Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving Break Three-fer:  Songs That Make My Daughter Uncomfortable When I Sing Them

Coming home from a Thanksgiving visit to the folks in Jefferson City, Maly drove and let me DJ up front.  For the most part, we enjoyed the same songs, but there were a few that made for some awkward moments when she had to hear me singing them.  So, here are three songs that I love that made my daughter squirm:

1."Kiss You All Over" - Exile

I remember being about her age when this song came out and I remember having a similar reaction to it.  Admittedly, it's a little creepy and even more so when you're mother is singing it.  Over the years I've grown to appreciate this song more for it's musical value and mood, but I gotta admit - it's still a little creepy.

2.  "Jungle Love" - The Time

"Ya wanna make love or what? Oh we oh we oh."

 'Nuf said.

3.   "Lose Yourself: - Eminem

Apparently, "rapping" isn't as "cool" when you can only catch every third word.

"(nuh) palms are sweaty, (ne heh, ah) are heavy
(deh) vomit on his sweater (ah hea), mom's spaghetti"

You get the idea.  If only I was dedicated enough to learn to nail this one.  It would be so bad.  Quit laughing, Maly.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Thursday Three-fer: My Sister's Bedroom

My middle sister, Shirley, is about six years older than me.  Having an older sister helped me to be much cooler than I otherwise might have been, at least in my musical tastes.  Shirley had a record player in her bedroom and a few albums, but a rockin' collection of 45s.  I spent many hours in her bedroom while she was at work or out and about, listening to her records.  Luckily, she had a window in her bedroom which allowed me to watch the driveway to make sure she wasn't coming home, because she would kill me if she caught me in her room listening to her records.  Here are the songs that bring me back to Shirley's room every time I hear them. 

1. Joy to the World - Three Dog Night
Jeremiah was a bullfrog.  The heck?  Back in the day, no one seemed to question this lyric - we all just sang it with such feeling and conviction that it was assumed we all understood exactly what they were talking about.  But looking back on it, curiosity (and having the world of information at my fingertips) got the best of me and I looked it up.  Apparently, it was one of those nonsense placeholder lyrics that songwriters use and intend to replace it with something that makes more sense later.  But that part never happened and now we have a lyric we can't imagine being without.

2.  Ballroom Blitz - Sweet
This song was edgy enough to make me feel like I was living life on the fringes when I listened to it.  Yeah, it made an appearance in the movie "Wayne's World" (which is very cool) but it's coolest incarnation is when I listened to it in my sister's bedroom on the forbidden record player.

3.  One Tin Soldier - Coven
The theme song from the movie "Billy Jack."  Never saw it.  A Vietnam war protest song?  Not sure I get it.  But a parable about greed and destruction, I totally get.  *SPOILER* The valley people killed the people of the mountain for their treasure, which turned out to be a rock with the message "Peace on Earth" engraved on it.  Irony.  That's some deep stuff when you're not even in junior high yet.

Honorable mentions for this list were:  Half-Breed by Cher (?)
Smokin' in the Boy's Room by Brownsville Station
Stuck in the Middle by Stealers Wheel

Thursday, July 02, 2015

But the World is Supposed to Hate Us!

"Right there, in Matthew AND John, Jesus said it.  He said that the world would hate us.  That's how I know we're right on track.  When the world disparages us, that's just proof that we're doing what we're called to do."

But the world is supposed to hate us because we refuse to keep the marginalized on the margins. Our standards are not only low, they don't exist. We not only allow everyone into the fold, but we seek them out and welcome them in, and that's why the world will hate us. . . not because of our righteous indignation.

The world is supposed to hate us because we don't sit back and do nothing when the powerful oppress the weak.  We fight the power on their behalf, with no regard for ourselves, and that's why the powerful will hate us. 

The world is supposed to hate us because we feed the poor with no concern for their moral standing first.  We don't require any kind of test to make sure they are worthy, we feed them because they are hungry and because Jesus told us to.  No political or war powers will stand in our way.   That's why the world will hate us.

