So small…

I went out to a Halloween party several weeks ago. I was dressed like Nicolas Cage from National Treasure, but that’s a story for another day.

At one point we landed at a bar that was packed with people. I was standing next to a bunch of friends at the bar, and behind me was a group of people sitting at tables. It was so tight that a waitress could barely squeeze through. Although I wasn’t the cause of her issue I caught myself saying to the waitress, “I’m so sorry.”

The week prior I had hung out with some of my girlfriends. One friend was telling us that her daughter mentioned that mommy says sorry too much. We made a vow at that hang out to catch ourselves when we were saying sorry for things we didn’t need to. Ever since that vow I have started noticing how small I made myself over the last few years.

We were part of a church where (for some reason) we never talked about anything related to politics. No, I’m not talking about who to vote for, or saying crazy things from the pulpit. I’m talking about blatantly obvious inequalities that people who care about loving others should give some thought to. If you never question your own privilege, and if you never learn to have empathy for others – can you ever really grow as a person? I don’t think you can.

Del was a pastor at a church for a little while. We had a congregant who posted something horrific on social media. It was both inaccurate and inappropriate. Del did what he thought was right and gently corrected the person. That person then proceeded to leave the church. I thought we were somehow keeping ourselves safe by making sure we never upset those around us. If I just stay quiet enough, if I hold in my own truth, I won’t bother others and then I can keep myself safe. It’s a tactic that probably worked for some point in my life.

I gave birth in 2020. Yes, it was a pandemic. Yes, it was a very difficult time for many people. But do you know how many people from our church staff checked on us? It was exactly zero. I had stayed so quiet to keep people around, and no one came anyways.

In 2021 I started getting our tax information together. The day I was doing our taxes I also drove into town and saw a line of homeless people waiting to get food. I pulled up online how much money we had donated to our church over the years. It was a lot. Then I asked myself a very important question. Stephanie, what are you doing to feed people in need? And I answered to myself, “nothing.”

For almost a decade I stayed complacent and gave money to support a building of people. I stayed quiet when I should have spoken up because I thought it would help me build relationships.

I was wrong.

I am working on no longer staying small when I can use my voice to speak up. Science matters. People of color matter. Women are important. We need to support the LGBTQIA+ community. And the model of churches in the United States is not serving people with the greatest need.

We stopped tithing that amount of money. Instead we started giving to others. Organizations that feed people. Missionaries that are doing great work. Places that support the arts. Friends and family in need. And good people we know who are building a new church.

Saying I’m sorry for things that don’t need an apology is a habit I’m trying to break. But I am sorry that I stayed small for so long. Sorry to people that needed a voice. I apologize for supporting organizations that were detrimental to many. I will do the work to be better. But mostly – I’m sorry to myself for not being the truest version of who I am. I am starting to voice my own needs and boundaries.

Staying small stops now.

On knowing it all…

The weird part about working with data is that you get to know a lot of things. Someone once asked me the hardest part about working in analytics. I told her the greatest challenge was that you often had “the answers”, but few people were willing to listen.

With time, experience, and many failures I learned that it was never my data – it was me. Why would a room full of doctors just listen to me? Because I have analyst in my title? Because my bar charts are formatted well? Because I have a certain degree from a certain school?

A few weeks ago some friends told me about our acquaintance “Jill” who was going to be teaching people how to evangelize. If you’re not familiar, evangelism is (essentially) trying to convert someone to become a Christian.

After we found out this information our group of friends sat silently with a pregnant pause. Jill is educated, with tons of experience. Jill may be a terrific theologian. But then we all thought about our interactions with her. When I think of some of my top ten hurts, she has two in the top ten. She can be mean, judgemental, and a know-it-all (as a fellow know-it-all – we can spot our own).

The saying is true. We don’t care how much Jill knows, because she doesn’t seem to care about us at all.

I’ll probably never be a famous theologian, and I don’t quite have the raw charisma to turn the masses. But I know Jesus invited Zachias down from a tree, and asked him to hang out. And when others treated children as annoying, Jesus invited them to come in.

Did Jesus ask children their worldview? Did He make kids memorize every religious text? Did He tell them about the evils of drums or guitars in church?

I’ve seldom felt close to God sitting in the pews of church. I hate standing and singing because it all feels like a production to me. I have attended church 30+ years mostly out of guilt.

When I think back on my experiences within Church, I always learned the most when I got to teach children in Sunday School. I find more truth in the simplicity of kid’s lessons than I ever have from the complexity of people defining Greek words from Exodus.

My daughter’s understanding of Jesus seems the most honest and true of all. She knows Jesus loves her no matter what, and she knows He died for her. I have never understood why we need to make it more complicated than that? The faith of a child is the most beautiful thing.

We add mission statements and complex phrases. We yell at each other over stupid policies. But sometimes it feels like screaming into the wind. I really don’t know how much Jesus would care about these trivial fights. Maybe some theologians like Jill do have it all right, and I’m just a little heretic writing a silly blog?

But I know in my heart that I still care and pray for the children I had the privilege of teaching in Sunday School. I remember the blonde haired blue-eyed little kid I got to meet when he was eight months old. I remember holding him and telling him that he was so loved. It’s fantastic seeing some of the same kids grow into amazing people. I pray life is good to them.

I presented some data on COPD at work the other day. My data was good. But when I started to imagine the people behind the numbers it made me start to cry.

