A Journey of Hope, part 4: Ruth and Mary on New Life

This is the 4th and and final part of a four part story of two biblical women, pressing forward despite adversity and used by God despite being lowly outsiders.

For context on this series, including what we wrote this for and why I’m posting it to my blog, read the intro here.

Read Part 1 about Fear, Pain & Darkness here.

Read Part 2 about The Power of Friendship here.

Read Part 3 about Problems of Hunger and Homelessness here.

Redemption and New Life

Ruth Redeemed

by Libby Sutherland

I’ll be honest: I’d pretty much given up on my life amounting to much. What could I expect, after all?

I was a young widow from an unknown place and from an unknown family. An unwelcome foreigner here in Bethlehem. A beggar dependent upon the lost grains on the harvested field to even survive. I was a burden to my mother-in-law’s family — a stranger that others were beholden to provide for, to protect, to cover. To even have a guaranteed meal every day seemed out of my grasp. My footing was stumbling and uncertain, but all I could do was move forward, wondering how it would all work out.

And now — well, it’s all turned upside down.

That night on the threshing floor, as I reached to pull back the cloth from Boaz’s feet, I just prayed that he would in turn cover me with his garments, offer his protection and be my provision. What I could not know in that moment is that his God, Yahweh, had already spread favor over my life. That it was not only Boaz, but this living God who would be my guardian-redeemer. That his power would be felt in my life, that his care would bring things forth for my good.

The how of this miraculous reversal of station is like a blur. Surely, even in our scheming and plotting, Naomi and I never anticipated such favor. A family-redeemer to be my husband, to be Naomi’s son! A new family, a new dream to redeem the family and the dreams we had lost in Moab.

And a new baby son too. God gave me a son who will be a promise of our family’s continuation and survival. We named him Obed, for he will serve this God that has blessed our family.

This is what God has given me: I have a new family. I have a new purpose. I have a new position. I have a new name. I am “Mother.” I have been given a place. And I am no longer wandering.

And finally, the reason we celebrate Christmas. Libby writes Mary’s perspective on the birth of Jesus.

Mary (and the world) Redeemed

By Libby Sutherland

 What they tell you about having a baby is actually true: It’s all worth it in the end. The fear, the pain, the uncertainty that are all so overwhelming turn to relief and joy in just a few seconds.

A few months ago, all I could think was, How? How could I raise a baby, especially a baby king? How could Joseph believe me — and not leave me? How would I face my family? My town? My cousin Elizabeth kept telling me that God would follow through on his promises to bless me …

And he has! Even at the very last minute, when I was terrified I would just have to give birth on the street, Joseph banged on the door of the town inn, and the innkeeper said we could stay in his stable. He could probably tell things were about to get a little crazy! Everything is a blur, but somehow Joseph helped me off the donkey and into the hay. The pain was horrible, but then it was over, and the baby is healthy and strong! It definitely isn’t how I pictured it in my mind, but in the end, it doesn’t matter at all.

What matters is that my son is in my arms! The sweet smell of his wet head, his ruddy little face, his chin that trembles when he cries. He’s so beautiful. I didn’t know how this journey to Bethlehem would play out. But here we are, cushioned by a seat of hay. Instead of all my aunts and midwives surrounding me, there are a lot of cows and donkeys! But God made sure we would be safe.

There’s a feed trough in the corner that just might work for a little bed once Joseph helps me wrap Jesus up in our spare pieces of cloth. Look at my husband, grinning so sweetly at the baby! God has given him this son too. We really are a family now.

How did I ever doubt God’s goodness?

So this is how it feels to be a mother! I want so much for this baby Messiah. I want better than this barn. I want to keep him safe, make him happy, give him anything he wants or needs. But as much as I want to give him, I keep remembering the angel’s message: That Jesus is the one who will give us our freedom back. What can I give him that’s worth more than that?

I’m going to be his mother, but someday Jesus will be my king. He’ll set things right and bring justice to all of Abraham’s family line! He’ll fix our broken land. He’ll free us from our oppressors, and things will be as they should be. Everything I do to take care of him will be nothing compared to everything he will do for all of my people. I can’t wait to see what Jesus is going to do. Who he is going to be.

A few months ago, I was a no-name girl from a poor town, from a no-name family — and yet, God invited ME to be part of this bigger story. He made sure I would be safe. He’s given me favor and a home. A new name, a new family, and a new purpose for my life! But most of all, he’s given me a son who is “God with us.”

