Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Helpful Summary for Pastors on their Many Shortcomings

Dear Pastors,

We write about you a lot.

And it occurred to me how overwhelmed you might feel, trying to keep up with all the expectations being listed for you by strangers all over the Internet. So, rather than forcing you to do all the research in order to understand your job (and “meet needs” better) I’ve compiled the main bullets here.

You’re quite welcome!

We, the flock, ask that you please:

-Be less seeker-friendly.

-Or, be more seeker-friendly–if that seeker is a witch.

-Give acknowledgement to non-mothers on Mother’s Day.

Change the men, because this will change the whole Church.

-Reach and influence people, without offending them.

-Practice these twelve things. (Including, “speak the truth,” “stop comparing,” and “be humble”…)

-Continue caring for yourself spiritually and avoid burnout.

-Give more attention to marriage counseling. (“Divorce is not the answer.”)

-Give more attention to suicide counseling.

-Give more attention to counseling the mentally ill.

-Give more attention to counseling the domestically abused.

-Give more attention to apologetics.

-Help us (the sheep) develop deeper relationships with each other.

-Be available. Be genuine. Be positive. Be respectable.  Be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, and self-controlled. Be aware of the personal struggles/stories of everybody in the congregation.

Aaaaaand, please be brief.  We have reservations for lunch.


You’ll notice I didn’t cover how to treat the LGBT community, or how to satisfy the Millennials, or how to increase attendance–but if you get busy applying these pieces of advice, most of that stuff should happen naturally. At least, I assume it will.  (Fix the head, and the rest of the body follows, right?)

On the other hand, if you’re thinking all of this looks like too much to expect out of one person, perhaps the Church needs to brainstorm a little harder…deeper.  Perhaps we need to re-examine the very purpose of the Pastor’s role.

With sincere respect and sympathy,


Amandism Awareness

As a minority, I am outraged.

There’s a system in this culture making it “okay” to criticize people just like me based on my differences. And this system must be exposed.

Therefore, here at Cultures At War, I’m taking a stand against blatant acts of Amandism. 

Due to the lack of awareness about the issue, I’m regularly the victim of hurtful accusations and stereotyping, so let me engage in a little sensitivity training…

First of all, let’s all agree that there’s no one else just like me in the entire world. And if that doesn’t put me squarely in the minority, I don’t know what does.  And, like most minority members, I have been victimized by people with no frame of reference for my personal experience.

It started very early in childhood, when I was still learning what it meant to be AMANDA.  Naturally, I was unsure of myself and highly sensitive to criticism.

So, imagine how it damaged my spirit when Non-Amandas regularly put down some of the most Amanda parts of who I was–such as my bossiness and stubborn, know-it-all attitude. There was a subtle, culture-wide insinuation that being Amanda by defying my parents was negative…that being Amanda by manipulating my little brother into losing his temper was a bad thing.

Do you know what that kind of Amandism does to an impressionable girl?  It made me think I wasn’t good enough. It made me think I needed to change…and be like all the Other-Amandas who got along with their brothers and cleaned their rooms without arguing.

For awhile, I was ashamed of my heritage.  (America, I blame this on you.)

Thankfully, I began to realize that people would make assumptions about what’s right/wrong for me my whole life. And eventually I learned to trust my own judgment and be ME, since nobody else knows what my people go through every day.

These days, I’m much more comfortable in Amanda-skin. But I still see discrimination everywhere because of the invisible, cultural system set up against me. (And, if you don’t believe it exists, you might want to check your non-Amanda privilege, you bigot.)

America, you’ve failed that teeny, tiny fraction of the population that I represent, but if you let just one person fall through the cracks, that’s too many!

The nation cannot thrive while minorities like me are misunderstood–and then bullied–by people who don’t live in my margin.  Let’s do better.

Let’s do better for the sake of…me!

In the name of tolerance and diversity, I advise future commenters to be very careful about saying things that offend those with my DNA. It’s a civil rights issue!

Amandism is a problem, and you would do well to support me rather than end up on the wrong side of history. You know, next to the slave owners.

Treat Amanda like the special, individual, minority member she is (Scholarships! National holidays! Interviews!) or else you’re a no good, prejudiced, Amanda-hater.

I Don’t Care if My Breast Makes You Uncomfortable

Maybe somebody can explain to me what’s so offensive about asking a woman to cover up a little more?

I don’t think the point is whether you know someone who exposes more of herself than you do…or how much ladies in another country expose themselves…or how much ladies exposed themselves 100 years ago (or how much of them will be exposed in 100 more.)

If someone is uncomfortable with how much of your breast they can see right now, isn’t it a little rude to subject them to it anyway?

Maybe I should back up. You’ve probably heard one of the hard-core breastfeeding moms give a version of this speech about why she won’t make apologies for nursing cover-less at the mall:

“If breastfeeding without a cover makes you uncomfortable, I don’t care.”

But I call bull. They totally care.

Because these same women are the ones who get upset when somebody voices a different opinion…they try to collect an army of equally-angry friends who agree with them and stage “nurse-ins”…

…they contact the local media and post to Facebook about the horrible intolerance of [insert store] after they were asked to use a cover there…

…they memorize the local laws about the right to breastfeed in public, with or without a cover, and have them printed on T-shirts and painted on walls.

