17 December 2012

Well regulated?

Warning: rambling talk of gun violence and related issues ahead-- skip if you are feeling overwhelmed and go look at some cute kitten pictures instead. I am personally limiting how much I read on this subject and encourage y'all to take care of yourselves.

I find it eerie and depressing that Bob Costas and Jon Stewart were talking about gun control and, in Stewart's case, the question of when is it okay to talk about gun violence and who gets to talk about gun violence just a few days before the latest mass shooting. I find it even more interesting that so-called 'conservative news' think they get to say who is qualified to talk about it and then go on to talk about all the different ways the bad guy of the day could have still carried out the latest attack of the day (and in the same creepy way that anti-gay advocates frequently get into overly graphic descriptions of gay sex when talking about keeping LBTQ people from having equal rights).

Personally, I would like there to be a severe restriction on civilian purchase of ammunition (since that is a consumable) for a few years while we figure out what needs to be put in place to help prevent all types of gun violence. If we, as a culture, are not willing to give up guns then we need to do a better job of gun safety and mental health advocacy in our country.

In addition, as a white person, I think white culture needs to step up and own the fact that we produce some of the most violent offenders in our nation. What is going on with us? Why do any of our young men feel that this is a solution to their problems? I don't have any answers and personally would be thrilled if we as a nation joined the rest of civilization, amended our constitution and banned guns. However, people I know and love have a long tradition of responsible gun use and I respect that. So how do we get the responsible gun owners to be the examples for our nation? How to we insure that people for whom guns are a dangerous temptation into violence and suicide don't have access?

Or should we adjust the 2nd amendment to say that we, as a nation accept that the risks of widespread "un-infringed" right to bear arms as including the death of innocent civilians-- because that is the reality we are living in.

A final note: I think the supreme court did our nation a huge disservice in ignoring basically the first half of the 2nd amendment in its decisions over the years:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Personally, I see nothing well-regulated in our current gun culture.

18 August 2012

New Testament Christian

A friend of my mom's blogged about what I have been thinking about: the call of the New Testament that:
"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded." ~Luke 12:48

How does that square with the call of the Republican party for lower taxes on the rich? For fewer social programs for all of us? For less in the way of safety nets for the infirm, elderly, mentally ill, and other unlucky folk amongst us? (Goodness knows there is already too little to go around).

The new testament turned the idea of being 'blessed' on it's head. Even today some people believe that riches and other good things are signs of being blessed by God and of being 'deserving' of such blessings.

For a New Testament Christian, like me, Jesus's call is for radical inclusiveness where those who have much share and even those who have only hospitality are welcoming.

Why is it that people who otherwise claim to be Christian seem to focus on the Old Testament God and not on the Good News of Christ-- that he came to make a new covenant with us, that all were welcome, widows, orphans, rich tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, and in extreme cases-- even the dead (think Lazarus) were welcomed by Jesus.

All of the Old Testament assumptions were swept away under the new covenant and followers of Christ asked:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” and  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  ~Matthew 22:36-40.

I just don't see that anywhere in the Romney/Ryan alliance. If anything they seem to adhere to the pirate code from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: "Take what you can, give nothing back."

Here is the essay that got me thinking: "My Manner of Life: Money, religion, and politics"

02 May 2012

Why Jesus Died

The story of Jesus is not about logic, or following a plot, or character conflict. It is about love. I only believe in god a few days out of every week but when I do believe, I know that it is not all about the crucifixion (no matter what certain filmmakers would have people believe). It is about the fact that the story, the myth, brings god down on earth to live with people and to die with them. God walked the path we all have to walk. Jesus could have lived to be an old man and he would still die as we die. God dies with us to show us god's love and that we are not alone, even on the scariest journey. The sacrifice was made at incarnation, not at crucifixion. (Originally written in 2004)

25 March 2012

Make up

I was reading Beauty Tips for Ministers and found the comments on the linked article to be a very interesting range on the discussion of wearing makeup as part of a professional role-- looking at Martina Navratilova as an example given her recent appearance on "Dancing with the Stars."

As usual, I had my own thoughts on the matter that ended up being longer than I felt was a fair comment, so here it is on my own blog.

The thing that interested me about the discussion was the range of 'appropriate' levels of makeup and cosmetics use depending on the culture one is embedded in.

I work from home but love doing costuming as a hobby. Other than sporadic eye-shadow use in my day-to-day life, about the only time I ever wear make-up is as part of a costume, to finish off the look.

