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Friday Link Love: Be Vigilant

Friday Link Love: Be Vigilant

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Interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Mom
I heard this interview in the car on the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend, and it’s delightful. Please take 13 minutes to listen.

Here’s my big takeaway from Toni Tyson: Be vigilant.

She said it was a full time, 24/7 job to help her kids navigate through life as a black family in the city. There were many instances when Neil was discouraged from pursuing opportunities, either because he was black or because someone didn’t think he was smart enough.

She said when things came up, they had to “get on it immediately,” and that it was a constant vigilance to keep her kids focused so they didn’t grow bitter.

As a parent, I don’t deal with race issues, but I deal with tween girl drama, raging hormones, gossip, insecurities, identity issues, and the like.

I immediately connected with Toni Tyson’s description of being a vigilant parent and “getting on” that stuff as it happens. It’s emotionally exhausting and time consuming, and sometimes I wonder if other parents think I’m a little too involved, but it’s an investment in their character I trust will pay off as my kids get older.

So often when I hear or read interviews like this about amazing people, I feel inspired for a moment, but then I feel discouraged because my life doesn’t come close to measuring up, and there’s little about their story that I can connect and apply to my own situation.

I felt differently about this interview.

Toni doesn’t come off as some kind of superhero with superhuman character strengths or qualities that I can look up to and appreciate but never attain. Rather, she comes off as intentional and vigilant with a side of discernment about people.

And that’s something I can relate to and act upon.

Four Myths Regarding the Current Public Discussion of Mars Hill

Four Myths Regarding the Current Public Discussion of Mars Hill

This week my Facebook feed exploded with discussions about Mars Hill Church and its senior leadership, which quickly turned into a debate on several threads over the nature of such discussions happening on Facebook (or anywhere public, for that matter).

As I read through it all like a gawker who can’t look away from a highway pile-up, I noticed four myths about conflict in the church that I’d like to debunk.

1) It’s wrong to talk about this in public, and Facebook isn’t the right venue.

We live in an era in which the use of technology is growing at a faster rate than policy about the use of technology.

For example, if a fourteen year old girl texts a booby picture to her boyfriend, she can be prosecuted under distribution of child pornography laws and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. This is because there’s currently no law in the murky middle between foolish girl and sinister pervert.

The ambiguity of this murky middle makes people nervous about things like social media. We like it for sharing our lunch and cat photos. We like it for expressing joy in the weather, quoting a book passage or sermon, and posting quiz results for which Game of Thrones character we are.

But when someone uses social media to shine light into the darkness, we get uncomfortable. We wonder, is this gossip? Is this public shaming?

I’m not saying anybody’s showing their boobies, but we are trying to figure out how to be the body of Christ in this age and how to be a Gospel community.

In Matthew 18, Jesus outlines clear direction regarding the public discussion of sin. He says:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

So the step I suppose we’re all unclear about is, “tell it to the church.” In this day and age when content marketing and social media strategies abound, who or what is “the church,” and where should this discussion take place?

First of all, the church is described in the Bible as a group of people, not a building. The bride of Christ, the people of God, and so forth. By this definition, we’re not confined to having this discussion within the four walls of a building.

Great, so who are the people of this church?

Mars Hill would define its local church body by its membership, which is defined on their site as members of the family who “participate as the church: sacrificing time, talents, and treasure; committing to the care and community of their fellow members; and submitting to the authority God has established to lead our congregation.”

The tricky thing is, there’s currently is no forum for public discussion of the hard things that have surfaced over the years within the body of Mars Hill that I know of, and there hasn’t been for many many years. Church wide meetings are tightly controlled with scripted information going out and no opportunity to ask questions or dialogue.

In general, community discussion is not encouraged, and questions are not welcomed. Quite the opposite, actually, as those who ask tough questions are frequently labeled as dissenters.

So when it comes to the step Jesus describes in Matthew 18, “tell it to the church,” it’s still unclear how we are to Biblically address a grievance within the body when the first two steps have failed.

