Jamie The Very Worst Missionary

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inappropriate remarks, embarrassing antics, and generally lame observations from an American Missionary.
Updated: 25 min 26 sec ago

Giving Life to Life-Giving Work

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 17:35

Friends, I try to share things with you here that I believe are life-giving in some way.

I post links to funny things and creative things and spiritual things, things that remind us we're connected to each other, things that make us feel like we're not crazy, things that bring freedom and grace and wholeness, things that are inspiring, redemptive, healing.
This is one of those things...
Brian Chandler is my people. 
He is honest and raw and genuine and real and all the stuff we love around here. He just... gets it. He gets what it is to be broken and battered and abandoned, but he also gets Grace. And on top of all that? The guy makes music that makes me cry. He writes the kind of songs that find me where I'm lost and wandering, take me by the hand, and lead me home. 
I have no doubt Night Sea will be life-giving for many. 
But first we have to give it life.
Will you help me help Brian make music that makes us cry and takes us home?
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I really don't ask for much. Only that, together as a community, we end modern day slavery, fight human trafficking, consume with a conscience, eat local, love well, and lean on each other. And this. I'm asking for this...
As of this posting, we are only 7 days and a little more than $3200 away from funding a project that I believe will speak Grace and Peace to the hopeless, the hurting, the lost, and the lonely among us. It would be so cool if you were part of it. Fund it, share it, pray for it - whatever - just participate somehow, if you can. 
Click here to give life to live-giving work: https://www.kickstarter.com/pro…/nightsea/night-sea-debut-ep


***If anyone was inclined to go over there right now and simply cover the remaining $3000-ish of this project, then I would be inclined to meet that person at the Night Sea releaseparty with a bottle of home-brew, a homemade Picaken, a custom Knives t-shirt, and a rare show of affection in the form of a two-armed, full-frontal HUG. I swear, THAT is how bad I want this record to happen.***

Let us Pray.

Mon, 03/09/2015 - 22:34
Ok. I know I have this whole missionary thing going on, and I'm married to a pastor, and I sincerely love Jesus, but, despite all that, somehow I found myself living a life without prayer. I mean, I still pray occasionally, like before dinner when we have company, but lately it hasn't been often, and it hasn't been very sincere.
I used to pray earnestly, with a deep sense of longing and appreciation to a God I thought listened. I used to pray daily, habitually, one might even say religiously, as an act of obedient worship and supplication to a God I thought cared. I used to pray intentionally, with a heart full of gratitude and wonder for a God I thought loved me.
I used to pray.
I used to pray and listen, listen and pray. I used to hear God, and He used to hear me, because I used to think prayer mattered, and that maybe when I prayed it actually made a difference in the world. Like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, I used to think prayer was important to my spiritual formation. And like many of the things that used to define and direct my faith, eventually I started to question its value.
As I questioned and wondered and prodded for understanding, my prayer life went from being a rich, meaningful experience to a tool I use to fight insomnia. Prayer became the kind of mindless activity that is so boring and un-engaging, it practically induces a coma. Like counting sheep, or taking slow breaths -- if I can't sleep, I pray.
Initially, I was turned off by seeing so many flippant promises of prayer from people I knew wouldn't actually follow though. And by “people” I mean me. I used to do this all the time. Requests would be uttered, needs would be shared, sad stories were told, and I promised I would pray for them, but I rarely made good on my commitment. I almost never actually prayed for people after I told them I would. For me, “I'll pray for you” became like the Christian equivalent of “Take care.” It was simply a means for me to end a conversation with another person and walk away from them without assuming any personal responsibility for their future. Or their needs. Or their pain.
It was like a spiritual easy out.

Once I realize I was doing it, I knew something had to change. But instead of deciding to be a decent human being pray for people when I said I would, I just decided to stop saying “I'll pray for you.” Problem solved. ... And then? Because I'm an embarrassment to society and my brain doesn't know how to control my mouth, sometimes I would not only notsay “I'll pray for you”, but I would go so far as to replace it with something else. Something worse. Something like,“I'm not going to tell you 'I'll pray for you' because I probably won't, but sorry for your loss.” Or “...but I think you'll do great on your test.” Or “....but cancer totally sucks. I hope you live.”
Because that's SO MUCH BETTER. Right? ….*sigh*... Ugh! I'm a douche, you guys.
Anyway.
The downfall of my prayer life didn't end there, because then I started to feel weird about the things I prayed about. I was told to bring all my cares to God, no matter how trivial or small, because He wants to hear all of it. Right? But it felt weird to pray to God for a sunny vacation and, also? War and famine and orphans. It felt wrong to ask God to #Bless me in my fluffy suburban life, while I was acutely aware of the greater suffering of others. I thought it was kind of icky to call for God's favor over t-ball games and car repairs and vet bills.... and, oh yeah, my friend whose husband is dying in hospice.
So my downward prayer spiral continued.
I didn't like the way Christians like to congratulate ourselves for "answered prayers” when we get what we want, but quickly shrug off things that don't go our way as “God's will”. The more I thought about it, the more I had a hard time believing that, first, we could somehow bend God's favor for our own benefit, and second that “His perfect will” included things like advanced leukemia, and starving babies, and dead Mama's, and, you know, like, crimes against humanity and stuff.
It's just that I happen to think super shitty things aren't God's will.
I think bad things happen because we live in a broken place filled with messed up people who have terrible ideas, and because the Earth is covered in all kinds of other unpredictable living things, and also because weather. I could be wrong, but I think “God's perfect will” for the mess we call life is that we would love and be loved by Him, but also that you and I would love one another through the inevitable pain and turmoil and tragedy that comes with living in this beautiful, dynamic, damaged world.
So that became kind of a problem, too, because if you believe in God's will, but you also believe in Shit Happens, how then should you pray?
Or I guess maybe the real question is: Why should you pray?
I've seriously struggled with this question for like ever. Why pray? IfI don't see God as a cosmic wish granter whose magical genie powers can be conjured by the fervent prayers of men, then why should I bother to pray at all?
But, as much as I've managed to cheapen it over the years, I've never been able to fully shed prayer as a core value. For a while, it's just been sort of lingering in the background of my Faith, hoping to be picked up, longing to be embraced once again. More recently, though, I've dusted off the practice of prayer by actively, intentionally entering into conversations with God – and not as a sleep aid. I still can't say I understand it, I still have no idea how it works, but I think I can honestly say I've returned to prayer.
Over the past few months, I've had good reasons to pray - not for myself, but for others – through grief and heartache, through loss and through gain, and through celebration, through ups and downs and a bunch of WTF's, through gratitude and grace, through life and through death... I prayed for them. No, actually? I prayed with them...
And that's when I remembered why we pray.

