Think You Know Katy Perry? Think Again.

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“I Kissed a Girl” came out when I was a college senior. Some of my roommates liked it. I loathed it. I just wasn’t buying the schtick. I believed (and still do) that Katy put out a song she knew would be a hit because she knows how to get attention. It was inauthentic. Katy Perry put out a song about kissing other girls for the exact same reason that girls kiss other girls at bars. *Attention*.

So. I was immediately anti-Katy. I refused to be swept away by her trickery and lulled carelessly into a sweet dance beat. But something happened when “Hot & Cold” came out. Radio burned. It. Out. But somehow, she got her hooks in me. By the time “Hot & Cold” took over, “I Kissed a Girl” was totally old news. It was rarely played on the radio, and frankly, I started to forget it even existed. Pop music sometimes moves so fast you get amnesia, you know? On to the next one, on to the next one, as Jay-Z would say.

So as soon as “California Girls” hit radio in Summer 2011, I was a goner. The timing was perfect. My windows were down, the sun was shining, I was driving in the middle of nowhere, and I cranked that stuff. It reminded me of Madonna’s, “Holiday”. So much bubblegum your head could burst. And Snoop Dogg/Lion’s appearance on the track? Priceless and classic Snoop. It was dripping with West Coast summertime goodness. Irresistible.

And we all know what happened next. Teenage Dream blew up. Katy made a splash that knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller records down several notches on the charts. Her singles went straight to #1 and stayed there for months until Billboard retired them to give other artists a chance. And all along the way, I started to feel a kindredness with her.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I heard what she said. She kissed a girl, and she liked it. Daisy dukes, bikinis on top. Making out in a mustang, to Radiohead. Sex on the beach. Let’s go all the way tonight, no regrets-just love. We’ll melt your popsicle. I saw her naked side-body in the “California Girls” video. I watched her bra turn into whipped cream guns. I also heard Kanye West’s misogynistic alien S&M rant at the beginning of “E.T.” Friends, I missed none of this. But the more Katy called out for attention, for some reason, I viewed her like someone I knew. I didn’t treat her like a far-off celebrity that I could judge. Somehow, I watched her like someone I’d known for a long time, stepping out and trying to figure life out. And I treated her as such. I didn’t carelessly accept whatever she did as fine and good. I recognized these things, then categorized them in my mind: A) Testing her own boundaries B) Manipulating the public for attention C) Complete cluelessness. For this reason, I’m still a big Katy Perry fan, today.

Katy’s faith fascinates me. Faith, you ask?! I know. I know, I know, I know. You’re picturing that gothic “Dark Horse” performance from the Grammy’s right? But did you see the, “Not Like the Movies” performance at the VMAs? What about the “Wide Awake” music video? Or the lyrics of, “Firework” or “Grace of God”? For every controversial thing she does, I see something else full of heart and authenticity on the other end. I see someone figuring life and faith and love out for the first time, since she never did as a child,–and there just so happens to be ten cameras on her at all times. And in my opinion, she deserves some grace as she walks through it.

For those of you that don’t know, Katy grew up with Assemblies of God missionary preacher parents. She was incredibly sheltered from pop culture, in her parents’ opinion, for her benefit. Here’s a quick snippet:

Here’s a tidbit from Katy’s 2011 interview with Rollingstone, explaining more about her upbringing and her early career:

“That’s because they’re born-again evangelical pastors and “traveling ministers,” which means they book seminars and prayer circles at any church that will have them around the country, though they are now based in Oceanside, California. They banned Katy from attending coed parties and dances, didn’t sign her up for sex education in school and forbade most pop culture, including magazines, TV and movies in the home. “It was not a ‘kumbaya’ atmosphere,” says Perry. “I knew about hell from the moment I understood a sentence. I had felt boards with Satan and people gnashing their teeth.”

Unlike many evangelical Christians, the Hudsons had secular—and bizarre—lives in their youth. (Perry has taken her mother’s maiden name to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson.) In their “B.C.,” or Before Christ, days, as her mom likes to call them, Perry’s father, Keith, was a hippie ragamuffin who went to Woodstock, told Katy that he dealt acid for Timothy Leary and played tambourine onstage with Sly and the Family Stone. But one night, alone in an apple orchard in Wenatchee, Washington, he had a revelation in which passages from the Bible played out before his eyes. “Who knows if those visions were remnants of something else?” says Perry.

