Book Review: Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott (Eventually) is the third Lamott book I’ve read and I’ve continued to enjoy them. I read one review that said it was just more of the same, and I think in some ways they are right, but where that reviewer saw it as a negative, I didn’t feel that way. Lamott’s writing is about her life and so it’s no surprise when she talks about her son, the difficulties of parenting, her relationship with her mother, life at her church and stories about hiking. It isn’t an international spy thriller, but that’s not the point. Lamott, let’s you into the day to day in her life so that you can see the depth of value and meaning in the day to day of your own life. I feel more in tune with the little things happening around me after every chapter I read of Lamott’s writing.

She also hit’s up some tough issues and offers her perspective in an honest way, telling her story, not necessarily arguing a point or a side, just sharing her experience. I wish we (Christians particularly) felt more free to do that. To share, without fear of condemnation, our experience. Lamott is an extremely courageous woman for sharing the stories and life experiences that she shares. I hope just a little of that wears off on me.

Here are some quotes I enjoyed:

“This culture’s pursuit of beauty is a crazy, sick, losing game, for women, men, teenagers, and with the need to increase advertising revenues, now for pre-adolescents, too. We’re starting to see more anorexic eight- and nine-year-olds. It’s a game we cannot win. Every time we agree to play another round, and step out onto the court to try again, we’ve already lost. The only way to win is to stay off the court. No matter how much of our time is spent in pursuit of physical beauty, even ot great success, the Mirror on the Wall will always say, “Snow White lives,” an this is in fact a lie – Snow White is a fairy tale. Lies cannot nourish or protect you. Only freedom from fear, freedom from lies, can make us beautiful, and keep us safe. There is a line I try to live by, spoken at the end of each Vendata service: ‘And may the free make others free.”
Of course , some days go better than others.
Let’s start with something easy: To step into beauty, does one have to give up on losing a little weight? No, of course not. Only if you’re sick of suffering. Because if you cannot see that you’re okay now, you won’t be able to see it if you lose twenty pounds. It’s an inside job.” -p.74

Lamott has a way of writing these amazing lines that make me crack up. Here is one talking about her friend who ended up marrying a guy who was basically a jerk.

“The polite answer to why Nell married him is: Nell settled. This happens with one’s coolest girlfriends, who sometimes mate with people not worthy to drink their bath water, and I mean that in a warm and nonjudgmental way.” -p.128

A Brief Look At Local Candidates (My Ballot)
Click on the Picture to download my PDF ballot

Well, less then a week away we’ll be casting our ballots (some of you already have), and it turns out there is more then just Obama and McCain to choose from. I’m not just talking about McKinney (she would have had my vote in 2004), I’m talking about the local politicians. This is not an endorsement, just a quick rundown on my picks so far. For those of you having a hard time investigating the local elections, let me lend a hand. (Sorry to you none Minneapolis folks) [also sorry that this is kind of long. Hopefully it will be helpful to you local folks. And I’d love to dialog if you have any comments on any of this].

(If your interested in doing your own research, here’s candidate info from the Star Tribune, and from the League of Women Voters) (And if you want to vote just like me. You can download my nifty PDF ballot right here)

Who I Endorse

Bobbie Joe Champion – This guy has my vote hands down for State Rep 58b (My district). The main reason: I see him everywhere. We are old pals now, because I run into him at every community event I go to, see him in the neighborhood, at the grocery store. He’s local and approachable. Hearing him talk and checking out his website gives me confidence he’ll have the communities interest in mind, and I also know I could go and knock on his door and complain if I had a problem, and he’d listen.

Keith Ellison – Also lives in my neighborhood. I’ve been impressed with his work and commitment to the community even though he’s got a busy job and off in Washington a lot. He’s on KMOJ giving straight talk about the political scene. He supports things I can get behind. He even gives time to the conservative talk shows (I heard him interviewed about the bailout package on one). He’s got my vote.

Dean Barkley – Barkley is the independent between the Franken and Coleman heated senate race. I’m a third party guy when I can be. This guy is a viable candidate, and a healthy alternative to the depressing two party system. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think Independents are the key to any real change in our current politics.