We pray because the God who knows us and sees us also connectsus.
When we pray for one another, we are acknowledging that we are connected, not just to God, but to each other. Your pain matters, not just to God, but to me. Your joy is delightful, not just to God, but to me. The suffering of this broken world must be addressed, not just by God, but by me.
When Jesus shows us how to pray, He draws us into community, first with God, and then with each other:Our Father who art in heaven,hallowed be thy name.Thy kingdom come.Thy will be doneon earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our trespasses,as we forgive those who trespass against us,and lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.
My Father, who art in Heaven...Give me this day my daily bread...Forgive me?Lead me?Deliver me?
Nope. Sorry. We're all in this together.
Among other things, prayer is an amazing reminder that through God we are all connected; He is with you, I tell you that all the time... but what if he also made me to be with you? So that you, Beloved of the Lord, know you are never alone. 
I think I had part of it right in the beginning; God does listen. God hears, God cares, God loves, and though I can't explain it, I believe God responds to our prayers. But what I didn't get was that to pray for another person is the opposite of taking an easy spiritual out. Whether they live down the hall, or across the street, or on the other side of the world, whether they are our friend or our enemy, when we pray for others, we should probably be open to the possibility that God's love, His justice, His grace, His mercy may need to flow through us in other, more tangible, ways. You know what I mean? Like, maybe God's perfect will is that we LOVE ONE ANOTHER,for real, because life is hard and the world is screwed up and while we may know we need God... God knows we also need each other.
God IS, and shit happens, and prayer works - That's where I'm at. I understand how prayer brings you and me and God close about as well as I understand how I'm wirelessly connected to you right now through internet-magic. But I'm pretty sure that all of Creation is woven together in a tangled web of community, fully united by God, because we were never meant to be alone.
So let us honor our Father together. Let us work hand in hand to usher in the kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Let us pass our daily bread to one another. Let us forgive together. Let us hold each other up to receive forgiveness. Let us walk side by side as we seek paths of righteousness and encourage one another in our victories.
Let us pray.

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 Can I pray for you? Or, better yet, with you? …. No. I mean it this time!

A Missionary's Position on 50 Shades of Grey

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 19:19
For the record, yes, I read the book and, yes, I watched the movie. And before we get into my review of them both, I want to offer you this tidbit of advice from the bottom of my crooked little heart -- For the love of God, if you haven't already subjected yourself to either of these atrocities, spare yourself
If you haven't seen or read 50 Shades of Grey and you're not really sure what the fuss is about, perhaps because you were lucky enough to be stranded on a desert island for the past year or so, I wrote a brief summary, just for you -- Read it HERE, and come back -- We'll wait...
Ok? Ok. Let's do this.
First? The story in 50 Shades of Grey only “works” because Christian Grey is a hard-bodied Adonis with an insanely awesome penthouse, sleek cars, loads of cash, and, oh, a helicopterIf he was an ugly dude who worked at a gas station, rode a dirt bike, and invited a cute girl into a “play room” full of torture devices in the back of his doublewide trailer, we would all be disgusted.
It's true and you know it. 
Take away the male hotness and the buckets of money and suddenly 50 Shades of Grey is a book about an insecure, young woman who meets a controlling, manipulative stalker, and finds herself in a mess of her own conflicting emotions. She enjoys being the object of his desire, but she's also intimidated by his demeanor. She's not comfortable with the things he's asking her to do, but he's only asking because she's “special” and he wants to share special moments with her. He smothers her, but only because he wants to protect her. And he punishes her, but only for her own good. She knows he's not perfect, but surely, if she sticks with him long enough, he'll change. She's freaked out by the demands she must meet to be in a relationship with this guy, but how else can she show him how much she really loves him?
No one wants to read that book, no matter how hot the sex is, because THATis not a love story. 
We all know someone who islivingthat story and we do not envy her
Most of us have watched painfully from the sidelines as a friend ignored serious red flags in favor of relationship - Any relationship! Even a super unhealthy one.
So why are we eating this stuff up? Do we really likethe story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey? Are our ideas of love and romance really this broken? Or are we just choosing to ignore the oogy parts because we enjoy a raunchy novel every now and again?
Honestly? I would rather believe this stupid book blew up the way it did because it gave everybody and their sister a lady-boner, than because we are so dumb we can't see 50 Shades of Bullshit when it's right in front of our faces. The real life story of 50 Shades goes like this: Christian Grey needs a therapist and Anastasia Steele needs to grow a pair. 
Sorry, friends. That is just not a good story.
But it is a relatable one.
I mean, maybe there's a little bit of Anastasia Steele in all of us.
I am drawn to characters like hers, I will admit, probably because I've spent a lot of my life feeling awkward, and clumsy, and ordinary, and little bit invisible -- and I'm not gonna lie, it's kind of nice to think that someone might see something special or valuable or good in me that I can't see in myself. And, like her, I've had my insecurities used against me by people who wanted to dominate me in some fashion, even people I loved. And I, too, have walked paths created by the insecurity of others, thinking, “If I just walk with him far enough, it will help him.”
Maybe it's not actually the dashing billionaire, Christian Grey, we fell in love with one poorly written page at a time, but plain old Ana. Sweet Ana, finally picked first over her cooler, richer, hotter best friend, finally learning how lovely she is, finally knowing she is desirable, and - most of all – finally feeling worthy.
Maybe.
I mean, that still doesn't explain why so many people endured this terrible, awful, painfully bad book. Seriously, why God, WHYYYYY???... It has to bebecause it gives us the sexy-feel-goods. That's the only reasonable explanation. This dictionary disaster of a book can only have become SO STINKIN' POPULAR because, ladies, when we read about sex, it makes us feel sexy. It makes us want to have sex. And we really like sex! Can I get a AMEN?! Like, can we all please just admit that's true? Say it with me now, “50 Shades of Grey makes us horny!”
We like reading about sex. There. It's said. 

