is a part of Christmas, God offers us an invitation to share His quiet, His soft, and His slow in our own lives.  He is after all, the Prince of Peace, and his Peace--the one that surpasses understanding--can also surpass supermarket lines, traffic jams, parties, plans, and busyness. His peace is portable, and inexhaustible.

May we all find that Holy Peace we can carry with us through our Christmas season, and beyond.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

How Do You Count?

I am not a woman who is capable of finishing everything I attempt to start; nor do I finish things with perfection.  I make reading plans so I won't fall behind in class, and then fail to use them.  I plan ahead so that I won't be frantically finishing an assignment the same hour I have to go to class--and still end up printing and sprinting. Even this blog is something that I have attempted to bathe in self-discipline, only to fail.  Daily we are all asked to take on things that we are capable of doing -- many of them things that we could do well.  We get a lot of them done, but not all.

But is it failure?

I would like to submit the idea that we could all use a moment of self assessment; not on our rates of failure and success, but on our definitions and standards when it comes to failure and success.  Sometimes we really don't come through on something we need to have done.  Sometimes we mess up.  Sometimes we drop the ball.   Sometimes we encounter the unforeseen and we make the choice to put people before tasks.  Sometimes we have delusions of minute grander that suggest to us that we are capable of ignoring the constrictors of time and space--and social lives. Sometimes we make the wrong choice.  But sometimes we make the right choice, and for some reason, we want to think that it was wrong.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped to ask God his opinion before we kicked ourselves?  

I would like to submit to you that God is interested in how we love Him and each other--and that our to-do lists come second to those priorities if they are in conflict. Sometimes we love best by getting things done.  We all rely on each other, and if we regularly failed to get important things done, we'd have serious problems.  But, I doubt that it pleases God when we get down on ourselves for not being as self-diciplined and as accomplished as we think we ought to be. I think that the Kingdom definition of productivity is slightly different than our own, and that perhaps we could benefit from learning a new way to count.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Life of Quiet Desperation

It is already week two of the new quarter and I find myself feeling terribly behind in both homework and other sundry life-things.  Circumstances being what they are, last week was horribly busy for me, and did not really allow any time for school work to be done.  This is not a complaint, however, because I made thoughtful choices about several of the things that took my time, and felt that they were the more important ones.  Not one of those choices stand out to me at the moment as one I would go back and change. But, as the case often is, there are consequences for our choices, and the consequences I face at the moment is a flurry of activity as I try to make up lost ground before things get too far; before I resign myself to simply being behind and mildly disappointed with myself (as those two things are usually linked for me.)

As my evening class went on break tonight, I couldn't help but start to compile a mental list of all that needs doing.  The chapters that need to be read, the films that need to be seen (yes, this is actually homework) the assignments to be written, and so on. I was very tempted to tell myself that this is all so very stressful, and that I am in a stressful place.  I was tempted to tell myself that I am stressed, when in point of fact, I was not feeling "stressed out" as say so often.  Yes, I have plenty to do, and it may feel stressful very soon, but at that moment, I wasn't feeling "stressed out", merely mindful that there is much to be done. 

 I have a close friend who seems always to be in a state of being "stressed out" as she puts it.  There is a never ending barrage of things in her life that seem to attack her relentlessly.  She does have a lot going on, and I recognize that she has every right to be stressed out from time to time.  But I also can't help but sometimes feel that she chooses it.  She will identify situations that shouldn't be categorized as stressful by anyone, as things that bear down on her. I think perhaps that she feels the weight of decisions with so much gravity, that there is little room in her economy for a bad decision, or even a less-than-ideal one.  

Somehow tonight the thought of my to-do list, mixed in with the thought of my friend.  I actively chose not to take on a perception of stress in my life. 

This brought to mind a quote from Thoreau: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."  

And I have to admit that in a sense, theologically, Thoreau is right. There is always so much to be done.  There is always so much that we need. There is always so much that we cannot accomplish on our own, or for ourselves.  We lead lives of quiet desperation, because our efforts--and we should make an effort--is only buoyed by the Grace of God. I mean that quite literally. We have a choice, where we can recognize that we need that Grace, that we live by that Grace, and that we are sustained by that Grace. Or we can not.  Either way, we are living lives of quiet desperation, but I think we can make a distinction about how we look at it.  We can focus on the desperation and simply live there, which results  as Thoreau put it "What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." Or we can focus on the Grace that we are offered, and say "please" and "thank you".

