About My Week


I had a difficult week – not bad – just difficult.

The primary struggle this week was friendships.

There were two or three different instances when I felt like a friend or friends were being competitive with me. It centered around the big life decisions I’ve been making, and really stirred up anxiety and sadness in me.

I hate comparison.

People are different. Circumstances are different. There is no possible way for one person to look at another person’s decisions and believe they should also do (or have already done) the same thing.

I completely close off when people start comparing themselves to me, and I wish I didn’t. I wish I had it in my to tell them things like, “Don’t play that game. Don’t get sucked in. Make the best decision for you. Don’t take the decision I made for myself and think it somehow provides commentary on the decisions you’ve made for you.”

One of the times I felt I was being watched and compared to others this week was at a get-together of some old friends. There were about 9 of us, I think, and I hadn’t seen or talked to any of them for months. Realistically, I’ve been intentional about moving on from 7 of them, so it was bound to be weird. I almost wish, however, that I didn’t have so much news to tell them. I wish I could have faded into a corner and let them catch up with one-another. I wish we’d gotten together a couple of months ago when I wasn’t getting ready to take the LSAT and sell my house.

I’m not selling my house to make money, although I am glad to discover that I probably will make money. I’m not taking the LSAT to feel smart or to impress. I didn’t quit teaching as a commentary that all teachers should get out. But it feels like that’s exactly what 6 or so of those old friends saw… the assessment, judgment, and occasionally envy or admiration was palpable last weekend.

It bothers me. It feels too much like a jockeying for position, like there’s some hierarchy and everyone is trying to figure out where I fit and where they fit in comparison to me. I don’t want to fit. Anywhere. I don’t want to fit at the top or at the bottom or in the middle of any hierarchy. It bothers me that a hierarchy exists.

My anthem for this season: “It is the most difficult thing in the world for a person to run her own pace when she knows someone is watching.”

I no longer even remember where that quote comes from, but I find great comfort in it. That quote brings me a peace, because it strips away the hierarchy and recognizes that every runner has a pace that fits her, that’s her own.

When I start to see my flaws or my strengths, this quote reminds me that racing isn’t about beating anyone else. It’s about taking the person I’ve been given – taking Katie… her muscles, her fat, her brain, her heart, her whatever – and running the best pace she can run. This quote reminds me that no matter how many people are watching and evaluating my race, the pace I set can never depend on their evaluation.

Have a good week, friends, and run your pace, regardless of the pace others around you are running.

Loving Church


Since I was 19 or so, the church has been a hugely important part of my life, so when church isn’t going well, it wrecks me a little bit. It’s probably the equivalent of family not going well for someone else, partly because I’m a single woman living in a city without family, and partly because I’ve known the church’s potential for both good and evil. I’ve lived my life in the church, intimately connected… I’ve served, attended, hosted and led Bible studies, prayed corporately, eaten dinners, and sang together with the church… it’s hard to describe how much my sense of community and security is attached to the church, regardless of which church I attend or who is a part of that community.

My current church is not wrecking me.

With all of the rest of my life in an uproar – moving towards selling my house, taking the LSAT, looking for scholarships for Law School, losing friends, being without roommate Kendra, etc… – the church is an enormous comfort to me.

I’ve been attending Midtown Church for something like two ish (maybe three ish) years. When I landed there, it was after a long stretch of feeling like there might not be a church in the entire city of Tucson that was a good fit.

I’m a firm believer that churches are broken, and no one should expect to find the perfect church, but I’m also a firm believer that there are a few foundational elements that have to be right, and I feel completely blessed to be at a church where those foundational elements are right.

Midtown Church is prepping to merge with another church. Having been through a failed merge previously that sort of thrashed me around in the waves, you’d think I’d be worried, but it’s really nice that I’m not even remotely stirred up over it.

In large part, I’m not worried because I don’t feel like it’s my job to make it work. There’s a wonderful freedom in knowing that there’s someone else whose job it is to make it work, who is well-equipped to make it work. I’ve always struggled with finding the sweet-spot of church involvement, oscillating between over-involvement and under-involvement, but right now, I’m running a nice, sustainable pace.

