Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'm probably going to end up in all kinds of trouble for this, but, oh well.

Cussing is a Big Ugly Deal in the Christian community. Otherwise kind and loving churchgoers are unfriending people for cussing on Facebook, writing snarky reviews if an author uses the F-bomb, and are generally horrified by the appearance of words that earn a "bleep" on primetime TV and quite a few words that don't.

Now, don't misunderstand me... If you can't communicate your story/movie/TV program/article/interview/FB post/Tweet without using a series of repetitive F-bombs, you are a lousy communicator. Buy a dictionary and read it, please. While you're at it, pick up a thesaurus.

BUT... on the other hand, everyone who gets all "judge-y" about the proliferation of redundant cuss words needs to stop and examine their own speech. Saying "fudge" or "frick" or "fooey" in a moment of frustration, anger, or rage is just a candy-coated version of the F-bomb. The motive behind an outburst of "poop" or "crap" or "darn it" isn't any different than the less socially acceptable forms. It's the motive behind our words that counts, not the order in which we string our letters and syllables.

My point? All of you who cringe in horror and get offended when you see a "bad" word, it's time to step back and recognize that we all say "bad" words. It's a heart issue, not a vocabulary issue, and unless your heart is perfect, you're guilty of the same crime. Have a little mercy, if not for the sake of those doing the cussing, then for your own sake.

On that note... if you have friends who don't ordinarily avail themselves of F-bombs and S-words and the like as part of their regular, lazy, uneducated vocabulary, and you see those friends availing themselves of these words in their tweets or FB status updates, PLEASE take the time to ask them what's going on in their lives and how you can help. People who don't usually use profanity to express themselves and then suddenly begin doing so are usually in some kind of crisis: spiritual, emotional, mental, social, etc. They don't need people pointing their bony fingers and rebuking them for using a "bad word," they need someone to step in, say "what's up, buttercup?" and pray with and for them until they can see the light at the other end of the ugly tunnel they've found themselves in. Just a thought.

Let me repeat myself: There is no legitimate reason for using cuss words (real ones or their candy-coated substitutes). From a writing standpoint there's no real reason for using adverbs, either. Both, in excess, are lazy communication, and we should strive for better. But while we're doing that, let's stop acting like we're worthy of sainthood because we haven't said s*** or d*** or f*** for awhile.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Our culture of fear and why it's wrong

While a gun shoved into the waistband of a 60-some-odd year old man's pants goes off while he's in Walmart's checkout line gives me pause, the mommies who made an appearance at a Texas Target store (no pun intended) with their toddlers in tow and their assault rifles strapped to their back are enough to drive me to my knees.

Add to that the media frenzy over the local diner whose 20-something waitresses wear their plaid flannel shirts and their gun holsters snug on the job. My question: Why?

It's fallout from 9/11. Our nation has succumbed to fear. We're afraid of Islam, we're afraid of socialism, communism, whatever political position opposes our own, we're afraid of our own government, and we're afraid of each other. Fear rules us, and in the grand scheme of things, whether you're a Christian or a Buddhist or an atheist, that should concern you.

Fear is one of the greatest motivators. Animals in the wild run away from that which frightens them. Domesticated animals endure trips to the vet, or car rides, or whatever their master insists they tolerate, but they're still afraid. And humans? Instead of encouraging one another NOT to be afraid, our systems are triggered by fear. The more fear, the more news... Sensationalistic journalism has reached heretofore untold heights, and the American people, in response, have become more polarized in their views than ever before.

If we all took in every article, every post, every infographic, with a "fear-o-meter," might we find the truth on the other side? Or at least a place to discuss and interact without all the vitriol and turbulence? Is that even possible, in this day and age?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Celebrating closet independence

I found a bit of freedom in an unexpected place: my closet.

This post isn't about coming to terms with wearing a larger size. It's deeper than that. It's about letting go of identities that no longer fit us.

Clothing is a kind of costume, chosen based on current life role, regardless of comfort, fashion, or suitability to my figure. Sometimes, when those roles change, it's hard to shift out of the costumes... Mom jeans, anyone?

For three years there have been clothes in my closet that scream ID=Pastor's Wife. In my mind, that's what those clothes represent, and today I let those clothes go (still need to go through the shoes, because I now have NO reason to wear heels, so why are they shoved under my bed?).

It's uncomfortable and liberating at the same time. Why? Not because being a "pastor's wife" was bad. (OK, there were huge parts of it that sucked, but it wasn't all bad.) But because my identity should not now, or ever, be wrapped up in my clothing. On a deeper level, my identity shouldn't revolve around being a human DOING or a human DRESSING.

