About a week ago I was watching the newest episode of the Walking Dead. Even if you’ve never seen the show, you may know it’s a show that features zombies. But I maintain part of what makes the show compelling is the zombies are really only a vehicle for dynamic character development and story telling.

The walking dead is really a show about human nature with zombie window dressing.

This particular episode was no exception; spending the majority of the episode mapping out the backstory of one of the main characters. There was a moment during the episode when one character was describing his view of killing; that it isn’t natural.

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Last week I was at a conference/retreat with a bunch of Lutheran clergy. Most of us knew each other and had been around for a couple years, but there were some new faces in the crowd. Two of those new faces belong to friends of mine from seminary who recently moved to the area.

As we sat around the lunch table the first day, I began to think about what it’s like to be a new face in a group that already knows each other. Especially when it’s an event where most people tend to congregate with their close friends since it’s “time away.” I’ve been that person – I was that person seven years ago at the very same event. Thankfully I had an “in” with another friend from seminary and it was natural to hang out with her friends. They quickly became my friends too, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes (most times) it’s hard. Which is what I was thinking about last week and continues to be on my mind now, particularly in the church.

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Time to Write

Every now and again I fancy myself a writer.

Saturday night was one of those moments.

It dawned on me, as I sat on our couch, watching a TV show I love, that I love to tell stories, especially good ones. I also realized Saturday night that it was the end of October and that meant November was hours away, bringing with it National Novel Writing Month. As soon as that thought popped into my head, I immediately pondered participating.

Every now and again I fancy myself a writer.

And then I wake up and realize I’m not terribly committed to the whole endeavor and that I have no real good ideas for a novel.

Which is exactly why I’m not doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

But the idea appeals to me. I do want to write more. And what’s really cool about NaNoWriMo is the set length of time and the standards that are set. The goal is to write 50,000 words (or a short novel) during the month of November. I can do anything for a month and having a goal for each day (or week) seems like a great way to coax my fingers into putting more digital letters on the screen.

So, I thought, instead of writing a novel this month, I’ll just write more. And by more, I intend to write a blog post at least three times a week. I want to get myself into a rhythm and to be able to give anyone who may find this space more regular content. In the meantime, I am working on an idea for a novel so that next November, in 2016, I will really participate in NaNoWriMo.

Every now and again I fancy myself a writer – and for the month of November, I suppose I will be.

Thick Skin

callousesI have these callouses on my hands.

I’ve built them up over time from doing pull ups and other bar exercises.

I pick at them, sometimes because they peel and I’m eager to rid my body of the rough spots the dead skin has created. Other times I can feel how disproportionately thick they are compared with the rest of my hand and compulsively pick to minimize their size.

Even as much as I pick at them and how ugly they are, I’m grateful my callouses are there.

Trying to do multiple pull ups with baby soft skin gets painful – there’s not enough skin between the bar and my nerve endings to prevent the pain of the friction of the bar against my bare hand. Without my callouses, I can only hold onto the bar for one, two, maybe three pull ups before I have to let go.

Which makes me think about other activities I do that are helped by some thick skin; including any work I’ve ever done, showing off a creative endeavor, trying something new with an audience, and any leadership role.

All of these things involve a bit of risk.

There’s the risk that whatever work I’ve done will be worthless (or at least not worth the time I put in), that it won’t be effective.

Usually whatever photos or a short film I’ve created that I’m particularly proud of are at least in some part an extension of who I am and so there’s always a risk when I show them off people won’t like them which can be translated that they don’t like me.

And there’s always a risk of that dreaded f-word… failure.

Nobody really likes failing.

Sure there are those who have mastered using failure as a learning experience and find it useful – but I’m sure they still don’t like it.

If our “skin” is thin, then our negative experiences rub our emotional nerve endings raw pretty quick. A big failure or being criticized (particularly without it being constructive) is like doing 50 pull ups with fresh, baby-soft hands.

