Why I Unfollowed You: Breaking Out of Church Bubble

One of our recent Air Bnb guests, a physical trainer, went for a run wearing his CrossFit T-shirt. He met one of my neighbors, who happens to be a celebrity in CrossFit Games. Telling me about this encounter, our guest couldn’t stop grinning. He had found his people.

I have lived in this neighborhood for 16 years and have never met this neighbor. I had no idea she was a CrossFit celebrity. I do workout regularly, but I don’t do CrossFit and knew nothing about that world.

The T-shirt helped my Air Bnb guest connect with the celebrity. I saw the same T-shirt, but to me, the uninitiated, it meant nothing.

Every group has identifiers. When you enter a new group, you learn to notice what matters to that group. Sometimes this new group is one we chose to join, and sometimes it’s thrust upon us. Parenthood can feel like one long course in learning new identifiers.

The most crucial piece of knowledge is always the piece we haven’t noticed yet.

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When Sanctuaries Aren’t Safe

Recently the pilgrim site at Tabgha, Israel was attacked by arsonists. Very little mention was made of this in US media. I wrote a blogpost for EerdWord, the Eerdmans blog. Thanks for reading.

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Writing Potato

Someone asked me why I have a potato on my writing desk, as pictured above. I was surprised. I thought writing potatoes were a common practice!

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Changing Seats

Growing up, my family took long car camping trips. My father was a principal and my mother was a teacher, so they took full advantage of summer vacation. All seven of us piled into a Ford Galaxy for trips we measured in weeks and thousands of miles.

Our trunk was stuffed to capacity and an enormous car top carrier weighted the roof like a turtle. Dad drove and Mom navigated. The youngest sibling sat in the front seat between them and the other four of us were in the backseat, three on the bench and one in the foot space, a cramped spot that we rotated. The arrangement might sound odd today, but in the 1960s and 70s there were no seatbelt laws.

This past week was a sort of family-car-trip reprise, some fifty years later, only this time we changed seats. I was in the driver’s seat, chauffeuring my parents on a 3-day, 700 mile car trip “up north” to the upper peninsula of Michigan. Continue reading

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Signs vs. Sidewalk: Which Speaks Louder?

I was walking through an unfamiliar residential neighborhood to get some exercise, going at a good clip when I was brought to a sudden halt because the sidewalk disappeared. A certain establishment had not installed sidewalks along its considerable property line. The name of the establishment? “Health Network.” I could not continue my healthy walk past the Health Network, but had to turn around.

Sometimes I think this is what the church must seem like to people outside the church — an establishment that says one thing on its sign, and another thing by its behavior.

I know churches that say “Welcome” on their sign, but good luck finding a door that will open. Some churches unlock only a few of their many doors, even on a Sunday morning.

I know churches that proclaim “All Are Welcome” on their sign, but heaven help the young lesbian couple that walks in, hand in hand.

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Honor Flight: a WW II Veteran Reflects, a guest post

The following is by my father, Nicholas J. Huizenga, in which he describes a Talons Out Honor Flight he took on May 16, 2015.

Nicholas Huizenga, USA private

Nicholas J. Huizenga, 1945

Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

Nine days ago I joined 105 veterans of World War ll on a trip to Washington D.C. mainly to see the war memorials. The average age of the vets was 93 years, and each had an assistant and a wheel chair. It was a long day, which began at the Gerald Ford airport in Grand Rapids at 5:30 a.m. and ended after midnight. During breakfast we heard the old songs of the War era by the Great Lakes Male Chorus before a grand send-off by scores of people, who applauded and shook our hands with expressions of appreciation for our service.

At the Ronald Reagan Airport in D.C. we were again greeted by scores of people while a professional group of women in their 60’s sang some of the old songs. Police cars escorted our six busses down the streets of Washington, while tour guides shared information about the buildings and monuments.


My family was able to meet Dad as he came off the bus at the WWII Memorial.

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Pentecost: Crowd-sourcing a Question about the Crowd

The Pentecost story is so familiar that I picture it easily. But I’ve just come to realize that I’ve been wrong about a detail. I’m wondering if that detail matters.

Acts 2:1-21. The Pentecost story takes place on a feast day roughly ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven. As I’ve always pictured it, the disciples and other followers (maybe a hundred or so?) are assembled in a large room. They have just selected a new leader to replace the fallen Judas.

Suddenly a violent wind blows through the room, bringing with it flames of fire. The flames hover above the heads of all assembled. Each person is miraculously able to speak a language which was previously unknown. Overcome, they pour out onto the street, each speaking in this new language. A crowd gathers, amazed at the spectacle. Peter preaches eloquently, quoting the prophet Joel, and converts masses of people.

Boom! The church is born!

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I’ve Always Wanted to Be Normal

RevGals coverI’m a woman and have spent a good portion of my career occupying pulpits. In some circles a preaching woman is seen as a problem. Now comes a book that normalizes my life: “There’s a Woman in the Pulpit.” What a gift! I’ve always wanted to feel normal.

There’s a Woman in the Pulpit: Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments & the Healing Power of Humor (SkyLight Paths Publishing).

Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

My guess is that you know someone who would love to receive this book as a gift.

More than 50 clergywomen have written this anthology. I contributed an essay, which ended up first in the book. It leads off a section called “Fierce & Fabulous for Jesus.”

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Two Kinds of Ministers

I submit that there are two kinds of ministers: ministers who’ve been hurt by the church, and ministers who haven’t been hurt by the church, yet.

I suppose you could apply this bifurcation to any group of persons. There are two kinds of spouses: those who have disappointed their mate, and those who haven’t, yet. There are two kinds of people: those who’ve died, and those who haven’t, yet.

Does this sound cynical? There is wisdom to be gained from meditating on failure and mortality, although we tend to avoid it.

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Indiscriminate Tastes

Everyone likes to eat. What do you like to eat? On Sunday I’m preaching the Acts 10 text, about Peter’s vision, and so I’m pondering food choices. In the text, Peter, a law-abiding Jew, encounters a Roman named Cornelius and dreams of a sheet filled with food that he considers to be unclean. In the dream, God tells Peter: “Get up Peter, Kill and Eat.” Understandably, Peter recoils. The action recurs three times.

It strikes me that food is not just something to think about. Food is something to partake of. Recently I’ve experienced food a bit differently from normal. I just spent ten days traveling in the UK, and I did my share of eating! I began my travels in Ayr (west coast of Scotland), as a guest, sharing meals with my host family. Then I traveled to Edinburgh where I talked about pilgrimage based on my book, and stayed at a lovely hotel, like a tourist. Then off to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (east coast of England), to practice being a pilgrim.

All along the way, I did something I don’t usually do: I took pictures of my meals. I kept thinking, “Doug would love this!” So as a way to share the experience with my husband later, I snapped pictures. Which part of me was trying to preserve those memories — the tourist me, or the pilgrim me?

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