Now I know for sure that God is with me. Because I’m looking at his face. And I am no longer wondering.

Merry Christmas everybody!


A Journey of Hope, part 3: Ruth and Mary on Hunger and Homelessness

This is part 3 of 4 of the story of 2 women, pressing forward despite adversity and used by God despite being lowly outsiders.

For context on this series, including what we wrote this for and why I’m posting it to my blog, read the intro here.

Read Part 1 about Fear, Pain & Darkness here.

Read Part 2 about The Power of Friendship here.


Encountering Problems: Hunger and Homelessness

Ruth on Hunger

by BeccyJoy 

We were so hungry that we stopped feeling hungry. Hunger was just our normal state. But I was growing dizzy and faint, and judging by the way Naomi kept stumbling into me, she was faring worse.

When we finally came upon a field, I thought I was seeing a mirage. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. The whole corner of the field was filled with un-raked grain, which seemed to be free for the taking.

I thought either the reapers weren’t good at their jobs, or they would soon be returning to finish. Naomi assured me that they left it for us.

The journey must have affected Naomi’s mind. She was delirious. How could they have left this grain for us? They could not have known we were coming.

Naomi explained the harvesters were following the Lord Almighty’s law. The Lord commanded His people to leave a corner of their field partially un-harvested for people like us: the foreigners, the widows, and orphans. Failure to obey this law is a punishable offense.

A sense of awe and gratitude overtook me. I had always thought the laws of the land were to protect the rich and important people and punish the weak and powerless. Who was this God who cared if I lived or died? Who was I that God would not let someone like me wither away?

I started gathering grain among the sheaves behind the harvesters. The owner of the field, Boaz, kept glancing in my direction. He seemed to be asking about me. And then he seemed to be walking toward me.

As he approached, my heart was pounding. I was worried he would tell me it was time to find a new field … that I had taken enough from him.

His kind voice and his smile cut through my anxiety. “My daughter, listen to me. Don’t go and glean in another field, and don’t go away from here. I won’t let my men lay a hand on you!”

At this, I bowed down with my face to the ground. I didn’t understand why I had found such favor in his eyes or why he even noticed me at all — a lowly foreigner.

His generosity didn’t stop there. He shared his bread and water and sent me back to Naomi with more than enough food for both of us.

Here’s Jill again with Mary’s perspective.

Mary on Housing (or the lack thereof)

by Jill Hicks

Breathe in. Breathe out. Elizabeth said it can help with the pains.

I’m so tired. And everything hurts. I wish the angel would come back and remind me of how excited I used to feel. I wish I could see God to know for sure that he is here with me.

But I have been feeling this little glimmer of hope since we started out on our journey. Maybe having the baby all the way down in Bethlehem means something I don’t completely understand. At least it’s a little bit nicer here than our poor little Nazareth!

I can’t wait to see the baby’s face. Will he look like me? Will he look like … God? That doesn’t even make sense.

But right now the pains are getting stronger, and so close together! And we can’t find anywhere to stay. All of these people from Joseph’s family line are here … plus crowds of people we don’t even know … and every place is totally full.

It’s mostly my fault we’re so late to Bethlehem. We had to go so slow the whole time. Riding has been awful. But my ankles are so swollen, it hurts to walk. And it seemed like we had to stop the donkey every ten minutes so I could go to the bathroom…!

It’s so hard to breathe. I can tell it’s not going to be much longer. Why won’t anybody just let us in so I can lie down for a minute?

Maybe Joseph’s relatives heard all the rumors. Maybe they don’t want to let us in. I wish God would just send one more angel to one more house so that they’ll understand!

But there haven’t been any more angel visits since the beginning. And God didn’t even tell my parents what was going on. They’ve been so embarrassed. Everybody whispered about me at the market for months. I wish I didn’t feel so alone!

At least Adonai gave Joseph back to me. I remember the look on his face when I came back from Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house and told him I was pregnant. He was so crushed, and he just left, and I cried myself to sleep. But then he came back and said an angel had visited him too. He grabbed my hand. And all the hope came back, and I knew God had given the baby and me somebody to take care of us after all.

But Joseph has had a really hard time. People treated him strangely when he brought over their woodworking orders. Then he was working so hard on our little house, but the Roman soldiers came through town with their big decree that everybody had to go back to their towns of origin for this huge census. Joseph is one of King David’s descendants, so we had to travel all the way here to David’s town, Bethlehem. And who knows how long we’ll have to stay? I was just getting into the whole nesting thing … and now I can’t even be at home to deliver my own baby!