They totally care.

This “Cover Up or Don’t Cover Up While Breastfeeding” debate is all over the place, especially if you read parenting blogs or magazines. And almost all of the disagreements have a group of people on one side yelling, “It’s good for the baby!” “It’s natural!” “There’s nothing indecent or sexual about breasts!”

…with a similarly-sized group standing on the other side asking, “But what’s wrong with being more discreet about it?”

For some reason, some women take it very, very badly when they’re asked to cover up while breastfeeding their baby publicly.  I’d like to share what I believe the real reason is.


First, let me list my credentials.

I nursed my oldest child until she was 15-months old, and I’m still nursing my second baby at 8-months.  Any future babies I deliver will get breastmilk as well, barring any complications.  

I’m very pro-breastfeeding.

But I recognize I live in a culture where the average person feels…shall we say…uncomfortable seeing a stranger’s boob outside her shirt?  That’s why–when I’m at church or in a restaurant or at the grocery store–I feed my baby behind a large blanket, to shield “the girls” from view.

Sometimes it’s inconvenient to wrestle with the blanket and squirmy baby. Sometimes it’s hot. Sometimes I move the wrong way and…oops.  Peek-a-boob. But I try to be modest, for the sake of those who don’t want to know me that well.

When it’s within reason and within my power, I try to avoid making people uncomfortable.  

It’s just a courtesy thing.

And most American mothers take the same precautions I do–which is why you can find countless stores for buying nursing covers and patterns to make your own.

Most breastfeeding mothers keep it pretty private.  Most mothers don’t turn the act of feeding their babies into a cultural war.

But a vocal few have decided it’s worth getting aggressive over nursing covers. They view their covers as the cotton-y chains of today’s oppressed, American mothers–much like the barbaric bras our grandmothers wanted to burn. And these ladies will NOT make their babies eat under a blanket, thank you! (The horror.)


There aren’t many reasons given for why it’s sooooo impoooooortant to forgo the cover, but the outspoken women often make comments like these:

-“My nipple is hidden in the baby’s mouth!” (As if placing a square of tape over your nipple would make you perfectly decent in any other situation.)

-“Covers are inconvenient!”  (As if it wouldn’t be more convenient for everyone to stop wearing clothes altogether.)

-“You’ll see more skin in a bathing suit at the beach!” (As if people wouldn’t stare and ask you to cover up, if you stroll through Target in a bikini.)

-“Women in lots of different countries breastfeed openly in public, and nobody thinks anything about it!”

Oh, wouldn’t it be great if we were more like tribal African women, nude and proud and free?!

But, my point here isn’t to decide whether it’s “right” or “wrong”  (universally speaking) to nurse in the open.  I just want to point out something I find pretty obvious: I’m not a tribal African woman.

I’m HERE, in the United States. And here, we’re not accustomed to getting an eyeful of stranger-body when we’re walking down the street.

In fact, I’m pretty sure the angry, in-your-face breast-feeders know they’re breaking cultural rules and making people feel weird, but they still act surprised and disappointed when Americans ask other Americans to respect American-cultural standards.

This is silly, Ladies.

There are plenty of things we’re expected to do differently–among strangers–than we do at home or with friends.  I don’t use a cover when I’m hanging out with my mom or sister or best friend.  I’m less cautious when I’m in a nursing room or doctor’s office, where folks are more prepared to divert their eyes.

At home, I pee with the door open.

But I’m not going to play dumb and insist there’s nothing private about certain body parts in this culture. There IS something sexual about breasts. And even if I don’t understand or agree, I still don’t march into Foot Fetish Anonymous, take off my shoes, and tell them to deal with it.

That’s inconsiderate.

I know some of us have buddies on, who tell us the discomfort about exposed breastfeeding is “society’s problem,” but they’re not the only ones at the store.

The culture on is different from the culture of the general public, and you won’t change that no matter how many times you tell the store manager, “I’m not being indecent, I’m not being indecent!”

All of this to say, I agree with the basic premise. We have the right to breastfeed anywhere, with or without a cover.  I get it.  But I still have the right to think the way some of us are doing it is rude and inconsiderate.

Hm, inconsiderate. You know, that’s just another way to say you “don’t care”?

Still think that’s a good thing?


On a related note, I found this article today: Chipotle Says No to Guns in its Stores.   And, though I feel pretty strongly that upstanding Americans have the right to bare arms (anywhere bad guys might show up with a weapon of their own), I also support a businessman’s right to make the rules in his restaurant. So, if Chipotle thinks that guns make too many customers “uncomfortable,” then their managers can ask people to leave them home.

More to the point, I raise my eyebrows at a group of gun-owners who march into a restaurant carrying their weapons above their heads just because…well…they can.   Just because you have the right to make people squirm doesn’t mean you should.  What’s the point?

If you’re doing the whole concealed-carry thing correctly, most people won’t be uncomfortable because they won’t even know.  Is it so intolerable to keep it hidden? On the other hand, If you pull out the gun knowing it makes others uncomfortable, just to rub your rights in their face, you’re kind of being a jerk.

