Noonan Family Photos


A friend of mine recently asked me to take a few photos while her niece (one of her daughter Isabella’s favorite people!) was in town. We went to one of the awesome natural parks, and shot some stuff at near sunset. The girls are so photogenic and full of life. Hope you enjoy!

Noonan2

Noonan10

Noonan12

Noonan15

Noonan20

Discipline–Our Evolving Approach


So I was asked to share…

I was recently asked (thanks Liz!) to share my views on discipline–and so I thought I’d give it a whirl.  I realize I may come under fire for this, but I don’t mind.  We are all entitled to our own opinions, respectfully, and this is mine.  This is coming from a mom who believes that for every child, there is a malleable, shapeable approach needed.  For every child, different angles and viewpoints & perspectives to be taken into account.  For each family, different things need to be tried out and experimented with–because lets be honest, we all don’t respond to the same things.  Someone may be moved to tears by a radio story, while others need to be part of a natural disaster before it hits home to them how serious the devastation is.  We all respond differently.

That said, with respect to parents who have let their kid cry it out, parents who have tried spanking, parents who have done sleep training, parents who have bribed endlessly –I understand that desperate times make everyone crazy & make everyone want to try anything just to fix the issue at hand.  I’m not here to shame anyone–because honestly, a lot of parents just “do what they know,” and so if they were spanked, they spank.  If they were manipulated, they manipulate, etc.  I’m not okay with spanking (it’s our very last resort), manipulation, and shaming as our family’s way to cope with behaviors that aren’t acceptable.  Shaming children is probably my most hated thing, ever.  I was once at a birthday party where a child was made to say thank you to me–and it embarrassed me, and the child, and I felt very uncomfortable.  I don’t believe in forcing (like, pushing an issue over and over) a child when they clearly aren’t ready–they need to come to it on their own terms.  Saying thank you is hardly a life or death issue (like forcing your child to hold your hand in busy traffic or picking them up against their will–THAT I understand, it’s a life threatening situation!) and beyond a doubt, in my mind, a better example to your child is simply to say thank you to the host yourself, and ask your child if they’d like to say thank you–and not keep going at it and embarrassing many people.  Manipulation is not okay in my books. Being sensitive to the feelings of others totally is okay though!

Our Approach:

So–I was specifically asked what we do with August.  I will try to go through what we’ve done–and how we’ve done it, so that it makes sense.  But our approach is an ever evolving, changing, and moldable thing that is influenced by friends, family, church, experience, research, what have you.  I am constantly amazed when friends show me (through my own observation of their actions) what they do with their own kiddos.  It is wonderful to learn new approaches.  And that’s mainly why I share this with you–so that if you are looking for something new, if you need another approach, here it is for you:

Respect:

Showing respect is the basis of our parenting style.  To some people, this may look like “taking it easy,” or “being controlled by” our child.  I can see how someone might think that.  We give choices (two reasonable choices at a time, for little ones, is age appropriate) so that our little guy is able to decide some things for himself.  If he says “NO!” we respect his no, in reasonable and safe circumstances.  If he doesn’t want clothes on–a lot of the time, that’s okay.  I will tell him, “Okay, August, but if we go to the library I’m going to need to put clothes on you before we leave the house.”  I let him have his no and yes heard, so that he doesn’t think he’s got no voice!  “Children should be seen, and not heard,” could not be further from our beliefs.  If we want our children to grow up to be sentient, thoughtful, contributing members of society–how can we take their voice away as little ones, and expect them to somehow magically develop it along the way?  On the flip side, we try not to say “NO” to August when we don’t have to.  A lot of the time, “bad” behavior (often a child’s way of figuring out right and wrong, of realizing what boundaries are!) is a way for children to see what mom & dad’s response will be–they are looking for consistency.  Many behaviors will simply stop on their own without reinforcement of any kind, from my experience with my son.  Sometimes kiddos will keep doing things because they get a response.  When August was very little we tried to not overuse NO, and now that he is older we say it a bit more as safety and age-appropriateness are there.  He is now two, he understands when mommy says, “No, August, please don’t touch.”   Firmness applies with my no–but I respect him.  He is allowed to make a choice.  He also pushes the limits, which is when boundaries & consequences come in.

