Category Archives: observances

Ash Wednesday

“In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were your last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.”

— Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized


It’s been a while…

Hello world-

I’ve been terribly bad at blogging lately.

Last year all of my blogs were dedicated to the currently-in-a-name-change DearPowderRoom site (moving to the name and I’ve been writing, but sadly not posting to my 40 Year Challenge site. This year, I do hope to do better.

Apologies for not writing. And now I will apologize to any men who may read this blog.

As for the next few months, I’m betting this blog turns into a “wedding rants” blog. We are going to attempt to get married in 10 – yes 10 – weeks. Both of us have full time jobs that are just that – very time consuming. We don’t want to spend a ton of money. We want to keep our families happy. We also would rather elope, but we have been told not to do that. I’m still not sure why.

I did check one thing off the list – I got a dress. It’s beautiful, and was the first dress I tried on. I would post a pic, but after 40 something comments on Chris’s facebook page warning him to not see the dress, I will restrain my post of a pic…you’ll just have to take my word for it!

Here’s what I’m ranting about right now:

Why won’t potential vendors call back?

Why did all of the stuff I have to get for my dress and do to my dress cost more than my dress?

And can someone send me some delicious, inexpensive recipes for cocktails that involve limes, or lemons?

Work is getting in the way of my fabulous plans. Stay tuned.

Make-up Addict (or, get naked when you get naked)

I’m reading an article that is making me sad. It asks the question:

Are you addicted to makeup?

Here’s the deal. I love makeup. I have entirely too much makeup in my bathroom drawer, much of it I haven’t ever used. When I walk into an Ulta store, I lose all control. All sense of responsibility. I need to buy everything. In a wide array of colors. Last time I was there, I bought 7 lip glosses. SEVEN. Granted, thanks to a special promo, those 7 were cheaper than buying 2 separately, but I digress.

Some of the findings in the article aren’t that surprising: 1 in 3 women won’t go out – even if only to drop off a kid at school – without makeup on, 6 in 10 wouldn’t go to work without makeup, etc. and I get that. But the statements that got to me were the ones dealing with relationships:

Over 33% felt their partner would not have been attracted to them if they hadn’t been wearing makeup when they met

14% get out of bed early to put on makeup before their significant other wakes up

The average woman waits 2.5 months before going makeup-less in front of her partner.

1 in 10 said they would never let their partner see them without a full face of makeup on.


This completely breaks my heart. First off, if someone is listed as “partner” or “significant other” I’m going to assume that also can be listed as “being intimate with.”

Translation – I’ll get naked with him, but I don’t want him to see my face.

Granted, I will admit that my personality is often probably a bit too laid back. My attitude may be a bit too cavalier when it comes to being accepted for how I look, as life happens and sometimes I just don’t have the time, the means or the desire to make sure I have perfectly lined eyes before the sun rises in the morning.

But the idea that someone would be willing to share not only a bed, but their body with someone who wouldn’t accept them without perfectly rosy cheeks and cinnamon colored lips seems tragic.

And after talking to several of my guy friends, I would guess most of these mates really don’t care if we wear makeup or not.

This could be an extreme way to continue the conversation, but I am concerned that if you’re making yourself hide your face from your mate – what else might you be trying to hide? If you’re not willing to share your face, your real skin, your true self, does that mean you aren’t sharing your true soul as well?

On the flip side, if your significant other is suggesting that makeup is required at all times, that you can’t just be who you are and how God made you, then maybe you need to find a new mate.

I am all about ritual. I get up in the morning, press a pot of coffee, read some Oswald, check Amazon’s deal of the day. This is a morning routine that I love. But if it’s a snowy Saturday and I have nowhere to be, it’s not a stressor if one of the three things didn’t happen. (except the coffee but that’s an entirely different addiction.)

By no means am I suggesting that makeup is bad or that we shouldn’t have pride and care about our appearance. Makeup does transform me and make me feel more confident and beautiful. But what would happen in our lives, our jobs, our relationships if we really just took off the masks, took off the makeup and got real.

A friend and I had a conversation over coffee a few years ago, and joked about how perhaps all our first dates needed to be in jeans, a t-shirt and no makeup. How different would our conversations be? Would our topics change? Would we get to the deep questions of life faster?

We would then, of course, follow up with a no-hold-barred-little-black-dress-and-5-inch-heels dinner invitation.

But maybe I need to look at my relationship with make-up, and make sure that I’m using it to enhance, not hide, who I am inside.

You can read the article here:

Sweet and Sweet Dream

We’ve come along way together. You both came into my life within a few weeks of each other. I was in the middle of a year-long stint working on the road, living out of a suitcase. Daily life included glamorous duties like loading and unloading trucks, midnight crew calls, and carrying around large boxes. This is the year I learned to maneuver a fork-lift, read truck scales and truly appreciate the magic that is gaff tape.

This is also the time my Lucky ‘Sweet Dream’ and Big Star ‘Sweet’ jeans came into my life.

I didn’t realize they both had almost the same name until a few days ago.