Well shit. Now what?

Mars Hill is a church that 1) utilizes technology to broadcast its message around the world, 2) uses social media tools like twitter, Facebook, blogs, and Instagram to communicate its values and mission, and 3) recognizes that a high percentage of “followers” are by those who don’t physically attend a local Mars Hill campus.

By embracing technology and social media to broadcast worldwide, and by shutting down public discourse within the membership, it stands to reason that people online can be considered part of the church, and that Facebook is a reasonable vehicle for asking questions, pursuing accountability, and seeking reconciliation.

2) You’re just bitter and out to get Pastor Mark.

I’m sure there are many people who fit into this category, so how can you tell whether someone is acting out of love or bitterness? Technically you can’t, because only God knows the motive of our hearts. But the way we talk about conflict can offer up some clues as to how our heart is leaning.

First of all, the point of Matthew 18 is to confront a friend who has sinned against you so that he or she can repent and the two of you can be reconciled. It’s an act of grace the offended friend offers the offender so the conflict doesn’t ruin the friendship or further divide the larger body through gossip.

Confronting a friend who sinned against you is an act of love. Watching that friend continue in unrepentance is sad. And the broken relationship is painful.

Chances are, the words and actions that come from a person who loves the friend who offended, is sad they won’t repent, and is in pain over a broken relationship, won’t focus on retribution or revenge, but on rescuing that friend from his or her own destruction.

Secondly, look for folks who skip steps one and two — the private confrontation alone and with witnesses — and go straight for a public soapbox to air their grievances. This is gossip and public shaming done by folks who don’t love someone enough to speak directly to them but merely have a bone to pick.

I’ve heard some say that people should just be quiet and let God take care of his church. But I wonder why we’re to assume that this current public discussion is not God taking care of his church!

People are hurting, and they’ve hit a brick wall in the system that Jesus himself gave us to bring about healing, repentance, and reconciliation.

If Mars Hill chooses to prevent any opportunity for “telling it to the church,” then technology and social media have provided a valid work-around for bringing to truth into the light.

3) You’re just jumping on a bandwagon or joining a crusade.

Don’t be fooled by my silence up to this point, lest you think I’m simply joining a drunken conga line. I’ve been praying for years for truth to overcome fear – not only for those who have been sinned against, but for those who are unrepentant (because I love them).

I was not personally sinned against by Mark or anyone at Mars Hill. But I know people who were sinned against — painfully, and with lifelong consequences — and have walked with them for years through the struggle to understand why repentance and reconciliation is so elusive.

I’ve been extremely impatient at the slowness of God to respond, and it’s very tempting almost every day to write about what I know.

I have a T-shirt that says, “Writing Well Is the Best Revenge.” It’s faded and worn where it rubs against my belt buckle, but I can’t bear to part with it because writing is my super power.

And yet, Christ called me to silence for a season because it’s not my story to tell.

But now that folks are “telling it to the church,” I support a healthy exposure of the truth for the purpose of reconciliation.

If all of this blows up, it will be a beautiful, glorious, mess, and God will be glorified because this is his church, and he takes care of her. If we look to the circumstances at face value, we fear and cry “gossip!” But if we lock eyes with “the one who sees our injustice” as Hagar did, we’re empowered to speak and live in the light without fear.

4) You shouldn’t talk bad about my church — Mars Hill changed my life!

I hear you. Mars Hill changed my life, too!

I was there for sixteen years – all of which I spent as a dedicated member who supported the vision and mission, and even spent some time on staff.

In the late 90’s, I came of age as a believer at Mars Hill. I am a smarter, more thoughtful, less cultural Christian because of things I learned at Mars Hill. I make friends with my neighbors, send my kids to public school, and moved into the city because of things I learned Mars Hill.

But as my friend, Wendy, says here, we’re all called to something much bigger than Mars Hill, so we need to be wise about our allegiance.