My personal experience with foundation makeup has been very negative (sensitive skin combined with a weird skin tone). Over the years I've tried various products, but none actually improve the look of my skin. Some of us just look better & feel more confident sans makeup; some people both look and feel better with it on.

I did like the comment in the article from Ms Navratilova: "when asked about her glammed up appearance? “It’s great — you have to do it. It’s part of the role.”

When does a role in life require make-up? Where is the balance between personal preference (and frankly allergies & other issues that go even deeper) and social perception? If more women stopped wearing make-up, stopped feeling like it was a requirement of their 'role' what would happen? Is there any way to get there from here?

I think make-up is fun. I think it is critical in some industries like the theater, but I also worry about the pressures the beauty industry puts on people to be 'better'.

The most beautiful people that I know all share one thing: their personalities and their love of life shine through. Some of them use make-up every day and some go bare-faced into the world. It is not the make-up that makes them beautiful, it is their confidence and inner light.

23 March 2012

College Choices

I was reading an off-hand remark in someone else's journal that said that the Evergreen State College (from which I graduated twenty years ago) is a fun but not a practical school and it didn't attract employers.

I started to respond... and then I realized that I had a lot more to say than I thought. So rather than clutter up another person's journal I decided to clutter up my own with my thoughts on the college experience generally and the Evergreen Experience specifically. I originally wrote this in 2004, but it is still relevant today.

As a counter-example to the Evergreen doesn't attract employers statement, my husband was hired right out of Evergreen, the company paid our moving expenses and he ended up flying back to Olympia for graduation.

All three of the adults in my household are graduates of Evergreen. We are all employed and have done quite well for ourselves. That does not mean we all got dream jobs right out of school but our educations have served us well in our various endeavors.

One of the women I went to school with trained in computers, worked in that field for several years and has now started her own landscaping business. Not what she trained for, but what she found a passion for a little later in her life.

Regardless of the school attended, you get out of it what you put in, getting a job at the end is a nice bonus, but is not guaranteed. Neither is getting a job in whatever field you train for. Luck and timing play a large role in that.

Two other stories. My middle brother went to school on the east coast and settled there. He studied his passion, the Middle East and learned two languages along the way. His hobby was computers. When he graduated school he worked for several different firms doing different things. None of it directly related to his major in school. Currently he works for an internet based company as a lead techie. He met his (now) wife there and seems to be settled in for the long haul.

My youngest brother went to Evergreen. He studied all manner of things (one of the nice things about Evergreen, it doesn't lock you into a major). He's been steadily employed since graduating, not always at jobs he wanted to do, but he has been a passionate fringe theater director and has since moved on to freelance technical writing.

College doesn't prepare you for a specific job, if it did there would be too many square pegs and not enough square holes. Instead it gives you tools to build your life. Finding the right school, one that fits your needs and matches your learning style is important. Sometimes an ideal match is not possible, or sometimes a range of schools with work for a particular person.

One of the many things I liked about Evergreen was that they were willing to make exceptions. Part of their model was the idea that some folks might do well at Evergreen who hadn't done well in other, more 'traditional' schools.

Was Evergreen fun? Yes, but only because I met some really wonderful people who helped me make it though. It was very challenging academically. I cried buckets of tears, I tore my hair out over deadlines, I learned a lot in four years there, and one of the most valuable things, was how to keep learning without the benefit of teachers or the structure of the classroom.

If you go to school and expect that someone will hand you a job along with the diploma at the end, you will be sorely disappointed. The diploma might help you rise a little in the resume pile, since it shows that the applicant can follow though with a project, but it will not guarantee you a job. This is true regardless of what school you attend. So if you go to college, study what interests you at the time, don't try to predict what you will be doing ten years from now and study for that-- let the person you are now, study the things that interest them now.

College is your chance to do the work you want to do. You'll have enough of doing jobs you don't like or that you have no control over once you leave school (or even while you are in school). Education should be fun, and agonizing, and powerful, and stimulating, and exhausting.

22 March 2012

Rambling thoughts on the 2nd Amendment

I was going to post this as a comment in reaction to a "keep & bear arms" meme going around Facebook, but since it ended up being longer than the original post, I'm putting it here.

Some rambling thoughts on the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution:

I'd be more sympathetic to people promoting 'the right to bear arms' if we hadn't had 3 gun incidents in the Seattle area in the past few months.

A 3-year old killed himself with a gun while his parents were stopped for gas (the gun was apparently under the seat), a 9 year old was shot when a classmate brought a loaded gun to school and it went off, & another young person brought an unloaded gun to school.

