Tag Archives: walking with Jesus

“i have some bad news. that person is also your neighbor.” Jesus, maybe

25 Apr

I was incredibly privileged growing up to get to experience truly ecumenical Christian worship with people from all over the world. We shared our Easter sunrise potluck feast with Pakistani Lutherans, Polish Catholics, Peruvian Methodists and Texan Southern Baptists, among others. This kind of diverse community necessitated compromise on things like musical worship, liturgy or lack thereof, baptism and confirmation practices– in truly diverse churches, Christians must compromise on everything non-essential, and they must agree that what is essential is truly essential.

 

It’s a difficult thing to practice and it’s also a truly beautiful thing to behold. For every painful goodbye I said in my childhood, for every time I was the awkward new kid who never seemed to get better at making friends– this is one of the immeasurably precious gifts my upbringing gave to me. A picture of the Church that resembled what I imagine heaven may look like. Unfortunately, it’s a picture that few American Christians get to experience.

 
Before I knew I was learning it, I was learning what it meant to serve a God of All Nations. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my faith as an adult has been trying to reconcile these truths with the nationalistic perversion of mainstream American Christianity– perhaps especially in the Conservative, Evangelical churches my family chose to attend when we lived in the States.

 

Like many of my friends (they’re calling us Old Millennials now?), I came of age politically at a time when patriotism and religion were becoming deliberately and powerfully linked. More intelligent folks than I have written commentary about where this has led us in the Age of Trump. To summarize broadly, there are many, many Christians who identify as Americans first and Christians second… people who are full-heartedly for a literal “America First” doctrine, for example.

 
I have come to crave the company and fellowship of Christians whose first allegiance is not to their home country, but to Christ. This doesn’t make for great preservationist foreign policy choices. But it does make for communities of believers ready to be used by God to change the world.

 
Here’s the quote that inspired me to write this post, distilling some thoughts that have tumbled around my brain for years now.

 

“If our citizenship is in heaven, this truth should change the way we talk. The word ‘we,’ if a person is truly born again, will refer to the new people into whom a Christian has been born – the church. Christians can no longer refer to ‘our troops’ or ‘our history’ as other people do because of our new identity. Fabricated boundaries and walls are removed for the Christian. Our neighbor is not only from Chicago but also from Baghdad. Our brother or sister in the church could be from Iran or California – no difference! Our family is transnational and borderless; we are in Iraq, and we are in Palestine. And if we are indeed to become born again, we will have to begin talking like it, changing the meaning of ‘we,’ ‘us,’ ‘my,’ and ‘our.’

 
“We must connect our prayers to the rest of God’s children throughout the world and through all time and space, people who are reading the same Scriptures, singing the same songs, praying the same prayers, and grafting their lines into the same old story of a God who is forming a people who are set apart from the world to be God’s light and to show the world what a society of love looks like. Today, more than ever before in history, we have a keen sense of what it means to be part of a global neighborhood. We are aware of how beautifully diverse and terribly dysfunctional the human family is… We are reminded that we have friends in Sudan and China, Afghanistan and Iraq, Palestine and Israel, whether they are our Facebook friends or not. They are praying with us. And the bond we have in Christ is more real than any virtual social network. This is what it means to be born again. We are part of a global neighborhood and a beautifully diverse family of God’s children.”

 
From the introductory pages of Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.

Advertisements

praying for peace in the midst of fear, despair, and disappointment

18 Feb

If you listen to our 45th President, you know we are living in fearful times. Times of carnage. Violence. Hatred. Press that tries to mislead the public without shame. Paid protestors rioting in the streets for causes they don’t even care about. The integrity of our voting systems in utter shambles. Immigrants swarming our borders to rape and pillage our communities and resources. Our global neighbors and one-time allies in opposition to us. Our safety and security at imminent risk. 

If you listen to DJT’s opponents, you also know we are living in fearful times. Persecution of vulnerable people. Desecration of vulnerable land. Corruption of the highest offices, including possible treason. A leader who seems to see himself as infallible and unimpeachable (both of character and under the law). Our leaders lying to our faces, refusing to combat said lies, or powerless in the face of them. The values our country is built upon, threatened. 