I think about Mike sometimes (he was my pastor during the previous merge), and I feel a raging sadness at him, because he wasn’t ready, but couldn’t let go of it enough for anyone to help him. I’ve learned from watching my adoptive parents, my cousin, and Mike how difficult it really is to be a pastor. I have a great respect for the position. And as Brandon, Kira, and I were talking about the merge a few months ago, I realized how much peace I feel in entrusting myself to my current pastor.

Strong, humble leadership is a gift of unmeasurable worth

Batman, Superman, Harry Potter, Vampires, and Donald Trump: a Theological Discussion


I read comic books. Regularly. Granted, my leaning in comic taste is towards social commentary and the obscure, so Batman and Superman aren’t my favorites. I’ve read comics about each of them and watched their movies, but neither is really a personal favorite. I should also disclose that I have a bias for the overtly good. The overwhelmingly good. The characters who would never use one of the unforgivable curses, regardless of how much sense it would make to use them. Yes, I am mixing my genres, but with Harry Potter walking to his death, sacrificing himself to save others, I think he probably fits into this discussion as well as anyone does.

I’m pretty proud of myself for, up until now, restraining from commenting on or even sharing the comments of others on, the current political climate. However, I’m going to try to bring together Superman, Batman, Donald Trump, Jesus, and a few others in one ridiculous blog post.

Let’s start with superheroes in general. Superheroes exist because humanity wants there to be superheroes. There is/was/always will be some sort of hole in the human heart that superheroes fill. I believe that heart hole is a fear that humans are the epitome of existence, and there is no one out there greater than we are to rescue us when things get bad. Superheroes replace that fear with hope.

Superman is the original superhero. Of course, that’s debatable – just ask Google. But, for our purposes, we’re going to consider him to be the first superhero. He entered the stage sort of in the midst of WW2 ish. Superman is superior to humanity in ALL ways, yet he lived as a human. He concerned himself with human concerns, and was, for all intents and purposes, Jesus. He was both human and god. He was completely selfless, sacrificing his own wants/needs to save people who didn’t even fully appreciate him. He never wavers in his goodness or tries to make the ends justify the means. Of course, the cannon does include evil superman stories, but those exist because they are distinctly NOT Superman. Sidenote: Superman also has some obvious Moses in him, but I’m going to ignore that for the purposes of this post.

Batman is the embodiment of everything Americans want to be. He’s rich. He’s athletic. He has the coolest of toys. He’s got a sidekick and a butler. He’s single-handedly populated Arkham Asylum with the baddies he’s defeated. It’s okay that Batman is dark and tragic (aka depressing), because he’s ultimately protecting the rest of us. I’ve been told that Batman is superior to Superman, because he is human and vulnerable, and therefore, it’s more badass that he wins fights, because his natural advantage over most baddies is negligible in contrast to Superman’s enormous advantage in most fights.

I’ve always hated Batman.

While I admired Heath Ledger’s performance, among others, in the Batman cannon, I’ve always hated that Batman is the anti-hero. He is what I would probably be if I were a superhero/superheroine; I’d be hurt by someone very early on in my story, and then I’d exact justice in an attempt to keep others from feeling what I’d felt. Batman is indisputably human… except that he’s a vampire. I’m not even going to qualify that statement, but I am going to say that vampires don’t sparkle, and neither does Bruce Wayne. He is a baddie we’ve tried to make into a good guy.

Superman has always appealed to me. I get that it’s frustrating that he can be really struggling in a fight and then muster all of his strength to finally win… but I also think it’s far more realistic that someone who is very much not like me would save me, as opposed to someone very like me saving me. Also, I think it’s telling that Superman’s villain, Lex Luthor, has A LOT in common with Batman. It makes me think that dirt and grime really do amount to dirt and grime, as opposed to the weird morality of dark heroes where dirt and grime actually amount to fairy dust.

Theologically, Superman is Jesus and Batman is Adam.

Jesus was a God Who became man and saved us from sin and ourselves. Adam was a man who learned of good and evil, and was thrust into an eternal battle that he was ill-equipped to wage, but continues to fight nonetheless.

Batman is an attempt to turn a man into a god.

That’s one of the reasons I hate him. He is an attempt to lower the standard to something that’s achievable by human means. Batman is the idea that you or I could wake up one day with enough motivation to make ourselves into gods.

We (American society/Hollwood/whoever) have been creating and watching A LOT of superhero stories in mainstream media lately. Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern, The Avengers, Batman v. Superman, Hulk, X-Men, Ant Man, Man of Steel, Iron Man, etc… We have been obsessed with characters who save the world when it’s doomed.