In that post she also provides a great analogy for something I’ve thought as well:

“During the years since I left the church, I’ve watched the branches of the Mars Hill tree grow even heavier with new believers as the root system of mature Christians desperately needed to disciple these converts continues to erode. It is only a matter of time before a wind rushes through and causes the entire tree to crash down. I perceive that these current controversies might finally be that wind, and I do not rejoice in that AT ALL.”

If you’re part of the body of Christ at Mars Hill and you haven’t experienced broken relationships because of unrepentant sin, rejoice!

But know that there are some among you who are experiencing broken relationships because of unrepentant sin. The correct response for you is to grieve with those friends, to encourage repentance, and to facilitate reconciliation.

There’s no need to be defensive or beat someone up because you think they talked smack about your sister. Truth transcends all earthly loyalties!

In conclusion…

I write this post — possibly my longest post ever — because I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, I love the Church, and I love sorting out the messy nuances of living as one who is rescued.

I welcome your comments and further discussion.

**If you have a negative comment, please be sure to give the benefit of the doubt on motive or tone to the blog author or readers who comment.

Anonymous comments are welcomed ONLY if you need a safe place to be honest about a burden or concern that you don’t feel free to share with your name. Anonymous critical comments will be deleted immediately. If you need to respond critically, please use your name.**

(I borrowed that comment policy from my friend, Wendy.)

Peace to you.

Good Read: Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog

Good Read: Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog

Last week I had a dream about my mom. In my dream, a space ship crashed into the woods at the end of street where I grew up, and from the crash site emerged a robot that walked through the neighborhood.

Of course I took video of all this. But as I did, I noticed my neighbor was also taking video, and then was abruptly whisked away in a black Escalade. When I saw this, I ran through the neighborhood to my house, turned off all the lights, and hid under a side table.

(Clearly a subconscious mashup of E.T., The Iron Giant, and Super 8.)

But then my mother entered. In my dream, I was viewing all this as a third party observer, and there she was… feisty, flummoxed, and wondering what I was up to.

She was wearing pantyhose with slippers, a skirt, and only a bra on top. She carried a round brush, and I could see her hair was flat on one side, and fluffed to curly perfection on the other.

This was how my mother looked every Sunday morning as she got ready for church.

She demanded to know what was going on, but all I kept saying was “TELL THEM I’M NOT HOME.”

I could see the stress in my mother’s face – the pursed lips and the furrowed brow. She was unsure of what to do with me, which I’m sure was a common feeling she had when I was young.

The scene ended abruptly when I woke up, but the essence of my mom lingered, and I held on to her as reality pushed its way in like daylight breaking through the cracks of a treeline.

And that’s when it hit me how much I missed my mom.

Dementia and Alzheimers are cruel deseases. At times it feels like psychological torture because you’re not grieving someone who is dead, but someone who is right in front of you that you love dearly but is not always “in there.”

For a moment, I was Adam dreaming of Eden.  Adam, on the outside of the garden, suddenly getting a whiff of something in the old garden that he’d left long ago.  And that whiff brought it all back, remembering what once was.  And for a minute I enjoyed it, and then a sadness moved in.

via Bread Crumbs | Storyline Blog.

I read the above essay on Friday, my birthday, an occasion that felt sad for the first time in my life.

The essay goes on to suggest that perhaps our memories of Eden-times hint at the eternity that is “written on our hearts,” the eternity we’ve already experienced with Adam and will one day return to with Jesus.

And just like that, my wallowing transformed to worship, because I’m reminded that I’m not alone in my longing for Eden, and that a rescue plan for returning is already in place.

Ringing It In Zug Style

Ringing It In Zug Style

Lucky Diner - 11:00pm11:00pm

I think we stumbled across a new Zug Family tradition this year.

After a party and game night with some friends in the Belltown area, we parted ways with the group and wandered into The Lucky Diner to wait for the Space Needle fireworks.

We sat in the corner booth, surrounded by huge windows that made people watching in that buzzing neighborhood a most fantastically entertaining feature of the evening.

