Blog

The Poverty Line

I am poor. I have food, I have clothing, I have shelter. I have a job. I just financed a car. I have a kitten, I donate to the ACLU and I am still paying off my student loans and a credit card. On paper it all looks ok, but I know the truth. I am fighting every day for these things. Let’s say I lost my job tomorrow or I was injured and became unable to work. I don’t have enough saved to last me a ...

Inevitable Poverty—What did Jesus mean?

There’s a lot of talk right now about how to make a difference in the lives of the poor. Some people say that the government should give citizens a leg up. Others speak of personal responsibility. Some thread a gingerly path down the middle.  When you’re trying to work out how to approach poverty, and how to best help those in economic distress, it’s a challenge to know where to turn for guidance....

Do you pray like a preschooler?

Have you ever been in a restaurant when a customer doesn’t get what they want, and they completely freak out? Are you often that customer? It’s always a tense and awkward situation when it happens. You’re sitting there and listening to the person yell that they ordered cheese on their burger, and they only see one piece of cheese. As awkward as it can be, I’m never surprised. This is the culture t...

Why do atheists pray?

What is prayer to you?? Is it a worship of a higher power? A thought of gratitude? Is it a request for a need fulfilled? And if you pray, who are you praying to? Just as religion is interpreted, each individual will interpret prayer differently. For some, it is a strict set of verses that were written long ago. For others, it’s a conversation with God. There are even those who don’t believe in a h...

Identifying as Christian doesn’t have to be ‘all-or-nothing.’

Some people associate an ‘all-or-nothing ultimatum’ with identifying as a Christian: ‘You believe the entirety of the Bible and take it as fact, or none of it. There isn’t room to pick and choose.’ This is a big challenge for people who—by contrast—identify as Christian, but take more of a middle-ground approach on many of the issues the Bible raises. On one hand, I get it. Religion isn’t Chipotle...

Adaptive Identities

Who am I, really?  Who are you? Good way to go crazy, you might be thinking to yourself about now. Bear with me for a moment. Think about how—once you started to think about it at all—the way you think about yourself has changed over the years. As a teenager, you may have done a lot to impress your peers, whether it was acing the science test, hanging out with the “cool” kids, or getting into a su...

We need to change what it means to be patriots.

It was our first Sunday attending church in our new city. We were in a city with many Lutheran churches, so we had our pick, but we decided to start with the church right down the street. It was Fourth of July weekend. The worship service was patriotic, complete with Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American.” And this politically moderate Lutheran was ready to run out of the building. It’s not tha...

A Quiet Act of Patriotism

It’s really hard to listen. Sure, if your best friend needs to talk about their terrible day or your partner needs to vent about their boss or their commute, you can probably handle that kind of listening. All of us need people in our lives who can hear our petty griefs and existential trials. But when it comes to people with opposite political beliefs, things get dicey. Most of us choose to avoid...

Dear Giant Church

Dear Giant Church— I want to come in, but I can’t see past the hypocrisy. Driving to my local grocery store, I pass 3 gorgeous churches. Towering three stories high with large windows and a solid brick exterior.  The sun shining down casts a beautiful glowing light on the cross raised high in the air. I’ve so often wanted to stop and ask, “Why is your church so big?” It’s puzzling to see so many c...

When Church Lets Me Down

I always feel really comfortable walking into a church. I realize many people feel quite the opposite. I think I feel the way I do because I’ve had unusually good church experiences. I had a solid youth group in my teen years. Meeting my pastor in late high school/early college was a serious gift…he understood me really well and helped me through a ton of grueling, angsty transition at that point ...

Pornography Lies

My parents and I were attending a basketball game, sitting among a crowd in the nosebleed section. The row ahead of us was a group of guys, each somewhere in their late twenties. Directly in front of my mom, sat one of the guys, slouched in his seat, eyes far from the action on the court as he stared down at his phone. His thumb flicked slowly, stuck scrolling through images unsuitable for the pub...

The real problem with pornography is consent.

I don’t have a problem with pornography—in theory. I think sex between consenting adults is perfectly normal. I think people watching sex between consenting adults is also perfectly normal. I don’t think we can abolish the making or consumption of pornography, but I do think we need to change the way we talk about it. People are afraid to talk about sex for a number of reasons. It’s uncomfortable....

