Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies

Patwin Lawrence is a candidate for the Minnesota Senate in District 59, and I think he may have inconsistent personal and political views that he’s not disclosing to voters.

This has been a weird national election season. I’ve learned (the hard way) that being too outspoken about politics is obnoxious. But I also think it’s important to talk about. Politics is messy, but it won’t get any better if we completely ignore it.

And as I’ve said before, local election coverage is weak at best.

So I’m diving in (gulp). I’m asking public questions of a local candidate (and acquaintance) because I think it’s important voters be informed to make their own decisions.

So full disclosure: This is an oddly personal and political blog post. Continue reading Patwin Lawrence: Calling Out a Candidate for Inconsistencies

Favorite Books So Far in 2016

So we’re halfway through 2016. How’s your book reading going?

I’m on a ridiculous pace: 104 books so far this year. Of course I read a lot. If this pace continues, I’ll beat my record of 203 books in 2014. But I don’t really care about that. While I like to talk about the numbers because they’re shocking, I’m not in it to set records. I’m in it to read good books.

I also track the racial and gender diversity in my books. So far this year I’m at 52% racial diversity (books written by or featuring main characters of color) and 54% female authors. Last year, my most diverse year to date, I managed 54% POC and 56% women.

So I’m on track there, which is encouraging. Seeking out diverse books isn’t always easy, but I’m starting to see it pay dividends as I try to understand the world around me and help my kids navigate it.

But enough about numbers. Let’s talk books.

Favorite Fiction Books So Far This Year:

  • Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
  • Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past by Diane Wilson
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Frindle by Andrew Clements

Favorite Nonfiction Books So Far This Year:

  • Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles
  • Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella
  • Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark by Addie Zierman
  • Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart

I’ve got about 25 library books sitting in my to-read stack, so I’m excited to discover some more great books in 2016.

How Do We Overcome Our Bi-Partisan Ignorance?

Ignorance stalks us wherever we go. Stupidity too—it’s easy to lash out in anger or dismissiveness. And maybe arrogance as well, to think that none of these apply to us. To me. We—I—live a great contradiction.

It’s so prominent in the political debate in this country right now—filibusters and sit-ins over gun rights, refusing to consider Supreme Court nominees, etc.. One side decries the other side’s actions, even though the first side has used the exact same tactic in the past. Both sides do it.

And so it goes. And that’s just in politics.

I read a lot. Some might say too much. In that reading I come across portrayals of overwhelming ignorance. Just this morning, in a matter of pages I read about The Colored Motorist’s Guide that told black people in the first half of the twentieth century “where they could and could not sleep, in what towns the citizens would shoot them if they stayed after dark,” and then that “deaf schools banished sign language, declared it backward and a threat to the wholesome spoken word, subscribed to the theory that sign language would encourage the deaf to marry only each other and create a perpetuating race of non-hearers, and swaddled the hands of their most defiant students in thick cotton mittens.” Continue reading How Do We Overcome Our Bi-Partisan Ignorance?

Giving Cancer the Middle Finger

I’m excited to read the new book from Nora McInerny Purmort, It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool Too). You may have seen the headlines about her: she married her husband after his brain cancer diagnosis and they decided to have a child even though he was dying.

A book about cancer and death? Oh joy, right?

Yeah, Nora is freaking hilarious. I saw her speak a few months back and the whole place was laughing to tears. She’s one of these incredible people who can make us laugh in the face of cancer and death.

Sometimes we need to give cancer the ol’ middle finger.

The Pioneer Press has a great profile of Nora, and I just loved this section:

Grieving widow books are thriving, many offering some version of “God gave me strength and made me a better person.” Not Nora Purmort.

“I hate that sh–. I didn’t want to write that book,” she says. “I don’t think things happen for a reason, and it’s not nice to say this is God’s plan.”

Amen.

Can We Have a Little Compassion?

I shared this article on Facebook last week, but I think it’s important enough that I’m going to share it again:

There’s a lot of freaking out happening right now over gender issues. I think much of it comes down to misunderstanding. Transgender is a weird issue and a lot of us don’t understand it.

If we say that we love people, then we need to try to understand it and have some compassion. That article is a start.

