Thursday, March 30, 2017

Heresies, Perceptions, and The Shack

I went to see The Shack today. It was good. Go see it if it’s still in your local theater.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear a recommendation for the movie from the pulpit a couple weeks ago. Almost an aside before the sermon. Followed by, “If you have theological questions, see [two other members of the ministry staff],” which brought a chuckle from the congregation.

I wasn’t aware of the book until the movie trailer started showing up in recent months. So I read it. I liked it very much. Was it life changing for me as some have described its role in their lives? No, but I liked it and I recommend it.

The controversy surrounding the book and movie was so fifteen minutes ago, but you may recall seeing on your social media articles like Umpteen Heresies in The Shack or Everyone Who Buys a Ticket to The Shack is Going Straight to Hell. Thank you, Pharisees. I don’t recall Narnia being quite like that which is described in scripture, nor is the Holy Trinity exactly like that which is depicted in The Shack. But close enough to make both stories lovely works of art. Lovely works of art that make one think and perhaps make one think about their faith.

(I don't recall God's Not Dead being all that close to how real life goes down, but oops I digress ...)

The biggest takeaway from The Shack is that maybe you should step away from your preconceived notions and consider whether your perception of God is accurate. Perhaps in your pain you’ve lost sight of him. Perhaps in today’s must do instead of must be world you’ve gotten caught up in your spiritual checklist. Perhaps you’ve been offended by someone caught up in their spiritual checklist.

Bitchin’ Camaro. Also a great work of art. Bonus points if you’re familiar.

This work of art was priced at $30 at Hobby Lobby. $30 for a few streaks of paint. I need to get my corner-of-a-room studio set up & get busy.

Love the sentiment. Don’t care much for the aesthetic.

Perception is a funny thing. I was sharing today my perception of someone’s perception of a thing … and I received a very supportive, “I have no words.”

K. Just checking.


Perhaps we’ve all just gone stark raving mad.

Perception of personal space in middle America, as I have discussed here previously, appears to be shifting. I have more empirical evidence! Whilst in line at Walmart the other day, this lady behind me was so close she was practically hugging me. She appeared to be normal. Dressed up even by Wally World standards. Maybe she was in line for her antipsychotic medication, though. I have no idea.

And not all that long ago I was sitting at a table in Starbucks. Reading or computing, I don’t recall which, but minding my own business … when … well … just look … I could have reached out and squeezed the Charmin.

A creeper pic was required. I didn’t get a creeper pic of the Walmart lady, but I did tweet about it without her noticing. Maybe I should have made sure she noticed … hmmm …

I perceive that it’s pouring out there.

My perception of a deep theological discussion. Just kidding, a misfire on the camera.

What was that I was saying about Lamentations? I perceive therefore this is the correct card to choose.

Current perception. Pea sized (plus) hail at the Heath Panera. Yikes. Pray for everyone’s cars.

Keep looking up.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

~ Emily Dickinson

Shout out to my friend Mitch for bringing this poem to my attention. Love me some Emily Dickinson. I need to put her back in the large queue known as my reading list. I’ve been thinking about the book of Lamentations lately, too.

The Truth must dazzle gradually.

We don’t get to know everything all at once. We don’t get to see everything all at once.

Sorry, control freaks.

Our creator knows what we need better than we know what we need.

A couple weeks ago I went to fast forward the music in the car – to the next track on the Canticle of the Plains soundtrack, by the way – when the system became possessed and suddenly switched from CD to Bluetooth, which then fired up Hal Ketchum’s Past the Point of Rescue from my phone. I am sure I hit the right button. There could not possibly have been any operator error involved.

“I wonder if I’m past the point of rescue
Is no word from you at all the best that you can do”

Nineties country. You should try it.

Also Canticle.

But anyway, maybe Hal is what I needed to hear at that moment, or maybe just a good driving song.

The last year(ish) has taught me a couple things. Namely grace, grace, more grace, and then some more grace. Certainly I’ve received much, but I’m talking grace beyond what I knew I had to bestow. Grace beyond what some would say is wise to bestow. Maybe I’m being judged silently, but I haven’t really gotten any pushback in that area … no major criticism of my choices or approach … sure, the occasional gut feeling that I’m being an idiot, but that perspective usually gets corrected soon enough. So I’m probably in a good place, with my boundaries located appropriately.