I have a friend who spent time in a mental institution. She kept her "hospital clothes" and pulled them out when she felt herself falling again into the abyss of depression and mental illness. She dressed according to her self-perceived identity. When I realized what she was doing, I scrutinized my own closet. Did I have clothes I put on only when I was depressed or unhappy? I did! I also had "church clothes," and "mommy clothes," and "party clothes." Why didn't I just have clothes that were comfortable and functional, without being fussy?

Anyway, after my closet purge (isn't it weird how you can fill huge trash bags with clothes and still have a full closet?) I'm hoping the garments hanging in my wardrobe will be better representatives of who I am now, not who I wish I was, not who I think I should be, not who I'm trying to be, just who I AM: daughter of God, sister of mankind, wife and lover, mother, grandmother, friend, writer, believer.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Highway bandits are real! They're disguised as California toll roads!

I know, I've been conspicuously absent of late. Lots of things—blog-worthy things—going on, (don't let me forget about the dead rooster...) I just haven't made time to write about them.

This week I paid (read: charged to the credit card) $114 in fines for a $6 toll booth incident from our California vacation. *hangs head in shame*

I'm the girl who has never had a speeding ticket. My ONLY traffic violation was a disputed "failure to come to a complete stop" ticket when I was 18 years old. That was a very long time ago. Hubby got stopped for speeding in Utah. He was "invited" to go sit in the Utah state trooper's SUV with the K9 unit. (This is apparently standard procedure for anyone with Colorado license plates nowadays, thanks to that legalized marijuana thing.) Anyway, he got off with a warning. I, on the other hand...

On the way home from Carlsbad, Calif., we opted for the fastest route, which took us on a toll road. No problem, I thought. I took a number of toll roads on my road trip to NYC last summer: Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, etc. You either pay when you get on the toll road, or you pay when you get off. Simple. We paid extra a time or two for exiting at rest stops along the way. I'm altogether OK with paying a bit to travel a well-maintained route with less traffic when I'm on a road trip.

New Jersey Turnpike Exit 11 Tollbooth at night, 1992

The way toll roads back East operate is a bit disconcerting... multiple lanes of traffic converge into multiple toll booths, and then everyone randomly merges (without lines, speed limits, or instructions) back into four or six lanes. I thought that was bad. Actually, I had a very impolite word for it that will not be repeated here. I couldn't imagine anything less traveler-friendly...

Enter California.

The road was lovely. Smooth asphalt (a treat for Colorado drivers), and a nice break from the bogged down Orange County traffic. We cruised along, enjoying the scenery and looking for the toll booths. I spotted one off to the side of the road at one exit. You had to purposefully leave the highway to go through the toll booth. But that wasn't our exit, so I kept going. The East Coast toll roads worked that way. You pay at your exit for however long you've been on the turnpike. I glanced at our Maps app... we had miles to go before the toll road merged onto the Interstate.

As our exit approached I saw another toll booth off to the side of the road. There were no signs, no warnings, no funneling of traffic into the toll lanes. Nothing. OK, I thought, maybe there's a REAL toll booth where the toll road merges with the highway.

Nope. Nada. We merged onto our highway without paying any tolls, and without any further instructions. Fingers crossed, we continued onward. Maybe if you don't stop, there's no toll. HA. DUMMY!

We got the "notice of violation" in the mail this week. $6 in tolls and $114 in fees for ignoring the poorly-designed toll booths. Oh, wait, they're only poorly-designed if you are the hapless, uninformed, unsuspecting visitor. For the designers and developers, it's a great money-making scheme.

Gee, California, is gouging your unsuspecting tourists with mega-fines on your privately-funded toll roads the way to win visitor dollars? (That's right, after some research, I learned the toll roads we ended up on are privately funded by big corporations. Can you spell GREED, children? Welcome to America. Now, can you spell DISGUSTED?)

Anyway... all humiliation and financial trauma aside, our fines are paid, and we won't be returning to California anytime soon, at least not on their highway-bandit modeled toll road system.


UPDATE!!! As of July 10, our fine was reduced to $25. I received the following email in response to my comment on The Toll Roads website.
At the time of travel, you bypassed the Orange Grove and Windy Ridge Mainline Toll Plaza on the 133 and 241 Toll Roads in the FasTrak lanes reserved for prepaid toll patrons only.  You were  required to stop at the toll location and pay the required toll due to a toll attendant or a toll collecting machine. Since a payment was not received and/or the driver did not have a valid FasTrak transponder in the vehicle, a toll violation was mailed to the registered renter.
 In response to your explanation, as a courtesy, we have reduced the amount due from $120.75 to $25.75.  
Sometimes it pays to state your case. Still doesn't solve the problem of lousy signage and notification, but at least they were "courteous" enough to reduce the fine. California, you're forgiven.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Book Review: "When We Were On Fire"

So yeah, my last post (last month, where did the time go?) was titled "When We Were Zealots." And that was BEFORE I got this book in the mail to review. (There's the disclaimer, I got a copy of this book for free, in exchange for a review.)  