The world is supposed to hate us because we don't succumb to the materialism that drives us to work harder so we can buy more.  Our time and money are used to bring glory to God instead of polishing our stuff.  Servanthood is more important to us than capitalism, and that's why they will hate us.

The world is supposed to hate us because we fight injustice, wherever it may be.  We are bold in our defense of the mistreated rather than in defense of ourselves.  We will root out wrong, even if it's taking place in our own backyard.   They will hate us because we want justice for others . . not because our only concern is justice for ourselves. 

The world is supposed to hate us because we are like Jesus, not because we are jerks.

Thursday Three-fer: Bitch, I'm Madonna

Madonna.  The year I ventured out on my own was the year Madonna was making a name for herself.  She changed the music and fashion world and had a big influence on me.  Actually, she was like a troubled big sister (that I never met) and it's been interesting that as we've grown older together I've gone through many phases in my relationship with Madonna.  I've alternately loved her, admired her, been embarrassed by her, dismissed her, pitied her, forgotten about her, been defensive of her, and appreciated her.  During my phase of rebellion from the church, I loved the way she would be like, "Watch me make the Christians freak out."  Boom!  Sure enough, right on cue, freaking out ensued.  What power she had.  I think the title of her new song so encapsulates who Madonna is for me.  All the cameo appearances in the video are fun, although the song leaves a lot to be desired.  To find the Madonna songs that I love, I had to go way back.  And choosing three was hard, but here are the ones I'm going with.

1.  Borderline

With Madonna, It's hard to differentiate between the song and the video.  Her videos are really what endeared me to her.  This video came before the boob cones, carved arm muscles, and sex books.  I have no delusions that she was a sweet little girl at this time in her life, but this video shows such a sweet time in her career.  You watch this video and there's no denying it - this girl is cool.

2. Dress You Up
Such a fun song.  The original video was pretty lame, so I went in search of another live performance and found this one.  This was a live performance from 2009 when she would have been 51, my age.  I watched this and had a huge appreciation moment for this woman.  What a rush that would be to be her age and still killing it on stage.

3.   Vogue
A piece of art.  Great song.  Beautiful video.  And boob cones.  Yes!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

5 Things Jesus Would Say to the Evangelical Community

I've seen this article being linked to called "5 Things Jesus Would Say to the Gay Community."  (You can read it here.)  I thought it was a bit patronizing and I didn't really agree with the writer that that's how Jesus would respond.  But that's ok.  As brothers and sisters, we are going to disagree.  And, I also think it's ok to respond to each other when we disagree - as long as it's not hateful or prideful.  This list of 5 things Jesus would say inspired me to come up with my own list of 5 things Jesus would say to the evangelical community.  I assume the original piece was written in response to the recent Supreme Court decision which said it was unconstitutional for states to ban same-sex marriage.  So my response is to the evangelical community, who seemed to be leading the charge to fight such a decision.  I tried to keep love and humility as my intent.  I totally get the irony of my telling people they should worry about the log in their own eye, while at the same time having a giant timber of my own sticking out for all to see.  But, at the same time, I also wanted to make it a provocative alternative view of what Jesus might think about this much too long-fought battle.  Definitely MHO (my humble opinion, boomers).

5 Things Jesus Would Say to the Evangelical Community

1. Thank goodness this stupid fight is finally over (PLEASE tell me it’s really over)! Now you can use all that time, energy, money, and passion to do the things I told you to do and not spend another minute worrying about something that I never spent a lick of time worrying about while I was there.

2.  I never called you to be the rulemasters. You know the kid at recess who feels the need to point out every time some real or perceived rule is being broken? Nobody likes that kid. Quit being that kid. We lived in the Roman Empire, which was far from a God-fearing nation. Yet you never saw my followers or me working to litigate or legislate so my rules would be followed. Waste of time. Follow our example. Touch people’s hearts and minds and let my Father worry about whether or not other people are following the rules. You have your hands full making sure YOU are following the rules. The other day I did a Google search and I typed in “Christians are.” The top answer that appeared was “annoying.” That is NOT what I called you to be - yet that is how you are being perceived by those who are lost and need me most. My son, Phillip Yancey, once said, “When I ask people, “What is a Christian?” they don’t usually respond with words like love, compassion, grace; usually they describe a person who’s anti-something. Jesus was not primarily known for what he was against. He was known for serving people who had needs. . . If we, the church, were known primarily for that, then we could cut through so many divisions.” What he said.