Of course, it helped that the type of sex depicted in 50 Shades tested our imaginary sexual boundaries – that certainly made it a more interesting read. But I think Christian Grey's fetish could have been just about anything and, as long as the sex scenes were sufficiently steamy, we would have been ok with it. He could have demanded his woman be slathered in bacon grease, or that she put on a dinosaur costume and wait for him bent over a rocking chair. He could have asked Anastasia to wear a fake mustache while he gave her hickeys with a vacuum cleaner, and we probably would have kept reading. Because whatever. There's nothing wrong with liking weird things in bed. If you are in a healthy, committed, monogamous relationship (admittedly, I'd prefer the word marriage here, but, y'know...), and you've put in the time, effort, and emotion to get to a place where it's safe for both of you to try new things and maybe even explore your limits together, I say go for it. Your bedroom is your business. Go crazy.
The problem with this book is not that it's about rough sex or BDSM or bedroom fetishes, it's that if we want to enter into that kind of space with another human being, we should probably try to get there through mutual trust and relational intimacy.Not in a written contract. Not on a first date. And not under threat of rejection. 
There isbullying and abuse in 50 Shades of Grey, but I don't really think it happens in the bedroom. It happens when a rich, powerful, good-looking man exerts his money, power, and good looks to get his way without the permission of the woman he wants to bone. (One example: He takes her beloved, crappy, old car and sells it without her knowledge, replacing it with an expensive new one. Surprise! We're supposed to think this is romantic, but really, it's just bullshit.) Quite frankly, the only way 50 Shades of Grey could have gotten so big is that we consciously chose to ignore the icky underlying message of the story - that a woman should feel grateful to oblige a demanding, controlling, severely broken man if he's hot and rich - because we were too busy enjoying the sexy parts. 
Right?! I mean, that has to be it! Otherwise, I DO NOT GET ITS MASS APPEAL. 
Whether or not we should be using romance novels as sexual stimulants is gonna have to be a whole other conversation. But the fact of the matter is that most women do get turned on by lit-porn – and not just by the explicit, overly-detailed, frenetically paced descriptions of impassioned sexual encounters, but also by the enduring fantasy of being seenand wanted. That's what most of us are seeking in our own relationships, isn't it? To be truly vulnerable and deeply loved anyway
That might be the only redeeming piece of this stupid, fucked up story - that what it all boils to in the end is that all of us, women and men, alike -- all the Anastasia Steeles and Christian Greys of the world -- we all share in one great fear and one great need; to be known
We are all longing for someone we perceive as valuable to look at us and say, “I see something amazing in you and I find it irresistible.”
It's almost as if we were Created to be loved and cherished, and we're all dying to find our worth... but if the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon is any indication, we're looking for it in all the wrong places.