Where AM I going to deliver this baby??

Why is everything happening this way? The angel said I was blessed, but none of this feels like blessing. Alone in a strange town, far away from my own home. None of my aunts and cousins are here to help me. No midwives. And just look at Joseph. He looks terrified. He’s never caught a baby! Men don’t do birth-y things!

It’s getting dark. And I can’t breathe. This baby wants to come now. If Yahweh would just open up a place for us to go! I thought he promised to take care of me …

At this point I don’t even care if I have this baby in a barn, this hurts so bad! Is God here with us at all??

To be continued…

Tomorrow (Christmas Day): Redemption and New Life

A Journey of Hope, part 2: Ruth and Mary on The Power of Friendship

This is part 2 of 4 of the story of 2 women, pressing forward despite adversity and used by God despite being lowly outsiders.

For context on this series, including what we wrote this for and why I’m posting it to my blog, read the intro here.

Read Part 1 about Fear, Pain & Darkness here.


The Power of Friendship

Ruth & Naomi (based on Ruth chapter 2)

by BeccyJoy

I had nothing. Lord knows Naomi had nothing. But somehow, together we had something. It didn’t make any sense; we were like two empty vessels that somehow filled each other up.

I don’t blame Orpah for staying in Moab. Naomi blessed us both to return to our mother’s house. We had a chance of starting over. We’d find new husbands, live in new homes, and maybe have children. Orpah was smart to go home, but I just could not. As terrifying as it was to leave my homeland with no plan or prospects, the thought of losing Naomi was worse.

Naomi tried to reason with me by telling me she was too old to provide me with a husband, but reason isn’t the basis of our friendship. There is no logic to the depths of my affection for Naomi. Our pain, our joys and our lives were braided together with a love that was so strong, I knew that without her, I would be lost and incomplete. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates me from Naomi!

Naomi told me that her God had made her life bitter, and yet, I could see that she had a small glimmer of hope that He would provide for us. It was that hope that drew me to Naomi, and it was that hope that drew me to her God. That tiny glimmer of hope was our guide all the way to Bethlehem.

Our dirty feet bled and our stomachs groaned. Naomi was old, and I feared the journey would take more out of her than she had. We walked and walked. We shared stories — and silences. We sang and prayed. We cried and reminisced. We laughed and hoped. We walked and walked and walked.

Jill wrote this next piece on Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth.

Mary & Elizabeth

by Jill Hicks

I knew visiting Elizabeth would be the right thing to do!

On the way here, to her and Zechariah’s house, I was thinking, maybe all of this was a dream after all. But I’ve been counting the days since I saw the angel, and I’ve noticed things. I feel so tired all the time. And I threw up again this morning. And the pain that usually comes every month … didn’t.

I have all the signs. I really am going to have a baby!

And Elizabeth knew it too! I hadn’t even told her I was pregnant, but she just knew.

I found out that an angel visited Zechariah, six months ago. But at first he didn’t believe Elizabeth would get pregnant, so the angel took away his voice until their baby is born. I feel bad for him, but he seems pretty upbeat most of the time.

Oh, Adonai, thank you that Elizabeth understands me! It’s so funny. She’s so old, and I’m so young. Technically, neither of us should have even been able to get pregnant. But Yahweh gave us both a baby anyway. We were two empty vessels that have been filled up.

I’ve got to say, it’s so nice having somebody to talk to about all this. Zechariah rolls his eyes at all of our chattering sometimes. But he doesn’t say anything. Because he can’t!

I feel so happy for Elizabeth. Everyone thought she would die without any children. But now she’s going to have a son! She told me that she used to feel like Sarah in the old stories: too old to have children. Or like Naomi, whose first sons died. But all that’s changed now. Sarah, Naomi, Elizabeth. God was kind to all of them eventually!

Elizabeth said that as soon as she saw me at the door, the baby inside her jumped around and kicked for joy. When she said that, I felt that crazy alive feeling again, just like when the angel came to see me. And suddenly, I just knew. I felt like it really was meant to be! I knew that God actually did choose me, for whatever reason. And that he is here with me.

I’m still scared, but now I feel like things will be all right.

I just hope I can remember that when I see Joseph again.

To Be Continued…

Tomorrow: Ruth and Mary are Hungry and Homeless.

A Journey of Hope, part 1: Ruth and Mary on Fear and Darkness

This is part 1 of 4 of the story of two biblical women, pressing forward despite adversity and used by God despite being lowly outsiders. I plan to post once a day for the three remaining days until Christmas and final post on Christmas.

