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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

On the Edge

I have been quiet during this election cycle…  not silent, but quiet… certainly quieter than usual.  There are many reasons for this, ranging from my current vocational position in higher education, where I have always praised the merits of teaching students how to think as opposed to what to think… to my general dissatisfaction with the options on the ballot… to a certain degree of loss of relationships in some of my most politically minded circles… to the political divisions in my own family, which sometimes suck the life right out of me. 

I have been dwelling deeply on some words from the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.  Do justly, now.  Love mercy, now.  Walk humbly, now.  You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”  As an empath, I am, self-admittedly, often daunted… even overwhelmed… by the enormity of the world’s grief.  I feel it deeply in my bones, and it can threaten to consume me.  This sounds awful, but it beats the alternative.  The other day, as I was feeling this pain, I thought to myself, “This is uncomfortable, but I desperately need to feel it.”  And I do.  Because not feeling is so much worse.

I have big emotions.  Big.  Big.  Emotions.  For that, I am unashamed. 

And so, in the midst of this election week… after I had taken care of those who needed me to the best of my ability, nearly consumed by the grief but, nevertheless (she persisted), desiring to give all I could… I found myself gravitating toward the pull of the ocean, as is my modus operandi. 

I sat down on a rock, and the winds blew and beat against my face, and I wrote: I am currently sitting on a mass of land that will literally be inaccessible when the tide comes in.  There is an end to national power… an actual, physical end.  This is the eastern border, beyond which we have only wind and waves.  And they are subject to only One.

I am not free to abandon the work of healing… of peacemaking… of loving.  There is no scenario in which I would want to be free of this work.  We are called to this work… to this life… and it is not passive.  It is also not boundless, but concrete.  Cliché will no longer do (if it ever did), because by definition it lacks originality.  We can no longer throw our hands up in the air and shout, “God is in control!” without essentially spitting in the faces of the bereaved and naming their narratives as worth less than our own… as worthless… No, cliché will never do, nor will sweeping gestures and vague promises.  But maybe anecdote will.  Hear me out.  Today is a day when the big picture feels too enormous, but within that we’re all living smaller stories.  Things will change when justice, mercy, and humility permeate each of our narratives.  Please don’t mistake this for submission but subversion.  I learned a long time ago that the loudest voices are merely the loudest.  And they fade.  That’s not power.  Not really.    

Do not lose heart!  “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”[i]  Count on it.  Rise up.



[i] Matthew 5:4

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

We Love the Great Pumpkin: On Liturgy and Scarcity

I am a huge fan of Halloween.[i]  Often, over the past decade plus, I have planned and participated in an event named HallowedWorship, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Interestingly, the last thing that happens at HallowedWorship is the showing of “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”  It happens after music and Scripture and preaching and Eucharist… after candy and games and Halloween stories.  It happens after everyone who has prepared for and worked the event is exhausted.  It happens with kids on a sugar high.  And to be honest, there have been some years when my family has been the last one standing (or sitting, or falling asleep on a Sunday School room floor somewhere), as it plays to a chorus of people leaving the room questioning whether or not it is really necessary.  We’re all tired.  We’ve seen this film before.

And so, there is a certain degree of irony to the fact that the whole Halloween celebrating world is up in arms about “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” ceasing to air on broadcast television after fifty-four years of consistency.  I’m seeing some concern over the injustice of this.  After all, not everyone has Apple TV+.  I don’t.  And actually, I want to freely admit that there were some years when I didn’t have access to broadcast TV, either, so I legitimately understand the frustration that comes with being left out of culturally significant moments in time which can only be experienced together through technology one does not possess.  I’m not making light of this.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Although, my lament of The Great Pumpkin runs more toward a sadness that we cannot gather around my aging DVD copy to share the story with anyone who cares to watch in community, whether or not they have another way to do so. 

But I’m slightly taken aback by the idea that people who regularly slipped away before the show might be the same ones who are crying out against its disappearance.  Slightly.  Ever so slightly.  OK, maybe not even that much.  It seems odd, but maybe it’s not.

