seattle one

Update (to give the illusion that untold masses of people keep up with my blog): My husband and I are living in Seattle this summer, where he is working at a church and I am taking some time off. (Time off from being a student, which some, including me, would consider an already-luxurious existence…so in addition to taking time off, I’m trying not to feel ridiculous about it.)

Last week, I went on an overnight trip with some other women whose husbands are working at various churches in the Pacific Northwest. A few of us dropped our things at the homey bed & breakfast and walked around the small downtown nearby. We ended up at a free art museum, which featured an exhibit called American Fiction – the work was by Robert McCauley. His pieces focus on wildlife and nature and the imposition/impact humanity has had on them. It was all very intentionally profound and meaningful. But that’s not actually what I mean to focus on.

Upstairs, in an exhibit I don’t remember any information about, the pieces (by different artists) explored the concept of invisibility. The exhibit paired artwork with short statements from middle school students about what it feels like to be invisible. It was heart-wrenching and took me back to high school and college and oh-wait-I-still feel it sometimes. It made me want to ask myself the question. What does it really feel like when you feel invisible?

It is lonely, dark, a place where you don’t even want to be seen after awhile because you’re too angry. If people start to notice, you resent how long it took them. You want to be seen, but you become comfortable in the unseen – start to think of yourself as empty space. Lose your substance and make yourself fit the invisibility, see if you can actually become part of the environment, the wind, the space. Lose touch with yourself because your self is in too much pain. Make the pain invisible, and it might go away. There must be something wrong with you, deficient about you, something they’re looking for that you don’t have, or they don’t see in you which is essentially them saying you don’t have it without even investigating. And so they don’t see you. It’s easy to feel invisible even when people think they see you.

On this trip, we cooked together and drank together and talked about life and ministry. This John Green quote is the first thing I wrote in my journal that weekend: “The world may be broken, but hope is not crazy.” It’s one I have to go back to. I tend to see optimistic, always-positive people as essentially ignorant – not necessarily naive, but definitely not realistic. I tend to get fixated on understanding what’s going on and what’s wrong and the truth that we are never as good or right as we hope to be. I’m so concerned with naming and understanding reality in all its darkness that I forget to actively hope.

We were talking about how to encourage people toward faith. One woman described the process as basically living out hope, contentment, and rest. If we live in light of the hope and peace we have in Christ, it will impact our lives in a way that should make us unique as friends and neighbors. It’s simple, and we know this. But there’s always an obstacle. Sometimes, almost everyone we come in contact with has faith. Sometimes, we act so much like we don’t have hope that our lives won’t look different. Whatever it is, we need reminders.

There is so much in other faiths and philosophies that actually agrees with Christianity. The assorted things people pick up and cling to often resemble the truth closely, but ultimately don’t answer all the questions or satisfy all the needs. And there’s no way to ultimately maintain a my-truth/your-truth system.

My hope isn’t in something abstractly “out there” somewhere. It’s not, “I hope this will get better…” or, “I hope there’s something better…” The hope is grounded in a real God who has given us a real story with a real savior outside ourselves. It’s way too much pressure to say we can do anything to save ourselves from despair or hopelessness. I have been there. It’s not possible to save yourself from that place. At the very least, another person has to enter in. Ultimately, God is the only one who can bring us to a place of real hope and joy. We’ll always be disappointed by self-saving strategies. This passage was mentioned specifically:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:1-5 ESV

When our hope is in something sure, there’s no chance we’ll be ashamed of our hopefulness later – no chance that it won’t come through. That’s huge. I avoid hope…it’s like I have to watch my back or surely be caught off guard. Hope is such a vulnerable choice. Something exhausting about knowing this about myself (for so long) is that I can see how little or how slowly I change. I know I shirk away from hope, and that hope is what I need, and it’s real and true and won’t disappoint me. But that doesn’t mean that in every situation my hope will be realized. That’s just wishful thinking.

The guest who came to speak with us over the weekend shared a phrase that she borrowed from a Buddhist friend, tweaked to make it true. The original phrase was, “I am the mountain; this is the weather.” Her version says, “God is the mountain; this is the weather.”
(This = life, circumstances, ourselves, emotions, relationships, conflict, etc.)

Because we change as much as the weather, we can’t count on ourselves to be that massive, immovable mountain. We can count on God to be that in the midst of whatever “this” weather might be.

I struggled with the tendency in our conversations (and in most conversations about being married to a pastor) toward discussing the pastor/husband’s work and ministry as the primary work being done in the marriage. I wrote a whole paragraph about this that I decided not to put on the blog…because I’m still processing and haven’t talked much about it with people actually in that scenario. It’s just difficult to feel like my ideas might be on the fringe.

