Venn diagram of blue and red–I live in the purple part

Where I grew up, one chose up sides early on. Either blue or red. Bird or Cat. One of the L’s–Louisville or Lexington. Rivalries demand loyalties. The choice to follow and cheer on, and perhaps even attend one of the institutions for higher learning, marked us in the state of Kentucky. Pick a team, for Pete’s sake, and pick well–the Kentucky Wildcats or the Louisville Cardinals. And never the twain shall meet. My family bled blue, so my blood type was decided. Plus, I had a crush on Kyle Macy as a grade school kid.

I also had a crush on a boy in my class. His family belonged to the other side. I started questioning my loyalties. I asked for a Louisville Cardinals shirt for Christmas. I was a full-on traitor. A lone wolf red-coat in a sea of blue-bleeding Wildcat fans.

I don’t think I owned another Cards shirt. When I began attending the University of Kentucky, of course, my loyalties were no longer in question. There were bigger fish to fry in all of the places where a side demanded to be chosen. Everywhere I turned during college, in new and overwhelming ways, I found myself trying to choose one side over the other.

The first election where my age allowed me to vote was in 1992. Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush vs. Ross Perot. Another issue of red and blue. I don’t know what color Ross Perot stood for. My tribe at school and most of my family (all of whom knew the political ropes better than I) beckoned me, without protest, to the reds. No one said so directly, but I surmised that a red vote looked most like a Jesus vote.

After one Monday night prayer, a friend pulled me aside. I had just reminded all of those gathered to please pray for our country and the upcoming election, and I may have given a subtle endorsement of one candidate. “You know, there are some people who love and follow Jesus that will vote for a different candidate than who’s on your button there,” he nodded toward the lapel of my jacket. I stared at him in disbelief. A few weeks later, I stared in disbelief at the Electoral College map that my professor had posted outside her office door. The blues outnumbered the reds. I think about my friend’s words often during election seasons.

We live in a culture–the tangible one full of people we interact with face to face and the less tangible and maybe imagined one of social media–where rivalries demand loyalties. Choose, and choose wisely. If we are one thing, the implications dictate, we are most assuredly not the other. More so, if we are not one thing, we are diametrically opposed to the other, vehemently opposite.

The trouble in my own soul about this: I’ve never, even when I was in grade school and crushing on a boy from the other side, understood why one had to despise the Cardinals to cheer on the Wildcats. Never. Living far away from my home state, I love cheering on any team in the tri-state area, which means I cheer on the Hoosiers when they make it to the big dance in March. Scandalous, I know.

In the larger picture, outside of some concise choices–say, Jesus over Satan, life over death, Port William over 50 Shades, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, water over soft drinks, bluegrass over crabgrass, and maybe a few others I could find if I went looking–I don’t believe I have to choose up sides all of the blasted time. I can choose to live in tension. It hurts my head sometimes, but I prefer it.

I don’t have to choose a political party. I find myself in both, and even in the elusive third party that has yet to materialize.

I don’t have to choose a precise doctrinal camp, because I love and am fed by many streams in the Christian tradition. Baptist is in my blood. Wesley informs my heritage and that of my children. I read Jesuit priests and other monastic souls, and then I hang out with Oswald Chambers and Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie. I respect and have learned from Beth Moore and Kathleen Norris, Elisabeth Elliot and Barbara Brown Taylor. The eclectic bundle of books on our shelves don’t seem to mind sharing space with each other. I’ll follow their lead.

I don’t have to choose to Black lives over Blue lives. To stand beside a human, any human, and hold a hand and extend mercy and see their humanity means their life matters to me.

I don’t have to choose sides in a divorce. I tried that. It was very painful.

I don’t have to choose whether someone is in the circle or not. I can let God do the work of redemption, and if God lets me, I can participate in it.

I can be Team Captain America and Team Iron Man. Many reasons exist to love them both.

Coffee and tea. Digital and film. Dogs and cats. Mountains and beach. Kentucky and Colorado.

And I don’t have to choose the Kentucky Wildcats over the Louisville Cardinals. For crying out loud, I can cheer for both teams. #kentuckyproud



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A Prayer for Pentecost

All of the believers met in one place. Out of nowhere, a sound like a rushing wind filled the whole home. They witnessed what looked like tongues of fire touching each person there. The Holy Spirit moved in, filling them all, and they began speaking in other languages. Believers from regions far and wide, from every country in the known world, were numbered among them.