For context on this series, including what we wrote this for and why I’m posting it to my blog, read the intro here.


Ruth’s sadness about Mahlon’s death  (based on Ruth chapter 1)

by BeccyJoy

When Mahlon and his family moved to town, there was a spark of something in them that drew me in. They were different, and their God, Adonai, seemed different. They had a hope that was more foreign to me than any of their strange family traditions.

They welcomed me into their family, and their strange ways began to feel right to me. Before I married Mahlon I was just a poor Moabite girl, but afterwards, life felt full.

When Mahlon’s father Elimelech died, a deep sadness fell over our entire family.

When Mahlon’s brother, Kilion died, I watched his mother Naomi weep bitter tears. The chilling emptiness inside of me grew more vast.

When I lost my Mahlon, I wept until I thought my tears had run dry, and then I wept more. I mourned the loss of Mahlon’s life, but also the loss of my own life.

I was a widow.

I was a nobody.  

I had nothing.

If the hunger didn’t kill me, I thought my grief might. My hope to have children and a legacy was dwindling.

With her husband and two sons gone, Naomi sank into a deep and bitter despair. I was ashamed that I had nothing to offer her. She had made me feel more at home than I had ever felt in my own mother’s home and given me everything she had to give. She was preparing to return to her homeland, Bethlehem.

She begged Kilion’s wife, Orpah, and me to go home to Moab and build a new life for ourselves. Orpah heeded her pleas. I would not. The harder Naomi pushed me away, the harder I clung to her. “Please! Go to Moab. Your life isn’t over like mine,” she cried.

Leave Naomi to die alone? Never! Return to Moab? My “home”? No! Moab had nothing to offer me. Moab was as barren as I was.

Fearful, hungry, tired, and poor, Naomi and I set out together for Bethlehem.

My friend Jill wrote this next piece from Mary’s perspective.

Mary’s Unexpected Pregnancy

by Jill Hicks

I can’t believe it. But I DO believe it. It wasn’t a dream. My head still hurts when I think about the light.

I’ve never seen an angel before, but I heard about them from the old stories. And it was like … so much white, but every color too. It burned into my eyes and sort of blazed through my body. I felt more alive, more real, than I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

I’ve never even been with a man. But the angel said I’m going to have a baby anyway. And it’s not just any baby. It’s a baby Messiah!

What is Joseph going to think?

I’ve loved Joseph from the beginning. The way he makes all those beautiful things out of plain old wood. And the way he nervously smiled at me the first time we talked. It made me laugh when I saw his awkward, silly grin. Even though he’s a lot older, I almost took his hand first. He’s just so cute when he’s nervous!

Oh, no. Oh, no … He’s going to think I slept with somebody else! What if he breaks our engagement? I’ll have nothing! There’ll be nobody to take care of me and the baby. No food. No home! Where will I go? I’ll lose everything!

I think I’m going to throw up.

Deep breath, Mary. He hasn’t broken up with you yet.

But I know he’s going to! He wants to do the right thing. He always follows the laws. Joseph could easily humiliate me and my family in front of the whole town. How will he ever believe that I’m pregnant with the actual Messiah? He already thinks I’m a little dramatic!

[growing excited again] Oh my goodness, the Messiah! I can’t believe it. I’ve heard all the stories. That Yahweh’s Messiah-king would come someday. But I thought he’d just come marching in from somewhere and set us all free from the Roman soldiers. That’s what the elders and the priests always say.

But instead, he’s going to be a little baby first! And Adonai chose ME to take care of him.

On the other hand, I’m so young. I always forget things at the market … it’s not like I can teach him to read … and I can’t even remember to feed my goat half the time! How am I ever going to take care of a baby Messiah?

Maybe I’m the wrong person to do this! I know Yahweh isn’t supposed to make mistakes, but maybe this is all wrong. Maybe he made a mistake choosing me. Does that happen?

No, the angel said it was me who was favored. He said that God was with me. And I believed him. There’s no going back.

I’m really scared. If I’m going to do this thing, I need somewhere to go. I need God to give me someone who will believe me … and I need to know that this isn’t a mistake.

I know what I’ll do. The angel said my older cousin Elizabeth was pregnant too. I’ll go visit her and help her with her baby. And I know Elizabeth will help me work through all this stuff in my brain. Maybe she’ll know if I’m out of my mind.

Tomorrow: Ruth and Mary on the power of friendship.

Merry Advent!

