Friday, October 30, 2009


Sometimes I think a day’s goodness can be foreshadowed by how loudly one sings in the car on the way to work. On mornings when I can’t bring myself to open my mouth—even to my current fav tune—I know it’s going to be a rough day. Sometimes I start singing along but then just can’t continue. Those days will be OK, but may need a little extra caffeine. Today, however—Friday! Pay day! Day before I-get-to-sleep-in day!—is going to be a very very good day. In fact my throat may even be a little sore from belting out James Morrison on the drive in.

How loud did you sing this morning?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The weak will be strong

I recently had a funny conversation with some coworkers about Clifton’s Strengthfinders. This is the personality test that gives you your top 5 “strengths.” We got to laughing about how great a job Clifton does at spinning! So, for example, you can be really unmotivated and downright lazy. But Clifton may say you’re free-spirited and can’t be confined by responsibilities...or some such nonsense.

This conversation caused me to go back and look at what my “strengths” are (I had to take the test before grad school).

One of mine is ACHIEVER (begotten from mom). Clifton tells me that I feel as if every day starts at zero: “By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by 'every day' you mean every single day-workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you.”

An internal fire? Yes. Yes I have that. It’s called stress! Often unnecessary stress! And I’m not sure that being unable to relax while on vacation is a good thing...a strength?! I was recently in San Diego for a few days of relaxation and had to check my work email! I mean, I make lists on SATURDAYS just so that I can feel good in checking things off that list.

Another strength is DISCIPLINE. For the record, I was the only person in my class with this “Strength” and this one also comes from mom. Thanks, mom. Clifton tells me that I need precision: “Faced with the inherent messiness of life, you want to feel in control. The routines, the timelines, the structure, all of these help create this feeling of control. Lacking this theme of Discipline, others may sometimes resent your need for order, but there need not be conflict.”

In other words, I have OCD! And I’m resented! GREAT! My underwear has to match. I need lists for pretty much darn near everything. Supposedly as a child, I wouldn’t leave for school until I made my bed (I ENJOYED making my bed). In class or church, I really need to sit in the same general spot or vicinity every time or else I feel weird. If I’m writing a letter (or another list), I have to fight the urge to completely start over if I make a mistake. Please don’t resent me.

Although not a strength of mine, another one I find very humorous is SIGNIFICANCE. Clifton says people with this "strength" want to be very important in the eyes of others. They want to be recognized. Sounds like the kind of person I’d like to hang out with!

Ok. I know people sometimes put a lot of stock into these tests, and I agree that they can be at times extremely helpful in learning how to better work and cooperate with each other. And self-awareness is a good thing. I get it. I’m just sayin’ though...Clifton, whach you be smokin’?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

One phone call from our knees

Early Sunday morning, my friend got a phone call. One of the players on his high school football team had been killed in a car accident the night before. No alcohol or drugs were involved. Just four high school boys goofing off after a celebratory football victory over their rivals Saturday afternoon.

For some reason, Mat Kearney (songwriter/singer) and his current hit single “Closer to Love” instantly came to mind. The opening lines...

She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away

She said she didn't believe
It could happen to me
I guess we're all one phone call from our knees

Every time I hear the song, I’m creeped out a bit. I find myself wondering what that phone call could be for me. What are the things that could bring me to my knees? That could take my breath away? When my friend relayed the tragic story, I envisioned the football player’s parents receiving their phone call, falling to their knees in their kitchen, wailing.

Kearney's song continues...

If every building falls
And all the stars fade
We'll still be singing this song
The one they can't take away

I'm gonna get there soon
She's gonna be there too
Cryin' in her room
Prayin' oh, Lord come through

We're gonna get there soon

Oh, it's your light
Oh, it's your way
Pull me out of the dark
Just to shoulder the weight
Cryin' out now
From so far away
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

In an interview with "Radio Free Chicago" just prior to the release of this song’s album, Mat, a devout Christian, talked about writing for the album "City of Black and White."

He said, "I’ve finally landed in a community and invited in friends to join along. There are songs about stuff you can only write about by sticking around, getting roots—heartbreak, loss, acceptance."

After receiving the phone call Sunday morning, my friend went to the house of the football player who had died. He said that there were more than 250 friends and parents of friends from the Christian high school that this boy had attended. There they laughed, cried, prayed, hugged, and just were...together...there. He said it was amazing how this Christian community pulled together--to "shoulder the weight" of a knee-buckling phone call. And the community encouraged each other to draw closer to God. Closer to Love.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How do I love San Diego?

Let me count thy ways...

