For This First Day of February

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Today, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to argue about any number of things:  guns, immigration, abortion, political candidates, the origins of poverty, same-sex marriage, health care, standardized testing, gender equality, Black Lives Matter, the economy, climate change, and more.

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My Stupid Mouth

There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail in which Meg Ryan’s character has what she calls a “breakthrough moment.”

“For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say, and I said it.”

But then later in the film, she makes a confession:

“… of course, afterwards, I felt terrible… I was cruel, and I’m never cruel. No matter what he’s done to me, there is no excuse for my behavior.”

Yeah, so about that post I wrote about Mr. Trump last night.

I have a good friend with whom I disagree about many things. Still, he’s often complimentary of my writing, and he told me two days ago that I’m good at challenging the extremes and asking the tough questions without being arrogantly opinionated. Today, though… today I received a single-word text from him:


I knew immediately what he was yikes-ing about, but I asked anyway: “What?”

“I just read your blog.”


Here’s the thing: Paul and I are on the same page. Often. I do what I shouldn’t, and I don’t do what I should. Even though I know better. Sometimes, I even go so far as to make a joke about Jesus thinking my mistakes are cute.

That’s simply not true.

I shouldn’t have used the language I used in last night’s post. I can’t stand it when an already marginalized group is pushed further to the sidelines and when vulnerable people are ridiculed and when powerful people misuse their influence to create division and fear and hate. All that emotion tends to short-circuit my brain, and I say stupid things. Righteous indignation is one thing; ugliness is quite another and, quite frankly, doesn’t get us anywhere.

I considered taking down the post, but I don’t want to be disingenuous. Instead, I’m going to say this: I’m decent at writing about Jesus; I’m mediocre, at best, at representing Him. So instead of pretending like I didn’t mess up, I’m just going to apologize.

I’m sorry. And I’ll try to keep it together going forward.

I’m praying for Mr. Trump and for our Muslim brothers and sisters. I’m praying for President Obama and for the news analysts who think it’s okay to use vile language in describing him. I’m praying for an end to psychological and physical violence—between individuals, between political parties, and between countries. I’m praying for answers. For solutions.

I’m confident the light will win.

Dear Mr. Trump

I’m not exactly a fan of Donald Trump. But this week, I’ve been seized by the notion that I don’t get to pick and choose whom I love. It’s easy for me to rant about how we should be caring for the poor and marginalized, but the truth is we should be caring for the wealthy and those in the spotlight as well. That doesn’t feel as noble, but concerning myself with “noble” is a clear indicator that I’ve made it all about me. Also, it’s important for me to remember there’s no hierarchy of humanity, other than what we’ve created. So, this letter developed from an attempt to see Mr. Trump as a person of value—as someone worthy of love and grace—rather than a villain. This doesn’t mean I endorse him as a political candidate; it only means that I’m trying to practice what I preach

Dear Mr. Trump,

I wanted to learn more about you this morning—other than what the media is telling me—so I went to and read your biography.

It’s long.

It includes words like acquisitions, purchase, holdings, and own. Paragraph after paragraph recounts your financial success and real estate prowess. I learned about your collections of clothing and home furnishings, your earnings from speaking engagements, and the stack of books bearing your name. I discovered that you collect golf courses, clubhouses, and luxury hotels. Nestled among the 26 paragraphs describing what you have, I found two describing what you’ve given. Of the 4,428 words I read, I found none describing your family.

Next, I went to your presidential campaign site, where your bio begins in the same way: “Donald J. Trump is the very definition of the American success story, continually setting the standards of excellence while expanding his interests in real estate, sports and entertainment.” This bio is an abridged version of what’s at, although there’s an expanded paragraph about your philanthropic efforts for veterans, and the last bit is a cursory nod to your family.

I have to admit I’m beginning to feel sorry for you.

To be clear, “sorry” has not been my predominant emotion when it comes to The Donald. I experience the presidential-candidate version of you as arrogant, discourteous, careless, volatile, immature, misogynistic, and tragically culturally insensitive (at best). Admittedly, other than the one debate I caught, my exposure to you has been through drama-soaked television “news” programs and Now This clips. I recognize those aren’t the most unbiased sources available, which is why I went looking on your own sites for some redeeming qualities.

Here’s what I found: You’re skilled at making money. You opine with conviction. You certainly don’t lack self-confidence.

And… I think maybe you’re sad. Not the nice-word-for-pathetic sad. Sad sad.

I wonder if you established a persona over the years that brought you some wealth and fame, and now you don’t know how to get out of it. Do you wonder if your friends truly care about you—or if they like you only because of your power and money? Do you measure your worth by an applause-meter and a bank statement? Do you invent “facts” because you’re desperate for the approval of your tribe?

I can’t find any information about how you serve other people, other than through money—and even then, your generosity is relatively limited. I suppose it could be argued that becoming POTUS is an act of service. Except you seem bent on serving a select group of people, not humanity in general. Or even Americans in general.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental. It’s your money and time and life, after all. I’m just learning how free it feels to give myself away. When I don’t, I get sad. And I wonder if that’s happened to you, too.

It’s possible this isn’t entirely your fault, anyway—all this acquiring and holding and chest-beating and such. If you’re actually “the very definition of an American success story,” we have a bigger problem to tackle, don’t we? It’s possible you’ve just bought into the lie that we should love things and use people, instead of the other way around.

I don’t want you to win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency; your ideology is wonky bordering on dangerous (and you’d say the same about mine). Still, I’m done poking fun at you, and I’m going to stop telling my husband that a vote for Trump is a vote for divorce. I’m going to skip over 45-second video clips gleaned from 30-minute speeches, because it’s not fair to form an opinion based on 3% of what you said.