3.  Each year, 2.6 million children die as a result of hunger-related causes. That’s something I actually asked you to take care of for me. Maybe you could work on that.  (Matthew 25:35-45, Luke 3:11, Luke 12:33)

4. My two greatest commandments to you were to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Until you’ve got those two things under control - the all time number one expectations I have for you - you have what I call a log in your eye. (And don’t tell me you’ve got those two things under control - nobody likes that kid either.) I know I don’t have to remind you about the logs and specks thing.

5. I love you, but I have a better plan for you. You may enjoy the life you live right now even if it disagrees with my guidelines. But trust that I know what is best. Put all the fighting and condemning and hand-wringing aside. Be the light of world for me. (Matthew 5:14)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Thursday Three-fer: My Sister's Place

Just spent a few days at my sister's house in Minnesota.  That visit inspired today's Thursday Three-fer.  My oldest sister is about 12 years older than me, so she left home when I was just six years old.  When she got married a few years after that, I would often go spend the night at her and Dave's place.  One of my favorite things to do on those visits was to go through her record collection.  Of course the album covers were fascinating in themselves, but one of my favorite parts of the albums were when the lyrics were written out and you could listen to the music and follow along with every song, even the ones you didn't know well.  I did a lot of singing along with those albums.  Here are three songs that remind me most of those days.

1. Maxwell's Silver Hammer - Abbey Road (Beatles)
I spent many days listening to and looking at Abbey Road.  Phenomenal.  Although this song is not my favorite from the album, I think it's the one that most intrigued me as a kids.  Both silly and light, yet dark and disturbing.  I appreciated that tension.  I don't really understand this song, but it brings back a lot of memories.

2. So Far Away - Tapestry (Carole King)
I wasn't yet a woman and I knew nothing of the heartache she sings about in this song.  But this album and song gave me some real insight into what it would all be like.  She was right.  Great stuff.

3.  Candle in the Wind - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
I remember liking most every song on this very long album.  I'm hesitant to choose this one because it seems to have been overdone - remade for Princess Diana and way overplayed.  But this song version was so simple and beautiful and heartfelt and personal.  I didn't know much about Marilyn, so many of the things I do know about her came from this song.  Even at my young age, I really got this song.

How Does the Church Love - Even When We Don't Have All the Answers?

 Imagine, if you will, it's summer break and this teacher, although busy with a lot of items on her to-do list, has a little more free time than she does during the school year.  She would be reading new books, pursuing hobbies, relaxing at the pool, right?  Nope.  This girl spent the morning watching a gay video.  Not what you're thinking.  I came across a video that shows a debate between two gay men who are both Christians.  I know, lots of you have turned and run at this point.  PLEASE stay.  I promise, it will be so good.  It makes no difference what your views are on homosexuality or gay marriage.  Both of these things exist and we need to learn how to handle them as a church.  So, in a debate there are two sides.  In this debate, one man believes that gay marriage is acceptable in the sight of God and one does not.  Both give the reasons for their conclusions, and although it may not sound like it, it is riveting.

Facebook is such a funny place.  Most of my fb friends are people that I don't know well enough or see often enough to have deep, philosophical conversations with.  But, by seeing what they post on Facebook and seeing which of my posts they "like", I have a pretty good feel for where most of my friends stand on many issues.  I have some friends who will "like" almost everything I post, but when I post about that one certain issue, never a like from them.  It's kind of fascinating.  I am here to tell you today, whether you like any of the posts or links I've put on Facebook about homosexuality, this video should be required viewing for every member of the church.  You can walk away having the same beliefs you have now and that's fine.  But you will not walk away unchanged, I promise you.  And that goes for people on both sides of the gay marriage issue.