Prior to that, we were obsessed with the apocalyptic tale of waking up one morning to find that the world has turned to Hell and a handbasket overnight without our notice. I took a Horror Lit. and Film class in college that focused on what was scariest to us, and what my instructor pointed out was the wave of films in which we woke up and discovered that the world had broken, completely and possibly irreversibly, while we were sleeping… 28 days later, Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead, Contagion, Signs, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend, The Book of ELi, etc…

Prior to that, the U.S. suffered September 11th.

I was in high school when September 11th occurred. I remember watching the news in Mr. Morrill’s English class and seeing a human being jump 100+ floors to his death. That moment shook me to my core. It changed the world to me. It showed me that the world is bad enough that it might be better to die than to live.

September 11th changed all of us.

It broke us, provided a rude awakening, and forced us to consider how the rest of the world sees us. We’ve looked to our future and seen struggle, hatred, and death.

I honestly think Donald Trump is going to become the next U.S. President.

I do.

I didn’t believe it until this week. I’m not sure what happened this week, but I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is unstoppable.

Not because he’s qualified – he’s not. He’s got about as much XP in navigating U.S. and world government as I have playing football.

He’s not unstoppable because he’s a decent leader who’s going to fix everything – he’s not. I’m pretty sure he’d sell any one of us to the Islamic nations he so disdains… if he believed it would bring him profit.

He’s actually kind of a big buffoon – a spectacle – who seems to succeed regardless of what he says or does. He’s Razzle Dazzle, and, in true Chicago style, he’s getting away with murder.

Donald Trump is an unstoppable force and he’s going to win because we refuse to believe the Savior we need is One Who is completely different from ourselves. He’s going to win because he’s presented himself as the savior we’ve been seeking. Donald Trump is going to win because September 11th made us feel the impotence that’s always been ours (not to mention the recession that amplified our impotence). What more can we desire for our primary representative than a man who has whatever woman he wants, insults whomever he wants, has cool gadgets and a butler, and claims to be the only person on Earth who can make us strong again? What is America if not a land of extreme power and transcendence… just like Donald Trump is a man of extreme power and transcendence? He is a man who not only builds walls, but persuades the neighbors, who he hates, to build his walls for him. He is a man who wields power as if it doesn’t require caution. He is the American savior. He is the vampire we’ve been waiting to climb into our bedrooms at night, the millionaire we’ve hoped would teach us about sex, the dark hero, whose dirt and grime is actually sparkly pixy dust…

Donald Trump is the fiction we’ve been writing to ourselves for decades.

He has taken the stories of our worst, post-September 11th fears, and combined them with the stories of our last hope in combating world destruction. He has written himself as the Dark Knight who is uniquely-qualified to foil those evil, Islamic aliens who wish to kill off all of humanity to rebuild their own society in its place.

…We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!  We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Isn’t it interesting how America and its holiday somehow transcended all other nations to defeat the evil alien invaders? Even in our stories in which we are united with all of the rest of the world, we unite under the U.S. banner, the banner that believes we are the leaders of the world. Our fiction for as long as I can remember has told the story Donald Trump has claimed as his own. Beware the man who tells you what you want to hear.

I’m not saying you should vote for Hillary. Hillary is NOT invited to this post. The ONLY concern of this post is the frightful prospect that Batman/Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Donald Trump has bamboozled a nation… he’s not only deceived a “Christian” nation into believing that he’s the “Christian” candidate, but he’s masqueraded as if he, himself is Jesus Christ.

Donald Trump is NOT the Christian candidate. He is NOT a savior.

How Am I so Effing Slow?


I am looking into the possibility of going to law school in 2017 or 2018.

What I have discovered is that I may not have much trouble getting in… but the trouble will come with the paying for it. Although I am prepared to sell my house, quit my job, and take out loans, I’m really not going to feel comfortable going for it unless I can get about half of it paid for by scholarships.

How does one get a scholarship to attend law school, you ask? Well, the best chance of getting one large scholarship is scoring really high on the LSAT. Of course I will look into other avenues for scholarships, but I actually am a very good taker of tests, so I thought I’d start with the LSAT. Since the LSAT is required of me just to get in and I’d probably want to take it by December, if not September, I thought I should get on that. Also, taking the LSAT is a nice, noncommittal step I can take to gauge whether this is a terrible idea or not.

