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Category Archives: The Misc Bucket

Language, people!

“Evil.”

“Liar.”

“Ugly.”

“Stupid.”

“Moron.”

“Terrorist.”

“Traitor.”

That’s a small sampling of the descriptive words I’ve seen used by people who describe themselves as Jesus-loving folks. When did it become okay to be so mean? To be clear, I’m aware that there’s always been meanness – I’m asking when did it become socially acceptable? Specifically, when did it become acceptable for Christians?

Does the anonymity of a screen really give us the right to go there?

Y’all, Jesus loves Barack Obama. He died for Barack Obama. And Hilary Clinton. And Bernie Sanders. And Donald Trump. Just what do you think God thinks of us – of me, of you – when we speak of people He loves as if they are evil themselves? Unworthy? Do you feel high and holy when you feel hate for these people? When you feel better than them? Smarter than them? Somehow more sanctified or more loved by God than them?

You aren’t.

God doesn’t love you more than He loves Barack Obama.

Yeah, Obama is making some decisions that are hurtful and harmful to people – decisions like creating an atmosphere easily taken advantage of by sexual predators. Please note I’m not saying people whose brains don’t jive with the physical reality of their bodies are predators. I’m saying a predator will pretend to be one of those people and can achieve his/her hurtful aim because of the situation created by Obama’s public school bathroom decree.  And Brian Cornell, the CEO of Target is in the same boat, sure.

But God loves Barack Obama. And Barack Obama has said, more than once, that He is a Christian. So has Hilary Clinton. I don’t know if Brian Cornell has, but…

…maybe we can start with just loving the people who say they love Jesus and are His followers. Maybe if we decided to act like we love people – the way our God loves them – we could be known for the ONLY thing the Bible says we are to be known for: how we love each other. (John 13:34-35)

Please sit in that truth, y’all. Please. The Bible gives us ONE THING to be known for in the world: how we love other people who say they love Him, too. “Love one another,” was said BY JESUS to John as a COMMANDMENT.

…(34) A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. (35) By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

Now, I know a lot of us are motivated by love when we moan and groan about the bathroom thing. We love people, we see a very real opportunity for people to be harmed, and we want to do something about it. At least, I do. I’m a sex abuse survivor. You bet your balloons I’m fired up about that situation. The very idea that my precious little boy or girl could be harmed by a predator taking advantage of an opportunity created – well, my heart speeds up and I get all mad just considering it.

But Barack Obama isn’t trying to hurt people. Target is not trying to hurt people. The irony is that they’re trying to NOT hurt people – the people whose brains don’t agree with their physical bodies. Can we acknowledge that? Can we recognize that someone whose actions we vehemently disagree with can still be motivated from a good place?

Because, when we do that – when we act like the loving people we are supposed to be – then an opportunity for discussion blooms. Hackles lower. No one is “evil” or “stupid” or whatever. Everyone comes in the room wanting the best thing, the kindest thing, for everybody.

That’s how we roll, y’all. Those of us who love Jesus, anyway. That’s how we roll. We see someone as worthy of us dying for. Every someone. Someones named Barack Obama or Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump or Brian Cornell. And we say, “Okay, look, I think I may understand what you’re trying to do here. Let’s see if we can come up with a way to do that, but not cause the unintended consequence of giving predators opportunities to take advantage…”

Because the checker on the frontlines at Target is probably a Jesus-lover, too. (There are millions of us, so chances are pretty good.) Or maybe the checker knows nothing of Jesus other than His folks are boycotting Target. And she is just trying to make enough money to buy groceries and enough kibble for the little Yorkie back at the apartment. Or he’s just scraping together enough to take a girl out on a date this weekend and not have the car run out of gas in the process. THOSE are the unintended consequences of your decision to boycott. You hurt them. And surely nobody involved in that boycott signed it because they want to hurt people. They signed it because they’re scared people in bathrooms will get hurt.

We’re all trying to do something good – how about we stand on that common ground, be kind to each other, and figure out a way to achieve both ends?

How about we see people as God does – worthy of dying for – and speak to them and about them from that place?