Boundaries & Consequences:

I feel this is an important time for me to highlight our definition of “discipline.”  For many, I think this word seems archaic, overly strict, authoritarian, etc.  It is harsh on the ears, for some.  As a reference, you would be correct, as the Merriam-Webster definition is: “train (someone) to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Let me give you a working definition of the “discipline” idea we are adhering to.  In our minds, disciplining our child means that we are “Helping him to understand real-world expectations that he will have to meet, in terms that are age-appropriate and understandable at his current stage.”  This means that yes, when our son bites mommy (as he did this morning), that is unacceptable and he will have to take a “time in,” (he sits with me and we talk about what happened, he doesn’t get up until I say he can) because it is unacceptable to hurt others.  Boundaries are ways of knowing what’s acceptable to do to others, and to allow to be done to yourself–they are very important; as are consequences.  I consider us to be a gentle family, we try to use intelligent means to communicate with our child, and to lovingly reinforce when behavior is not appropriate–but I have heard of parents who are basically unable to say no to their child, unable to enforce any kind of discipline, and do not punish or correct their children.  I have to say that while I realize they are probably doing this as a reaction to their own upbringing (whether good or bad), I think this is a disservice to their child.  The world WILL have its own standard for our children to follow, will have its own general rights and wrongs that we cannot change, whether we choose to acknowledge that or not, and saying yes to our child all the time, not having any rules, etc. is not going to help them.  It is simply going to defer reality to another time, and a harsh awakening will likely ensue.

We reinforce consequences often these days–for example, August might grab a pen or a sharpie  & start drawing on something.  I will tell him once or twice, “August, please give mommy that pen, I will give you your crayons.”  If he is still not listening after a second or third request, I will tell him, “Mommy is now taking the pen, I asked you twice to give it to me.  Would you like to color with your own crayons?”  This way I am positively re-directing him, and not just focusing on the negative.  He knows that I asked him not to use my pen, and I took it from him.  BUT–He has his own crayons that are perfectly acceptable to use & he has that option.  This leads us to the topic of positive redirection, ever so conveniently.  :-)

Positive Redirection:

Positive redirection is defined as such: “to direct (someone or something) to a different place or by a different route, in a positive manner.”  So–let me get something straight here: I believe this works more when children are younger.  If August was getting into something and I really didn’t want him playing with it, I would try to take him somewhere else & tell him, “Here, these are your things to play with.”  Now, it involves more communication–not just directly removing him from the situation and placing him in a positive one.  We discuss why he can’t have mommy’s purse or whatever it is, we talk about why he can’t use his stool to reach for the knife on the counter (that happened yesterday) and what he can have if he wants to use something from the counter (his sippy cup, and the knife was placed far, far away!).  We try to always be talking to August about things so that he actively feels he is involved in our lives.  He is not just a little piece that can be moved about wherever we want it to be.

Some days just SUCK!

Some days, I will yell at August–he will get into a horrible mess & I will be upset.  I will lose it!  I will completely turn my back on my gentle techniques and tell him how horrible I feel he was being.  It happens.  I will lose my temper, and I know I can’t prevent it always.  When it happens, if I can muster the courage & patience, I tell him that Mommy needs a break to just get her head together.  When I have calmed down a bit I always come back to him, tell him I’m sorry, and tell him that I love him.  I tell him what I did wrong–because I want him to know that mommy is capable of bad behavior, and that she needs to own up to it as well.  Parents should apologize to their kids, too, I think.  While we may try, and fail, with our attempts at intelligent discipline, it is always worth it to us.  I see how my son’s behavior is very different than most of his peers–I don’t accredit it all to our choice to parent in this way, but I do take some of the credit!  I am very happy with the results we have seen thus far: August is very sensitive to the needs & feelings of others.  He seems mature beyond his two years, and I believe part of this is God-given, part of it is learned.