So, ladies, can we conceal those milk-shooters under our shirts for the sake of being considerate?  🙂  

Yes, we have the right to bare them in public, but we live in a culture where our “guns” make people nervous.

We may be able to force people to get used to bare-breastfeeding, if we keep doing whatever we want, regardless of how others feel. The shock will wear off eventually.  But what’s the point? (Actually, it’s not hard for me to imagine a United States where all women walk around topless all the time, because “it’s natural” and “there’s nothing sexual about breasts.” I just don’t understand why we’d want to make that stand…)

But, in the meantime, I’m going to continue practicing a little modesty for the sake of my fellow shoppers. And, if somebody thinks I’ve shown a bit too much, I’m going to be a little embarrassed–a little uncomfortable. And I will sort of wish they hadn’t said anything because I hate when I make things awkward. But I’ll apologize rather than launching into an ugly, defensive rant and boycotting that store in the future.

I’ll apologize because I’m willing to admit I DO care what people think.


Feedback time: What do you think of these “militant” breastfeeding moms? Is there any real difference between mothers doing a “nurse-in” and the people taking guns to Chipotle just for the reaction?

On a Culture Where “Gymtimidation” is a Thing

I heard an ad for Planet Fitness the other day, and I thought they were joking at first.

-“No Lunks”

-“No Gymtimidation”

-“Judgement Free”

These things seemed a bit contradictory to me. (How can you keep the “lunks” away without judging them?) But besides that little problem, I wondered at what point accountability and motivating each other turned into “intimidation?”

Why would you WANT to belong to a place where nobody cares how fast you run or how much weight you lose?

…where meeting goals is misconstrued as “bragging,” and everybody basically tries to ignore everybody else? (Unless somebody looks TOO good, of course. Then somebody complains.)

But, after I got about halfway though writing my slightly-snarky perspective on all this, I found an editorial (“Your Judgement Free Zone Makes me Judge You”)–and I literally scrapped everything I was writing.

The author already says it all! I love it!

-“[Planet Fitness] is a hippy, flower-loving, everyone-is-perfect-the-way-they-are Leslie Knope gym.”

-“When I went to [my old gym] I was fat. Was I self conscious? A little, but I was at the gym so I wouldn’t be fat anymore. I was never judged.”

He humorously summarizes most of the reasons I’m a little embarrassed that gymtimidation is a “thing” in my culture.  (The oped has some language, but it’s worth your time. Read it.)

What Planet Fitness tries to do…what it claims to do…is eliminate that icky, self-conscious feeling we sometimes get when we compare ourselves to others. But, in reality, it’s impossible for the gym owners to stop that sensation.

Those feelings of inadequacy and embarrassment come from within a person–they have nothing to do with the “hot,” “toned” “gym-rat” on the machine next to you.  And, the really tough thing to accept is: some people deserve to feel inadequate and embarrassed.

If you’re not trying your hardest, you have a reason I feel bad. And when you see somebody nearby who’s breaking personal records and celebrating, you might be tempted to join a gym where those people aren’t allowed. But that doesn’t fix your issue with self-respect.

You’ll never be able to respect yourself fully until you’re giving it all you’ve got.

And if you’re giving it all you’ve got, but you still believe people are thinking negative thoughts about you, that’s a personal problem, too.  I’m willing to bet nobody’s judging you. Most people respect hard work and progress, even when it’s slow. Shut down the lies and keep moving forward.

That hot body next to you is supposed to be motivation–not intimidation.

Anyway, feel free to join whatever gym you want, especially if it’s dirt cheap and close to home. But the advertising hook for Planet Fitness is silly. They call themselves “judgement-free” because the truth sounds bad: “Join if you’re not very serious about getting healthy–and you don’t want people to ask why you never change your habits and slowly drop out.”

Seriously, even if it were possible to have a gym where no one ever judges your performance, why would you want that?


I want your thoughts. Is “gymtimidation” a real, external problem in most “ordinary” gyms? Or does this term get used mostly by people who want to be told they’re doing fine–even if they’re slacking?

She’s Just Old


(For additional notes, use reverse side.)

Let the record show the resident identifies as “female” and prefers the title “Mrs. Jones.”

Mrs. Jones causes a lot of trouble. But you can’t blame her. She’s just very old.

It must be scary living in a world where all your friends are gone and society is so very different from when you were a child…

Mrs. Jones has been at this nursing facility since before I started working here, and she is the oldest resident by a wide margin. Someone once told me Mrs. Jones remembers before the teleport was invented, if you can imagine back that far.

In other words, this person “lady” is basically a living history book. And it would be totally cool to sit and listen to all of her stories and opinions…except, sometimes, she says stuff.

Oh, you know how old people are. They just don’t realize that times have changed, and they use words and phrases that are totally inappropriate.

Thankfully, people are gracious most of the time….but I still felt really bad the time Mrs. Jones said, “Hello, young lady” to the new nurse’s aide.

It shocked me speechless for a minute!

I thought the aide might sue!

Later, Dr. Daley explained to the whole staff that Mrs. Jones’ generation believed there was a difference between “genders” or “sexes.” I wasn’t blamed for the horribly derogatory term, (“young lady”) even though I still had to fill out an incident report.

