Oh, for frick’s sake.

February 29, 2008

It has been many, many days since I have posted (eighteen). Honestly, for a few days I was just too wrapped up in my own crap to remember that I had a blog. Then, when I remembered, I didn’t feel like I had anything to say that wouldn’t seriously compromise what I’ve decided are my blog boundaries. This is not an anonymous blog. People know who I am. Hopefully not my address, but my real name and all that.

Suffice it to say that I was in the midst of processing hard things – marriage stuff, ex-wife stuff, step-kid stuff, my own anger stuff – bleh. Ick. It felt too raw to write about anything authentic, and too fake to write about anything light.

But I’m alive, and working through my stuff, poco a poco.

I would like everyone to know the following expenses that occurred in February:

$186 at Trader Joe’s . Twice. (I would just like to add that, entirely coincidentally, is the same price as the CUTEST Coach sandals right now. Ahem.)

$20 because we lost our parking ticket at the Grove parking lot. The guy was an ASS about it, too. When you are not in the category of having cash to spare, this kind of fuck up can make you CRAZY if you let it.

$8 for the tip at Fatty’s, a local vegetarian resto. My friend Shauna treated me and I ate like a pig (albeit a vegetarian pig) and we had amazing Han martinis and everything felt much better afterwards.

$7.50 for a red, cashmere Banana Republic hoodie! I found it at the Salvation Army. A little worn, but who cares!

$29.99 for an infomercial medicine for my dog’s arthritis. I confess – I am a total sucker. I NEVER buy stuff like this, but this ad killed me. They show these dogs that walk and lurch around just like my Tasha, and it broke my heart. Because, you know, MY POOR DOG! Is suffering! I really can’t tell if it is working. I am a little embarrassed that I bought it, but then again, not really.

$0. This was how much I paid for the best prayer I’ve gotten in a long time out at church. This woman Jean prayed for me and it started working on my heart instantaneously. Thank you God for church and prayer.

I’ll try to post something a little more interesting soon. Sorry for the hiatus.


No joke. You can stuff your tummy.

February 11, 2008

I don’t know why, but I can’t finish a decent post tonight.  So, instead, I bring you this jem from recent a foray into the O.C.

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I just love the honesty of this sign.   Come on in and eat too much.  Ah, los estados unidos y el county de naranjas.


Thanks Mom and Dad!

February 9, 2008

My parents are the kind of parents who were so proud when I was in the Peace Corps. When I worked at a little after-school program and didn’t make much money, they sent me extra funds to help pay the rent on my cute little L.A. cottage.

Now that I’m done with seminary, but I don’t have the well decent paying job that I expected to have, they are still helping out their oldest daughter. I never thought that I would be 36 and only working part-time. My vision for my life was that I would always work full-time, or at least most of the time. So the part-time jobs are surprise to me – both vocationally and financially.

This is a picture of me putting their Chinese New Year check in the bank. Thanks so much Mom and Dad for your support. This will help my household a lot. We are grateful for your generosity.

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Ashes, ashes . . .

February 8, 2008

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, which begins my favorite season of the year: Lent. Since I’m not an integral member of any liturgical church community at the moment, I just found a local church that had mid-day services and went there.

There is something about the imposition of the ashes that really helps me tap down into the purpose of Lent. Here is my self-portrait that I call “In the car with ashes”:

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Ashes we are, and to ashes we shall return. I love that the early church knew it was a good idea to set a portion of the year – especially before Easter – for drawing intentionally nearer to God. Obviously, this is something that we get to/should be doing year-round, but it is helpful to have a set amount of days where this is the communal intent. I need these forty days each year.

Some years, I’ve felt called to let God work on a particular spiritual issue. For example, there was one year where I fasted from gossiping. You can ask my best friend – sometimes our conversations were kinda short that Lent. I have a lot of crap to talk about people, apparently. Other years, I’ve felt pulled to spend more time in worship, or more time just sitting around thinking about Jesus. Each year, when I reach the end of Lent, I’m left with at least one insight into myself and God.

It always bums me out when I meet kids or adults who ask each other, “what are you giving up for Lent?” Lent is not about “giving up.” It is about “going in” – in the sense of going deeper into who God is, and who it is that Jesus sees you can be. Fasting can be an awesome spiritual aid, but giving up chocolate or soda – well – I have yet to hear anyone tell me about how much that shaped them spiritually during Lent.