Long Term Goals:

We want a child who can think for himself, who challenges the status quo–who doesn’t just take an answer at face value when its given to him.  This requires bringing him up in an environment where he feels respected & safe.  Where he feels he can openly express himself without fear of judgement.  We try to live biblically, but we also don’t pull the “honor thy father & mother” when it isn’t age appropriate.  A two-year-old can start to learn to respect parents, but seriously?  That’s not age appropriate knowledge.  And I don’t buy the whole respecting your elders thing.  I think some adults are completely bogus and say bogus things–they should be told so.  And if my child calls them out on it, so be it–I want him to be a truth teller, not a following sheep.  Yep–I said that.  Our greatest hope is that in following Christ, we will show our child with an example in our actions of how to love people, love God.  We try to read the bible (we usually fail at that, it doesn’t happen nearly as often as we’d like) we try to be engaged in our community.  We try to love people and care for them in real ways.  We realize that we will fall short, I will fail August and so will Troy.  But in everything–we hope to point him towards Christ’s redeeming love.  I hope you enjoyed reading about what our family does for discipline, in this stage of life.

 

Resources: 

These are two books that I believe to be instrumental and essential for gentle parenting!  The Whole Brain Child helps you to understand the basic makeup of your little ones brain.  Their brain is still developing every day–some parts of it are not capable of adult functions, and we need to recognize that as we try to move forward as parents.  Boundaries is an excellent book my dad, who is a counselor, recommended to me.  It changed my life.  It’s not specifically for kids (though there is a Boundaries, for Kids) but if you read it and understand more about yourself, I am certain you can help your child with the tools you learn.

The Whole Brain Child 

Boundaries

All my love,

-M

Wounds, Scars, Community


I dedicate this post to Amber.  <3

This phase of life is constantly throwing curveballs, a bit of chaos here and there, along with some unexpected love from new friends and neighbors we are getting more acquainted with.  As I’m going through the paces of daily mom-life at home with my guy, I can’t help but notice the contrasts and comparisons I see in myself and others–“I’m not nearly as structured as she is,” or “I definitely don’t make a big deal about a mess like that family just did.”  It’s hard to just sit back and allow everyone to be themselves, including me, when you come to know people and start seeing the differences between lives.  But I think that this process couldn’t be more healthy.  We are each going through our journeys, and the way I see it–God made those journeys so vastly different and allowed our lives to have these varying vantage points because he wanted us to grow and learn from one another no matter what steps we are going through on the journey towards our own path.

I have wounds.  As do you.  As much as we like to think otherwise, we have these pains that we carry deep in our being–nothing can quite shake them, even stubbornly ignoring their presence.  These wounds may be caused by skin color, gender, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends.  These will always occur in life–a realization that is hard for me to come to grips with as a mom.  But they will, and they create a minds eye with which we see the world:  We see those who have hurt us, and we see those who can create loving poultices of care to place over our wounds until they heal more fully.  However, these wounds are quite deep and quite vibrantly given to us, and they often remain as scars–not totally new, fresh perfect healed images–but rather scars that we try to cover and forget.

Now, many of us would rather hide than deal with any of this.  We would rather run far away when we have been hurt and see ourselves hurting others–we want to cover, to mask, and to move on without dealing with any of it in real terms.  We may even seek out people we think will allow us to stay far away from those issues–those who will not ask probing or difficult questions, or challenge our strange ways of living with our darkness.  However, I think that very way of living, that way of being–I think it makes a hole in your heart bigger than you can compensate for with fake shallow friendships and surface level conversations.  I think the only way to overcome your longings for what might have been in an “Adam & Eve perfect” world is to confront them completely–but how do you do that?