Perry’s mother, Mary, grew up as the wild child of a wealthy Santa Barbara family. (Her brother, Frank Perry, became a Hollywood director of films including Mommie Dearest.) She even hung out one evening with Jimi Hendrix—”I’m like, ‘Mom, you should’ve gone for it,'” says Perry. “‘I could’ve been Katy Hendrix, a more legit rock star.'” Mary married a race-car driver who had lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and together they moved to a macadamia-nut farm in Zimbabwe. She told Perry they snuck jewels back in his leg for their antique-dealing business to avoid customs. After the marriage broke up, Mary relocated to the U.S. and worked as a reporter for ABC radio, interviewing Jimmy Carter and Muhammad Ali before covering Christian tent revivals. At a Las Vegas revival run by Keith’s sister, a former Folies Bergère showgirl, Mary fell in love with God and Keith at the same time. Her family cut her off. “My mom’s half brothers convinced her parents that she had lost it because she had become a Christian,” says Perry. “So she had to do her own thing.”

Freelance ministry is not a particularly lucrative line of work, and Perry’s family often struggled. “Sometimes we ate from the same food bank we used to feed our congregation, and I was very embarrassed by that,” she says. “We had the food-stamp moment too, but I don’t like to talk about that. I don’t want to come from the place of ‘Hey, relate to me, I use food stamps.'” The rules at home were not only strict but also nutty. “I wasn’t ever able to say I was ‘lucky,’ because my mother would rather us say that we were ‘blessed,’ and she also didn’t like that ‘lucky’ sounded like ‘Lucifer,'” says Perry. “Even the Dirt Devil as a vacuum—didn’t have one. Deviled eggs were called ‘angeled’ eggs. I wasn’t allowed to eat Lucky Charms, but I think that was the sugar.” She winks a little. “I think my mom lied to me about that one.”

At times, her parents’ congregation comprised five people in a hotel room, and the Hudsons spent their days passing out pamphlets, but they never doubted that they were on the right path (Perry’s father has four tattoos, all of which read JESUS). “My mom and dad practice ‘tongues and interpretation’ together—my dad speaks in tongues, and my mom interprets it,” says Perry. “That’s their gift.” The three children, including Katy, spoke in tongues as well. “Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as ‘Pass the salt,'” says Perry. “A lot of religions use meditation or chanting as a subliminal prayer language, and speaking in tongues isn’t that different—it’s a secret, direct prayer language to God. If I felt intuitively that I had to pray for some situation, but I didn’t rationally understand it, I just let my spirit pray for it…

Praising the Lord through song in church was normal to her too, but she never thought of it as a career—at least not until she was nine, when Angela came back from a trip to her godparents’ with a new perm and a gospel demo tape. But singing was always Perry’s “gift,” at least that’s the way her parents saw it, and they supported her once she decided she wanted to pursue it professionally. She began performing at the local farmers’ market two days a week, collecting change, and proved to be gifted at impromptu speechifying too: In an old video of a performance that she shows me, she grabs a mic to inform the crowd, smiling from ear to ear, that “if you don’t live your life for Christ—I’m just going to say it—life is pretty empty, and, well, there may be no reason to live at all.”

By the time Katy was 13, her parents were chaperoning her to Nashville to pursue a gospel-singing career, and she managed to put out a record on a small label a couple of years later. One of her promotional posters, in which she seems to be screaming in ecstasy, features her in a spiky-haired “lesbian haircut”—at least that’s the way she describes it today—with a lot of rubber-band bracelets on her wrists. “I was Christian but modern,” she says. But Perry had a secret: She wanted to be a pop star, too. “Whenever I went to a friend’s house, I would immediately turn on MTV,” she says. “The other kids would say, ‘Why are you watching this? Let’s do something else,’ and I would be like, ‘No. I have to watch.’ It was all about Gwen Stefani’s ‘Don’t Speak’ and ‘Just a Girl,’ Alanis Morissette and Shirley Manson for me.”

Perry started to question the path she was on. Her Christian label shut down, and, she says, “My gospel career was going nowhere.” She started to write songs about love—and boys—on her guitar. And those weren’t gospel songs. “Letting go was a process,” she says. “Meeting gay people, or Jewish people, and realizing that they were fine was a big part of it. Once I stopped being chaperoned, and realized I had a choice in life, I was like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of choices.’ I began to become a sponge for all that I had missed—the music, the movies. I was as curious as the cat.” She smiles. “But I’m not dead yet.”