The other thing I’ve been learning is a near-total inability to plan. This is like death for a compulsive planner. We know intellectually that God’s plan rules, and we ought to submit ourselves to God’s plan for our lives, and insert whatever other Christianese terms you’d like to use here, blah, blah, blah. The factors at work around here lately mean sometimes the plan for the day changes umpteen times. Planning something a couple days ahead? Maybe. For next month? Ha. But it’s been okay. And I’m perfecting the pivot.

I might still grumble, channel fluent sarcasm, and make creative use of emojis when I feel like I’m wasting my time, but it’s been okay.

Maybe God knows what we need better than we do when we have to pivot. Rest, an alternate path maybe.

A pastor acquaintance shared yesterday his story of crazy changes in travel plans on the anniversary of the bombing in the Brussels airport. He and a church group were traveling back to the US from the holy land, and plans went awry, leading to re-routings and him being separated from the rest of the group as the best option. Before long, an airline agent named Angelique tracked him down – in a food court area of the airport – to tell him about another option and urge him to hurry to take advantage of it. Which he did, and it got him home safely. Otherwise he would have been in the Brussels airport, most likely at the exact location of the bombing at the time of the bombing. Attempts to locate a Delta agent named Angelique or even someone fitting her description – in order to thank / recognize her efforts – have been unsuccessful.

There is no Angelique who works for the airline there.

There is no one who fits her description who might have been using Angelique as a pseudonym.

I don’t know my pastor friend well, but I do know he’s not a crazy person. He’s a fairly normal guy.

I’m not into crazy, mystical, supernatural stuff. Unless you consider Christianity crazy, mystical, and supernatural.

Which I suppose it might be.


He knows what we need.

And maybe he has a sense of humor.

You can want it. You can plan it. You can believe completely that it’s God’s plan, too.

But in every moment … he knows what we need.

Come on, bloom already.

More Jesus. Keep looking up.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Great Expectations


May all your expectations be frustrated.
May all your plans be thwarted.
May all your desired be withered into nothingness,
That you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child
And sing and dance in the love of God
Who is the Father, Son, and Spirit.

~ Blessing given to Brennan Manning by Larry Hines

What great expectations do you put on yourself?

What about on others?

I seem to be running up against others’ expectations and assumptions. In some ways I’m quite traditional. In others I’m an outspoken bohemian. Do I have it together completely in all areas of my life? Am I always happy and satisfied with every outcome and every situation? Of course not. But keep in mind my version of contentment and your version of contentment may look very different.

And God’s version of contentment? Oh, I think we have no idea.

We wrap life up in a tidy package in a two-hour feature film, a chick-flick-like romance novel, or better yet a Hallmark movie. Perhaps my current healthy distance from paid television is skewing my outlook and attitude.

We all edit ourselves in certain circumstances and for certain audiences. It just has to be done. Living completely maskless probably isn’t wise, nor does it serve a higher purpose. It’s refreshing when you can relax and be yourself, though.

I’m a happy person most of the time, but I’m finding when I express a passing lament, a dissatisfaction with some situation, a desire for something more, or maybe a desire for something in particular … said passing expression gets swept up and set in stone as a be-all, end-all goal for all time.

There’s a second version of the expectation grind. People want your goals to look like theirs, or the great American dream, or some great hope they have for you specifically. Perhaps to them you’re the Great White Hope that will restore their faith in humanity.

Pedestals have their perks, but mostly they suck.

Maybe there’s a third version of problems-with-expectations. Goals and dreams we had long ago. Life, learning, experiences, acquired wisdom via good and bad things … those have all shaped my existence, my hopes and dreams. What I wanted at age twenty-five doesn’t look much like what I want now.

And I know what you’re thinking. How can her life have changed so much in just four short years???

It’s truly a paradox.

Cats drinking coffee on camels. Also quite the conundrum.

Today has been a day of praying without ceasing. I’ve done pretty well in staving off the distractions. Both the oblivious / well-intentioned and the wow-this-feels-like-it’s-straight-from-Satan-and-intended-to-pull-me-off-the-most-important-thing-I-can-be-doing-right-now. Get thee behind me. Y’all can wait.