I took a diagnostic test yesterday. And I did not do terribly. I scored average for all takers of the LSAT, so I certainly would need to do better if I want to both get into law school and receive moneys.

There are some very specific things I struggled with, though.

  1. Who the hell thought it was a good idea to test people for 180 minutes? That’s a horribly long time to sit still and think, and I don’t have the stamina I used to have. I will need to take a lot of practice tests to get myself used to sitting for that long.
  2. I need to think significantly faster. There were 102 questions on the test, and I didn’t even get to 12 of them. I also got something like 8 questions wrong towards the ends of the sections, because I felt rushed. That alone is the difference between full ride and no financial help at all.
  3. I bombed one particular section. Basically, they give you a list of 6-8 items and tell you those items must be sorted into 2-3 columns with 6 or so rules about how you can do it. Ex: Adam, Brian, Charles, Derek, Ed, Fred, and Greg all go to the bar and purchase beers. The bar’s best sellers are Shocktop, Blue Moon, and Red Stripe, so the guys each try one of those. Each guy only drinks one beer. Brian and Ed choose the same beer. Adam and Greg choose different beers. Derek chooses Red Stripe. Two of the guys drink Blue Moon… and then they ask you 6 ish questions about which item falls into which column. I took what can only be described as a glacial pace at this. It wasn’t the I couldn’t answer the questions; it was that it took me twice as long as they gave me to answer each of these, so I ended up guessing quite a lot. I think my biggest problem was that I hadn’t seen a question like that in more than a decade, so I had to build a framework for each scenario and how to answer it, rather than just knowing what I needed to do to figure it out.
  4. Even on the reading comprehension section, I was pretty slow and didn’t finish, because they gave you like six ish really dense paragraphs to read… when I say really dense, I mean that it was the equivalent of reading Shakespeare. The sentence structures were out of control. The diction was out of control. The content was often specific to a field in which I had zero experience. And then, they would ask six questions, each of which took up about half a page, because they were wordy and ridiculous, as well. There were twenty four questions in this section, to be answered in 35 minutes. I didn’t finish.

So… what I’ve discovered is that I am smart enough to do this… but if I don’t hurry the hell up, I disqualify myself from scholarships just by not answering enough questions.

_______________________________________

With the decision of whether to go to law school or not, I’ve tried talking to people about it in advance, because I’ve been described as impulsive, and because I want to be better about including others in the major life decisions I make… and what I’ve discovered is that there were very good reasons I did things without consulting others in the past – not the least of which being that so many people have been completely unreasonable in their responses.

So, here’s the deal:

Why am I thinking about doing this?

That’s a great question. I think this might be a perfect fit for me, or as close to a perfect fit as can actually exist. I think I might be good at practicing law, and I think I might find fulfillment in it.

Also, I hate wondering if I’ve wasted my life, and I think I might wonder if I don’t give this an honest effort.

Also, it hit me like a whisper from the Holy Spirit that I should do this. I’m not saying God definitely told me I should do this. He didn’t… but I think He may have pointed me in this direction, and I try to listen well when I think God is whispering to me.

Isn’t law school competitive and difficult?

That’s an insulting question. Are you implying that I’m not capable of succeeding in law school, or that I’m daunted by challenges? Are you implying that I shouldn’t attempt it because it difficult? Do you genuinely believe I don’t know that law school is competitive and difficult and you’re telling me something new?

Please don’t ask me a question like this.

Do I know what it’s like to try to get rid of student loan debt?

This might be a good question to ask me once I have my LSAT scores, have applied and been accepted, and have been denied scholarships. My slowness to decide on the right choice may be detrimental to me when test-taking, but I think it’s probably wise to take time on each step of this real-life decision, rather than racing ahead 5 years to the day when I’ll have to pay off student loan debt. I’d prefer to figure out whether I’m capable to getting this completely paid for before I give up because it’s so expensive… it may actually cost me nothing to do this. We won’t know until I apply.

Also, I don’t believe money should necessarily deter me, even if I don’t get any financial help with this. The value of seeking and eventually finding my niche isn’t really measurable, and if it were measurable, I suspect it would be worth more than $80,000.

Where are you going to live?

I don’t know. I haven’t even applied yet. There are three schools I’m currently considering applying to… so I don’t even know which city I’ll be in IF I get into any or all of the schools to which I’m planning to apply. Slow the hell down.

