And Now, The Fish Slapping Dance


Gentle Reader,

My house is a disaster. Really. We’re down to the last room in the Grand Epic of Replacing the Floor, which means everything in my bedroom has been shoved into the guest room and everything in the guest room has been shoved into what passes for an office (that nobody ever uses) and there is detritus everywhere. The dogs can’t figure out what’s happening to their environment; in protest of the disruption, they knock over bathroom wastebaskets and generally behave badly.

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or decamp to the nearest cheap motel.

Attempting to see the humor seems the best choice.

Did you know that Christians aren’t supposed to have a sense of humor, though? I didn’t until recently. Again, belatedly I learn that I have been doing my life all wrong. Must have lost the instruction manual. Apparently we are supposed to be deeply serious people, always and ever concerned with ruining everybody’s good time.

How sad.

Jesus went to parties, you know. As in, He was invited to parties all the time and saw no need to avoid them. Heaven certainly sounds like it’s going to be a gigantic, forever-long party, full of light, laughter and good food. For what is being in the presence of God if not happiness? If not constant smiling?

Is life serious? Of course it is. It’s also absurd. A friend texted me a couple of hours ago, relaying a story she’d seen on the news of a man who broke into a house and began doing laundry. Not his laundry. The laundry that belongs to the people whose house he broke into. Yes, theft is a sin, but that’s funny. What sort of burglar thinks, “You know, I’ll just do some washing up for these fine folks that I’m robbing?”

There are two sides to my personality; one is very serious, dark and afraid, the other ever-amused and struggling to hold back giggles at inappropriate moments. This particular blend is what it is. At nearly 34, I’ve about given up on attempting to reconcile how I can, at the same time, be both numbingly anxious and laughing so hard tears spring to my eyes. That is, I suppose, humanity.

I believe in learning, study, contemplation. I also believe in a good pie to the face. I don’t think God minds a good joke. In fact, I think He laughs. Give yourself permission to do the same. Allow yourself to see the funny, the farcical. Perhaps, in so doing, the proverbial silver lining is found.

William Makepeace Thackeray (one of the best names ever) wrote in his novel Vanity Fair,

The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.

When I frown at the world, when I dwell on all that makes me sad and scared, I find more things to be sad and scared about. When I do the work of looking up and smiling (for it is work, as all choices are), I find more things to smile about. That’s not pop psychology or self-help babble, nor is that a substitute for medication or therapy, if needed. (Real talk: I am beginning to become annoyed at having to place this disclaimer in my writing so often. I wish that anyone who ever reads here would simply, somehow, know what my position is and that I’d never have to state it again). It’s taking ownership of our thoughts an attitudes, something we are advised to do throughout Scripture.

And now, The Fish Slapping Dance. Not because it means anything. Not because it must be analyzed. Because it’s 17 seconds of sheer, unbridled silliness. It’s okay to giggle over this and promptly replay.

Bonus content: The Spanish Inquisition compilation. (Yes, I love Monty Python and yes, Michael Palin is my favorite. Some of my fondest memories involve acting out absurd, stupid sketches with old friends, both original and ones that we blatantly stole from this British comedy troupe. Please don’t sue us, gents. We have no money).



Glitter, Fluff and Pink Pages


Gentle Reader,

Someone recently asked me what I want my “brand” to be.

Yeah, I’m not in marketing. I don’t know. Maybe “lovable curmudgeon”? Or “tough outer shell hides big gooey center”? Perhaps “read the Bible, people, before I flip this table over”? Or “holy moly, she’s intense and I’d better back away slowly”?

Everything and everyone is a commodity, it seems. Figure out your audience, who you want to reach, and mold yourself to that.

And if you don’t fit any mold?

This is not the first time I’ve written about this topic, so clearly it’s under my skin. I saw something on Twitter the other day – really wish I had taken a screenshot of who said this, but I didn’t, so please direct me to the source if you’ve got it – a few little lines that pointed out that we assume that a man’s perspective is neutral. A man can, and should, write to and for both men and women. If, however, a woman writes, we assume that she’s writing for women only.

