Because I forget

I had barely begun my nine mile run, and I could already feel the arch of my foot becoming tender.  Every step on the pavement was singularly focused on this itty bitty part of my anatomy.  It became more painful around mile 3, at which point I cut my route short and headed back to my car.  Perhaps you saw the really tall lady in hot pink shorts kind of limp-running under the 1-10 and muttering curse words under her breath Saturday morning in downtown Tucson?  That was me. I was both frustrated with my body and disappointed over admitting defeat.

It is interesting how for me, running is not just running.  Physical pain or limitations are not just physical.  The emotional, mental, spiritual and, um, therapeutic elements intertwined in a nine mile run are never more obvious than when that running is threatened, or taken away.

Maybe it’s an idol.  Maybe it’s a gift from God.  But suffice it to say I spent a fair amount of time the rest of that Saturday pouting on the couch, awkwardly trying to hold an icepack to the bottom of my foot.

Then, it was time to head to church.  Frantic dinner, hyper kids, make-up thrown on in a rush, empty gas tank, uncooperative foot. Inhale.  Exhale.  Here we are.

The church is in a sermon series that is asking some questions about why The Church gathers.  Why bother?  Why do we need it?  Why does God desire it?

I got some answers.

Earlier that day I had posted something on Facebook about my Poor Unfortunate Foot and no less than four people at church came up and talked to me about it.  People who didn’t  bother to ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on Facebook.  People who would rather approach me, in person.

I saw their faces.  They saw mine.   I heard their insight and questions, not via written text but instead through their unique and beautiful voices.  I shared my frustrations with my hyperbolic ramblings and  facial expressions and arm gestures. One of my pastors even took me aside and showed me some stretches I could try out.   I am knownFrom my COMPLICATED feelings all the way down to the tiniest tendon under my right foot.  I am known. 

Sometimes I forget that.  I forget I am known, and I forget how good it is.

This is why we gather.

Time to sit in our chairs now, the service is beginning.  The words “Desperate for Distraction” show on the screen up in front of the Sanctuary, flashing for only a moment in the midst of a short video clip, but it was enough for my soul to be pierced.   Desperate.  For.  Distraction.  This is how I live.

Let me tell you, it is a heavy burden and a tiring work.

I closed my eyes for the rest of the video and let God lift my face toward Him, and I chose – in that unique moment and yet also for the thousandth time – the living water of Jesus instead of the broken cisterns that somehow always seem just fine and satisfying during the week.

And it was good.

And easy.

And light.

I keep forgetting.

This is why we gather. 

It is interesting how in the Old Testament God is pretty darn particular about the Isrealites doing these 2 things; offering sacrifices and gathering to remember.  Remember the Passover.  Remember the Sabbath.

And then…Christ…our atonement once for all.  And God in the New Testament is now quite particular that our need for sacrifice is over with.  OVAH!  Forget about all those lambs and goats and blood.  Hallelujah.   But being together, remembering together, this is NOT over.  Why not?

Why can’t this be forsaken as well, it’s not like my fellow Gentile Christians and myself celebrate the Passover.  Why can’t I just stay home and listen to a podcast?

Because.  Because I need to hear your voice and see your empathetic face while I narrate my running problems and I need to watch that video clip and sit next to you while you sing and let you hear me sing (louder and louder..actually sorry about that!) and hear you say Amen from the back of the building and be touched by how your ministry is caring for special needs people and teach me from the bible and teach me from your life.

Because I can witness the joy in your eyes at having your daughter home for a few days, because you asked me to pray for you, because your baby just gets bigger and cuter every time I see her.

Because I needed that Christian stock video clip and your kindness and your touch and your words to help me worship, to love me, to pierce me, to remind me.

Because I keep forgetting. 

This is why we gather. 

And then these people who I love stand up there with guitars and its a song we sing a lot and on the radio a lot and blah blah blah.

But somehow through this song I am taken back to my morning run.  In all the attention I was giving my frustration and my foot, I missed celebrating how lovely and cool the morning was.  The calm and quiet of the university campus.  The brilliant southwest colors that paint Downtown.  The mountains and all the glory of el amanecer sobre el desierto.  I close my eyes and am given an opportunity, a second chance, to go back and see what you wanted to give me, that I wasn’t willing to receive at that time.

