Archives For People

* This article first appeared on Patheos on November 9, 2016.  

“This isn’t middle school anymore,” one of my ninth grade teachers used to say whenever someone complained about homework, “it’s not a bunch of warm fuzzies.” Neither is forgiveness, and for many of us the holidays can feel more like forgiveness boot camp than walking in a winter wonderland. 

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As our families disappoint once us again, old hurts flare up, and holiday shopping ends in shouting matches, forgiveness can like an assault to our humanity. Could God really ask us to stoop that low, to forgive that person Continue Reading…

Last week I posted about the imaginary critics and how, thanks to them, I found myself shelling out my hard earned cash for a subscription to Eharmony.com. And it was all true, but it was only part of the story. God, as he likes to do, had his hand in the mix too. Thankfully, while I was spiting the world and spending my money to prove the imaginary critics wrong, God wasn’t critiquing my lack of faith or my failure to ask his opinion before I signed-up for online dating again. Instead, he was concocting a new dose of grace.  

 

About a month into my Eharmony subscription I met a man who has turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to me. A man who, when reading my article on the imaginary critics, pointed out how I failed to mention the end of the story, the part about meeting the love of my life.

 

This is one of the challenges of being a writer. You pick out one aspect of life and hold it under the microscope to get a really good look at it, to try to crack it open and see why exactly you let things like imaginary critics influence you. You can’t always tell the whole story, it would distract from the point you’re trying to make. I told this to my man, Jay-Michael from Colorado, but I’m not sure I convinced him. 

 

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Over this past week, though, it did seemed like I ought to tell you the other half of the story, if only for practical reasons. Since meeting Jay-Michael, the days have unravelled into a wonderful mess of months in which I find that having a love life is rather unproductive. My perfectly manicured schedule, with just enough time to see a day’s worth of patients at the office, finish my eschatology homework, and go for a run, has gotten all hob-jobbled by late night conversations, daydreaming, and spending more time than I like to admit looking at pictures of our last weekend together Continue Reading…

Several months ago I signed up for eHarmony to prove to all the imaginary critics in my life that I was doing my part to get married. You know, all those people out there who mutter under their breath about how I’d be married if I just tried harder. By the time I’d typed in my credit card number, I’d practically composed an entire speech about how I’d spent my twenties trying to get married and I wasn’t about to waste my thirties doing the same, especially if God intended to keep me single. This didn’t strike me as odd—spending my hard earned wages on internet dating just to prove some theoretical faultfinders wrong—until I heard my niece wailing about the Play-do in her tights. That’s when I realized it was time to fire the imaginary critics.

 

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I was FaceTiming my sister-in-law when my five year old niece found Play-do smashed into her tights. As her mom told her to pack up the dough so they could get to church on time, my niece began to whimper about needing her tights washed. Her mom said there wasn’t time and that no one would notice, but my niece began to wail that they would. Who? The mean people. Those all-seeing, all-knowing, invisible judges who zero in on bits of Play-do smashed into tights, who whisper disparagingly about single women who aren’t trying hard enough. It’s time to pull a Donald Trump on them and let them know for once and for all that they’re fired Continue Reading…

I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

Thanks to Kate Knapp, LMHC, for contributing to my Finding God at Work series on how she experiences God through her work as a therapist. Check out her free counseling videos or follow her on Facebook.  

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Although I’m therapist, sometimes I feel in danger of being the bull in the china shop. I can see the damage in my clients’ lives, the hurt, and the likely reasons for it all, and I want to tell them where they went wrong and how to fix it. But even if I can diagnose the situation accurately, I can’t repair it. That’s not my job—not the job I’m paid for or the one God calls me to.

 

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Hank and I sat down for our eleventh session. We’d spent the first ten wading through the issues he’d presented for while I waited for the real issue to surface. We’d talked about his faith, low level depression, and pending life choices. We discussed doctoral programs and his wife’s thoughts about what he should do. Then, during that eleventh session, out of no where—whamoo—an affair. For the past 6 months. His wife found out when a friend saw Hank with the other woman, who was a part of his education circle. His doctoral options were now looking limited and, more importantly, his marriage was a mess Continue Reading…

My roommate walked in the door as I finished typing an email. As she asked me a question, my fingers went into autopilot. I clicked a few words, hit send, and started to answer her when it broke onto my consciousness that I’d tacked “Love you, Shannon” onto an email to one of my professors, a man in his fifties who also attends my church.