Ultimately this summer…I’m going with: grateful, not guilty.
I’m grateful to be in a new place with some existing friends. I’m grateful for the community that has already started to embrace us. I’m grateful to learn about this city and its people. I’m grateful to see new and beautiful places. I’m grateful to have time to write out thoughts and sit with them awhile. I’m grateful to be reading the books I looked at longingly throughout the semester. I’m grateful to have a kind God who gives me these things and wants me to hope in him. I need him, and I need hope. Me, repeat after me: it’s not crazy.

I always finish a blog post feeling like I haven’t scratched the surface of what I’m thinking about, but there it is. I’ve been sitting on it for too long and just need to get back in the groove. Thanks for readin the randoms.


humble roots

At the beginning of the year, I started reading Humble Roots, by Hannah Anderson. A good friend recommended it at the very end of last year. A lady at my church in St. Louis started a group to read it together at the beginning of this year. I went for a few weeks until school got overwhelming. I kept reading it in tiny chunks, journaling along, and finally finished it in July. I recently went through my journal entries and typed up the highlights. Going through those now to process a bit more and see what comes. Also, keep in mind that almost everything I’m writing comes directly from Hannah Anderson’s mind…not mine. And it’s not a short post, but it’s easy.

This book ended up having a larger impact than I expected. (As if I can really predict the way I’ll learn and grow.) I’m prone to reading books that are supposed to speak to the soul as if they can be processed at the rate of consumption. I’ve been learning a lot lately…processing…but not necessarily reflecting and incorporating. I live a tense-hearted life. God meets me in his own time, at my right time, usually slowly because I am stubborn and he is kind. My walk with Jesus involves a lot of breaks…or times where I stop and sit down on a bench for a little bit. But that doesn’t mean that God is taking a break.

This book spoke to (so much, but starting with) the interpersonal comparison that everyone does and the insecurity it brings.
(1) I don’t really care whether people like my personality or lifestyle choices or way I operate or that I like what I like.
(2) I want to be loved in friendship so badly. I haven’t grown up with one best friend. I’ve been so fortunate to have different friends in different places, and I love all of them. But it’s hard not to have that one person that will always know you and has always known you – the good and bad. I have a friend who knows me well and who asks after my heart…and she has lost that one person who was that person in her life. I wonder if she feels this a little, though we are close.

I am married, and in one sense it’s true that he is my best friend. But there is something so sweet and so missed about deep and sweet female friendship. I went to see a movie (the documentary “Whose Streets” – definitely recommend getting this perspective on the events in Ferguson) with a friend from St. Louis, and went back to her house briefly afterward, where her roommates were talking about life and we joined in for a moment. I miss those moments passing in the dining room where you can hear all those voices speaking into your life and love on each other.

I compare myself to other women constantly, which is why I feel insecure in every friendship I’ve ever had. I need the humility to recognize that it doesn’t matter – that the criteria I’m using to define myself and them means nothing. It has become the basis of how I relate, and it usually comes out with them on top, me admiring and mostly feeling inferior. [I feel like the queen of third-wheeling friendships. I’m the third friend tagging along with the two best friends. I expect that it’s going to be a tricycle, but when I get there it’s actually just a bicycle and an extra wheel. Nice to have that extra wheel, but ultimatly unnecessary. This has been a theme pretty much all my life, and I see hints of it as I’m starting to make friends here. It’s hard not to go ahead and fortify the walls. For me, it’s not about trying not to put up walls – it’s about trying to tear down the ones that go up automatically in new places…when I want to strengthen them. I think I try to hang on hard to friends that maybe want to let me go? How does one become content with being the odd friend out? Then I realize this is all completely selfish and I don’t deserve to have friends in the first place, so gratitude should be the only thing I’m feeling.]

When it comes to improvement and growth, I tend to impose regulations or sweeping statements intended to make myself better. But am I actually changing on the inside? I need the humility to seek holiness, not just better qualities or habits. I need Jesus, not self-help. How would humility change me?

“Humility is not feeling a certain way about yourself, not feeling small or low or embarrassed or even humiliated. Theologically speaking, humility is a proper understanding of who God is and who we are as a result.” (103)

The morality of our culture is that if something feels good, it must be good: “But today, being true to yourself doesn’t mean making an honest evaluation of yourself; it means embracing your emotional experience of the world as truth.” (103) I can get obsessed with how other people feel about me and how I feel about myself. How I feel about myself/the world/others isn’t reality…it’s corrupted. This statement really spoke to my heart: “Instead of responding to the pain of being misunderstood, I can rest in the fact that God understands me even better than I understand myself.” (106) I need to hear that every day for life.

Humility should free us from self-condemnation. I’m not God – I can’t condemn, not even myself. My assuming unnecessary guilt (or shame) keeps me at the center of my mind and life. Honest anxiety leads to usurping God’s position of authority. We should adore God -> be humble -> have confidence. Anderson includes this Hildebrand (philosopher) quote: “The question whether I feel worthy to be called is beside the point; that God has called is the one thing that matters.”