50 Shades of.. OMG ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 19:19
The story got everyone talking and the sex scenes got everyone tingling, and then, to the horror of English lit majors and book publishers everywhere, E.L. James lusty novel, 50 Shades of Grey, spread across the nation like a literary strain of herpes.
I read the whole book. I sat through the whole movie. I survived the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon and lived to tell about it... So that's what I'm doing.
I don't even want to talk about how truly, exceptionally, remarkably bad the writing is, so I'll only say this; The writing is the worst! At this point, it's pretty much universally accepted that 50 Shades of Grey does not owe its popularity to prose. If you need an example of why, google it. Or you can just trust me when I say that, as far as books go, this is a really shitty one.
For those who are completely unfamiliar with 50 Shades of Grey, perhaps because you're lucky enough to have been in a coma or lost in the woods for the past year or so, the story goes like this:
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Anastasia Steele is a socially awkward, clumsy, nerd-virgin who has no idea how super-duper hot she is under her frumpy cardigan sweater and messy ponytail. But when Christian Grey (the youngest, hottest billionaire in all the land) meets her, he instantly sees her naughty sex-kitten potential, and then she bites her lip and it's all over - he's smitten. He must have her! And by “have” I mean “own”. So he buys her.Sort of.
Anastasia is smart and educated, and she isn't really sure she wants to be bought, so whenever he spends tons of money on her she tells herself that she will give his extravagant gifts back eventually. That way it's more like a loan, or a rental agreement, and she feels much better about receiving costly gifts of books and clothes and computers and cars. SHE'S NOT GOING TO KEEP THEM, YOU GUYS. Anastasia Steel is a strong, independent woman and she will not be bought! So there.
Then there's this boring part where Christian starts to feel bad because he knows what he wants to do to Ana (which is tie her up and flog her) and so he pushes Anna away because he doesn't want to hurt her. I mean, he does, but he's a gentleman. He wants to take care of her. So for a minute he just, y'know, watches her and looks after her and protects her and stuff. Like a big stalkerbrother.
Some more things happen, I don't remember what, until finally Christian Grey is so deeply attracted to this unusual girl, so utterly enthralled by her natural beauty, so taken by her charm, SO TOTALLY TURNED ON BY THIS LIP BITING MINX HE CANNOT WAIT ANOTHER MINUTE TO BE WITH HER...so he has his lawyer draw up a non-disclosure for her to sign and return. Which she does.
So now they're like almostin a relationship. SQUEEEEE!!!
But wait! Christian has more paperwork for her to sign before he can “date” her, because romance. And also because it turns out this gorgeous, wealthy, hunk of man-candy comes with a liiiiiitle bit of baggage she needs to know about. He reveals his secret fetish to Anastasia by showing her his “play room” full of whips and chains and sex contraptions, and he explains that he likes women who like it rough. The rougher the better - but only as long as everyone is having a good time.
Cool? Cool.
But wait! Anastasia has a little secret of her own. Because, even though they've known each other for like two whole weeks, she's failed to mention that she's still a virgin. So when Christian tries to talk to her about sex and stuff, she bites her lip and admits that she's never, y' know, done itbefore. *womp womp* But Christian really likes this girl, so he's not about to let the inconvenience of an intact hymen get in the way of the possibility of their future mutually agreed upon relationship terms. So, like a true gentleman, he takes care of business, and Ana's first time is a festival of orgasms.
In fact, her very first sexual experience is so awesome - and not at all awkward or fumbly or goopy – she is like, “WAIT. IS THAT WHAT SEX IS LIKE?!?! I WANT MORE!!! GIMME GIMME GIMME!!!”
And he's like “Whoa girl, there's more where that came from. All you have to do is sign on the dotted line.”
By this time, you've got the idea that Christian Gray has some kind of weird sexual preferences, but he is pleasantly surprised by how much he liked having non-weird sex with Anastasia, just this once. He thinks her potential for weird sex is so great, he practically gets down on one knee to ask her to be his submissive sex partner. He tells her how he wants to dominate her in his play room, and he gives Anastasia a big, fat contract and a brand new laptop and tells her to do some research into the whole dominant/submissive thing. Which she does, cause she's cool like that.
At this point Ana is starting to think she mightbe seeing some red flags, like,everywhere. But Christian is super hot. And super rich. So she decides to think about it. While she thinks about it, they are cute with each other via email and text.
He is just dying for her to say yes to his proposal, and when it's time for her to make the big decision, she's basically like, “Alright, fine, I'll be your submissive. But no fisting.” And Christian decides he can live without fisting, so it's all good. UGH, SO ROMANTIC!So she signs a contract agreeing that he can tell her what to eat, what to wear, how often to exercise, and when and where to sleep. Among other things, she also agrees not to touch him or look him in the eye during sex and not to disobey him in any way. Plus, she agrees to being spanked as a form of punishment if she breaks any of his rules. Oh! And she agrees to wait for him naked, on her knees, head down, with her hair in a braid whenever she is beckoned to the boom-boom play room.
At first, she's kinda freaked out. But then she gets spanked for rolling her eyes and afterward Christian rubs her butt with lotion, and he is so sweet and tender toward her sore, beaten ass, she can't help but swoon a little. In the playroom, some whipping and flogging happens, but he is mostly gentle and kind as he grooms her to be more to his liking. They take it slow and much to her surprise, Anastasia finds out she's kind of into it. Like, it actually feels kinda good.
Many more orgasms occur. So many that you start to think Christian Grey is just a show off. 
Wait. What?!Between orgasms we learn things about this mysterious, bondage loving, philanthropist. Dark things. Things that make us go, “OOoooOOhhh, that makes sense!”
We find out the smokin' hot, gazillionaire was a crack-baby, tortured and starved in early childhood, rescued by rich people after he is severely traumatized by his birth mother's gruesome death, then sexually abused as a teenager by his adoptive Mom's BFF, who he swears is not a child molester, just a “really good friend”.
Ooookay.
Naturally, Anastasia is like, “Oh my!” And she needs a little space to process all that's happened, so she flies out to visit her Mom on the East Coast and take a little break. Like 5 minutes later, Christian shows up. Because he cares about her! NOT because he is obsessed, or controlling, or creepy. IT'S ROMANTIC, YOU GUYS! The whole time, Anastasia is confused by her feelings, because she doesn't really like being stalked and controlled, and she can plainly see that this guy is like super fucked up, but she loves himand she wants to help him get better and she thinks that maybe if she just hangs in there, eventually he might let her touch him during sex. Or make eye contact.
Love is SO confusing!
Am I hot, or am I a dork?!
I DON'T EVEN KNOW ANY MORE!!!All these big feelings make her bite her lip. A lot.
When they get back to his rich people apartment, something I can't remember happens, and they get into a heated argument and Anastasia tells Christian to spank her as hard as he wants, so he does, and afterward he tries to rub some lotion on her butt to help her feel better, but she will not have it. Girl is PISSED. Then she's all, ''I don't think I can do this.” And she gives him all his expensive gifts back (thereby ending her unwritten rental agreement) and she leaves.
She never wants to see Christian Grey again! But, also, she wants to marry him. She wants to slap him! But she also wants to kiss him. She definitely doesn't want him to slap her with anything ever again! Except maybe a little. Mostly, she just wants to forget she ever met him... and slept with him... and let him strip her, tie her to a bed, and drool champagne into her mouth, baby-bird style. (Because that happened.)
You guys, love is so confusing! ANASTASIA STEELE DOESN'T KNOW WHATSHE WANTS ANY MORE!
The end.
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Good grief. 
I have so many thoughts about 50 Shades of Grey, I don't even know where to begin...  
CLICK HERE FOR MY FULL REVIEW!!!