“In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, ‘These people who are talking like this are Galileans! How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages?'” (Acts 2)

The garbling of Babel, reversed in the surging, igniting fire of the Holy Spirit.  “Yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!” (v. 11)

Clear speech, in each language that each one needed. This is the love of God.


Lord, where confusion muddies how we hear and how we see and how we think and how we feel–about you, about ourselves, about all of your beloved ones, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

Where division splinters your Body causing us to pierce one another, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

When we are paralyzed by fear and seek to wield control in all manner of ways, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

When darkness presses against us and takes our very breath, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

When doubt floods, and we sit with you in the midst of it, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

Where the thief pushes in the door and tries to steal, seeking to rob us of our joy and hope and even the will to live, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

For our enemies, for wounds that continue to bleed, for un-mended relationships, for places of un-resolve, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

For the world, still reeling from the effects of Babel, still fractious and afraid, still so separated and disoriented, we pray,

Come, Holy Spirit!

Come, Holy Spirit!

Fall fresh upon us. Give us faith to believe and help us in our unbelief.  “¡Yo Creo, ayúdame a creer aun más!” (San Marco 9:24). May it be so.


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S*** and the peace of Christ

A few months ago, a friend and I shared a conversation about a longing to inhabit prayer, to live a life of conversation with God. We agreed to exchange a text at the end of the week or every few weeks to check in and to keep each other mindful that deepening relationship is a choice. A day or so after our phone visit, I texted her and asked her to also pray for me about my mouth and the words I choose to say, or not say, that add life or take it. It seemed to me a contradiction, seeking on-going communion with God while maintaining a lazy-word mouth.

Engaging in both elements was like sitting down to a table full of real and beautiful food, savoring it and appreciating the nourishment from it. Awareness of the presence of God and listening to the still small voice of the Spirit feeds me; like nutritive food, it goes all the way to the cellular level, restoring and repairing me.

Except this one thing: I keep saying the word shit. At first, after I asked for prayer and sought to be more intentional about the quality of my speech, I found other words. But in the last two or three weeks, I don’t wait for other words, don’t look for other words. When something presses against a core value of mine–like justice, or honesty, or beauty–it fires something within the deepest parts of me. And I say it. Sometimes quick and precise. Sometimes drawn out like I talk when I go back to Kentucky. Sometimes by itself, and sometimes accompanied with “I don’t give a” or “bull” or “horse.”

Today, I watched a video of men reading real tweets to women sports writers. I worked hard to share the post without using the word s*** when what I wanted to say most contained that very sentiment.

While trying to grasp what it means that no protective barriers exist for my kids and what kind of s*** is hurled at them on the regular, not to mention the atrocities raining down on children here, there, and everywhere, I holler bulls***.

As I hit the parenting pavement another day and lift my weight to pull against mediocrity and underwhelming glory when I know what kind of shine exists a little deeper down, past getting by and being tethered to fleeting garbage, I just get spitting mad.


It’s a barometer for my soul, the s*** overflow. Fear, anger, fatigue, powerlessness. I’m not saying it’s okay. I’m not saying it is not okay. I don’t think it speaks to the reality of transformative power available to us, to me. My bullied insides let out a cry for peace, a prayer for the separation between myself and the dung that sticks and smells and pollutes and makes toxic.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” Jesus told his closest companions, because he knew they needed to have it to hold onto and hold close. He knew then and knows now what kind of anti-nourishment this world doles out. It is unsatisfying and tastes like, well, you know.

So to my friend:  I am pouring out my heart to Jesus today, walking as close to him as I know how to. Bad words and all. I am asking for his peace to settle me.

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On being a woman and raising a son

Our home lot borders the green belt. One of the five park benches that lines the walking path is just a little way from our fence. People hang out at the bench from time to time. I recognize most of the faces–my neighbor and her grandkids, a regular walker who stops to rest after laps, another nearby neighbor and their Rottweiler-mix dog who likes to mark the grass by the bench again for good measure. Sometimes students from the high school across the way come during lunch hour to vape or smoke this or that. Open spaces are public places, and you see things in them.