I feel like it has become increasingly popular or socially acceptable to be openly judgmental. I’m sitting in a coffee shop where the wi-fi is being slightly fickle but mostly working fine (for me at least), and the girl at the table next to me has been trying to figure out the network/password. Loudly, she said, “I’m never coming here again.” I’m listening to music through my headphones, and I heard her. I’m sure the baristas just across the way could hear her. Her friend said, “I’m fine with that. The coffee is…*makes a face*” I mean, wow. I guess taking a couple minutes to figure out the Internet is a deal breaker, and it’s all right to complain about the coffee in front of the people who made it. That’s a minor example…

People talking about others who are difficult to love or be around – who have awkward or problematic tendencies — really just want to get away from them. They talk in a belittling and irritated manner. When Christians operate this way, I want to shove a copy of Life Together into their hands. I know not every difficult person is also a part of God’s family, but I think that acknowledging the image of God in everyone means that we can’t openly shame others. (But the Internet, for instance, says we MUST shame anyone who says anything remotely wrong.) I think doing so reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the sin and inconsistencies inherent in our own hearts. When we are gratified by pointing out others’ deficiencies, we probably don’t see our own clearly enough. I usually don’t want to hear you gossip about someone else if you don’t have a hopeful bent – if you’re not interested in engaging with the person and doing life with them.

Nick is so good at engaging with people that others would disregard. I’m constantly challenged by this. He gives rides to strangers – has done this multiple times since we’ve been married. He talks to the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting on the park bench (which generally means he listens to their speeches for ten minutes without interrupting or looking for his out). He listens to the man playing music on the street and tries to learn what he’s about. And he does not complain about this. He loves it. He loves people. His heart is open. What if we all operated this way?

Humility can redeem the inner life. We can bring our emotions to God and feel them deeply. God is not emotionally manipulative. “So…when humility frees us from the oppression of our emotions, when we finally learn that ‘God is greater than our heart,’ it also frees us to enjoy the depth and variety of our inner life. We are free to enter into our emotions, letting them do what God intends for them to do: draw us back to Himself.” (114)

Remember, we always have something to learn. I can very easily assume the posture of knowing what everyone is talking about all the time. Usually I am just trying to assume a listening posture, but sometimes it can also lead people to think that I’m already in the know. I don’t speak up when I don’t get a reference, but it happens all the time. The book I’m reading now describes this well in reference to a particular character. Indulge me and read this paragraph…

“It was therefore with a very well-concealed ignorance that Moody played interlocutor to Gascoigne, and Clinch, and Mannering, and Pritchard, and all the others, when they spoke of Anna Wetherell, and the esteem in which they held her, as a whore. Moody’s well-timed murmurs of ‘naturally’ and ‘of course’ and ‘exactly so,’ combined with a general rigidity of posture whenever Anna’s name was mentioned, implied to these men merely that Moody was made uncomfortable by the more candid truths of human nature, and that he preferred, like most men of exalted social rank, to keep his earthly business to himself. We observe that one of the great attributes of discretion is that it can mask ignorance of all the most common and lowly varieties, and Walter Moody was nothing if not excessively discreet. The truth was that he had never spoken two words together to a woman of Anna Wetherell’s profession or experience, and would hardly know how to address her – or upon what subject – should the chance arise.” (The Luminaries, page 397)

Ignorance can be masked by reserve, and I don’t have the humility to admit the ignorance most of the time. That’s my point.

Humility also applies to the limits of human reason. God’s ways are so far beyond our own. We should not be concerned with being right for the sake of being right. We shouldn’t be self-righteous about our knowledge or wisdom. Anderson describes this using someone else’s term: epistemological humility. I think people in my theological/faith/denominational circles need to hear this. We must have faith in the truth of revelation, not faith in our own knowledge or understanding. We need to be able to acknowledge when we are wrong (and see that we will always be fallible…and sinful). We will never ever know everything, so get used to it, and start acknowledging limits more. It will put others at ease. When I’m around people who seem to have tons to say or seem super secure in their own understanding, I’m either intimidated, or I don’t have much desire to talk to them, because it’s already clear what they think and that they might not be great at listening to the opinions or perspectives of others. Yet, I do this. Nick will feel shut down in conversations when I feel strongly or have a lot of thoughts about a subject. I have to shut myself up. (I interrupt with occasional smothered noises now, rather than with fully-formed sentences. 🙂

“Not only does humility teach us that knowledge comes from outside us, it also reminds us that we cannot perfectly categorize and process the knowledge that we do have.” (123)

