Friday, December 19, 2014

What Is Truth?

As Christmas looms and we are reminded to remember the reason for the season, keep the Christ in Christmas, enjoy the hustle and bustle … I fear we’re all making ourselves feel a mite husted and busted. Still. For no good reason.

Yes, I just made up a word.

Every year I aim to simplify, and so do a lot of people, but there are those darned expectations, and traditions, and more expectations, and gifts we need to buy and wrap for 523 people, but the table is piled high with holiday paraphernalia so where on earth am I going to wrap presents, and OH MY GOSH ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE THE CHOCOLATE CARAMEL SQUARES?

Already did. And I’ll make more. Some traditions are worthwhile, particularly when I have a caramel-unwrapping crew available. Oh yeah, and a spotter for the giant pan of caramel sauce.

Forty-eight caramels per batch, by the way.

And it may have gotten slightly messy the other day. J

No, these do not qualify as healthy eating.

The daily devotional I’ve been using is called, “A Year with Jesus”. The scripture passages are from The Message translation, aka the groovy version of the bible, aka if you’re new in your faith walk maybe save this one for later because it’s more of a paraphrase than a literal translation. I often have my YouVersion app handy to look up the NIV or even KJV at the same time.

What I like about this devotional is that it focuses just on the gospels. No pressure to follow a read-the-entire-bible-in-one-year plan. It’s fine if that’s your goal, and really I like the bible in its entirety and recommend it, but there’s nothing magical about one year, and I have tried and FAILED that plan before.

The gospels. Jesus. Just Jesus. He is all I need.

I’ll get to the other stuff when I flip back to “Jesus Calling” for next year. Plus there’s a sermon every week. Plus something like five books I’m attempting to read at the same time, most of which are Jesusy. Plus the occasional I’m going to flip open the bible and read right now but I AM NOT ON A SCHEDULE moments. I think I’m good.

Reluctantly I caved into peer pressure and subscribed to a daily advent devotional. Honestly I’ve only read a few all the way to the end. I look at the length of the post and I think, “Nope. Can’t do it. Maybe I’ll check it out later.” (Kudos if you've gotten this far and you're still with me.) My apologies to the authors I’m not reading. Keep writing. Out of the several billion souls on this planet, I am sure you are reaching people.

Maybe I’m one of the ninety-nine who are cool back at the barn. Maybe today at least I’m not the dude in the wilderness who needs your words. But the dude is out there.

Maybe I should adopt the Yorkie dog named Thor I’ve always wanted and put some reindeer antlers on him. Because that seems about right. Darned near perfect. My allergist will have a conniption, though.

As I approach the end of the year, “A Year with Jesus”, my daily devotionals consist of the Easter story. Yes!!!!!!!!!! I hadn’t even thought about that until the last couple of days. But of course!!!!!!!!!! No over-inundation with mangers and myrrh and fifty different horrible versions of “Silent Night” we’re supposed to pretend to like. Stevie Nicks should not have recorded this song. There, I said it.

So today we experience the conversation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. Pilate is always an interesting, somewhat reluctant participant in the story. Three words he uttered jumped off the page at me. “What is truth?”

What is truth!?!

What. Is. Truth.

I know. Do you know?

Epiphany of the day … people in modern society are acting like a bunch of ancient Romans. Everything is relative. It’s all relative. Your truth might not be the same as my truth. How dare you try to impose your version of the truth. La-ti-da-da-da. We can’t even agree on the definition of facts. Relativism runs rampant.

I also look really dumpy in a toga.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor did it fall in a day.


The thing that hath been,
it is that which shall be;
and that which is done is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing under the sun.
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV)

I’m just gonna curl up with the truth over here, maybe find some chai tea, and enjoy the rest of the advent season. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Plague of the Flies

I’m on vacation. All by myself. On purpose. Trying to find some peace and Zen and relaxation. And the ocean.