When I came into the kitchen to start dinner last Monday afternoon, I noticed a couple on the bench. She sat on the end closest to our house. He stood at the other end, though he moved a few paces in any direction from time to time. I wasn’t trying to spy or pry. I just saw them.

Her head was down, and she dabbed her eyes with a tissue. I paid closer attention on purpose, as this was not the first time the public space outside our yard exposed a male/female drama unfolding. On the first occasion, all of our windows opened wide for an afternoon breeze, we (my kids through their upstairs windows and me through the back windows) heard every word as the pair carried their troubles up and down the pathway. “You just want to f*** someone else! What about me-ee-eee?” the girl wailed through tears and unchecked volume. He kept trying to shush her and walk away. She threw herself at his feet and grabbed onto him, begging him to please, please, please not do this. He managed to walk a few feet with her clinging to his legs. Very dramatic, and very sad. It went on for 30 minutes or more, people passing them on the sidewalk; she never wavered in her lament, not once. As these two new folks talked a Monday ago, I kept an ear and an eye out, waiting with a caution in case something turned sour or violent.

After a little bit, the young man scooched his way to make enough room to sit beside her. He put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulders. Maybe we are on the way to a mending, I thought, and I kept working on the vegetables at hand. They both stood up. I put my knife down and turned my sight again toward them.

He leaned down to kiss her. Intense kiss for an public walkway. He put his hand on her breast, and she backed away a little bit, looking around. He moved where she moved, and he kissed her again and put his hand between her legs. She backed away again. I found myself becoming angry and protective of her. She seemed a bit anxious as she turned her head in this direction or that several times to see if anyone was approaching. He pressed into her again and put his hands on her, in several places. He put his hand down his own pants to adjust himself. She backed away again. As one of the regular walkers came closer, he sat down. They played casual until the coast cleared, and she bent from the waist and leaned her face in to kiss him, her body far from him. After a few more minutes, they gathered their things and left.

I thought of an article I read earlier that day. The title alone hurt my heart before I read one word: “Sex Before Kissing: 15-year old girls dealing with porn addicted boys.”  Another article I had read a few weeks ago, “What It’s Like to be a 13-year old on Social Media Today,” directed me to more information I wish I didn’t have to learn. These represent numerous links to material that I have read over the course of the last 8 years or so as we’ve tried to navigate well the process of raising kids in an internet world.

A friend on said internet shared a story about a restaurant owner who booted a customer for being a pig, and I took it in with heightened awareness now that one of my girls flies solo and the other one works in the service industry. I applaud this guy–“Brewery owner boots sexist customer, unleashes must-read rant for women in the service industry“–but the overall content gives me a shudder to think my girls will have to learn to traipse through this kind of manure for years to come.

Flashbacks from high school and college stirred within me after the scene out my window.

A male co-worker walking into me and pressing against me without warning or permission while we were in the cold room by ourselves.

An upperclassman who told me if I dressed differently (the right way) I would be able to show off my body.

An older regular at the restaurant where I waitressed who talked to me often; I politely refused a gift he gave me, and turned cool and stopped talking to me.

The time I stood there, and before I realized what he was doing and why, I let a young man pull on the hem of my shirt so that he could see the outline of my breasts.

A first date who, after one or two kisses (not long and elaborate ones), unbuckled his belt and began unbuttoning his jeans, because sex was the obvious expectation. I said no. The date ended. I never heard from him again.

An employer who accidentally brushed my chest with the back of his hand as he handed some papers to me.

A male who found out where I worked and learned the phone number there, who showed up unannounced, who did nothing “illegal” but robbed me of freedom to come and go without looking over my shoulder every two seconds.

The reality that my anatomy puts me at a disadvantage in many settings. What a shitty feeling.

I know countless other stories of women with whom I have shared some life–accounts of subtle abuses and objectification and overt abuses and violations and misogyny. My stomach wrenches, because I didn’t have words to call those things what they, in actuality, were. I possessed no defensive tactics to stop or report it, nor education to avoid any shame that came as a result. I know I am not alone.