But much like how my hands have naturally built thicker skin the more I’ve done pull ups, the more we fail and get back out there, the thicker our emotional skin will become.

The more resilient we will be.

Failure and criticism will still sting, but they won’t stop us the way they would have at the start.

But like any other good thing, sometimes our skin can be too thick.

Callouses that aren’t smoothed down with a pumice stone on a regular basis, that keep getting thicker and thicker, will eventually rip on the pull up bar. Where you once had thick, tough skin protecting your hands from the grating sensation of the friction of the bar, you now have an open, angry red, blister that might even be oozing blood.

It’s not only one of the least pleasant sensations in the world ranking right up there with pouring alcohol into a paper cut, but the hot shower after your workout is going to hut. A lot.

There’s a happy medium to how thick to let your callouses get.

Just as there’s a happy medium as to how thick you want your skin to get.

You don’t want to have such thick skin that you never feel any emotional pain, that you go through life numb to what’s going on in and around you.

If you do, if you never feel the pain of failure or criticism, then eventually you’ll find there will be something that causes your thick skin to pull off and you’ll be a raw, angry mess.

It will also take a long time for you to heal – you can’t just go back to doing what you do without noticing the constant pain of being.

So toughen up – but don’t get too tough.

Too tough could be disastrous.

Not All Violin Music is Old School…

[vs_row width=”boxed” container=”fixed” background=”none” solid_color_value=”#FFFFFF” solid_color_color=”#ffffff” gradient_color=”0% #FFFFFF,100% #000000″ gradient_direction=”vertical” repeat=”full” stretch=”none” position=”center center” paralax=”no” paralax_ratio=”0″ border_width_value_=”0″ border_style=”solid” border_color=”#000″ div_padding_top=”72″ div_padding_bottom=”72″ div_padding_right=”0″ div_padding_left=”0″ ][vs_column span=”span12″][vs_text enable_dropcap=”no” animation=”no” disabled_el=”no” ]… at least strictly speaking. Not too long ago, the song in the video above began to play at the start of a workout at my gym. Before we got a few bars into the song, one of the people requested we skip to the next track. He may not have asked because he’s a classical music hater, but for fear it didn’t have a good beat to drive the workout. Listening to the first several seconds of the song, one would assume this is some sort of classical piece led by a very strong violin. Or perhaps some sort of Muzak piece à la Kenny G. We were already several seconds into the next song before I realized missed my opportunity to say, “Just give it a few more seconds…” Not all violin music is old school – definitely not Lindsey Stirling. Stirling incorporates heavy beats and electronic elements into her songs – elements that complement the melody led by the violin. I love it! Even though I’ve listened to her stuff a lot, that experience in the gym got me thinking about how much I think Stirling’s style is a fantastic metaphor for what I think the church should be up to. The violin is an instrument that carries a stigma of what kind of music can be played on it – many people believe it can only be played as a classical instrument. Joshua Bell, perhaps the best violinist of our time, plays a particular brand of music – mostly orchestral and mostly classical. While many a violin can summon up various emotions within us, depending on how it is played, most people who prefer modern day rock or hip-hop are likely to yawn whenever they hear a violin. The reverberations of the strings on the wooden body elicit beauty that reminisces of a long ago day. Even original pieces written for the violin now still evoke a feeling of the analog that clashes with our modern-day digital sentiments. I don’t blame my friend at the gym for assuming this song wasn’t going to be something worth working out to – perhaps it would be better suited for a night out with a date wearing a tux or a fancy dress. This same feeling emerges sometimes when I step into a church – we seem to value a sentimentality that sounds like something out of step with the modern world; not because it’s counter-cultural in the ways of the kingdom, but because the rest of the world has simply moved on and drummed up a different beat. Many of our churches recite prayers using King James era english and even though we have no idea what we’re saying, we refuse to switch to a more modern version that actually communicates meaning. Or we still use flannelgraphs (bonus old school points if you know what that is) to tell Bible stories to children even though they’ve grown up with smartphones and digital tablets (or if you’re like my congregation, you have one that you put back up after taking it down to paint the walls even though you never use it). We want to stay true to a message that has been crafted over two millennia (even longer if you account for our Hebrew ancestry) but we can’t seem to figure out how to communicate (or even sometimes understand) that to a world that lives in a very different time. In some ways I think we’ve settled for a faith that proclaims the Holy Ghost instead of a living, breathing, moving Holy Spirit – a divine being who is very much still speaking. Which is why I think I like Lindsey Stirling’s music so much – it takes an old school medium, the violin, and pairs it with the modern sound so well. She is able to blend the two in a way that we should be able to blend the traditional faith of our ancestors with our modern storytelling. The two styles don’t have to be separate – instead they can blended together, forming a fantastic sound. Jesus did it all the time – he would quote a text from the Hebrew scriptures and then turn around and elaborate on it in a way the people he was speaking to would understand. Maybe it’s time we figure out how to better blend the two styles together – traditional and modern/post-modern. Because a faith that doesn’t connect to our daily lives isn’t really faith at all – it’s just sentimentality.  [/vs_text][/vs_column][/vs_row]