We all have resources at our disposal. I learned this well when I first went to Sunshine Gospel Ministries in Chicago. They teach college groups (which tend to be made up of kids from at least semi-privileged backgrounds, and in our case very clearly privileged) about communities of poverty – how they are constructed, what their struggles are, and how injustice contributes to the cycle of poverty. I learned that it’s very unlikely that I’ll end up homeless. I have a savings account. I have a family that could support me financially or house me for a time. They would have compassion. I actually have multiple arms of family that could do this. I am white and have a college degree, so I can easily get different kinds of jobs. I have the technology to engage with current trends and to fit into society. There are people against whom systems are biased. There are people who get subpar education based on where they live and how much money their community has. People who live in unsafe environments because they have no choice and are more prone to danger, drugs, or sickness and who grow up with incredible trauma. People who have to struggle to gain stable employment, let alone higher education, and whose families are in the same situation. People who are targeted and charged with minor crimes and fines, who can’t afford to get out from under that burden. The cycle can start in so many places, and I am not vulnerable to its sinkhole. I didn’t do anything to DESERVE this invulnerability. Anderson gets to this briefly in a footnote: “In failing to recognize how much previous generations have shaped our own success, we can also fail to see how much generations of poverty and oppression will shape other people as well. While we may inherit blessing, other people inherit hardship.” (142)

So, Anderson writes about having resources of all kinds. We can honor them, and we can engage them with humility. Everything we have, we’ve been given (material and relational and everything). We don’t deserve to have things a certain way, and we haven’t earned a particular lifestyle. I complain from a position in which God has given me more than I need. Humble thankfulness is not based on comparison (I have more than others, so I should be grateful). It is “a gratitude rooted in having anything at all.” (143)

I need to make sure I’m not putting myself at the center of dealing with privilege. This is very difficult, because the first and easiest way we try to understand the world is through our own eyes. I’m thinking about the parable of the talents. Do I steward (plant) my resources, or do I bury them? (Bury them. or get paralyzed. or don’t realize I have them.) Am I using my freedom well? (Hm) Do I accept gifts without guilt, without trying to earn them? (Either so guilty or so entitled. depends.) Do I let God lead me in using them? (Mostly I do not.) We have responsibilities because of the gifts we have been given. Asking whether we deserve them is not productive. Asking what we are responsible to do can lead to action and growth. God is at the center. Everything has a purpose.

“We know that we don’t deserve more than another person, but we also know that we have more than another person. And so in an attempt to deal with this guilt, we can pursue a form of asceticism, all while keeping ourselves at the center of the conversation.” (HR, 146)

I am one of those people who often feel that planning and wishing seem presumptuous because we don’t know God’s step-by-step plan. I needed to hear that it is right to have desires and hopes (and even…plans !) and that we should speak them, so that God can redeem and shape and reform them. This was a huge learning moment for me.

It’s actually not virtuous to refuse to make a plan before we know what’s to come. It’s arrogant. It’s reaching for knowledge that is beyond us, that only God knows. We will never have a perfect map, but we do have the most gracious guide. A verse that kept coming to mind was Proverbs 16:3, which says, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” I think I’ve always been incredulous at the thought that the Bible says the Lord will establish *your* plans. My plans, really? I thought it was all about God’s plan though… Something I realized as I meditated on this idea and continued to read Humble Roots is that because of this incredulity and focus on God’s unknowable plan, I don’t actually commit my hopes, my work, or my plans to the Lord. So the focus shouldn’t be on God establishing my plans, but on committing everything I do to Him.

Three distilled conclusions from Hannah:
“I will not overlook my privilege.”
“I will not feel guilty about what God has put in my hands or attempt to earn it.”
“I will allow God to lead me in cultivating these gifts for His glory and the good of those around me.”

“Just as God is the source of your life and gifting, God is also the source of your desires… In this sense, the greater presumption is not found in speaking your desires but failing to acknowledge their existence in the first place.” (159)

“Surprisingly enough, humility teaches us to embrace desire as a means of learning to submit to God. It is precisely through the process of wanting certain things that we also learn to trust God to fulfill those desires or to trust Him when he changes them. It is precisely through the process of learning to plan that we learn to depend on a God who makes our plans happen.” (159)

We are kept dependent on God when we don’t know everything. This has altered the way I think: “As much as you cannot make yourself or orchestrate the events of your life or shape your unique personality, you can no more create the desires of your heart.” (161) Desires feel completely selfish. I want this or that – I want to do this or that – it’s all about me. But, DUH, we have nothing we haven’t been given, including our lives and bodies and minds and desires. To acknowledge them is to own them, and that is a risk. To tell God about them is a risk. But it also means, “agreeing with God about who He has made you to be.” (162) We have to learn to ultimately desire the one thing we will never be denied, which is God himself. But we also need to trust Him with our plans, and submit to the idea that they will be fulfilled in ways that we can’t imagine. The possibility of failure is no excuse. We still work.