School Board And Related

YES to Operating Levy – Educating our children is the most important thing we do. Take a walk through some of the schools and you know we need more money in public education. Definitely a yes on the Levy.

NO on Referendum – They are interested in changing the school board to 9 members and do it by districts like the parks board. Not sure what I think overall, but I’ve been impressed by the diversity of the current board and it seems the referendum and districts would negatively effect that diversity. We’ll see, I’m not set one way or the other, but I think the way it is now is better.

Lydia Lee – She’s an incumbent on the school board. I’ve listened to a few school board meetings and have been continually impressed by her. She’ll win no problem.

Jill Davis and Carla Bates – These are the two other DFL endorsed school board candidates. I heard them both at a School board candidate forum and was impressed. They seem to know what they’re talking about and are qualified to get the job done.

Sharon Henry-Blythe –  is the other incumbent. I’ve heard she’s done well, but I haven’t been able to investigate much. There was this candidates forum on the northside which she didn’t even show up to (all the others, including a write in did). She has no website, haven’t seen any yard signs or literature. It just doesn’t seem like she’s making an effort to get re-elected. Your call.

Thomas Dicks – is a write-in candidate. It seems like he has no chance of getting elected, but he’s got some good things to say. He’s big on revamping the whole curriculum and doing away with the eurocentric textbooks and sort of text/lecture driven classroom style. Interesting things to say at the forum.

Mann and Reed – I’m hesitant about Mann and I really am opposed to Reed. Douglas Mann simply isn’t a good public speaker. At the forum we were at he had a hard time articulating his views. And though he had some challenging things to say, I don’t know that he’d function well on the school board. Kari Reed is a homeschooling parent. I’ve got nothing against that, but she seems completely out of touch with the challenges that face parents of public school kids. When asked about funding for extra-curricular she questioned why we are having the schools “babysit our kids”, not even acknowledging that any single parent with a job is going to need some option between the end of school and the end of the work day for their children. I don’t want her representing my community.


Paul H. Anderson – He’s the incumbent for the supreme court justice seat. Seems like a decent guy and basically his opponent freaks me out a little.

Deborah Hedlund – Makes a good case for herself over the incumbent. She’s got my vote. After reading this article about Hedlund, I’m definitely voting for the incumbent Gildea.

Philip D. Bush – His opponent is simply counting on people being repulsed by the last name Bush. This guy seems decent, and I know nothing about the opponent except that tidbit.

Ranum and Piper – Couldn’t really decide, but Ranum has Rybak and Don Samuels as supporters. That wins me over.

Haeg and Swenson – I’m really not sure on this one either. Your pick. The Incumbent is Swenson.

James Wisker – For Soil and Water Supervisor. He’s young (27) and aware of urban community needs, wins me over.

Jeffrey Beck – He mentions involving minority populations. The other guy just wants limited government involvement.

Terri J. Stoneburner – Because Stoneburner is a cool last name. Seriously, she’s the incumbent and I didn’t see a compelling reason to choose her opponent.

YES on Sales tax amendment – it’s 0.375% and it seems to support good causes. My neighbor John has a yard sign supporting it. If he’s behind it so am I.

I’m not voting on any of the uncontested, because I haven’t heard from any of them. If there is a viable write-in candidate, I don’t want to lessen their chances by my uninformed vote.

[photo credit]

To Christians in California, Arizona and Florida (Vote NO on Marriage Amendment)


How do we truly love our neighbor? If I may contextualize a bit: Jesus says do as the homosexual prostitute did when he, not judging or condemning, had compassion and cared for the needs of the church-goer who had been left for dead in the alley outside of the ministry she worked at, even after a fellow church member and a pastor drove by. (LUKE 10:30-37).

Some in our community feel that loving your neighbor is best done by voting yes on Marriage Amendments that would restrict “marriage” to be recognized only between a man and a women; I’m fearful of that action. We must be very clear that a Yes Vote on those amendments (Prop 8, Amendment 2, Prop 102) is NOT a stand against homosexuality as sin, but a political statement concerning the rights of those already practicing homosexuality. 