People like rhythm and ritual, and even if they do not physically participate on a regular basis, they also want to know the option is available to them.  As humans, we order our lives around crisis moments and the regular patterns that happen in-between.  Perhaps more than any other year in modern history (or, at least, personal history), 2020 has robbed us of this sense of normalcy.  And “normal” is a word that is cropping up more and more, especially in the context of “a new normal.”  We have been resilient… or so we think.  We have made sacrifices and reframed our contexts for work and school and justice and politics and worship and family life.  We have quite literally framed ourselves in little boxes in order to continue to communicate with whatever invented version of body language and expression we can muster.  But the loss of The Great Pumpkin?  I mean, come on…  enough is enough!  Am I right?

Be kind to yourself.  This is not such an outlandish claim or feeling to have.  It’s fairly common for people who are in the midst of crisis to reach for the small, consistent pieces of their lives in order to cope with the things they cannot control.  Those who are suffering trauma might ground themselves with a blade of grass or a handful of sand.  When your house is burning down around you, the most devastating immediate losses and subsequent requests can seem strange and inconsequential.  But we thrive on embracing the ordinary when the world seems to be spinning off its axis.  It’s why we need to be able to sit with Linus in the pumpkin patch, this year, wrapped in his familiar blue blanket, even though we know The Great Pumpkin isn’t coming.  It’s why we need to hear Charlie Brown say, “I got a rock.”  This is quite literally a touchstone!

I knew it was serious when I did a quick search for "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" on DVD today.  If you read that last line and were inspired to give it a shot, maybe don’t.  Just like there was a run on toilet paper and Lysol wipes, you will find the “shelves” empty.  I don’t really know how to fix this in the time of Covid-19.  Were it a more normal time in history, I’d probably just invite y’all over for popcorn and a movie.  Then again, we’ve been there.  If it were a more normal time in history, you might decline. 

Rather than being some sort of definitive treatise on the benefits and detriments of a Peanuts liturgy[ii], this is intended to create some space for the consideration of why this loss (and so many others) is significant… to you… to community… to the calendar… to the culture.  Allow it to sink in.  Tread softly. 


[i] No one gasps (see: girl who is most comfortable with lament, preaching funerals, Ash Wednesday, and All Saints Day). 

[ii] That sounds like a great piece for another time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

I Voted Today…

… and the honest truth is that I feel crappier about it than any other vote I have ever cast (and that’s saying something).

Take a trip with me, back to 2008.  If you’ve known me that long, you may recollect that I was a lifelong registered Republican, but I had bought into “Hope and Change.”  However, on the precipice of casting my vote for Obama, I waited with hopeful, bated breath for his VP pick.  And when it was Joe Biden, I said, “Oh, heck no,” and this voter swayed right back to the party she was registered to support (even though I didn’t have a lot of love for McCain, either). [i] 

Fast forward to the past year…

Much in the same way, I critically viewed all of the democratic debates and felt fairly sure that a candidate I could live with would emerge.  Having voted third party in 2016, and having decided (and declared fairly publicly) that I would never do that again (unless we come to some sort of ranked voting system at which point I will claim it is my prerogative to change my mind, given new parameters and information), I had essentially already decided that I would vote for whoever’s name graced the ballot for the democratic party this time around.  There were a few candidates I didn’t like, but I was fairly sure they would drop off in the early dropping off days (most did), and there were a few candidates I liked a great deal.  None of them were perfect.  I hold some positions that are apparently mutually exclusive with actually becoming a democrat (although, in full disclosure, that is how I am currently registered).  But looking at the wide field of possibilities, I felt pretty good about where things were headed.  At some point, I told my kids that it would be alright, because the only candidate left that I just couldn’t vote for was Biden, and it was never going to be him…

And then I found myself in an impossible situation, because I am 100%, without a doubt, a “nevertrumper” for life (please note, the very definition of never means never), I had made a really big deal about never voting third party again (see: definition of never), and I had also proclaimed that I would not vote for Biden and had backed that decision with my voting record, in the past.  Because I disdain lying and/or going back on my word; for the first time ever, I seriously considered not voting, but it didn’t sit well with me. I’m not a real fan of letting other people make decisions for me and living with the consequences.