Here's the synopsis:
In the strange, us-versus-them world of the 90’s Christian subculture, your faith was measured by how many WWJD bracelets you wore and whether or not you’d “kissed dating goodbye.”
Evangelical poster-child, Addie Zierman wore three WWJD bracelets, led two Bible studies and listened exclusively to Christian rock. She was “on fire for God,” unaware that the flame of her faith was dwindling until it burned entirely out.
With candor and transparency, Addie chronicles her journey through church culture, first love, and her entrance—unprepared and angry—into marriage. When she washes out of church and nearly her marriage on a sea of tequila and Depression, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever go back.
When We Were on Fire is a funny, heartbreaking story of untangling oneself from cliché in search of a faith worth embracing. It’s a story for anyone who has ever felt alone in a crowded church. For the cynic. The doubter. The former Jesus Freak struggling with the complexity of life.
It’s a story about the slow work of returning to love, Jesus, and (perhaps toughest of all) his imperfect followers. And, in the end, it’s about what lasts when nothing else seems worth keeping.
Reading this book was like reading my own journals. Oh certainly, Addie's experiences aren't identical to mine, but the parallels were hard to ignore. I came into the church in the early '90s, and clearly recall being "wowed" by the alternate universe I'd stepped into. I then proceeded to bring up my children in that culture, just like Addie, and now I'm watching them try to navigate their way through finding a faith that works for them, separate from the fancy Bible covers, the Christian T-shirts, and the pithy catchphrases. I'm trying to do the same thing myself, and it's painful.

There are people all around us who are dying on the vine, buried under a sea of trite Christian cliches, exhausted by the constant battle to "be the best Christian you can be." Many of them are our young people, faith wearied by the demands placed on them. Rescuing them isn't a matter of keeping them in (or converting them to) your particular brand of Christianity, it's a matter of helping them keep their faith, their hope, and their joy for the long term, however it ends up being expressed.

Thank you, Addie Zierman, for your honesty and candor, for putting into words things I've thought and felt but couldn't figure out how to say out loud, and for leaving your readers with a message of genuine hope.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

When We Were Zealots

I recently had the privilege of talking faith and belief and practice with a dear friend. We were discussing the challenges of getting small children ready to go to church on Sunday morning, and how "back in the day" I managed to get four kids under the age of 7 to the 8:30 a.m. service every week (mostly on time), and then participated in, or led, church activities on Monday evening, Tuesday night, Wednesday morning, Thursday night, and Friday night... with an occasional Saturday night "men's prayer" for my husband. 

"Why did we do that to ourselves?" I asked.

"Because we were zealots," my friend answered.


Yes. Yes, we were.

As a family, we burned (literally) our VHS copy of "The Little Mermaid" because Ariel was rebellious and disobedient to her father, among the other G-rated movies we trashed because they included magic and other ungodly activities we couldn't condone.

We went to church NO MATTER WHAT. We went to church with the stomach flu, we went to church in labor, we left family gatherings held at our own home to go to church. It was one of the things we believed would ensure our spiritual safety and propel us into spiritual success. We judged people for staying home, or going on a vacation that kept them away on Sunday morning. We were critical and fault-finding of others and even harsher with ourselves and our loved ones. Eventually we became angry and bitter and burned-out, as did many of our fellow zealots. 

So what IS a zealot? It's defined as a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.

Have you ever met a happy zealot? I haven't. It's hard to be happy when you're busy being fanatical and uncompromising.

You know how in a classroom there's always that "one kid" who takes everything too seriously? That's the zealot, regardless of age or creed. Sometimes they accomplish wonderful things, and sometimes they're just crazy. And annoying. Occasionally they are downright dangerous. It's probably a mental/emotional disorder, like having an addictive personality, or being OCD. 

Many modern-day zealots are emotionally destroyed when their politician of choice falters, or their church is caught in scandal, or science disproves the efficacy of their latest fad diet. Many more zealots just jump from one cause to the next, often without taking time to acquire any knowledge, eventually wearing themselves out, and straining the patience of friends and family. Others, finally burned out and exhausted by the pressure, just step off the merry-go-round one day and start over, digging deep to find the truth under all the propaganda, the purpose behind the pursuit.

For myself, zealot recovery has meant taking all the "must" and "should" and "have to" statements out of my head and replacing them with a kinder, gentler (less militant) perspective. A perspective that is actually open to new and different ideas, ways of being and thinking and living. One that offers grace and mercy instead of judgment and scare tactics and emotional manipulation. A perspective that's a little less like the Pharisees and a lot more, I hope, like Jesus.