I Just Want to Get Better!

(This is the second in my ‘What the Church can learn from CrossFit’ series)

A couple weeks ago, I graduated to the big kids weights.

Or at least it felt that way to me.

I was doing the strength portion of a class at my Crossfit box (gym – the awesome CrossFit ReVamped – you should come join me! http://www.crossfitrevamped.com/) and instead of loading my bar up with tens or the occasional 15 pound plate, I proudly placed a 25 pound plate on either side of my bar.

Then I added another ten and a fiver on either side of that.

Right after I power cleaned that 100 pound bar (a new PR for me), I stood back to admire the fat stack of weights on either side.

I’d admired those fat stacks on other people’s bars for months now – jealous of how much weight they moved around. But here I was, no longer so weak I had to worry I might break the plates when dropping a bar because they were so thin and flimsy.

That’s when it hit me – I’m getting better.

I’m stronger.

Much stronger.

Still not as strong as others in the gym, nor as strong as I can be.

But I’m making progress.

And that’s freaking awesome!

And I wish it were that way more often in the church.

It seems to me that few people show up in a church community because they want to get better.

Worse yet, the markers by which we can determine they are getting better seem to be few too.

Most churches count things like attendance in worship and times a person has come to the communion table.

Those markers don’t seem to be able to measure how much a person’s life has been transformed.

Which makes me think that perhaps it’s time we begin to emphasize the fruits of the spirit a bit more.

How many times have you been able to forgive somebody for what they’ve done to you? Or are you repeatedly yelling at the drivers who cut you off in traffic or your dogs for constantly getting under your feet?

How much joy do you have in your life? Is it more today or less?

Are you patient with your kids who constantly ask if they can go down the toy aisle at the grocery store or want to buy all the candy in the store?

Is your life filled with love?

Can you see improvement in your life since joining the church or does it seem to be stuck where you entered the church?

Are you here to get better – to get stronger – more patient and kind and gentle?

Or are you here out of some sort of social order and complain when you don’t like the hymns or the way things are done?

Because let’s face it, God is about transformation and it’s awfully hard to be transformed if we’re not going to put in some work.

An Atheist, a Vegan, and a CrossFitter Walk into a Bar…

An atheist, vegan, and a CrossFitter walk into a bar. I only know because they told me within two minutes.

Allow me to be that CrossFitter for a moment. =)

Last September, I walked into a CrossFit box (gym). I knew a couple people who did CrossFit and really liked it; and I was looking for some cross-training to gain some strength.

What I found in CrossFit is more than just fitness – I learned a few things along the way about what the mainline church, my own congregation included, could be doing a lot better.

First lesson, I was welcomed and included from day one.