What if it doesn’t work out? What if I get there and it’s too hard or I don’t even get accepted?

…then it doesn’t work out. It’s okay to try things and fail. I’m not going to be crushed because I tried something hard and it didn’t work out. I won’t be crushed if I don’t get accepted. I may even just reapply again a year later. Who cares? Trying and failing costs me exactly $208 and a knock to my pride at this point. It’s succeeding that’s costly. A better question would be, “What if it works out?”

 

 

The Status that Can Never be Updated


Something Lori said to me about six weeks ago has stayed on my mind, because it so reflects the gospel. She was talking about her family, and she said that you can be completely, fiercely angry with family and they can be completely, fiercely angry with you, but your status doesn’t change: you’re still family. And the next time you talk, family doesn’t think less of you.

I’ve struggled for what seems like ages with the fact that my status with family changed to the degree that I was no longer welcome at the holidays. I’ve struggled with where the line is that just cannot be crossed without a status update: ___________ is no longer sisters with Katie James…

I almost have a numbness to people saying they don’t want me as around; it feels like it happens all the time. It’s really only a few times that it’s happened, but sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think about how I must’ve really done something terrible… I must be a terrible person for family not to want me.

It’s actually been the absurd responses of people who don’t know me very well that have most steadied my nerves about it. They say things like, “What did you do? Have you been selling drugs?” or “They must’ve found out about that time you shot a guy and had to get the hell out of Reno.” People saying that to me is so incredibly and unexpectedly helpful, because it reminds me that I’m not an uncommonly bad person. It helps me put it into perspective… I was disowned because I wrote a blog post… or because I wasn’t good at being a Maid of Honor… or because I…

Sticking with people is really difficult and painful. There’s no denying it. I get that it’s really stressful to work out conflict, and it’s much simpler to just find a person to replace me. There are endless masses who are looking for a new spouse/friend/sister/etc… at the very same moment someone has decided it’s time to move on from me.

But I wonder how it would change the world if each of us looked at our lives right now, listed the top ten most important people to us, and determined we would stick by them no matter what…

Mom, Dad, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Lori, Steve, Ashly, Matt, Lauren, and Danny.

Okay, so I picked 11 – that’s not the point.

What if we looked at our lives and committed unconditionally to however many people…?

I really struggle sometimes to believe that my status before God is consistent – that He adopted me once and for all – that He looks at me like I’m His daughter every single day and every single moment. I struggle to believe that He sees me as righteous, blameless, and pure. It’s honestly the greatest struggle of faith to trust that Jesus took care of it and I’m okay. There’s nothing more I can do to be cleaner and more perfect before God. My status before Him is secure.

I think it would be easier to believe if my status before my friends/sister/coworkers/etc… wasn’t so subject to change. I’m going to try to be better at letting those closest to me know that their status isn’t subject to change.

Life Update: July 2016


Failure to thrive is a really mysterious diagnosis. We actually have hospice patients who are diagnosed with Adult Failure to Thrive. Basically, a person who has no specific disease diagnosis… no Heart Failure, Malignant Neoplasm of the ________, COPD, Parkinson’s, ALS, MS… a person can be disease-free, taking in a normal number of calories, and yet, be wasting away.

Like the physical diagnosis “Adult Failure to Thrive,” I believe there’s a really mysterious thing that occurs spiritually and emotionally that’s almost exactly the same thing. I’ve seen it in myself and the people around me. I’ve seen myself and others do all sorts of crazy things to try to fix it. Shasta got a personal trainer and learned to play the violin. I took up yoga and volunteered at an animal shelter. Amy took a sabbatical from work and traveled. But it’s never the things we do to try to make it better that actually make it better.

I really wasn’t well a year or so ago. I knew I wasn’t well, but nothing I did seemed to make it better.

However, as much as I want to understand what went on, because I want to be able to keep myself from wasting away like that in the future, I don’t understand.

I am doing well now. And I find the weirdest things making a huge difference in whether I’m thriving or not. So, I thought I’d take a bit of time to write about the things that are turning it around for me.

