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Category: Living In Community

The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp

The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp

A friend shared this post on Facebook awhile back, and it resonated with me:

When folks gather around a system of shared beliefs, the price of acceptance in the group is usually agreement, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being right. Unfortunately, this often creates an atmosphere of fear and performance, which in turn invites conformity.

But when people gather around a shared need for healing, the price of acceptance in the group is usually vulnerability, which means the greatest value—stated or not—is being real. This tends to foster an atmosphere of safety and participation, which in turn invites community.

via The Promise of Shared Brokenness – Heather Kopp.

I’ve always gravitated toward vulnerability, so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m drawn to all kinds of relationships, regardless of racial, socio-economic, or religious perspectives — though I’ve never quite put my finger on describing it this way until I contemplated the above quote.

As I reflect on my relationships — both intimate and less so —  the common denominator in most of my friendships doesn’t appear to be a specific culture, belief system, or even Jesus.

I think I just like people who are real.

You can be real about being gay or straight, you can be real about believing or not believing in Jesus, you can be real about being rich or poor — just be real, and we’ll probably be friends.

A Manifesto For Hurting People (and those who don’t know what to do with them)

A Manifesto For Hurting People (and those who don’t know what to do with them)

The song Stereo Hearts shuffled into the mix today – that’s the one where Adam Levine sings the hook. These lyrics jumped out at me:

Furthermore, I apologize for any skipping tracks
It’s just the last girl that played me left a couple cracks
I used to, used to, used to, used to, now I’m over that
‘Cause holding grudges over love is ancient artifacts

These lyrics caught my attention because of 1) people around me who are hurting, and 2) people around me who are inconsiderate of hurting people.

It’s just the last church that played me left a couple cracks.

1) People who are hurting.

Please guard your vulnerability. Don’t close it off or shut it down, but guard it carefully. I recently saw Brene Brown interview with Chase Jarvis and she talked about her List. She carries a list in her wallet of people whose opinion matters to her, and when she starts to feel the weight of criticism and shame from others, she pulls out her list to remember who her Truth-tellers are.

If you have been hurt by someone and choose to tell your story, there will be some people who don’t believe you, who don’t think it’s that big a deal, who think you’re crazy, and/or think you should just let it go or otherwise be quiet about it.

If these people are not in the trenches with you or on your List of trusted Truth tellers, fight for your sanity and let go of their criticisms.

If you’re hurting, your record is gonna gonna gonna gonna skip a little for awhile, and some people just won’t get it.

2) People who are inconsiderate of hurting people.

Stop it.

Just… stop it.

Stop telling people that it’s gossip to share their personal story.

Stop cultivating a culture of shame and suspicion around people who are hurting.

Stop dismissing the pain hurting people feel without listening to their story first hand.

Stop assuming that hurting people have a divisive agenda.

Stop minimizing the pain of hurting people by explaining away the circumstances of their experience.

If you are in the presence of a hurting person, you have the opportunity to:

listen,
show compassion,
express empathy,
encourage,
point them to the healing work of Jesus and his holy spirit,
…and shut up about everything else.

If you overhear the story of someone’s pain, you have the opportunity to:

call or write that person to ask how they’re doing,
listen,
show compassion,
express empathy,
encourage,
point them to the healing work of Jesus and his holy spirit,
…and shut up about everything else.

Hurting people are gonna gonna gonna gonna skip a little for awhile. What they need most is your patience and presence while the cracks smooth out.

Here’s the Brene Brown video in full (with Bryan being a total fanboi in the front row):

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.

We Are Not the Brand

We Are Not the Brand

“They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general like what they saw. Every day their number grew and God added those who were saved.” Acts 2, The Message

A Christian’s life used to be simple:

Wake up, work hard, worship Jesus, enjoy friends, & love the community.

As their lives were seen and “overheard” by others, a bridge was built from one world view to another.

It isn’t our place to control the outcome of the gospel or spin the story to make it more palatable to others.

It’s our job to provide a glimpse into a radical point of view.

The gospel doesn’t make sense. It’s absurd. And quite frankly, most Christians do more to confuse the story than anything else.

