But First We Are People

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We recently took our kids to Chicago for a quick weekend. I’m not a city girl, not by a long shot, but I do like a good adventure. My husband is also pretty willing to take a chance. So, after finding a great deal on a hotel north of the city, we decided to take the Metra train into Chicago for the day and then use buses to travel around. It seemed like a good idea. We weren’t exactly familiar with public transportation, but how hard could it be?

Almost impossible actually.

Buying our train tickets online was a breeze. Getting onto our train and traveling into Chicago was exciting. And that’s where the fun ended.

Silly me assumed that once we got into the transportation center there would be an information desk where a nice person would tell us which bus to take and where to find it. I was wrong.

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This is London, not Chicago, but it felt similar!

Instead we were dumped into a vast sea of people who were all in a tremendous hurry and knew exactly where they were going. There was no information desk of any kind. We finally found a bus stop outside with a map, but it made absolutely no sense.

And there we were, in downtown Chicago, with our two young children, and no clue what to do next. The Internet was as useless as the bus map since all the websites we found already expected you to know how to use the bus system.

When you are a country girl, the big city can be a scary place. 

After wandering around for half an hour, we eventually ended up back inside the transportation center where we found a nice woman at a ticket counter who told us that we could buy bus tickets in the waiting room. Unfortunately the ticket machine was in cahoots with the bus map and Internet sites and was less than helpful. While we stood there trying to make sense of anything, a girl came up with her bus card. She was attempting to put more money on it, but as I just said, the machine was totally uncooperative. I jumped in to help and together we figured it out.

While my new friend and I were wrestling with the ticket machine, a young man appeared behind us. He explained the process of getting and using tickets to my husband and then pulled three single-use tickets out of his wallet and just gave them to us. We tried to pay him, but he waved us off. Beyond grateful, and with tickets in hand, we headed back down to a bus stop that we were reasonably certain was headed to Navy Pier.

Within minutes a bus sporting a beautiful 124 pulled up and the doors opened. The bus driver confirmed he was the bus to Navy Pier, but then told us he was going the wrong direction. His bus just left Navy Pier and was on it’s way back into the city. The right bus stop was across the street, but it had just left. Seriously?

The driver took a look at our dejected faces and told us to get in. That sweet older man not only gave us a free ride, he also explained the bus system to us including telling us about an app that we could download to give us real time bus locations and arrival times.

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My faith in humanity was restored. It didn’t matter that my friend at the ticket machine was Asian and that English was obviously not her first language. It didn’t matter that the man who gave us free tickets was heavily pierced and tattooed. It didn’t matter that our kind bus driver was an older African American. And it didn’t matter that I was a white, suburban housewife. Because, first we were people. People who cared, and stepped up, and helped one another.

I think about the state of our sadly divided country right now, and I shake my head. And then I honestly wonder if we are as divided as the media, and politicians, and other people in power want us to think we are. 

If we had stopped to talk about politics or religion or anything like that, these people of Chicago and I would probably have had different opinions. But those opinions don’t actually matter when it came to connecting as human beings. Because as humans we have more commonality than we have division. At our core we feel, and love, and long, and need the same. We all share the deep things that make us people.

We don’t have to believe exactly the same to love one another. And just because we disagree in some areas doesn’t mean that we have to hate each other. Different isn’t bad; it’s just different.

There is so much fear in our world these days. At least that’s what the news and social medias tell us. We are afraid and must be afraid of anyone who is different than us. That is the message drilled in over and over from both sides. But it’s simply not true.

I’ve been working on Chapter Nine of my book Impostor Jesus: Rejecting Religion in a Search for the Real God. Chapter Nine is all about being motivated by fear. Here is a little excerpt from the rough draft.