This debate between Justin Lee and Wesley Hill is the best example of disagreeing in love that I have ever seen.  What if all Christians approached their disagreements in such a loving and thoughtful way?  The world would definitely view us differently.  And they go beyond just the issue of gay marriage.  If the church decides that it's wrong, does that mean any nonsexual but romantic same-sex relationship is wrong too?  After all, the bible never addresses this specifically.  Christians believe that sex before marriage is wrong, but we don't believe that romance outside of marriage is wrong.  Can this be true for gay couples as well?  Or are they destined to spend their lives without romance?  Is it wrong for two men who are romantically attracted to each other to hold hands?  If so, why?  How does the church help gay members who are struggling with these issues?  Such a fascinating conversation - things I know I had never really thought of before.

If I could tie up every Christian in the world and force them to sit down and watch this video, I would.  I believe this issue is so important and the way the church is dealing with it is to just say no.  That's about as helpful here as it was with drugs in the 80's.  It's so much more complex than that.  I am not out to change anyone's mind - just to show that it's more complicated than most of us straight folks ever imagined.  Easy for us to say it's wrong, and our lives go on.  But it is a life sentence for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  How do we help and support them?

I can't tie you up and force you to watch.  I can only beg and promise that you will be challenged and moved.  It is two hours long, and even I realize that that is a bit of a time commitment.  About the same as watching a movie, but there are no car chases or shirtless Bradley Cooper's to make the time pass quickly.  So, I will make a couple of suggestions.  At the beginning is an introduction and a lot of blah, blah, blah, (that I actually found interesting) that could be skipped - although it does set up the context of the debate.  The debate starts with Wesley Hill making his arguments against gay marriage.  He has 10 minutes (but I think he goes a little over that).  It is interesting, but most of us have heard these arguments before so if you want to skip over that part, it's understandable.  If you want to hear Justin Lee's arguments in support of gay marriage, skip ahead to about 40 minutes in.  This is single-handedly the most powerful argument I've ever heard in support of accepting homosexuality in the church.  He goes a little under 10 minutes.  Again, you don't have to agree with him, but whenever you take a stance I think it is so important to listen to, and really hear, the other side.  Then share your disagreements in love.  The best part of the whole video starts at about 53 minutes.  This is when the two sit down and talk about what they agree on and what they disagree about and ask questions of each other.  Wow!

Now, stop what you're doing, and go to the link below.  Let's get this thing right, church.  Let's talk about how to do that.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Thursday Three-fer: My Senior Year

Last weekend's high school graduation festivities and looking at the pictures from the graduating seniors high school years got me thinking about my own high school years.  So this Thursday Three-fer is in honor of the year of my high school graduation - 1982.  I don't need to know if you weren't even born then.  You missed out.  I wear my 1982 crown proudly.  Today's three-fers didn't necessarily come out in 1982, but they are all songs that bring me back to my senior year in high school.

1.  I'm Coming Out - Diana Ross
 I got my first job at Garner's Drive-In during my junior year and continued to work there, even summers when I would come home from college.  We had so much fun working there, mostly because of our  upbeat and funny boss, Kenny Garner.  Friday and Saturday nights, the music would blare at Garner's and it kept us pumped when we got slammed.  I still remember seeing Kenny at the grill dancing and flipping burgers.  He loved this song and it always makes me think of him and those days whenever I hear it.

2. In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins
I've never been a Genesis or Phil Collins fan, but it's hard not to like this one.  This was definitely a cruising song and brings back memories of a car full of kids, all air drumming at the appropriate moment.  For some reason, this song reminds me of the Eureka Springs cemetery and nights spent looking for the haunted doll who would supposedly move her eyes (?).  I don't really remember the whole story, and I don't even remember if I actually ever saw said doll, but I remember that the idea of it was the perfect amount of creepiness to keep bored teenagers entertained on a Saturday night.