This year, I feel like the Holy Spirit gave me a word in worship on Sunday about my Lenten journey this year. We were singing Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” (how awesome is that song!), and when we got to the line, “Though I’m weak and poor, all I have is yours/every single breath,” I nearly fell down. I have lived in that place – where I’m aware that all I have and am belongs to God. I have lost some of that intentionality and awareness.  I’ve gotten a little sloppy about my dedication to God’s kingdom over the past years of changes and disappointments. I’ve become more comfortable and more adept at distracting and entertaining myself instead of soaking myself in the Word, worship and prayer. I need to make my way back to that place – for my own spiritual sanity and joy.
So this year, to bless myself and hopefully God’s heart, I’m going to dedicate this Lent to finding my intentionality again. This means cutting down on entertaining and distracting myself. So, I’m going to stay away from the TiVo for forty days, and also bring back a daily practice of reading the Bible. I love it so much when I do it – but I forget to do it nevertheless.

If you practice Lent – have an awesome one – and if you don’t – hey! Give it a try!


Why theology matters.

February 4, 2008

Recently, I spent some time with a ministry team in a prison. Some of the things that I heard that evening made think about how deeply our theology, our understanding of God, affects us.

There was a woman on the team – I’ll call her Carrie – who was feeling very uneasy and uncomfortable being at the prison. For me, going to the prison is the best thing that happens to me all week. I love how the Spirit moves there in our chapel service and I love the hunger for God that the inmates have. I don’t know if it will always be thus, but that’s how it is now. That said, I’m aware that prison ministry is not for everyone. But Carrie felt bad that this wasn’t her thing.

One of the other women said that we should pray for her, so we did. The whole time, I prayed the freedom of Christ over her. While God can and does call us to difficult ministry, it does not mean that in order to be ministry, it must be difficult. That is not in the Book. We are not required to force ourselves into ministry situations that are deeply uncomfortable in order for it to be authentic. She seemed to have a concept of God that led her to believe that she should be at the prison.

Authentic ministry is you giving of yourself, out of the bounty that Jesus and God have granted you, to someone in need. And people in need are everywhere. Not just prisons and hospitals and funeral homes. Those needs are just more obvious. Everyone is in need. Everyone needs a dose of uncommon grace and love. And really, ministry is just another word for caring, for loving.

So Carrie’s thing isn’t prisoners – so what? There are unlimited places for her to care and love for people, I’m sure of it, because “the world cries out.” I feel worried that she is going to either a) stop coming to prison and feel really bad about it or b) continue coming to prison, where she is hog-tied and barely able to minister because she’s profoundly uncomfortable. I would like to offer her the theological ground to stand on for a third option. c) She could leave the prison ministry with a clear conscience and a light heart, knowing that God has plans to use her wherever she will be. Perhaps one day she will feel pulled or called back to the prison, but for now, it can be someone else’s place of ministry. God is not a guy with a list of crap you’re supposed to do before your allowed to be considered a “real” minister. He just wants us to care for people.

I feel like I should have included about six pages of Scripture references in this post. Maybe tomorrow. Seriously. Maybe tomorrow.


Christ and Culture

February 3, 2008

The other day I watched several episodes of “How to Look Good Naked” – a show that helps women appreciate their bodies as they are, instead of how they think they ought to be.

I like the show because it helps people become compassionate towards themselves. The host is Carson from the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” show, and he is sweet and warm with the women. Who knows where he developed a heart for this ministry, but he has one, without a doubt.

I genuinely enjoy the show and hope it helps not only women who were on it, but women who watch it, too. However, it highlighted something about our culture that freaks me out. These women, and I don’t think they are unusual, are so caught up in how they look that their very minds and hearts are preoccupied with it, to the exclusion of other, deeper things. Their preoccupation is also negative. These are not Hermosa Beach housewives who walk around all year in beachwear and $400 sunglasses feeling and looking hot. (That’s the same preoccupation, just with a positive slant.)

If we spend the energies of our hearts and minds concerned with how we look, those energies can’t go somewhere else. I love cute clothes and looking nice as much (or more) than the average female. But I see what a trap I can set for myself if I make this a central thing.

I don’t mean a trap, as in, “oh, I’m trapped, because I’m going to try on eight outfits! Oh no! I’m such a slave to the appearances of things!” No. That is too simple. And I don’t think it is wrong to have some sort of an aesthetic for our appearance. I’m pretty sure that in every culture, everywhere, this is a part of how we roll as humans.

I mean that it is a trap because it can casually and insiduously keep me focused on the appearances of things. Especially my own appearance. And nowhere, but nowhere, does the Bible ask me to focus on looking hot. (Or on my house being fabulous. But that is another post.) Micah’s simple instructions about what God requires include: act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. “Look hot” is not squeezed in there anywhere.

This is where I think Christ meets culture on this one – he asks me not to be fooled, not to be overly distracted by stuff like this. He asks me to remember that the Spirit is here in the world at work, and that there is plenty of ministry waiting for us to step into. He reminds me that the joy and satisfaction of looking in the mirror and seeing something pleasing doesn’t compare with the joy and satisfaction of being touched by God, or of reaching out and touching someone else.