There are many things I would like to say about politics.  There are many things I would like to say about my positions and how I justify the decisions I make.  I could go on for pages and pages, but I suspect this wouldn’t make much of a difference, because the vast majority of us are reading and listening to the biased sources that we think are most legitimate, and one more liberal leaning, pro-life, doctoral student, pastor, mama of many[ii] isn’t going to sway anyone in a blog post.  However, if you legitimately want to engage in a dialogue, I am always willing to do so.[iii]

I recognize that no one has to disclose who they voted for, but my MO is to do just that, with transparency, in hopes that we can have that charitable discourse and also in hopes that we might recognize that voting doesn’t always fit neatly into some predetermined box and it’s OK to cast a vote for someone who doesn’t meet all of your expectations or for someone whose ideals and policies don’t align perfectly with your own.  Just keeping it real, how many people are there out there who would meet these standards?  If I made this my baseline, I could probably vote for something like two people on the face of the planet, and neither of them is running for anything!

I voted today.

I voted Biden/Harris, because it was the best I could do.

I feel kinda crappy.

I still hope you go do the best you can do, too.   


PS  I have a whole roll of "I Voted Today" stickers for those of you who are voting by mail, like me!  Just send me a message and I will get one out to you!

[i] Actually, these were probably not my exact words 12 years ago, although they would be close, today…

[ii] Oh wait, just me?

[iii] By this, I do not mean if you want to make attempts to trip me up or change my mind.  What I mean is that I am willing to share my reasons for my decision, and I will listen to yours, if we can talk charitably with one another.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The World Has Shifted

 “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.” -Maya Angelou

It’s a bumper sticker on my vehicle, but it’s more than that, too. 

For a variety of reasons, I have written and said precious little of consequence over the past few months.  To be honest, a great deal of my silence is simply due to my current position in life.  I’m a PhD student.  It’s exam year.  I am basically maxed out.  The other day, I told my kids I think I have crammed so much in my brain that it is starting to dump details that are no longer important or at least that are not vital in the given moment.  This life doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for engagement, and I’m OK with that, because I know it’s temporary. 

But there’s something I need to say now.  The world has shifted.

It’s certainly not the first time, and it won’t be the last.  If you know me, you know I like classic TV, and I can tell you that you need look no further than an episode or two of Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, or Full House (whew… showing my age if that’s now a “classic”) to see how families and worldviews and entertainment choices and relationships have changed from decade to decade.  And while I would not recommend trying to emulate the cultures of any of those sitcoms, I do find them an interesting study.

Many years ago, when my oldest kids (now adults) were little kids, I can remember my dad saying, “Well, you’re not raising them like you were raised, but you’re doing a good job.”  Not long ago, I heard a sentiment (paraphrased) that you can’t raise your kids the same way you were raised, because the world is not the same world it was when you were growing up.  It’s true.  It’s all true.  In fact, the world shifted again between the early childhood days of my oldest two children and the early childhood days of my youngest three.  It’s almost as if I could physically feel it.  And now, it has shifted once more. 

I suspect that the years between major world changes are getting shorter.  I could speculate on why this is, but if I do, I’ll never finish this post, and it will end up in the scrap heap with so many other ideas that I have never shared.  For the purposes of today, I don’t care so much about why the world has shifted but that it has.

There are basically two things you can do when you feel the ground move beneath your feet.  You can adapt… or not.  Both choices come with consequences.  I love the Maya Angelou quote, because I think if offers a certain degree of grace to everyone involved. 

Do the best you can…

I want to believe that everyone (or, at least most everyone) is doing the best they can.  It’s really hard when that’s not enough.  But for the sake of charitable discourse, let’s hold back on that for a moment and extend the benefit of the doubt to human beings, assuming that we are, indeed, doing our best. 

Until you know better…     

This part is tricky, too, because it requires teachable hearts.  It requires us to take a good, hard, long look at the things we believe to be best and to accept that they might not be.

Then when you know better…

But I believe in the resiliency of the human spirit, and I believe we can learn and deconstruct and reconstruct and accept that sometimes we were wrong, even when it was the best we had to offer at that particular time.

Do Better…    

I often say, “We have to do better,” but I have recently come to realize that, actually, we don’t.  We don’t have to do better, but we really should.  We should at least try.