Any time someone is Equality Abused, we document the occurrence. (See case #2412.)

Even when the aide shook it off, I couldn’t believe someone could think it’s okay to call attention to differences.   Mrs. Jones honestly didn’t know she had been rude.

She didn’t get it. So I tried to be gentle.

She’s just old.

Then, there was the time I was brushing Mrs. Jones’ hair and listening to stories about her former life-partner. She called him “husband.” Really!  Sometimes the crass labels catch me off-guard.

Anyway, she told me the two of them were partnered almost 70 years.  Seventy!  And I wanted to hear the secret to their life-long commitment, except she didn’t give me the chance to ask before dropping this bombshell saying, quote:

“We were married back when it meant something. Before you could unite with anything, and no one would argue. It got crazy when homosexuals wanted to marry. Next came marrying multiple people and objects. Nonsense. It turned my relationship with George into just another pony in a wild political race. ”

Yikes.  My mouth dropped open, and my ears kind of stung a little bit.  “Homosexuals?”  “Object Love?” “NONSENSE?!”  Just how long ago did this woman live?!

Obviously, I was really glad it was just me and Mrs. Jones in the room–so nobody was directly hurt by her intolerant comments. But can you imagine the paperwork if a Genderless Couple had been nearby? Maybe I should have reported it…

But all I could do was wonder how awful it must have been when she was younger…when society judged everybody’s lives constantly…and they thought nothing of privacy or personal feelings.

After that incident, I find myself spending less time with Mrs. Jones.

I feel a little guilty cutting the visits short, but her negativity is hard to handle.  When a nurse can spend time with the pleasant, smiling residents who say “thank you” and “whatever you think is best,” it’s hard to choose being near Mrs. Jones–who often rants and raves.

It’s very sad.

But she keeps having flashbacks and dwelling on her past. And, as much as I want to make her more comfortable–to help her adjust–I know it’s hard to overcome stubbornness after a certain age.

Oops. Getting off track.

The point is, I’ve been keeping my distance.

That is, except for this morning, when I brought her a tray of lunch, and she was glaring at something through the window. Our janitor was in the hallway, mopping up a spill.  I’d barely made it to Mrs. Jones’ bedside before she demanded, “Is it true?”

“Is what true, dear?” I asked carefully.  Mrs. Jones pointed a shaking finger at the janitor and spat, “Is she a murderer?”

At first, I didn’t know what she was talking about, but the janitor looked up quickly.

“I heard you talking on the video-phone earlier,” Mrs. Jones called through the door. She was more worked up than I’ve ever seen her.  “You asked the other person if she would go with you for your Late Term Abortion this afternoon…I know what that means!”

Uh-oh. I thought. Not again.

“That’s your child!” Mrs. Jones yelled.  “Your baby! How could you even consider it? And how could everybody else just sit by and keep quiet while you kill your own baby?”

I needed to act quickly.

“STOP!” I insisted, grabbing touching Mrs. Jones’ arm. “I can’t let you abuse the staff any further, regardless of your mental state.”   I leaned down close to Mrs. Jones’ bed so I could see her eyes better, and suddenly I saw the child she used to be. The poor thing! She needed guidance!

She needed someone to explain how we do things now!  This time, I rubbed her hand as I spoke:

“It’s not our place to judge another person’s choice, Mrs. Jones. Nobody is perfect–but we certainly can make the world better if we try to be supportive and encouraging of others. We cannot possibly understand all the things going on in the janitor’s life that lead her to different decisions.”

But Mrs. Jones wouldn’t be soothed.

“It’s WRONG, Nurse. And no amount of debate or voting or time will ever change that.”

I reached for the intercom and said, “I’m going to need the Calm Cart in here, please.” Mrs. Jones started crying simultaneously.

“It’s so very, very wrong, “she sobbed.  “I’ve seen that poor little girl in here, running down the halls…I’d guess she’s, what, maybe 3-years-old?”

I was horrified and losing control of the situation quickly. I glanced at the janitor, expecting to see the same outrage and embarrassment–but, that janitor must be some kind of saint. Instead of being upset, the janitor actually smiled. SMILED, and tried to talk with the fit-throwing resident:

“Yes, my little one just turned three, Mrs. Jones,”  said the janitor. “And I think it’s wonderful that you care for my child so much!…”

Mrs. Jones had stopped sobbing, but she didn’t look at ease yet. She looked at the janitor with an eerie, blank silence. So the janitor continued the speech:

“But, you see, nobody loves my baby as much as me. And that’s why I have to be the one to make this choice. There’s simply no way I can continue supporting a little person, with my income, now that we know the child’s illness is terminal. And the doctor assures me that the procedure won’t be painful at all–certain more merciful than a slow death by disease!”

At that, Mrs. Jones snapped back into hysteria.

“You’re twisted!” she screamed, clawing at her blankets like she was going to jump out of the bed and attack. “You sound like you’re talking about putting down a dog! Nobody has the right to take a human life!”

Amazingly, the janitor didn’t even wince…just continued talking in an even, soothing voice. “When you were younger, Mrs. Jones, people didn’t know that human brains don’t finish forming for years after birth. But now we understand. It’s not fair to force somebody to be a parent, if something unforeseen happens before their child finishes developing. So, I assure you, I’m no murderer. After Birth Abortions are legal in every state now. I’m simply looking at two impossible roads and trying to choose the one that causes the least suffering in my family.”

