Sunday, August 26, 2007


I have mixed feelings about a few things. One of them is TV. After the kids go to bed my legs ache, I'm hungry, and I have laundry to fold, nails to paint, and emails to answer. So I get out the snacks, lay back in my lazyboy, and settle in for an hour or two of CSI or TLC. It helps me unwind and gives me something to think about while I iron.

Then I turn it off and think, "I'm wasting my life!" I could have read a good book (say my Bible maybe) or had a meaningful conversation with my husband. Or maybe gotten to bed before midnight for a change.

Which brings me to another thing I'm ambivilent about: sleep. I crave it all day long as I yawn and caffeinate my way through my day. But in the evening I see the mess the kids have made and I keep doing "one more thing" to fix it. Then, when I'm finally satisfied that the kitchen doesn't smell like rotting salmon, and the kids will have clean underwear in the morning, and the hallway is clear of things (such as Lego) that will make me go bump in the night, I'm ready to unwind. First TV, then a book in bed. Or talking Tony to sleep. It's a ridiculous routine that does not foster health, happiness or relationship.

But I'm afraid I won't be able to fall asleep, afraid of the things I might think about if I stop moving. I preach the value of reflection, but some times (especially between 11 PM and 7 AM) it terrifies me.

Night is a lonely time - you can't pick up the phone and call someone and no one answers your emails. It's a time when you find out whether you really believe God will never leave you alone or whether they're just words.

Sometimes they're still just words. Words worth reflecting on.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

My week as a potential convert

This summer I had the unfortunate experience of being "evangelized."

I dropped my kids off at a vacation Bible school at another church and K.'s teacher got it into her head that I was a heathen. (I said I was looking for a place to take the kids - I meant a summer program, she assumed I meant our first ever church service.) She tried to sell me on her church and get me to go to some seeker's Bible study across the city.

She actually asked K. right in front of me if he'd explained to me what the cross meant. K. wrinkled his nose at her and said, "Uh, she knows!" in an "are you crazy, lady?" tone of voice!

Yeah, I think they mentioned crosses somewhere in seminary. Or was that my 34 years of weekly Sunday school? It sounds so familiar...

It did feel kind of humorous. And I appreciated her concern for me. But on the other hand, it was a little icky.

Amy Johnson Frykholm, author of Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America, writes, "I found witnessing to be an objectifying experience. No matter in what way I articulated or failed to articulate a reasonable position for myself, my lack of belief turned me into an object....To open oneself to evangelism is to be willing to offer one's own views for critique by someone who has already judged them to be inadequate."

I get that. I didn't like feeling like someone's project - a broken soul in need of fixing. An opportunity for her to earn a gold star on her Sunday school chart and a round of applause at her next Bible study meeting.

I'm sure half of you think I'm a heretic ("You should know how important evangelism is!") and the other half a hypocrite ("You talk about your faith all the time!"). Well, my experience being mistaken for an atheist reinforced in my mind that there's talking faith and then there's talking faith. (And I'm sure I'm guilty of doing the wrong one.)

Maybe a few words on why Christians feel such an urgent (and sometimes obnoxious) need to share. For most of us it's like my friend whose son was cured of severe headaches by a change in diet. She tells everyone about the naturopath who discovered her son's allergy, in hopes of helping someone else. I can handle listening to pretty much any opinion when it comes with that kind of sincerity and compassion.

Other evangelizers are like the Tupperware consultant who throws Freezermates into every conversation (partly out of concern for the welfare of leftovers everywhere) but mostly because it's good for business. Fine for a hostess party, not so fun when it comes to my soul.

Here are some tips for respectful faith conversations:

Keep it natural. If you twitch and sweat whenever you bring up what you believe, chances are all they'll remember is the smell. People don't trust nervous-looking car salesmen, so they probably wouldn't trust a clammy Christian either. Ask yourself, are you talking because of some guilty need to meet a quota, or because God has done something in your life worth sharing? (And if he hasn't, where have you been all your life?)

Make sure the other person cares. If their eyes glaze over, they're not interested.

If you've been the victim of an awkward faith conversation (or monologue), thanks for being patient. After all, how many times have you gotten carried away talking about your exciting renovation project, disgusting injury, or the vacation that flopped?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


A while back I went for coffee with a friend and told her about how I wrote poetry to process my feelings (a mixture of rejection, spiritual devotion, and puppy love) throughout junior high. I shared with my coffee partner my prayer that God would reawaken the creativity in me. That night I went home and wrote my first poem in 15 years. (I let the hope in and all kinds of weird things can happen.) My prolifically poetic sister-in-law liked it, giving me the courage to finally share it with you. The setting is on the floor beside K.'s crib (circa 2001).
Or is it?

Now I lay me down

leaning on the bars
streaming through the tears
through the years
begging for forgiveness
from one who cannot speak
is asleep
not knowing that face
beautiful face
we face
in the morning he will climb over the bars
I will cry again
Loose sleep, lose hair, bow
free from but not for