In March, we resigned our sixteen year church membership – in part because our church seemed to no longer be about worshipping Jesus, loving the community, or enjoying friends, but about staying on brand.

Bridges aren’t built through branding. Glimpses aren’t shared through branding.

I like that my life can be seen and “overheard” by others. I wake up, work hard, worship Jesus, and hope that I reflect his love to my friends and community.

I’m not looking for anything more complicated than that.

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!

Don’t Say the Dreaded “P” Word!

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Christians are really big on faith, hope, and joy.

We form these words into felt banners hung from the choir loft and sing choruses with our hands raised…

…but nobody likes to think about patience in affliction.

Ask anyone about patience, and they’ll wave at you frantically and shush you to keep your voice down.

God will hear you, you idiot!

You see, we don’t like to pray for patience, because it opens the door for the testing of our patience. And despite all the suffering and affliction Christ endured to save our sorry asses, we prefer to remain affliction free.

Consequently, we don’t really know what to do with afflicted people.

We want them to have faith! hope! and joy! despite their affliction, but mostly we’d feel more comfortable if they just got over it quickly.

But the reality is, many are afflicted with depression, grief, and physical pain that won’t just go away. And for these, all hope is lost, joy is fleeting, and faith is brittle.

Their affliction is not our burden to bear, but neither is it our place to recoil from their discomfort.

I believe it’s our place to also be patient in their affliction.

This means we sit with them, we listen to them, and we cry with them. And we don’t try to hustle them through a time lapse of their affliction, because then we’d all miss an opportunity to be patient.

Dammit.

See what I mean?

I should’ve kept my voice down.

An Ode to Gay Pride

An Ode to Gay Pride

Jesus had radically different ideas about loving people that went completely against the conventional wisdom of religion and culture in that day: He showed compassion to the marginalized by loving them, valuing them, and revealing their true identity as a daughter or son of God our Father.

This angered and alarmed religious leaders, who chose instead to undermine their identity and strip them of value.

It bothers me that religious people who call themselves Christians continue to marginalize people groups as if the individual people in the group have no value or identity. Jesus never did that. He never shunned a person based on how they identified themselves, or on how others identified them.

Instead, he sought them out to share a meal, have a conversation, and really know them, and it was in those acts of love and compassion that he found a path into their hearts.

Seattle’s Gay Pride Parade ended right at my back door today, and there were a lot of beautiful people celebrating in my neighborhood.

I wonder if we as Christians could ever find a way to have meaningful conversations with people who are very different from us. It’s been two thousand years since the bigotry of Jesus’ day, so I’m starting to lose hope that it’s possible.

(Edited to express hopelessness on 6/14/16, following the death of 50 people at a gay night club in Orlando.)

RSVP for Jesus Storybook Breakfast – 3/24

RSVP for Jesus Storybook Breakfast – 3/24

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Had a great time at our first Jesus Storybook Breakfast last week. If you’d like to join us this week, please RSVP using the form below (Here’s the backstory).

We’ll start with breakfast, then read a story together, then spend some time re-interpreting the story through things like stop-motion video, comic strips, dioramas, felt boards, or anything else you can think of. We’ll have some basic art supplies available (clay, colored pencils, crayons, glue sticks, etc), but plan to bring what you need for your project.

Join us for a “Jesus Storybook Breakfast”

Join us for a “Jesus Storybook Breakfast”

Calling all y’all – Believers + Skeptics, Kids + Adults, Makers + those of us who flunked art class (I put that last one in there for myself).

Easter is coming and we thought it’d be fun to open up our home near the Pacific Science Center for breakfast and craft projects on Sunday mornings over the next few weeks.

We’ll start with breakfast, then read a story together, then spend some time re-interpreting the story through things like stop-motion video, comic strips, dioramas, felt boards, or anything else you can think of. We’ll have some basic art supplies available (colored pencils, crayons, glue sticks, etc), but plan to bring what you need for your project.

Please RSVP using the form below:

We love the Jesus Storybook Bible and recommend it to anyone wanting to understand what Jesus is all about. If you haven’t read it, here’s one of our favorite passages…

Now, some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing. It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne — everything — to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!

You see, the best thing about this Story is — it’s true.

There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.