To give to you now what I couldn’t, at least not on my own, earlier that day.  Bless the Lord, oh my Soul!

Week by week by week by week.

I keep forgetting.

That is why we gather. 

Home

Home.  These four solid walls of burnt adobe in southern Arizona.  Right here on a Saturday morning, all of us still in our pajamas, the house smelling of bacon, while I sip my coffee in a way I just can’t do on a Monday morning and I listen to giggles and the washing machine turning.

Home. Those four solid walls of creamy yellow.  Right there, lying on my mom’s couch while she cooks pot roast and does my laundry and Evangeline across the room on Grandpa’s lap.

Home. No walls at all as I sit at the park on a clear Tucson morning, gabbing with friends while our little ones play and grow up before our very eyes.

Home. Four walls of blue-ish gray, in the quiet of my bedroom, all by myself, the door closed, re-reading Harry Potter for the 5th time through.

It’s intimate, it’s deeply personal.  It’s where the heart is, after all.

Yet, there it is too, in the vast farmlands of Illinois y las playas de Chile and the Wide Open Spaces of Arizona.

It’s inviting me in, to stay, to live.  It’s sending me out to go, to love.

It has witnessed it all, the good the bad and the ugly because my life is comprised of good and bad and ugly.

Its where I am the most comfortable but where the biggest messes happen.

Home is slavery back in Egypt. Where I have made all the wrong decisions and cried all the tears and received all the wounds.

Home is the Promised Land full of milk and honey. Where I have loved and been loved in return, and held babies and said vows and snuggled and laughed and worshipped and danced.

It’s across the country and it’s right here, in my arms.

It’s in the sanctuary where I learn and sing.

It’s solid. I can touch it’s face and hold it’s hand and carry it to bed and slow dance with it and hear it crying and breathing.

And yet, it can’t be contained.  It’s an ache, a yearning, a fulfillment, a moment, a memory, joy and peace and love.

Home is with you.

Home is with You.

It envelopes me and nurtures me and shelters me and asks me to do the same for others.

Casa y Hogar.

My house.  My home.

The Matriarchs

You know the ones.

That woman in church you have seen, but never spoken to.  That woman who raised you.  That woman who taught you.  That woman who blessed you. That woman who organized.  That woman who prayed.  That woman who showed up. That woman who sings. That woman who leads.

They are everywhere.

Some have gray hair, some don’t.

Some wear funky jewelry, others show up in comfortable shoes.

Some are waving good-bye to sons and daughters flying from the nest.  Some are glowing as they hold their grandchildren.

Some sit next to me in church, others are a plane ride away.

They are all lovely. 

Their strength is tried and true.  So are their recipes.

They have been praying and serving and rolling up their sleeves for longer than I have been alive.

They are clan leaders.  They are mothers.  They are pillars.  They are oak trees.

The Matriarchs. 

They have gone before me and lead me and teach me.

Firm.  Planted.  Unwavering.  Dedicated.  Wise.

Yet, their years have given to them a softness, an understanding, a confidence and a quietness that allows them to move with ease.

And they allow me to lead.

They give me a place.

They let me try my own recipes in the kitchen, happy to assist.

They throw me a knowing smile when my children misbehave in church.

They listen patiently.

They answer my phone calls.

They invite me over.

They share their lives, open books still being written, and I hang on with rapt attention to every word.

When I am amongst them, I am amongst giants.

As I parent, as I lead, as I pray, as I live, as I timidly put one foot in front of the other, unsure if the next step is the right one, they surround me.

Not tonight

My legs were heavy.  My heart was heavy.  My eyelids were heavy. 

There was only about fifteen feet between me and the Communion Table but they were fifteen feet I just couldn’t make.

Not tonight.

At our church the bread and the juice sit out for us, up front on a smooth, simple wooden table.  We are welcome to come up as we please, usually during the musical portion of the service, to take the Elements.  To eat the bread.  To drink the juice.  To remember Him.