It’s off-season, so I was able to snag a full ocean view beachfront room, and the area is virtually deserted. It’s awesome. I’ve spent the last two days mostly becoming one with the sand. The temperature has been hovering around eighty degrees, but it’s supposed to drop tomorrow so I’ve been maximizing my outside time thus far. Like usual, I brought protein shake supplies and snacks on the road. I really only need to venture out for a meal once a day. Mexican food for a late lunch is working for me.

I’ve been reading a little, writing a little, relaxing, doing nothing, kind of being a hermit. On purpose.

I spent the weekend at a retreat in the mountains of Pennsylvania with about fifty new friends. For those asking how it was … well, indescribable is the best I’ve been able to do. It took place at a church camp where I had the right carrier to get decent cell coverage, but I left the phone in airplane mode most of the time anyway. The fall leaves were changing colors, the weather was mild, and it was all around lovely.  

The weekend was centered around themes from the movie Ragamuffin. Google it. Watch it. Note that I said the focus was on the themes from the movie (the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God … sing it with me …), not the movie, not Rich Mullins. It was church camp for grown-ups. And other than my sinuses usually not liking either nature or a lack of sleep, I think I need to go more often.

I never lack for words (never!), and I’m still really at “indescribable”. So I’m thankful for the divine inspiration that nudged me to schedule a few days of downtime following. Most of my travel lately has been with groups of people, and I’m often functioning as Julie, your cruise director, since I’m the longtime road warrior. I don’t mind, but it doesn’t let me check out and relax much.

So Tuesday morning I plopped down my pink-and-orange-sherbet beach towel, planted my water bottle in the sand, and just lay on the beach. Time to relax and just be. Finally. I recited the Lord’s Prayer in my head as I breathed in the salt air and listened to the wind and the waves. Our father. I don’t know why this passage in particular. It’s nice. I like it. A lot. I don’t know that it’s ever been on my top ten list of favorites or a signature verse for my life or anything, though.  Our father. Who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Breathe in. Breathe out.

When I got to the “Thine is the power” part, the roar of fighter jets rose up out of nowhere. Well, out of Norfolk, which is just up the road. I love the roar of fighter jets. It says power. It says security. It says strength and “hey, I’ve got this for you.” It says everything is going to be ok. I’ve been hearing a lot of fighter jets.

I pried myself off the beach eventually and stopped by the concierge desk to ask for a recommendation on Mexican food. I ended up in an extended conversation with the concierge. She’s probably bored this time of year. Yes, she did ask, “What did you do to your arm?” I was smiling on the outside, rolling my eyes on the inside. Baja Cantina was her suggestion. Great. I pulled into a metered space on the street just a few steps from the restaurant. I waited an eternity for the woman in front of me to pay for her space at the common high-tech meter thingy. I of course struck up a conversation with her, her daughter, and granddaughter. Never at a loss for words.

Then it was my turn. Now I understood why it took so long. Not especially user friendly, with a screen that’s hard to read in the sun.

I was told Baja Cantina is kind of a dive, but oooooohhhhhh. There was a sign on the door saying seat yourself, something, something. A couple people sitting at tables outside. Inside it was dark. This was the middle(ish) of the day. It was bright and sunny outside. There were a few seats at the bar and a couple of booths open. And people were smoking. And I was being eyed like a piece of fresh meat, especially by the guy who had been sitting outside but had soon followed me in. Here I am in my preppy clothes and Vera Bradley backpack, looking like a pale Yankee completely out of place. I thought about staying ever so briefly. I know how to handle myself. I have the gift of vicious rhetoric, and people usually don’t mess with me. But I turned around and walked out the door and to my car. Four bucks and much effort worth of parking down the drain, but whatever.

I drove around a little, starving, and then I saw it. A sign that read, “We have scary good booritos.” Beautiful. Sold. Free parking even. Three chicken tacos and lots of classic rock fabulousness later in a well-lit setting that was much more my crowd, I was a happy camper.

I returned to the beach not long afterward, and then it started. The plague of the flies.

It’s late October. The bugs should be gone, right?