Perry remains close with her parents. “In their prayers, they might wish that Katy was the next big Christian singer, like Crystal Lewis,” says Angela. “There was a little moment of shock when she came out as a star a couple years ago, but they’ve handled everything really well.” Her parents still proselytize against pop culture, and Perry tries not to throw her personal life in their faces, never talking to her mom about sex or anything like that.”

I’ve never forgotten reading that Rollingstone article three years ago. Specifically, this part stuck out to me most (Heads up if you’re sensitive to profanity):

One time, Brand responded to some anti-gay Christian protesters who were yelling at him on the street to get on his knees for God, with, “You don’t know Jesus! I know Jesus: I’ve just been sucking his ****.” Perry was verklempt. She tweeted, “Using blasphemy as entertainment is as cheap as a comedian telling a fart joke.” So that made them square after his comments about her flatulence. Plus, the gossip world thought she was tweeting about Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” video, so she got some additional publicity out of the spat. Was she talking about Lady Gaga? “I wrote that tweet because of a combination of things,” says Perry. “I am sensitive to Russell taking the Lord’s name in vain and to Lady Gaga putting a rosary in her mouth. I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen. Yes, I said I kissed a girl. But I didn’t say I kissed a girl while ******* a crucifix.”

It’s surprising to hear Perry talk about God in this way, because one would think her religious past is behind her, but she says she still considers herself a Christian. She shows me the tattoo of the word JESUS that she got on her wrist, just like her dad. “God is very much still a part of my life,” she says. “But the way the details are told in the Bible—that’s very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I say that. But that’s the truth.”

Perry even gets afraid at disaster movies, because they remind her of the apocalypse she was taught to fear, though she doesn’t know whether that exists anymore. “I still believe that Jesus is the son of God,” says Perry. “But I also believe in extraterrestrials, and that there are people who are sent from God to be messengers, and all sorts of crazy stuff.” She sighs. “I look up into the sky and I’m just mind******—all those stars and planets, the never-endingness of the universe. I just can’t believe that we’re the only polluting population. Every time I look up, I know that I’m nothing and there’s something way beyond me. I don’t think it’s as simple as heaven and hell.”

Growing up, Katy wasn’t allowed to think for herself or given the opportunity to make her faith her own. It’s clear that she knows truth, she’s met Truth, but she is still figuring everything out. And there’s no time limit on that. She’s a little bit lost. But I firmly believe that God is working in her heart and that she has value. I’m not saying she’s going to turn around and be a solely Christian artist, because frankly–there’s not much freedom in that. And I don’t believe that’s the best use of her talent for God’s glory. But He is capable. Who can predict what’s in store?

Just for a moment, put aside what you think you know about Katy Perry and watch these two videos. Pay attention to the lyrics and biblical symbolism:

And check out this song. It could’ve EASILY been on one of her Christian albums:

Official Trailer:

 

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Sounds of Summer

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Every year when the weather starts (FINALLY) getting warm, I like to make a summer playlist. It used to be a mix tape, then a mix CD, and now it’s a space-age Spotify playlist. I LOVE to mix the old with the new and contrast sounds that defined summers of years past with new sounds that will make me remember Summer 2014. ENJOY!!

How I Became a “Mom”

I grew up assuming I’d have children one day. I think every girl does. My parents were married at 19 and parents of two by 25, so I naturally assumed my life would go the exact same way. It was all I knew. When my life didn’t follow that same path…well, it wasn’t easy. But the lesson I learned at 19 when I realized I wasn’t getting married like my parents did is that life absolutely never, ever, ever, goes how you think it will. EVER. And you know what? That’s almost always a good thing. And a God thing.

Immediately after college, my friends started getting married. I was actually in FIVE weddings in NINE months in 2008. Yowza! They bought houses together, rented apartments, moved out of state, and the clock started ticking for when they’d all have babies.

Right around that time, I was overcome by a desire that I couldn’t ignore. It was everyday, all day, constant. As I grew up, one of my biggest dreams was to have my own dog. I grew up with a black poodle named Buddy, but he was always my mom’s dog. In high school, we got a black lab/border collie mix named Buster. He was sweet, but also my mom’s dog.  I dreamed of having that special relationship with a dog. One morning in 2009, I got up really early, went to Petco and loaded up my car, then drove to Elk River to meet my new friend.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was becoming a kind of parent.