Abby, friend of all friends

Honey’s, best muffins in town, and of course, Cesar with a wink and a compliment

HOME, where cute guy works and awesome clothes are sold

Swami’s beach, one of the best places to chill on this earth

6454 Kinglet Way, home away from home, family away from family

Grif, always happy to see me

Lucy, the only dog I love

Golden Spoon, sweet Fro-Yo

The Lagoon

And to all of the above: hold on! Here I come!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lane change

Someone just told me that when driving in Germany, you can always change lanes. There are not as many people. It’s not as crowded, as say Minneapolis/St. Paul. Now, I’m guessing you’d still probably want to glance in your rearview mirror before scooting on over, but…

I thought about that this morning as I very slowly merged into stop-and-go traffic on 94. Once I was safely in the furthest right lane, I knew I’d be there for awhile, until traffic let up and I could move over into the left lanes.

It’s a metaphor for life though. We get stuck in the traffic—materialism, greed, success, peer pressure—around us. We can’t change lanes. We can’t hear or see or feel God perhaps directing us on which lane we should be in.

Yesterday a coworker’s husband called her before she left for work. He and their two boys had been in a bad accident. Stopped in traffic, they had been hit from behind. Momentarily, her life flashed before her eyes. She saw and felt what it would be to lose…to lose greatly. She said she stared out her front window blankly after her husband assured her that everyone was OK. And there, suddenly in the silence, Psalm 46:10 came to mind.

“Be still and know that I am God.”

She said life has been too raucous lately. There’s been too much going on. Scheduling nightmares. Busy family members coming and going. Dinners eaten on the run. Arguments over silly stuff. And a traffic accident reminded her to be still and know something. Know that He is God.

I don’t want to be stuck in traffic. I want to change lanes when God’s putting on my blinker--when He wants me to know something.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Double doors busted down

I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there's no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you've got to rise above

I just can't wait til my 10 year reunion
I'm gonna bust down the double doors
And when I stand on these tables before you
You will know what all this time was for

--John Mayer, No Such Thing

Well, John, I don’t need to wait any longer. I busted down the double doors at a Marriott Hotel last night for my 10-year high school reunion.

As I got ready and waited for my girlfriend to pick me up, I felt old and wondered perhaps if I shouldn’t have paid $50 for an event to which you’re supposed to wear “dressy casual” (oxymoron?) and awkwardness is guaranteed. And as she dropped me off later I knew I shouldn’t have paid the $50. But I smiled because the evening affirmed something else I knew--I definitely chose the right friends.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thinkin' on thinkin'

My eyes won’t stay shut, so at 5a.m. on this chilly, rainy Thursday morning in Minnesota, I find myself sipping coffee, doing laundry, and working on a paper about how faith should or should not tie into theology.

Not normal. Not normal ‘tall.

The book I’m reading says that “there is a theological prerogative belonging not only to an elite academic priesthood, guardians of the sanctuaries of learning, but to all God’s people.” So, in other words, not just those of us crazies in grad school learning and thinking about God should be learning and thinking about God.

As classes started back up this fall, I had a conversation with someone. She asked what class I was taking. I told her systematic theology 1, not to be confused with 2 or 3. She asked what we study in those classes, and her eyebrows went up as I quickly tried to tell her. She proceeded to tell me that she doesn’t like to think about “that stuff.”

Now, I should share a few things about this person. She is great, and has such a strong faith. She’s a wonderful encourager, but at times, her comments on God have rung a little hollow to my ears. They’re the ones Christians sometimes fall into the rut of saying. “God has a plan.” “Things will work out according to God’s will.” Etc. etc.

How and why though? What do those things even mean? What is God’s will exactly? Maybe I believe those things or can believe those things, but I need to know some things! Too many things have happened in my life and the life of so many close to me causing me to wonder about God’s plan. To wonder. To question. To seek more information.

When this woman told me that she doesn’t like to think about stuff though, I was momentarily caught off guard. Should I not be worrying about “this stuff”? Should I just be believin’? My conclusion: No. I don’t think that’s faith, or at least a growing faith. Which is great news because the book I’m reading is titled Faith Thinking, which is what I’ll keep on doing (even if it is 5 a.m.).

Interestingly though, the only reason I'm faith thinking now is because I had faith first. That came first--strong or weak or little or bedraggled. Then the thinking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Excuse me, but do you have a butt?

I kindly told the man to show me his butts.

Last weekend, I walked into one of those Halloween stores that only pops up in the few weeks preceding Oct. 31. My brother and I had come up with this costume idea for a couple, who will remain anonymous, and the costume involved fake butts. To be helpful, I decided I’d swing into this store and check on prices. So when I entered the disturbing store and saw ceiling-to-floor, wall-to-wall Halloween paraphernalia, I took up Frankenstein’s offer to help me find what I was looking for.

Yes, please show me your butts.

Not cracking a smile—I suppose...he IS Frankenstein—he turned on his heels, and I understood that I was to follow him. He took me to the body-part aisle. And there they were. Three different, potential butts. "Here you go," Frankenstein said displaying them as though he was Vanna White with three vowels. "Uh, thanks," I timidly responded, as the people next to me, considering fake boobs (what? what costume is that for?!) looked at me. So, I called the person who would ultimately be wearing this costume to tell her the price. For only $7.99 you can get a real nice butt, I told her.