“Fear is an excellent motivator if you want power. Capitalize on people’s fears, convince them you have the only answer, and they will give you control. I see this in so many areas of life these days. People often make choices about schooling, health, vaccines, or politics based on fear. It might not be obvious on the surface, but if you look closely, you will see the familiar underlying motivations. Social media, blogs, the Internet in general, these are all excellent ways to spread fear. People in power like to use fear because it works; I know that personally. Which is partly why, as I began to get to know the Real Jesus for myself, the things I had been taught began to make less and less sense.

Fear is not from the Real God. He is not a God of fear. He doesn’t use fear to control us. These are important truths to grasp in our minds and believe in our hearts…”

I wonder what it would look like to live in a world without fear, or at least with less fear. What would happen if we refused to give into the fear driven story-line portrayed by the media? What if we purposely chose to get to know people who are different from us just to discover their beautiful humanity and the things that we do have in common?

Guys, the only people benefiting from our fear are the ones in power. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of that. I’m tired of the drama, and the fighting, and the politics. I want to live real life with the real and precious people around me. I want to broaden my own perspective by learning from people who are different from me. I want to practice acceptance, and grace, and love. I want to get out of my comfort zone and experience the richness that comes from diversity. Will you join me?

Name

Unexpected Grace

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Reblogged from last year with some new pictures!

I was a couple of hours early, despite the fact that I had gotten lost on the way. The dirt road slowly crunched under the tires of my red ’91 Ford Probe. Turning the corner, I took my first look at the place I would call home for the summer…an open grassy field, a cluster of cement block cabins painted “army barracks beige”, an old farm house, and some tall trees. It wasn’t much to look at, but this humble little summer camp would end up changing my life.

Disillusioned with legalism and starting to realize I may have been brainwashed, I still showed up at PRBC in my ankle length skirts, waist length hair, and a long list of standards and beliefs. I came to camp thinking I was going to be sharing Jesus with children. I had no idea that I would find grace, freedom, and “normal” people who loved God with a passion I didn’t know was possible.

Since I was two hours early, I helped the full time staff set up the staff lounge for our training week. I look back with a smile and a shake of my head, wondering what they must have thought of me. They were so gracious and kind, so non-judgmental!

Staff training! I get nostalgic remembering the old, white, plastic tables set up in a U shape in the musty, slightly drafty staff lounge. We sat there for hours each day learning everything we needed to kno, our Nalgene bottles on the tables, twirling chewed pens in our fingers, flies buzzing in the window screens. They were some of the best days of my life!

Here I was, thrown together with all these “normal” young adults, sticking out like a sore thumb, and they just accepted me. They might have asked some questions, but they never rejected me or made me feel like I was different or not “part of the group”. Acceptance was not something we (the people in my “cult”) were good at. We could judge and condemn and alienate with the best of them, but graceful acceptance was a foreign concept. It felt incredible!

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Literally my first week of camp, Freddie’s Friends, a week of camp for the Challenged.

Summer camp challenged me, stretched me, and strengthened me. I had a lot of firsts: listened to Contemporary Christian music (rock beats were bad), watched a PG-13 movie (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), made friends with boys, and decided to go to college.

I had been given a false definition of grace during my teen years. We were taught that grace was the desire and power to do God’s will. My summer at camp taught me that grace was something God gave me because He wanted to, even though I didn’t deserve it.

As I realized that God wasn’t waiting for me to perform before He blessed me, I let go of silly rules and found freedom. I clapped and swayed to contemporary praise music and discovered a worship that I didn’t know existed. Believing in people’s acceptance of me, I let my crazy side come out and participated in skits and planned pranks. Boys became my friends as we hung out, talked, and even flirted. I bought a couple of pairs of capris (gasp!). I experienced freedom!

Before camp ended, another girl and I went to the mall and got our cartilages pierced. Upper ear piercings were looked down on in my old circle. I wanted mine pierced to remind myself of what I had learned, so I would remember not to judge others and that I was free. (Ironically, I was literally chased through Cedar Point after camp by a “friend” who felt the need to confront me about the worldliness of my decision.)