If you don’t have the book, check out your options below:

ZugHaus: Honorary 5th House at Hogwarts

ZugHaus: Honorary 5th House at Hogwarts

The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room.
– Professor McGonagall, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’m reading Harry Potter to the kids, and when we got to the Sorting Ceremony we had fun comparing what it was like living at the ZugHaus compared to one of the houses at Hogwarts.

We’re in our 9th year of living in community with others, and currently have a full house with five adults and two kids. I know that sounds crazy to some people. It sounds crazy to me, sometimes, especially when no other adult in this house replaces the toilet paper roll. But I’m very thankful for our big giant house and the crazy people who live in it.

Here’s why we think the ZugHaus would fit in at Hogwarts:

  • People who live at the ZugHaus become like family.
  • We host a weekly small group through our church community, which is kinda like a class.
  • Our bedrooms are all kinda small, like a dormitory.
  • We spend our free time in a big common room too!

What do you think? Should I get a wand?

It’s given us, to overcome.

It’s given us, to overcome.

The other day a friend called me. She was struggling to see light at the end of her tunnel of despair, and I hope I was able to encourage her.

We talked as I sat in my car in the Grocery Outlet parking lot because this is the reality of life in community: to go on a rescue mission between client calls and grocery shopping.

After we talked I went into the store. I don’t normally shut out the world in public. I like to smile and say hello to fellow pear squeezers. But on that day I needed to pray, to decompress, to go inward.

This song by Josh Garrels came into the mix as I rummaged through packs of chicken thighs, looking for the largest one. As I heard a particular lyric – I can’t remember which one – I gasped.

And I must have gasped out loud and not just in my head because the lady next to me turned quickly and looked concerned.

“Wow, these prices are great,” I said, and chuckled. Nothing to see here! All is well! Surely no one despairs in the meat department!

But when she turned away, I cried a little. And worshipped a little. And I can’t be sure, but I may have sung this out loud a little. I really hope I didn’t, though, because I’m no American Idol.

To be clear, my life is pretty great right now – I don’t have much to cry about. But Jesus wept with those who wept. And Job’s friends sat down and cried with him (before they turned into jerks, but we’ll ignore that part of the story for now). So if I want to cry and worship in the meat department on someone else’s behalf I think there’s plenty of Biblical argument in favor of that.

So, this song is for you, friend. And it’s for anyone who is struggling to see light at the end of despair. It’s not a battle cry that calls you to kick ass, but a meditation, a beckoning, an invitation to believe He will overcome.

It’s one of the reasons I follow Jesus. He’s a God who restores everything I lose, squander, or have taken from me.

p.s. Thank you, Bandcamp & Josh Garrels for letting me share your music with a file embed.

Rise

I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man
My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round

Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Take courage sons, for we must go under
The heart of darkness, and set them free
But don’t lose heart when you see the numbers
There’s no measure for, the faith we bring
It’s given us, to overcome
If we run, where the spirit calls us on
The greatest things, have yet to come
With the dawn, we will rise

Though they may surround us like lions
And crush us on all sides
we may fall, but we will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Our house, 2003
Listing Photo, 2003

We moved into our home eight years ago this weekend.

During that time we’ve had a dozen people live with us and hundreds come through our doors for parties, play dates, counseling, Bible study, and whatnot.*

Guests have stayed with us from as close as Portland to as far away as Australia.

I’m thankful for God’s provision for our home. We afforded this house on one income, made it through a few layoffs, and fed a lot of people with our fishes and loaves.

If it were up to me and Bryan, I think we’d prefer to live at the end of a deserted mountain road or at the top of a secluded condo building. We’re introverted by nature, and some might even say Bryan is a hermit. But Jesus called us into community and hospitality, and His influence in the lives of the people around us is unmistakeable.

Hard conversations around the dinner table.

But instead of living in seclusion, our home is where people gather.

Neighbors drop in, friends swing by, and kids swarm. There’s always an extra plate or two at dinner, and I’ve taken to stocking up on snacks. God transformed my heart and my budget to live hospitably in this home.

The Rays at Game Night (I just noticed Ryan's t-shirt - very funny!)
One of many game nights.