It’s really hard.  It’s hard enough to transform and evolve when the people with all the power dig their heels in.  It’s harder still when the people we love do the same.  I get it.  I’m over her playing this very dangerous game of survival, just like the rest of you, and it’s terrifying, because I don’t claim to know what that even looks like for the coming days.  But I desperately want to be on the side of history that does just a little better than yesterday.  And even though it is my deep desire and a strong temptation to drag others kicking and screaming along with me, I think I’m at a place where I have to look at them, doing the best they can, even if they don’t want to know better, and wish them well, as I adapt to the earth moving beneath my feet.  Let's not dig our heels in.  Let's soar.


Thursday, September 17, 2020

This Odd Lack of Human Connection

It has been such a weird six months.  As many of you know, yesterday I sat for my first comprehensive exam for my PhD program.  It’s an accomplishment (I hope I passed), but it’s also just another step (there are two more written exams and an oral exam before moving on to yet the next part of the program).  A year ago, if you had asked me what I planned to do to celebrate, it would have looked decidedly different from what I actually did.  To be honest, at present I am tucked away in a hotel room by myself, as is my typical modus operandi for soul care time, primarily because I couldn’t imagine taking this exam at my home (which has become quite conducive for most work, but this was exceptional), or while wearing a mask at the public library, or in the same situation at my school’s library, where I would have had to change my student status and submit to a Covid test just to show up.  Thus, the hotel…

I was pleasantly surprised by the number of friends, family members, and colleagues who prayed for me yesterday and who sent texts and messages to encourage and then congratulate me for checking another requirement off the list.  I appreciated every single interaction.  But I also want to take the time to lament this era of life during which there are no high fives, fist bumps, or hugs.  Even as an introvert who needs alone time to adequately recharge, I have to admit that I am desperate for physical human connection, and I just feel kind of sad.[i]

I was pondering this in my vehicle, at a stoplight, listening to angsty music, by myself, at lunchtime.  I hadn’t planned to pick up carry-out for lunch, but then I felt inclined to at least be in the same space as someone who might hand me a paper bag filled with lemon chicken and fortune cookies, so I made the trek.  On the way back to the hotel, waiting for the light to change, I noticed that the woman in the car next to mine was waving wildly.  I couldn’t tell what she was saying, but I thought it might have something to do with my phone, which was firmly attached to the dash, and to be honest it looked like she might be angry.  On a whim, I thought, “well, what the heck,” and I rolled my window down. 

She exclaimed, “I love your phone holder!  Where did you get it?”

And then I broke into a huge smile… and then she broke into a huge smile… and then it hit me that I haven’t been that close to another human being (except the people who live in my house), both unmasked, in so long that I had forgotten what it looked like and felt like when people in the same space shared this very normal human facial expression.  I told her where I got my phone holder.  She also complimented my steering wheel cover.  The light turned green as she shouted, “I’m going to get one of those!”  We both drove off. 

This is not how I envisioned celebrating this moment.  I still feel sad, but I am also reminded that much of our experience is temporary, and although that might actually make things feel worse sometimes, today I think it brings hope.  I miss people… and places… but this won’t last forever.  I cannot wait to have a gigantic party someday![ii]


[i] Also, I am so recharged at this point I think I might be giving off a fluorescent aura.

[ii] Maybe the least introverted thing I’ve ever pondered, but so be it…

Monday, March 16, 2020

Does Online Education Make Us More Human?

I get it.  Academia is seemingly shut down, and even those of us who aren’t panicking are forced to deal with a certain degree of uncertainty and inconvenience.  I am fairly devastated (in the drama queen, not actually devastated by definition way) that I cannot return to the campus of Harvard for class, because… come on… it’s been a real joy to walk through those huge gates from week to week, and it was kind of a once in a lifetime opportunity, but class is still on.  It’s just on my laptop.

To be honest, I was already teaching online this semester, so I have been less inconvenienced than most.  I am something of a pro when it comes to online education, and I love it, so I’m not sad.  I am thinking, however, of the many university faculty members who are making this switch for the first time, and based on things I am hearing and observing, I would like to offer this encouragement:  In answer to the question that is the title for this post, yes.  Online education makes us more human.