"Well, what does it look like?" she asked me. Really? Was I going to describe a butt to her over the phone in public?

I nearly told her to go into the bathroom, unzip...nevermind. Instead, I did proceed to describe the differences among the three butts. "Well, one is rounder, firmer. The other looks like it'd fall off easily..." etc. etc.

And now she's not even going to use a fake butt for the costume.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Believing to understand

In Mark 9, a father brings his sick son—mute because of seizures since birth—to Jesus. He says to Jesus: "IF you can do something, then do it!" Jesus kindly replies, "um, there are no IFs among Christians. Anything can happen." The father then cried out, "Ok I believe, but please forgive my unbelief."

True that, I want to tell the father! I hear him on the unbelief thing.

St. Anselm once said that we don’t try to understand so that we’ll believe, but rather that we believe so that we’ll understand.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the past few weeks in starting back to class. And it’s true. Understanding doesn’t bring belief. I have more questions now than I did before starting seminary. And yet, oddly enough, I believe more wholeheartedly, more desperately. I feel the belief I do have is allowing me to unroll the canvas and see the portrait. It makes more sense, even if the colors aren't all painted in. But, oh how often I still use “if.”

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Do NOT throw your trash out the window!

I can't believe I forgot to tell you this...

On Saturday, while driving with a friend--actually crawling through traffic in the wake of the Gophers game--on 94, we saw the most disturbing, disheartening display of humanity.

Out of this guy's car window came a large, flying fast-food bag. As the bag made its way to the ground, the square, cardboard hamburger holder fell out, as did a scrunched-up napkin. And there the bag of garbage landed on the freeway, to be run over, smooshed, and dragged by oncoming cars.

I wanted to do something, but what? Yell something out the window? Stop traffic and pick up the bag--to make a point! My friend said there's a huge fine for throwing your Mickey D's bag out the window, so does one call the police with a license plate number? And then they search for that car, eventually knocking on this gentleman's door with a ticket? What was I to do?!

We settled for nasty looks in his direction as we passed him. I'd post his license plate number so you could do the same...if only I remembered it now.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

You go girl

On Sunday I ran in the Twin Cities’ 10-miler, in conjunction with the marathon. To help pass the 20 minutes before the race started, I decided to wait in the long porta-potty line, even though I really didn’t have to go to the bathroom. I struck up a conversation with the woman behind me. She didn’t really have to go either, but she thought she may as well, even though she had a Go Girl.

After chatting for some time, she proudly showed me what she was carrying in the inside pocket of her shorts: a Go Girl. A device, which looks like a distorted funnel, through which females can go to the bathroom supposedly quickly and easily while in places where there may not be a toilet (or maybe there is but you’re bad at squatting). Now, as soon as she showed me this, the questions wouldn’t stop. How much did she pay for that? Where exactly did she presume to use this along our 10-mile race through the heart of the Twin Cities? Aren’t there laws against public urination? And after you get done using it...what do you do with it? Shake it out and put it back in your pocket? Bring it home and throw in dishwasher? I was so confused. But we were up to the front of the line, so as we exchanged pleasantries on how nice it was to briefly chat and wished each other luck in the run, I said "You Go Girl!"

Our conversation did not solely focus on urination though. We talked about where we live. Me in Maple Grove. She in New Brighton. Where we work. And as soon as I stated my place of employment, her eyes lit up. She proceeded to tell me that it’s where she got her master’s a few years ago. That she had always done public school—from grade school on up to undergrad. And what a blessing it was to have a Christian educational experience. That it was so crazy and great to have professors who not only cared that you were learning what you were supposed to be learning in class, but who also prayed for you and the things going on in your life outside of class. I then shared with her what I’m going to school for. And suddenly she said, you know though, I just always cringe when I come to the part where Christ dies for us.

Um, come again?

She continued: Him dying on the cross just makes me so uncomfortable, and I feel so bad. I just want to skip that part, but I know I can’t.

Huh. Interesting.

I’ve come back to that comment a number of times since Sunday morning. My initial thought was, but Christ dying is GOOD news! It should be happy thought. He died for YOU! Don’t skip that part! But I wonder if sometimes for me the lilies of Easter Sunday overpower the brutality of the cross. Maybe I actually DO skip over the cross. Give me an empty tomb, but not the grave.

I always feel a bit uncomfortable when people do nice things for me. I never want to put people out or have them go out of their way on my account! So, I even felt a little guilty that some friends got up early to come stand in the cold and cheer me on my 10-mile race. It seems strange then that my first reaction to Karen’s—her name was Karen—comment was not one of agreement—yes, I know, I feel so bad too!— but rather, what are you talking about?

Maybe I need a little more of Karen’s perspective, and she needs a little more of mine. God doesn’t want us living unhappy, guilt-ridden lives, but I also think a healthy dose of discomfort every now and then in remembering what He did might be a good thing.

You Go Girl.