New Years 2007, my great friend Kris and I were talking about buying jeans. She lives in Chicago and so we wandered over to the Lucky store and I think both had slight moral dilemmas on just how much money we were about to spend on denim. But I knew I was about to walk into a tour where I needed jeans that would last, and she was tired of jeans that just didn’t fit right, so we decided that for a holiday treat, we’d buy ourselves some jeans.

Then a couple of weeks later, on a day off in Nashville, I found these Big Star jeans and realized that maybe these were investment pieces, not just work-clothes.

‘Sweet’ and ‘Sweet Dream’ have survived a multitude of crew calls, causal business meetings, movie screenings and concerts. Bad dates, good dates, scooter rides and hikes. Baseball games, coffee shops and so many laughter filled happy hours with my favorite people.

In a highly technical mathematical formula, I’m guessing these jeans have survived around 85 trips to the laundry. Let’s keep in mind that much of my existence is living on the road, so the majority of these cleaning trips aren’t me with a bottle of woolite and the gentle cycle. This is drop-off-3-hour-fluff-and-fold service at a random laundromat somewhere where for 80 cents a pound your clothes cleaned, but not necessarily loved.

But I, I have loved them.

And honestly, every time I put these jeans on, I just felt a little bit stronger, a little more confident and arguably a little bit sexier. Lets not mince words – a great pair of jeans can do wonders.

On this past tour, the knees of both pairs of jeans blew out, and several areas are past thread-bare and becoming transparent.

But these jeans have been resilient and have stood with me, through thick and thin over the past 4 years, and quite honestly, they are both one of my longest relationships.

So to my Lucky ‘Sweet Dream’, and Big Star ‘Sweet’ jeans, I am putting you into retirement. No need to bother yourself with more suitcase life. You will now spend your days lounging on the couch and working around the house. Congratulations on your new life, but my bad dates just won’t be the same without you.

Touring Reality Check

It’s like any other tour day. I wake up as the bus rolls to a stop, the engine changing to a subtle rumble. I check my iTouch maps to make sure we are where we are supposed to be. I try to find my glasses in the dark. I keep them hanging from a cable that jets from the side of an old DVD player that acts more as an obstacle than an actual form of bus entertainment. I click on the light over my head and it cuts through the darkness like a spotlight. It could be sunny outside. It could be raining. Our bunks have no windows so there is never a sense of time. I lay there, wondering if we’re back in Central time or on Mountain time.

I complete my morning ritual with a quick read of Oswald Chambers and then I contort myself into many odd shapes to change clothes in my bunk, which I’m guessing is about 4 feet wide by 3 feet tall and 7 feet long. “So glad I have taken all those yoga classes” runs across my mind, and with pass and sharpies in hand, I crawl out of my bunk, grab my radio and a cup of coffee and then hop off the bus to start another day.

For this month, I’m helping my friend Lisa sell t-shirts for a tour, and so we’ve traveled the country on a bus full of smelly stage teach boys, handling all of the merchandising needs of the bands. My main job – managing a small army of volunteers each night, which honestly is more frustrating than helpful on some days.

In other tour posts, I’m sure I’ll talk about that, but today, I’m sort of struggling with why I’m here. I hurt my foot and so the constant walking on cement arena floors 15 hours a day isn’t helping. 10:00 arrives along with 12 volunteers. As we empty out the semi and set up the tables, the conversation consists of the normal questions: “How do you get this job?” “You do this EVERY DAY?” “Wait, you don’t live here?” “Why don’t you have kids?” and my favorite several-times-a-day-every-day question: “Do you know TobyMac?” We set up fairly quickly and it’s only a couple of hours before I send the first team on their way, and take a little break before the second.

Today is filled with visits from old friends, my favorite reason for taking these jobs. But I’m again hearing the voice from the little red cartoon character that sits on my shoulder and prods my neck with a small red pitchfork. The jabs don’t hurt, so much as sting, or just annoy. Today’s is annoying. I remember clients that are probably angry that I’m behind on all my “real” work. Catering is bad. There are roaches in our dressing room. The internet in the bus is being weird.

And as God likes to do in times like this, he whispers a little glimpse of truth when I least expect it.

The show is in full swing, and in search of a short cut to replenish t-shirts during the show, I cut through the back of the house. And I see it.

A row of probably 50 people with extreme needs. In wheel chairs. Handicapped. Mentally unstable. Physically broken. And they are visibly being undeniably fed by the music. The happiness is overwhelming. The show has reached out and put some joy in their life. I can’t help but focus on a teenage boy, handsome and athletic, who is wheelchair bound. His legs are locked in, and I wonder how long he’s been a captive to that chair. But this moment, he’s fixated. Singing praises, forgetting his hindrance and unified with the masses on their feet just below his row.

Many others are severely challenged. They have trouble keeping their head up. They are forever attached to an oxygen tank. Palsies. Mental illness. Broken bodies.

Small drops come out of the side of a woman’s mouth, and a kind patient caregiver quickly dabs her face. The caregiver then takes the woman’s hand and raises it in the air, and together they sing along “there is no one like our God.” The woman in the wheelchair was singing without making real words, with a giant smile taking over her entire face. The caregiver wasn’t in an arena. Her spirit was obviously somewhere else as she soaked in every little bit of the moment so she can go on day after day, doing the dirty work of holding the hand of someone so in need.