And I love this, it fits the character of our particular church body so well.

Organic.

Casual.

Free.

Occaisionally most nights I have stuff that I either bring in with me or comes to the surface in that most vulnerable of meeting places.  Baggage, if you will.

And week after week Jesus faithfully meets me during our church service and I am always ready to confess, to rest, to rejoice, to learn and to pray and even on the roughest of weekends I am quick to leave my seat, walk humbly to the table, and receive Communion.

But not tonight.

The stuff seemed like too much tonight.

Jesus, I don’t deserve to wear forgiveness like a crown, please don’t ask me to.

Jesus, I have been up since before 5am and I just can’t.

Jesus, why am I still struggling with this?

Jesus, who will help me?

Jesus, why is this so hard?

So for the first time, tonight I was resigned to stay where I was and not partake (which was ironic since the sermon message was actually about Communion).

My legs were heavy.  My heart was heavy.  My eyelids were heavy.  

And then, the Good News.

As I sat there, weighted in my seat, our pastor announced that tonight the bread and the cup would be passed, that they would be brought from that smooth, simple table right to me.  I wouldn’t have to move.  I wouldn’t have to put one foot in front of the other.  I simply could sit, and receive.

The Good News.

In my tired and weary and sinful state, when I just couldn’t bring myself to come to Jesus, he came to me. 

He came to me in high school, when I didn’t know why but I stood up to accept Him as my savior.

He came to me my freshman year of college, when I just couldn’t make a good decision if my life depended on it, but was crying out.

He came to me while weeping over two lost babies, crying with me and washing my feet.

He came to me when He became flesh and dwelt among us.

He came to me when He lifted up His robes and sprinted out of his house to meet the prodigal son.

He came to me when he found me pouting during the party, letting the older son know that all He has ever had, is in fact his.

He came to me while sitting in church, unable to play the part of a mature Christian, unable to get up, unable to move forward, to offer me once again His Body and His Blood, given for me. 

He came to me.

Tension. No wait, TENSION.

See this?

DSCN8847

I picked those leaves from my parents’ yard in northern Illinois.

Once back in the dusty desert I got out my Tub-o-Mod Podge and made my very own candle holder with those beautiful red leaves.

Then I made another one with some burlap.

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I had a problem, obviously, and just couldn’t stop.  I bought a pumpkin and some ears of corn and re-purposed a mirror that was in our bedroom and POOF!

Kirsten had decorated for autumn.

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This is big people

HUGE, actually.

There was a time in my life, not too long ago (like, last week) during which I was convinced that decorating for seasons (other than Christmas, duh.) was for a certain kind of person that involved wearing mom jeans and reading Good Housekeeping and being boring.

Well, I guess I have arrived because this fall my house smells like  spiced apple cider and my fire place mantle looks AHHHMAZING.

And I love it.  It truly brings me joy to sit here enjoying a bit of autumn (while the a/c is on, obviously, because you know it is like 93 degrees out right now…).  So maybe not like ‘profound spiritual’ joy but certainly ‘life is good‘ joy.

Bit by bit I have found myself doing strange things like this.

For example, last Christmas I paid like $20 for a wreath from Micheal’s that had gold spray-painted pine cones plastered to it. (It’s tacky, not gonna lie)

You can kinda see it in this picture…

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Now that I have figured out how to use Pinterest it is getting even worse and I am absolutely stuck in the TENSION of it all.

You might be surprised that there can be TENSION in Mod Podge and fall foliage, but there is in my life.

Actually, I am a firm believer that for all the Peace we get in Jesus, the actual day to day of following Him is full of this TENSION.

For example, I want to celebrate the beautiful gift of changing seasons and create a warm and loving home for my family and drink gallons of pumpkin spiced EVERYTHING and visit and plan and host and bake and apple pick and craft and decorate because it is FALL and YAY!

But – people are literally starving.  Here in Tucson. People don’t give a you-know-what that I have glued some leaves to an old jar because they can’t afford pumpkins or pumpkin spiced lattes and they are drowning in sorrows and bills and family drama and drug abuse and lies and abuse and unemployment so what the you-know-what am I doing spending time and money decorating my mantle and buying gaudy wreathes?