That bugged me.

Made me think, too.

How many men have studied the book of Ruth? The book of Esther? Have gone through and carefully picked out the stories of the heroines of the faith, cherishing them as they do the tales of David and the Apostles?

I don’t have answers to those questions. I do wonder, though, how many men subconsciously shrug their shoulders and think, “Nah. Those are chick stories. Nothing there for me.”

Except it’s the word of God.

Of course I’m not claiming that I or any other female writer is on the same level as Holy Scripture. You’d probably find charred ground where my body used to occupy space if I did that. What I am claiming is that this weird divide in the Church runs deep. It’s more than squabbling over whether or not a woman can preach, which solid, orthodox Christians can reasonably disagree on. (For the record, I think complementarians are wrong, but they think I’m wrong, so it’s all good). It’s this bone-deep belief that women don’t have anything of substance to say. That a man can’t possibly learn anything from a woman because “she doesn’t get it.”

But I, a woman, am automatically expected to adjust pronouns and situations in my head when a man preaches or writes. I am expected to “get” what he’s talking about when he relates a theological concept to, I don’t know, a football game or working on a car. (Yes, super broad and stereotypical).

What is that? Why do we do this?

See, my mind is full of more than glitter and fluff. I want to write about, learn about, teach about concepts and stories that are found in other places than the “pink pages” of Scripture. Not that glitter, fluff or pink pages are bad. I’m a fan of glittery shoes and pins, I love me a fluffy blanket and nobody is ever going to convince me that Ruth and Esther are boring or “light.” But I can also discuss theories of the kenosis. I can tell you about the times the Holy Spirit speaks to me when I’m folding laundry. I wrote a book exploring the intersection of suffering and theology. (Shameless plug. Girl’s gotta pay those bills, you know).

In no way do I wish to diminish my brothers. I want to see men functioning in the full freedom and gifting that God has blessed them with. That shouldn’t come at the expense of the sisters, though. I want us to step up and embrace who and what God has made us to be as well (and that really does extend beyond nursery duty).

There’s this chapter in Scripture, Hebrews 11. We call it the “Hall of Faith.” And it is. But it’s also the “Hall of Freaks and Weirdos.” You think Noah let the fact that nobody had ever seen rain keep him from building the boat? You think Joseph was concerned about his branding, how it looked when he told his people to take his bones back to the Promised Land? You think Rahab was worried about losing her clientele when she hid the spies and threw herself into the mercy of God?

We thrill to these stories because they are of people, just like you and me, who dared to follow where God led them. While none of them were perfect (Abraham gets some serious side-eye from me), the overall pattern of their lives was one of focusing on Him. They weren’t worried about an audience, about metrics, about statistics, about who should and shouldn’t be doing what. He said “go,” and they went. As simple as that.

This is what I long for in the Church. How I would love for us to shed the language of “tribe” and “role.” How I ache for us to be still and seek His will. How I wish we would stop trying to put a Jesus veneer on what the world around us is doing and just be what He wants us to be – committed, obedient, loving.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be great if we stopped erecting artificial barriers? If we stopped believing, “He/she can’t speak into my life because I only let this type of person do that?” If we stopped crafting articles and sermons based on what we know people want to hear and instead speak and write as God commands?

Sounds wonderful to me.



Review: A Place to Land


Gentle Reader,

Pass go, collect two hundred dollars and get this book.

Seriously. This is not one you want to miss.

I had the joy of “meeting” Kate Motaung several years ago when she took over as the Fearless Leader of the Five Minute Friday community. (She did not give herself this title. I did. I don’t remember why, but it’s stuck in my brain). We have chatted via Twitter, Voxer and blog comments. As I’m sure others can attest, Kate has the unique gift of making one feel at home; I don’t doubt that, were I to show up in her driveway today, that I would be welcomed inside for tea and good conversation.