3.  How 'Bout Us - Champaign
I can't talk about my senior year in high school without talking about my high school sweetheart, let's call him Chris M.  Oh my.  I spent more time with that boy than anyone else that year.  There are a handful of sappy songs from that time that bring back all the intensity of young love, and this is one of them.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Thursday Three-fer: The Backup Singers

I finally got around to watching "20 Feet From Stardom" the other night.  That's the documentary about some legendary backup singers and their lives and dreams.  So great, the movie and the music.  And that movie inspired this week's Thursday Three-fer.  Here are three really good songs, and the backup performances make them great.

1.  Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones
This song was featured prominently in the movie, and for good reason.  I love Mick, but Merry Clayton knocks this one out of the park.  What a great song.

2.  Running on Empty - Jackson Browne
This one wasn't in the movie, but it's such a good one and such great backup vocals.  I was a big Jackson Browne fan and then he just kind of went away.  But I have a handful of songs from him that I'm so glad to know.

3.  Givin' It Up For Your Love - Delbert McClinton
Givin' it up for the male backup singers.  In the movie, nearly all the backup singers interviewed were women and that's what we think of when we imagine a backup singer.  But these dudes rock it! This song wouldn't be nearly as fun with just Delbert singing.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Girl Rising

I watched the documentary "Girl Rising" with Matt and Maly the other day.  It's one of those movies that lingers with you and won't let you forget.  "Girl Rising" is the story of nine girls from all over the world who suffer injustices from poverty, to arranged marriages, to child slavery.  I was sure it would be a depressing movie and was a little hesitant to watch it, but I have to say that it is also a very hopeful movie.  It's amazing the difference education can make for the quality of life for girls worldwide who are currently denied an education. 

The youngest and most endearing and adorable of the girls is Wadley who lives in Haiti.  Her family, who already suffered from poverty, was devastated by the earthquakes of a few years ago.  She is seven years old and her happiest memories are from the time before the earthquake when her family was financially able to send her to school - at least intermittently.  She loved school and has big plans for her life, but they are now out of the question since her family can't afford to send her.  There is an outdoor classroom not far from her home.  It's outdoors since the school building was destroyed in the earthquake and hasn't been rebuilt since then.  Wadley shows up one morning and takes her seat with the other students, hoping she won't be noticed.  The teacher immediately sees her and reminds her that her parents haven't paid for her to go to school so she can't stay.  This same scenario continues day after day.  Finally, Wadley tells the teacher, "I will come back everyday until you let me stay."  The teacher relents and allows Wadley to stay.  I'm not sure where Wadley is today, but I know that she isn't going to sit back and let her circumstances determine her life.

Another girl I found remarkable was Suma who lives in Nepal.  She was sold into servitude at age 6 while her brothers went to school.  She was moved from master to master, some kinder and some who were so horrible she couldn't even speak of the things they did to her.  One day, after many years of this life, a social worker/activist comes by and tries to convince her master that what he is doing is wrong and that he should free Suma.  She overhears this conversation and is amazed that someone is speaking to him in such a way on her behalf.  The master tells the woman to get lost, but the woman persists and continues to come back and plead for Suma's freedom.  Eventually he gives in and Suma is given a chance to get an education.  Now she is a crusader for other girls who are in the same situation.  We watched this movie Friday night and I read about the horrible earthquake in Nepal the next morning.  My first thought was for Suma.  I'm praying she's safe.

 It seems there is a way to help girls like Suma and Wadley.  It's certainly not easy - requires a great deal of people who are willing to put their lives aside to go do what they can and a great deal of money.  Certainly dauting, but It's possible to envision it happening.  I even found a website created by the people who made "Girl Rising" letting people know how they can help.  But the girl from the movie who had the biggest impact on me was Amina who lives in Afghanistan.  Amina was forced to marry at the age of 11 and had children while she was still a child.  When she goes in public she has to be completely covered and silent.  She has a lot to say but feels invisible and unheard.  Women who speak out are burned, beaten, or killed.  But Amina has had enough and is ready to fight back.  I'm not sure how she'll do that.  And I'm not sure what we can possibly do to help her.  She left me feeling the most helpless.  How can we change a whole society?  And, particularly, one who feels so strongly that they are right and that we are a threat.  Prayer seems to be all we can do.  I almost want to say that it doesn't seem enough, but I'm praying that God sends the right people to touch the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan. 