And, am I less of a good Christian woman if I can’t afford to, or choose not to, have a home strait out of a magazine?  (Alright, let’s be clear – for all my mocking, I am quite certain my mantle wouldn’t make the cut to appear in Good Housekeeping in a million years…)

Am I less of a good Christian woman if I can afford to, and I do choose to?

TENSION.

It’s all over the place in my life.

I am so, so, so pleased that my children have a mommy who teaches and leads and works and serves yet I want to prioritize raising them well – so how much is too much time away from them?

I value deep scripture study and prayer and spiritual care and fellowship and I value outreach and service- how does this all fit into an hour and a half small group meeting I lead?

I value being wise with my finances and future, but I also take Jesus seriously when he says not to build storehouses of wealth here on earth and give away my possessions.

I am constantly resisting with every fiber of my being against the pulls of materialism and ‘fat and happy’ Christianity in my life, yet I also value celebration and thankfulness and joy in my home – so exactly how much time and money should I put into making my house adorable?

Is abundance found in pumpkin spiced lattes and beautifully decorated homes, or is abundance found in giving sacrificially of my resources?

Or, is it found in both?

I think it is both, but it feels tricky to navigate sometimes.

I believe joy and abundance are found in a mommy who serves inside the home and outside of the home.

I believe joy and abundance are found on my knees and reaching out to my co-workers.

I believe joy and abundance are found filling myself full at God’s table and letting dinner get a bit cold while I find someone to share it with.

So there is TENSION.

Questions of how much and how often come up daily.

Calls to be radical and extreme encounter and sometimes clash with calls to rest and feast. 

I wish I could neatly tie this blog post with an answer.  An answer of what percentage is okay to spend on seasonal decor.  An answer of when I need to say ‘no’ to others and just get on the floor and play with my kids.  An answer of which nights it is perfectly acceptable to veg in front of the TV and which nights I need to open up my bible (I will probably decide that one based on Gray’s Anatomy…).

Sometimes a gold Christmas wreath is just what I need to celebrate the season, and sometimes I need to JUST STOP FOR THE LOVE after decorating the mantle and quit before the centerpiece because my time is better spent elsewhere.

Jesus is not about guilt and shame and I don’t have time for that.  So when He says care for others I try to do that.  When He says chill out and rest and get out that glue gun to rejoice in the beauty of autumn I try to do that, too.

Being firmly passionate in God’s purposes for the world, and allowing HIS story to be the foundation to my life, actually allows me freedom in making these choices, but no matter how you slice it, self-reflection, accountability and self-control just aren’t always easy.

What TENSIONS of the Christian life do you deal with?

It stops with me

Guess what?  I have never raised a three year old before.  I mean, prior to Evangeline turning three last September that is.  When she turns 4 next week, I will never have raised a 4 year old and will find myself in the same position of clueless inexperienced motherhood.

Sometimes, most of the time really, it doesn’t matter.  A solid combination of parenting books, Google, common sense and bribery-by-candy seem to get the job done just fine.

But, let me tell you, there are times when I have no earthly idea what I am doing.

This morning, about five minutes before we had to be loaded up in the car in order to get to preschool on time, SOMETHING SNAPPED inside my little girl and thus began THE TANTRUM.  This summer she started having toddler-like ‘melt-downs’ and when we aren’t smack dab in the middle of one, my husband and I can have calm, rational conversations about why this is happening and make reasoned, educated guesses.  Is it a growth spurt?  Does she need more sleep?  Does she need different strategies to help manage her anger?  Is this just completely normal for a 3 year old?

But when we are in full-on TANTRUM mode oh Dear Lord help me I have no clue what to do and nothing seems to end the irrational screaming and kicking and I panic. We have to be to school on time or all the other parents and teachers will know what a bad mom I am who can’t control her child and that my pretty daughter isn’t perfect and then I won’t make it to my play date or finish the grocery shopping and…Exhale. 