10. I started new projects. I really hadn’t been able to write at all while I wasn’t thriving. I kept writing, but it wasn’t good. It was just writing to keep the blog from dying. I certainly wasn’t able to put emotional and creative energy into my manuscript, but I’m not the type who does well with nothing to work on. I need to constantly be trying to improve something: my spiritual life, my house, a friendship, my race pace… So I decided to become a Vegetarian and lose weight. That sense of incremental achievement helped.

9. Roommate Kendra moved to Phoenix. I adore Roommate Kendra. She is the best roommate I’ve ever had, but I think my thriving needed complete privacy. I think my thriving needed to know that whatever Katie was, no one would see and have an opinion of it. It’s not that I was afraid Kendra would have a negative opinion. It’s just that if I’d had a roommate who was home and saw me regularly, she would have an opinion, and sometimes, a person needs to know that no one is watching. The hardest thing in the world is to run your own pace when you know someone is watching – Scott Jurek.

8. I watched TV. I’m generally not good at watching tv. It’s too inactive for me. I can usually make it through a 20-minute show, but beyond that, I feel the need to get up and cook something or vacuum or go for a run or read a book or chop down the Oleanders in my yard. This is fine most of the time, but I think sometimes thriving requires a still, gentle nap on the couch to exist. I think it requires the brain to stop turning and the body to rest. Sometimes, it requires the inaction of a good, long tv show.

7. I backed up on friendships. This could truly be its own post, so I’ll try to keep it simple. I generally believe that it’s not okay to give up on people, so I felt a really strong tension between that belief and some friends who had been my constant critics. The situation I found myself in was that I was living one of the low moments of life and my friends were relentlessly kicking me while I was down. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt an underlying judgment and unkindness in how they interacted with me, but it was the first time I realized I deserved better. Everyone’s friends mess up from time-to-time. Friends are flawed and human, and that’s okay. This wasn’t that. First, I tried to talk with the people who’d hurt me, but when they’d ignored and refused my attempts at reconciliation, I just backed away slowly and moved on. From my side of things, we  are at peace, but we aren’t close. It’s the first time I feel I’ve really stood up for myself with those friends. 

6. I got a dog. Moose is so important in my life.🙂

5. I found something I can be good at, but isn’t easy. Volunteering for Victim Services feeds so many parts of me. It is part ministry, part community, part adventure… It’s challenging, but manageable. It’s the things my job isn’t.

4. A comic shop opened a branch in Northwest Tucson. I know this sounds stupid, but it really somehow brought me joy to be able to stop at the comic shop after work. I hate ordering comics from online, because comic shops seem like this last bastion of the local book shop. They are nostalgic and remind me of a time when people went to Blockbuster to browse, when movies and books weren’t quite so accessible as to be just a click away. I want comic shops to have my money, because I want them to hold out against Amazon, but it also seems stupid for me to drive for 35 minutes, browse and buy for 10 minutes, and then drive home for 35 minutes. Also, there is something really beautiful about the comic shop in how it provides a place of belonging and hope for people who don’t quite belong. So… now the geeky and nostalgic parts of me can be fulfilled simultaneously with a quick trip down to Fantasy Comics.

3. I exercised. I never really stopped exercising when I wasn’t thriving, but I was training for marathons rather than kick boxing. It’s a different kind of exercise.

2. I prayed. Like exercise, I never exactly stop praying, but I sometimes close off and pray obligatory prayers. I pray for things that matter like the world, others, and the glory of God. However, I thrive when I pray for the most minuscule, mundane things. I thrive when I pray for sleep and rain and weight loss. I thrive when there isn’t any part of my life that I hold as too personal or insignificant for God’s mighty hand.

1.Brandon offered to help me build a table. Brandon and Kira are a couple who I’ve actually known for something like 5 years. With the slowness that is my nature in friendship-building, I had probably only considered them to be my church friends until pretty recently. However, there was this sort of exquisite moment when I was admiring a table that Brandon had built, and I had said that I might try to copy him and build my own, and he said something like, “I’d love to help you with that.” I’d actually already pictured myself building that table and I was always alone. And it occurred to me in that moment that I could let Brandon and Kira help me. Brandon hadn’t offered because he felt he was going to earn points with God. He genuinely seemed to think it would be a fun project. So, I’m still imagining myself building that table, but I’m also imagining the help I might have in doing it. And I’m thinking that one of the absolute keys for me in thriving is having a strong sense of community. A sense that people are there for me because they want to be… I don’t struggle to be happy when I’m alone. I don’t feel a strong drive to be around people, but I’m realizing that I do feel a strong drive toward family, and that I truly thrive when the church takes on the role of family in my life.