All nine girls were inspiring and had unbelievable stories.  I recommend that you check out the movie and go to the website below to see how you can help.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thursday Three-fer: The Gut Wrenchers

You know, those songs you feel in your gut, you sing ridiculously loudly, you make a pained face when you sing them, and you often make a fist and pull it toward you when the lyrics demand it.  I'm a big fan of the gut wrenchers, and I'm proud to say that my son is carrying on that tradition.  He has his own gut wrenchers that he listens to over and over again and gives us a great deal of entertainment when he sings them while listening on his earphones.  I have many to choose from, but here are my three for today:

1.  Hold My Hand - Hootie and the Blowfish
Love.  This.  Song.  If you can keep a normal expression on your face when you sing it, you have no soul.

2.  Hold On - Kansas
I'm not sure that I would have paid much attention to this song, Kansas wasn't really one of my groups.  But then I'm driving around with a boy I had a mad crush on in high school and it came on the radio.  He cranked it up and told me it was his favorite song by his favorite band.  Then he proceeded to belt it out in pure gut-wrenching fashion.  Suddenly, it was my favorite song by my favorite band.  Wow, what I would have missed out on if not for that fateful night.

3.  She's Gone - Hall & Oates
Oh, this song.  It makes my gut tighten just thinking about it.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Awesome Mix Vol. 2 and the Introduction of 'Thursday Three-fers'

I've spent an embarrassing amount of time thinking about the follow-up to my vol. 1 mix list.  Way too many awesome songs, how do you pick twelve?  Or twenty?  or fifty?  Too big of a task.  So I came up with a brilliant idea - break my list up into tiny lists of three.   So, I'll be posting a list of three songs every Thursday.  I know, I know, Thursday's already a busy day with the throwbacks thing, but  Thursday Three-fers will be an extension of that - three songs that I love that have something in common.

This week's three-fer is in honor of Rod Stewart.

1.  Do Ya Think I'm Sexy - This song was so taboo for me, a naive little Christian school girl who was no where near real sex, or anything close to it, happening.  This song also seemed an afront to my religious beliefs.  Then why did I love it so?  I can't explain it or justify why I still love it today, and I'm not going to try.  Yes, 70's, androgynous, freaky, Rod Stewart - I do think your sexy!

2.  Tonight's the Night - The 70's was a time when singers had no problem telling us pretty blantantly about their sexual exploits and desires.  It was the time of 'Chevy Van,' 'Afternoon Delight' (ok, not so blatant, but we all knew what it meant), the Pina Colada song, and the like.  Not the obnoxious, in your face kind of sexual (ala 80's hair bands).  More the creepy, "lover" kind of stuff (ala Will Farrell's Professor character from Saturday Night Live).  This song was neither of those.  No doubt what's gonna happen tonight for Rod.  Still makes me swoon everytime I hear it.  And it has a killer opening riff.

3.  Maggie May - Matt always poo poos this song.  I don't even know what to do with that, but shake my head and love him anyway.   It is one of my all-time favorites.  Although this song isn't completely about sex, it is about a strong desire that I couldn't even imagine as a sweet and innocent junior high girl.  But I was intrigued and moved by it, and so wanted to be Maggie May.  Also, just a great, catchy song.

Friday, April 10, 2015

My Awesome Mix Volume 1

I've been inspired by "The Guardians of the Galaxy" Awesome Mix Volume 1. For those of you who don't know, the premise of the mix tape in the movie is that the main character's mother made it on a cassette tape and gave it to him before she died. It's his connection to her and Earth throughout the movie. So, I started wondering what I would put on my awesome mix to give to my kids. And, of course, at that point I had no choice but to make one. The criteria was tough; do I go for pure awesomeness or songs that are meaningful in some way. I decided to combine the two - awesome songs that are meaningful. There were 12 on the Guardians soundtrack, so I decided to stick with that number as well. Unlike the soundtrack, in which most of the songs came from the 70's, my list spans five decades. 