In these heated moments I am torn between remaining the calm adult ready to wait out THE TANTRUM and employ my Super Nanny skills versus transforming into the cornered, wounded animal ready to use every ounce of strength in my body to get that girl in her car seat if it is THE LAST THING I DO

In these heated moments I am tempted to forget that my children aren’t actually my enemies and that I am not in a battle, I am in a family. 

I may have forgotten those things this morning, but eventually we got that girl strapped in the car and she finally started to calm down.  She hadn’t had enough breakfast (and I think needed a blood sugar boost after that exhausting and impressive display) so even though I was running late I decided we would cruise through the Starbucks drive-thru to get her a chocolate milk and a muffin.  And since I already divulged that using candy as bribery is part of my parenting strategy, I might as well admit that the Starbucks treat was offered in part to make sure that by the time we got to school I could present an appeased, happy child to the nice, composed Christian ladies there while I take all the credit for awesome mothering.

So we’re in the drive-thru line and I am totally in my head debriefing and decompressing and coping and trying to recover internally from THE TANTRUM and I hand the Nice Starbucks Lady my debit card and she says “the car in front of you paid for you”

“Huh?”  I say, so stuck in 3 year old drama that I wasn’t quite ready to interact with another member of the adult world.

“Actually you are car number 9” she continued.

“Excuse me?”  I say again (now seriously regretting not getting a caffeinated treat for mommy)

“9 cars ago a lady paid for the person behind her, and every car since has passed it on”.  I could see in her eyes how exciting this was for her, she was witnessing an ever growing chain of random acts of kindness!

“Oh” I manage to mutter as she hesitantly handed me back my card.  “Oh, okay thanks”.

And my oh my, what a wonderful story it would be if I could write about how I did the same for the car behind me and it kept going for 20 or 30 or 100 or 500 cars!  What a testimony to human kindness and loving our neighbors!  It would be called the Great Tucson Starbucks Kindness Extravaganza of 2013 in the newspaper.  I could see the caption now… All because ordinary individuals decided to pay it forward…

Nice Starbucks Lady had a bit of a dumbfounded and disappointed look on her face as I shoved my card back into my wallet and drove off.

I didn’t pay it forward.

The Great Tucson Starbucks Kindness Extravaganza of 2013 never happened.

Whatever kind of crazy morning the person behind me was having didn’t get improved by a free latte.

Any joy and elation in the Starbucks crew ended abruptly with the grumpy mom in the grey Ford Taurus.

It stopped with me.

It stopped with…gasp…a Christian.  I’ve never been so thankful I don’t have a Jesus Fish stuck to my bumper as I was this morning when I let down the human race with my under caffeinated, overwrought, too self-involved-to-care-about-others KINDNESS FAIL.

And I can’t help but wonder God what the heck are you thinking?  Why have you entrusted us with anything?  Why have you entrusted ME with anything?  Do you realize you have given me two of your most beautiful creatures to care for and raise?  Do you?  Do you realize you have left the message of your Love and Salvation and Hope to people like me who can’t even pay it forward in the Starbucks drive-thru?  Do you?  Do you?

So often is stops with me.

I see my neighbor out there but it would just cost too much awkwardness and too much energy and too much possible rejection to stop and talk.

I see that person who is struggling to survive but I have had a hell of a morning and just can’t do anything about their problems right now.

I hear about those children who need help NOW but I can’t even get my own daughter to school on time and my budget is a mess so maybe later.

So, God, your love stops with me and I have to ask you again…do you realize what you are doing? 

Why have you asked me, asked us, to do this work?  I don’t think I am very good at it.

And I think it might be obvious to others…

As much as I like to think I appear the expert Christian mommy when I drop E off at school I am sure that the teachers can recognize a rough morning when they see it.

As much as I like to think I am doing my part, I’m sure even Nice Starbucks Lady can spot a woman on the brink when she comes through the line asking for chocolate milk for her 2 and 3 year old at 8 a.m.

As much as I like to think that I am a beautiful, smooth porcelain vase, I think maybe I’m meant to be a rustic, crumbly jar of clay and should just own it.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.  2 corinthians 4

Maybe it’s okay that my 3 year old isn’t perfect.

Maybe it’s okay that her mom isn’t perfect, either.