Use Compassion as a Compass

I would consider myself a fairly compassionate person. I know, I know. Plenty of people claim this, but how many actually practice compassion day-to-day? Well, before I go any further, it’s probably a good idea to make sure we’re all on the same page here: Compassion (noun): A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate...

Multi-Careering

I remember the day my dad lost his job. He was pacing in front the house. Angry. Anxious. Confused. Kind of lost. He’d already switched careers once, going from building axles to vehicle processing. Now, he had to transition again. And he did. Let’s face it. We are all going to have multiple careers in our lives. Some by choice, others because of lay-offs and closed companies. We won’t always be a...

Top 5 Life Lessons from Working in the Arts

I work at a theater. I got my degree in Theater and Speech and have been working in wardrobe for over 10 years. I thought it might be fun to share some of the things I’ve gleaned from my time, so here are my top 5 lessons learned working in the arts. Storytelling is how we learn. We all tell stories every day. When you answer the questions, “How was your weekend”, “What are you doing after work”, ...

Spoiler Alert: Cancer Isn’t Just a Tragedy

You know that special kind of radar that turns on when you buy a new car? That 6th sense that draws your attention to every other dandelion-yellow Kia Sorento on the road? Yeah, that. That thing that won’t let you ignore that fact that the vehicle you just purchased, whatever it is, is most certainly the most popular vehicle in the entire world. Cancer survivors develop a similar sense, only inste...

Ignoring racism won’t fix it.

When I was six, I lived next-door to one of the most bigoted people I have ever encountered. There was a public field behind our houses, and if we walked through his yard to get to the field, he would come outside to yell at us. He even put up a one-foot high garden fence between our houses to show us the division. One day I made the mistake of walking through his yard. I was headed toward the fie...

Grown-Up Racism

I’m sure that every black American can tell you about the first time they encountered real, grown-up racism. Grown-up racism is different than the run-of-the-mill n-word enthusiastically yelled from the window of a passing car, or being followed through a store by the occasional overzealous security guard determined to catch you in the act of theft. Grown-up racism is the kind of racism that you e...

Forgiveness is for ordinary people.

Them. And us. That’s how we sometimes think about forgiveness, isn’t it? Jesus looked down from the cross and forgave his tormentors.  Pope John Paul II forgave his would-be assassin.  A father of a child killed in the Sandy Hook massacre offered forgiveness to the families of the killer within hours of the killings.  Mothers have been known to pardon the men who shot their sons. As a writer, I co...

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness.

Growing up, I was a pretty good kid. I was a relatively good student, surrounded myself with good people, and did my best to be a good friend to others. Some people might say this was a byproduct of good genes and others would probably claim this was due to good parenting. Whether you believe in nature or nurture, you can’t deny parenting (or lack thereof) plays a huge role in how we grow as adult...

Why Cohabitation Won’t Work for Me

I love having a roommate or two. It’s the best. When I was about 12, I used to dream of living on my own. I would draw floorplans of the condo I wanted to live in. I think I even asked my parents to build me a shed in the backyard (they said no). I just wanted a space that was all my own. Then I got to college and I was put in a single dorm room the first year. It was rough. I like making new frie...

What makes cohabitation work?

Living with someone before marriage makes sense to me. There’s only so much you can know about someone when you aren’t forced to share the same space. Many of the questions cohabitation answers are practical ones, like, “Who will make sure we have milk?” “Will I have time to myself?” “Can we agree on a toothpaste?” Turns out my boyfriend and I can’t agree on a toothpaste and so we each have our ow...

Dear Suicidal Me

Dear Suicidal Me, Hi there. Remember me? I’m the one you worked so hard to maintain, the one you always wanted to be. All those hours at the gym, the yoga, the Psalms, the positive self talk when everything seemed wrong . . . But it failed. Because now you’re you. You look in the mirror and wish you could see a glimpse of me too. But you fail. You just see you. All those hours at counseling, the f...

Suicide’s impact is broad. And our understanding is narrow.