Because you may not know it yet, but you probably know a transgender person. I didn’t know anyone personally—until today. We need to listen. We need to [try to] understand. We need some compassion.

And we’re going to ask dumb questions or say offensive things. And we’ll need grace.

I came across this passage in the book I’m reading right now, Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. The main character, Pat, has some kind of mental health issues and he just read the very depressing The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Pat asks his therapist why kids in school should have to read it:

“Life is hard, Pat, and children have to be told how hard life is.”

“Why?”

“So they will be sympathetic to others. So they will understand that some people have it harder than they do and that a trip through this world can be a wildly different experience, depending on what chemicals are raging through one’s head.”

Some of us have life easier than others (another way to describe privilege). And so before we judge people based on that or apply our theology or political ideology to it, I think we need to have some compassion.

What other response should we have to hurting people?

Transgender: Love or Legislate?

There’s no epidemic of bathroom assaults in this country. You know what there is? A rash of suicide among trans people—41%.

Love > Fear.

I really don’t want to get into some online debate about this. I dread it. But when I see people spewing hate and pretending it’s reasonable, I can’t keep quiet.

Trans people are more likely to be harassed, bullied, abused and rejected. It’s no wonder they’re trying to kill themselves at staggering numbers.

That should break our hearts.

But instead of loving, we’re legislating.

Let’s be honest: the transgender experience is weird and complicated and confusing. Most of us don’t understand it. Imagine trying to live it.

Yet instead of compassion, too many react in fear. We refuse to consider their actual experience and assume we know better. When will we stop trying to inflict our morality on hurting people?

Look: I don’t care about the theology or morality or whatever surrounding the transgender issue. All that sermonizing doesn’t mean anything when kids put knives to their wrists.

You either care about that person or you don’t. You either love them like Jesus did—right or wrong, accident or choice, sin or something else—or what the hell are you doing?

We hate one another too easily. That’s not the gospel I believe. Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten the Good Samaritan.

Want to understand this issue better? Try talking to a trans person. The next best thing: Try reading their experience. It’s a start.

 

  • Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition by Katie Rain Hill
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
  • Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews
  • Young adult fiction: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kristin Cronn-Mills
  • Middle grade fiction: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

 

Have some compassion, even if you don’t understand or disagree. These are people too.

Be a Quitter

That's How We've Always Done It: Is Your Church Ready to Quit? 166 Ways to Be a QuitterIt all started with Bob Goff. He quits something every Thursday. It inspired my latest book, Is Your Church Ready to Quit?: 166 Ways to Be a Quitter.

We’re afraid of failure and scared to quit. The result is that we keep doing things we shouldn’t be doing. That’s why Bob started quitting every week:

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me. But now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” -Bob Goff

I like consistency. I’ve lived in Minnesota since 1997. I’ve been blogging since 1998. Attending my church since 2001. Freelancing since 2003. Editing Church Marketing Sucks since 2004. Living in my current house since 2007. I don’t like change.

But sometimes we need change. We need to be willing to quit.

I took Bob’s encouragement to quit and shared it with freelancers through iThemes last year. I even called Bob for the article, which was kind of weird (his phone number is in his book and he encourages people to just call him; so I did).

The idea resonated, so I translated it to churches and ran a blog series on Church Marketing Sucks last August. We shared 30 things to quit. Then 30 more. The idea still resonated, so I expanded it into a list of 166 things to quit, complete with added commentary.

The result is the ebook, Is Your Church Ready to Quit?: 166 Ways to Be a Quitter. It’s a fun little project.

You can buy it at Amazon (or borrow it for free if you’ve got a Kindle) or check out a free preview.

Show Your Work: Time Travel Story

I’m trying to write a novel. Again.

Writing fiction is scary work for me. It’s hard. And I don’t think I’m very good at it. Plus there’s practically zero financial incentive.

But nobody writes books to make money.

You have to do it because you love it. Because you have a good idea inside that you can’t help but share with the world. It helps if the process of writing you occasionally find enjoyable.

I don’t know if I have a good idea or not, but it’s inside me and wants to get out. Every now and then there are times when the writing process is amazing. But especially with fiction there are long stretches when the words are wooden, the sentences flat and I wonder why I’m wasting perfectly good time that I could be doing nearly anything else.

