It Smells Like Jesus.

A person is standing in the back of your church, clearly intoxicated. They reek of cheap beer and whiskey, their eyes aren’t focusing, and they are swaying slightly but they aren’t making noise or a scene. What does your church do?
In the case of one local church, they asked the person to leave. When I was told about it, I was completely shocked and dismayed. Isn’t this the person that Christians should be welcoming the most? Isn’t this the reason why we are here, to show love to those who need it? I could understand if the person was yelling, swearing and interrupting the sermon, that perhaps a congregant could invite the person to the lobby for some coffee or even better, offer to have lunch at a local restaurant and spend time building a relationship, but to ask a person to leave because they were intoxicated seems like the direct opposite of Christianity.
It seems that the Church has always struggled with excluding the very people Jesus included. We want people to clean up and  present a pretty, put together, 1950’s, faux Christian life before we will even considering accepting them. Kicking them out the door or not letting them in to begin with seems to be a common reaction to people the church deems “not good enough”. Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism recently wrote in Jesus the Enabler about Pat Robertson’s praise of a grandfather who told his gay grandson that his friend was not welcome at their home for Thanksgiving because his friend was likely from “that so-called lifestyle”. Robertson said that if the grandfather let his grandson bring his friend to eat with the family, he would become an “enabler”. If a family believes that gay sex is a sin[1][2], then in fact, the best way to imitate Jesus would be to welcome their grandson’s friend with open arms, sitting with him, and eating with him as Jesus did. As it says in Mark 2:13-17 “While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners where eating with him and his disciples, for they were eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” NIV

Instead of loving people where they are and accepting them for who they are, we expect people to “play the game of church” and make sure that their appearance is upholding the “reputation of Christ”.  Really this is only about appearances, since we all have things in our lives, that if exposed, would probably get us kicked out of that church or family Thanksgiving. The person who has had five shots of vodka before they could enter the church because it was so triggering to them because of past abuse, can politely sit in a pew and suck on mints, and be every bit as intoxicated as the person in back, but because they know how to “behave” in church because they were taught how to since infancy, they can sit there and be accepted but the person standing in the back gets kicked out because they haven’t learned that appearances are what matters. Should the person in the pew start speaking up about the abuse, they would likely be kicked out as well, as that isn’t playing church nicely and might damage the church’s reputation.
A friend said that he frequently thinks about the song lyric by Todd Agnew, in which he states “Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church/The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet”. How true is that of our churches and if it is true, how can we change it?
Shouldn’t the church be a place where those who are outcasts and marginalized by society be accepted with open arms? Shouldn’t it be a place where AA/NA/SA meetings are regularly held? Where the homeless can find food and take a hot shower? Where skateboarding kids can ride in the parking lot and be offered snack and a soda? Where parents who have had their children removed due to abuse and neglect can find healthy parenting classes? Where LGBTQ couples who have been disowned by their family can find a new family in the body of Christ?
My favorite time of the year at my church is when we have the Share the Love Christmas Store, where local families with few resources can shop for their children for free. When I walk in to the church it smells of cheap beer, stale cigarettes, and body odor. It smells like church should. It smells like the people who Jesus would have ate with and associated with. It smells like Jesus.

I wish it smelled like this all year long instead of just once, around Christmas. As a church we can do better at accepting those who are marginalized and outcast, at not turning away imperfect people, not focusing on appearances, and eating with and associating with those who do not conform to “church standards”.  What ideas do you have to be more accepting and inclusive of people who have previously been excluded from the church?


[1] I do not hold the belief that homosexual sex in a conventional, respectful, and loving relationship is sinful. See my blog Now it Gets Personal for the reason.

[2] If they believe the orientation of being gay is a sin without the person ever engaging in any behavior or dwelling on lustful thoughts, to be consistent, they would also have to believe that any orientation is a sin. For instance, a person with a biological predilection for becoming an alcoholic would be living in sin, even though they have never touched alcohol, or a person who is heterosexual has a biological response to engage in sex with people they are not married to, yet does not dwell on the thought nor engage in extramarital sex, would also be living in sin.