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Why A Kiss Is Enough

A young loving couple hugging and kissing on the beach at sunset. Two lovers, man and woman barefoot near the water. Summer in love

With the release of my latest novella, SECOND GLANCE, some folks have noticed that I don’t tend to let my characters go too far (if at all) past kissing. Then they read my blog (especially that Morning Sex post) and decide I must be a prude. While that makes me laugh hysterically (and my husband gets a GIANT kick out of it), I’ve decided to reveal the reason behind my choice and explain here why kissing is such a big deal to me (and, by extension, my characters).

I am a sex abuse survivor. Doesn’t make me special – at least a quarter of the women in this country can (sadly) say the same thing. My husband and I were married for seven years before I voluntarily, spontaneously initiated a kiss between us.

Our son was five, our daughter nearly two. Over a year earlier, I’d seen our precious littles playing in the living room floor and been surprised by the thought, “They’re depending on me to teach them how to live. They need me to be healthy.” I knew I wasn’t healthy, mentally and spiritually, regarding physical love but I’d gotten by and had no intention of upsetting the applecart until that breathless moment when I understood that these little beings didn’t need to be affected by my past.

They were free of it.

And I wondered if I could be, too.

So, I embarked on a journey to deal with “the shit” as my husband and I came to call it. I apologize for the vulgarity. If ever there is a time to use a vulgar word as a descriptor, my past experience seemed to be it.

Fast forward nearly two excruciating/exhilarating years later, and I found myself walking through our breakfast room right through the space in which I’d stood contemplating my children’s need for a healthy mom. As I glanced across the room and into the kitchen at my husband, a strange feeling overwhelmed me. I couldn’t puzzle it out at first. I knew part of it to be love. I was feeling love for that man. But it took me several seconds to realize I had a God’s honest desire to kiss him because I loved him. I’d never had that!

I’d been standing there staring at him as I puzzled this out, which drew his attention. He turned his face toward me. “What?” he asked.

I walked over to him, tilted my face up to his, stood on my tiptoes, and kissed him. I’ll hold to decorum and just say here that we’ve been married nearly 12 years and we both remember that kiss.

Kissing is the most emotionally intimate of all physical acts. It is the hardest to ignore when it’s happening (trust me, I know) – much harder to divorce your brain from than sex. A kiss allows another human being into the space of your life from which you speak – and speaking is how everything came to be in the first place. Your mouth is both powerful and vulnerable, giving and receiving, all at the same time. A kiss says a million feelings and thoughts without uttering a spoken word.

I’ve kissed wrong. I’ve kissed right.

Done as it was intended by the Creator, kissing is powerful. It is definitely powerful enough for my characters to convey the depth of emotion and story needed to sweep a reader off her feet.

You know what I don’t find powerful? When two characters who met five milliseconds ago kiss for the first time and somehow that’s an immediate assumption that sex is wanted/needed/necessary/wise. With all the sex on tv and in films and books, I think the shock factor for writers today lies in revealing a kiss for what it genuinely was meant to be, and is.

Having worked very hard and finally come into the experiential knowledge of the power of kissing. I wish we writers could start giving the act its proper due.

So, I do.

 

 

Win the Holidays? Really?

WBestBuy_WinTheHolidays_120hen I first saw the ad, I thought I must have misunderstood. Between the kitten being in his nightly Pyscho Cat mode (read: running all over the living room climbing lamps and curtains), the dog barking to go outside (he’s a basset hound mix with the deep bark to show for it), The Hubs banging pots and pans around in the kitchen behind me (thank God he can cook or we’d all starve), Firstborn practicing his trombone upstairs (man, that sound carries) and Darling Daughter watching an iPad at top volume in the chair beside me (headphones, gotta get her some headphones), it’s conceivable that I mistook the gist of the commercial.

“Everybody hush for one minute!” I yelled and pushed the rewind button. Darling Daughter pulled her headphones off to see what caught Mommy’s attention. Hubs paused. Even the kitten and dog calmed down for a second.


“….because when you give tech,” the voiceover intoned, “people won’t just love it, they’ll love you. Win the holidays at Best Buy.”

Oh. Okay. Guess I heard it right the first time.

“They don’t know what Christmas is about,” Darling Daughter said, and put her headphones back on.

“Wow. Talk about crass materialism,” Hubs said. “It’s not even tongue-in-cheek. They mean it.” He went back to food prep.