This is some legitimately scary stuff, either way you slice it. 
Peace, Be Still

As a Christian I am called to pray for “peace that passes understanding.” Such baffling peace is not something I can muster up. It is a gift from One who sees what is done in secret, who is the Enemy of fear and death, who exposes Truth and loathes lies, who loves all people with a particular concern for poor, marginalized, exploited, and displaced people. Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings I aim to follow, taught his followers to return evil with good deeds and kindness. He taught reconciliation and radical forgiveness instead of eye-for-an-eye “justice.” He spoke of a mysterious, upside down kingdom where the rich and powerful could not peddle their influence but would need to submit themselves, humbly, in their service of others. 

I feel heartbroken as I see that so few Christians seem to embrace what Jesus called us to. I say that as someone who fails daily as deep down I am selfish, fearful, prideful, and sometimes mean. But I am trying to love the things that God loves and to serve my role in the upside down kingdom. I am trying to make different, better choices every day and to let God make me more like Him. 

To know that a supposed 81% of my fellow (Evangelical) Christians voted for DJT, and that tens of millions of Christians continue to support him despite his behavior over his first weeks in office– it is devastating to me. Not because I am an oversensitive millennial. Not because I am a sore loser. But because despite my prayers, conversations with others, and best efforts, I just can’t wrap my mind around the motivation of DJT’s supporters and defenders. 

As an American only, I see his condemnation of a free press, his distain for the separation of powers at the core of our Republic, his contempt for the Constitution, and I feel shocked and appalled. But as a Christian, I am so grieved. This man deliberately opposes the values of Jesus. He cares nothing for truth, only believing and spouting his self-serving version of it (THIS IS NOT TRUTH). He boasts of his own grandeur, power, wealth, and brags about not asking forgiveness. He returns even the smallest perceived slights with shouted insults and taunts his opponents. His words and actions point to no concern for poor and marginalized people, but instead to his desire to elevate his cronies and monied interests. I do not believe that someone dedicated to “draining the swamp” would appoint a team of billionaires and lobbyists; these people seem more intent on burning the swamp down around us all. 

DJT has not sprung any of his character upon the American people in a bait-and-switch. He has been who he is for years and years. He is doing what he did on the campaign trail and what he promised to do. Calling Mexicans rapists and criminals? He did that the literal day he declared his candidacy. Boasting about sexually assaulting women and cheating on his spouse? He did that a decade ago, that we know of, and last year dismissed it as “locker room talk.” Insulting anyone he dislikes, and accusing his critics of lies? Years and years of precedent. Espousing policies that are illegal under the Constitution? He campaigned upon them. Thanking minority voters for not voting in the 2016 election? He did that after his win. Painting refugees as threats to our safety? Complaining about a rigged system– against him in his wins and losses, somehow– riddled with fraud? None of this is brand new. And there are tens of millions of my fellow Americans, including Christians, who are clapping along and crowing with delight. 

I’m sad. Or as DJT might say, “Sad!” I am struggling not to be fearful as I see American families threatened, American legal residents persecuted, American journalists maligned and attacked for trying to do their jobs… And an American President who, at best, is vindictive, deliberately uninformed, self-obsessed, and drunk on his power. This is not politics as usual. Our country is in crisis, and I find it chilling that so many of my fellow citizens are witnessing the same behavior I am witnessing, but considering it refreshing or even worth celebrating. I am afraid of where this man’s leadership will take us, and I am discouraged by the fact that I cannot see eye to eye with his many supporters. I feel powerless as I contact my representatives as so many of them seem willing to choose their Party agendas over the good of our country. I believe they will come to see the error of ignoring the concerns of their constituents. Support for a President who loathes the laws at the foundation of our country will not be remembered fondly. I hope. 

In the midst of my fear, despair, anger and hopelessness, I remember the God who called me into His upside down kingdom. I remember that I have been called to faith, to hope, to righteous action, and to champion the cause of oppressed people. I remember that I need to forgive those who feel like my enemies and even more, to love them more than I love myself. 

And I remember the promise that the Truth will set us free, so it’s worth speaking. The Light will shine in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. My help doesn’t come from earthly leaders, but from the Most High God. 

I will keep praying for the nation whose citizenship I am lucky to bear. I will keep praying for our leaders including those I feel to be my enemies. I will keep praying for my fellow Americans to see the truth and to hold it in high esteem. I will keep praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ, to be united in following after what Jesus commanded. And I will remember that ultimately, my citizenship is not from any earthly nation tainted by evil in history and in present day. I will keep praying for peace that the world can’t understand, especially when I struggle to understand it myself. 