Sorry. Nope. And they’re biting.

Really? Where is my peace? Where is my Zen? It’s hard to relax when you’re itching.

At least fly bites go away quickly.

But the flies returned the next afternoon. I got nailed at least a dozen times. I bought some afterbite. It’ll be fine.

I returned to my room for the evening, with no particular plans other than to relax, apply afterbite, and stop itching. I mastered the latter two. This hotel is pet friendly, and it seems someone with a dog has taken up residence in the next room. How do I know this? The dog didn’t stop barking and yipping and whining and howling for two solid hours. Two hours. Seriously, Cerberus is living in the hotel room next to me.  I put on some music and went to my happy place. Praise God it has stopped now.(And hopefully stays that way.) I wasn’t looking forward to having to complain to the front desk.

Peace. Relaxation.

I think the enemy works around the clock to divert our attention with busyness and random distractions as much as he uses outright temptation.

And sometimes he uses flies and dogs. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Oh here it is, right under my nose.

Odds are you have said this. Perhaps many times. Maybe even daily.

We’re all guilty of being blind on occasion. Just human nature, but how often are we too wrapped up in ourselves, busyness, stupid distractions, or worrying to stop and breathe and observe the world around us?


Case in point – a few weeks ago, the stage setup had been changed for a new sermon series at church. These lovely, bright, and quite large alphabet blocks had appeared:

No lie. I walked in for soundcheck, completed soundcheck, and walked backstage without noticing a thing. I caught a glimpse of the lovely new display on the monitor in the green room. “Wow, I need some more caffeine or something,” I thought.

In my defense, here is my view:

So perspective depends on our location, both physical and mental I suppose.

When not having an off day, I tend to notice a lot of things. I’m always observing, analyzing, learning, taking a moment to contemplate God’s creation, or seeing things from an artistic viewpoint and appreciating their beauty and form. Many people see me as a supernerd, and I own that title, but I was always a creative type first. I would say “artist”, but then someone will want to know where my paintings are. Words and music are my usual mediums, but I dabble in a lot of areas.

Besides just the visual, I’m always noticing patterns, trends and such … and I usually have an opinion about them. I don’t always express that opinion. It’s not always constructive. And in the current environment, I’m likely to be judged as judgmental. Y’all have noticed this, right??? I mean, it’s bad lately. Bad. I risk being called a hater or a bigot for calling anything wrong that has been generally considered wrong since the dawn of time. Or even for offering an alternate viewpoint or dissenting opinion on something that is a matter of opinion.

Oy vey. Jesus come back now. Logic has ceased to exist.

Supernerd aside moment: I once developed a training class for process engineers (i.e. chemical engineers) on how to draw logic diagrams. We used them to help program the computers that keep chemical manufacturing plants from blowing up, but logic is logic. I know of whence I speak. J

I don’t even have any specific “you are wrong and you’re a hater” issue in mind as I write this. The phenomenon has become so pervasive that I really just want to go bury my head in the sand. Now if that’s sand on a beach in the Caribbean, we may be talking …

I stand for traditional Christian values. I try not to be too legalistic or self-righteous, and I try not to take myself too seriously. To each his own. I’ve been challenged from time to time, and I welcome that. I love hearing from friends of another faith (or even friends from a different branch of Christianity) about their views on the world. I always learn something from those discussions. You know, respectful, calm discussions involving listening and asking real (not loaded) questions.

And definitely not labeling me a hater. God loves everyone right where they are. The least I can do is attempt the same.

In the end it really doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what God thinks.

He gave us a book to help with that.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Red Pill or Blue Pill

Which are you going to take … the red pill or the blue pill?

During my recent hiatus from writing I have mostly been under the weather. Under the pollen specifically. All the good nutrition and exercise in the world can only do so much when the daily report looks like this:

I have been miserable. And I am ticked off that I have been miserable. I don’t have time to be miserable. I’m losing track, but I think it’s been five weeks I’ve been officially sick.