1. I Got You Babe
2. Respect
3. Take it Easy
4. You Can't Always Get What You Want
5. Piano Man
6. Here Comes the Sun
7. Sara Smile
8. Back in Black
9. Small Town
10. Closer to Fine
11. Friends in Low Places
12. Without Me

I'm pretty pleased with this list. But, wait a minute, you say. Where's Stevie Wonder? Madonna? Johnny Cash? Where's the perfect dance song? All legitimate questions. That's why the makers of "Guardians of the Galaxy" were so brilliant when they called the tape volume ONE. Lends itself quite nicely to a volume #2. Hey, we all need a hobby. Making frivolous lists is mine.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


It was late 1970's-ish.  I was in middle school.  I was attending a very conservative private Christian school.  I don't remember the conversation, but apparently I was talking with my teacher and told her something was "screwed up."  I don't think this was an angry conversation, I think I was just very matter of factly letting her know that something was not going the way it should and it was screwed up.  This part I do remember.  I was called to the principal's office and told that I shouldn't be using this phrase.  We were a Christian school, after all, and we need to keep our thoughts and speech pure, etc., etc., etc.  I'm sitting there and have no idea what I did wrong.  As I'm sitting and listening, I'm trying to figure it out.  And then I did.  I was horrified by his implication.  That was in no way what I was saying.  I was so mortified, I didn't even try to defend myself and I didn't tell anyone about it until years later.  Those Christian school years were when I found out that there were not only words out there that were obviously not appropriate to say, but there were lots of them that were very offensive to some, but you would have no idea that was the case until you were caught using the offending words.

Here's one of more humorous examples of my stumbling to find my way around the bad language landscape.  I had found out that many Christian school parents didn't like words like gosh and darn because they were just substitutes for the real word.  One night I was spending the night at my friend, Tammy's, house.  I ended up spending MANY nights at Tammy's, but this was one of the first so I didn't know her parents very well yet.  Tammy asked me if I'd pluck her eyebrows for her.  Her mom was sitting and reading or doing a crossword puzzle or something while Tammy and I plucked and talked.  I told her I was done and she looked in a mirror and said, "No, you need to do more.  I want them to look like yours."  Now, Tammy had bushy eyebrows and mine were pretty thin.  I was explaining to Tammy that I didn't think I could do that.  I wanted to tell her that would hurt like heck, but mid-sentence I started thinking, "Oh no, maybe her mom doesn't like heck."  So, as I'm making the switch mid-stream, I realize I don't know what word to use to substitute for heck.  The sentence came out, "That will hurt like hell."  Right in front of Tammy's mom.  Mortified again.  Tammy later told her mom, "MaryEllen never swears," and her mom was like, yeah right.  It was true, well, except for saying "screwed up" on occasion.

Fast forward many years.  I'm teaching 6th graders and I'm reading a book called The Revealers to my class.  It's about a small group of misfit kids who have become the targets of relentless bullying in their middle school.  The main character of the book has been repeatedly threatened and even physically hurt by some bullies at his school.  He says in in the book, "They are making my life a living hell."  As soon as I read this sentence, I hear a couple of gasps in the room.  I ignore it and keep reading, but as I'm reading I'm thinking about the gasps and it's bothering me, so I finally stop to address it.  I asked why some of them gasped when I read that part.  One student tells me she is a Christian and her family doesn't use that word.  I said, hell is a place in the bible.  Doesn't your pastor ever talk about hell?  Another student pipes up and says that he's also a Christian and he just doesn't talk that way.  I try again.  The character is just talking about the place, he's not swearing.  But they aren't having it.  So I just continue.  Up to this point kids have been cruel to this character, no gasping there.  Kids have beat him up, no gasping there.  But as he's expressing the depth of his pain and comparing it to hell, that's when they gasp.  Unbelievable.