I’ve had plenty of moments and phases and seasons when I was seeking direction. Direction from above, but sometimes that comes in the form of a person placed in your path. I realize that. But when it’s from above, you just know. Acceptance and understanding may take much longer, but you just know. You can litmus test it to an extent (hello, scripture), and that helps, but you just know.

The little smidges of expectations, assumptions, and offers to help change my life I’ve been running into are more like anti-direction than direction. I don’t need fixed so much. I’m content. There are a couple things I have my eyebrow raised at right now, but I’m content.

There are some things I just know. They may not look traditional at all. And I don’t care. And I don’t care what you think. And I don’t care what you think I should do. And I don’t care what you think the outcome should be. Am I violating biblical commandments? No? Okay, so it’s all good, right? Great. I’m gonna crawl back into my little cocoon of no false or forced expectations for a bit …

Keep looking up. Maybe you’re supposed to go that way.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mushroom Gravy

Do you ever feel like a mushroom? You know the saying … when you’re being kept in the dark and fed a load of …

My fungi detector, so to speak, has been going off lately. And it’s not even election season.

All I can do is pray and keep my eyes open and carry on.

Perceptions and connections are such a funny thing. Last Saturday, for example. I road tripped about an hour to see everyone’s favorite flamingo player again. Given that it was a small church and a first time host, I ended up setting up and running the merch table. Remember, kids, when asked to help with something at church that’s in your power to do, the proper response is …

I’d be glad to.

It was a beautiful old church. I found out after the concert it was John Glenn’s childhood church and his 96-year-old cousin had been in attendance.

I loved the cross on the light fixtures.

MacGyvering at its best.

How many pics of the church are you gonna take? A lot. Deal with it.

I don’t know if I just looked like I knew what I was doing at the table and then packing up afterward. I had been there, done that a number of times. That’s my tribe – we meet up on the road to support each other when we can and talk about God’s love and grace. We’ll assume that was it. Because I have no other basis. I’m not even sure I should post this publicly. But here it is. At the post-concert ice cream gathering o’ ladies down the road, a friend of a friend I had just met that night asked … innocently, out of the blue … if I were the artist’s wife.

What!?!?!?! No. No. No. No. No. I never did find out what specifically, if anything, gave her that idea. I’m still scratching my head over what I might have done or said, and I’ve got nothing. Squeaky clean I am. Weird, maybe, but squeaky clean.


Backing up a night to Friday, we continue our tour of historic architecture at the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio. The concert was great. And yes, I did get windburn from standing outside, because that’s how I roll. I’ll spare you the selfie of that one.

I expect to see the old guys from the Muppets up there. 

I have stories.

It's art!

The mushroom gravy has been brewing for a while. I’m not even sure how mushroom-laden this recipe is. Or maybe we have a different variety going on each burner. There’s the being told things will change but they still haven’t. There’s the brick wall with which I converse. There’s the being asked to help but then not being allowed to. I think that one’s on a couple of burners. Then there’s the pot up on a pedestal where all is assumed to be fine because no one can see inside.

Maybe none of it is even an issue, just the weirdness of human nature and God’s timing.

And I like mushrooms. A lot.

The grocery store is on my way home.


Keep looking up.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


When last we spoke I was contemplating a piece of performance art titled Flaming TP. It’s been way too windy this week to pull that one off, but stay tuned. If you’re a friend with a fire pit – especially one of those cute patio ones – and you’re willing to assist in this endeavor, I think it would provide a more pleasing aesthetic than what I have available. Get with me.


Who's tripping down the streets of the city
Smilin' at everybody she sees
Who's reachin' out to capture a moment
Everyone knows it's Windy

Many of you saw this gem on my social media. Not really what you expect to find at 7am on a Saturday.

But then when your builder is a member of the church, he might be there with workers and have that thing off the roof by noon.

Speaking of wind … and things carried by it … pollen, my people. Pollen. Tree pollen – believe it or not – typically gets its start in February here in central Ohio. The levels crossed over into the “very high” category last Friday. I almost died sitting in the waiting area at the Quick Lane whilst my car experienced an oil change and tire rotation. The outside temperature was an unseasonable seventy-something, which means fresh air loving people think they need to throw open every window and door in every building throughout the land.