“When we limit ourselves to working when the time is right, we reveal that we are still clinging to the notion that success is dependent on our choices and our ability to control outcomes.” (168) I have a real strong control issue. That probably gives you the picture of what this feels like for me. 🙂

The world is broken. We can respond to this brokenness with humility. In Luke 8/Matthew 13, Jesus talked about the different kinds of ground upon which the seed of the truth is sown. The seeds that fall on thorny ground are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. We try to replace the giver with the gifts. Sloth…that’s not often how I think about this defeated way of living. God can make our efforts fruitful in the midst of the broken world. “Rooted in pride, sloth factors God out of the equation entirely. If God is not present or powerful here, there is no guarantee that your work or time will be rewarded. So why even try?” (181) We get defeated and more defeated as we stop trying.

Jesus trusts God and accepts the crown of thorns and defeats evil. “What better way to diminish the King of the universe than to crown Him with the very curse that hangs over His creation? What better way to triumph over Him than for evil to adorn his head? What could be more humiliating than to have our brokenness rest on Him?” (184) He trusted God – “Humility trusts God.” (185)

Do I believe the truth about God even when the situation suggests he’s someone doing something I can’t trust? I can’t be ruled by anything other than His word. I can confess my brokenness and rest by telling God and others that I need help. Surrender and stop thinking I can be enough – there is hope.

The most humbling experience of all is death. “All our life, humility is working to this end: Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (195) We experience the deaths of others until one day we are dying. We have no control. Jesus commits his spirit to the father – the destroyer of death, which destroys us now. Those who humble themselves will be the ones exalted. “…when the creature is finally and fully humbled, the world rights itself. When Jesus humbled Himself and submitted to death, He unleashed a power greater than death.” (196) It’s an upside down kingdom.

The struggle to sleep is another picture of the struggle to give up control and trust God. Put down the day. It’s a small way to practice letting go every day because we literally can’t live without it. “In many ways, the act of sleep itself is a spiritual act, an act of humility.” (204) I have to trick myself into sleeping most nights (if I’m not just exhausted) by leaving a light on or reading a book. God offers rest at the end of every day and at the end of every week. He welcomes us to rest, and he will restore us and sustain us.

The whole exercise of writing has had no place to fit in my life lately. I’m interested in politics/keeping up with current events. I’m interested in being a part of my community (though school and work mean that so much of my time is occupied). I’m interested in writing and reading fiction – I love it so much. I’m interested in too many things? I’m not sure what realm I’ll end up working toward when it comes to career time. I’m in seminary slash grad school. My program is focused on the connection of social justice to theology. I’ve been able to learn the outworking of that in terms of bringing justice+gospel to bear in different aspects of work in the city, whether that means working with refugees, working in community development, working in medicine, housing, etc. I’m interested in building relationships, but also in connecting people to the resources they need. How does someone get from the exit door of the prison to the front door of an employment agency (willing to talk to them) that has connections to employers (willing to give them a chance)? I’m interested in the broad and the sweeping…one of my strengths (according to Gallup) is “Connectedness”. Another is “Restorative”. I’m interested in restorative justice and the connection of the gospel to all of life – and its call on our lives to be righteous, which has huge implications for how we engage the poor and marginalized. I’ve written a little about that here before.

This was also very long, and if you made it this far then consider yourself part of my blog’s VIP club.

“Autumn” – a BRAND NEW album by Nick Dahlquist!!! I know him!
“Whose Country ‘Tis of Thee?” – Latino USA podcast episode
“All Things Work Together” – new Lecrae Album! SO GOOD.


On Thursday night, Nick (my husband) played (his original music) at a legit venue for the first time since we’ve lived in St. Louis. He has played at a coffee shop a couple of times, but never as a performer recognized as such. There was a simple stage, a sound check, and an opener. We got to the venue about an hour early to set up and get a vibe. We chatted with the bartender before people started to arrive. A friend (from the seminary we attend) played a set of his own music to open up. Friends (mostly from the seminary as well) trickled in over the course of the next hour. When it was time for Nick to start playing, someone who worked at the venue came onstage and gave a short, seemingly out-of-the-blue speech about the fact that during the show with an obviously largely Christian-seminary-crowd, the bar was making the least money in tips than it ever had before on similar nights. He addressed the idea of generosity and basically spoke against us for a little while. And then Nick had to start playing (for his own CD release show) in the midst of the subsequent atmosphere.

At first, it made me feel super unwelcome, like we were almost being asked to wrap things up and leave (before the main act had started). At the same time, I started to feel terrible. So terrible. Such a sinking feeling in my stomach. Nick and I were each given two tickets for free drinks since he was an artist and I was taking cover charges at the door. I hadn’t had the opportunity to tip or buy my own drink. But I have known for a long time that in the restaurant industry, Christians have the worst reputation as customers and specifically as being terrible tippers. That has always informed the way that Nick and I try to extend generosity when we tip (besides the fact that it’s a decent and normal way to behave, no matter who you are). Nick has also worked at three or four restaurants in his life, and he understands what it’s like to rely on tips on your shift.