Jesus’ public condemnations where almost always directed to the Religious authorities within the religious community that he was a part of. In the early church we see most rebuking and moral standards being dealt with within the church, not to non-Christians. Paul even says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (I Cor. 5:12)

The Support for these amendments are coming primarily from churches. The loudest statements being made by churches are a statement to oppress homosexuals (it’s not to “support family,” just ask a homosexual what they think). If this is passed it will define in many minds a view of Christianity and Church in direct relation to this issue. Literally using a secular governments physical force and laws to mandate religious views.

How did Jesus address the idea of using physical punishment or the threat of to uphold morality? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (Jn. 8:7) We are not to use the law as a means to force adherence to our moral standards. You want to love your neighbor who is a homosexual? Go hang out with them, be with them. Work with GLBT Teens, sit at the bedside of someone dying of AIDs whose family has disowned him or her. That is where you can share Christ love.

Before we try and take the speck out of others eyes (and I think by “brothers” Jesus meant other believers), have we made sure there is not a plank in our own? I’m not sure exactly how we go about doing that but I have some ideas of statements that we could make to the greater community that would at least be a step in that direction.

I have two suggestions for possible proposals and resolutions that I think we can as a Christian body collectively pass and send to every major organization that is fighting for gay rights. First, as it relates to the support of marriage. I think we can be humble and admit that Christians have not been a very good example of the sanctity of marriage. We can let the world know that we know that we too are sinners and fail to live up to God’s ideals. We can explain to others that God is and will forever be the one who has defined marriage, and no matter what we the church or the rest of the world does we cannot change that. And we can commit to being an example in years to come of what true marriage is, as a union before God.

The second statement I think we can make, relates to the homosexual people who this impacts. We, the church, have been a horrible example of Christ love to the homosexual community for years. Christ would have sat by the bedside of dying homosexuals in the height of AIDs in this country, yet we stood outside with signs saying they would burn in hell (or we passively stood by while those statements were made). We can beg forgiveness from the homosexual community for the hurt and hatred that has been dealt to them by members of the Christian community. We can commit to spending much more time personally showing and spreading the love of Christ in genuine ways to people who practice homosexuality.

If you believe it is best and most loving to vote Yes on these marriage amendments, then I pray you are doing equally as much to assure the that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons know the love of Christ. My personal opinion? Vote NO on the Marriage amendments and start a movement within the church to be a shining example, a light on the hill, of what a God-ordained, Christ-centered, loving relationship looks like.

[photo credit]

Fear Tactic: A Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America

Okay, I’m jumping to dialog since I don’t have a deep thought to share with anyone today. Apparently, Focus on the Family Action, the politicized version of the non-profit, sent out a “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America.”(pdf)

It’s a terribly fearful letter about how the country’s on it’s way to hell in a hand basket if Obama gets elected. I’m not sure I believe them, nor do I think this kind of fear tactic is appropriate, nor do I think it’s very Christian, but nonetheless, it’s out there.

Some of the highlights of the letter (in 2012):

– The Supreme court leans liberal, 6 to 3.
– Terrorist attacks have occurred in 4 US cities.
– Christian doctors, nurses, counselors, and teachers have either been fired or quit.
– Iran perpetrated a nuclear attack on Israel, drastically reducing the size of its borders.
– Pornography is freely displayed.
– Inner city violent crime has dramatically increased due to gun control.
– Russia has occupied 4 additional countries.
– Gas tops $7 a gallon.
– Euthanasia becomes commonplace.
– Blackouts occur throughout the country.
– Homosexual marriage becomes law in all 50 states.
– Campus ministries, Christian adoption agencies and Christian schools nearly cease to exist.
– Home school families emigrate to Australia and New Zealand by the thousands.
– Bush officials are jailed and bankrupt.
– Taliban oppression overtakes Iraq and death of American sympathizers reaches millions.
– Homosexuals are given a bonus to enlist in the military.

My question, and it’s an honest one, is whether or not this is extreme or an accurate portrayal of what conservative Christians believe will happen by 2012 if Obama is elected?

Book Review: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

This will be short (Internet fickle amonst other excuses). I finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott earlier this week. It was the most “practical” of the books I’ve written by her, because it’s on the topic of writing. She teaches writing classes and workshops and wrote this book to put down the advice she shares with countless students year in and year out. It was a very encouraging read, because, as I’ve said before about Lamott, she makes the ordinary parts of life seems so interesting.