11:30pm
11:30pm

The kids ate Lucky Charms and I shared a Black Butte Porter milkshake with Bryan. It was totally low key, but it felt nostalgic and special.

We never eat cereal. We never stay out late. Everything about it was a treat.

11:45pm11:45pm

Thomas is the night owl. He was chatty all evening & even during the car ride home.

Ruthie is an early riser, and despite an afternoon nap, she still didn’t quite make it.

Grand Finale - Midnightmidnight

Just before midnight we stepped across the street for a better view of the Space Needle. And also, Thomas wanted to hear the [insert Thomas making firecracker sounds].

After a month surrounded by lots of people and busy activity, an intimate family evening out on the town hit the spot.

Happy New Year, everyone. 2012 is already the best ever.

don’t mess with my people

don’t mess with my people

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Bryan’s uncle spent the last several years putting together their family history.

In his research he discovered his grandfather – Bryan’s great-grandfather – had a brother nobody knew about who died as a young man. Bryan’s uncle was able to track down this man’s grandchildren, who also didn’t know their grandfather had a brother.

That family sent pictures of their grandfather to my uncle, and Holy Moly!

Bryan's Great-Uncle

There was a collective gasp in the room when the picture was revealed. It’s as if Bryan was dressed in costume at one of those old time photo booths in the mall.

The resemblance is eerie.

Bryan’s uncle also had photos of Bryan’s mother as a child. I always thought Ruthie looked like his mom, but I really had no idea how much. Check it out:

Bryan's mom & grandpa

Compared to this picture of Ruthie around age three, they look almost identical!

IMG_1982It was also discovered that Bryan is a descendant of William Penn’s personal physician.

And the King of Hearts – as in, Charlemagne.

Of course this means my brother-in-law now refers to me as his subject.

But I’d like to point out that as a Scandinavian it’s highly probable I am the descendant of a Viking – some hairy blond guy named Erik the Blood Axe who beat the shit out of Western Europe.

So I now refer to my brother-in-law as my bitch.

California

California

Departure

My friend Giyen tweeted about a Virgin America sale back in August. One thing led to another and before I realized what happened I’d booked a three week trip to visit the Land of Zug.

I was all, BRYAN CAN WORK ANYWHERE WITH AN INTERNET CONNECTION! And then I was all, I CAN WORK ANYWHERE WITH AN INTERNET CONNECTION!

And I sort of forgot our kids don’t do the kind of school that happens on the internet.

This morning Ruthie asked if we were going to homeschool while we were away, and Bryan was all, No, we are REMOTE schooling.

Ode to the Eldest

Ode to the Eldest

jody and ruthie 2004
My eldest sister with my eldest daughter

I am the youngest of three siblings. My sister is the eldest, and without her presence here this week I think I would have crawled up into a ball under the bed.

She always seemed to know what to do next.

The plan, the schedule, our next meal, where the sticky note needs to go, and what to do with 42 boxes of photo albums – my sister knew what to do about it all, and I – clueless and overwhelmed – happily took direction.

My husband is an eldest brother. Two of my best friends are eldest sisters. Watching my sister lead us through the enormous task of moving our mom reminded me of the qualities I love about all the eldests in my life.

Whether they like it or not, whether they intend to or not, eldests carry a weight of responsibility like it’s built into their DNA. It’s easy for me to give up, to procrastinate and put myself first, but eldests seem to always have the big picture in mind and the entire group’s interests at heart (even if it’s motivated by guilt or duty).

They are habitual leaders, benevolent dictators, natural caretakers.

I worked hard this week, but my sister worked harder. I sacrificed much this week, but my sister was truly sacrificial. All the eldests I know work harder and (seemingly) smarter than anyone else I know. They work first and play later. Maybe. If there’s time and space to play. Otherwise, there is much planning for the future work to be done, always.

I don’t envy the eldests – the nights my husband lays awake, the tough conversations my friend is compelled to initiate, the burden my sister bears. Long ago I slipped into the comfort of letting others take care of me, of letting others lead the way.