Jesus was a revolutionary. Dear Christian– are you?

9 Nov

I’m resurrecting my super old WP blog to say some things too long for a Facebook status. I abandoned this long ago and have been only sporadically writing in my paper journal… While sometimes thinking guiltily of this dusty, lonely blog. I’m fairly certain fewer people will read this posted here than on FB, but perhaps it’s for the best as some of my friends might consider this passive aggressive anyway. I just can’t get into any more comment wars with people I care about and profoundly disagree with.

Here’s the gist of what I want to say. It makes me so angry and sad when I see Christians purposely and publicly stand against people who are being oppressed. Speaking ill of the character of strangers, thinking the worst of their motives, denying the pain of people who have experienced racism/sexism/ageism/ableism and calling them “whiners,” who simply need to “get over it.” Saying deliberately offensive things under the guise of being too honest for “political correctness,” or as some would call it– RESPECT. I see and hear Christians using public spaces to say these kinds of things, or to applaud others who say them. Not just occasionally but regularly. Not just in the general media but on the social media of people I know.

I can’t reconcile this with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Jesus was brown; while scholars still argue about exactly what he may have looked like, he was a Palestinian Jew according to scripture. Depictions of a white Jesus erase his Middle Eastern identity and are inherently racist. He was an undocumented immigrant child. He advocated for the rights of women in a time when women were considered chattel. During the time of his ministry, he had no safe place to lay his head. He depended on others for food and shelter. His disciples were unemployed men; they walked away from their jobs to follow him. He gave away free health care to all in need. He spent time with prostitutes and treated them with compassion. He broke bread with thieves. He told the wealthy to give generously to the poor with no conditions attached. He was CONSTANTLY calling out people who were pious and upright in public but had arrogant and judgmental hearts. Condensing some of these facts about Jesus, we could simply say that he was a revolutionary. He challenged and violated the norms of his culture. He treated the lowest people with respect and dignity. He spent time with them. He listened to them. He cared for them.

Followers of Jesus should be standing in solidarity with the same people that he did– the poorest, the most disgraced, those whose voices are silenced by people in power, those looked down upon due to their gender or ethnicity, and yes, even criminals. What does our Christian witness look like if we don’t follow Jesus’ example? It looks like people thinking that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, sexist, racist, xenophobic, and hard hearted. And unfortunately, for many nonChristians I meet in America– that IS what they think about Christians and the Church.

I realize even this post is a sign of my own arrogance in judging other Christians and I will own that. But I want to challenge more people who say they follow Jesus to think about how they would treat him if they met him today.

Remember, he didn’t speak English either.

I’m honestly not trying to be obnoxious to politically conservative Christians by posting this. I believe what I have written here; I think the few links I have added to scripture make a case for why. I have often found myself frustrated trying to have this conversation in person and so writing it out has been a helpful exercise to process some of my anger and grief. I am tired of the culture wars. Jesus loved everyone. It’s time for his followers, myself included, to take up the yoke of that incredible challenge.

Love. ESPECIALLY love those who society doesn’t love. ESPECIALLY love oppressed people. ESPECIALLY love your enemy. Jesus taught it, Jesus did it. If you love Jesus then Go and do likewise.

Don’t Listen to Hasselhoff! And Other Thoughts on the Single Life

22 Jan

I never imagined that I’d spend as much time thinking about singleness as I have. When I was younger I had this vague idea that one day I’d meet someone, maybe while grocery shopping or wandering the library stacks or some other meet-cute scenario. I’d just meet someone and then I wouldn’t be single anymore. I never had much idea of how that initial spark in the produce section would develop into a lifelong partnership, though. Too many movies and not enough practice, I guess.

 

I’m only 26, and objectively I know that isn’t very old. But as I age, I have fewer single friends, and it continues to be hard to avoid the slippery slope that is comparing my own life to others. My mother had two children by the time she was my age (I was one of them). Some of my friends from high school and college are now celebrating 5th and 6th and even 7th anniversaries of their marriages. For whatever reason, things haven’t unfolded that way for me. I’m single, and I’ve been single for the entirety of my adult life. I don’t usually volunteer that information to strangers, but I don’t hide it either. For a long time I was preoccupied with the questions about what was wrong with me? Why didn’t guys want to date me? But I’ve experienced a lot of healing in the past few years, and while there is always more work to be done, I don’t think I’m single because of something inherently defective about my person. In many, many ways, I am thankful for the time I’ve spent as a single woman and the good gifts God has given me along the way—gifts I wouldn’t have experienced the same way as someone’s girlfriend or wife.

