Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Plymouth Rock

What’s your Plymouth Rock?

No, no, no, not a monument to some great achievement or discovery or to freedom itself … not a commemoration of escaping scurvy … not a pile of stones named after the Hebrew word for whatever happened there.

Let me explain.

In 2007 there was a great phenomenon known as Skybus, based right here in Columbus, Ohio. You could score plane tickets for as cheap as ten dollars – there were always a few seats available for ten dollars on every flight. The cheap seats went fast, of course, but a round trip for eighty or a hundred bucks was totally doable.

So we traveled.

Sadly I had to pass on the family trip to California. I had an industrial wastewater treatment system to startup. Don’t we all? I was in a work environment where requests to management for help prioritizing and leveling workloads were met with indifference. We were left to choose which one project to excel at and which ones to, well, suck at. A high profile environmental compliance project? I chose that one. And being the one with whom the buck stops, no time off for me at startup.

In late July I was able to get away. My sister and I hopped on Skybus to Springfield, Massachusetts. We checked out nearby Granville, from whence settlers of our hometown in Ohio originated. Snapping a few pics, stopping by the general store to experience the “original Granville cheddar”, and locating a combination ice cream shop / petting zoo constituted a full visit. There’s a lot more going on in the Ohio version, although we’re glad we went.

Onward to Cape Cod. We had rented a cottage there for a week. It was a short walk to a small, private neighborhood beach, and we explored cute towns in the area and searched for lighthouses when not becoming one with our little patch of sand.

Plymouth was not far away. You know, pilgrims, the Mayflower, 1620, the first Thanksgiving and all that. Plymouth Rock! We were going to see Plymouth Rock! Just like in the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon!

We weren’t sure what to expect. The AAA book told us where to find the boulder. It had been moved and divided up, and there’s not complete agreement on whether it was the actual original rock. Most likely the pilgrims didn’t even land at Plymouth, although it was the site of their first settlement.

Think of the Plymouth Rock you’ve seen in history books, cartoons, movies maybe. It should be stately, significant, and stunning, right?

There’s a structure and railing surrounding a pit that contains the rock … you look down over it.

Maybe I set my expectations low, I don’t know, but my sister was disappointed by the real Plymouth Rock.

During the day shadows make it a little difficult to see. 

Majorly disappointed.

Profoundly disappointed.

Adequate adjectives may not exist in any language to describe the level of my sister’s disappointment.

I still hear about it now and then.

Oh hey, it’s William Bradford.

A few weeks ago I lost a keyring bought in a gift shop in Plymouth. It wasn’t anything fancy or expensive, we just had matching keyrings with our names on them. When I suggested to my sister that we return so I could buy another one … for some reason she was not interested. Ha!

She relayed a recent story from someone who had hiked Hocking Hills with their family. The destination, the advertised reward for exerting themselves, was a waterfall. I have no idea how long the hike was, but at the end of the journey … expecting a beautiful view, the sound of rushing water, and maybe some mist … they found instead a trickle. A trickle.

A trickle.

That’s it.

It was their Plymouth Rock!

What is your Plymouth Rock?

I have expressed my apprehension about the holiday season and all the expectations put on us by ourselves and others. Especially on women, although men have their own similar challenges. We have to be the perfect bakers, candy makers, chefs, decorators, gift buyers, wrappers, organizers, hostesses with the mostestes. On top of which there are about three thousand special events per day to choose from the entire month of December … concerts, musicals, caroling, volunteer activities, zoolights, festivals, parades, and on and on and on …

What does all this have to do with the birth of Christ again?

I’m trying not to let modern day Christmas celebrations be my Plymouth Rock.

A friend confessed the other day to not being that excited about Christmas. I get it! This week my hands have been hurting from overuse and my broken toe has been letting me know I’m not staying off it and elevating it enough. And there’s much left to do.

Another friend confessed to being a little depressed this time of year. Normal winter / holiday melancholy it sounded like. We take on so much pressure to have the perfect life. The perfect job, perfect family, perfect house with a picket fence. And when we don’t, we feel like we have failed. Like it’s all our fault. We pray for something and when we don’t get the answer we want … we think maybe we didn’t pray correctly.

And too often there’s reinforcement for keeping disappointments to ourselves. In the church, in the polished world of social media, etc. Reinforcement from perfect public images and reinforcement from platitudes when we dare to express our feelings.

Oh you should be grateful for what you have. (Yeah I am, but …)

You’ll find someone when you least expect it, when you stop looking. (Yeah, but …)

Read the book of Job … how dare any of us be ungrateful. (Yeah, I’m not ungrateful, but …)

At least you have clean water and a roof over your head. (Yes, praise Jesus, but …)

It would be nice if we could share how we feel without being told we're wrong, smacked upside the head with a fix-it crew, and given Five Easy Steps to take care of "the problem". Sometimes pain and angst are meant to be felt and worked through, not erased. 

There’s a tension between being content whatever the circumstances and yet not content at the same time. We live in a fallen world, so our expectations are going to be thwarted from time to time or maybe frequently even. But at the same time God places desires on our hearts and probably doesn’t expect us to sit still waiting for inertia to do something.