Not exactly "Newsworthy", but here we are...

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 15:31
I keep hearing that podcasts are the new blog, so I guess it's a good thing Luke Norsworthy was kind enough to have me on his podcast, Newsworthy with Norsworthy.  
You should not listen to it. I promise. Instead, you should go over to Luke's site and pick out a different interview, like this one with Donald Miller, or maybe this one with NT Wright, or definitely this one with Barbara Brown Taylor, and then listen to that. You will thank me. 
But if you do insist on listening to my interview, please accept my sincere apology in advance for the following: 
~ the overuse of the word "like". ~ that thing I said about Camaros~ threatening to strangle an old lady~ stretching "shit" into a 4 syllable word~ the vagina story (Really, I am so, so, so, sorry about this. SO sorry.)
There. I have apologized and you have been warned. Do not write me an angry email.
Ok. Here you go...



Or...
...go listen to one of these actual newsworthy people. Seriously. 



















Have I mentioned I'm sorry?...


Because Sharing is Caring, Vol. 203

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 20:05

The internet can be a cesspool of ardent opinion, gossip mongering, unrestrained certainty, and condescending correction. Or it can be awesome. Sometimes between scrolling through raging Twitter battles and rolling my eyes at Facebook comment threads, I actually come across something useful, or funny, or good. When this happens, I feel a deep sense of responsibility to pay it forward; These little nuggets of gold must be shared in order to disrupt the internet's death spiral into utter ridiculousness. So here are my latest favorite finds:


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ThredUP
I don't remember how I came across this site - it might have popped up in my email - but I checked it out and now I kind of LOVE IT OMG SO MUCH. Y'know how I'm always looking for creative ways to shop responsibly in order to not contribute to the slavery and exploitation of people, but also not look like a transient who just jumped off a moving train? Enter ThredUP, an online consignment store with page after page of second hand fashion.


At first I found the whole idea intimidating. There's an art to looking at a tiny picture of a rumpled top and knowing what it will look like on your body; I imagine this instinct develops over time, but I'm not there. Regardless, I decided to go balls out on my first order and do something totally crazy, so I thought I'd try to get some jeans. Yes, JEANS -- The 2nd most terrifying and unpredictable item of clothing a woman can try on.

I looked at approximately ten thousand different options, picked 2, and headed to the checkout.

I got this pair of Urban Outfitter jeans for like $8. AND THEY FIT! I KNOW. I CAN'T BELIEVE IT EITHER! They're definitely worn in, so who knows how much life is left in them, but they already have that favorite-pair-of-old-jeans feel, which is kind of great.

                     

The other pair was a little more expensive - around $25 - and ended up being too big. So back they go. No big deal.

I'm definitely a fan. I'll also be sending in a bag of clothes for consignment one of these days. So excited! Sign up and ThredUP will give you $10 toward your first order.


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Speaking of transients jumping off trains. This guy and the pics he took, at 18 years old, as he train-hopped across America and back are spectacular. Though his epic photos have won gobs of awards, he didn't grow up to be a photographer, because apparently "photography just isn't [his] thing". So he's a mechanic.
** warning, some of the pics in his gallery are... um... icky ** Photo by Mike BrodiePhoto by Mike Brodie

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Lately, I've been fascinated by the way people treat each other. Online, offline, at work, at church, on the road, in restaurants, on planes - It just seems like we're losing a sense of our humanity or something. Whatever it is, it's disturbing. So when I read this book, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck, by Amy Alkon, I found the overall premiss refreshing. I sincerely appreciated the blunt reminder that it's really not that hard to treat others with kindness and respect - it's just the right thing to do. The sciency bit in the first chapter about WHY we've become an entire society of douchebags was particularly enlightening.


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Current favorite song: I Bet My Life - from Imagine Dragons


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Oh. If you haven't already? The Serial Podcast.  Just trust me on this one.



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Last but not least, this blog post about essential oils. I wish I wrote it. 


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Ok. Your turn! Share your delightful internet finds with the rest of us...