I think that within community (if you went to my college, you’re probably laughing right about now.  That was the “buzzword” on campus.  That was the annoying phrase every student felt churning in their brain when they wished it would leave them alone.  It’s all we heard nearly all the time as transfers or as freshmen–and it carried through right into graduation for most people,) you are able to find those missing links to bridge the gap.  You may organically find yourself searching, and finding, people who are genuine and sincere, people who love as Christ loves and meets you where you’re at, because in essence they have the same struggles and pains as you–only perhaps in different areas.  They were not met where they were at.  They were not loved for who they are.  They were told they were never going to be good enough.  So when they see you, who too was told these same things, they have a twinge of pain in their hearts and see the ache in your own.  They realize that you are there, shining with your aloneness like a little star out in a lonely space of sky, and that both of you together have the same thing resonating.  The hunger to feel that you belong.  The ache to feel accepted and wanted and delighted in–to be seen as interesting.  This is what I am finding.

And no stabs at anyone’s family or anyone’s habits of character (we all have our flaws), but as an adult I am seeing that my wounds are being soothed by community because God beckons me towards women in particular who are very gentle and open and cast their arms wide for my grief and my pain.  I am finding that they do not have the same flaws I saw growing up, from those I love, and while they have different ones–they are just what I need.

Community.  What does that word mean to you?  As a new friend I’ve got speaks of community she says: “Here’s all the hairiness and dirt and craziness,” (that’s a paraphrase I’m sure).  It’s true.  If you truly want to have your wounds let go of, if you really want to be free of the bondage in your soul, you cannot isolate yourself and create a bubble of people who are safe enough to talk to, but nice enough not to ever ask the questions you need asked.  You will have to find people who dig into your being and come out with a rock that you didn’t even realize was there.  Sometimes these people we allow into our community may be able to see those things we are hiding even from ourselves.  And it will be gritty and dirty and you will probably get offended, and so will others.  But the beauty of the gospel is that forgiveness and grace we allow others and give to ourselves–on account of the grace we were given.  Community means I trust you.  It means I will share my family, my food, and my fortune (as well as misfortune) with you.  What does that mean?  It means apologies for “super real life,” when kids are screaming and the food gets burned.  It also means we don’t have to offer any apologies because we are already accepted and those things are a real part of our lives ever day.  It means our friends in community understand.  It also means that our friends can become a sort of family we never had–a family in Christ where we can heal and we can talk about our pain from growing up or from different stages that are very difficult.  A family we have because God brings them to us.

I am so thankful that I have been accepted where I am at.  I am so grateful for the agape love of Jesus Christ.  So small was my heart when I first accepted him into my life, and how big and full and hurt and fearful and joyful and sad it has been since that first day I decided to lean on him.  I am so happy to find people here that I can be real with.  Who allow me to talk.  Who listen.  But who also speak truth.  I want my roots to go down deep here.

Just a few things I’ve been thinking about in my blogging absence.

All my love,

-M

Nails, Freedom, Peace


The whole premise of the services, lately, has been “I Was–I Am.”  Exploring who God is, and exploring the stories of people from the congregation.

Today a woman, probably in her sixties, stood up holding a sign that read something like, “I was–driven by fear and obligation.”  Her story played on a video screen above my head, and I saw a survivor, a once broken woman who is now joyful.  And that was her “I Am,” that she is now joyful in her service.  Her story resonated so much with me in my heart of hearts: she was a cancer survivor, who happened to stop going to church around the time that she found out about her illness.  She had been attending a “very conservative” church, in her own words, that did not permit women to serve within the church, or to use their abilities to be leaders.  Hearing her say that because she couldn’t use her natural abilities and talents to serve (something that is seen too much as leadership, apparently, in that particular church from which she came) made me remember my own burden in that specific area.  A wound that I am actively healing, and a wound that I have had from a former church.