That blue pill has got to be the prettiest antibiotic ever invented. Yes, that’s an actual picture of my actual medication on my actual bathroom counter.

I have been down this path before. The path of chronic sinus infections.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it? It’s just a sinus infection. That’s like a bad cold, right?

It starts with a headache, maybe of migraine-like intensity. (Just take some pain meds … it’ll be fine …) Then you start draining like nobody’s business, and your voice starts to sound like Neil Diamond. Which would be great if you were Neil Diamond, but not so much for a girl who’s an alto/occasional soprano.

If you’re lucky you catch it before it turns into bronchitis. And heaven forbid you wind up in front of the nurse practitioner at the clinic at the drugstore. Maybe it’s the weekend. Or maybe you’ve managed to hit the one day all your doctors are out of the office. Overall the drugstore clinic is awesome. But they like to cite some article that says one should be in complete misery for 10-14 days before whipping out the antibiotics. Hearing your history, though, they reluctantly write the script at day eight. They even encourage you not to fill it for a few more days.

Thanks, I feel like an oxycontin addict now.

I’m on a full array of allergy meds, decongestants, and shots. Full time. Year round. I receive the daily pollen report by email and act accordingly. I watch what I eat and I exercise regularly. I do a sinus rinse every morning.

Sometime the bugs in my head decide to get out of control and throw a big party.
Sue me.

When I had sinus surgery thirteen years ago, I couldn’t go more than two weeks off antibiotics before the excruciating feels-like-someone-is-driving-a-spike-through-my-cheek headache would return. Prior to that, twenty-one days of Tequin held me for a year-and-a-half. That was a really good year-and-a-half. No crazy debilitating headaches. No constant upset stomach from the drainage and meds. No daily struggle just to function, put on a happy face, and pretend nothing is wrong.

But then the CAT scan showed a golf ball sized cyst inside my right cheek. So Roto-Rooter surgery it was.

I don’t particularly enjoy antibiotics. Having been on a lot of antibiotics in my life, and having worked a lot with prebiotics in my Corporate America career, I am all over the digestive health thing. I have learned to love yogurt. At times I take a probiotic pill. I don’t request meds lightly. I just know when it’s time. The feeling in my head changes. And if I ignore it, I stay miserable, and I increase the likelihood I’ll need surgery again at some point.

My antibiotic frequency is down to about twice a year now. My most recent CAT scan showed nothing but mild swelling. No big deal. The weather pattern this year, though, has resulted in a phenomenon known as ... 

Pollen Vortex 2014!

All the pollen, all at once.

So with a course of prednisone behind me (aaaahhhh, steroids, fun) … and as I approach my twenty-fourth and hopefully final day of antibiotics … a house directly on the beach in Florida seems like a really great idea …

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Contrary to popular belief, I am not always right. And this is probably not the most Christ-like statement ever made, but …

Vindication feels really good.

The vindication might be just for a moment, because gloating is unattractive and there is work to be done. But after a struggle or controversy or a period of seemingly beating one’s head against a brick wall, it’s nice to be right every now and then or to be able to say, “Hey that was the right decision after all.”

Sigh of relief.

What next though.

Today’s devotional verse, from the Message version of the bible, is Matthew 7:15 …

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity.”

Oh, oh, oh! Who did you think of first? Hee hee. I like a good uplifting smile-fest, but I go straight to the bible for my theology and answers to the important questions. Life on this earth is not all glitter and unicorns. By the way, heaven will have glitter and unicorns and mocha frappuccinos and salty caramel cupcakes. You heard it here first.

So in the absence of all glitter all the time …

Some people will be mean.
Some people will be apathetic.
Some people will betray.
Some people will judge and say they’re not.
Some people will make judge a four letter word.
Some people will say money is the root of all evil when it’s the love of it that really is.
Some people will be lazy.
Some people will choose Jesus.
Some people will not.