This is part of what made this book so fascinating for me. Kate writes of being torn between houses following her parents’ divorce and between continents after moving to South Africa in her early twenties. Her story is one of longing for home, of never quite knowing where or what that place is. Out of that longing, I believe she strives to give others a sense of comfort and security. Even those of us who have only connected with her through electronic means pick up on this and celebrate her gift of welcoming embrace.

Ultimately, and encouragingly, Kate reminds both herself and the reader that our true Home, the place our souls ache for, is not to be found in this life. We get teases, little glimpses, that give us hope and keep us going when things get hard, but we never get the full picture. We have to wait. So we sit in the discomfort, knowing that all is not as it should be, asking Jesus to daily give us the grit and the grace to navigate yet another bump in the road.

The pages of A Place to Land are full of honesty and humor. Kate looks unflinchingly at herself and allows us to do so as well. In that, we are given permission to be that honest. To acknowledge that we don’t always know the answers or do the right things. Her choice to tell her story in such a raw way is deeply refreshing. There are no neat and tidy bows, no pristine images of perfect kids and conflict-free living. There is, instead, a woman who consistently, constantly, preaches Jesus. His presence, His love, His guidance, His help. Over and over again, Kate finds Him in the middle of the mess. She shows the reader how to reach out for His hand.

God took the tug-of-war that waged in my soul, the thick rope that spanned across the ocean, and yanked from both sides. He cut it clean through the middle, somewhere over the depths of the Atlantic. And He made me look up. To see that the greatest and strongest pull is neither east nor west, neither here nor there. It’s the heavenward pull.

It’s the pull toward home.

I now know how to respond the next time someone asks me the simple question, ‘Are you heading home?'” Regardless of my earthly destination, and purely because of the grace of Christ’s sacrifice, I’ll be able to answer with confidence, ‘Yes. Yes I am.'”

– p. 266-267

To that I can only say, “Amen.”

Thank you, Kate, for sharing your story with us. Thank you for the hours you spend leading the ragtag FMF troop. Thank you for being who you are. Usikelelke.



Five Minute Friday: Tired


Gentle Reader,

No chat for me tonight. I plain forgot about it.

Kate says: tired.


In 2010, I began feeling tired all the time. And achy. Like I was always just about to come down with something. No matter how much I did or didn’t sleep, I never felt rested. Sometimes, I had a fever for no apparent reason. Not high enough to be alarming, but present. Though I have never been a party-hearty kind of gal, it became apparent that something was wrong.

Fast forward eight years, a dozen or so CT scans, the same amount of ultrasounds, four MRIs and four surgeries later – I’m still tired.

No, not tired. Exhausted. Always. Every day. I rate my level of weariness on a scale of “I can push myself to do what needs to be done,” which is a good day, to “I slept for fourteen hours and I still need a nap.”

From the outside, I probably look like a lazy person. My alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m. every morning. Three-fourths of the time I stumble out of bed, only to fall asleep on the couch minutes later. I strive not to. I pull my breakfast (vegan, soy-free) protein shake out of the refrigerator and open my Bible. I blink my eyes wide and attempt to focus my fog-filled mind. It’s hard.

Yesterday I lay down, after lunch, with the thought, “I just need to close my eyes for a few minutes.” Then it was three hours later. I woke with a start, feeling guilty. The afternoon was gone. Hours that will never return.

People ask me how I’m feeling. Usually, I say, “I’m hanging in there.” And it’s true. I would like a new body. In fact, I long for a new body. I will never be thankful for malfunctioning organs and a poor immune system. But there’s a lot of sweetness in and among the bitter. I learn to sit at the feet of Jesus. I learn to find my value and identity in Him, not in myself or what I can accomplish.

Walking through the days in this body of decay prompts me to think on Heaven. The culmination of all things. The presence of God. No night, no pain, no sorrow. There, I won’t be tired. And that promise is enough.