In front of the room I said, “here’s all the data, but someone I know very close to me has COPD and here’s what she struggles with…” I can tell you the numbers, but I can also tell you about these wonderful humans I learned from. With that moment of humanity the room turned. A new project started, and ideas turned into actions.

No one cared how much I knew until they realized how much I cared. And when we don’t care about others why should they bother to listen to us at all?

On the meek will inherit the earth…

I lived the first 25 years of my life as blunt instrument hitting whatever I needed to hammer down. Now, my hard edges have been smoothed by the steadfast love of a good husband.

I asked my husband last week how I come to across to other people, and he said “You seem meek, but kind.”

Do you ever think back on the person you use to be and miss her? Sometimes I think of a few of my former traits, and long for the girl who is no longer there. That girl is confident, loud, and self-assured in all that she does. I often say in passing to my friends that I am mean and I am blunt. But when I think back on the last few years, I can recall very few interactions where I was intentionally cruel or unnecessarily blunt.

Through a first bad marriage, and thankfully, a second incredible marriage I have become a different person.

Saturday morning I was working out at the gym thinking of my lack of confidence. I immediately felt bad for becoming less confident over the years. Aren’t we suppose to become more confident? Then, I realized that I really like who I am. And somehow I have lost the need for other people to agree with whatever I believe.

As I was leaving the gym on the verge of tears a Bible verse came into my ears, “For the meek will inherit the earth.”

I wanted to make sure I understood the verse, so I spent a bit of yesterday digging in.

That verse is one of the eight Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes are remarkable because in them Jesus gives credence to traits that we do not often value in society such as: poor in spirit, mercy, peacemaking, and meekness.

What does it mean to be “meek”?

“…“meek” is from the Greek term praus. It does not suggest weakness; rather, it denotes strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle.”

The last five years of my life have been profoundly better because of my husband. He has given me two things I never knew before: kindness and grace. A good marriage honors Christ because it echoes Christ’s sacrifice for us so that we can live grace-filled lives. Del’s kindness has rubbed off on me. I lived the first 25 years of my life as blunt instrument hitting whatever I needed to hammer down. Now, my hard edges have been smoothed by the steadfast love of a good husband.

Grace has helped me submit to what God calls me to do. I give grace when I do not feel like it, and I reach for kindness when I want to scream.

The meek are those whom are strong – but have submitted to will of God. We have let go of many of our own desires because we understand that what Christ calls us to do is more important. I do not always need to be right, because instead – I am called to be kind. I do not always need to talk, because God asks me to listen to those that need it. I am meek. I submit to His control.

What does it mean to “inherit the earth”?

For most of the history of the earth land was fought over. The blood of millions of people was spilled for land God created for us to thrive in. Brute force in the form of swords, guns, and bombs are how the earth was settled and conquered.

Brute force is the direct opposite of meekness. Brute force imposes power over another person to do what you want. Brute force does not submit to Christ.

Contrary to practice, those that will inherit the garden are not those that take it but are those that have submitted.

I am meek, for I have submitted. I have lost a bit of my own selfishness to gain something superior; God’s will in my life. With that will, my fellow meek believers and I will inherit the earth.

Is it a hill worth dying on?…

The church picks the strangest hills to die on. I’ve fallen victim to those battles, disagreeing with people over guitar solos and politics. But I always wonder why we are picking these battles?

A few years ago our small group at church read Brian McLaren’s book “A Generous Orthodoxy.”

Our hope in reading the book was to understand different denominations and how Christian denominations have evolved over time. Our group would read a chapter, and then discuss it.

Each chapter of the book is broken down like this:


To those entrenched in the church, the books is divisive. But to many folks, the reading is simply a book for churchy people. I understand the different perceptions of the book.

Our small group is a mixed bag of my favorite people in the world. We have a pastor’s kid with degrees in ministry, we have folks that have attended church most of their lives, and we have folks that are newer to church.

A few chapters into the book our group started having a heated discussion over denomination X.

The pastor’s kid, who is well versed in theology and the history of the church, started a long explanation of how the denomination came to be. The explanation went on to say how one denomination started a fight with another denomination because they disagreed over church pews. That went into how two other denominations split off because they disagreed about music style. Then there were more splits, and more splits, and then another split…

After hearing the long explanation of denomination splits, the member that was newest to church said perhaps my favorite sentence I’ve ever heard in small group. He interrupted to say quite passionately, “Who gives a fuck?  We’re all fighting over the dumbest shit. Aren’t we here for Jesus?”

The room shut down.

After a few moments of silence, laughter erupted for a simple truth had been uttered.

The church picks the strangest hills to die on. I’ve fallen victim to those battles, disagreeing with people over guitar solos and politics. But I always wonder why we are picking these battles?

If all we do is fight over how to get there, then I doubt we’re ever going to get there. I’ve brought this up before.

Matthew tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

If that is the essence of a church, then perhaps all of our fighting is just over complicating what is incredibly simple. Fights tend to divide people, not unite them. How will we ever unite people around Christ if we’re fighting over church pews?

And what is worth fighting over within our Church?

Communion styles? Music styles? The seating? To have a screen or not have a screen?

I’m not saying we should not ask questions. The Bible is FULL of folks asking incredibly important questions.

Books are written by theologians far smarter than I will ever be. But sometimes I read these books and feel like they miss what only the newest folks are brave enough to utter: Aren’t we all here for Jesus?

Only in our unity can we win this battle. And when we fight amongst ourselves, we create unnecessary division. Some hills are worth dying on, but most are not.