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Second summer at camp. Look! I’m wearing shorts!!!

I would never have imagined it that first summer, but that little camp has been a consistent part of my life for the last 14 years. I eventually met my husband at camp (a long and funny story), got engaged to him while working at camp, had both of my children at camp, and last summer returned to work full time as the health officer

I’m going back to camp again this summer (my kiddos can’t wait). In fact, staff training starts this week! I don’t know what will happen to my blogging over the summer. I want to keep it up, but we will see. If I go dark for a while, you will know why. 🙂 Please pray for me, that I will find many, many opportunities to share the beautiful message of Jesus, encourage people to KNOW Him, and have a wonderful summer in the process!

 

Finding Grace and Getting a Cartilage Piercing

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[This is the third installment in my story of finding grace. Part 3 of 3]

I was early, a couple of hours early, despite the fact that I had gotten lost on the way. The dirt road slowly crunched under the tires of my red ’91 Ford Probe. Turning the corner, I took my first look at the place I would call home for the summer…an open grassy field, a cluster of beige cabins made of cement block, an old farm house, and some tall trees. It wasn’t much to look at, but this humble little summer camp would end up changing my life.

It was the summer of 2002 and I was 21 years old. Disillusioned with legalism and starting to realize I may have been brainwashed, I still showed up at PRBC in my ankle length skirts, waist length hair, and a long list of standards and beliefs. I came to camp thinking I was going to be sharing Jesus with children. I had no idea that I would find grace, freedom, and normal people who loved God in ways I’d never seen.

Since I was two hours early, I helped the full time staff set up the staff lounge for our training week. Oh staff training! I still get nostalgic just remembering the old, white, plastic tables set up in a U shape in the musty, slightly drafty staff lounge. We sat there for hours each day learning everything we needed to know, the brave tipping back in their chairs, with our Nalgene bottles on the tables, twirling chewed pens in our fingers, flies buzzing in the window screens. They were some of the best days of my life!

Here I was, thrown together with all these “normal” young adults, sticking out like a sore thumb, and they just accepted me. They might have asked some questions, but they never rejected me or made me feel like I was different or not “part of the group”. Acceptance was not something we (the people in my “cult”) were good at. We could judge and condemn and alienate with the best of them, but graceful acceptance was a foreign concept. It felt incredible!

Summer camp challenged me, stretched me, and strengthened me. I had a lot of firsts. Listened to Contemporary Christian music (rock beats were bad), watched a PG-13 movie (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), made friends with boys, and decided to go to college.

I had been given a false definition of grace during my teen years. We were taught that grace was: the desire and power to do God’s will. My summer at camp taught me that grace was something God gave me because He wanted to, even though I didn’t deserve it.

As I realized that God wasn’t waiting for me to perform before He blessed me, I let go of silly rules and found freedom. I clapped and swayed to contemporary praise music and discovered a worship that I didn’t know existed. Believing in people’s acceptance of me, I let my crazy side come out and participated in skits and planned pranks. Boys became my friends as we hung out, talked, and even flirted. I bought a couple of pairs of capris (gasp!). And I experienced freedom!

Before camp ended, another girl and I went to the mall and got our cartilages pierced. Upper ear piercings were looked down on in my old circle. I wanted mine pierced to remind myself of what I had learned, so I would remember not to judge others and that I was free. (Ironically, I was literally chased through Cedar Point after camp by a “friend” who felt the need to confront me about the worldliness of my decision.)

After I left camp, I went to college, something my dad had always wanted me to do. And the next summer I went back to camp, and the next, and the next, and the next…

Now, 13 years later, guess what I’m doing this summer?

I’m going to camp! With my kiddos in tow, I’m heading to camp for the summer to be the health officer. And maybe God will use me to show someone else grace, acceptance, and freedom. Maybe I’ll get my cartilage re-pierced…you never know. 🙂