I shook my head. I may not get all up in arms about whether someone says, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” but this is a bit much. Christmas is NOT about the presents, Best Buy and Aban Commercials. What a sad, isolating concept you’ve put into the world: buying love.

Christmas is about the human birth of One who would perform a selfless act for undeserving people that will stand forever as the Greatest Gift of All. It’s the only Gift that sets us free from selfish traps like materialism and competition to outdo each other.

“. . .but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

That “Christ” is the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. We give gifts to each other as we remember the good gifts that were brought to Him upon His birth, and the best gift He gave the world.

Take a breath, Best Buy. Step out of the rat race, Aban Commercials. I think your soul took a detour a few miles back.

Things aren’t the thing. Why use your precious marketing dollars and broadcast time to promote such a sad concept? Your brand is (was) better than that.

 

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From Beneath the Trees

“I just cannot believe that you’re gone…Rest in peace, my friend.”

I read the posting of an old high school friend to another high school friend’s wall on Facebook last night. Confusion. Alarm. What was she talking about? I frantically clicked over to the friend’s page and began scrolling through condolences and utterings of shock. It took a few minutes before I read the post explaining that a tree had fallen on our friend’s car as she went to pick up her kiddos from school, killing her instantly.

A tree.

Fell.

At the exact moment she came down a two-lane country road.

Falling in the precise way needed to cause immediate, deadly impact.

My mind scrambled. Where was the logic? How could this make sense? It’s one thing for someone to lose their life because they were doing something or being somewhere they shouldn’t have. Then we all nod our heads and think it makes sense and it can’t happen to us because we’ll make wise decisions and avoid that kind of danger.

But this? A tree fell. A RANDOM TREE. Who can prevent that? Outwit it? Prepare for it?

And why her? I live in a town whose main road is Pine Ridge. It’s lined with, you guessed it, pine trees. Giant ones. I’ve marveled at their majesty and rolled down my windows just to listen to them as the wind blows through, to breathe deeply and take their scent into my lungs. I never considered them a threat.

Now, fear lanced through me. With the fervor of a mom whose kiddos have been threatened, I started planning routes to school, work, the grocery store, the hairdresser, and the bookstore that wouldn’t involve Pine Ridge Road. Should I write the city and ask them if the trees could come down? Tell my husband of other, safer, less treed routes?

Within an hour, our high school class rallied together on Facebook, coordinating donations for flowers at the funeral and funds for her children. And then, once it was clear all the details were handled for the logistics of our meager attempts to do something, anything, to combat this incomprehensible tragedy, the postings turned to grief. And then, as if we all realized everything we hadn’t said to her when she was with us, what we hadn’t said to each other in years, these people I haven’t seen for twenty years began reminding each other, “I love you. I miss you. Kiss your babies tonight. We should get together. A reunion.”

I trudged up the stairs and fell into bed. Wrestled through the night as falling trees and high school memories collided in my mind. Woke up to the realization that this is how the enemy ruins life for me. He wraps fear and tragedy around beauty, encompassing it so completely that it can barely be seen or felt and so I abandon the beauty inside. He robs me of the joy of a good thing that succumbed to the broken world in which it was placed. He doesn’t let me see the “I love you” and “I miss you” and pulls my mind hard toward the fear that this could happen as easily to anyone else I love, or to me – leaving my babies behind – and that makes loving people a dangerous thing, not a beautiful thing.

But I didn’t die yesterday. Which means I need to live today. Somehow. Even as I fear and try to handle the troubled soul in me. So I got out of bed. Showered. Dressed. Dressed the kiddos. Piled them into the car and backed out of the shelter of the garage. And, as my little girl read a story aloud and my son told me about the basketball practices he’s loving, I drove us right down Pine Ridge Road.

The pine trees still majestically lined the road, drinking in the morning sun and gently waving in the breeze.

And I defiantly chose to acknowledge their beauty from my broken place here, beneath the trees.

 
 

A love story

Read this story and – at its end – you’ll have an opportunity to give something truly unique this Christmas.