Eldests are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and many of their greatest strengths can also be their achilles heal. We may think they’re bossy and overbearing at times, and maybe they take on more than they can handle and don’t ask for help.

But as I watched my sister charge forward into a sea of household possessions – box and tape in hand – despite her own feelings of dread and whelm, I realized what a treasure she is, and what a treasure all eldests are.

Five ladies, three generations, boxes, and wine.

Five ladies, three generations, boxes, and wine.

Photo 25

I’m writing this from seat 17B on our flight to Minneapolis, just Ruthie and me. We’re headed to my mom’s for an all girls week, along with my sister and her youngest daughter, Grace.

This trip evolved since I booked the tickets way back in December – I wasn’t working then, but now I have projects to manage in the margins of our vacation. I predict many early mornings and late nights to bookend our busy days together.

And in an ironic twist of Providence, an apartment recently opened up at a retirement community my mom was wait-listed on. The move in date? February 16th – right in the middle of my trip.

What started as a visit to grandma’s house to refresh, regroup, and help prepare my mom for a move at some point in the future, suddenly became a work week of epic proportions.

We land at lunch time, and I imagine we’ll hit the ground running as we hurry to fill boxes before the movers come on Tuesday.

My sister IM’d me yesterday morning, and said she was heading out to Trader Joe’s. “Pick up some three buck Chuck!” I said.

I think we’re going to need it.

Surprise Visit

Surprise Visit

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I got a call on my cell phone several hours ago from my mother. I debated whether or not to answer it, because we were in the car and about to pick up our kids from a friend’s house. But I answered, figuring I could just say a quick hello, then call her back later.

So we were chatting, and I was asking about a vacation she was planning, and had she done that yet or was it still coming up. And she says, Well that’s why I’m calling – and proceeds to go into great detail about having a five hour layover for a flight that doesn’t leave until 12:30 in the morning and how she was all in a tither because she lost her cell phone earlier, but was happy to have it back, only she had to make Stan turn the car around when they were heading out to dinner so she could go back to the airport to find the lost cell phone.

I take a deep breath while I sort through this complicated plot.

“Wait a second,” I say, realizing she’s talking about her COUSIN, Stan, who lives 20 minutes from here. “Are you at the SEATTLE airport right now?”

“Yes! Yes! That’s what I’m trying to tell you!”

IMG_0268.JPG

Ironically, we were driving past the airport as I discovered this. I looked out my window and saw airplanes lined up at the N gates along the freeway.

“Well, let me pick up the kids and we’ll come by to see you!”

I guided her via cell phone onto the train from the S gates while Bryan went into our friends’ house to get the kids. Then we drove town to the terminal and she met us outside the Northwest Airlines baggage claim. We tucked her into our car, and whisked her away.

The kids were ecstatic.

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At home in our living room Ruthie had Gamma’s lipstick out in 2.4 seconds flat, and applied enough to her face to make The Joker very proud. Gamma is well known in this house for her shoes, her jewelry, and her make-up, and Ruthie wasted no time covering all these topics.

We love our Minnesota Gamma, and were very happy to be surprised by her late night visit. The kids are now asleep, and my mom just called to say she is boarding her plane. Sweet dreams, Mom. Hope you sleep better on the plane than I do!

Vacation in Satan’s Cesspool.

Vacation in Satan’s Cesspool.

It is June 5th, and I’m wearing jeans, socks, a sweater, and I turned my heat on for a couple hours today just to take the edge off. Yesterday the kids asked for hot chocolate, my seeds are not sprouting in the garden, and I’m sick of being cold.

So you know what? I’m giving Seattle the finger. Buh-bye.

mariah wilderness expeditions.jpg

Bryan and I are headed down to somewhere outside of Sacramento for a family reunion done Zug style, which is to say I’ll be hurling my body down a treacherous, rock infested river through rapids they lovingly call Satan’s Cesspool, with only a blow-up raft between myself and certain death. I’m not sure what frightens me more – the potential for hitting my head on a rock, or the fact I won’t be taking my laptop.