At that point, the calming medication arrived, and I strapped Mrs. Jones to the bed rail before she could reach to choke the janitor. “Somebody help!” she was yelling, as I administered the shot. “Somebody get me out of here! This is wrong! WRONG!”

A few seconds later, Mrs. Jones slept.

The saintly janitor patted my shoulder and said, “Don’t lose any sleep over this.” She was smiling the whole time  “Really, I’m not upset at all!  You expect a little abuse when you’re dealing with the elderly. And sometimes it’s nice to have a reminder of how far we’ve come in the world…”

“It’s not really Mrs. Jones fault she comes across as bigoted,” the janitor told me. “she simply was raised in a different era…

Mrs. Jones is just old.”

For office use:

Incident #4461

Disciplinary Action:  None

Case Status:  Closed

When Having a Special Interest Makes You a Horrible Person

In my early posts, I explained the point of this blog is to challenge the things Americans assume are true for everybody…but, really might be just cultural rules.   Some things are definitely, absolutely right/wrong for all people everywhere. But other practices just become “right” in certain places, after generations of people behave that way.

I like debating about which is which in different situations.

Until now, I’ve been kind of subtle about which so-called “truths” I’m challenging in each post. But I want to spell it out for clarity this time.

Cultural assumption:  if we don’t invite EVERYBODY to our club/shopping trip/special event, then we are being unfriendly…and we may possibly even be horrible people.

We don’t want people to think we have a “clique.”

If like-minded, similarly-interested people hang out together–excluding people who don’t think the same–it’s bad. Narrow. Close-minded.   Some of you noticed the word “excluding” a second ago, and recoiled from that alone.

We shouldn’t exclude. Ever. 

For any reason.

But I’d like to begin framing my “challenge” with a short video showing what happens when we try to accommodate *everybody* in every group. Please watch the Red YoYo Club.

So, everything is going great in the Red Yoyo Club, until people with yellow yoyo’s want to join, too.  Well, what’s the big deal? Why can’t the Red club invite yellow yoyo-ers?

And the answer is: changing their membership standards destroys the reason the Reds started the club to begin with.  The group’s identity crumbles when people can’t unite around a shared principle or interest.

Some people like red yoyo’s more than you or I would understand…  but anyone who DOES understand would really love the Red Yoyo Club! If you think yellow yoyo’s really aren’t much different from red yoyo’s–if you don’t think it’s a big deal–that’s fine. But you should not try to get involved in the Red Yoyo Club. You’re not a big enough enthusiast.

Most likely, you wouldn’t enjoy hanging out with those obsessive red yoyo people anyway.

And that’s okay!

It’s nothing personal.

The Reds are happy with their red yoyo’s, and the Yellows can start a different group for yellow enthusiasts, if they want.

More importantly, red yoyo-ers and yellow yoyo-ers can still consider each other decent human beings. They could still hang out and include each other in other areas of life…say any time other than Tuesday night from 4:00-6:00, when each yoyo-er goes to his/her respective club meeting to enjoy his/her special interest with the other members of their exclusive group.

Exclusion isn’t inherently bad.

So, if we can agree on all of the above, maybe we can take a closer look at this Dear Amy column which has been making the rounds in social media. (Click here.)

I can summarize with these quotes:

— “Dear Amy…Every fall, my sister, cousins, and a friend have a weekend shopping excursion…I have a sister we do not invite.”

—  “There are several reasons we don’t include her. We know she doesn’t have very much money for such an outing. She also does not have many of the same interests as we do.”

— “She takes it very personally…and has told our relatives I’m a horrible person.”

Okay, so the woman writing to Amy sounds pretty calloused, describing her sister’s tears like they’re a nuisance. And, once she realized her sister actually did want to come along on the shopping trip, why didn’t she just apologize for assuming she wouldn’t enjoy it and invite her the next year?

I strongly suspect this column only shows us a tiny slice of the drama. These sisters probably have been bickering since they were in pigtails…  And, for that reason, I can’t defend either of these women completely.

Maybe the sister who wrote to the newspaper really is a horrible person.

However, I don’t think we can conclude she’s horrible just because she won’t “make room” for another person on an exclusive trip, the way Amy does. And I can’t agree that the Left-Behind Sister is “completely justified in being upset.”

I realize American culture tends to argue that not inviting everybody to everything is wrong.  But, the way I see it, there are TWO possible ways to solve this problem, and one of them depends on the Left Behind Sister to smooth things over. I can imagine a culture where the responsibility to be understanding and graceful is hers.

Solution #1:    The Shopping Sister and Cousins realize they’ve hurt somebody’s feelings and they open their Wealthy, Christian, Stay-at-Home-Wives weekend to a broke, unbelieving, single lady.  (Because they’re SISTERS, and they want to be NICE.) This probably is the solution most of us would choose.

But is this the only right way to handle the mess? 

And what will be left of their annual shopping tradition, when they have to include this other sister in the decisions and plan-making–and they already know her opinions/preferences/interests are very different from their own?