Advent Series Intro: Ruth and Mary, A Journey of Hope

In high school, I had an assignment in art class to research and write a paper on a famous painter.

In Spanish class I had an assignment to write about a famous Spaniard.

In creative writing class I had an opportunity to get extra credit for anything I wrote outside of that class.

I wrote one paper about a famous Spanish artist and got credit for it in all three classes. Triple play! Does that make me lazy or efficient? I’m still not sure… probably both.

A few weeks ago I started an Advent “series” on my blog, which consisted of one post. Now that Advent is coming to an end, I was thinking about writing something more about our tea/bath/Richard Roar Advent experience. Then I realized I could be more lazy and more efficient by posting something I already wrote for another purpose.

My church always puts on a special Christmas service, which is a collaboration between many types of artists; writers, actors, musicians, set/graphic designers, and more. Somehow it always comes together in a beautiful, meaningful, creative collage type of way. Probably something to do with our creative, visionary pastors and church staff.

This year, as a culmination of our church’s series linking Ruth (old testament ancestor of Jesus) to Mary (mother of Jesus), the Christmas service was a dramatic retelling of the journey these two women took to Bethlehem. I had the opportunity to write a few monologues from Ruth’s point of view.

I can’t share with you the whole experience of the service here on my blog as there was a (hauntingly beautiful) choir, a string section, comic relief videos, fabulous actresses  that brought the characters to life, a beautiful set, and several weeks of sermons (available here) that paved the way.

But I can bring you the story I wrote with a few friends about Mary and her foreshadow Ruth.

There are four parts, and four days until Christmas (including Christmas), so come back here for the next four days if you’d like to take this journey of fear, loss, hope, waiting, pressing on despite adversity, and (spoiler alert) redemption.

Merry Advent,


With Liberty and Justice for Some

“Two households, both alike in dignity humanity
In fair Verona the USA, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge wounds of oppression break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…”

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, edited excerpt from prologue

15 years ago, a family member of mine received a voice mail that sent a shock wave of fear through her body. “There’s been an incident involving your son and a gun, please give us a call at your earliest convenience.”

With a pounding heart and shaky hands, she dialed the school office. Relief washed over her as she learned that a neighbor spotted her son and a friend driving around shooting cap guns out of the car window.

His punishment, an in-school suspension, seemed too harsh. They were just playing. It wasn’t even on school grounds. Come on! Lighten up, and also, you might want to work on your voice mail skills.

He survived the in-school suspension and now has a story to laugh at and share with his grandchildren; “The time my mom almost had a heart attack because of a poorly worded voice mail.”

In 2014, another Midwest boy, 12 years old, was playing in the park with a toy gun. Instead of the school being called, the police were called. Instead of his family being jolted by a false alarm, their worst fears were realized, instead of an in-school suspension, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police within 2 seconds of their arrival on the scene.

The white household gained a story, while the black household lost a child.

When my (white) husband was in middle school, he heard about marijuana, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was. He knew it came in bags (dime-bags, nickel-bags, something like that), that people smoked it, and that people sold it, and that people who could get it were cool.

When he heard that a friend wanted some pot, my husband, the budding entrepreneur, decided it was his golden opportunity to acquire two things he lacked; cash and street cred.

He found a couple of cigarettes, unrolled them, and put the loose tobacco in a baggy thinking,”that’s probably what pot looks like” and presented the “weed” to his friend. Obviously he didn’t earn any cash and he certainly did not earn “street cred.”

My husband’s consequence? A little embarrassment at the time. More embarrassment years later when his wife blogs about it. Which in my estimation, is about right.

Eric Garner, a black man, a husband and father, was suspected of selling cigarettes made from loose tobacco. He did not resist arrest nor was he carrying a weapon.

Eric Garner’s consequence? A police officer choked him to death using an illegal maneuver.

The (white) police officer’s consequence? No trial, no charges.

White American’s are taking to social media with their similar stories of getting off the hook for every type of crime using the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite, and black Americans are sharing their stories with the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack  of getting treated like criminals for… well… living. If you think the stories I shared above are unique, read about multitudes more by looking up these hashtags on Twitter or Facebook.

A new mutiny is erupting from an ancient wound. This “two households” thing isn’t working for half of America. It’s time to live up to our country’s great slogan, “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”


It’s time for White American’s to wake up from the “American Dream” long enough to see that for some, it’s a nightmare. Continue reading

Craving a Meaningful Holiday Season? Celebrate Advent with Me.