Guilt vs Shame, part 2: There's a BIG Difference

Thu, 01/29/2015 - 17:39
This is the second half of a two part series on Shame from my real life friend and legit theologian, Libby Vincent. Be sure to read part 1, here!
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The BIG Difference Between Guilt and Shame
In my last post, I talked about guilt. Now I want to talk about shame.
I've been working hard at understanding shame. It wasn't really my choice-it just happened. About two years ago  a bunch of unforeseen losses in my life pretty much broke me - I was depressed, listless and almost hopeless.  Once I got out of the fog, I began to dismantle deep messages of shame from my past and began to believe in God's message of worth. God used some key people in my life during this time: my family and friends (who stood with me and held me up); my spiritual director (who helped me expand my theological lens); my therapist (who embodies grace and wholeness to me), and the work of Dr. Brené Brown (who has researched and written extensively on shame and vulnerability) 
As I did with guilt, here's a working definition of shame - shame is:
"....the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging."
The primary difference between guilt and shame is this:  guilt is about what we do; shame is about who we are. It may seem like a difference of semantics, but it's more than that. Guilt says "lying to my boss was wrong"; shame says "you're a liar." Shame labels us with names like liar, loser, failure, ugly, stupid. Shame shouts "you'll never be man enough; you're a drunk; a pervert; a lazy slob; your body, mind, house, car, children -- your faith -- isn't perfect enough". Shame is what the devil uses to convince us we aren't worthy of God's love and never will be. Shame demoralizes, dehumanizes, and paralyzes us with fear.
Sadly, shame is prolific in the church: the one place that could be a safe haven from shame is often the place that shames us the most. But it doesn't have to be that way. The church can work against the destructive forces of shame. Instead of being a broker of shame, the Church can be a conduit of worth. I think we can do this work by encouraging one another to work through our shame, and expose it for what it is - lies. We can use tools like therapy and spiritual direction to help us know where we are vulnerable to shame. We can teach and preach on shame, helping people understand what it is and how it works. When we speak against shame - it doesn't mean we don't take sin seriously. 
We are people with brokenness; we sin, but our sin does not define who we are.  When we believe WE ARE BAD we can't recognize God's voice of acceptance because we are too busy trying to perform and clean up for God. We can't be representatives of God when shame owns us, because it makes us angry, hostile and fractured people. In an effort to alleviate ourselves from our own sense of worthlessness and self hatred, we release the venom of vitriol, cynicism and judgment upon others. This is not how God wants us to live. God wants us to live out of our worth - given to us at creation, redeemed through Jesus, and made complete at the end of time. Our identity as belonging to God is what gives us our worth (Genesis 1.31). When we believe that nothing and no one can change our standing as Gcd's beloved, sin becomes less attractive, coping mechanisms we have used to avoid our shame lose their appeal, and compassion for ourselves and others increases. Miraculous things happen. Healing and wholeness happens. Life giving choices happen. Christ in us happens.

In this life, shame will always be around. But shame doesn't have to have the last word. We can be proactive by calling out shame and ushering it to the door marked EXIT. It won't be easy. It's painful and can feel overwhelming.  It takes courage. But sometimes we have to experience 'crucifixion' so we can have 'resurrection.' Sometimes SOMETHING has to die -- our shame -- so that SOMEONE can live - like you and me. 

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Libby Vincent became a follower of Jesus in the middle of her college years. Knowing that she was being called by God to full time professional ministry, she pursued her education which led her to Pasadena, CA, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Berlin, Germany. She currently teaches for Fuller Seminary Northern California in the area of Systemic Theology and Theology and Film. Libby resides in Folsom with her husband of 22 years, Dan, and her two teenagers, Maggie and Trent. 

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To be honest, friends, the concepts of Guilt and Shame have been hard for me to untangle in my own life, since they are so often wrapped up together. But learning how to untangle that knot and recognize the difference has been a life-giving process for me. I hope this little series has encouraged you to do the same. 
Ok, Libby. WHAT'S NEXT?!
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Have you been able to let shame die, so that you might wholly live? 

Guilt vs Shame, part 1: Can Guilt Be Good?

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 17:52

I know this is weird, but not all of the brilliant people in the world write and post blogs from which we may glean wisdom and inspiration. Crazy, right?! I know! But it's true - some awesome people can only be found in real life. I love it when I get to introduce you to one of my awesome real life people, and today is one of those days. I cannot even begin to tell you what this woman's friendship has meant to me over the last couple of years, but I will say that when the stars align and we both have, like, a whole entire hour free for coffee, Libby breathes life into me. Every time I see her, I wish I could share her with you. You'll see why...
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Can Guilt Be Good?
A while back - and by a while I mean 2 years ago - Jamie and I were having coffee and she said "will you guest post on my blog?"  I nodded my head nonchalantly and said "yeah, definitely."  And then I hoped she would forget. In my head I thought 'no way. I can't write for your blog. Jamie , YOU are a blogger. I'm...' I didn't even know what I was-I was just NOT a blogger. But she didn't forget and I got over my insecurity (almost).  I'm ready to blog and I want to blog on shame. Why shame? I think shame is one of the biggest tools if not THE biggest tool in the arsenal of the devil and the topic doesn't get discussed much in churches. And, I  have been learning a lot about the topic over the past two years -- as in first hand. The idea of shame isn't new to me, but sometimes you know about something (i.e. intellectual knowing) and other times you KNOW something (i.e. in your bones/gut knowing). It is almost as if I had to have a face to face with my own shame to realize how powerful and destructive shame is to all of us.
If we are going to understand shame, we have to distinguish between it and its close cousin, guilt.  Here's a working definition of guilt:
1. The fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law;
2. A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.Thank you dictionary.Guilt is like a two sided coin: one side has an imprint of an offense and the other side, an imprint of our feelings about said event; we think or do or say something that falls outside of the parameters of a moral law to which we ascribe, and we have feelings about it. Within this rudimentary definition of guilt there is an important distinction between unhealthy and healthy guilt. My personal definition of  unhealthy guilt is  "blaming someone else for not getting what you want."  We have feelings (usually those that make us uncomfortable or we don't like) and we would rather not discuss them openly and honestly, so we shroud them in unhealthy guilt messages like: "you never call me" or "everyone else is going to the family reunion..." Unhealthy guilt points and blames; healthy guilt acknowledges and restores.
From God's perspective guilt is ultimately about broken relationship. It isn't just a Law that is broken or a specific sin, it's a connection to the divine that is torn and fractured. And while a system of offerings was set up to restore and maintain connection with God in the Old Testament, it is in Christ that we are relieved of the consequences of messing with our relationship with God.