Being in a new place, in a Methodist church, I realize why I am so bent on being in an egalitarian church.  Sitting last week in church, I saw a woman playing the bongos, a woman playing the guitar.  A few teen guys singing and playing electric.  The first time I attended a lady was playing bass.  And she was kicking ass!  Another time a woman was gently moving a rainstick–looking completely comfortable.  Over to the side, a group of teenagers worshipped freely–dancing & laughing, using percussion instruments at a whim.  I saw all of this, and saw that it was not “hillsong,”  it was NOT a production.  It was a bunch of people, freely moving & dancing, not feeling like they had to be in any sort of order.  And those instruments I mentioned, bongos, bass–those are not “typical” woman instruments that you see in every church.  It’s funny, but I see that the specific instruments that women play in church usually have to make that woman look “pretty” and “elegant” and are more quiet.  Maybe a background singer, and maybe someone with a tambourine (gently playing).  But who sees women on bongos?  This was the first time for me.  Worship is a wonderful experience, transcendent–and also an opportunity for the sexes to come together before God.  I want that experience to be without leader vs. led.  I want that experience to be without subservient vs. oppressor.  I want that, and I believe that the bible wants that, to be an experience between creator & created–a soul experience.

Another thing I have noticed here, is how the men interact with the women.  I was previously so used to men nearly ignoring me–probably for the sake of chastity and appearance.  But isn’t ignoring a woman because you don’t want to sin also not allowing her to be ministered to?  Put aside the fact that a woman is a sexual being for five minutes–and you will see that she is also a very intellectual one, one who wants to be included in discussions of faith and of consequence.  Of theology, too.  In this church things have been different for me– The first time I attended solo, the pastor and I happened to be walking towards the sanctuary at the same time.  I can describe the pastor as jolly.  As joyful.  As gentle-spirited and kind.  But he doesn’t seem like he would sugar coat anything really, either.  He made a marked point of looking me in the eye, shaking my hand, and also asking if there was anything he could do to help me.  He didn’t shy away from me awkwardly, because I am a woman, and he also didn’t treat me strangely because of it.  He treated me like a normal human–which is how I like it, thanks very much!  He also didn’t seem rushed, hurrying about.  He seemed like he was in the right place and right time.

We did a very interesting exercise at the end of the service, where we got nails, and we nailed our forgiven transgressions to a cross.  We all took nails and hammers, and did this.  And then, after that, we grabbed a nail to take back to our seat.  The pastor then asked us to turn to our neighbor, our brother or sister in Christ, and press that nail into their palm gently, and say, “Sister, (or brother) beloved, you are forgiven by Christ.”  It was a beautiful and peaceful expression of the cross to me.  It felt very healing and uplifting, but also sobering in the fact of what God did for us.

The freedom I feel in a place that embraces women as equals, and as individuals, makes me breathe easy and smile with disarmament.  I can allow my fences, my walls, and my barbed wire exterior (which I can certainly put in place when I feel it is necessary) to be lowered down.  I feel at ease in the fact that I am acknowledged as a sister in Christ, as a beautiful woman who has much to offer both in feminine hospitality, grace, and eloquence, as well as strength, leadership, etc. skills that I may possess.  It is a beautiful thing to partake in.

All my love,

-M

“When Bad Christians Happen”


I’ve been visiting with my family, and it has been a refreshing time for my intellect.  My family has given me a lot to ponder, a lot to discuss, and a lot to throw around with friends in conversation–asking what they think and bouncing ideas off of them.  I believe both of my parents would proudly wear the title of “Serial Reader,” and I also ravenously devour books and search for more.  We have been talking and talking for much of my stay here, and it is wonderful.  We talk about our reading often, and I feel accepted in my nerdiness.

One day, my dad walked into the kitchen toting a book which he held up with a bit of a grimace: “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People,” which I looked at and of course, met with an equal expression of distaste on my face.  I could not get this idea of Bad Christians out of my head, and have been thinking about my perceptions of it since.  I have had many encounters with some I’ve deemed bad christians, and I think a dialogue about them is in order.  Something that I want them to hear, that I want other people who are “good Christians,” to hear (what does it even mean?? We’ve all fallen far short) and those who wish to stay the heck out of that entire conversation because they are anti-religious, religion-wounded, or something else–also to listen to.  To me, a Bad Christian may be anyone.  But what are they doing that makes them so?  It’s not that they are evil people, it’s not a personal jab at their character.  It is, though, a direct statement that they are not representing the Christ of the bible accurately or positively.  This is my own definition.