If they notice the Formerly-Left-Out sister is feeling bored, or she doesn’t like the food, or she asks to see a budget-friendly movie instead of being tempted to spend money she doesn’t have at the mall….would it be “horrible” to remind her: “This is why we haven’t invited you all this time.”

“It’s not your thing.”

“You’ve been excluding yourself from this group by preferring different weekend activities.”

And no, Dear Amy, that’s not “blaming the person for not fitting in.”

Solution #2:  The second sister discovers she hasn’t been invited and tells the Shopping Sister/Cousins that she’s hurt. They apologize for making her feel bad (Note: I realize this likely didn’t happen in the real-life example), but they then explain why the Weekend Shopping Excursion wouldn’t appeal to her…

And the second sister says, “Oh, I totally understand!”

“No, really, I want you to enjoy yourselves! I’d hate to be the fifth wheel…”

“Seriously, it’s fine! It would be silly to ask you to change all your plans, when I don’t have the money or interest in doing those things anyway.”

“What REALLY interests me is spending time with you guys. So maybe we can spend a weekend at home together sometime?”


In my head I’ve created a country called Blahblahstan. Here, somebody writes their newspaper with this exact same issue, and Dear Blahmy responds, “Include your sister in plenty of things before/after your weekend with the cousins. Then, hopefully she’ll understand.”  Or, “Go ahead and invite her shopping, but don’t feel obligated to change any of the traditions you enjoy. If she doesn’t have fun, maybe she’ll uninvite herself without any hard feelings at all!”

In Blahblahstan, the advice columnist wouldn’t insult the Christians by saying they “haven’t learned anything” at church just because they like hanging out with different people at different times. To my knowledge, there’s nothing in the Bible that regulates what special interest groups decide to do on a weekend.

And, please, don’t tell me that Jesus never excluded. His message was that anyone may follow Him–but not everyone was “invited” to be an apostle. He even took an inner, inner circle from those friends. (What’s up with that, Jesus?!)  Do you think Thaddeus ever cried “no fair” when John and Peter got to see the really cool miracles?  Did being closer to certain men make Jesus a horrible person?

Anyway, there’s a big difference between excluding people from hearing the Gospel and excluding them from your club. So, no, the first rule of Christianity isn’t “invite everybody every time…or else you’re a horrible person.”

Actually, Amy, that’s a pretty horrible thing to say about someone…

What do you think?  Did “Dear Amy” judge this situation correctly? Or could there be some American, exclusion-is-always-bad bias going on?

Christians: Please Stop Making People Bleed

I found this picture on Facebook a couple days ago. It is a veeeery helpful piece of advice for angry, white pastors.

Stop Making People Bleed

Of course, I’m kidding about the angry pastors.

Actually it’s terrific advice for anybody who beats people to a bloody pulp with ancient texts. Yes, I would go so far as to say one shouldn’t use ANY religious books to knock somebody unconscious.

I don’t think that would be misreading the spirit of this cartoon.

In fact, if you’re still looking for that do/don’t line, you probably should avoid sending people to the hospital as often as you can…

After all, love does no harm.

Just don’t ask me whether it’s loving to send law breakers to jail or force drug addicts into rehab. And don’t bother me with ethical questions like, “How should we handle disobedient children?”

If you love them–how can you make them cry?

There seems to be some complication when you try sorting out the difference between “hurting” somebody’s feelings and “doing them harm.” But I don’t want to dig into that right now.

All I know for sure is: when you soak your Bible with other people’s blood, you’re doing it wrong.

When It’s Not Your Party, and You’re Okay With That

If a 5-year-old wrote a blog commentary titled “Another Perspective on Birthday Parties,” I imagine it would sound something like this:

“Another year–another friend’s birthday party. I mean, I try to be happy for my buddy. But it’s hard to feel like celebrating with all the reminders that it’s not my birthday…

I’ve been looking forward to wearing the crown and blowing out the candles for sooooo long that it almost feels like a slap in the face to attempt a smile while someone else does those things. And whose idea was it to sing—SING—a song featuring the birthday boy’s name? Do they want to rub it in a little more?

Such cruelty. My mom and dad must not understand how bad this hurts. They say, ‘It’s not your birthday.’ But that’s not my fault! If they understood, they’d stop taking me to other kids’ parties and just let me hide at home until my turn…”

Oh, the someone-feels-left-out predicament.

Of course, common sense would say, “This is a great chance for parents to teach their kids not to focus on themselves.” After all, kids will need to step aside and let others have the spotlight thousands of times in their lives. Common sense would say, “Help them learn how to feel happy for others.”

But you probably agree that common sense fled our culture a long time ago… Now we live in an era where parents buy presents for everybody at the party, specifically so no one feels left out. There are preschools which require kids to invite every member of the class, in the name of being considerate.

And everybody gets a trophy in little league.

Here’s the problem:  if we don’t teach our kids to step aside gracefully when it’s time to recognize another person, they have a hard time dealing with the same issue later in life.

Then, we end up with bloggers sharing the “Grown-Up Version” of the Birthday Party scene.

Here’s an example.