I have a lot of family members who are very responsible with guns, but I wish the 'well-regulated' part of the 2nd amendment was more respected by society at large.

I also don't think the Framers had any idea the type of urban density we would be dealing with. I understand the history behind the 2nd Amendment & just wish that all people who insist on the right to bear arms would also insist (and enforce in their own families) on proper training and rigorous safe storage when the gun is not in use. In an urban environment, there are a lot more innocent bystanders to get hurt if even a few people don't exercise sense in gun ownership.

I've never owned a gun, don't want one, & the only shooting I have done was in school as part of gym class (ah, Wyoming & your interesting gym classes in the 80's). I'm not opposed to gun ownership. I know many people who own & use guns responsibly. I just wish more people in the pro-gun camp would come out with some sympathy for victims of the gun-owning-free-for-all that seems to be encouraged at times.

Guns do kill people, and unlike cars (which also kill people in accidents) the only purpose for a gun is to put a hole in something & break it (be it a target, skeet, or a person). I also think, that a patchwork of random gun ownership does not really provide for the common defense in an age when we have a standing army and a police force. We are no longer the wild west and our founding documents might benefit from being updated to reflect that fact.

21 March 2012

Music a must

My son asked me the other day why I require that he take music lessons through the end of 8th grade. My off-the-cuff answer was: "It's a long list, are you sure you want to hear it?" He answered by immediately getting back to work on one of his violin pieces.

I decided to write up my reasons, regardless of his lack of interest in them. So here are 10 of my reasons why my son must take music lessons (and why I require that he practice as close to every day as we can manage). In no particular order:

1. It is much easier to learn an instrument when one is young-- the brain is flexible and is in learning mode.

2. If one learns something as a youngster it is much easier to come back to it later in life.

3. Music training has been linked to enhanced ability in other skills such as verbal communication and mathematics.

4. Learning an instrument gives one greater appreciation for all types of music and the skill that it takes to play at the professional level.

5. Music is good for the soul. (Really this is number one & underlies all of my other reasons).

6. Knowing how to play an instrument & read music is a form of emergency preparedness. If all the power goes out, at least someone in the family will be able to provide music.

7. Music is incredibly diverse. Learning how to play an instrument & read music gives one access to all kinds of music.

8. Learning how to play an instrument requires practice and learning how to practice is a skill that will be useful in many areas of life.

9. Learning how to play an instrument takes time & patience, see above.

10. Doing something that one is not naturally good at is good for the brain and allows one to learn the important lesson that, as someone said: "Hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work." Just because one is not naturally good at something does not mean that one should give up on it. Very few people are 'naturally good' at anything.

27 February 2012


Inspired by the post on "Home Churching" at the Episcopal Cafe
I'm chiming in as one of the family (Matt & I are siblings). I really like the idea of home-churching, what we do is not even as organized as what has been written about here.

I am very firmly an Episcopalian, raised in the faith, my husband was baptized and confirmed before we were married (but after we were engaged) because he wanted to be.

We have gone through 4 home churches since our marriage. The first we were married in, but we never really felt fully at home-- it was our college church and we were not as settled as most of the rest of the congregation.

The 2nd church was in Texas after my husband got his first job out of college. There were nice people there but the priest stood up and said in a sermon that AIDS was God's punishment against "the gays". I was devastated by that and ended up confronting him about what it meant to me when he did that, but that confrontation pretty much made me not want to invest much emotionally in that church.

Our 3rd church also had nice people in it, but they'd been struggling for years with how to pay the bills. My husband and I both spent a lot of time serving on the vestry and on a long-term planning committee only to see nothing change. After my son was born I gradually stopped going, the stress of being in a congregation that wouldn't change, but also was scraping by made going to church stressful. We supported the church financially for years even while we were not active members. The final straw came when I stopped pledging because we were going through a bit of a financial rough spot and there was no response from the church.

We were church-home-less for a few years, when the organist from our previous church invited us to her new church (she was also a refugee from church #3). We took her up on her invitation and now my husband and son go semi-regularly (husband is a lector and son is an acolyte) and I go about 3 times a year. For various reasons (being an extreme night owl & and extreme introvert among them) corporate worship is not something I can sustain in a healthy way. Maybe that will change in the future.