I had no idea how bringing Louis into my life would completely change it in the best way.

I swore to friends that I wasn’t going to turn into one of those ladies that treats their dog like a human child…but little did I know how naturally that would just HAPPEN. 🙂

I watched him and his brothers roll around together, playing in the grass, no more than 1 or 2 lbs each at 10 weeks old. I wrote a big check and Louis was placed into my care. As I shut my car door with little Louis in my lap, I started crying. I was so happy, so ecstatic to finally have my own dog. He started climbing up my torso, his tiny body unable to stretch high enough to lick my face. I picked him up and promised him, out loud, that I was going to give him a good life.

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I spent the weekend introducing him to my friends. At the time, none of them had children. I remember getting the sense that friends and family were surprised that I chose to get a dog as a single, 23-year-old with a full time job. They worried that my fun and freedom would be limited by caring for Louis. I knew that was a possibility, but I didn’t care. I just knew he was meant to be with me.

My dog-mom training began right away. Louis was barely 2 lbs and had to be given a little dab of this corn syrup liquid from a tube three times a day to keep his blood sugar up. This went on for the first three months of his life, until he’d gained enough weight to sustain himself between meals. I’d give it to him before work, I’d rush home after work to give him his second dab and he’d get his third dab before bed.

Louis’ first night was spent crying in his kennel. I aimed it toward me where he could see me from the inside, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t like the kennel, he missed snuggling his brothers and sisters at night, and he cried all night long. I had to go to work in the morning and needless to say, it was a LONG night. I took him out of his kennel finally around 4 am and let him sleep with me in my bed. The struggle with sleeping in the kennel went on for several months. I got VERY LITTLE sleep, spending most nights snuggling him patiently, offering him little bits of food, letting him spend a couple of hours running around my bedroom flinging toys and bones around (he did NOT have a normal sleep schedule), then reaching the end of my patience and shouting, “Louis go to sleep!” repeatedly, sleepily, for hours on end.

While I was at work, Louis stayed in his kennel. He’d bark all day, pee several times, and my heart felt broken whenever I had to leave him in that tiny box to go to work. I’d run home as fast as I could after work, let him out, wash his kennel blankets, and play fetch with him, take walks with him, just to make up for all those hours he’d spent locked away. On Wednesday nights I served at my church youth group, so that meant that on Wednesdays Louis had to go back into the kennel in the evening, too! I felt terrible, so I made a rule that it was ok for Louis to sleep in my bed–on Wednesdays only. Well, you can guess what happened there. Louis now sleeps in my bed every single night. 🙂

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The night Louis learned to climb up the stairs in my townhouse was one of the funnest moments of my life. For weeks, he’d been climbing just a few stairs at a time, then he’d cry for me to pick him up and bring him to the top. One night, I heard him scampering up the stairs. Slowly, one at a time, when he reached the middle, he cried out to me. I stood at the top, clapping my hands saying, “You can do it! Keep going! You can do it! Come here, Louis!” And wouldn’t you know it, he ran excitedly to the top of the stairs. When he did, my heart leaped and I started jumping around clapping, “You did it! You did it!” He got so excited, jumping up and down with me, wagging his tail. I picked him up and hugged him and he licked my face like crazy.

A few weeks later, Louis had gotten pretty brave about the stairs. I was in my upstairs bedroom folding laundry when I heard a dreadful sound–Louis rolling down the stairs. He cried out when he reached the bottom. I shot out of my room and leaped down the stairs. My little 4-lb sweetheart was crouched under the dining room table trembling. I picked him up, kissed him, checked his bones and joints to make sure nothing was really hurt, then sat down with him on the couch. He immediately conked out on my chest, but still trembled while he slept. I called the vet and they recommended I bring him in to check for concussion or broken bones. They gave me some pain medicine to give him with an eye-dropper and I was told to keep an eye on him. I felt terrible that I hadn’t kept a closer eye on him that day. I was hard on myself about it. Only weeks earlier, I’d accidentally let him jump out of my arms onto my parents’ hardwood floor, where he fell directly onto his head and screamed out like I’d never heard a dog scream before. My eyes spewed tears and I felt so ashamed that I hadn’t caught him, hadn’t realized he was going to try to jump. I was learning what level of attention and care is required of caring for a tiny little creature.