The book gave me encouragement as a writer to continue to write, if not for some lofty goal of being published (which she warns is not all it’s cracked up to be), then simply for your self.

I’d recommend picking up this book if your a writer or would like to be. Definitely worth a bit of your time.

I normally include some quotes, and I plan on adding them later, but I don’t have the time right now. So, this concludes your weekly book review.

A Slightly More Light Hearted Question

After yesterday’s post and discussion, I figured we’d move briefly to a more light hearted subject.

It’s another question. My daughter is a reading maniac. We’ll she doesn’t read, but she wants us to read to her ALL the time. And she’s just 16 months. The problem is, we read the same books fifteen times a day, and it’s driving me a little batty.

Anyone have recommendations of childrens books I should check out that both she and I will enjoy?
She can handle a couple sentences per page, but it must have pictures and can’t be to too long.


Questions for My “Pro-Life” Friends

question markThese are not “gotcha” questions, I’m just trying to get some input and answers. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, only trying to better understand a view I’ve aligned myself with in the past, and questioning whether I can comfortably do so in the future. Feel free to respond to them individually, I’ll number them so you can number your answers.

  1. Do you believe that using birth control, such as the pill, is also abortion? If so, why have we never seen a church campaign to stop it’s members from using the pill?
  2. There are thousands of babies all over the world who die every day simply because they don’t have enough food and clean drinking water. They aren’t murdered by abortion (an act we have little control over, whether legal or illegal), they are murdered by our apathy and reluctance to help. If the church really cares about the smallest, why are we spending so much of our wealth on ourselves instead of caring for those lives we could save across the globe?
  3. What evidence brings you to the conclusion that “life” begins at conception? What scriptural support if any?
  4. Abortions occurred during Jesus’ time as well. Why did Jesus not say a single thing about this during his time on earth?
  5. Is there more to the “Pro-life” platform then simply overturning Roe v. Wade? If so I’d like to know. I’m wondering if there is a platform stance on issues concerning maternity, like federal paid leave, medical support, etc.

I really want answers to these questions, so I’m not going to add any more. I’ve addressed other questions I’ve had about the consistent ethics, when life begins, national depravity and a specific Bible verse as well, you can comment on those posts regarding those topics.

Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m really seeking to better understand the position. I’m not out to debate. My goal is to respond to comments with further questions or clarification, but I’m not going to try and debate any answers that are given.

[photo credit]

Abortion And The Depravity Of Our Nation

Abortion Laws World Wide

On my last post regarding the topic of Abortion, I received the following comment:

It’s a matter of priority. Even among many younger Pro-Lifers who may question the actions of our military, the question of legitimacy may take precedent. The idea is that while we may be committing atrocities abroad, do we even have the right to address holes in our foreign policy when we are committing a sort of selective genocide within our own borders that is both endorsed and funded by the government? In the Old Testament, the sacrifice of babies and children to idols within one’s own borders is strongly connected to a certain national depravity for which God has a particular hatred. When this insidious brand of evil is able to blind a country into killing it’s own, it seems to permeate the country’s very identity. We may not worship the same idols, but abortion still gives us the means to sacrifice our children on the altars of hopelessness, convenience, fear, and social pressure. Perhaps if we could take off our blinders and not let our nation endorse and fund this act, we would see more clearly in order to address issues abroad.

The following is my response:

I find your last point extremely interesting, and I wonder how many other pro-lifers hold to it. There’s an interesting conclusion when you look at a map about abortion laws throughout the world, and follow your point:
“In the Old Testament, the sacrifice of babies and children to idols within one’s own borders is strongly connected to a certain national depravity for which God has a particular hatred.”

Take a look at the map and notice who outlaws abortion and who doesn’t:
It’s the USA and our allies who are the nationally depraved and our enemies, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the rest of the “Middle East” who have stood against abortion. Maybe it is they who “see more clearly in order to address issues abroad.”

What are your thoughts on the National Depravity of our country or the moral superiority of those countries we often point to as our enemies? Have we missed something in the translation here?