“Oh crap!” I burst into the middle of my roommate’s sentence, “I just typed ‘Love you’ to Dr. Zhivago.”¹

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While her diaphragm nearly seized up with laugher, I typed a hasty apology explaining how my roommate came in right as I was finishing the email and how my fingers went into autopilot and how I always sign emails to my family that way. I hit send again and, rubbing my face in disbelief, turned around to finish the conversation.

A shocking response

My roommate and I were still standing in the kitchen, my laptop doing penance on the counter, when his response popped onto the screen.

“Oh my word,” I said to her, “listen to this Continue Reading…

As I scroll through the Rio 2016 app on my phone, soaking up every video highlight, I wonder what makes the summer Olympics so mesmerizing. Maybe their infrequency helps them resist assimilation into the normalcy of life that is Sunday afternoon football or Monday night hockey. And I wonder about the inner life of Olympians. What’s it like to be Michael Phelps commuting home after one of those long days we all have, when nobody’s watching and everything goes wrong, wondering “Why am I doing this? Does it really matter?”


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Sometimes I doubt the significance of my work as a nurse practitioner. And some of my stay-at-home friends wonder whether parenting and housekeeping is doing enough. Others feel unfulfilled in their work at the bank, school, or restaurant. But what about people who tumble and jump and swim for a living? Are the Olympics just another version of gladiator fights, less gruesome but equally excessive and ultimately pointless?  

 

I don’t think so. While Simone Biles’s life as an American gymnast might look nothing like mine, she goes to work just like I do. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve heard me talk about work as one of the ways we unfold God’s hidden potential in creation, displaying it for others to see and using it for their good, so that they can worship God more than they did before Continue Reading…

I’m thrilled to have Annette Uza, a friend from church, kicking off a new series of blogs about how people find God in their work. These guest posts will run on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. Subscribe on the right to get these posts delivered directly to your inbox. And, if you have a story to share, I’d love to hear it

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On my fifty-third birthday I realized that my dad was only four years older than me when he died. As I faced the possibility of meeting Jesus than soon, my position as Director of Productions in a flavor company suddenly lost its appeal. I wanted my life to matter for eternity, so I decided to resign and find a job where I could really serve God.

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I applied for a chaplain residency program and for the next two years clocked fifty hours a week at the hospital before dashing to both of my part-time jobs, one at the flavor company. I worked every weekend and holiday without a single day off. The schedule nearly consumed me, but as I sat in the emergency room with family members, holding their hands and praying with them while their loved one lay on the trauma table getting bullets extracted and head wounds stitched up, I believed my work mattered to God in a way that my old job never could Continue Reading…

“So, you’re here today about your blood pressure,” I said, my words trotting out. The key to a successful morning at a doctor’s office is to keep up the tempo. Fall behind schedule before 9 a.m. and you’ll have a morning full of grumpy patients waiting for you. I dropped onto the swivel chair and opened my laptop.

 

“Blood pressure looks great. How long have you been off the pills?” A couple weeks. She’d waited till after surgery like we’d discussed.

 

“Any new problems?” No, she felt great. Surgery had gone well. No other concerns. 

 

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Photo courtesy of Megan Au via flickr.com (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0)

 

I closed my laptop and slid the stethoscope into my ears. I couldn’t believe my luck, this was going to be the quickest first-appointment-of-the-day ever.

 

“Sounds good. Hope you have a great week!” I stuffed the stethoscope into my pocket and headed for the door.

 

“One more thing…” she said Continue Reading…

This month, two black men were killed by cops, but that’s old news. ISIS also exploded a truck bomb in Bagdadkilling nearly three hundred, snipers in Dallas and Baton Rouge murdered eight cops. Then a truck barreled through the streets of Nice. Another eighty four dead. Why write about a couple of police-encounters-gone-wrong when the world’s got bigger problems? 

 

Over the last several years, questions like that one let me sidestep the news about Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, or Rekia Boyd that fell across my path. I’d squint at the headlines from a distance and, like the Levite in the story of the good samaritan, cross the street and hurry past.

 

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Starting to Care

 

All that changed, though, when my coworker, Sham, showed me a video of cops manhandling black teens at a pool party. Something shifted. I started reading the articles I never saw about Trayvon Martin. I starting asking Sham about her experience as a black woman and mother of black boys. I began to see that the amount of melanin in my skin might have more to do with my experience as an American than I’d realized Continue Reading…