As time went on–I got better. 🙂 One of my favorite memories of raising up Louis in his puppy days was him waking me up in the middle of the night. This was a typical occurrence until he was about 3 years old. He had to go outside around 3 am. I rolled out of bed, put him on his leash and let him out the patio door. I immediately got excited, I mean ENERGIZED, when I realized it was SNOWING! It was the first snow of the winter and it was BEAUTIFUL. I love the first snow of the year, and in the silence of 3 am, it was captivating. I immediately got in the Christmas spirit and was filled with joy. (Any of you that know me know exactly what I’m talking about!) I pulled Louis inside, brushed snowflakes off his back, and held him tightly. He was shivering from the cold. We went back to bed, but I was too excited to go back to sleep. I turned on the TV and a Christmas episode of Friends was on TV. How perfect! Louis and I snuggled up and fell asleep watching Friends, excited about Christmas. 🙂 Since then, watching Friends every night has become our tradition. And yes–he actually watches. 🙂

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As the years went on, my love for Louis grew deeper and deeper. My friends started having babies. While I was full of excitement for them, I really couldn’t help but feel like I was behind in life and missing out on something important. As I watched them learn the ropes, their babies teaching them what level of care and creativity they required of them, I found that instead of feeling left out–I had stories of my own to share. Raising a puppy isn’t as hard as raising an infant, but there are some parallels. I’m grateful that God gave me Louis a few years before any of my friends had kids. I knew what it was like to be repeatedly woken up in the night, to operate on very little sleep, to potty train with mind tricks and rewards, and the joy that comes from teaching your kid something and watching them grow up.

Last year, Louis got pancreatitis and almost died. He was very, very ill. He’d been throwing up and acting very disengaged. He wouldn’t give me kisses and seemed very uncomfortable when lying down. He had to have emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his swollen pancreas. Afterward, the vet called me and told me that if I wanted to come down to see him I could, because he wasn’t doing well at all. My brother drove me to the vet where I sobbed on Louis’ fur. There wasn’t much life behind his eyes, he had a heated down blanket draped over him, a pain medicine patch wrapped around his ankle, an IV attached to his front paw, and he was trembling in pain. I stuck my head in the metal kennel, and he turned his head away from me. I’m not sure he even knew who I was. I put my hands on his head and his back and prayed that God would heal him. I told God that I knew I’d be ok if Louis had to go now, but I begged God to let me have him a little bit longer. He had become my baby. My heart broke like I don’t think it ever had before, imagining my life without Louis. The tears wouldn’t stop.

Thankfully, Louis made it. And it was nothing short of a miracle. They wouldn’t let Louis come home from the vet hospital until he ate food. They tried to give him food around the clock but he consistently refused. Over my lunch break on Louis’ fourth day in the hospital, I brought him a cup of rice at the suggestion of the vet techs. He wanted nothing to do with it. But while he sat on my lap next to the metal kennels, still hooked up to pain medication and IV fluids, he saw a vet tech feed another dog a bowl of wet dog food. I saw him crane his neck to check out the food and I asked if he could have some of it. She handed me the food bowl and–Louis went to town! She said she couldn’t believe it. She had personally tried to feed him many times, but he refused. It turned out he ONLY wanted to be fed by me–His mom.

The life returned behind his eyes, he showered me with kisses, and we got to go home the next day! After that experience, my status as dog mom was cemented, I think. I never wanted to be one of those people–a dog parent. But it happened to me. I didn’t really choose it. So many of my life decisions revolve around him and I don’t care. I want to live close to his vet–it’s a good vet and he likes it there. I want to be able to get home quickly after work to give him dinner, because I don’t want him to feel hungry for too long. I want to make sure he’s played with often. I want to take him on trips in the car so he can have new adventures and have a good life–just like I promised him.

He’s my best pal, and I care for him much like a mother cares for a child. Louis sees me as his “person” and communicates love for me by frantically licking the tears from my face when I cry, by jumping up and down when I walk through the door, by licking my face when he wakes me up in the morning, by playing games and being silly with me, by snuggling in my arms like a human child (I don’t have pictures of this…but ask anyone…he absolutely does it!), choosing to sit with me and following me wherever I go.