Maybe God knows that I will let down Starbucks and my neighbors and the homeless and the children around the world – but He loves and forgives me anyway.  

Maybe God knows I might never do anything kind or special or sacrificial – but he finds me worth saving anyway. 

Maybe God knows that His grace and His mercy will shine forth even brighter from my imperfect life.

We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. 2 Corinthians 4

Maybe God knows that she who is forgiven much, loves much, and that perhaps tomorrow I will take that love down to the Starbucks drive-thru or to the lady across the street or to the man in the park, or even to myself as I do the best I can with toddlers and preschoolers and TANTRUMS in my life.

Thank you God for loving me in failure, in victory, in good deeds, in bad deeds, and in missed deeds.  Please help me to show others who You are in the calm and in the crazy, in the holy and in the ordinary.  Thank you for Christ in me.

Oh, and thank you Lord for Starbucks. 

People like us

Dear Brother Dean,

You and I have found ourselves on the same campus here in Tucson, and I have noticed you (as you most certainly are hoping to be noticed) as you preach loudly on the mall in the center of campus. You share a lot about passersby going to Hell.  There is name calling.  There is shouting.  There are some who get up in arms and are deeply offended by what you say.  There are others who simply roll their eyes as they walk by, barely glancing up at whatever sign you happen to be displaying this week.  There are Christians frustrated because you are hurting what they are working so hard to do on campus.  There are atheists thankful they don’t believe in such an angry God.

Forgive me because I have been one of those frustrated, eye-rolling types.  I confess I have not been a fan.

However I can’t help but wonder if we are connected some how, if we aren’t more similar despite what our different theologies and evangelistic styles might ordinarily suggest to me.

Because of this I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but allow me to explain why I have a hard time doing so.

Recently, Dean, you have made a little bit of a bigger stir than normal with your sign that you have proudly held up on campus declaring YOU DESERVE RAPE.  The “YOU” in this context being women, which is the gender I happen to belong to and am very protective of and proud of.

Dean, do you really know what rape is?  Have you lied on the floor next to an 18 year old girl as she is being raped in her dorm room?  Do you know that rape is a violent act violating a woman’s body, soul, mind and heart?  Do you know how common rape is?

Do you know Dean that in 2012 15% of all college women reported being raped.  15% – that is about 5,000 calculated for our campus.  That is 15% of women reporting being raped.  Statistics show that 95% of rapes committed on college campus are never reported. 

How many of these women, these rape victims, walked passed you last week hearing these words.

You.

Deserve.

Rape.

You deserve rape. Whether intoxicated or not.  Whether with your boyfriend or not.  Whether wearing short shorts or not.  You deserve to have a man on top of you, forcing intercourse.  Ignoring your dis-consent.  Whether a screaming no.  Or a whispered no.  Or a crying no.

You.

Deserve.

Rape.

In our own society, and in others much different from ours culturally and religiously, women are are beaten, raped, and enslaved on a daily basis for a myriad of ‘reasons’.  And as a child of God, and as a woman myself who cares deeply about the plight of my sisters next door and around the globe I cannot fathom a scenario in which a woman would deserve such a horrendous act committed against her.

In my outrage, still I see areas where we might agree.

I think that the state of the way that women dress on our campus is a shame.  Trust me, I send my husband there every day, only for him to be bombarded by small bits of clothes barely hiding, or not hiding at all, the bodies of beautiful young college girls.  And it might be true that when a woman dresses like this, she is likely to attract men who really, really, really want to have a lot of sex.  And, once again as a child of God and a woman, I want more for them.  I want more for those precious women because God has created them and called them worthy through His abundant mercy and loves them oh so much.

God loves them in the same way that my little girl is loved by her daddy.

Dean, you don’t know me, but I am not a violent person.  I don’t think I have ever had a violent thought in my head (unless a spider is involved).  Although I am sometimes quick to anger, violence has not been committed against me nor is it a natural reaction or thought for me to have.

However, I can I tell you that if I had been on campus and seen you holding that sign,

I would have come at you.