This leads back to home churching. Ever since my son was born, I have wanted him to have a sense of the spiritual paths available to him and in particular his Episcopalian heritage. In that sense I am a tribal Episcopalian. However, I can't duplicate my childhood. We had a great Sunday School program growing up. We spent an entire year when I was in Junior High just studying the book of John. However, a lot of my faith formation also came from my own interests. I read the entire King James version of the bible (including the genealogies) when I was a teenager, because I felt like it. I took "Bible as Literature" in High School and wrote papers on 2 of the major stories of the bible that feature women because I wanted to.

Just last week my son and I went to the Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday is my favorite holy day in the church calendar and I was talking to my son on the drive home about repentance and forgiveness and what they mean to me and how my concepts of them have grown out of my faith. He quoted Terry Pratchett back in response (there is a lot of theology skimming along the surface of Terry Pratchett's fantasy-satire) in a way that made it clear to me that he precisely understood what I was talking about. I won't quote it here as it has major spoilers for the end of the book, but if you get a chance, read Terry Pratchett's "The Truth".

All this boils down to my husband and I doing our best to try to live our faith in front of our son. To share what we get from having faith and to answer his questions as best we can and help him grow into a person of faith. We are not as organized about it as families that set aside a special day, or a special meal, heck if two of us eat together at a time that is worthy of celebration. I don't know if it is the world, or me that has changed since I went to Sunday school all those years ago, but the people who the most important to me are not the same as the people who go to my church. If my church closed its doors and disbanded, I wouldn't miss it. I suspect that sounds dreadful to some folks, but the fact of the matter is that my friends are the center of my life, and the communal 'worship' we do is gather together, share meals, and talk about our lives. My friends are a mix of atheists, pagans, taoists, and a few Christians of other denominations—some of them are deeply spiritual and some are very private about their faith, or lack-there-of.

I liked the comment that was made about home-churching being "... a missionary orientation in a part of the world where church-going and Christian practice is considered strange. Missionary families have been doing this for centuries..."

I don't know why I don't feel that going to church needs to be central to my faith. I do know that I had way too many years in a row where going to church left me feeling guilty and worn out and that is not something I need in my life. I feel the power of the holy spirit when I talk to my son about matters of faith: from why we give to the church and other charities, to the story behind the nativities I set up at Christmas. We try to get him to church often enough that, if in the future he wants to attend more regularly, he will not feel like a stranger.

I don't have any answers, but I have learned that what worked for my parents when I was growing up does not work for me now that I am the parent. I want the church to survive and thrive and I've put a lot of time, talent, and treasure into the traditional bricks and mortar church without ever feeling like it was my home.

I have found a way through by bringing my faith to my own hearth and that is the best I can do.

23 February 2012

Progressive Faith

I was watching the interview of Mr Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) where he discusses the Christian Credentials of the presidential candidates. He says that any of the Republican candidates who profess to be Christian are (though he waffles a bit on Mitt Romney as a Mormon). However, he questions that Obama is sincere in his faith, apparently because he doesn't agree with Obama's polices.

By Mr Graham's standards I wouldn't be a Christian, as I only go to church about 3 times a year. However, I pledge financial support, pray for those who wish it, and make decisions based on my faith and my understanding of the scripture, reason, and tradition of the Episcopal Church. Showing up on Sunday is not the only mark of a faithful person.

It drives me crazy when people like Mr Graham equate conservative values with the Christianity and progressive values with godless heathenism.

I believe that Jesus called us to radical hospitality and inclusion of all people. He brought the outcasts of his society to him and treated them as deserving of love and respect. He boiled all of the law and prophets down two 2 rules that can cover pretty much any situation.

Conservatives conveniently forget that one of the big parts of Jesus's message was that he was making a new covenant with his followers that does not require faith and adherence to the Old Testament. It also makes me wonder if they have ever actually read the bible, or only just been told what it says.

19 February 2012

Pro-love, pro-faith, pro-choice

People of many nations and faiths have documented their search for safe, reliable contraception that protects women from unintended pregnancy and protects everyone from STD's since 2000 years before the birth of Christ.

The fact that we as a species finally figured out (mostly) safe and very effective ways to prevent the transmission of disease, save women from having too many children too close together, save women from dying of dangerous pregnancies, and help people actually manage their fertility is an amazing feat. The solutions we have come up with so far have their risks and imperfections, and I hope we continue to work in creating safer options that give us even finer control, but we all benefit from individuals having control of their own fertility and being able to make their own choice-- a choice borne out of their particular health issues, family history, personal situation, and desire for children.