It’s okay and natural to be a little discontent and disappointed. If life on this planet is all happy happy joy joy all the time … what incentive is there ever to change anything? What incentive is there to rely on God for hope, transformation, and deliverance?

When you consider the cast of characters in the bible … people after God’s own heart, God’s chosen people, heroes of the faith … with the exception of one (or three depending how you look at it) … they were messed up. Some really messed up. Many depressed and melancholy in some way.

So tell me again why we expect complete and utter perfection from ourselves and from everyone and everything we encounter? Why do we run around like chickens with our heads cut off?

And why is it we’re so upset by our Plymouth Rocks?

Maybe we should cast those rocks into the sea.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jenn’s Holiday Gift Guide 2016

It’s December! Eighth to be exact. My nephew’s birthday. The fam got him a nice cordless drill since he’s a grownup now. But I digress.

I am spiritually gifted in the area of shopping. Seriously, ask my church. I handed over the reins a couple years ago, but as an angel tree veteran I am qualified to advise you on Christmas gift buying.

Over the last year or so I have collected quite a few authors, musicians, moviemakers, and others in my circle to whom I really ought to throw some internet love. (Amazon reviews are forthcoming, I promise!) Rather than lots of individual social media posts that get lost in the shuffle, I’m collecting my gift giving recommendations here in one place.

And if you happen to receive cash or gift cards, come back here after Christmas for ideas on how to spend your moolah.


Ragamuffin. Based on the life of Christian musician Rich Mullins. The film is no longer on Netflix, so head to your favorite online retailer for a DVD/Blu-Ray. Rich fans, music fans, and people of faith – or maybe especially people whose faith might be a little shaky – all need a copy of this movie.

Brennan. The follow-up to Ragamuffin. Based on the life of author and vagabond evangelist Brennan Manning. It’s totally not necessary to have a clue who Brennan Manning was in order to appreciate the film. The message is that, “God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be.”

Brennan is available only direct from Color Green Films. And it’s true, I am an extra in a scene in the trailer that loops on the main menu screen. My mom appreciates that she can see me scroll by over and over and over. Maybe you will, too.

Live in Morton. Not strictly a movie, I guess, but this is a Mitch McVicker concert recorded live in … surprise … Morton, Illinois. A lot of people don’t quite understand the uniqueness of what Mitch does in concert, with the laying and looping of multiple percussion and background tracks on the spot. Now you can see it with your own two eyes. Available direct from Mitch.


Sinners, Saints, and the Furious Love of God. Wanna read a wild tale of faith, from what many would consider unlikely circumstances, a rough childhood, and, well, get the book and read the rest. This is from David Leo Schultz, my adopted brother and partner in crime, I mean ministry. It will explain a lot. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll praise Jesus. Read this book.

Beneath Broken Machines: Reviving Trust in the Heart of the Gospel. From PC Walker, another adopted brother. Funny story: PC and I followed each other on Twitter for we’re not really sure how long. But a while. Probably one of us tweeted #ragamuffin or something and “oh yeah, they seem cool, I’ll follow them.” Whilst in New Orleans, my fellow PA (PA, PC, it’s alphabet soup around here) Shelley read off the name of who we were picking up from the airport. “That name sounds familiar. Wait, I think we follow each other on Twitter. Oh here look, he Instagrammed his shoes in the airport. Definitely the same guy.”

I finished this book earlier today. It has been a blessing to sit in a coffee shop and read a chapter here and there over the last month. And there was that one chapter that was pretty much meant just for me that one day. There are gems throughout. If your faith is a little weary from the often well-oiled machine we call the modern day church or even just modern day life, let this book refresh you. Buy a copy at Amazon or B&N, or buy several for a small group study.

The Reckless Love of God and The New Believer’s Guide to the Christian Life. Both by Alex Early. When telling people who Alex is I often use the phrase “hipster theologian”. He is well-studied, but what strikes me most is his gentle spirit. This is a man who loves Jesus and knows Jesus loves him. Pick up his books at Amazon or B&N. Side note: Someday I hope to be on an episode of Cooking with Alex after he launches the YouTube channel. Maybe we’ll make a roux.

Power Beyond the Pulpit. By another partner in ministry, J.B. Waggoner. J.B. is a video editor extraordinaire, but he has many technical skills that are summed up and explained for the non- or semi-techies among us in this book. The subtitle is “A Guide to Using Social Media, Self-Publishing, Podcasts, Video, Email, and Blogs in Ministry”. J.B. does a good job of describing how to use the various tools and why you might want to use them … and then points you to online resources for when you want to implement and need the latest details. You’ll get a little backstory on Ragamuffin and Brennan along the way as well. Available at Amazon.


I know I’m going to leave someone out, oh my many musician friends. So leave me a comment or message me with an edit if I’ve forgotten you.

Mitch McVicker. Anything by Mitch. Live in Morton is the latest and is a good overview of the entire catalog. The Grey is my personal favorite. Find him on iTunes and for hard copies order direct from Mitch. A few are available at Amazon / B&N, but just go to Mitch's site for the whole shebang.