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I had a hard time with my pregnancies. Really hard.  The nausea, aching, bloating, migraines, puking, pains, fears, insomnia, heaviness, hormones and lethargy were straight out of a horror movie that no one would ever choose to make or watch.

The only thing that kept me going was that the waiting was fused with hope. With every shred of my being, I leaned into hope. Hope of feeling better, hope of a new baby, and hope that something bigger, and better and more beautiful was unfolding. If I didn’t hope, the misery of those months would have swallowed me up.

It occurred to me that Advent is about a pregnancy. The world was broken and all wrong, and nauseating, and Mary was pregnant with the One who was going to start fixing it.

Advent is about waiting expectantly and choosing to hope, and not despair, no matter how bad things get.

Last weekend I had to leave my friend’s birthday party so I could take care of a car repair that started small, and morphed into a 2 day ordeal. I kept trying to drive away, only to have to turn back because the steering wheel was still shaking, then the alignment was off, and then there was a new “thunk” sound.

It seemed like they were creating or uncovering more problems with each problem they fixed. I paced around the store checking the time on my phone every couple of minutes and rethinking our Christmas budget.

Advent is also about pacing around the car repair shop, breathing in motor oil fumes and missing a party. It turns out, life is still broken. There is still sickness, and broken cars, and dashed hopes, and fractured relationships, and injustice.

Life presents ample opportunities to choose to hope that there is something bigger and better and more beautiful unfolding.

This year, my husband and I decided to celebrate Advent. We want to experience more of God in those moments of waiting and longing for things like love and light to make headway.

If anyone else is craving a meaningful holiday season, you are invited to join us in an advent experience. Here are some ideas on how to participate:

  1. Get 24 of something you enjoy, one for each day of Advent. My husband is participating in something called “Beer Advent” in which he and seventy some others ordered craft beers from all over the world. They mixed and matched the bottles from each case so that each person has one of each variety to drink on each day of Advent.12784_636597779785877_3348350022685696182_nThe idea is to take time, slow down, and enjoy a beverage while thinking about what it means that Jesus came into our broken world. If I drank that many beers, I’d probably have a beer belly by Christmas, so I’m opting for a cup of hot tea and a bubble bath every evening. Really, anything would work- chocolate, candles, caramels, or even pickles if that sounds good. The key is that it is something you will look forward to. This is a celebration, not a punishment.
  2. Read a book (or booklet, or blog post, or scripture) about Advent, like this one by Richard Rohr. Nothing too thick or intense, just something that will guide you in thinking and talking about what Advent means for you today.
  3. Come back here and connect with us. Share your Advent thoughts, revelations, experiences, joys and hopes. The more, the merrier.

I will do my best to post a few updates on my Advent experience. Or if you want to share, I am open to a guest poster on this topic, just contact me on my “About Page” to be considered.

Merry Advent,


p.s. If you are not into church or God, or Christmas, you are welcome to participate in a way that makes sense to you and your thoughts are also welcomed and valued in this discussion.

Why We Love Pointing Fingers at KSTP


You know those questions that cut straight through all the superficial, self-protective, crap and get straight to the heart of the real issue?

That’s the kind of question my professor asked our class several years ago. We were discussing our reactions to a video we watched in which a racially diverse group of people were discussing racism.

There was one cringe-worthy guy on the video whose name I can’t remember, so I’ll call him Paul. Adamant that he wasn’t racist, every word Paul spoke was a sweeping and unfavorable generalization about “those people.” With pride he claimed he was “color blind,” despite others around him saying that their race and culture was a big part of who they were and how they wanted to be seen. When others in the room shared their experiences, his reaction was, “That’s ridiculous.”

One of the professors, a black man, listened with great patience to everyone’s reactions to the video; I hate Paul. Paul is what’s wrong with the world. Paul made me so mad. How can he not see who he is hurting? Why doesn’t Paul shut up and listen? Paul needs to apologize.

The professor asked a poignant question that has stuck with me ever since. In a quiet voice he asked us to consider, “Why is everyone having such a strong reaction to Paul? Why is everyone distancing themselves from Paul as if he is saying things that are far worse than anything you’ve ever thought, felt, believed or said?”

I realized that by slamming Paul, all our rage was focused on him, a person on a video whose mind we’d never have the power to change. It was a lot easier and more fun to highlight how much better we were than Paul and avoid taking responsibility for the ways we were perpetuating racism, the exact thing we were upset with Paul for neglecting to do.