A few months ago, from our driveway here in south Florida, I loaded both kiddos and the husband into my mother and father-in-law’s van and set off for Tennessee. Exhaustion clung to me like the wet heat on our hot mornings. If one more person asked one more thing – even a little thing, like pass the salt shaker – I’d lose it. The preceding weeks had been doozies.

I’d sold my company, working through the minutiae necessary for such, and begun flying back and forth to the parent company’s home base in Colorado to transition people and practices. I was brought in for discussions about another company of theirs that had been seriously underperforming for 13 years and needed a solution. And the non-profit I lead in Florida had just acquired new office space, necessitating my move into it and an update of all of our business documents (letterhead, business cards, website, etc.). I’d attended several conferences in multiple states, met with clients in other states to ease them into the acquisition transition, and taken on a writing project that required writing an autobiography in a matter of weeks to coincide with a film launch.

In the middle of all that, we’d also moved into a new home and headed into the hectic Summer routine of a different kid camp (and hours) every week.

And you want me to pass the salt shaker?!

I fell into the van’s passenger seat, praying I’d somehow managed to remember to pack Miss Bear or my daughter wouldn’t be able to sleep and that my son’s cell phone charger was floating around somewhere or he’d be without a connection to his friends.

We’d been driving for several hours when my cell rang. It was my mother-in-law, who had my car since we’d taken her van for the trip.

“Honey, your car is trashed,” she began.

I felt my shoulders start to inch even higher. Another thing I already knew I needed to do, but had no time to address. I’m a nut about keeping my car picked up and clean…but everything else felt more important, so I’d let it go. The clients, the staff, the husband, the kids – none of them really cared about the state of my car and I could just swallow my stress over it every morning when I got in it to go to work. I took a breath to respond, but she continued before I could speak.

“I know you just haven’t had time. I’m going to clean it out and have it washed so it’s all ready for you when you get home, okay? I just wanted to make sure that was okay.”

I couldn’t help it. Hot tears started streaming. One thing off my plate. One thing important to me and necessary…now off my To Do list and handled. I thanked her profusely. We ended the call. I told my husband again how much I love his mother.

That's her - my amazing mother-in-law - in the red jacket.

That’s her – my amazing mother-in-law – in the red jacket.

When we returned home several days later, I learned that she’d held very true to her word by spending hours cleaning even the crevices of my car’s interior. It looked brand new again. Every morning thereafter, I sat down in the driver’s seat and – instead of stressing about one more thing to do and no time to do it – I looked around at the clean state of things and smiled before heading off to the new office.

Little things make big differences to the people who receive them. Hearing about these things makes a difference, too. It reminds us to be that source of kindness for someone. It helps us remember when we received a little help and how it didn’t feel little.

So when Paul Parkinson came to me with an idea for collecting stories like this in a book – for highlighting the unselfishness that makes us the humans we were created to be – I jumped on board faster than a TV-buyer at a Best Buy Black Friday sale.

Which is where you come in. Would you like to give a really unique Christmas gift this year? Do you have a story like mine? A time when someone did something for you? I want to hear it. I’d like to consider including it in this book. Here’s the deal:

Email your story to me at info@believerstrust.org or call me at 239-403-0203 and tell me some details of it. If we can work it into the book, then you will have memorialized that person’s kindness – and we’ll send you a certificate attesting to such that you can give them at Christmas. When the book releases next year, we’ll send you a free copy that you can then give to your kindness giver as another thank you for their generous spirit.

If you want to participate, I need your story by December 20 to meet the publisher’s deadline.

Thanks for reading this far. I’m excited to hear your stories and grateful to you for being a witness to mine.

You can visit the community we’ve created for these stories on Facebook by clicking the icon below.

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Posted by on December 8, 2014 in The Misc Bucket

 

Stories…Lies?

Some of my fellow Christians keep telling me there is no eternal value in story – book, film, whatever. They ask, upon learning about Glass Road or SON, “But how is it a ministry to make stories?”

Let’s set aside the soul care offered to story creators through GR and SON for a second, and just focus on the creation of story itself.

Understanding lives in story, comprehension in character exploration. This is probably why Jesus almost always used story to teach Truth.

Our church bookstores don’t seem to follow that example consistently. Over the course of my career in stories, I have been advised numerous times by bookstore owners and publishers that there is no ministerial value in fiction. I can’t tell you how many church bookstores I’ve walked into whose shelves are lined with Maxwell, Moore, Stanley, Blackaby, and the like – and not one novel in sight.