Direct quotes:

-“A few years ago I sat across from a woman who told me she doesn’t go to church on Mother’s Day because it is too hurtful.”

-“It was like salt in mostly-healed wounds to go to church on that day.”

-“Last year a friend from the States happened to visit on Mother’s Day and again the pastor asked all mothers to stand. As a mother, she stood and I whispered to her, ‘I can’t take it, I’m standing.’ She knows I’m not a mother yet [so] she understood my standing / lie.

It’s a strange world when people are taken seriously for saying, in essence, “Calling attention to the accomplishments of others makes me feel bad.”

Anytime somebody self-identifies as “hurt,” it suddenly becomes culturally-acceptable to make the entire situation about them.

But, I feel compelled to draw back the curtain on this thing we’ve come to call “hurt.” It’s really not very different from the hurt experienced by a young person the first time he/she is told to step back while the other kid opens the presents…


Now, before somebody mistakes my meaning here, I do not mean to compare grieving women to children as some type of insult. Actually, I have a great deal of appreciation for kids, and I empathize with them as they tackle the tough lessons in life. It’s not easy growing up, and I say that without the slightest hint of sarcasm.

I feel sorry for the young ones slamming hard into their own sin natures and trying to reconcile what they really, really want with the fact that life often works differently. It’s awful to think no one understands what you’re going through—let alone when you think there’s something mom or dad could do to fix it…and they won’t!

Kids really believe the adults are being unfair because no decent human being would allow somebody to go through such anger/sadness/disappointment…right? Their emotions are very real. In fact, the birthday party scenario is, literally, the hardest thing a preschooler has had to deal with EVER.

I understand that.

But I do not agree with trying to take away all of those “hurtful” situations.  

All of us must learn to manage feelings like disappointment and jealousy–and that weird lie that you’re somehow less than others because they’re being honored and everybody is thinking really horrible things about you because you’re still sitting down and the lady next to you is standing.

We must learn to separate lies from truth and healthy emotions from unhealthy ones because the challenges only get bigger as we grow up.  

The birthday party prepares the child for elementary school, when she has to clap for her sister who won the local spelling bee. The spelling bee, then, prepares her for highschool, when another girl gets elected class president and prom queen…AND gets accepted to a better college.

Then that experience prepares her for adulthood, when she begs God for a child…unsuccessfully…yet has to sit in church every year while the mothers around her get flowers and cards.

I empathize with people struggling with these realities. It doesn’t seem fair. It’s absolutely not “equal.” But it’s a necessary part of human growth.

Please don’t ask coaches and teachers and pastors to make the spotlight a little bigger, in order to alleviate your jealousy. The terrible experience you call “hurt” is completely understandable…but it’s not acceptable to throw a fit and find a way to put the attention back on yourself.

It’s not your party.

Oh, friends, I’m not saying these things to be cold.

Don’t you see the child who never learns to think of others is more miserable in the long run?  We can find ways to make her more comfortable temporarily, by giving her a trophy or letting her stay home during another person’s celebration. But she never learns to see past her own nose. And she never gets to experience the JOY of praising others.

I’m so glad I learned I don’t have to be the person opening presents to have a good time at a party. Life is so much better when it doesn’t have to be about me…so much better than depending on others to treat me with special consideration.  I even can enjoy Father’s Day and Veteran’s Day and Secretaries’ Day, and Arbor Day, without feeling “hurt” about the attention I’m missing.

There’s freedom in realizing it’s not my party…but in being okay with that.

One Change to Make for a Happy Mother’s Day

Recently a friend polled his female followers in preparation for a Mother’s Day sermon. He asked, “What’s one thing you’d like to change about your life?”

What’s one thing you’d like to change?

Many women answered, “I want more understanding” or “It would be nice to have respect.”  (One even said, “An equal share!…We should redistribute MomVs.Dad tasks because so many women are overworked while men are calm and happy.”)

But here was my response:


What one thing would I change?… That’s really tough because I’d give a different answer depending on what kind of mood I’m in.

Just last night, I launched into a famous mom-tirade at the expense of my poor husband, with no less than half a dozen things I was unhaaaaaaappy about. “I need more support!” and “I feel like I do everything myself” and “You have no idea what it’s like to corral two, small children 24-HOURS a day!”

Gee, it must be nice having so little responsibility, I brooded in my head. 

Last night, it would have been difficult to pick just one thing I wanted to change in my overworked, under-appreciated, unfair life…

And, yet. I’m a child of the Creator, and I know for certain that He has a purpose for *every* detail of my day. Time and again I’ve discovered the “problems” in my life actually serve to strip away selfishness and bring forth fruit like patience, gentleness, and self-control.

The process is painful–but necessary. 

This morning, I can see that all the time I spend comparing my lot to my husband’s (or other moms) actually is the source of my unhappiness–not the amount or type of work I have to do in the first place.

God sees my efforts, and He has measured this portion just for me. What kind of petty, spoiled, self-absorbed brat would I be if He changed everything I disliked about my job?

…Would that kind of change be worth it?

I guess I’m saying there’s nothing I want to change in my life–at least now that a better attitude has accompanied a new day. I trust God will do the changing if/when it’s necessary; and there’s a reason for the stuff He hasn’t removed. And though I may struggle with the old woe-is-me, I-deserve-better flesh again tomorrow, I’m resolved today to accept everything God puts on my plate.