A few years later, my students are working on an assignment in their groups.  I'm walking around, monitoring their progress and answering questions.  I get to one group that is obviously having problems.  I ask, "Did you read the article?"  One kid (we'll call him Bob) says yes.  But "Cindy" says, "No you didn't.  You just read part of it."  "I read enough," says Bob.  "No, you have to read the whole freaking thing!" says Cindy, quite authoritatively.  I walk off hiding my grin because Cindy seems to have the situation under control.  Out of the corner of my eye I can see my classroom aid, who overheard the whole exchange, looking at me like I should do something.  When she realizes I'm not going to, she tells Cindy that we don't use that word in school.  I immediately remembered the girl in the principal's office being told she did something wrong when she had no idea what he was talking about.  It made me a little mad.  Really?  We don't say freaking in school?

What do all of these stories have in common?  Some kid was trying to express themselves and was stopped dead in their tracks when they said a word someone had decided was offensive.  Wasn't the fact that a kid was concerned about something not going the way it should be what was important?  Wasn't the fact that a kid didn't want to cause their friend pain the important thing?  Wasn't the fact that the kid was being hurt and terrorized the important thing?  Wasn't the fact that Bob wasn't doing his part in the group the important thing?  But a word can suddenly become the most important thing.  The Bible does call us to keep our language wholesome.  What he doesn't call us to do is monitor others' language and point out when it doesn't meet our standard of wholesome - losing sight of what important thing they might be trying to say.

God shows us grace daily for our many trespasses.  In spite of them, some much worse then saying a bad word, he still listens when we need him.  He doesn't let those sins keep him from hearing us.  So this week, let's get out there and listen with love and grace.  Just, please, don't screw it up! 

The Blog is Back in Action

This is funny.  I've been thinking for awhile that I should start a blog, but there's the whole time thing and the "do I really have anything interesting to say" thing.  The answer to both of those is probably no, but I've decided I'm going to give it a try anyway.  I thought I'd use, easy to use, free, well-known.  I go to and type in what I'd like the name of my blog to be, and it tells me there is already a blog by that name.  I go to it, and by Jove, it's mine.  I knew I had a blog many years ago (10?), but I didn't really know for sure where it was or if it was still around.  So, I already had a dormant blog and now it's back in action. Welcome to "Mare's Mess."  Here's what I had to say about the name back in 2005:

"OK - I have my own blog. Not sure what I'll be doing with it, but I had to have one because everyone else is doing it. Most of you don't know me by the nickname "Mare" but that's what my family calls me and my nephews Peter and Jonathan even call me "Auntie Mare". Now it's my bloggin' name. The only other nickname I've had (you need a nickname when your name is 4 syllables and 9 letters long) is Mel. An old friend found out that Mel Harris's (from "thirtysomething" - a TV show from way back in the 1980's, for the benefit of any young punks who may be reading) real name was MaryEllen, but everyone called her Mel for short - so from that day on I was Mel to my friend Liz. But it never stuck beyond that. OK, I did have one other nickname. In high school our church youth group was going on a mission trip to Oklahoma. On the bus, to kill time, we were switching people's initials to see what their names would be. So, Matt Sears would be Satt Mears, etc. They got to me (my name at the time was MaryEllen Henderson) my friend Andy said "What would you be, Hairy Melons?" Big laughs from everyone, big embarrassment for me (I was 16) but I was occasionally known as Hairy Melons for the rest of my youth group career. But, no, I'm going to stick with Mare as my online handle."

I blogged back when I was a stay at home mom.  My old blog was pretty political and obnoxious.  I don't know if there is a connection, but, I'm less political than I used to be, although still fairly obnoxious.  I'm hoping my new blog will not be a place where divisions are ranted about, but where grace and love and unity will be the goal.  I still may rant on occasion, but I'll at least try to make them funny.  I've found (in and outside of teaching) that humor makes chastising/complaining much easier to swallow.  So, here it goes.