So even though I haven’t birthed a child–I’m thankful God has given me a taste. I love my little guy and all he’s put me through. 🙂

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The Church Won’t Raise Your Kids

On Thanksgiving day 2012, two high school students broke into Byron Smith’s home in Little Falls, MN. It wasn’t the first time this man’s home had been broken into. A retired security officer, he prepared for the next break-in by placing cameras and sound recording devices around the exterior of his home and throughout his basement. On the day when these two students broke into his home, one of them came down the stairs into the basement where Byron Smith was waiting. He immediately shot the student, employing a gun silencer. The student collapsed dead onto a tarp Byron had laid on the floor in preparation for this moment. He dragged the student away from the stairwell and continued to wait for the second student. As soon as she entered the basement, he shot her as well. Autopsies showed that the first student (a boy) had a clean toxicology report. The other student (a girl, his cousin) had traces of marijuana and a prescription painkiller in her blood. No one knows why they decided to do what they did. No one seems to know what went wrong in these students’ lives that made them take the negative turn that they did. Byron Smith was recently convicted of murder in Little Falls. The students’ parents and relatives gave commentary on the local news. (Click the image to watch)

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As I watched the boy’s parents defend the job they did raising their son to the general public, something struck me. They sadly pointed to affiliation with Christianity as a fix-all for raising a well-adjusted adult. They mentioned that they’d enrolled him in a Baptist Christian school. His mom said that, “He was faithfully taken to church and youth group.” Now–I don’t know if the boy’s parents actually went to church themselves, or just dropped him off at youth group. I don’t claim to make any assumptions or know anything concrete about that. I’m sure the boy’s parents did their best with what they were given as children, themselves. But I think their statements make a very clear point: The church will not raise your kids for you. If you’re not doing the best job you can at modeling appropriate adult behaviors, decision making skills, emotional health, prioritizing, respect, and putting the service of others first in your family–dropping your child off at church once a week or a few times a month, even taking them with you to church services, will not guarantee a healthy, well-adjusted adult.

The air in the sanctuary isn’t magical. Shaking hands with someone who went to seminary as you pass through the exit doors won’t heal a broken heart. Memorizing the Apostle’s Creed doesn’t mean much in the long run if you don’t actually understand the magnitude of the words. Confirmation classes don’t put a child on the straight-and-narrow for life, while Communion isn’t communion with God if you’re forcing your child to participate in a ritual they don’t understand.

Now, I’m not a parent. But I’ve worked with teenagers for years. And here’s what I do know: Parents, you don’t need to become pretenders of perfection. Neither do you need to hide your flaws from your kids. However–consistently pointing them to Jesus at home, as much as you can, while modeling what a life seeking after Jesus looks like in the best way YOU can, is a good way to point your kids in the right direction as they grow up. If your child ASKS to be driven to youth group…DRIVE THEM. I know you’re tired, I know your show is on, I know you had a stressful day. But your child’s eternity depends on your spiritual leadership, not just the Christian leaders they brush up against at church every Wednesday night. If you’re not serious about leading a life that seeks after God’s will and runs toward constant spiritual growth in your own life–nothing about attending church with family friends or going to Confirmation classes will fix your child for you. Not one thing.

Just because someone is a Christian, doesn’t mean they’re good. In fact–here’s something many people get wrong–NONE of us are good, Christian or non-Christian. Many people think they’re fine as long as they say they believe that God’s out there on some fluffy cloud in the sky, because they’re a generally good person.  They assume life will go smoothly for them. We’re all victims of The Fall (Romans 3:23, Genesis 3) and prone to sinful, selfish, imperfect behavior. Trusting those who work in the Church to be the ticket to your child’s success in life is a major misplacement of responsibility. A partnership with church leaders and parents needs to be in place for success in raising healthy kids to be even remotely likely.

Again- I feel for these parents in Little Falls. We can only do our best with what we’re given. Maybe they did their best, maybe they didn’t. But my encouragement to parents here, is to be an active participant in raising your child to “be good”. To love God, to love others, to respect people, to prioritize their life well, and to seek after the God who made them with all their heart. Model this behavior at home, expose them to it again at church, and pray for them as they grow up.