Some people will choose Jesus, or so they say, but carry on with the ways of the world. The older I get the more I want to look at people and say, “Really? Reeeaaaally?????” I guess my discernment is growing and my ability to care what people think of me is dwindling. I’ve seen so much of this phenomenon lately – professing Christ but not really seeming changed, or professing Christ but missing the point on some key things – that I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. Granted, only God knows what’s in someone’s heart, but actions usually reflect it.

I’ve also run into an abundance of the “you don’t understand” phenomenon lately. Sentiments like:

“You’ve never done X, so you can’t possibly understand.”
“You’re not Y, so you can’t possibly understand.”

1. Are you sure?
2. Does that make me an idiot incapable of rational thought?

I’ll let you decide whether I’m an idiot, but be aware I’m prone to unleash vicious rhetoric in response to condescending pats on the head.

I’m working on that one. J

And do me a favor. If you’re a Christian, try to act like it. Don’t just punch your time card on Sunday morning and then give Christianity a bad name the rest of the week. I’m always discovering something new I didn’t have quite right. But if you don’t make the effort to learn and read and discover, you might be stuck in place thinking ten commandments and a handful of memory verses are all you need.

Speaking the truth in love …

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Looking for Inspiration

Hello, my lovely people. I have been on hiatus. Or, more accurately probably, in hibernation.

I have been searching for inspiration. And not finding much.

Like most creative types I look to my surroundings, people, God, music, art, nature, happenings, and the randomness of my own mind. I read. A lot. I’ve even done a little reading on the creative process itself.

And I’m always observing. Do you feel at all like you’re being watched?

I read an article yesterday naming my state as dead last in the “percentage of people who report eating healthy” category. Healthy eating in this case was defined as consuming at least five servings of produce at least four days a week. A decent enough measure. And somewhat disheartening.

By produce they mean fruits and vegetables. Presumably of any type. (I traced down the Gallup source.) So a half cup of processed pizza sauce, as offensive as it may be to Food Nazis, would be a serving of vegetables. I couldn’t figure out if French fries count. Hint – in my world they do not.

Not that I never eat them. I do. But they’re in the starch/bread/carb group. And a treat, not a daily occurrence.

So anyway.

Most people by now have thrown in the towel on their New Year’s get healthy resolutions. Resolutions, wishes, hopes and dreams … you make the call. Kudos to you if you’re still going strong or have caught a second wind with the start of Lent.

A lot of people seem to think perfection and complexity are required. They’re not. Healthier choices more often than not consistently over time is what it takes.

Sort of an aside … I was listening to a radio conversation the other day between two people who share one of my pesky health issues. I don’t deny they have problems – I understand first-hand the deal – but a couple things struck me about what they said. They both acknowledged struggling with obesity, but they brushed over the role it might play in their condition or more specifically the role it might play in worsening their health and ability to deal with symptoms. They also talked about using the motorized scooter at the store. Granted, they’re both older than me, but there seemed to be a resignation to this being their lot in life.

It was depressing. I had to turn it off before it was over.

So many of us treat our health and wellness like it’s out of our control, hopeless, and a done deal. It’s not! Don’t let our culture, your own mind, or those who don’t know any better tell you otherwise.

Friday, January 24, 2014


I saw Ragamuffin this week. The movie.

I don’t normally do reviews here, and I’m struggling to find words to adequately describe the film. Which seems completely appropriate – I never met Rich Mullins, but I have friends who knew him, and invariably the first words out of their mouths are,

“Well, he was different.”

He would appreciate that.

For those not familiar with Rich, he wrote a lot of the Christian music heard in the 80s and 90s. Christian music in that era was Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Rich Mullins. If you’ve ever set foot in a church, you likely have sung “Awesome God” and others of his.

His songs may seem a bit like golden oldies to some at this point, but he was a rebel in his time. The establishment did not like his rock and roll ways … his lack of appreciation for rules … for shoes.

He may have been the original Jesus freak – a term I first learned while on vacation with my family as a child, when we encountered a hippie dude who totally looked like Jesus. I think we were on the boardwalk in Quebec City. The guy had long dark hair, a beard, some type of robe thing as best I can recall, and sandals. I don’t remember a thing he said, and he didn’t seem threatening to me, but I remember clearly my parents describing the man as a “Jesus freak” once we were out of earshot.