My “Bad Christian” history
I remember specifically in High School, having friends who would apologize to me when they cursed.  “Damnit!” they would exclaim with animation, and then look over to me with a really guilty and semi-embarrassed expression on their faces.  The response that would come out of my mouth might be something like, “Don’t apologize to me,” with a masked “You should be apologizing to God,” hiding somewhere in the equation & my tone of voice.  Whether those friends understood how I meant this or not, I’m not sure… but I do realize a stark contradiction between my beliefs back then, and my somewhat matured ideas–come from living life a bit more.

Years later, I am known to utter a profanity among close friends or family.  I think that words are very important, but I am not a strict penny-pincher on this one.  Some of my best friends are people who will let fly a few words in my presence, and I love them all the more because of it.  They are comfortable in that, they know that I am not judging them as “lesser Christ-Followers” on account of it, and they are expressing themselves deeply and with feeling with those certain words.  And I will do the same thing.  It’s not often, but it’s not something I’m scared to admit–those people know me, and know that I love God.  They know that I care what he thinks, and know that I am sincere about that.  However, I would be more cautious if I’ve never met someone and don’t know what they think about me, or about God.  I want them to know Christ, and for my words to reflect that I do.  Why would I let curse words be my first expression of who I am, if I can let more kind or, better still, listening words be my first impression?

I want to make a distinction here between my old self, and who I see myself as now through growth and by seeing good examples.  My ideas about God and about behavior and all of that back in highshcool were pretty childish.  You HAVE TO BE GOOD, you HAVE TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT, you HAVE TO LOVE WORSHIP SONGS, and you HAVE TO SPEAK CHRISTIANESE …and so on and so on.. in order to follow Christ.  Essentially, there are a lot of expectations and follow-throughs that you must exceed and perform well on before you are deemed “holy.”  And if I walk into certain churches or within certain circles of people, I immediately cringe at hearing what I remember I was also like: “Oh, let me tell you all about what the Lord spoke directly to me when I was worshipping to hillsong yesterday, for an hour, in my quiet place.”  Okay… Um.  Yes.  I get it, and I am not making fun of anyone who is sincere in this.  AT ALL!  I want to make that clear.  I know that God speaks.  I know that he talks to us, truly.  I have never been one to “hear him speak,” but I have been nearly pushed to actions by him, and I hear him in my heart daily.  But I do also want to say, that I feel a lot of the conversations and outward behaviors that Christians engage in are all about appearing holy, being “good enough” for God’s love, and being the “GOOD Christians.”  They butter up their actions and words, smother them in goodness, righteousness, and a garment of praise, and think that they’re doing juuuuuust fine.  The problem is, so many of these people are not the good Christ-followers they may intend to be.

Words are not Actions
I cannot tell you how many times I have met a person who proclaims very loudly how devoted to Christ they are, speaks highly of Joel, Joyce, and every other popular modern evangelist, and never misses their three church service a week quota–and then turns a deaf ear and a blind eye directly to real suffering and real pain that they could do something about.  Have you met someone like that?  I don’t think that these people mean something intentionally bad in this–they are doing what they believe to be right!  They believe they are serving God.  They believe they are doing their part.  But I do think there is a deeper issue here that encompasses our human condition, and also the church.  We are very, very comfortable “fitting in,” and learning a certain language that only a certain group of people use.  Christianese.  We are very happy to be engulfed in a social appointment that makes us feel like we are the center of the universe.  And I think that a lot of people get those needs, which all humans want, filled through church.  But then they treat non-believers, semi-believers, and on-the-fence open-minded people as though they are dirty, dumb, and perhaps even unpopular!  They use a litany of holy and powerful words or catchphrases throughout the week in their circles, but then they encounter someone on the outside who does not speak the same language, who may not follow Christ at all, and who doesn’t “get” that sort of thing.  This does a number of things to that person who is receiving the “bad Christian” behavior, but here are a few: 1) It makes them feel like an outsider who has no clue about something, and they’re missing out in a negative way.  2) It makes them feel inferior.  3) They are not truly experiencing Christ’s love from mumbo-jumbo scripture and jargon that they are hearing and not receiving.  They simply are not in a place in their life when they can understand it and use it.  Furthermore, many times I feel that fanatically holy and over-religious individuals could care less about the very important (to God) aspect of faith, which is relationship.  It seems they wish to quickly convert and “save” as many as possible, without stopping to get to know their stories.  This matters deeply, I think, and is also an opportunity where that person may grow and have an equal epiphany in their life–by interacting with another person who they never knew deeply before.  Nonbelievers are not trophies to collect, “winning over souls,” by the dozen.  It sickens me to think some people more or less operate in this fashion.  But they are real people who God loves very much.