Fresh air is hazardous to my health.

From Februaryish to October/Novemberish … other than a day here and there when levels are magically low … and the sweet spot in July between grass and ragweed season …

Stop trying to kill me please.

The staff at the gym I joined recently seems to be in favor of the doors being wide open. Fresh air. I get it. But I pay money for an indoor place to exercise for a reason. We’re talking. It’s been respiratorily difficult this week.

While I’m on a rant let’s talk about personal space. Personal. It’s PERSONAL. It’s SPACE. Sunday I was in line at Fazoli’s when this lady I don’t know kept crowding me from behind. To the point I took my purse off my shoulder and held it in front of me. Because she was bumping it. This is Midwest suburbia, USA. There are cultural norms that do not include crowding strangers on a Sunday. At a glance I would assume this woman is from around here. It appeared, however,  her problem was that she was having trouble reading the menu. Even though it wasn’t her turn for a couple more people … why not lean into anyone and anything in an effort to focus. I’m just a big clump of cells … why not nudge me forward so you don’t take too much time when it’s your turn at the register. There are plenty enough breadsticks to go around. It’ll be okay.

Unbeknownst to me my brother was joining us for lunch. Having seen this exchange, he snuck up behind me when my new best friend stepped aside to peer ever more closely at the menu. Wondering if it was this woman’s husband, and wondering what was wrong with their family, I whipped around, only to find out it was my family with the problem.

But wait, there’s more.

Monday I was running errands when I discovered – and this gets a little personal – I found, much to my disappointment, a hole in the inner thigh of my most favorite pair of leggings ever. Sigh. No, there are no pictures. And no, I have never had, nor will I ever have, a thigh gap. They’re overrated.

I could have gone home to change, but not wanting to be distracted from my plan for the day, I grabbed a new pair from Target. I could change at the gym after my workout. I had a fashion dilemma, though. My sweater and shirt were both black, and the only leggings I could find were black. Sure, I could be morose or chic, not sure which, and dress in all black, but maybe I could find a clearance shirt in a happy color or print or something.

I did find a blue top, but I also came across a black denim jacket on the clearance rack. Oooohh, I don’t have one of those. I wonder if it’ll fit. By this point a lady and her adult daughter, who I think might have had some mild developmental issues, had approached. I engaged them in pleasant conversation and said “excuse me” while I whipped off my sweater so I could try the jacket on over just my shirt. The lady was all up in my space, going through the clothes on the rack right there in front of me. If someone is standing there trying something on, don’t you go around? Circle back if it’s so important you check that rack? Resist the urge to practically hug said person and just wait at the assured clear distance?

I mean, I know I’m super huggable, but really.

Maybe I need to hire a bodyguard.

Sadly I didn’t like the fit of the jacket, so I looked for the hanger I had left on the rack. The woman had shuffled the clothes so much (right there where I was standing!) that I couldn’t find the hanger. I finally just draped the jacket over the rack and moved on.

In other news, on Tuesday my pants held together so I got a pedicure, did some reading, and went to see some random flamingo player I know.

Wednesday I finally finished Mere Christianity. I’m now diverging from C.S. Lewis to the latest Alex Early.

And oh yeah, I read The Shack last weekend in anticipation of the movie release this week. I loved it. If everyone having a cow over the scriptural inaccuracies would please take a chill pill and a deep breath … remember it’s a work of fiction. It’s intended to be as scriptural as Narnia. I picked up on a few things as I read. So, yes, get your theology from the bible and then go enjoy a piece of art loosely based on it.

Windy. People really ought to be less windy on social media. But anyway …

Last night the big wind hit my neighborhood and … we were without power for eleven hours. A minor inconvenience, sure, but after not sleeping well I went to Panera at 6am and camped out for a while. I’m sure I had a plan for today other than writing, but I don’t particularly recall at this point. I think the wind swept it right out of my brain.

In the hours since we’ve gone from blue skies … to overcast … to snowing sideways … to blue sky attempting to peek through again.

I’m so confused.

But onward.

Keep looking up.