I usually play the piano in flip flops during warmer months. My own blinged out girl version of Jesus sandals. So go ahead, call me a Jesus freak. You may even find me barefoot during rehearsal.

Seriously, everyone tells me Rich was not a fan of shoes, and the movie makes that obvious. Maybe it’s a musician thing.

What makes Rich’s music special is the honesty – sometimes brutal – and complexity of the lyrics, set to melodies that stick in your head. I have always been a fan of smart lyrics.

“So on the road to salvation, I stick out my thumb and he gives me a ride.”

One of my favorites. It says so much in a prophetic few words.

Rich’s legacy is more than just music, though. He challenged people and challenged the establishment without really making people mad. He emphasized faith over religion, but he wasn’t anti-church by any means. He would rather you focus on God than him. He would rather you read scripture for yourself instead of taking his word for it.

Trying to be more like Christ, figuring out what exactly that looks like, and above all recognizing God’s love for us … those were the themes of his life.

Go see this movie if you …
  • ever feel like you don’t belong.
  • think church people are hypocrites.
  • think you have it all figured out.
  • think you have nothing figured out.
  • ever feel unloved.
  • yearn for more authenticity in the church.
  • think perfection is required in this life.

Go see Ragamuffin. Take tissues. And prepare to have your thoughts provoked.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Sigh. It’s starting out to be a weird January.

Several days ago the temperature was well below zero. Today it’s 54 deg F. The wind is whipping the door to the coffee shop open just enough to turn the automatic heater / blower thingy on and off to an annoying degree. Problem easily solved, though – ear buds are in with the musical stylings of Switchfoot keeping me company.

Continuing in the category of personal problems, my hands are poofy and dried out. Poofy is just something I deal with, an ongoing medical issue. I think the poofy is in my brain today, too. The dried out is just the reality of winter in Ohio. I’m bandaged up with Neosporin to try to keep the fingers as healthy as possible for Sunday.

I predict it’ll be a double-Neuro kind of morning.

Whose holiday season was less stellar than hoped for? I think Christmas and New Year’s rarely fulfill all our hopes and dreams. It seems excessive this year in my world.

Our usual New Year’s activities, if there is such a thing, turned into I stayed in and went to bed before midnight. Partly due to the events of the week, partly due to we just didn’t care. A trip planned for the first few days of the year was canceled by the event organizer. I was looking forward to combining that adventure with a little personal retreat time. Instead I spent a couple extra days hunkered down indoors praying for the electric to stay on (it did) and wrapped up in my new furry polka dot robe. You know, regardless of whether I decided to change out of my pjs before noon on any particular day.

Ah the joys and the luxury of working from home.

And I’m still thinking about that retreat time and figuring out how to make it happen.

In the last couple of weeks we have lost a crazy number of people from our church, some of whom I was fairly close with. There is one big party going in heaven right now. But those still here are pretty much reeling.

During first service Sunday mornings I’m in the habit of hanging in the lobby, in between worship time and the invitation song. There is a Sunday school class I used to sit in on, but I found myself checking the clock and keeping an ear to the ground for the end of the sermon, listening for my cue more than really participating in the class.

So instead I usually catch up on social media on my phone, read my YouVersion, or chat with whoever is around. The lobby – or is it vestibule? We don’t really have anything we call a vestibule, but I like saying “vestibule”. It’s a great word. Anyway, the lobby is peacefully quiet and serene during first service. And I have often run into one of my friends there, as he takes care of some church duties. We talk about whatever – life, nutrition, family, current events. He is one of those who got to move on to the big party this week. I’ll probably catch myself still expecting to see him in the lobby, with a smile on his face and just matter-of-factly taking care of what needs to be done.

That seems like a great goal for the rest of us … keep a smile on your face and take care of what needs to be done.