 

Not everyone really lives the single life. I have friends who seemed to be dating someone from fifth grade onward. Of course dating in fifth grade looks very different from dating in your twenties and thirties and forties and so on, but still. It’s a different life experience to walk through life romantically alone than it is to walk with a partner of some kind.

 

I’ve had the following conversation more and more as I’ve gotten older:

Well-Intentioned Family Member/Coworker/Dentist: So, are you seeing anyone? Do you have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband?

Me: No. It’s just me. (Usually some awkward silence as I try to think of something else to say. What else is there to say?)

 

In fact, there is a lot more that could be said about singleness, and I’ve had a few blog posts on the back burner as I tried to put the words together to share them. I also have a couple books in my TBR pile that I am hoping will provide me with some better perspective on this issue and maybe I’ll post reviews of them here, in that case.

 

In the meantime I want to talk about a scene from the neo-noir teen drama Veronica Mars. Most fans of the show, myself included, love the pairing of spunky detective Veronica and Logan, who is both troubled and sweet– a bad boy with a heart of gold, oh, what a trope! In dorky fandom news, their relationship portmanteau name is LoVe (appropriate). But for a while in the show’s final season Veronica dated a very nice boy, a music afficionado named Stosh Piznarski. Don’t hold the name against him. People can’t help what their parents name them; that’s why there are kids named Mykinzi and Jaxxson running around (apologies to any loved ones out there who like those names…). Anyway, Veronica and Piz. There was this great scene before they got together where they talked about the hookup culture that abounds in college, and let’s face it, post-collegiate life as well.

 

veronica and piz

 

Veronica: The whole chasing-hooking-up-people-go-round… Parker has been going nuts, like I’m some kind of freak because I’m not grabbing anything within ten feet. It’s exhausting.

Piz: Totally. It’s like music, you know– I love music, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to it at all times and anything will do. I mean I’m not going to throw in a Hasselhoff CD just because I left my Neko Case in the car.

Veronica: Like why bother with something that’s not… good. ‘Cause if it’s not good…

Piz: It’s bad! Exactly. But these guys were all like, “As long as she’s got a pair of–” (gesturing to his chest) You know, it was indelicate.

Veronica: (innocently) What’s indelicate about shoes?

Piz: But I figure, you know, I mean, I know what I like. Why waste my time?

Veronica: Like why bother with something not good just because it’s something.

Piz: Especially when you know the difference, which not many people do. I mean, do you?

Veronica:  I think I do.

Piz: I think that’s like 90% of life, just knowing the difference.

 

When I take a step back and really think about it, so many of my friends have married people who have become dear friends of mine. They got it right. They knew the difference between just “something” and someone really good. And they trusted their romantic future to God and his timing.

 

So that’s what I try to do too. Not to worry too much about that perfect moment in the soup aisle, or finding just the right profile, or having the most winsome opening line. But to keep in mind the difference between “something not good” and Something Really Good. And to keep remembering that my value isn’t determined by my relationship status. I am loved by a creator who knows my hopes and dreams and has a purpose for my life.

 

I hope that all my friends, single and married, know that last sentence to be true too!

hope (in the night)

6 Dec

I’m returning from a period of blog abandonment with some musings on pain, suffering and darkness. Some of you may know that when I began posting on this blog, it was with the idea that a creative outlet, even a virtual one, would be a stepping stone out of a period of deep depression. It turned out to be a helpful component of stepping back into the light; even silly posts about soup or radio drama gave me something to focus on and goals to work towards.

I’m sorry to say that in the past couple of months, I’ve been struggling with the encroaching darkness once again. This time isn’t as bad as what I experienced a year a half ago. For one thing, I’ve been sharing my struggles with friends and family for a few weeks now. I have trusted people holding me in prayer. I already feel better than I did a month ago. So despite the fact that life isn’t sunshine and roses, there are tremendous blessings in my life and God is good, even in times of pain. Perhaps God is good especially in times of pain, because in those times, I’m forced with the choice to keep wallowing (and drowning) on my own, or to trust Him.