With this information in mind, there are a couple of ways guilt can be our friend. First, guilt can remind us we are created in the image of God (imago dei). We experience this connection between guilt and the imago dei through conscience. Conscience is part of what makes us unique as humans: we contemplate our actions and make moral self-evaluations. Conscience is not perfectly the voice of God within us but it does point to God's image in us.  
Second, guilt reveals the importance of relationship and reconciliation. When we are guilty, we are called to make things right and so we ask forgiveness, we make some kind of amends and we model what reconciliation looks like. Guilts' innate connection to relationship is the tool that enables us to re-establish relationship with God and with one another.  We show each other and the world God's model for how relationship works.
Guilt has a purpose. Guilt, when viewed appropriately, is good. Where things go awry is when guilt becomes confused with shame - and if you don't read the next post I guess you are ...oh sorry - I was just about to shame you...
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Libby Vincent became a follower of Jesus in the middle of her college years. Knowing that she was being called by God to full time professional ministry, she pursued her education which led her to Pasadena, CA, Edinburgh, Scotland, and Berlin, Germany. She currently teaches for Fuller Seminary Northern California in the area of Systemic Theology and Theology and Film. Libby resides in Folsom with her husband of 22 years, Dan, and her two teenagers, Maggie and Trent. 

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Be sure to come back on Thursday for part 2, Libby's take on Shame. ( I... *ahem*.. I mean, you, YOU seriously need to hear this one.)

Ok. What about it - Do you think guilt is a good thing? 


Depression Is Not A Scandal

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 18:44
For the second time in a month my big, beige, suburban community is mourning the loss of a life to suicide.
A few short weeks ago, we despaired to learn we'd lost 12 year old Ronin Shimizu.
Last weekend we lost another friend, a 46 year old father of two, to the vice-like grip of depression.
In the aftermath of these two tragedies, a lot of people are asking themselves what they could have done differently. There's so much regret to carry, and the tendency is to wish we'd paid better attention, that we'd been more attentive to one who was clearly suffering in our midst. It's hard not to shoulder the blame or harbor guilt for not having been there – for not stopping it.
But sometimes there is no stopping it.
Sometimes there's nothing anyone could have done, because, like many other chemically treatable illnesses, sometimes depression can be fatal.
My husband just talked to this friend on Christmas Eve and says everything seemed fine. “He seemed happy.” These are the words we hear all too often after someone we love succumbs to the crushing weight of depression.
Total Wednesday Addams.
 ...But, like, if Wednesday Addams was from California.I've struggled with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember. Like, even as a small child.
I had performance anxiety so bad that every day during 3rd grade math I broke out in hives. Now I like to joke that I am literallyallergic to math, but the truth is I was just an incredibly troubled little kid. Recurring nightmares of being chased, abducted, and buried alive plagued my dreams, and I fretted constantly about my Mom dying or one of my siblings taken by cancer or something - there was a definite Wednesday Addams vibe to my childhood. I appeared to be a normal kid, the only outward sign of my inner turmoil were the sunken eyes and dark circles earned by long, sleepless nights of worry and fear.
But I seemed happy.
I played the role of happywell enough to not call too much attention to my state of mental health. As long as a person seemsreasonably happy, usually no one around them will stop long enough to notice if they're not. The thing about life is that everybody's doing it all at once. Everyone is working really hard to navigate the rough waters of their own lives, and that makes it kind of easy for people who are battling depression to fly under the radar. I mean, as long as you're not doing anything really batshit, like talking to a fire hydrant or eating the couch cushions, mental illness can be fairly easy to sweep under the rug. It's just one of those things that everyone knows is there, but no one has to look at or acknowledge unless they've really got the time and energy to lift the cover. As a child, I seemed happy, or at least happy enough to stay safely swept under the rug.