I’ve started and stopped this latest novel a few times now. I’m trying again.

The motivation this time is that I realized the story I’m wanting to tell is a story I’d like to read to my children. I read to my kids nearly every day. We read lots of different books and now that we’re reading middle grade novels and not rhyming picture books, I really enjoy it. I love reading a book that captures my kids attention. I love reading a book that has wonderful words, spectacular phrasing and dialogue that makes me try to be a performer and not a mere reader.

I wonder if I can write that kind of book.

I probably can’t.

I’ve written three novels and have never been able to get them past a second draft to a point where I’d say they’re finished. I have a hard time following through.

It’s not that I’m lacking confidence, it’s that I’m trying to be realistic.

Yet I have this idea. It keeps working on me, spinning in the back of my head, trying to become something. It’s about a reluctant time traveler.

Happy Easter Music Mix

Holy Week began yesterday morning with the waving of the palms. We stood outside our church on the corner of Ford Parkway and Macalester, savoring the little bit of sun that offered warmth against the bitter Minnesota cold. It may have been the first day of spring, but it was still in the 30s. We waved our palms to sing Hosanna, to fight back the cold, to celebrate the march toward Easter.

So with that backdrop I offer an Easter music list.

I’m always making mix CDs for my wife, and as I started another list for her, I realized I was collecting a lot of gospel songs. Most of my mixes are pretty random, so I decided to lean into the theme.

The result is a collection of music that speaks to faith and spirituality and hope and the gospel. I’m well beyond saying this is “Christian” music, but it is a collection of hymns, psalms and laments, tinged with that old-time gospel sound.

  1. “Little Light” by The Eagle Rock Gospel Singers
  2. “What Wondrous Love Is This? by Chelsea Moon & The Franz Brothers
  3. “Not Enough” by Caedmon’s Call
  4. “Here it Comes” by Romantica
  5. “He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word” by The Welcome Wagon
  6. “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash
  7. “Purpose (live)” by Cloud Cult
  8. “Hand in Hand” by Jayanthi Kyle
  9. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (Rattle & Hum movie version)” by U2
  10. “Be Thou My Vision” by Ginny Owens
  11. “All the Poor and Powerless” by All Sons & Daughters
  12. “The Transfiguration” by Sufjan Stevens
  13. “Lamb of God, Have Mercy” by Gospel Machine
  14. “People of God” by Gungor
  15. “Poor Man’s Son” by Noah Gundersen
  16. “This Little Light” by Mavis Staples
  17. “This No More” by The Vespers
  18. “Amazing Grace (featuring The Lily of the Valley Gospel Choir)” by Justin McRoberts
  19. “40 (live)” by U2

Continue reading Happy Easter Music Mix

Faith in the Darkness: Disrupted Adoption

My friend Addie Zierman asked her readers to share their stories of faith in the darkness to mark the release of her new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark. I highly recommend her book and have already shared about it, but I wanted to take up her challenge and write my own story.

This is not an easy story to share, as you’ll see. There’s more I could confess. There are other, different, arguably more important perspectives. But this is my perspective and the only one I can share. I ask your grace and mercy in sharing this, not for me alone, but for everyone who had a part in this season.

***

The darkest season in my life started with a nine hour stay at the emergency room. That night—well, early morning I guess—we came home without our daughter. We would see her again, but she never came back to our house.

This is the story of a disrupted adoption.

That’s safe, clinical language for an adoption that falls through. You welcome a child into your home, make her a part of your family and do everything you can to convince her that this is a permanent and lasting home.

And then you kick her out.

It’s the antithesis of everything adoption is supposed to be.

And it’s what my family went through in 2011.

I remember driving home from the hospital and passing a wrecked car abandoned in the street. There were no police. No flashing lights. No people standing around. Just a mangled car. Broken glass littered the street, catching our headlights and throwing pinpricks of glare into the early morning dark.

It looked like someone crashed into a parked car and then drove off.

That hit-and-run felt like too apt a metaphor for what had just happened to us. There was no one at the site of that accident—no one to blame, no one to accuse, no one to give answers or directions. Just a ruined car and a lot of questions. Continue reading Faith in the Darkness: Disrupted Adoption

A work-at-home dad wrestles with faith, social justice & story.