This story parallels the #pointergate scandal (if you don’t know what it is, take a minute now to Google it or read about it here) . I’m frustrated and bewildered by the irresponsible journalism and the implications of #pointergate. I’m amused by the clever pictures of people proudly flashing their pointer fingers in in protest. I’m cheering for KSTP to take ownership for actions.

I’m tempted to join in the public blasting of KSTP, but I hear the patient voice of my professor asking,

“Why is everyone having such a strong reaction to KSTP? Why is everyone distancing themselves from KSTP as if they are saying things that are far worse than anything you’ve ever thought, felt, believed or said?”

I think it’s okay to be outraged about a news story that diminished a person’s entire existence to a cliché racial stereotype. I think it’s good to want KSTP to apologize.

I just wonder if it could be more productive to do ourselves what KSTP doesn’t seem to have the guts to do…

To reflect on stereotypes we are accepting as truth.

To take an honest look at how well we are being inclusive of people who are different.

To notice how we might be unwillingly contributing to systems of oppression.

To apologize to someone who we’ve hurt.

Help Getting Help (for mental health)

On a regular basis, I have friends approach me in private and say something like “I don’t know what to do. My mental health is not good and I don’t know where to go or who to call.”

A few months ago when the world lost one of the greatest comedians of all time to suicide, my social media feeds lit up with admonitions to “get help” and “take mental health seriously” or to “call a suicide prevention hotline.” I agree with all of those and I also know that there is so much secrecy and shame around mental health struggles and treatment that many people don’t know how to get help. I think it is because of a rampant lie that tending to emotional and mental wellbeing is shameful or suggests a moral or spiritual failure. But that is what it is, a lie. The truth is, it takes extraordinary hope, faith, courage, strength, and patience to get help for mental health issues (click to tweet). Neglecting or denying problems does not work for an ear infection, and it doesn’t work for mental health problems.

I can relate to that moment when the only thing you can think to do is type “HELP” into Google. Do I call my doctor? A psychologist? A therapist? A psychiatrist? The national suicide prevention hotline? My mom? What’s this going to cost me? Will they treat me like a crazy person? Will it be as awkward as it is on TV?

A good first step is to take a deep breath.lifesaver

Then ask yourself what kind of help you want to pursue? There are three basic options: medication, talking to someone (therapy/counseling), or both. I will tell you a little about some options, in order from the most medical to the most relational.

Call 911 if you are unable to wait for help. Please.

Call your physician if you just want to try medication for something like anxiety or depression. You will likely get be able to get in and out fast. Keep in mind that the doctor is likely not going to take a lot of time to unearth the source of your problems or get to know all the contributing factors of your personality, experience and relationships. Not because they are bad, it’s just not a major part of their training. It’s like asking your dentist to look at your sore throat. This will cost what your doctor’s visits always costs which you probably already know because there isn’t a stigma attached to seeing a physician.

Call a psychiatrist if you want to try medication but you know your situation is a little more complicated that the average due to allergies, rare diagnosis, side effects to common medications, meds with high potential for abuse, etc. The drawback is it will probably take longer to get into see a psychiatrist, but they have at least a million years of school know a lot about mental health medications. You can expect short appointments (maybe 15 min) to check side effects and adjust dosages if needed. Keep in mind; psychiatrists are highly trained in psychopharmacology, not in creating a healing therapeutic connection. Beware that this avenue may require more patience and money. You can plan on waiting a month or two to get into a psychiatrist and an initial visit is going to cost around $350 without insurance. Insurance should cover it similar to a regular doctor visit.

Call a psychologist if you want a correct diagnosis, a thorough assessment and to talk about your symptoms and your life. Psychologists are typically more focused on the individual’s brain, behavior, and diagnosis and not relationships, strengths, and social influences. Psychologists cannot prescribe medications (nor can any others on this list from here down). Without insurance, this will probably cost around $200 per hour. With insurance, it will cost the same co-pay as your regular office visits.

Call a Licensed Therapist: such as: LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor), or LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social worker) if you are interested in at least a master’s level professional counselor. As opposed to psychologists, master’s level therapists’ education was more focused on the actual practice of counseling and not research or assessment. They tend toward a strengths based philosophy and might see diagnoses as a necessary evil for insurance purposes. This is the person to go to if you need fresh perspectives, new coping strategies, chances to share your hurts and dreams, and pursue your version of a life worth living. Without insurance, many sliding fee scales go down to around $30 per hour and full price is usual between $100 and $175/per hour depending on specialty, experience, and education of the therapist. With insurance, you pay your regular co-pay or co-insurance.