As we consider moving sometime in the future, I wrestle. I feel it’s what we are to do, yet our roots seem too deep here to survive a replant. But I recognize that hospitality is a state of mind, a way of life. It’s not a house.

No matter where we are, God will bless our home.

*The “whatnot” may or may not include the time lightening struck as a handful of lusty housewives watched the Justin Timberlake HBO concert special on my giant HD tv.

HoBBQ: Playing It By Ear.

HoBBQ: Playing It By Ear.

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For the last seven or eight years we’ve hosted a BBQ once a week at our home. You bring something to grill and a dish to share, we provide the deck, an awesome music mix, and s’mores for the fire pit.

Four or five years ago a little guy we love (who’s not so little anymore), referred to our home as The House of BBQ. The name stuck, and so we now host the annual summer House of BBQ (#HoBBQ on twitter).

Except.

We are more than half way through July, now, and we have yet to host a massive HoBBQ event. It seems we’re in a season of introversion, of selective scheduling, of wagon circling.

We’re busy this year. Not necessarily in schedule, as we often go through busy seasons on the calendar. But my brains cells feel taxed, my creative juices depleted, my ability to handle large crowds…fragile.

We used to schedule dates in advance and blast them out via twitter, but this summer it’s been more like this…

Me: “You wanna BBQ tomorrow?”

Bryan: “I don’t know. I can’t think that far ahead.”

[The next day]

Me: “You wanna BBQ today?”

Bryan: “Yeah, that sounds good.”

Me: “Should we invite anyone over?”

Bryan: “I don’t know. What do you think?”

Me: “I can’t think that far ahead.”

[A couple hours later]

Me: text to friend: “we’re BBQing, want to come over?”

Friend: “When?”

Me: “now.”

You get the idea.

At first I felt panicked, guilty, like a failure for not being able to handle it. Folks emailed or called us out on twitter this Spring, asking when our first HoBBQ would be scheduled, and I just couldn’t imagine it happening.

But I think I just need some space to refill my cup so I have more to pour out.

So I just wanted to let the locals know we’re still here, and we’re still BBQ’ing.

Mostly.

In which I get a wife.

In which I get a wife.

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My house is full. All five rooms. Four adults, four kids, three family units.

A few weeks ago my friend, Lacey, moved in with her two kids, occupying our remaining two rental rooms, while a single guy rents the third. Her kids are the same age as mine, and they’ve been friends for about three years. Right now it mostly feels like one really long slumber party, but I’m confident it will all start to break down very soon.

I thought this many people in the house would feel overwhelming and crowded. I thought I’d be cooking and cleaning 24/7 to keep on top of it all. I thought I’d be breaking up fights between the kids every five minutes.

But it’s actually been going surprisingly well.

For those of you who mutter daily that you wish you had a wife… well I have one now. If I cook, she cleans up. And we do chores together and swap laundry days. It feels pretty spectacular to share the load.

Bryan even has all four kids playing a daily I Spy game in which they pick up clutter from the front door to the back door, earning quarters if they’re willing to bet on a job well done. I dare say the house is cleaner now than when it was just us.

The other day Lacey made a joke about being my sister-wife. I laughed, then I stopped laughing. She said, “Maybe that was inappropriate.” I said, “Well, only after I thought about it.” Then we laughed again and Bryan just shook his head at us.

Of course there are some kinks to be worked out, but we’re working them out as we go. That’s the important thing. If we waited until they were all worked out before pulling the trigger, she might have never moved in.

Because in my opinion, there are certain things in life one has to ponder carefully – like what shoes to wear when it rains from the sun, whether to get your salted caramel scoop in a cup or cone, or if you should go with short hair this summer or keep it long.

But when a friend says – Hey, I need help, and you have rooms for rent! Can me and the kids move in? – you say yes without thinking too much about it and trust all the details will work out.

And they always work out.

Tragic endings into love stories

Tragic endings into love stories

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“Maybe we’re not meant to be together.”

“He said he never loved me.”

“He told me he wants a divorce.”

“I can’t keep letting him treat me that way.”

“I don’t see how reconciliation is possible.”

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I can’t stop crying.”