Laugh With Me

file000346276799A couple Sundays ago, I was out with a group of friends, when something unexpectedly and ridiculously hilarious occurred and we laughed until we cried. We spent the rest of the night laughing together and intermittently throughout the week, I still kept laughing whenever I thought about it. I felt somewhat self conscious about bursting out laughing while I was alone, or even laughing that hard when I was with friends and then it struck me, when did I stop laughing loud and even alone, subsequently making myself aware and self conscious about it now?
I have a loud, what I would consider obnoxious, laugh. In my dorm in college, my friends would listen down the long corridors for my laugh to find me. When I get together with my female relatives, who have similar laughs, the volume can be ear piercing. I hate hearing recordings of my laugh and try very hard not to laugh when leaving a voicemail. I laugh constantly when I am nervous and as a response to most social interactions, however that laugh lacks the joy and the uninhibited nature of true laughter, so it tends to annoy me.
That is not why I stopped laughing though. I think I mostly stopped because I grew up and became an adult. And adulting is hard. There are bills to pay, mouths to feed, a boss to please, a house to clean, and teenagers to piss off with my mad parenting skills. In my job, I see horrendous things. On the news, I see even more horrendous things. I am bombarded by the media with messages that I am not thin enough, pretty enough, homemakery enough, or rich enough. I feel the pressure of trying to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, planning a weekly menu of Whole30 compliant meals, and wondering how far past its expiration date almond milk is still good to drink, and if I choose to throw it away, afterwards I feel guilty about wasting the milk because of the Syrian refugee crisis.
In addition, there are so many things to be outraged about: the lack reporting child abuse by churches, pastors supporting pedophiles and not victims; people putting pro-life fetus pictures on their Facebook walls touting the importance of every life, next to suggestions that we should torture and kill innocent family members of ISIS leaders; and anything Donald Trump says. Outrage can be addictive and soon it can become the only emotion that one feels.
In a healthy childhood, there is so much joy in the world. There is wonder, discovery, fun, imagination, and silliness. I was watching Inside Out with my family and was reminded how much joy there is in childhood. In adolescents, ones is constantly on the roller coaster of high and low emotions, feeling everything with an intensity that can be terrifying and hard to cope with. While I wouldn’t go back to my teen years for anything, I realized I missed feeling something other than cynicism and outrage.

When I started laughing that week, it also seemed to unlock other emotions. I sobbed during sad movies, was excited when something great happened at work, was hopeful about future budding friendships. Just as the movie Inside Out demonstrates, sadness isn’t the enemy of joy, nor is anger, disgust, or fear. They are all necessary, healthy emotions.
The enemy of joy is cynicism, exhaustion, lethargy, and depression. All these things keep us from finding the joy in simple things. I don’t notice the sunlight filtering through the autumn leaves on my drive home if I am exhausted. I don’t dance around the living room to my favorite new album if I am lethargic. I don’t find joy in spending time and having beers and watching a movie with my friends if I am cynical.
So this week, I my goal is to laugh more and choose to find joy. It may be a loud, obnoxious laugh, but it means I can still find joy in the little things. It means I haven’t quite lost my sense of wonder in the world, even through all the hard grown up stuff. It means I am still alive. And since I find it so awkward to laugh alone, I invite you to laugh with me.

Real Cost of Free Shipping (Guest Post by Michael O’Rourke)