Here’s the thing.  Online education puts us in our natural environment.  It puts us in our homes.  Even if we’re still wearing suit jackets on top, everybody knows we’re wearing sweatpants on bottom.  We become more human.  We stumble to share the right screen, and suddenly complete strangers are privy to our screensaver that is a snapshot of a family vacation from six years ago as opposed to the lecture notes.  We become more human.  Our kids and our dogs run through the backdrop of our classes.  We become more human, and students find a little bit of joy in our chaos.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, it takes some of the pressure off.  And there is a lot of pressure in the ivory tower! 

Perhaps my absolute favorite thing that I heard a student ask last semester was, “Do you actually care about me that much?”  Y’all…  I bought her a bottle of pop (side note, she had never heard the word “pop” to refer to “soda,” so that part was funny…).  The point, though, is that it doesn’t really take that much to humanize others and re-humanize ourselves.  This may be especially important for those of us teaching in degree programs for practitioners.  We are not machines.  We are people.  And people learn best from other people.  Funny how communicating through machines might actually make us more authentic if we let it…

Be well and carry on!


Thursday, February 13, 2020

News Flash: No One is Perfect

I still hedge when I use “the word” (anxiety).  The stigma surrounding any condition less than perfection is astounding.  In a culture nearly obsessed with identity (and which ones are good or bad or right or wrong or worthy of love) and a Church just as nearly preoccupied with transformation (and how one might achieve what is good or bad or right or wrong or worthy of love), it is difficult to strike a balance between who we are and who we are becoming and whether or not we should be either of those.

This morning, I woke up to an email with headlines that reminded me that upwards of 40% of graduate students have moderate to severe anxiety.  Read that again.  The number is significant and so are the descriptors.  We’re not talking about a few students feeling sort of nervous about final exams.  This is an epidemic.  At the orientation for this PhD program, a second year student strongly advised the incoming cohort to take advantage of therapy, because, “all PhD students need it.”  I rolled my eyes, but he wasn’t wrong.

There’s something else, though, and I think it might be time to just throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.  When I think about the full range of my life so far, it becomes obvious to me that I didn’t develop anxiety because I am a graduate student. 

I have always been this way. 

As a child, various people described me as sensitive, high-strung, an old soul, and a perfectionist.  I’m fairly certain we do not usually recognize the circumstances that are forming us until we look back at them over time, and the problem with that is that the circumstances no longer exist in their truest form within milliseconds of their happening.  They are immediately colored by perspective.  If you have ever listened to two (or more) people describe the exact same moment, you know this is true.  Cinematic effects in recent years have told powerful stories of perspective by layering one story on top of another, often inserting jarring, repetitive material at specific points of the narrative, but I’m not sure we get even that much in real life. [i]  There are no moments captured exactly how they were felt and perceived from every perspective.  Photographs and home videos might come closest, but even they are expressed through a particular (literal) lens.  We don’t have the whole picture.

So, when I sat down to write this (on a train, on the way into Boston, because it seems that this is the only time I have to write for the sake of writing anymore), I had absolutely no intention of exposing a memory from the fourth grade.[ii]  I had no idea how formative it was when it was happening.  And, in full disclosure, I’m not even quite sure I have it “right.”  1989 was a really long time ago. 

It was spring.  It was MEAP week (Michigan standardized testing).  Nine-year-old, all A “gifted” student, me was sitting by one of my favorite people in the world… honestly, probably pretty average, but the power of a well passed orange Jolly Rancher at oral reading time should not be underestimated.  It was time to fill in the bubbles on the scantron for our names.  Read that again, our names, because this is important.  My friend peeked over at my scantron and told me in no uncertain terms that I was doing it wrong.  He went by a shortened version of his name, and our teacher had gone to great extremes to be clear that we had to enter our legal names, as found on our birth certificates.  It was understandable that he thought I might be missing something, but Lisa was the fullest name I had.  I wasn’t doing it wrong.  But within moments tears were stinging the backs of my eyes, because I was questioning myself.  If it was possible to get my name wrong, would I be able to pass this test at all?  Here it is for the third time: I was crying over filling in the scantron bubbles for my name!  Formative.[iii]

I don’t really know if this was the first moment in which I realized that I was going to strive for perfection in everything, forever, but it has to come close.  It seems overwhelmingly tragic that a child at a desk in an elementary school classroom would feel this kind of pressure (literal and figurative), and I can’t point to this experience and pretend that it was healthy, but it hit me, today, that it also was not all bad.  This part of who I am probably feeds my ability to achieve… at least sometimes.