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There have been a few setbacks recently in my heart… things that shook me and ache, but, by the grace of God, those things haven’t knocked me off my horse yet, and I’m still in the land of thriving.

Thoughts and Prayers Ring Hollow in the Presence of a Corpse


John Scalzi wrote a blog post in response to Orlando, and his basic thesis was that it’s not enough to offer thoughts and prayers after the fact. He cited Matthew 6:5-6 and Matthew 7:21-23, and even though I’m fairly certain he labels himself as something other than a Christian, I thought his point was right on.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to post on Facebook that your thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors and families affected by tragedy, but I do feel a grating on my nerves every time I see one of those posts.

I had my first Victim Services call where I was in the presence of a corpse. It was a man who had gone out in his backyard to garden and whatnot, and instead, he ended up collapsing face-first and dying there in his yard. By the time his wife found him, ants were crawling on him and the blood had settled into his front half and toward the ground.

I stood with the deceased’s brother-in-law while law enforcement checked the body for personal items.

It was a humbling experience.

As I stood there, I prayed. I always pray when I go out on calls, because I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God hears me even though the people around me don’t hear me. So don’t take this the wrong way, but my prayers would have been hollow if I hadn’t also been there. If I hadn’t stopped what I was doing and gone there.

Right? What if I had received the call, decided there wasn’t anything I could do to be of help, and just posted on Facebook, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family of the man who died in his backyard…”?

If I posted that, you’d think I’m a lunatic. You’d probably be like, “Wtf?”

And yet, that’s what we do with tragedy. We (by we, I mean Christians… not all Christians, but a lot of us) are conspicuously uninvolved when it comes to the broken world around us. We offer our thoughts and prayers, and then we go about the business of living.

I’m feeling particularly stirred up about this right at the moment, because it has been non-stop questions and weird comments since I started volunteering with Victim Services.

Why did you decide to do that? I’m so sorry you had to see that.

At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the number of people who wanted to know why… I think they thought they were asking me why I chose Victim Services rather than something else, but it took me a long time to think of it that way. I honestly thought they were asking me a question with a self-evident answer: I decided to do it because it’s good to help people.

That’s honestly the only answer I have. I didn’t exactly choose it over something else. There wasn’t a profound epiphany or a message from God. There was an opportunity to help others. Roommate Kendra had been talking about it, and I thought I was probably capable of doing it, so I decided to do it.

I don’t believe helping people is a choice. I believe it’s an ethical mandate. I believe it’s about saying yes when an opportunity is in front of you, rather than sidestepping it and hoping for something that’s a little less daunting. I don’t think the Good Samaritan just happened to find exactly the opportunity he was looking for; I think he was walking along and came across someone who needed help. Well… I was walking along and my roommate told me about people who need help.

It’s not about Victim Services; it’s about being what we pretend to be. I can write a status update that says, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims in Orlando,” or I can take an extra shift on the crisis unit and I can donate blood.

As far as saying things like, “I’m sorry you had to see that,” or “I’m sorry you experienced that…” I’m sort of at a loss. You’re sorry I had to see… the brokenness of the world, up-close? You’re sorry I had to experience being there for someone who’d experienced great loss? I just…

Volunteering for Victim Services isn’t an unveiling of the world for me. There are calls that haunt me, for sure, but the world is as it always was. People are sinful and they wound each other. People die. Limiting my interaction with tragedy to New York Times articles and status updates doesn’t change the world… it doesn’t help anyone. It honestly doesn’t even help me sleep better or feel safe.

I stood next to a stranger this weekend and talked to him while his brother in law laid in the sun under a tarp. We talked about all of the losses he’d seen in his life. We talked about God, family, history… we talked. And a police officer went through pockets and struggled to get jewelry off of hot, swollen fingers and a swollen wrist. The stranger I was talking to was there because that’s what he could offer his sister, the spouse of the deceased; he could stand outside in the 115 degree heat while she cried inside. I was there because that’s what I could offer them both; I could stand in the heat and talk so that this stranger didn’t have to be alone when law enforcement put the rings, wrist watch, and pocket contents of a beloved corpse into his hands.

I hope and pray that when tragedy strikes me you will offer more than a Facebook post.