One song from Andrew Peterson’s Counting Stars album has been echoing in my mind during this recent painful season. “In the Night My Hope Lives On” tells the story of God’s people who had good reason to give up, to despair, to succumb to darkness. Jacob wrestled with an angel and with his fear; Elisha was surrounded by God’s enemies; the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt groaned in the misery of captivity; once Canaan-bound, they found themselves trapped by Pharaoh’s army and trembling in fear. Meanwhile, the Prodigal son approached his father’s house so full of shame he couldn’t even lift his head. The Samaritan woman prepared herself to be stoned for her sins. Jesus’ followers wailed and wept as He died a slow, painful death by crucifixion.

If you can relate to any of this—surrounded by dark forces, enslaved by sin, trapped in fear and shame, devoid of hope for the future, I pray that this song will speak to your heart as it speaks to mine.

“Like the son who thought he’d gone beyond forgiveness, too ashamed to lift his head—but if he could lift his head!—he would see his father running from a distance.

“So in the night, my hope lives on.

“I can see the crowd of men retreating, as He stands between the woman and their stones. And if mercy in His holy heart is beating,

“Then in the night, my hope lives on.”

Friends, remember with me that “the rulers of the earth could not control Him. They did not take His life—He laid it down. All the chains of death could never hope to hold Him!” Let us remember that “the sword He swings in brighter than the dawn,” and that “the gates of hell will never stand against Him.”

When times are dark

When death and sickness are all around

When we are most aware of the brokenness of our world

And of ourselves in that world

May our hope live on.

 

Because the Creator of the universe, the Author of time, the Giver of Life is not taken aback by the world’s darkness. He is well acquainted with it and has better plans in store for His people and His world. And the very best news is that although we wage difficult battles every day on earth, The Most Important Battle is over, and He has won. Death cannot stand against Him; He is Light in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome Him.

I wish that following Jesus meant that I only ever knew light and glory. But I know darkness too. The challenge is to walk in the light no matter how difficult it is. I’m trying every day.

If you struggle with depression or any darkness of your own, I pray you too will find the strength to get up and walk into the light. Godspeed, friends.

Dying World. Living Hope.

25 Apr

Here is the truth about the world we live in: it can be a dark place.

I haven’t lived a long life (yet) but I’ve experienced some of this darkness. I’ve watched as a beloved relative drew his last breath. I’ve had dear friends disclose to me that they are survivors of childhood molestation, sexual assault, emotional abuse. I’ve grieved for another family member after he succeeded in taking his own life—although perhaps it would be more accurate to say I will always be grieving him. Last month one of the clients I have cared for the past nine months, and come to love, was moved to a nursing home to wait out the rest of his life. And I’ve experienced the soul-sucking black pit of depression myself, the weight of years of self-hatred and nagging doubts about my own worth crushing down upon me.

The world is dark. It’s true. We don’t need the social media storms around Joseph Kony or Trayvon Martin or the Chardon High shootings to know it. We live in a world that is dying and death is all around. People don’t value each other. Even worse, we know it isn’t just the brothel owners or factory bosses who trample human life, it’s you and me, when we shop for the cheapest items no matter the cost to those who sew our t-shirts or harvest our tomatoes. When we judge people by their appearances and strip their worth down to what they can do for us. When we celebrate the life of someone like Snooki but couldn’t care less about the suffering of the poor, the widows, the orphans, the voiceless around us.

How do we hold on to hope in this world? Where do we find the wellspring?

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King there is a paragraph that I find incredibly beautiful. Last year during one of the darkest periods of my life I found myself meditating upon it and clinging to what it promises. At this point in the novel, Sam and Frodo find themselves despairing of ever completing the Sisyphean task of destroying The Ring. But then,

“Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

So perhaps that White Star is the beginning of an answer. The knowledge that however dark the darkness is, the Light will triumph and cast it away. Scripture is full of these promises—that “[In Jesus] was the Light of all people. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness shall not overcome it;” that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ;” that the light of “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are promised that “even the darkness will not be dark to [the LORD]; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to [Him].”

Here’s another truth: it’s hard to believe this stuff sometimes. There are times when it is hard, desperately hard, to have faith that the battle against death is already won. There have been times in my life when I just haven’t believed that. It’s likely I’ll have similar times in the future. In the murky depths of our dark seasons the perfect light can seem too dim, or too far away, or too impossible to be real.