This is a guest post written by my husband, Michael O’Rourke, who is passionate about supporting our local businesses. He has many great points and I hope you will consider supporting local businesses more, as they support us in return. He actually wrote this on his cell phone, which I thought was especially impressive. 
As a member of a small community and an employee of UPS, I have some serious concerns. *
People have developed a habit of looking for the very best deals to stretch their money the furthest. While this is natural and it is being a good steward of the funds available to them, many people in this day and age are taking it too far.
The businesses in your communities have put themselves out there to provide goods, services, and to provide employment for other people in your community. When you need tires mounted and repaired you can’t order that online. When you need a gallon of milk, you don’t  want to wait for it to be shipped to you;  you go to the local grocery store. When a local family has a disaster and people cry out for donations, where do they go? Local small businesses first, because the larger businesses cooperate donations are harder to get.
When your children look for after school or summer work, do they look for work in the online industries? Most do not; most of the kids go to the grocery stores and small businesses located in the communities in which we live.
Why then are many people, in increasing numbers, sending their money away from those same communities.  With a few dollars saved here and a couple dollars saved there, combined with free shipping, it seems that the individual savings do add up.  However, can we as  a community, afford the real cost of free shipping and sending our money to some corporation in an entirely different state? Are those corporations giving the donations for the local disasters that happen? Are they employing your kids and your neighbors? Are they paying sales tax and property taxes in your communities that pay for emergencies services and road maintenance? Are they fixing your tires or providing you the hardware supplies you need that day to fix your water heater right now? We all know the answer. They are not. Aside from the slight savings and convenience that an individual has personally there is no benefit whatsoever to online shopping. Some may argue that as a driver for UPS, online stores provide me with work. While this may seem true, I would also have work if the local businesses were ordering goods to restock their shelves from the sales that members of their community purchase. Shopping locally shows local small businesses how much people appreciate that they have supported the communities they live in.
Because  of the cost of building space, business licenses, fees, taxes,  insurance, advertising, and employees are all reasons why it may cost a few dollars more for goods purchased locally, however the money put into the local economy far outweighs the small increase (and many times, I have found that the costs locally are identical to online prices).
Please stop looking at the small picture and at the few dollars you seem to save and start to see the “for sale” signs and “business  closed” signs that are showing up all over our country from lack of support from people who live in the communities around these businesses.
*all opinions are my own and in no way meant to represent those of my employer

Handel’s Messiah and Other Christmas Traditions

On Sunday, my younger brother and his wife helped us decorate our house for Christmas. We pulled up the old record player and put on the Christmas albums we grew up with: Roger Whittaker’s for Patrick, Elvis’s  for Denise, and Handel’s  Messiah for me and my brother, who mouthed the words as it played.

Every year growing up, I remember putting in the two blue double-sided cassettes into our player around Christmas time and listening to the sopranos and baritones belt out in opera like singing the more than 273 year old oratorio. I get teased by my friends now because it seems a little cerebral for decorating the tree but to me it is as integral part of Christmas as eggnog, bitterballen, and Charlie Brown’s Christmas re-runs on the 12 inch black and white TV (also… did you know the Grinch is really green, not a shade of grey?)

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My sister, Irene, opening gifts. I wasn’t kidding about the tree or the TV.


Perhaps my childhood Christmases didn’t fit in exactly with many of my American peers who grew up in the 80’s. The Dutch traditions were mixed with Alaskan survival into a unique combination. We put out our wooden shoes in front of our stove on St. Nicholas Day with carrots and water set out for his white horse. The threat of coal in our wooden shoes actually meant something to us, since we often burned coal in the stove after expeditions to pick it up off the beach.

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I’m sure my twenty-something year old brother was super excited about the puffy paints I used when I made him this shirt.

 We had always had  a beautifully decorated 6 foot swamp spruce that almost touched the ceiling of the log homestead cabin. We hiked out to cut it under the telephone line rightaway and hauled it back on a sled (an added bonus was that it matched Charlie Brown’s almost perfectly). On Christmas Eve when we opened presents,  Dutch and Alaskan treats such as stroopwafel, speculooss, wildberry jam and smoked salmon would be loaded on the table side by side with the traditional ginger bread and cheese and crackers .

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Yes, I’m Santa and I stole Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.

We bundled up on Christmas Eve and drove in our van (when I was very young, it was a Volkswagen) to the candle light service at our church for a sermon and carol signing. I always hoped we got to sing Silent Night when I was younger and O Come, O Come Emmanuel when I hit my teens because Rebecca St. James made it cool on her Christmas album.