That's the scary thing about depression. It lies. We know it lies to it's victims, but it also lies to everyone around them.
Depression is a real tricky son of a bitch.
And that's why we've got to get better at telling the truth about it and exposing it for what it really is.
MENTAL ILLNESS IS REAL ILLNESS.
I take an antidepressant every single day. I also take thyroid medication every single day.
I need both to function, I need both to feel well, I need both to survive.
No one has ever suggested that if I only prayed harder, my thyroid disease would be cured. No one has ever suggested that I'm clinging to sin which is causing my thyroid to malfunction. No one has ever suggested that I need to get right with Jesus to heal my thyroid.No one has ever grown uncomfortable or gone silent when I've mentioned my thyroid disorder.
Do you know how much stigma is attached to having a thyroid that misfires? ZERO STIGMA. I can talk about it at church. I can pick up my meds without getting sideways glances from old ladies. I can sleep aaaaaall daaaaay looooong because my Tsh levels are off - no one bats an eyelash. But, apparently, I'm supposed to stay quiet about depression because, apparently, the chemical imbalance that causes depression makes other people uncomfortable.
What is this, like, 1935? Should I be shipped off “to my aunts house for the summer” while I get my shit together through electric shock therapy? I don't get it. What brand of hypocrisy consents to the use of medication to treat one hormone imbalance but not another? And why are we so afraid to talk about it???
PEOPLE ARE DYING.
People are dying and we want to keep their problems swept under the rug.
Well, it's time to pull back the cover. It's time to give people the space and freedom to talk openly about depression without stigma, without shame, and without embarrassment. This is not a sin issue, this is not a prayer issue, this is not a faith issue – it's a medical issue and it should be treated like any other medical issue, with medication and/or therapy.
It's time for the Church to remove the stigma it has largely created around depression and other mental illness by acknowledging the truth that mental illness is a real thing and can oftentimes be treated by modern medicine. Then we can quit skirting our responsibility as prayer warriors, and peace makers, and care givers, by extending our hands to the hurting and the vulnerable among us and walking with them toward true health and wellbeing. Even if it makes us uncomfortable. Even if we never receive their gratitude. Even if we don't understand their pain. And even if, in the end, we fail to relieve them of their torment and lose them.
No matter how hard we try, or how present we are, we won't always win this battle for the people we love. Sometimes depression is a fatal disease... and that is not your fault. It's complicated, I know. But sometimes the best you can do when you Love someone who is slipping away is point them toward hope and healing, and then be there to pick up the pieces. 
Whether you are afflicted yourself, our you have a friend or loved one who struggles with it, depression is nothing to be ashamed of. For me, most of the time, it's honestly no big deal (because PILLS). I'm just so grateful that God created humans with brains that can get kind of screwy but that are also smart enough to figure out how to set them straight. How cool is that?!
As we reflect on these lives lost to suicide as a result of depression, we can resolve to do something different. Sadly, it won't bring back the dead, but it might save someone else from the pain of having to say goodbye too soon.
WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT. 
It's crucial that we open up the line of communication on this weirdly taboo subject. It's time for those of us who struggle with mental illness to quit hiding it, and those of us who don't to quit acting scandalized by it. 
People are in desperate need of help and they shouldn't be afraid to reach out and get it.
Just talk about it...  End the stigma of depression and save lives. 



This is A Traumatic New Years Eve Awakening

Wed, 12/31/2014 - 22:12
So. It's New Years Eve and I don't do resolutions, like ever, but today when I was getting dressed at noon, something awful happened...something truly terrible...and it forced me take a long, hard look in the mirror. What I saw in my own reflection made me take stock of my entire life, my choices, my habits, my behaviors, my desires for the future. It made me ask myself deep philosophical questions about my own existence.
I stood there for a long time, stunned, confronted with a reality I wasn't sure I could handle, but that I certainly couldn't deny.
I gazed from this angle and that, squinting my eyes, bringing the truth into focus – and I was desperate to convince myself that I couldn't possibly be seeing what I was seeing...it just couldn't be true... but the mirror does not lie, my friends.
I suppose I already knew the truth, even before I faced it. I heard the noise. I felt the breeze. Moments before, as I pulled on my jeans, freshly washed and snug fitting, I was aware of the distinct “POP” and the jarring “RiiiiiiP”. I was cognizant of an unusual rush of cool air where no draft belongs.
The mirror only confirmed what, in my heart, I already knew...
I split my pants.

Let that sink in for a minute... I... SPLIT...MY...PANTS. …As in, the strain of holding my ass inside of my jeans became too great, and they just gave way. They broke like a denim dam, letting their contents spill freely into the world.
I was completely exposed.
I mean, like, literally and figuratively exposed. Obviously, I was exposed to the harsh elements of winter by jeans that could no longer carry an unbearable load. But I was also exposed as a person of little discipline, an over-indulger, a glutton, an excuse maker, a woman who in the feasting month of December may have falsely claimed a solid 15 days of insatiable PMS hunger and declared Holiday Parties fair game for non-stop noshing.
Scholars may disagree, but I think that if you split your jeans on New Years Eve it's practically a sign from God that change is necessary.
Just the other day, I was commiserating with a friend about the little layer of fluff I've managed to add between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I said to her, “You know, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.” and we shared a guilty laugh and then I ate a cheesecake.
So today, when MY PANTS BURST OPEN, I feel like maybe it was a teeny tiny bit of the wrath of God, saying, “I will not be mocked.”
Lesson learned.
In fear and trembling, and with sincere repentance, I did the only thing I could think of; I texted my hero/friend/DietBet buddy, Roo!


Because DUH!!

A few months ago, Roo and I invited our communities to join us in a fun little bet to shed a few pounds and together we all lost 4,300lbs (!!!) and we split a $23,000 pot (!!!). So fun!
Oh. And the best part is that at the end of the DietBet, MY FREAKING PANTS FIT!!!!
So here we go again – Roo and I are hosting the Adios 2014, Sup 2015 Dietbet – Add $35 to the pot and join us for fun and encouragement and as we practice the art of Self-Control. (This just accidentally on purpose turned into a sponsored post.)
CLICK HERE TO COME MAKE MONEY AND LOSE FAT WITH US!!!
So, today, for the first time in a very long time I'm making a New Years Resolution: In 2015, I resolve to have a butt that fits in my pants.... but mostly, to build a character of self-control. 
CHEERS!