And so, here I am wondering whether 40% of graduate students suffer from anxiety because they are graduate students or whether it is simply more likely that people who live with anxiety are capable of achieving more than those who don’t, which is how they get into (and finish) graduate school in the first place.

If you know me, or if you’ve read me, you know that I do not advocate for a theology/theodicy that insists that everything happens for a reason or that bad things happen to good people in order to promote growth, but there is some careful nuance going on here, because I absolutely believe that “suffering produces perseverance.”[iv]  This doesn’t mean that suffering is heaped upon us for the sake of perseverance.  I think perseverance can come in other ways, too.  I don’t think suffering is necessary.  But, there is no denying that a residual effect of suffering is often perseverance, and although I have often wished my character might be built in another way, I am also not willing to waste the potential inherent in anxiety.  If it drives me to be better, so be it.

I do want to issue this positive spin on anxiety with a clear directive toward self-care/soul care.  It’s important to know what your baseline is, because while a certain amount of anxiety can serve you as the drive and persistence to be the best you possible, there are going to be days when you cross that line and anxiety becomes crippling.  No one who reads this should walk away thinking that I am encouraging an increase in those days when you’re gripped with terror and shaking and can’t get out of bed.  For me, recognizing and managing anxiety triggers is essential to my ability to be well.  I know there are about five things that trigger anxiety in me at a greater than normal level, and I know I can deal with two to three of them at a time before I’m in over my head and feel like I’m drowning.  Most of them are foreseeable, which actually allows me to plan for triggering events in such a way that they are manageable when they come.  But, you can’t plan for everything, even if you are as awesome a planner as I am!  There are going to be times when the stars misalign just right and every trigger is pulled at once.  The only way to really prepare for that is to consistently take care of yourself.  See a therapist.  Burn lavender candles.  Take medication if it has been prescribed to you.  Avoid triggers when it is healthy to do so.  Take a bubble bath.  Take a nap.  Go out with friends.  Binge watch Netflix.  Write a blog.  Befriend people who give great hugs.  Eat a candy bar.  Read Scripture.  Go for a long walk.  Get a pet.  Quit your job.  Move to a deserted island.  Whatever.       

Here’s the truth: If my body, family life, personal life, and work are all functioning at 100% perfection, I’m golden.  However, this is the case on approximately zero percent of the days I actually experience.  I suspect I am not alone in this, and I also suspect there are a whole lot of us out there (especially in the ivory tower) overthinking every little thing and pushing harder and harder for perfection until we run ourselves straight into the ground.  I’m pretty sure that’s the marker for crossing into unhealthy patterns that wear us out and diminish the positive potential of anxiety.  Like most everything in life, balance and moderation are key to health.

There’s a lot of me in this post, precisely because I think it takes authenticity and honesty of narrative (to the best of our ability, see: moments of time and perspective) to make any kind of real headway in this life.  I think there are a lot of related universal principles, though, as well, and the first one might be grace.[v]  May we give grace to ourselves to be imperfect.  Instead of panic, may we recognize both the potential for doing something better next time and for being something closer to the people we were created to be but also the potential for accepting that we are not in complete control of the universe, and sometimes we have done the absolute best we can.  May we recognize that this may very well be the move toward being the people we were intended to be, the move toward being exactly who we are.  May we be full of grace even when we are not the best and may we celebrate wildly with the people who are doing it (whatever it is) better than we are!  May we learn from others and may we learn from ourselves and may we wake up again tomorrow and try again.


[i] The past three episodes of “This Is Us,” which aired 1/21, 1/28, and 2/11 are a pretty good example of this phenomenon.
[ii] That was yesterday.  It’s taking me a long time to get this all out.
[iii] Strangely, in this era of reconnecting on social media with everyone we have ever looked in the eye, this is one person I have never managed to find, which is, I guess, why I am almost comfortable with the fact that I just called him out as “average” in a public forum, but just in case this is the post that goes viral, I want to make it clear that I still tell my boys they should present Jolly Ranchers to girls they like… :)
[iv] See Romans 5:3…  Also, Romans 5:3-5 is critical here, in context: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
[v] And everyone is so surprised… #sarcasm