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Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

On My Soapbox: Two Commercials I Want to Punch

THIS ONE:


AND THIS ONE:

Friends. BOTH of these commercials are aimed at WOMEN.
What’s the tactic here? To make us feel terrible about ourselves? To make us think that if we shop at H&M we’ll look like Giselle in a bikini? If we run on lightweight Reeboks we’ll suddenly morph into Miranda Kerr? Both are in HEAVY rotation on what seems to be ALL TV channels, lately. I am fed up, y’all. I can’t understand why the interwebs aren’t raising a ruckus over these two. They’re pretty flippin’ terrible.

On Eating Alone.

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There’s nothing I can’t stand more than seeing someone eating alone in public. There’s something about it that just guts me. When I was a little girl, I once approached a man who was eating alone at a fast food restaurant and started talking to him. I remember how my heart ached because he was by himself. I remember seeing outcast kids at my junior high and high school who ate lunch alone, and convincing a couple of friends of mine to join me in sitting with them. There’s something intimate about eating. It’s a primal thing. Sharing a meal with someone is relationally intimate, and seeing someone eat alone just seems wrong, to me. I remember being that outcast kid myself in elementary school, when I was banished from a lunch table by my classmates for bringing smelly tuna salad and being a teacher’s pet. I can’t handle the eating alone thing. It. Is. The. Worst.

In 2010 I went to New York City on my own for a conference. I knew I’d have to be that girl–eating alone–in public places throughout the week. For the first day and a half, I ordered room service and/or picked up food from local delis and brought them back to my hotel room. I let the TV be my friend in the evenings and found community in a tiny bottle of Chardonnay and a chocolate bar from the hotel shop. A big part of me wanted to be out exploring the city in the evening, but I couldn’t get over being alone. I was hyper-aware of my solitary state and overly concerned with how I appeared to others; if I looked like a tourist or not, if I was eating at the “right” places, etc. I tried like a madwoman to hail a cab during the day, but always failed. (This is a near-impossible task in mid-December in NYC, I’ve since learned. Thank God for smartphones and taxi apps in 2014!) Waving your arm around in the midst of a crowded street and being completely ignored can make you feel pretty invisible. During the day, I mostly kept my headphones in my ears to look busy, on-a-mission, “too distracted to talk to you.” Even at the conference lectures and gallery tours, I kept my arms crossed as I strolled through displays, took photos, and ached a little bit inside the whole time. My heart and soul longed to be noticed, to be welcomed, to be helped, to be appreciated, to be known–I needed community. But I feared it and told myself I wasn’t worthy of it. I’ve noticed that the more isolated you are, and the longer you stay isolated, the weirder you appear to yourself–and the louder the Devil’s voice is in the silence of your solo existence.

We’re built to be in relationship with God and with other people. When we isolate–whether voluntarily or involuntarily–we upset an innate desire to be known, appreciated, and understood. When something’s innate, it can’t just be denied forever. It can’t be shoved down and ignored for all time. Inevitably, it’ll eat you up. These basic-instinct qualities we’re all born with are God-image-elements and they refuse to be shut away. Now, I know many of us are introverts and we don’t exactly thrive on big parties and high-energy gatherings. (ehem…right here, folks…) However, even if it takes more effort, more chutzpah, more bravery for us–it’s vital to our emotional and spiritual well-being to be truly known by others on an intimate level. And that doesn’t happen by accident. Unfortunately, we have to seek it out and we have to be open to it.

This isn’t anything new, but in the last few months I’ve really started to study social media. I’ve been an avid user since 2004, (ten years of my life…yuck). It’s become incredibly clear to me that quite often, whenever I post on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I’m often feeling one of four things:

  • A desire to be known
  • A desire to be liked/appreciated
  • A desire for feedback on an opinion or issue
  • A desire for community

Before posting on social media over the last few months, I’ve started trying to ask myself why I’m doing it. Am I craving community? Am I lonely? Am I bored? Am I feeling down on myself? If the answer to any of those questions is, “Yes,” I’ve started trying to back off from the urge to post, and seek out an authentic human interaction. When I get the urge to post a mass prayer request status, I have started to ask myself, “Who are my dearest friends that I know I can count on to comfort me, support me, and pray for me when I need it?” And I contact them, either by email, text, or phone. When I have a desire to share a song on Facebook or Twitter, what I really want is to share something I find beautiful with someone else who will appreciate it. Since there’s really no guarantee of that happening on Facebook or Twitter, I’ve started sending songs directly to people I think will appreciate them. I’ve noticed that when someone gripes about something on social media, they’re often probably just wanting someone to commiserate with. I’ve noticed that when people post play-by-plays of their day on Instagram, they’re probably lonely. Even if the posts are about positive things, I believe that a deep need to share most details of your life with the general public can sometimes be a grasping for community.