The speech we should want people to give when a group of Christians comes into a neutral space is quite the opposite from the one this man had to give last night. It should be, “You Christians have been the best-tipping crowd we’ve ever had, and that wasn’t what we were expecting! Thank you for living up to the standard of generosity that you’re supposed to have!” We should be living in a way that shows people who don’t share our beliefs that we actually let our faith inform our way of being in the world, everywhere we go. As I sat and listened to Nick play his set (very graciously and positively and addressing the bar in a congenial way, seemingly unfazed by the speech) I started to get pissed. We invited this crowd to a bar we had never been to before, and they were representing us, our school, our faith, and ultimately our God. I wish they had thought about that when they decided not to leave a tip (those of them who didn’t leave a tip…probably better just not to buy a drink in the first place). I had used my drink tickets, so I went ahead and bought a beer.

After Nick was finished, he wanted to buy a drink as well, and a couple of our friends stayed back with us as we sat at the bar and chatted with the two people who had been working that night. We addressed the issue right away – we apologized for the way they had been stiffed, and made it clear that we weren’t on board with that. The lady that we had talked to early in the evening told us a couple of comments she’d overheard from the guests. One person commented to another that they hadn’t tipped and that their friend shouldn’t feel bad about not tipping either. One person questioned the bartender’s sexuality based on her short hair. I was horrified!! We personally knew all but three of the people who’d walked through the door – albeit we don’t know all of them as close friends. I couldn’t believe that some of my friends/acquaintances had behaved so poorly, especially in light of the speech from a person who directly said that he had grown up in the church. What a terrible impression we confirmed for him.

Our conversation – the six of us – after everyone else had left was really helpful and hopefully healing to the employees. They had gotten a terrible view of Christianity from our group that night. They expressed their gratitude for all the music, and for the four of us who stayed and tried to make amends and just talk as people. We listened to their thoughts about faith – some direct challenges and even really offensive accusations…but we didn’t argue or belittle. We tried to listen and be honest when we were asked questions. The guys exchanged phone numbers. We gave them most of the money we’d made at the door as our tip (something we weren’t necessarily guaranteed from Nick doing a show, and something that Nick does anyway when the tip jar is low). It was my favorite part of the night. And I was so proud of Nick for playing his really evidently Christian music without shame after being ripped, and for treating the staff so well, and for acknowledging with honesty the need to make up for the animosity they felt that night. I was grateful to have friends who stayed behind with us – I think it was really important for the staff to see that we weren’t the only people who could be kind to them and act normal. There are more than just two Christians who know how to love.

As I read that, it seems like I’m ranting and tooting my own horn here…but I am not trying to make us look good…I’m really trying to process being appalled and heartbroken…

When someone says to you that they were starting to heal and think about the Christian faith again, but your audience made them question whether they wanted to do that anymore, it is a big deal. Our behavior has consequences, and I want people to know that they leave an impact. Whatever your intentions, and whatever you think about your own money…Christians have to be the perfect example of human beings – we have to be extra generous and extra loving, because there is a stigma attached to us when we walk into the room. I think people are still used to the privilege of being accepted everywhere and having the freedom to behave how they like.

I’m not accusing anyone in particular of wrongdoing…but I was so embarrassed and so upset…and I wasn’t even on the receiving end of any comments or carelessness. The guys and the bartenders did one round of shots together to finish off the night, and we all hugged it out. I’m so glad that they were generous-spirited people, open to talking to us even though they didn’t have to trust us. I’m so glad we were able to have an open conversation about how they felt and what they saw and heard. I’m so sorry that Christians are so culturally clueless and blind to the way they affect others. I’m so glad that Nick’s music was still beautiful to them. It really was the kind of night that Nick wants his music to facilitate…just not in the way we expected.

It’s time to pray that we’ll have further interactions, conversations, positive experiences, friendships, with this place and the people who work there. It’s time to pray that they remember the way they were treated and respected at the beginning and end of the night. To pray that they know they are loved by God, and that their hearts might be opened. This should be our prayer for everyone we encounter, and I thought that Christians understood that…at least the ones who go to our seminary…perhaps I am just naïve. I’m usually cynical, and this whole incident isn’t helping with that. It is our actions that show who we truly our, not merely our words. Dumbledore says it. The Bible says it. We’ll be known by what we do.

Like I said, there were plenty of our friends there who were being perfectly kind and normal. And like I said, the speech was pretty brutal…it hit people the wrong way in general. The bartender made a caveat that the women were doing great (once the women started to arrive, she said, the tips started rolling in generously). We were a group of graduate students who generally look like we have it together but actually can’t really afford to spend money on drinks. Perhaps we shouldn’t have invited people to an event where they had to pay a cover as well as purchase drinks. It’s complicated, right? But in another way, it’s not complicated at all. Not to the two people we should have been most conscious about in that space.