Violently throwing my weak, girly punches at you.  I actually imagined myself doing this.  I am a 31 year old mom of two.  I am a Christian.  Yet I was prepared to give you the response that I believe you dearly deserve.   A mother-bear reaction to protect all of the daughters on campus.

I am thankful that I wasn’t there, for this reason, because I don’t think it would have been a very good idea for a campus minister to be arrested for assault.  I am thankful because I am accountable to my family and my supervisor and my pastor.

As this foreign and unknown-to-me reaction of wanting to physically rip the sign out of your hands and bonk you on the head with it because YOU DESERVE IT ran wildly through my head, Jesus spoke quietly into my heart with his Great Spirit of conviction.

You in your corner, preaching that women deserve violence.

And me in my corner, actually wanting to commit violence.

Again, I wonder how similar we really are, Brother Dean.

Truth is, You and I are the ones who both deserve something pretty damn awful.

We both deserve the full wrath of God.

We both deserve the consequences of sin in our fallen, broken, messed-up world because I believe we both bring sin into this world.

We both contribute to the problem.

We are both guilty.  But Dean, we are no more guilty than those lovely, lively sorority sisters or those wild and fun fraternity brothers towards whom much of your condemnation is directed.

And yet God – the holy, jealous, powerful God who says right is right and wrong is wrong and could not even allow a glimpse of himself to be had because his Glory and Holiness is too bright and too perfect and too majestic for our broken, death-deserving selves to contain.

This God, that you and I both claim to worship took a step.  Away from the Holiness of Heaven toward a filthy manger.  Away from perfection, to tenderly and compassionately hold the hand of the prostitute.  To patiently and persistently teach the Pharisee.  To die for our sin, because without his death we could only hope to receive the condemnation that we deserve.

I didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.

I have hope for the women on our campus, Dean.  I want to hear their stories as Jesus did.  I want to show them their worth as Jesus did.  I want to invite them into new birth and new life as Jesus did, rather than condemning them to remain stuck in their darkness.

I have hope for the men on our campus.

I have hope because what was deserved, and what God actually did, are two different things.  And that difference has made all the difference.

So Dean, as offended as I am, I forgive you as Christ forgave me.  I hope that you will forgive me for my violent thoughts toward you.  I have hope that you will extend a hand of forgiveness to those who couldn’t in a million years fathom that our Holy, Jealous, and Perfect God could actually love people like them.

Or, people like us.

 

*Please read one of my favorite bloggers’ article for Relevant magazine here about young men and violence.

**Rape statistics here.

***Info. on Brother Dean here.

A love letter on our 5th anniversary

Has it really been five years already?

Our first year seems like just yesterday. 

I can still remember the way I felt – all the sights, sounds, smells and emotions that came with our brand new relationship.  And, I’m sorry to say this, but I was pretty miserable back then.  I can’t help it.  You were U.G.L.Y.  Ugly. 

You made me feel lonely and took away all my friends.  

You were a foreign land, a desert to be specific. 

You were so, so, so hot.  And not in the good way.

You can’t deny it. 

 On top of all that you had too much traffic and too much crime and too much brown.

But, dear Tucson, you were patient with me.

When I was certain I would never make any friends; you provided caring co-workers and fun InterVarsity students and a nurturing church.  

When I was certain I couldn’t enjoy creation as I normally did in this overcrowded dustbowl, you showed me the purple mountains at sunset, the green ocotillo in summertime, the yellow blossoms of the palo verde in spring and revealed to me the mystery and beauty of the desert.

When I was certain I was going to melt into the pavement from 110 heat you sent wonderful monsoons, air conditioning and a winter without scraping snow, cold damp toes under my shoes, or frigid winds.

And pretty soon I found myself comfortable here with you.  I found myself enjoying local restaurants, local culture and local people. 

I found myself feeling like you were home.  

Here we are five years later and I have taught in your schools and evangelized your university and helped out your housing market and have guiltily been just another car causing traffic to back up at Grant and Alvernon.

I don’t know if we will stay here forever, dear Tucson, there are certainly things about you that I still don’t like and honestly drive me absolutely crazy.  But for now, and for the near future, I am still happy to call you home.

Happy anniversary, Old Pueblo. 

Love,

Kirsten