Rick Lee James. Hymns, Prayers, and Invitations. Worship music you can sing in church. This album includes a couple hymn covers but is otherwise original. Rick’s web site has links to all the online places to buy. Check out the video for Advent Hymn here.

Nick O’Connor. A recent discovery. Nick brought his guitar to Ragamuffin Camp, and I’m oh so glad he did. Find him on iTunes.

Matt Liechty. The Hymn Project. A vibey treatment of some favorite hymns. Matt leads worship for the Ragamuffin retreats/camps. Find the album at iTunes or Amazon.

Jake Becker. I have it on good authority that new music is in progress and coming soon. Just not by Christmas. Stay tuned.


Shameless plug for yours truly. Healthy shakes, cereal, snacks, energy / antioxidant drinks, vitamins. I don’t recommend gifting items often used for weight loss to someone without it being on their wishlist, but you might want to add it to yours. Go here and then connect with me for recommendations.

The Gluten and Grain Free Gourmet. Especially for the gluten-free, paleo peeps, and those with food allergies,. The GGF makes unique yummy treats suitable for lots of special diets plus offers coaching. Check out the options here. I recommend the chocolate chip cookies + check out the gift packages.

Dizurts Custom Cakes and More. This one is local to me. When I’m having the occasional Jenn-needs-a-cupcake day, this is where I go. The raspberry almond bars are to die for as well. Find details at their Facebook page.


Concealed Carry Class. No seriously. Central Ohioans, sign up for the January class with Affordable CCW here. Take the class together with your significant other or entire family. Yes, my actual brother is the lead instructor. He taught me to shoot recently, and I think I did pretty well ...

Ragamuffin Camp 2017. Registration is open and spaces are limited. October 18-22 at YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. Registration is $250, plus take travel costs into consideration when gifting this one. Check out the details and sign up here.

Charitable Gifts

Color Green Films. CGF is a 501c3 nonprofit ministry, so your donations are tax deductible. This Christmas we are helping a family pay off a few bills and have some gifts under the tree. Donate here and choose “Giving a Family a Christmas” from the drop-down menu. You can make a one-time or recurring donation to any of our ministry efforts from the same page.

Shop-with-a-Cop. Local to me, students in need identified by Heath City Schools will be matched with officers from the Heath Police Department for an evening of shopping followed by dinner catered by Massey’s Pizza. Other cities have held this program, but this is the first time in Heath. Donate up to December 16 at any Park National Bank branch or at the police station. Also go patronize Massey’s.

And with that we conclude Jenn's Holiday Gift Guide 2016. Perhaps we will make it an annual tradition. What's on your wish list?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy Advent

Wanna hear something hilarious?

I mean hil-ar-i-ous.

I might have broken a toe yesterday.

On my one good(ish) limb.

Least bad.

Yep. I violated my doctor’s order not to get injured.

Because that’s how much of an overachiever and a rule breaker I am.


And the story is not spectacular. I was walking. In the house. In stocking feet. So I didn’t realize just how colorful my toe had become until I returned home hours later … after standing up and giving a twenty minute presentation … and sitting in on several more.

This would be a great time to sit down with my foot elevated and get some writing done. And no, I am not posting pics on the social media. All y’all who think sharing gruesome injury photos is acceptable … you are wrong. Same goes for abused animal / children pics.

My week started with a call Sunday morning letting me know a friend’s mom had passed. It was not particularly expected.

Already in a bit of a somber mood, Monday morning brought the terrorist attack at Ohio State. I was first made aware of the incident by a Facebook post from a friend sheltered in place at her workplace nearby. Everyone gets their news from Facebook, right?


People marked themselves safe on the friendbook. Someone questioned why people miles away bothered to mark themselves safe. Duh. Their Great Aunt Freida in Timbuktu knows they live in Columbus but knows nothing of the layout of the city.

Here’s the thing.

It’s been many years, but once upon a time I frequented that neighborhood daily. My first two years of college were spent living in one of the dorms at Lane and High, about a block from the now infamous Watts Hall.

I’ve been trying to get a feel all week for exactly where the car crash and the shooting took place. I was right there virtually every day for six years. News outlets understandably report just that it was Ohio State, that it was Watts Hall, that it was 19th and College. But there was mention of the chemical engineering building, too. Was it just the confused reporting in the immediate aftermath?

Today I found this graphic from the Dispatch. Ahem. Go ahead and click that open. The source of what became known as The Breakfast of Champions … a bag of M&Ms and a Diet Coke on the way into an 8am class … was a vending machine just off the loading dock on the southwest corner of the old Koffolt Lab. (There’s a new chemical engineering building just west of what this map shows.)

Also on the southwest corner of Koffolt … third floor … was the office I occupied for two years. I was responsible for about two hundred students and met one-on-one with each of them at least once a quarter.

Eventually I had a second super double top secret office in our research group’s lab in the basement … you know, to get actual research done … also in the southwest corner of Koffolt.

Yep. Right there where the Ohio State police officer took down the attacker.

So hey.

It’s been an interesting start to Advent this year.

I should probably go bake some cookies or something. Sitting down with my foot elevated, of course.

Keep looking up.