following Christ

True story: I recently had a tantrum that involved throwing my phone.

This map was useless. Just trust me.

Recently our family found ourselves navigating around the city of Los Angeles.

As you might imagine, things got ugly.

We’d been in California for a few days by that point, long enough to get lost about twenty zillion times, long enough to realize the traffic was sort of ridiculous, and long enough to realize we were never sure if we were in a safe neighborhood or if we were about to be ax murdered.

We really, really didn’t want to get ax murdered on our family vacation.

I took this picture at Universal Studios, where there was an honest-to-goodness fake murderer in the background!

So Eric and I took to using both of our phones to navigate. He uses Google maps and I use Apple maps, and between the two of us we usually could figure out what to do. YOU WOULD THINK that two adults using two GPS sets of directions would arrive promptly at their desired destination, but no.

Finally we gave up on our original destination because the neighborhood was just too sketchy. Usually we’re a little braver than this, but it had been a long day and our nerves (okay, my nerves) were shot. I didn’t have the emotional energy to walk through a tent city of homeless people to get to the Mexican market, and I’m ashamed to admit that. But it’s the simple truth.

After giving up on the Mexican market, we headed to The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. Formerly a bank, it’s now a grand and glorious place chock full of books. It should have been the funnest time ever, but I was pretty sure our rental car was going to get towed or stolen or something while we perused the books. As soon as we walked in the security guy demanded our bags, which was kind of unsettling.

The Last Bookstore has all kinds of bookish delights like this one.

A cashier recommended a local place to eat, which was really just a lot of lunch counters in one big space. Since no one in our family ever wants to eat the same thing for dinner, this seemed like a genius idea. We set out from The Last Bookstore and began walking the few blocks to Grand Central Market.

And I’ll spare you the details of the trauma, but I couldn’t eat my dinner after I paid $16 for it. It was cross contaminated with heaven knows how many kinds of wheat, and also it looked like some sort of horrible, monstrous stew cooked by the devil. Even Eric looked at it with suspicion, and he’ll eat almost anything.

As we left the market I tried to give the perfectly good meal to a homeless man–I mean, I was afraid of it but it really was good food– but he refused it. He told me he doesn’t eat shrimp because of the bacteria. (I am not making this up.)

I was a little taken back, but just walked away and set the food on the top of a garbage container. My mood had fallen to a dangerous level by that point.

Our car hadn’t been stolen, which was good because by then all of us were pretty much desperate to get back to our rented apartment.

The door to our wonderful apartment we found through Airbnb.

On the way back, our dual-direction system failed us, and Eric’s phone started giving us completely different directions. Since he could see the map on his phone, Eric chose to follow his directions instead of mine, which is when I yelled, “Fine, you just figure it out!” and then threw my phone to the floor.

Like a child.

Or, more accurately, like a forty-year old redhead with a temper that flares under stress.

My phone didn’t care. Siri continued to patiently direct us home from the floorboards of a rented Kia. It would have been funny if I hadn’t been twelve shades of furious.

The children sat silent in the backseat, not sure what to do with a phone-throwing, starving, nervous wreck of a mother.

Why do I tell you this story? I mean, other than the obvious reason that stories involving tantrums are pretty much always funny… later.

It’s because there’s a tendency to only present our best selves on social media, which I’ve blogged about before. But also, I read a great article today on how Christians today have a wide array of authors, pastors, and speakers to follow, and often those leaders are only seen from a distance. It’s not healthy. Real life and real problems can be hidden behind a facade.

Another display at the Last Bookstore.

As a writer, I walk a dangerous line. I love to talk about what God is teaching me and how the Bible connects to our daily life. But I don’t want to get too pretentious about it. My real life friends know I’m not perfect, what with my whining and swearing and griping. But it’s easy to gloss over those less-than desirable personal traits as I write, due in part to the fact that if I typed out all my actual thoughts you would be confused and very, very afraid.

Whether I’m comfortable with it or not, writing is a form of leadership. I have a responsibility to offer up the truth about myself, and sometimes that involves my fear of poverty-stricken areas, self-pity over dinner, and throwing my phone while I have a fit.

And all of us have the responsibility to seek to become more and more like Christ each day. Not more like the authors we read. Not more like our pastors. Not even more like Corrie TenBoom or George Elliot or the Apostle Paul. We fail ourselves and others when we put Christ aside to follow another human.

Because humans sometimes throw phones and pitch little fits in the Kia, mmmmkay?

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are (Romans 3:22, NLT).



A Terrible Show With Terrible Examples (But I Love It So)

My poor, sweet husband married a wimp when it comes to movies and television shows. You know how some husbands get to take their wives to movies with violence and suspense? Swords clash and blood spurts and the victor does a little dance with a bloody head dangling by the hair? So manly.

Eric doesn’t get to do this with his wife. He gets to go alone, or with a buddy.

Eric gets to watch Father of the Bride and the Cosby Show and Columbo when I’m in the room. I can’t help it. I have bad dreams, okay? And I’ve never had a filter for sorting out reality from fiction when it comes to suspense or fear– it just feels like it’s happening right now, to me or persons I love.

But a man can only take so much, and a few months ago he carefully suggested I might like to watch House of Cards with him. He had been watching it when I walked into the room, and I sat down for a few minutes. Immediately intrigued, he had to fend off my questions. “Who’s that?” “What’s he doing?” “Why is she so terrible?!”

So he started the series over at the beginning for me and now I’m up to my eyeballs in politicians and the terrible, manipulative games they play. I have no idea how close the show is to the reality of Washington DC, but I am fearful that it might be quite accurate.

These people are terrible, awful, horrible examples. The only characters with any redeeming values usually stand up for good and get squashed like bugs halfway through the show. Frank Underwood, the main character, has manipulated grieving parents, stood in front of a church like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, slept with a young reporter, and systematically rearranged the careers of other politicians for his own benefit.

Don’t even get me started on his wife. She might actually be the devil. I haven’t quite decided.

So the obvious question is this– why would a follower of Christ watch a show like this? It certainly isn’t edifying or encouraging. I don’t get good ideas from it. It doesn’t teach me to love my husband or children any better, and I’m certain it makes me an even worse employee.

But that’s the beauty of the thing. Sometimes the bad examples speak the most clearly. I get pretty saturated in my churchy world– I work in one, I attend one, I blog and write for other Christians. I forget there’s a whole world out there that desperately needs Jesus, and then a show like House of Cards comes along and reminds me of how depraved we all are without Christ.

When we don’t have God, we’re selfish and mean and manipulative and seductive and awful. This is no way to live. Watching the bad characters destroy the lives of others gets my sense of justice and compassion all stirred back up again. I remember why following Christ with humble service to others matters. Kindness matters. Selflessness is beautiful.

And while the terrible people on screen cavort and manipulate and destroy one another, I shake my head and remind myself to never be like them.

What about you? Do you have a terrible show that actually teaches you something? Tell me all about it.

1 Corinthians 6:11