For me is is a religious issue in that I thank God for giving us the brains and scientific inclination to figure ourselves out and to choose how we want to live. God gave us free will and we chose the world and all its puzzles and mess. Choice and living into the consequences of choice is God's gift to us-- and God seems to have a 'no take backs' policy. Choice is not limited to issues of fertility, but fertility/sexuality/gender expression (and which members of society control expression of those aspects of personhood) seem to me to be the most passionate and personal battlegrounds for choice.

11 February 2012

On (trying to be) fit and fat

This post was inspired by Beauty Tips for Ministers: At the Weight Watchers Meeting

I've been working on this issue as well-- trying to be healthy enough to do the things I want to be physically able to do. Here are the two things I have come up with (after reading and watching way too much about the issue of weight in America).

1. Shaming people who are not thin and who don't look wonderful in an ab-revealing shirt just encourages said people to hide out in their houses and be inactive. If I feel like I have to lose 50 pounds before I am fit to be seen in public, then I'm not going to be out doing the types of things that will help get and keep me fit.

2. People fixate on the weight loss rather than the fitness (maybe because it is easier to measure) but our bodies change weight and shape all the time given stress levels, hormones, and other factors that we might not even understand yet. I would rather be fit and look overweight than try to force my body into a shape all the photos of my great-grandmothers say is just not in my DNA.

3. We don't do a good job of teaching injury management in our fitness programs. If you are going to be active, you are going to get hurt and having a plan for how to stay active while you recover from normal sports injuries will help keep you active (and should help you recover faster). Learning how to successfully recover from sports injury should be just as important as learning the sport itself.

02 February 2012

More on being pro-choice:

Pro-choice isn't just about the abortion debate for me. Being pro-choice means, to me, being pro-choice for everyone and creating the largest range of options for people to choose from. As result I support gay marriage (freedom to marry ones chosen spouse), but am against the death penalty (putting a convicted criminal to death ends any hope of that person redeeming themselves). For me being pro-choice is being pro-freedom.

31 January 2012


Why I am pro-choice: Being pro-choice allows every woman to make the highly personal decision to terminate or keep a pregnancy. Given the wide variety of situations that individual women are in, I cannot presume to know what is best. Choice should be their right as a person.

Men have the choice to walk away from women they have had sex with. There are no biological consequences to this act. A woman cannot 'walk away' from a pregnancy. She can either choose to try to bring the baby to term or choose not to (note that not every pregnancy produces a live child-- miscarriage, accident, and severe birth defects are all things that are outside of the mother-to-be's control and may result in the loss of the baby).

In short, there is enough about having children that we as humans cannot control, but the choice to continue a pregnancy once it has begun should ultimately be made by the woman who will pay the biological price. There are as many reasons to have children or to not have children as there are women, men, and families. There is no one rule that will cover the the rich diversity of that experience. That is why I believe that choice is of paramount importance.

09 January 2012

Wheeling along

Here's a story:

When I was in college I was in a volunteer group that was run by my friends.

Lacking much in the way of practical experience we 'created' several different ways of managing our all-volunteer group, We were trying to meet self-imposed deadlines for a creative project. We spent _literally_ years reinventing basic governance structures-- discarding one and creating something else when we didn't seem to be meeting our goals.

One of our older friends took over running the organization and he put in place some very basic rules and procedures. He had professional experience in the field we were doing volunteer work in. His suggestions stopped us from flailing around and gave us the time and energy for the creative part of our project.

Experience saves time and allows energy to be put into the 'fun' part of an organization.

It was a real light-bulb moment for me to see what basic tools like agendas, standing committees, and planning meetings could do to transform an organization in a positive way.

I'm not saying those tools were a magic bullet-- it is more that a little expertise (from a source we trusted) allowed us to find and focus on the mission of the organization and cut down the amount of time we were spending to figure out _how_ we would do something.

I'm don't see this as a top-down solution, just that re-inventing the wheel is a lot slower than getting the plans and adapting the existing wheel design to your needs.

05 January 2012

'Tis the Season on Facebook...

'Tis the Season on Facebook for those "Keep CHRIST in Christmas" memes. These type of copy/paste postings annoy me for two reasons: the inevitable 'repost if you are not ashamed' or '96% of people won't repost' passive-aggressive guilt-tripping that is tagged onto the end of the message; and the lack of thought it takes to re-post them. If a person feels strongly about a topic, I would much rather hear about it in their own words with specific examples from their life than read a canned message that someone didn't even bother to proofread.