From the moment she walked into my classroom, I saw a little bit too much of myself in her. She was an introverted junior transfer, struggling to find a place for herself in a new school, in a new state. Over the course of the first semester, I got to know her through her writing and she frequented my classroom after school. While I have several former students who I remain close to, I normally tr...

Community—Have you found it?

Recently, I interviewed an administrator for a coalition of churches in another state struggling with an enormous drug problem. “How can churches be useful in tackling a drug crisis?” I asked him. Frankly, I was a little skeptical. In many parts of the country, churches are treading water, along with other social pillars we used to take for granted: volunteer charitable organizations, bowling leag...

How One-Celled Bacteria Made Me Question Everything

As a young man I was gifted in science and math, so naturally I gravitated towards those subjects in college. When I first started my undergraduate education, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to be. I went from teaching, to chemistry, to pharmacy, and I’m sure I’ve missed a couple. But even if I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, I was sure it would deal with science. And as I grew in my ...

Science and Religion—Pieces of the Same Puzzle

I saw a video that a pastor made about creationism. In this video, he adamantly argued that God created the world in 6 days—point blank, period. He said scientific theories were “just theories” and therefore had no merit. That science and technology were anti-religion. He posted this video to Facebook… It was recorded using a smartphone… And he was driving a car… All pretty technologically-advance...

The Faith vs. Science Fight Club

A few years ago, my son and I were strolling through an exhibit about the life of the famous scientist (genius, really) Galileo Galilei. Galileo is as much famous for having been put on trial by the Catholic church of his time, as he is for having helped invent the telescope, and having been part of the great 17th-century scientific revolution. After having been put on trial for claiming that the ...

It’s just a thing…but I lost it.

I had arrived early (not NORMALLY my style) to my weekly yoga practice. I decided to take advantage of one of our first truly warm spring days of the season and walked around the studio’s parking lot to de-fog my brain from a busy day. I helped get the studio set up for class and took some time to focus as the workout began. In the middle of my flow from Downward Facing Dog to Plank and back to Do...

My Battle with Stuff

It was stupid, really. Our family had recently moved from Detroit, Michigan, to a much smaller town in northern Illinois. I vacillated between anger and sadness as I watched my parents put an offer on an attractive older home away from my new friends’ neighborhoods. It was a home that clearly identified us as lower middle class. I hated that house when I compared it to my friends’ nicer, newer hom...

Jesus Christ, Inc.

*Disclaimer: I currently do not identify with any specific religion. You could say I’m spiritual, but not religious. I’m a curious person. Especially when it comes to religion. When I think about Christianity, I tend to obsess over the same question: “If Jesus was alive today, how would he position himself?” This might seem like a weird question, until you get to know me. I’ve been hel...

Finding God Inside or Outside the Church

Once upon a time (to be candid, it feels like another lifetime), I worked as a parish minister. My experience included leading a small congregation in the city and serving as an associate on a large staff in the suburbs of Philadelphia. In both positions, I would visit men and women in nursing homes as well as others who couldn’t get out to church. I’d also try to call and connect with people who ...

Mind if I borrow God?

I’m a little complicated when it comes to prayer: I pray every day, I use God’s name, and I’m not a Christian. In fact, like many others who are commonly labelled as “millennials,” I identify as spiritual, but not religious. If I’m not religious, who exactly am I praying to, and why am I using God’s name? Well, those are very good questions. I’m glad you asked. When I was little, I used to pray to...

The Lies We Tell Our Kids

It’s not intentional, really. We want to believe it’s true when we say that they can be and do anything they want when they grow up. We want to believe that there’s some relationship between that idea, and the need for them to perform throughout their teen years as if their lives depended on it. We want to believe that there is no conflict between our urging them to “follow their dreams̶...

“Paging Dr. Noah”—My Cancer and My 3-Year-Old

In November 2015, I was diagnosed with stage 4b non-Hodgkins lymphoma. If you’ve never been through something similar, I’ll let you in on a little secret: when you find out that you have cancer, you think you’re going to die the next day. In that moment, all I could think about was how much I didn’t want to leave my son alone. How much of this would he even be able to understand? He had turned thr...