I wanted a space to process this, so thanks for reading. Here are some quotes from a book we read at this seminary about living as Christians in a world where Christianity turns people off.

“Respect and graciousness are to flow from a heart that is being changed by the way God has come to meet me in Christ; they must arise from genuine love and a proper regard for my neighbor’s true dignity.” – The Heart of Evangelism, page 195

“Christians, above all people, should be aware that we need to earn respect from unbelievers by our life of service to the community.” – The Heart of Evangelism, page 144

summer beginning – an end to the first year

This is my most recent email update on my first year as an intern with a campus ministry –

The most common question that I’ve been asked recently is, “So, how does it feel to be off for the summer?”

My first thought is, “I don’t know, how does it feel to be off for the summer?”
I don’t have the summer off. 😉

But, as you know, the regular rhythms of the school year are gone. There are many students in and around Tulsa for the summer, and we are kicking off the first of many summer cookouts tonight! We’re excited for the chance to foster community with students during a time when they have a slightly less demanding workload – many are working or doing research here for the summer.

The week after final exams, we hopped on a charter bus and went to Florida for the annual national Summer Conference. Our students spent the week attending seminars on topics like Justification, Faithful Sexuality, Cross-Cultural Community, Glorification, and Friendship, to name just a few. Each day, we had lots of free time to spend on the beach, playing in various tournaments, or napping by one of the many pools.

At the end of the week, we circled up to talk about what we learned and would take away from the week. More than one student cried as they talked about the meaningful ways the other students on the trip made them feel welcome and loved. Summer Conference really is an intensive week of community, and it was beautiful to hear wise words from our students and to witness new friendships as we prepared to leave.

I’m grateful for this first year of the internship. There have been days when I felt useless, exhausted, or depressed. I’ve had a weary spirit. I miss my close friends and family dearly. But I am captivated by the work God is doing at this university. Summer Conference was a refreshing time personally, as I was reminded of the extent of RUF’s ministry and spent time talking with those from other campuses about the impact of Christ in their students’ lives.

This past week, I was able to visit Lincoln, to see a cousin graduate and to celebrate a wedding. There, I felt God’s kindness to me more tangibly than I have in a long time. Despite my ungrateful, weary attitude toward life where I am as of late, he provided a time of refreshment almost beyond my emotional capacity to process. I felt so loved and cared for, and I felt the true weight of support from everyone I visited.

what a dear friend + someone that challenges me to dig in + experience life with vulnerability and open hands + meeting that challenge herself
what a dear friend + someone that challenges me to dig in + experience life with vulnerability and open hands + meeting that challenge herself
sweet, funny, can't help but be happy around her kinda gal.
sweet, funny, can’t help but be happy around her kinda gal.
Oasis Bluegrass Band: AKA the father in law and bonus mom in law strut their stuff.
Oasis Bluegrass Band: AKA the father in law and bonus mom in law strut their stuff.
where I like to go
where I like to go
kindred spirits that beat to the tune of different drummers. ideation. longing. never settling.  she spreads joy in my heart & affection that's mutual is a fun thing to experience together = true friendship.
kindred spirits that beat to the tune of different drummers. ideation. longing. never settling. she spreads joy in my heart & affection that’s mutual is a fun thing to experience together = true friendship.
real love
real love
There it is. :)
There it is.
In all reality, I miss her dearly.
In all reality, I miss her dearly.
Best homemade ice cream around town / around most towns. Clearly the best shop. In the best building. :)
Best homemade ice cream around town / around most towns. Clearly the best shop. In the best building.
Evening in Lincoln
Evening in Lincoln
And the original reason for going to Lincoln. Collin & Alicia. Collin chose Nick as his Best Man, and I think so too.
And the original reason for going to Lincoln. Collin & Alicia. Collin chose Nick as his Best Man, and I think so too.

siberia is a tundra of sound

I have been reading a lot. And listening to an overwhelming amount of music – both wonderful goals I’ve reached since graduation a year ago. A YEAR AGO. I graduated a year ago? ha, who am I?

We slept in today, which was awesome. Slept in until 9:30. It was glorious. Didn’t have my coffee until 1:00, so you know I’m restin’. One goal I’ve failed abysmally is the writing goal – the scariest, most important, most make-or-brake-my-identity (I know not really because I’m a child of God, but it’s where I seek my identity most often). This post is something I wrote a couple weeks ago, about the music that has been flowing through my veins lately. As I listen to Alt-J because you can’t help but feel legit while you do.

I’ve been reading so much about God’s faithfulness to his people, and reminding myself of the importance of memory. Remembering this great story and the blessings of God along the way. He provides and he follows through on his promises. I can trust him to be there. I can even trust him to care and to uphold me. I don’t have to carry 90% of our relationship. He carries it, actually. He can be trusted, and I need to remember the proof of that in my life. Or else nothing will change.