In that spirit I was inspired to think about why the "Keep CHRIST in Christmas message" provoked such a strong reaction in me. It was so strong I started writing a fairly rant-laden response to the person that posted originally. I thought the better of that and posted my rant to my own Facebook page. A few hours later I was surprised to find that a number of people had responded in the comments—apparently I wasn't alone in my reaction to the "Keep CHRIST in Christmas" message.
Here is what I wrote (edited for clarity):

"Personally I think the best thing is to live Christmas while at the same time being respectful of other religions. Having a winter holiday celebration is not unique to Christianity and in many cases we (the Christian religion) poached a local religion's holy day when Christianity moved into certain areas.

The Christmas season has become a cultural holiday and many family traditions remain associated with it. I'm not ashamed of being a Christian but the best way I can show that is not by trying to 'defend' Christmas but to live in the way that Christ taught, 365 days a year. I also respect the choices friends and family have made to be atheists, taoists, agnostic, christian, and pagan. Many of them live in ways that are closer to Christ than what I see of 'Christians' in the media. "Christmas" is a holiday (and holy day) that humans made up. We don't know exactly when Christ was born, so now he is 'born' during the darkest time of the year (in the northern hemisphere) when the sun is just about to return.

Christmas is a creation of people and should not be the center of Christian worship. The season has been a secular tradition for a long time now. We co-opted other religions holy days and 'saints,' now it's our turn to have our holy days co-opted by the secular majority. It is perhaps an good exercise in eating humble pie and being reminded of how the first Christians started out with just bread, wine, and the word."

This still sums up my feelings on the matter. Since the time I wrote this response there have been other, more pithy and more humorous takes on the situation. Jon Stewart riffed on it (and on what religious freedom really means) on the Dec 6th edition of the Daily Show and counter-memes have sprung up on facebook.
I love Christmas. I set up my nativities starting the first Sunday of Advent (and move the holy family, shepherds, and wise men around as the events of Christmas play out in the readings). This year I'm breaking into my son's legos to make a protestant nativity < http://staff.science.uva.nl/~leo/lego/nativity.html> . This is my way of living into the story of Christ. My pagan housemate loves setting up our 'Christmas' tree every year. She picks the tree, lights it, and pick the color scheme for our holiday decorations (she is a designer and it comes through in everything she does). I would never tell her she couldn't set up a tree and enjoy the holiday because she is not a Christian. Not only would it be the height of rudeness, but it does not do anything to share the message of Christ.

Back in 2005, I went to Norway to visit my relatives and practice my Norwegian (which I had spent the previous 3 years learning). I knew going in that they were religious and that the branch of the family I would be staying with were active missionaries. I was thrilled to have the chance to stay with them, but also nervous that they would not find me 'Christian' enough and would try to convert me to their specific dogma. Within the first 24 hours of my visit, I was relieved of that fear completely. They were religious, but they lived it rather than tried to tell me what to believe. We did have some discussions about religion but they were interesting and stimulating, not off-putting or conversion-oriented. I still remember a conversation about grace that their college-age daughter and I had, partly because it was in Norwegian and I was so pleased that I mostly understood a complex discussion that taxed the limits of my vocabulary. The visit was wonderful and they were lovely hosts and very supportive of me and my attempts to keep conversing in Norwegian even when I was struggling.

A year or so later, they were in Seattle for a day at the end of a visit to the US and I got to take them around and show off a bit of my home to them. I took them to the last day of Folklife (a huge, free, festival at Seattle Center). We toured around, listening to music and watching some dancing, before we stumbled across a Christian protest group. I don't remember what they were on about, but they had signs and were of the 'you're all going to hell if you don't convert' variety. Intrigued, my relatives went over to talk to them. I hung back and watched. A fairly animated conversation ensued (my relatives are fluent English speakers). When we got back together, my relative shook his head and said that he had explained to the leader of the group that their methods would likely not be an effective way to spread the gospel.

I found it fascinating—particularly since I had originally thought that my relatives would be much more like the protestors than they turned out to be.

From this encounter I learned the difference between living the gospel, and shouting about it. My calm, quiet, faithful family caused me think about Christ much more than any protestor every has (or will). My little nativity scenes (or Christian action figures) allow me to show the story of the birth of Christ to anyone who is interested. My son and I have had more conversations about religion as a result of him asking about why I hide the baby Jesus until December 25th, than from any sermon he has heard at church.

Sharing the story of Christ is something that should happen every day in the way a Christian lives. Telling people they 'should' do something in order to be saved, in order to celebrate a season 'correctly', or in order not to go to hell is never going to be as effective as living your life in the open and letting others see Christ in you 365 days a year.

(This was originally posted at the Episcopal Cafe on Dec 13, 2010)