Does marriage still have a place?

I have always wanted to get married. Growing up in the south, there was only one path to adulthood: meet someone in high school if you can, surely by college, graduate, and get married. But I didn’t meet anyone in high school. I didn’t meet anyone in college. I worked so hard at meeting people after college, it was basically a part time job. I joined dating websites and emailed, chatted with, and ...

Marriage and the Prom Fantasy

Ah, the promposal. Over the last couple of years I have watched a growing number of cute, silly, and sometimes romantic prom proposals pop up in hallways and classrooms. Usually, a boy comes up with a creative way to ask the girl of his dreams to attend the quintessential American rite of passage, PROM, but occasionally, the roles are reversed. Apparently this trend started in the early 2000s, wit...

You and I impact the environment—in any political climate.

Christian teachings say that God’s children are to be stewards of their environments. Some subgroups even go so far as to label themselves “Green Christians,” who practice “creation care,” which basically means caring for God’s creations. The bible repeatedly tells us to rule over the land and all living things in it, but reminds us that it is not ours to keep. Just as you are supposed to return s...

We’re Failing Our Planet

As noble as the idea of stewardship is, where’s the evidence that it’s working for us? For decades, we’ve been relying on the notion that we can be effective stewards of our world. Let’s examine that assumption. What do stewards do? They are responsible for something—in this case, keeping the air, water, animals and earth clean and healthy. They are accountable to something or someone—if you’re a ...

I’m a Pastor and I Need Counseling

I walked in and there she was. A college student from the church I serve. I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t un-commit. I could have lied about why I was there, but that’s not ethical (right?). I was caught red-handed—seeing my professional counselor. For the last decade or so, I’ve seen a professional counselor off-and-on. Sometimes, it’s been for no special reason. Other times, in the midst of a...

National Geographic or Real Life

The Moment The smell in the air is a combination of someone burning leaves on a fall day and something I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s confusing me. The images that the smell creates in my mind don’t match up with the heat and humidity my body is experiencing. My arms are wrapped around a man I’ve only just met. I’m sitting on the back of his motorcycle as we twist and turn through a maze of ...

Spiritual But Not Religious

Does this title sound familiar? It should. In this day and age, it’s: The overwhelming response from many millennials when asked about their religious views A popular, seemingly neutral choice when completing your profile on Facebook My answer when people ask me what religion I practice Usually, I’m adamantly against an answer like this because it lacks any sort of thought or conviction. In my cas...

Here’s a Wall I’m Okay With

Borrowed from Baptist theologian Roger Williams, the phrase “a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world” has become a well-recognized description of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Officially adopted on December 15, 1791, the First Amendment prevents the government from passing any legislation that respects an e...

Is the U.S. a Christian Country?

Updated February 24, 2017—Item #5 was added. 1. Although there were several earlier non-native settlements (mainly Roanoke and Jamestown), it was the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, who established the first permanent settlement, that is revered in early American history. Only a third of the occupants of the Mayflower were Protestant Separatists; most of the others were crew, support tradesmen &...

Raised Republican, Voted Democrat

I am a typical millennial. November 8th, 2016 marked only the second presidential election in which I was eligible to vote, and the first presidential election in which I was adequately informed in my vote. Four years ago, I watched about thirty minutes of one of the presidential debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney, I googled the platform issues for each candidate the n...

When it comes to religion, we’d better get an education.

The famous American playwright Wilson Mizner is attributed with saying, “I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.” Given America’s current lack of “religious literacy”—the knowledge of, and ability to understand, both your own religion and that of others—Mizner may very well be correct. Several years ago, the Pew Research Center put out its Religious Knowledge Survey. They found t...

Failing the Digital Age

When I woke up this morning I had three texts, several Instagram notifications, a Snapchat message, six Facebook notices, several other app notifications, and umpteen e-mails. It was 6 a.m. Ridonculous. Do you ever wake up in the morning overwhelmed by the state of your digital life? How about mid-afternoon when the e-mails have piled up? Or at night when you feel you need to scroll through anothe...