Now in our home, we have even more happily mismatched traditions: fondue and ornaments for St. Nicholas Day; Elvis, Roger Whittaker, and the Messiah in the background; PJ’s opened on Christmas Eve; and stockings with an orange in the toe and piled ridiculously high to be opened on Christmas morning. There even has been occasion when bitterballen has graced the Christmas spread along side shortbread and peanut butter fudge.

What traditions did you grow up with and how do you mesh new traditions with your old ones?

For Unto Us A Child is Born

Unto Us a Son is Given

And the Government Shall be Upon His Shoulders

And His Name Shall Be Called

Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God!

The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace

Wonderful! Counselor! The Mighty God!


It’s a Good Day!

It’s a beautiful hot summer day in Alaska.
The DOMA was repealed.
I’m cooking tilapia for dinner and having a beer out on the deck.
So, in honor of this good day and because I really don’t feel like getting riled up by something today, I’m going to have fun instead. I love TV sitcoms and I get made fun of it a fair amount, so without further ado I present:
Full House
That 70’s Show
Will and Grace
New Girl
King of Queens
Everybody Loves Raymond
3rd Rock from the Sun
Arrested Development
Golden Girls
The Big Bang Theory
Three’s Company
Boy Meets World
The Cosby Show
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
How I Met Your Mother
Raising Hope
The Nanny
The Odd Couple

Apparently sitcom writers have found that paring people in unusally living arrangements can be quite funny. Maybe that is why we laugh so much at our house.
What shows have I missed and what is your favorite comedic quandary that occurs in a sitcom because of the character’s living arrangement?

Benefits of Living in Community: When Friends Become Family

I have roommates from college that I cannot remember the last names of. One girl I lived with at UAA for five months refused to talk to me at all. I don’t think I ever even learned her name. I saw her only a handful of times when walking in and out of our shared kitchen/bathroom area. The only thing I knew about her came from when the police showed up at 4:00 am for a welfare check because someone had called in that she was suicidal.
Other roommates I recall our crazy escapades when I go through picture albums and others I keep up with on Facebook, enjoying their baby pictures and career accomplishments.
I am sure that it is apparent from my previous posts that the community that we have built together is far deeper than what I shared with any previous roommate. It’s not forced cohabitation, or polite acquaintance, or even a giggly fun friendship that I shared with previous roommates.
This friendship has become family.
When we sit around the dinner table together, or conversations remind me of those I had growing up with my family, although I’m pretty sure the ones we have now have a lot more discussion of legalism, STDs, and feminism (nothing like a graphic warning to your teenager about chlamydia when they are eating). When I get home from work, when we sit around watching movies, when we go on a trip together, when we work on projects, or when we celebrate traditions together it feels like family.
Not every roommate situation can or should be like this. There are a lot of short term situations where it wouldn’t be worth it to go beyond a casual friendship. It was hard work getting to this point. There was a lot of family meetings, a lot of late night discussions, a lot of planning, and a lot of scrapping of plans that didn’t work. There has been painful honesty, uncomfortable apologies, open forgiveness, and generous sharing. There have been fights with some very creative insulting names thrown at each other.
Just like family.
Some people want to define family by the genes they share but there has been far too much adoption in my family for me to believe that. Of my parent’s fifteen grandchildren, five are genetically related to each other, but they are all cousins.
Some people want to define family by a fifties fairytale of a man and wife and their 2.5 children and a white picket fence. They say that modern society is ruining the definition of families by being too inclusive. When I describe this as a fairytale, it’s because this idea of family was never actually prevalent. With a death in child birth rate of nearly 40 percent in the 1800’s, the existence of step families is nothing new and most families included grandma and grandpa or aunt and uncle in the same household.
With the economy tanking, foreclosure rates and educations costs sky rocking the new norm is house sharing, whether it be a college graduate with mom and dad, or grandma in an attached apartment or four thirty somethings sharing an overpriced apartment there are many of benefits to living in community.
I believe the very best benefit for me was my family to love.