This shift in how I use social media (which I still haven’t perfected, by the way…) led me to recognize how I can be better investing in friendships. Creating deeper and more meaningful interactions with people happens pretty easily when you direct your interactions directly toward them, it turns out. When all (or even 75%) of your grasping for community comes from mass communication, there’s a good chance you’re going to be left feeling lonely and isolated in the long run. Just like on the streets of NYC, with a million people around you, you can still feel lonely. With a husband and three kids, you can feel lonely. With a solid friend group, you can feel isolated and never truly known. With a great-on-paper small group/bible study, you can still feel something inauthentic about it. With a booming professional life and a jam-packed schedule of travel and elbow-rubbing, you can feel completely alone. With 400+ friends and followers, and 4 daily Instagrams, your heart can still be entirely hidden.

I love this quote from UK Daily News: “TV programmes (think Sex And The City, Friends, Mad Men) are filled with people leading satisfying lives…This means that sociability is what we’re presented with, while loneliness is what we experience. With sociability so glamorised, so normalised, it’s no wonder we lie about loneliness. Who wants to admit to not fitting in, to having some of their most basic human needs left unfulfilled? This situation is only going to get worse given the enormous pressure on us all to be interconnected though social media. The notion that we’re all ‘linked in’ will only grow as technology proliferates. The myth of heavily peopled lives will become more entrenched as we actually become more alone. The disconnect between the silence surrounding loneliness and the huge number of people leading lonely lives has to end. Loneliness is a profoundly human emotion: it’s the signal that our need for contact and connection is going unmet.”(Source)

After two days of shutting the world out in NYC, I was walking up 5th Avenue after my lectures were over and was stopped by a young man on the corner of W 35th Street. I immediately noticed that he had an armful of packets for sponsoring children through World Vision. He didn’t jump into his spiel immediately. I pulled my headphones out of my ears and we chatted for a moment. He intentionally broke me out of my heads-down, stare-at-my-boots, just-get-back-to-the-hotel mentality and created a moment of relationship. He could tell that I looked like I was in a hurry with somewhere to go, and he asked if I was on my way to work in the area. I laughed, happy that I passed as a native New Yorker, and told him I was there for business and was headed back to my hotel. He said with the way I was dressed he thought I worked in fashion. (It wasn’t a come-on you guys…it was 5th Avenue!! I was wearing all black like someone in fashion!! Trust me. :)) He learned a few things about me, I learned a few things about him, and we both went on our way. Instantly, I noticed that my steps were lighter, I held my head higher, and I felt able to face those crowded and lonely streets for the rest of my trip. I spent the afternoon exploring on my own instead of going to my hotel. I walked into a family-owned Italian restaurant, met the owner and chatted with him about the pictures of his family on the walls. I sat at a table and ate a meatball with marinara–alone. Sure, I read a magazine I had with me to have something to do besides shove food in my face–but I didn’t shut down. I smiled at people who walked by. I interacted with people. I created my own temporary community wherever I went. By the end of my trip a few days later, I felt like I could make it in NYC. And you know what that means–I can make it ANYWHERE. (I know, New Yorkers…It was only 5 days. Not months and months of the city trying to take you down and steal your ability to thrive. I’ve heard the horror stories. But it was a big deal for this Midwestern suburbanite, ok?!)

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Visiting the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree–alone!

My point being this–I’m realizing how important relationships are. I’m realizing that everyone feels lonely…I think more of us are lonelier than we care to admit. When I feel lonely, when I feel like I’m lacking in authentic relationships, when I feel far from God–my first and ultimate Friend and Comforter–I turn to this verse to remind me to whom I belong, and who knows me, appreciates me, hears me, understands me, and loves me deeply and more extravagantly than I’ll ever comprehend.

But you belong to God, my dear children…because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 1 John 4:4

So…

Let your light shine, don’t hide it under a bush, all that jazz. Notice people. Appreciate people. Seek to really know them more than just on the surface.

Join me in pushing loneliness away and trying to create more face-to-face authenticity, less online faux-relationship, and having more God-satiated innate desires. Yes?