Throughout the night, I kept coming back to this row, and while I know there was a great spirit of God in the room, there were little miracles happening all along the wheelchair row. Miracles that give strength to many who’s lives are so much more challenging than my own. I remembered the power that music has had in my life, and I had to remind myself that to all 4000 people in the room, that power was alive and well.

And I knew why I was there that night. It takes a lot of bodies to make a tour like this happen, and if in some way my little corner allowed these people to enjoy a moment of peace, of music, of joy, then it was completely worth it.

And tomorrow, I’ll happily wrap my foot, and jump on the bus for a 14 hour drive to Iowa, ready to hit the concourse. Reminding myself that many times, what God calls me to do may have nothing to do with me at all.

Strippers Protest Church…

Oh wow. A church has been protesting a strip bar. Now the strip bar is protesting the church.

I think there’s a lot to be said about the situation.

Here’s the deal. I’m a Christian, so my comment has to be directed to the church, not to the strippers. I have never had to make the decision of how to feed my kids. If I didn’t have a job and my kids were hungry, I would do anything in my power to give them what they need. I would hope I could find other work, but if not…who knows.

What bothered me about this story was the tactics of the people from the church: Every weekend for the last four years, Dunfee and members of his ministry have stood watch over George’s joint, taking up residence in the right of way with signs, video cameras and bullhorns in hand. They videotape customers’ license plates and post them online, and they try to save the souls of anyone who comes and goes.

Bullhorns? Videotaping license plates?

Somehow I’m really desperately trying to find the grace and mercy in this story.

In the piece, the pastor said that they have offered to pay the bills of the strippers to stop them from working there. Which is great, but not if you’re offering it with a bullhorn. Not if you’re tracking their license numbers. Not if you’re passing judgment and not leading with love.

I beg the people of the New Beginnings Church to look at their name. You say you’re about “new beginnings” but without love, without mercy, without grace, why would anyone be interested in the new beginnings that you’re offering?

I am thankful to the one church member, Stan Braxton, who actually went out and talked to and prayed with a protester.

It’s easy to attack people who are living on the fringe. Who are living a lifestyle that, I doubt many would question, as being not the most moral. But here’s the deal – all of us are sinners. All of us have struggles. I’m sure there are people in that congregation that struggle with lust, with porn, with food, with adultry, with pride… maybe instead of bullhorns, a better idea might be to admit their trials, and their own struggles and hurts, but suggest that there might be a better way.

It’s funny. In my life, I’ve always had much more luck with a soft spoken conversation, where I actually get to share my life’s story with someone else.

So New Beginnings Church, I offer you an idea. How about you throw a BBQ in the parking lot of the Foxhole, instead of the girls BBQing at your church. And instead of videotaping the patrons, offer them a hamburger. Instead of learning license numbers, why don’t you learn names. Instead of yelling into bullhorns, how about sitting down, share a cup of coffee and listen to the lives of these women, these patrons. That’s how Jesus interacted with tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, saints and sinners. Somehow I think that could have a much better effect on your community.

“No one ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument.” – Phillip Yancey. Rumors of Another World.

Cancer Cells Slurp Up Fructose

Reuters last week had a headline that stated: “CANCER CELLS SLURP UP FRUCTOSE, US STUDY FINDS”

Here’s the article. You should read it.

Basically, its showing that fructose (specifically that found in high fructose corn syrup) helps pancreatic tumor cells divide and multiply. Regular glucose doesn’t do this, so basically the study “challenges that common wisdom that all sugars are the same.”

Breads, soda, crackers, Doritos, Publix Fat Free Half and Half, the cake mix in my cabinet. This is for you. Stop putting High Fructose Corn Syrup in our food supply.

But this is my favorite part of the story:
“I think this paper has a lot of public health implications. Hopefully, at the federal level there will be some effort to step back on the amount of high fructose corn syrup in our diets,” Heaney said in a statement.

Now the team hopes to develop a drug that might stop tumor cells from making use of fructose.

U.S. consumption of high fructose corn syrup went up 1,000 percent between 1970 and 1990, researchers reported in 2004 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What? The team hopes to develop a drug.

How about we just stop eating fructose?

How about we put a giant red circle around the ingredients list on food, with a note that says, ‘by the way, this will probably kill you?’

How about we start educating people on just what these altered foods can do to our bodies?

How about we start pressuring the food manufacturers and grocery stores to help us be able to make better choices?

I’m a capitalist, and I really do believe that people should get to make their own decisions on how they treat their bodies. But coming up with a drug to stop cells from making use of fructose just seems like a giant band aid. This is an easy problem to remedy. Know what you’re eating. Stop and read the labels. Ask the companies who make and sell our food to consider the health ramifications of what we are often blindly consuming.

And for the love of God, stop trying to overmedicate us.

This finding is solidifying in my mind that today, I will drive past the grocery store and head to the farmers market and Trader Joes to buy groceries.