Benefits of Living in Community: Staying Together for the Kids Part II


When I was growing up in Homer, Alaska it was common to have what anthropologists have labeled fictive kin, close social connections that are not related by blood or marriage but are referred to by relational titles. For instance when I was growing up, I called a close friend of my parent’s Grandpa Bell and all the kids at church called an elderly founding member of our church Grandma Edens. Because most people had moved away from their biological families to come up to Alaska, close friends were “adopted” as social supports and became grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
As the second and third generations of Alaskans are raised here with biological relatives, fictive kinship has become less common, but my children are lucky to have both an extended family related by blood or marriage and a large fictive kin family due to living in community with Patrick and Denise. Patrick and Denise are often referred to as Uncle and Aunt by the kids, and in addition to the blessing of the kid’s multitude of related grandparents, both their parents have acted in a grandparent roll. Patrick’s parents have helped build the kid’s bedroom sets, gone to school concerts and plays, and celebrated Christmas morning with them. Denise’s parents live more than 500 miles away in Fairbanks, but even so, they have helped support Cedrick going on a mission trip to the Philippines and given us invaluable advice about raising teenagers.
Patrick’s cousins have also become like Aunts and Uncles to the kids; giving advice, watching out for them at camp, going to concerts, and daring them to do outrageous things like sleep in a dog kennel or eat a tablespoon of fish sauce (who doesn’t have a crazy uncle after all?). Denise’s sister and brother in law come down every couple years and the kids have enjoyed clamming and dip netting with their kids.
Denise’s former employers have also become a positive part of their life. Richard and Susan have patiently employed the boys doing manual labor while teaching them life skills and encouraging them to get a savings account and driver’s license.
In addition to the positive community of diverse and responsible adults that Patrick and Denise have brought into their lives, their personal and direct contribution into the children’s lives has been no less than amazing. Patrick and Denise committed their lives to the children, with no obligation whatsoever to do so. They have come along side Mike and I in raising them. They assured them of their home until they graduated, which was a huge commitment because at the time we moved up, Cedrick was in third grade and Kendrick was in fifth.
They shared their traditions with the kids and we built new ones together. We have fondue on St. Nicholas’s Day and they give the kids each an ornament. We have opened up a set of new pajamas on Christmas Eve and get up early on Christmas morning together to peek at our stockings before opening gifts. We torch the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve and cleaned the house together for Passover. They have made sure the kids have an Easter Basket every year.
They have helped the children with their school work. Denise helped them learn geography by having them do a report on the country, watching Bizarre Foods from that country and then cooking more traditionally edible foods of that country for dinner. They have stayed up till midnight with us making last minute cakes in the shape of Alaska, painted mobile solar systems with them, and helped coordinate two eighth grade history movies with my incredibly talented and patient brother Joshua.
Patrick and Denise have orchestrated fun outings such as exploring the abandoned Buckner Building in Whittier, gone on a multitude of camping trips, and bought half a dozen squirt guns to have a squirt gun war in the summer. They have encouraged us to push them to go to summer camp and Winter Retreat which the kids have enjoyed.
Patrick and Denise have celebrated accomplishments with the children. Their jaws dropped along with ours the first time we heard Kendrick sing in public. They cheered with us when Cedrick won his first wrestling match and then they took him to physical therapy appointments because he blew out his knee during the match.
They were there when they weren’t quite comfortable talking to Mike or I about girlfriends, drugs, or sex. We knew that they would back up our morals and values, even if our kids weren’t talking directly to us.
They have stayed up and prayed with us when we have had to make agonizing decisions about the kids. They have called their own parents and asked for advice on child rearing. They have read parenting books with us, attended counseling appointments with us, and brought the kids to dozens of medical appointments. They were as furious as we were when their safety was threatened. They have had the courage and integrity to confront us when we were either too hard or too lax on the kids. They have reminded us of the family rules to make sure the kids have had as much more consistency as possible.
They have grieved with us when our children have been hurt or have made bad choices which they will have to bear the consequences of.
They have done all this with no obligation to the kids other than what they have freely committed themselves to. I am so thankful that they have sacrificed so much to give the kids the chance to have stability, traditions, opportunities and love.