I leave those stores feeling bereft. What of the people who need story?

What of those like Madeleine L’Engle…

“But I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories which affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate…And so story helped me learn to live. Story was in no way an evasion of life, but a way of living life creatively instead of fearfully.” (from WALKING ON WATER)

The wise and talented L’Engle continues… “It was a shock when one day in school one of the teachers accused me of ‘telling a story.’ She was not complimenting me on my fertile imagination. She was making the deadly accusation that I was telling a lie. If I learned anything from that teacher, it was that lie and story are incompatible. If it holds no truth, then it cannot truly be story. And so I knew that it was in story that I found flashes of that truth which makes us free.” Story holds Truth. It illustrates Truth. So, can we please stop comparing the ministerial value of callings, please? If we who are called do not build up the body of stories, what ideas will minister to those who do not respond to sermon? Ponder for just a moment whose stories will be told if we do not tell those given to us. Now to those of us who are called to the world of story creation and wondering if our work matters – please know:

When we abdicate our role as story creators in favor of a “higher” calling as defined by humans, we can only disappoint the Creator of Story who entrusted us with that element of His own being.

 

 

Homosexuality and Hymns

This is not an easy post to write. I love people. (Well, most people. I should love all people, but a couple are just the other side of impossible, you know?) I have this awesome privilege of hearing people’s stories all day long – of bringing those stories to the attention of a large audience. I’m going to do that here.

And some people might feel hurt by this story.

That’s not easy to think about.

But this story matters. Not just because it’s true, but also because hearing it opens a door of freedom and relief for people.

People who are wrestling hard with the urge to love someone of the same sex.

SingOverMe_Wrap_Wyn/AmericDVDWrapYep, this is a hard post to write.

I love people, regardless of whom they’re drawn to love. I especially love artists. Humans who create are a mysterious community, full of emotion and passion and ability that I can get lost in exploring. When I’m with creators, I know the Creator more.

A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend. He is married to his best friend, who is also my friend. I love them both. I think they’re intelligent, cool, fun, clever people who love Jesus. We were discussing their involvement with a major project I lead.

He asked me, “So, we need to talk about the obvious elephant in the room. Before we get too far into this, is us being gay going to be a problem?

I really hate that the question needed to be asked, even while I appreciated him for bringing it up. “Look,” I answered, “if you’re asking me about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, I have to tell you that my read of the scripture doesn’t leave me believing it’s allowed. I just can’t find that anywhere. I find the opposite. But I also know I don’t know everything and we disagree on this and I respect you. I also read scripture to say gluttony is wrong, but that doesn’t preclude me from being in relationship and doing ministry alongside fat people.”

“I appreciate that,” he said. “But I don’t think you’re going to run into that attitude with some of the supporters of this project. Our involvement could cost you.”

I sighed. “Walking out our faith is hard. At least, it is for me. I appreciate a lot of grace from people who give me wisdom when I ask and then give me room to find the wisdom when necessary. I want to give that here and I want to get that here. With everyone involved. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We talked for a while longer. I hung up. My heart hurt.

Fast forward to the present. To an email from a colleague asking if I’d be interested in helping with a new film called Sing Over Me. “I would,” I said. “Send me a link to watch it.”

I watched the film.

(You can, too – DOWNLOAD HERE. Or get the DVD HERE.) 

I bawled.

Dennis Jernigan has written hundreds of songs that we sing often in church. “We Will Worship the Lamb of Glory”, “Thank You”, Great is the Lord Almighty”, and “You Are My All in All” are just a few. He is married. A father of 9.

But he also tried to end his life early on because of an inability to deal with same-sex attraction.

I cried watching Dennis’s story because it is real. It is raw. It highlights how we Christians have so mis-directed and polarized the conversation that we actually damage and demonize people who have same-sex desires. We hurt when we should offer hope.

It is the right way to talk about this kind of story.

Not from meanness. Not from ostracizing people. Not from identifying someone based on one behavior. Not from any place other than, “This is my story. This is my walk of faith.”

This is the story of a creator, loving his Creator.