“Maybe they don’t know that at the tender age of 13 we had to brush off adult men staring at our breasts. Maybe they don’t know that men our dad’s age actually came on to us while we were working the cash register. They probably don’t know that the guy in English class who asked us out sent angry messages just because we turned him down. They may not be aware that our supervisor regularly pats us on the ass. And they surely don’t know that most of the time we smile, with gritted teeth. That we look away or pretend not to notice. They likely have no idea how often these things happen. That these things have become routine. So expected that we hardly notice it anymore.

So routine that we go through the motions of ignoring it and minimizing.”

–From the article “The Thing That All Women Do That You Don’t Know About.”

Most of the above memories hail from 30 years ago. I’ve written before about my own complicity in this scene. My relationship skill set lacked a few good and important pieces. I knew enough to imagine what boys really wanted, and I knew the desire of wanting to be seen and valued. My deepest longings mirrored long-term love stories and marriage, and a regular dose of Girl Porn* fed that fantasy for me. Typical, regular ol’ pornography was hardcopy then, magazine form and bootlegged videos on VHS. I had access to that, too, which doesn’t help any person become a better human. Walking through adolescence way back when was challenging enough. What of now?

I have been afraid of raising a son, because his anatomy puts him at a particular disadvantage also. My context for boys his age rest primarily in my memories, and the rest I gather from what I observe around me. I don’t want him to be that guy. His context is different; it is not my own, nor is it the contexts of those boys I knew or the boys I see out there. No one can parent the kid that they were or the kids not in their care; they must parent the kids that they have.

The couple sharing some kind of exchange outside my house last Monday didn’t ask for my commentary. They may be an example of a perfectly healthy high school dating relationship where everything is consensual. Or maybe they (either one of them) don’t really know about consent, because a lot of people don’t. (This helpful illustration will help you if you are confused yourself.) I don’t think that small slice of relationship glory represents every single young person here or abroad. I know that it doesn’t mean my son will be casually placing his hands on a girl’s body right out in public, or that my girls will be prey to males with one appendage directing their mobility. But it gave me pause. It gave me sadness. It drove me to prayer.

Lord, have mercy. We live in this world you made, a world full of possibility and promise and hope and beauty that breaks us in the best of ways. And we don’t always live here well. Fractures and splinters cut us. We make larger the chasm between ourselves and the glory for which we were created. Have mercy. 


*Melanie Dale addresses this first from the point of view of a married woman, since she is married. But Girl Porn is a real thing for females of any age, and I’ve known a high school boy or two to utilize it to round the bases. It could go in the flashback section above.

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Honestly, not moving. Or moving honestly, fearfully. Or get moving.

The point of creating a blog space four years ago was a way of accountability for getting my butt in a chair and writing, writing, writing. Even if the product resembled a mediocre manure pile, write anyway. I did. Over 220 posts are tucked into the archives.

For the past several weeks (maybe months), I’ve pulled up a chair, sat my butt in it, opened the blog, clicked on Posts and then Add New. A few times, I hammered out two to three short paragraphs, and I either highlighted the words to delete them or let them sit in the Drafts section. Mostly, highlight and delete. Other times, I stared at the blank page and tried like everything to add anything of value to a world spilling over with too many words.

I don’t have anything to say right now.

Then I go and put my hands to cooking or reading or cleaning or Facebook or Instagram or Duolingo or watching hockey or making lists of stuff to accomplish or listening to a podcast or just about anything besides spilling words onto any kind of page outside of my journal.

At the beginning of the year, I decided that penning two posts per month seemed more than reasonable–one post in the narrative vein and one post in the scripture reflection and spiritual growth vein. Words and sentences, heck, whole narratives and reflections scroll through my mind at any given time. But they exit the building when I try and write them in actuality.

Wanting to be heard and a fear of being heard. A strange tension, is it not? A desire to communicate, a desire to communicate well AND in such a way as to provoke critical thinking without provoking categorization and labeling. What if so-and-so reads my words and questions my faith and theological soundness? Or, and maybe a worser fear, what if my honest reflections about moving as authentically as I can through all of the areas of life simply fall silent in the woods?

A dear friend of mine challenged me a few years ago. “If the words are in you to write, who are you to say where they should go or how they should live and how they should find their way anywhere in the world? Your job is to give them life and trust the Giver.”

Next post, number 231:  what makes me afraid of being the mom of a boy. If the point is to move/write honestly, then I want to face forward momentum without trepidation, without nagging questions about what happens when I let the words live.



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