These are soundbites from some of the conversations I’ve been having lately. It’s a bit agonizing to know that I can’t fix the complex web of other people’s problems, that I can’t solve it and make it better with more talking and little wine.

Some things will simply remain broken.

I love hearing stories of restored marriages, of recovery from addictions and healing from serious illness. What a great time to be on Team Jesus! He’s so awesome to mend our broken lives!

But then sometimes sin and selfishness corrupt a marriage so deeply that we reject the mending; the idols of our desires are so strong we are not open to being rescued; the tragedy of Adam so final that our bodies do not heal.

It’s more difficult to see Jesus working in these situations. Sometimes I don’t want his comfort because I’d rather he fix it. I don’t want to mourn a loss but rejoice in the miracle of restoration!

We sing a song in our church community called We Have Overcome, and recently – the day after I first heard one of these soundbites from a friend – this particular lyric stood out to me, and I burst into tears:

“…a savior who turns tragic endings into love stories, this is the God I know…”

Some of the endings to our stories are tragic. They crash and burn or slowly smolder; they sometimes catch us by surprise. But thankfully we are not in our own story – we are a part of God’s story, and his stories always end lovely even if brought through a tragic climax.

This is the God I know.

Image of invisible God
Stretched across a tree
And all to take my place
Oh, the divine mystery

A savior who turns tragic endings
into love stories
This is the God I know

Chorus:
You have overcome, You have overcome deathʼs sting
Celebrate the rising of a king
You have overcome, You have overcome, letʼs sing
The power of an everlasting king

The Seattle Nice Is Alive and Well In Portland.

The Seattle Nice Is Alive and Well In Portland.

The Birthday Boy

Last night Bryan and I stepped into the bar of a fancy schmancy steak house to dine with the common people, but happy hour was in full force, and all the tables were taken.

Directly in front of the entrance was a large round table suitable for about eight people, and the server asked if we minded taking one side of the table while the couple behind us took the other side.

Sure. No problem. We’re community kinda people.

The table was huge and the room was loud, so there wasn’t really any awkwardness re the couple we ignored across the table. But they were only there for drinks and appetizers, and left after about an hour.

Almost immediately, another couple pounced on the vacated spot across the table. Well, a couple and her mother. I attempted to smile and make eye contact with our new table mates, but to no avail.

And then I heard the daughter say, “I’m just trying to spread out a bit,” as she placed her jacket on the chair between us.

I can’t explain why this alarmed me since she could very well have just wanted the chair to hold all her stuff, but my Spidey senses were alert as I sensed a hostile takeover on the horizon.

Sure enough, another couple arrived – the gal sat next to me and her husband sat next to Bryan. We were now a full table, and still no one acknowledged we were there.

I was beginning to think we were slipping into an episode of Portlandia.

And then the most glorious thing happened – more guests arrived, hovering around the table, and one of the young men introduced himself and shook our hand.

Him: “Hi, I’m so-and so, and you are?”

Me: “Uh, Jennifer?”

Him: “Great to meet you – how do you know the birthday boy?”

Me: “Ah, so this is a birthday party then!”

Him: *confused face*

Mother across the table: “Oh they’re not with us, we’re just sharing their table. But you’re probably more polite than we’ve been.”

Me: “True story.”

Mother across the table: “Well, we were just trying to give them their privacy.”

(notice how she’s still not talking to me?!)

Me (to Bryan): “I think that privacy wall was breached the moment they added ten more chairs to the table.”

Bryan (to me): “We should just start telling them about Jesus. That always clears a table.”

Me: *maniacal laugh*

So there we sat, eating steak and onion rings in the middle of a birthday party that crashed our table.

And then the second most glorious thing happened: Bryan struck up a conversation about mobile web development with the guy next to him, and they went on and on about shit I didn’t understand.

I did not mind this distraction, though, because by that point our dessert had arrived and I was able to eat three bites of Bananas Foster for every one of Bryan’s.

I don’t know who this Foster is, but I sure like his bananas.

As we were paying the bill, Bryan said he was going to hug the birthday boy and wish him a happy birthday as we left.

I dared him.

I readied my camera.

But in the end, he opted for a wave and a head nod.

Regardless, I think this goes down as one of our best dinner memories EVAR.