My First Trip to a Counselor

“You know there are people you can talk to about this, right?” My first instinct was to tell my mother, rather vehemently, that I was NOT crazy. I had a loving family, great friends, and a rock solid Christian faith. I was also 26, living in a small town with very few local friends, and spending the majority of my time working.  Overworking, really. I was definitely having a bit of a quarter life ...

The Moment I Accidentally Rejected Christ

I was close to tears on a sunny Sunday morning, standing outside of the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen in Prague. I was beyond confused and surrounded by a mob of angry parents, ready to tear me limb from limb. How did this happen? Minutes before, I was inside celebrating Easter Sunday with a group of my friends. We had all traveled to the Czech Republic with our high school marching band...

Making Peace with a Violent World

The world is pretty violent. Gang violence, foreign wars, police brutality, bullying at school, the death penalty, violent entertainment, road rage, domestic violence…you name it, we’ve got it. What can we do? How can we fight violence and make peace? Good questions. There should be an unease when it comes to the prevalence of violence. Indeed, more and more people are sensing that this isn’t the ...

How to Save Christianity

Even though many declare America to be a God-fearing nation, the number of Americans who identify as “Christian” has dropped to around 70% since 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Millennials have played a big role in this drop, considering they are the largest group of individuals who have become “unaffiliated.” With this massive number of Millennials leaving the Christian faith, how do ...

When My Chest Caves In

Sometimes my chest caves in on itself. My lungs collapse. My ribs crush together with the force of two vehicles colliding, metal on metal screeching as it bends and breaks. My heart quivers and explodes. Instead of debris, I am left with a hole. I have anxiety. I am still not exactly sure what that means. Is my anxiety situational? Am I simply responding to the stress of “adulting”,  loss of a job...

Life Isn’t Fair

As I’ve got older I have become increasingly attached to the phrase ‘it is what it is’. Sometimes it’s said in recognition, sometimes in resignation. Usually it’s because something happened that’s outside my control; it may not be fair but there’s nothing I can do to change it. Why can’t life be fair? Life is fair in the movies. Life is fair with karma. Life is fair in the imaginary ideal of the w...

Marriage vs. Tinder

As someone who doesn’t identify with a particular religion, I don’t typically think about sex in terms of premarital and postmarital. In my mind, sex is sex and marriage is marriage. However, I can’t help but notice the ambiguity at the intersection of premarital sex, millennial hookup culture, and the ongoing quest to find a mate. There used to be one clear path to happiness. You found someone to...

Picture Yourself on a Grid

A google maps view of your life in relation to neighbors, if you will. Some you know. Most you don’t. Most you wouldn’t even recognize if they came to your door and said “I live a block a way and I need help.” But they’ll never say that. We never do. Unless a child is in a life or death situation, we tend to just hunker down with our needs and our loneliness, our lacking and our unrealized dreams....

What’s my convenience worth?

“What’s my convenience worth?” It was a seemingly simple question from my friend Aaron, but an inquiry with some pretty significant implications for the way I discipline my day, treat others, or deal with things. We live in what you might call a convenience culture. Drive-thrus and free refills, fast food and grocery delivery, e-mails and easy returns, microwaveable meals and to-go containers, air...

Defined by Divide: A Poem

Today I tried. To understand the other side. Tried to cross the divide. A conversation overheard- offensive in almost every word. How to respond? With attack and hate? with protests, with rallies, with satire that deprecates? But you see, I know you- you love people, you serve my God, we may even agree on a thing or two. But with these words, these ideas, these fears nationwide, it is easier to de...

Ban the Backyard

There is a common myth in America that what a happy family needs most is a Big Backyard. (This is similar to the myth that happiness increases in direct proportion to square footage, but that’s a post for another time). Those who do not live in homes at all, or live in homes with little or no yard, envision the big American backyard as some idyllic paradise where romping and ball tossing and havin...

What if I’m wrong?

During the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989), a group of U.S. special forces—operating undercover—were captured by Soviet special forces. On searching the U.S. soldiers, the Soviets found large amounts of U.S. dollars—funds designated for their covert mission. It was a ton of cash. The Soviets were baffled to realize the U.S. soldiers were carrying out their mission willingly. Why would you be fightin...