Even if it seems unequal.

Even if nobody appreciates it.

Even if I really want it changed.

You might say, the only thing I’d like to change about my life is the persistent, haunting, internal voice that tells me happiness is anything other than a change in perspective


Happy Mother’s Day, to all my over-worked, under-appreciated readers who are learning patience and self-control with me right now!   🙂

The Hipster Tradition

It’s pretty cool to be anti-tradition.

Which is why there’s a whole bunch of young, hip Christians–with tolerance and tattoos–who sing brand-new, edgy songs every week (and only want to “love on” people, man)…and they’re really, really, really…

…really, really tired of tradition.   (Ew!)

The only problem is, the thought never occurs to these anti-establishment tradition-rebels that they’re just as traditional as little Aunt Mary who has gone to the same tiny, hymnal-clutching, country parish for 60 years.

It’s just a different style of tradition.

I’ll illustrate with a quick story. Recently I spoke to an individual who was interested in booking my dad for a men’s conference.  As I always do, I asked this person to describe his plans for the event, so I could get a feel for his overarching vision.  He told me: “This won’t be the stereotypical men’s conference. It’s going to be completely different from any other conference out there.”

My first thought was: I sincerely doubt it.

Because, literally, every other event planner I’ve ever had a conversation with says that very thing. Think about it. Have you ever heard a pitch or advertisement that goes: “[My idea] is exactly like all my competitor’s”???


Ironically, if you were to bill your men’s conference as “the stereotypical conference… there’s nothing here you can’t find somewhere else,” it would be unique.  It would stand apart from most of the other programs trying so hard to break the mold…

But most people with vision don’t see that.

Anyway, I don’t meant to sound overly critical of people who are passionate for generating “new” ideas and get excited about their plans.  I just want to make sure we understand, Ecclesiastically speaking, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” 

I don’t really buy that this generation is worlds different from the one Christ spoke with face-to-face, and that we need to do radical (new) things in order to reach (impress) them. Different language, different clothes, even massive amounts of technology don’t really change what makes up the core of humanity.

Now let me clarify that I totally understand the desire to escape tradition-for-tradition’s sake. Let’s ask ourselves “what’s the point of [insert certain church practice]” and then have the guts to modify it…or go completely without it…

But, how many churches are really doing THAT?  How many are totally re-thinking the church structure from the ground up–and how many are still meeting in a building, with songs and some type of message, and the occasional special class–just like all the others?  In other words, how many are just putting a different bow on the box? (The last two paragraphs will segue into a future post. But, for anybody interested in researching those questions on their own, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna.)

But, if it’s true that today’s humans still carry the same worries they did since the very first man; if they still encounter the same obstacles with suffering, confusion, and pride; if they hold the same craving to be significant…important…unique; then our churches should be essentially the same.

ALL churches seek to unite Spirit-filled people and meet their various needs. ALL churches. Unless they choose to cease being the Church, all congregations are exactly the same where it counts.


In an episode of House M.D. (from Season one), a long-haired, fresh-from-school doctor tries to apply for a position in Dr. House’s fellowship. But, Dr. House tells him he can’t stand his tattoo. The kid replies, “You’re the last person I thought would have a problem with non-conformity!” And Dr. House delivers this gem:

“Oh, yeah, I can’t remember the last time I saw a 20-something kid with an Asian letter on his wrist. You are one wicked free-thinker!”

He continues, “You want to be a rebel? Stop being cool. …get a hair cut like the Asian kids that don’t leave the library for twenty hour stretches. They’re the ones who don’t care what you think.”


Absolutely feel free to switch up the order of service on Sunday, or introduce new songs, or preach an intriguing sermon series, or kick-start an outreach program named with a verb followed by a number (Regurgitate-212), and invite everyone to join you on a trip in a “new” direction.

But all of that has been done–and, actually, it’s being done (or at least imitated) by most American churches today.

Even if those steps attract some “new” people to your building, I submit that they’re not “new” to the church scene. Most people interested in clever programming are just individuals who formally attended Missionary Friends Tabernacle or First God Bible Assembly down the street, who choose to worship with you the way they choose Cracker Barrel over Texas Road House afterward.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that–just as long as we’re clear.  The two churches are virtually the same. So, please don’t tell the new faces that you’re doing something no one else in history has ever done.  (Ecclesiastes 1:9, remember?)

I promise, your men’s conference is very much like the other’s I’ve heard about.

On the other hand, let me remind you of Aunt Mary, from that backward little parish in the boondocks.  She’s actually the wicked free-thinker who doesn’t care what’s popular. She’s actually worshiping Jesus without being distracted by whether the World approves.  We should take notes from her if we crave an unconcerned, don’t-even-know-what’s-cool devotion to Jesus. It’s more simple–fewer ornaments–as opposed to the “enriched” methods in highly-programmed churches.

It’s like a plain sandwich at home vs. the special at a fancy restaurant. And it totally depends on your preferences.

…but, I just can’t help thinking one thing whenever a restaurant advertises, “We’re serving something like you’ve never seen before!”

I seriously doubt it.