I wasn’t originally planning to raft. I was going to sit quietly next to the river with my book and my sunscreen, waiting to collect on the life insurance. But after several people convinced me I might actually have fun and not die, and when I remembered the whole point of going was to spend time with Bryan’s family, I thought I would suck it up and get on board.

Besides, how can I fear certain death if this is what my last day will look like?

California Weekend Forecast

That, my friends, is a far cry from what Seattle will look like this weekend. So have yourself a merry little weekend wherever you are. A special edition of Sex and the City Link Love will post in the morning, because I know how much you’ll miss me when I’m gone.

American Traditions: Christmas, apple pie, and… the Wii?

American Traditions: Christmas, apple pie, and… the Wii?

homemade apple pieThis weekend my dad and step mom came over for dinner to celebrate Christmas since we were gone for so long over the holidays. We had a great time, and after dinner and presents Bryan challenged my dad to a bowling match on the Wii. Turns out my dad and step mom are both extremely competitive – my dad in the playing, and my step mom in the commentary, as in “David, you have to throw the ball harder to get a strike!”

After the umpteenth “old man” reference Bryan made about my dad, I mentioned he might want to lay off the old man jokes.

His response? “When a man comes into my own house and beats me at my own game, he’s gonna get some smack talk.”

There was also a reference to bringing a cup.

For dessert I made an apple pie – my first ever! And not only was it my first apple pie, but I picked the apples from the tree myself (along with friends – who actually did the picking, not me, but you get the idea), made a batch of apple pie filling, and canned several jars. Wow! What a homemaker I am. It was delish, and I highly recommend the Better Homes and Gardens Canning and Preserving book, where the canning recipe came from.

Here are some pictures from the big canning event in early October:

The “Ultimate” marriage

The “Ultimate” marriage

Brad and MichelleWe spent New Year’s Eve at my BIL’s house, and my SIL mentioned something about watching cage fighting over the weekend while we were gone. I’ve known my BIL has been into cage fighting for years, so this prompted me to ask the question of whether she was into it because HE was into it, or if she liked it all on her own.

She responded quickly and confidently: Oh, I’ve been watching cage fighting since I was in High School.

She went on to tell me that for their first date my BIL took her to a cage fight, and during their courtship they made several trips to Vegas to watch Ultimate Fighting tournaments. This explains so much to me about their wedding on a “bridge” over a “river” in the famous Venetian casino hotel. It was perfect for them!

Memory Lane

Memory Lane

A few days ago we drove the kids through the neighborhood Bryan grew up in. I’ve seen it all before, but it was fun to take the kids – especially Ruthie, who seems to have understood these were places Daddy was when he was little like her.

This is Bryan’s Grandma’s house, now owned and rented out by his Aunt. Bryan pointed out the side fence (not pictured) he helped his Grandpa build:

Grandma's house

The house on Norwood, where Bryan grew up until he went off to college. He shot a rocket through the living room ceiling of this house, and there used to be a tree house in the yard. His Uncle Chris built the fence on the side yard so they could have a dog:

the house on Norwood

It’s on a huge lot that I can’t believe is still there, considering that across the street there is a new housing development that’s been built since we were last here. It’s so dreamy to look at this house on this huge lot, hearing in my head all the stories I’ve been told of two boys playing in the yard and all the trouble they (well, his brother, usually) got into.

The house Bryan grew up in

Just since we’ve been down here I heard a new story about a fight Bryan got into down the street, and Brad, who is three years younger, came marching to his defense with a pitchfork towering practically a body length over his head. The stories I hear are mostly about adventure, and honor, and defending the family name, and sticking up for the little guy. Who knows how much of it has been glorified over the years, but as someone who always wished she had a sibling close in age, I love to live vicariously through those stories and imagine my own children getting into adventurous mischief or fights that defend one another.

the house on Norwood Street