What does matter? (IMHO)
So here’s my own approach & my response to super-religiosity and hyper-spirituality.  When I say that words are not actions, I am trying to get at a very basic, important psychological principal: Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.  The graph looks like a triangle, and at the bottom is that person’s absolute basic needs.  Food, shelter, fresh water, and that sort of thing.  Next are emotional needs, and so on, until at the very top is Self Actualization.  This is like being personally enlightened, I believe.  I didn’t go into great detail and I may have gotten a bit of it off, but that’s the basic theory.  Maslow is trying to tell us one thing through this, as Christians: If someone we see has a very basic need, which we can meet, and we are not meeting it, then our holy words are NOT going to do any good–they will be meaningless to that person.  I absolutely believe that people need to hear that God loves them.  I completely know that the message of the Gospel is transformative and it can change lives instantaneously. But most of that sort of thing is very rare, and change takes time.  I  think many of those stories are encouraging, but also they are dramatic and attention-grabbing.  Real life doesn’t usually happen like that.  We need to meet people where they are.  And we need to meet them there with compassion, an earnest gaze in our eyes, and less religiosity and judgment.

Another thing…
I feel like these bad Christian types are also very full of fervor, energy, and are just all around zealots.  Many times, they are so excited and happy that they have found the truth, that they trample upon other people’s feelings and beliefs when it is just not necessary.  For example, lets talk about speaking in tongues.  Perhaps someone has been very weirded out, or even wounded in a church that spoke in tongues, and feels ill emotions towards the whole thing.  To this, some zealot bad Christians may say that they need to fully recognize the gifts of the spirit and that person needs to get this for their faith to be made real.  I disagree–and think that the issue is a fringe issue in the faith, and not a central one anyhow.  Following Christ, the real Christ and not the churchified, Americanized, etc. Jesus that we see often. In their fervor, some of these zealous people may drive others who are on the borders of their faith journey away.

Lets work on loving people more, and worrying about what people think about us less.  Lets be counter-cultural, yet also culture-relevant.  Lets seek truth, follow the Gospel, but also have discernment about when we are supposed to be so outspoken about our certainties in this life.  There are many things I will probably never understand, and many people in whose shoes I have never walked.  I am not going to judge things that are not for me to judge, and I am going to try to focus on the central important things.  Christ died as my replacement.  This world is broken.  He has risen, and with him comes the glorious hope of a new heaven and new earth which will be as they were intended.  Untarnished, fully realized.

All my love,

-M

Stumbling Feet


Once so steady, in rhythm, in line and in tune,

Now unfocused, lacking poise, without coordination.

My path, my journey, my stage.

We never imagine ourselves to be here,

Or over there, or underneath.

We suppose our lives will match our age.

All these words, all these phrases.

Everything I say to you.

Enunciate, elaborate, exaggerate, fabricate.
Will our lives spin around us forever,

Will we walk sideways and backwards always?

Will we find the shoes that fit?

I believed in dreams, in stories, in plots and scripts.

I believed in novels, in prose, in fairytales.

Now I have my shoes,  and I’m walking– and that’s it.