I could lump Marriage and Family Therapists in with the previous group, but since this is my biased blog, I will give them their own category. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are trained in family systems. Simply put, people affect and are affected by others. MFT’s observe rules, roles, and patterns in relationships and help people make changes not just to the individual, but to the system. Yes, MFT’s see people individually, but they will likely view you in the context of your relationships. While an individual psychologist might diagnose depression, and look at the brain chemicals, an LMFT might focus more on the dynamics in the family origin, current relationships, and larger systems in play like the dynamics of power, gender or race. This is the best option if you want to bring family members, roommates or significant others into the therapy room because so much of their training is geared toward helping people heal their relationships.

After you decide what treatment approach(es) you want to pursue, call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask who is covered in your network.

If you can’t afford these options and your health insurance isn’t helpful, find a provider ask them about a sliding fee scale or pro-bono options. There might be a graduate intern or pre-licensed professional who is willing to work for free or a reduced rate to get the experience. Most therapists I know won’t turn you away for lack of funds. They will be willing to help you figure something out. In Minnesota if you have medical assistance insurance, your visits are usually 100% covered with an in-network provider.

There is a really good therapist finder on PsychologyToday.com where you can search by provider type, specialty, insurance network, zip code etc.

The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy has a therapist locator as well. This is a great tool if you want to be sure to find an LMFT.

There are so many people who spent years learning and preparing to help you. I know that they would love nothing more than a chance to meet you and hear your story.

Sometimes Sorry IS Enough: On Relationship Repairs

It was six years ago, but I still remember how infuriated the receptionist made me feel.

The recession was at its deepest trough about the time I finished graduate school and after months of searching I landed an interview for my dream job.

I checked in with the receptionist and took a seat. Even though I told her the correct details, she thought I was interviewing for a different position, with a different company in the same building. I sat in the lobby across from that receptionist for not 10, not 20, but 45 minutes, all the while she assured me that the interviewer was held up in a different interview and wasn’t quite ready for me.

Finally when her mistake came to light, she called the correct person and said, “Your interviewee is here.” She didn’t mention how long I had been there. Looking at her desk, she gave a curt nod in my general direction and said, “Sorry for the delay.”

Sorry for the delay?? Really?

Of all people, I understand getting details confused. It was an unfortunate mistake but I’m sure I’ve made worse. What made my blood boil was how she did not take any responsibility for “the delay.”Needless to say, I didn’t get that job.

Contrast that to a more recent experience I had as a customer. Something that should have taken weeks, took months. I was irritated about having to wait so long and I let the person know. He acknowledged my frustration and apologized. An amazing thing happened in that instant- my anger vanished

When someone makes a big mistake, I often hear the old adage, “Sorry isn’t enough.” In my experience, fixing the problem isn’t enough. Sometimes a simple sorry is actually all I want.

Taking ownership for how you have contributed to someone’s pain or inconvenience is not fun. It’s kind of humiliating and goes against human nature to self-protect and self-defend. It’s hard, yet the benefit to relationships is immense.

Not all apologies are created equal. Some are helpful and can repair broken relationships while others have the opposite effect. Here are some common types of apologies:

Non-specific-no-personal-ownership-of-wrong-doing Apologies:

“I’m sorry if anything I did bothered you.”

“I’m sorry for the delay”

It’s-not-me-it’s-you Apologies:

“Sorry if I did something wrong that I wasn’t aware of, but you are the one who…”

“I’m sorry but you gave me no choice.”

Sorry-but-I’m-right Apologies

“I’m sorry, but I had good reason to do what I did.”

“I’m sorry, but this is how I was taught.”

Since-I’m-wrong-about-this-I-must-be-worthless Apologies

“I’m sorry. I guess I can’t be trusted. I should just never try… anything… ever!”

Not-in-my-domain-of-control Apologies

“I’m sorry for his behavior, and that it’s hot outside, and that your car broke, and that I couldn’t help you more.”

*Basic-level apology:

I’m Sorry

*Advanced-level apology:

I’m sorry. I messed up. That must have been hard for you.

*Elite-level Apology:

“I’m sorry that I ________(insert specific mistake). It must have felt _______(insert specific emotion here).

*recommended types

Perhaps, sorry isn’t always enough, but it is a good place to start. And it just might be enough to repair a relational rift.

With my sincerest apologies,


Comment below with your take on/experience with giving or receiving apologies of all types! Is a genuine apology enough for you or would you rather just see a behavior change? I’m curious!