I think this choice matters in lots of ways; two of which I can think of at this moment:  choosing Grace allows us to sleep better at night.  And, accepting Grace means we have some to give to others when they need it.   If we are living in a state of desperation, we have no grace to spare for anyone else, because we don't think we even have enough to get by on ourselves. 

Yeah, I have a lot to get done, and not too much time to do it in.  
By God's Grace, it will come out. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What the H*ll Do I Know? (Confession 5)

I have a friend going through a bit of a faith-crisis at the moment, and it really is one of those things that can make you feel completely impotent.  Not only is nearly impossible to know what to say or do, it is pretty much certain that anything you say or do will probably only make matters worse. So you're just there for them. Let them vent if they want to, or ramble, or whatever non/verbal processing they might tend toward. And maybe, if the situation calls for it, you share what you actually know.

But what do you actually know?

And what do I actually know? So, where do I get off telling anyone else what their faith should be?

But, do I just leave it there? Let a friend languish? I have a hard time swallowing that pill.  I think we should have a hard time with it.  And I think how we handle it is key--and I think the place where we really go wrong is where we start offering up loads of junk that we don't personally know, in favor of churchy things we think sound right.

I think we go through seasons where our faith gets stripped down, like a sports car left in the wrong part of town.  Maybe we parked ourselves in the wrong place, and it left us vulnerable. Maybe it was time for a tune up. I don't know why these things happen really, but I have noticed a pattern in my own life, and the lives of people close to me.  We go through these seasons that get terribly uncomfortable, and we come out on the other side with a faith that is universally different.  Sometimes we even have to go through a little bit of Hell to do it.

I did.

I stood on the outside of a very clear boundary, looking in on God and his chosen people, and I was not one of them. I was not welcome, I was not included. I was not accepted. I was not chosen.  That is the Hell that I've known.

And what have I learned?  A lot more than I could ever put here.  And I've also learned that the first thing isn't to open my mouth and tell my hurting friend what they just have to know, so they can be fixed.  Maybe the best thing I can offer is an open ear and a shut mouth.  And my prayers. I'll do that too.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Birthday in LA

In case any of you were wondering if I've adjusted from Idaho to Los Angeles, here's a fun 80's music video to answer you question.  Or maybe, I was just looking for an excuse to post this. Either way, we're headed out on the town for a "hot time in the city" and we'll be running around the city almost as much as Randy Newman did when he made this video.  At least our adventure will contain far less new-wave T&A--hopefully.  (I guess the consoling thought is that not even the girls in the video look like the girls in the video anymore?)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Surprises at a "certain age"

Have you reached the "certain age" where you still consider yourself young and hip, but things cross your mind or come out of your mouth that you never expected --- at least not while you were still young and hip?  I've begun to collect some as they occur to my friends and me.  Here's what we have so far:
  • while walking down the sidewalk you happen to notice a man, and think to yourself, "He's attractive".  Then you notice his bald-spot.  Then you realize that noticing his bald spot has had no effect on your initial assessment.  You still find him attractive.
  • your friend is excited about her new cell phone has the perfect timer app to facilitate time-outs for her two-year old.
  • you put "chores" in your weekly schedule, and having a set-aside time for them is a relief, not a punishment. 
  • Guys you know are already planning how they will intimidate the future suitors of their daughters (years in advance). Having forgotten how intimidating the fathers of girls they dated were, and how they swore to never be that mean when they got "old".
  • the occasional excitement over the possibility of having the time and freedom for a nap. 
  • double-fisting coffee is more impressive (or pitiful, take your pick) than double-fisting alcohol.  Either way, it is more common. 
  • more of your friends plan their day, specifically their meals, around special dietary considerations... Soy Latte, anyone?
  • You realize that the phrase "settled down" might have always been code for "my butt got big, and I'm too busy to do anything about it"
  • someone in their early twenties calls 80's music "oldies"
  • you start looking for ways to defend 31 as the new 21
What would you add?