I got really happy when everything about gratitude clicked for me (at the same time that everything in my life aligned to allow gratitude to blossom pretty effortlessly). And I realized that you have to do the work to produce contentment – the work of humility and gratefulness – joy doesn’t just happen. Peace doesn’t come from trying to be peaceful and quiet and calm. It comes through Jesus, repentance, forgiveness, the realization of grace.

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross.
“Not too proud to wear our skin, to know this weary world we’re in – humble, humble, Jesus. Not too proud to bear our sin, to feel this brokenness we’re in – humble, humble, Jesus. Not too proud to dwell with us, to live in us, to die for us – humble, humble, Jesus. We bow our knees; we must decrease; you must increase; we lift you high…”

That’s from Audrey Assad’s song “Humble,” which has been playing a lot lately. Remember who Jesus was on earth – who he still is for us. I don’t know why I love this next one so much…I just keep going back to it. I think the images and the feel of it – it connects, especially these words:

“And through it all, I stood and stumbled, waded through my thoughts and heart / Yeah through it all, I fooled and fumbled, lost to the poet’s frown. I fought the wolves of patience just to let it lie down / See these waters they’ll pull you up, Oh if you’re bolder than the darkness / My, my, let these songs be an instrument to cut, Oh spaces ’tween the happiness and the hardness / / Strong hands to hold good friends that I never lost / / What we found down these roads that wander as lost as the heart, is a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start…”
(“These Waters” / Ben Howard)

There is a chance to breathe again if the waters pull me up and I’m bolder than the darkness and the poet’s frown turns into a believer’s joyful grin. There is that to get over – and to accept – that standing-stumbling, fooling-fumbling stuff. There is happiness and hardness, but I get stuck in between.

“I’m too proud to ask, too broke to eat, too weak to bow, too strong to bleed…

Can you sing over me…words of comfort?
Can you satisfy me…sweet honey?
Can you break through me…strong hands?
Can you undo me…enough to heal me?

You take the weight…from my shoulders
My hands were clenched…now they’re open
I’ll take your goodness…poured from the sky
Food from the ravens…water from the dry…well”
(“Too Proud” / Enter the Worship Circle)

This is just how I am – too proud. The opposite of everything in that Audrey Assad song. I want words of comfort, satisfaction in God. I want him to break through my heart and undo me enough to heal me – I just wonder if he even can – if there’s not too much rubble and scab there to be fixed – but he has the almighty balm. I always forget. My hands were/are clinched – I clench my teeth and my face and my shoulders. Take the weight – palms up – I am the dry well really…

That has been the most astounding part of the internship. How dry I always feel, and how good things still happen and I feel like God still uses my presence sometimes. But I’m literally the least of these – the broken vessel – the bruised reed. I’m so out of it when it comes to my spirituality. And you would think that this job would require more than that – and it does, and I do fine, but I feel like a fake.

I have felt so unsure – abandoned – unacknowledged – forgotten – depressed – anxious. I prayed so much for growth – for hard humility and to be taken away from my comfort zone. Why don’t I remember those prayers right away when these things start to happen? I know that God will give us trials and strengthen our faith – if we trust him, if I’m one that perseveres.

“’Lord, why is this?’ I trembling cried. Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death? ‘Tis in this way,’ the Lord replied, ‘I answer prayer for grace and faith. These inward trials I employ, from self and pride to set thee free, and break thy schemes of earthly joy that thou mayest seek thy all in me.’”
– I Asked the Lord – John Newton (Laura Taylor, Emily Deloach)

I just feel that so big – this entire hymn. The Lord answers those prayers for faith and trust and growth and grace and humility by making us humble ourselves and by trials – mainly inward, especially for me. He does make us humble, and we’re then faced with the question of whether we really want what we asked for – if we wanted it in the first place. And the answer is yes, but only when I consciously notice – on the regular, I don’t want that. I’m too proud.

I’ll leave off with the lyrics of the first song from Josh Garrels’ new album that struck me, and after that, the video of the one that I’m crying about right now because it’s painfully beautiful, and I can’t stop listening to it…

one –
“Lift up your shoulders child – breathe in – Carry the weight of love you’ve been given.
Storm is passing by – light breaks in, as you learn to sing.
Every color can be unwound, woven into a wave of beautiful sound.
Open the heavenlies and shake the ground, and change the world.
So let all the creatures sing praises over everything – colors are meant to bring glory to the light.
Voices might fade away and begin – become a tapestry we all are in.
No one will ever be forgotten – there’s a place for us.
So let all the creatures sing praises over everything – colors are meant to bring glory to the light – glory to the throne.
This is our story, this is our song – we’re telling it slowly all life long –
of a Savior and what He’s done. It’s a mystery…”
(Colors / Josh Garrels)