The final truth, though, is that the light is real. The light is the cornerstone of my faith actually, and it’s a compelling reason to keep fighting good fights and dreaming impossible dreams and to get out of bed in the morning when I’d rather wallow in despair. Despite the fact that we live in a world of death and dying, Jesus has won that ultimate battle. For those of us who know and walk with him, we have a Light to follow and we carry a torch within ourselves. There is hope! For healing of wounds. For reconciliation where there is brokenness. For satisfaction where there is hunger. For peace where there is war. For chains to be broken and slaves to be freed! For those mired in darkness to be lifted out of that pit! We can be a part of spreading light and life in this dark world. The best news is that we can do that even when we feel crushed by that darkness—perhaps especially then.

Friends, this week I’m praying especially for some people in my life who are in dark places. Those who are feeling crippled and oppressed by physical illness, emotional pain, the devastating loss of someone dear. Will you join me in these prayers for those who can’t see the light right now? May we all become better at pointing others towards the miraculous White Star who literally conquered the grave.

DANGIT GARMIN, THERE’S A LAKE THERE

21 Apr

Last night I found myself both excruciatingly embarrassed and appropriately humbled. I acted more like Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott character than I ever have—and anyone who has seen The Office knows that’s not a good thing. I was using my GPS to find my way on an unfamiliar gravelly country road. Now, in feeble defense of what I am about to describe, I’d like to say it was very dark and I was distracted by the delicious Chocolate Xtreme blizzard I was eating. The GPS told me to turn left to continue towards my destination. To my left, there was no actual road, but what looked like an empty field. In a regrettable moment, I went ahead and turned, hoping that I’d be able to see this mysterious road in the path of my car’s headlights. Nope. Still just a field. At this point I realized I was going to have to turn around. As I pulled my car around in the dark, I drove right into a ditch. I didn’t know it was a ditch at first… and I managed to get my tiny compact car with front wheel drive completely stuck in this ditch.

Picture this scene: it’s dark. You are stuck in a ditch in an unfamiliar and remote part of Ohio dairy country. You drove about a mile on a gravel road before getting stuck in said ditch. You are stuck in a ditch because you did something idiotic at the direction of a computer. You can see a light about a half mile in the distance from what looks like a farmhouse.

If you’re feeling sympathetic traces of panic and humiliation in the pit of your stomach, I am sorry. I haven’t felt so moronic in quite some time. I imagined the difficulty of explaining how I had driven into a ditch to the burly driver of a tow truck. I imagined the complication of getting a tow truck driver to find me in the darkness in the middle of nowhere between a gravel road and a field of unknown address. I began to feel the telltale beginnings of an anxiety attack. And then I saw the light of the farmhouse turn off and a truck begin driving towards me. Say it with me now… AUUUUGHHHHH.

However, this is not a story about being chased through an empty cornfield by some shotgun wielding farmer, or about being soundly berated for acting like an incompetent weirdo on a stranger’s property. I am incredibly relieved to say that this is a story about complete strangers showing grace and kindness to someone who didn’t deserve it. The husband and wife who lived in the farmhouse were nice to me. Astonishingly, they didn’t make me feel dumb. It is true they were confused about how I got so soundly stuck in their ditch. They were also confused about what I was doing on what turned out to be their private driveway, not a public road as my GPS had suggested. Still, despite their confusion they treated me kindly and even helped me get my car out of the ditch. They accepted my apology for inadvertently trespassing on their farm and for driving directly into their ditch. Within a half hour I was on my way home and listening to Mike Doughty’s “I Hear the Bells” on repeat in an attempt to calm my jangling nerves.

This experience is hardly the first time I’ve experienced undeserved grace and mercy. I share this story not to further cement my embarrassment at behaving like a terrible Regional Manager of a midlevel paper supply company, but to rejoice in the kindness of strangers. Like a lot of people, I’ve made mistakes time after time in my life. Sometimes I’ve done things intentionally and then regretted them. There have been so many times when I deserved to be punished, or at least verbally rebuked, but have instead been shocked to find that people extend a hand of understanding and compassion.

Friends, have you experienced a stranger’s kindness in a similar situation? (For the record, I hope it wasn’t a very similar situation!) In the wake of this experience, I am resolving to be that gentle stranger to others whenever I can. And also to never drive into a ditch again.