And maybe I’ve misunderstood you, Mr. Trump. Maybe you’re the happy-go-luckiest guy around. But I don’t think so. I can’t help but wonder if, deep down, you’re asking the same question we’re all asking ourselves: “Am I okay?”

Well, you are. And you can stop trying to prove it now.

Kindest regards,


I used the phrase “tragically culturally insensitive (at best)” in an attempt to avoid name-calling. And then I came across this Washington Post opinion piece, and my stomach tied itself in knots. It’s incredibly difficult to be reminded of all the nasty things Mr. Trump has said and not edit the hell out of this letter. So let me say this, because I don’t want any misunderstandings: Mr. Trump, by virtue of his humanity, is okay; many of his words and much of his behavior are not. I’d like to believe his heart is good—there’s evidence of that, actually—but there seems to be a disconnect between his heart, brain, and mouth.

And I’m not talking about “political correctness.” It’s not “politically correct” to choose not to mock someone with a disability. It’s not “politically correct” to avoid sharing completely fabricated statistics that denigrate African Americans. It’s not “politically correct” to treat women with respect.

But here’s a bit of irony for you: “tragically culturally insensitive (at best)” was, embarrassingly enough, my attempt at being politically correct. So, I’m going to use a bit stronger language: Trump offers hateful, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic commentary, and if he’s elected POTUS, he will lead our country through those filters. That is 100% not okay with me.

AND YET. He has a spark of the divine; so how can I not extend love to him? It’s so freaking complicated. I blame Jesus.


A few minutes ago, I drafted a ridiculous piece called, “What the hell, social media?” Fortunately, I decided that is the exact wrong way to begin a week, so I’m going to take a different approach.

I don’t remember when I first learned the word namaste, but I remember feeling instantly transfixed by it. Namaste is a Hindi word derived from Sanskrit, and it translates literally to, “I bow to you.” In Hinduism it means “I bow to the divine in you,” and it’s most often expressed with a slight bow and with palms pressed together near the chest, fingers pointing up. I’ve also heard it explained as “the God in me sees the God in you.”

Now, before I go on, I need to address cultural appropriation. If I understand the phrase correctly, it describes situations in which one culture adopts and uses certain aspects of another culture. More specifically, it involves people from a dominant culture swiping bits of culture from the people they’ve oppressed; think white folks wearing dreadlocks or cornrows. (This is a really simple explanation; I encourage you to read “What’s Wrong with Cultural Appropriation” by Maisha Johnson. It’ll answer the question that I’m guessing just popped into your head.)

By bringing up namaste I’m not suggesting we run to the mall after work and pick up a sari or kurta from Earthbound Trading Company. I’m not even recommending we add the word to our vocabulary or walk around bowing to everyone.

However, I am proposing that we adopt the namaste posture—the interpersonal one, not physical one. What would our families, workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, communities, and countries look like if we were able to recognize the divine nature of the people with whom we share space?

Namaste isn’t bound by a particular faith system or culture; we can see the “divine” in multiple ways. When I say I see the divine in you, I’m saying that I see you as a person of inherent worth, one who carries around a tiny piece of God. But your divine might look totally different from that; yours might have something to do with nature or metaphysics.

The point is that by adopting the namaste posture, we’re committing to look past the junk we display out in the open, and we’ll keep looking until we see the healthy, vibrant core of every human being whom we encounter. Of course, this is more or less difficult depending on who’s standing before us. Close friends? Easy. Family members? Depends on which one. Neighbors? The one who keeps parking his truck directly across from my driveway? He’s pushing it. Same with the guy who turned on his Christmas lights yesterday.

What about people with radically different political views? How about those who are unkind to the people who are dearest to us? People who’ve wronged us in the past—over and over again? Refugees? Someone who’s taken something—or someone—from us? Muslims? Christians? Atheists? People who say terrible, awful, hateful things on social media? Someone who flies a Confederate flag? Someone who supports gay marriage—and is extremely vocal about it?

What about a terrorist?

Can we find the divine in a terrorist? 

I don’t know about other faith systems, but Jesus was clear about loving our enemies, and I can’t think of a stronger enemy than those who’ve brought such horror and grief to people in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and countless other human hearts. I don’t want to bow my head to someone who has slaughtered even one person. I don’t want to see the divine in him.

And yet, Jesus says to love him. The only way I can possibly do that is by searching deep for the spark of the divine. The one that looks just like mine.


Grace First

The Germans have some of the best words: Fahrvergnügen, wiener schnitzel, doppelgänger. And then there’s this one: schadenfreude. You might want to use this word, so here’s how to pronounce it:

Schadenfreude is “pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.” And it sure seems like there’s way, WAY too much of it going around.

  • There’s a 33-minute-long “Epic Fails” YouTube video with more than 31 million views.
  • People think it’s awesome when celebrities gain a bunch of weight and/or have a mental health crisis.
  • When it comes to news outlets, if it bleeds it leads.
  • There were seven Saw movies, for crying out loud.

Then there’s the “karma’s a bitch” version of schadenfreude

I realize a certain degree of schadenfreude is normal; we might even feel vindicated when someone has a what-goes-around-comes-around moment. But maybe we could engage our filters and not publicly participate in snarky, mean-spirited celebrations of other people’s Yuck—no matter how awful they seem to us.

Please hear me: I’m not talking about shrugging our shoulders and wink-winking at bad behavior. I’m just saying we shouldn’t laugh and cheer about it. I don’t think Jesus does a little I-told-you-so happy dance when someone tanks. I think He despairs over the mess we’ve made of things, dispenses grace, and then helps us figure out where we went wrong.

Schadenfreude isn’t particularly Christ-like. No wonder our culture sees us as judgmental, hypocritical jerks. No wonder people don’t want to have anything to do with us and our churches.

So, let’s try this. Grace first. Grace first. Grace first.