Congregations are notorious for believing they are welcoming – but usually they aren’t. Between the fact that most mainliners are all too happy to talk only to those people they know and like combined with the fact that, unless people grew up worshiping in the same style and know their way through the service like they know their house, things are likely to be unfamiliar and awkward for new folks.

CrossFit can be similar to new comers, especially the unfamiliar and awkward portion. Even after my initial four “basics” courses, I was still getting used to new terminology and technique. Even six months later I’m working on my technique (but now I know what snatch, clean and jerk, and thruster mean among others). But where CrossFit is decidedly different is I never felt isolated in being among the newly inducted – never a complete outsider.

Gary, the head coach at my box, has known my name since the moment I walked in the door. I really admire him for that because I don’t easily remember names and have to work to remember someone’s name a day or two after I meet them. He makes it look natural and effortless. But more importantly, I feel known whenever I walk in the door.

But while in a church, the pastor may know who you are the second time you show up, many other folks probably don’t (and don’t spend time introducing themselves). Not so much with CrossFit. The rest of the people who WOD (another term – means workout of the day for those uninitiated) at the box have always been friendly and helpful. They’ve introduced themselves or given helpful tips on lifts when I’ve struggled. Even when I showed up yesterday, a woman I’d never seen before immediately introduced herself to me. Even though I’ve been around and she has too, we’ve never been in the same class together.

We could use more people in congregations who notice when someone is staring at the hymnal, not sure if the 98 in the bulletin refers to a hymn number in the back or a page number in the front (while I don’t know of a better system, it can be terribly confusing for new folks) and then go over to help them.

It would be awesome if more folks took notice of the fact that they don’t know somebody and introduced themselves – even if it means they don’t know each other simply because one has always gone to the early service and the other to the late. There’s no shame in not knowing each other or not being around for a while but have recently come back.

Mainline congregations and the people in them are not terribly good at welcoming and hospitality. Sure, there are a few, mine is better than most but it’s still not a natural posture.

Characteristic of this, I remember a Super Bowl Party in seminary where the hosts had invited some mutual friends of ours that were not known to the rest of the group. When our friends showed up, the only people who engaged them were the three of us who already knew them. I was saddened that a room full of soon-to-be-Lutheran-Pastors didn’t notice there were people in the room they didn’t know and if they did, they didn’t feel it necessary to welcome them.

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. (Matthew 10:40)

So much of our faith is wrapped up in hospitality, in welcoming new people as we welcome guests into our home.

Those who participate in CrossFit seem to be naturally good at this – I think it’s in the sport’s DNA because I’ve heard of it happening at boxes all around the world. Why wouldn’t we want to do the same for people starting a new faith journey or at least journeying with new people in a new congregation? Or even simply people who have been around but we’ve not met before?

Lesson number one, CrossFit is better on the whole at welcoming people and making them feel welcome than the church is.

This is the first post in a series – look for more lessons here soon.

Image credit: CrossFit Revamped (my box) – www.crossfitrevamped.com


One of the 50 is Missing | AKA New Mexicans’ Inferiority Complex

1907916_10152817987196690_8821170881321093017_nA couple days ago I was having a conversation with two people and one was telling the other about Father Richard Rohr (if you don’t know who he is, you should – google him). She said Rohr had started the Center for Action and Contemplation – which she proceeded to say was in Arizona.

If you’re familiar at all with Rohr and the CAC, then you know it’s not – it’s in New Mexico. Albuquerque to be exact.

She looked at me for confirmation on that detail and I said no, it’s in New Mexico. She then went on to say, “Whatever, they’re the same.”

Ummmmm…. no. They’re not.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that because it felt like shaming her in front of the other person. But it’s also not the first time I’ve heard that. Nor is it the most outrageous crime against New Mexico.

It also explains to me why the entire state of New Mexico has an inferiority complex.

New Mexico’s ego needs a bit of a boost.


Yes, it’s gorgeous.

Yes, a lot of people like it there (me included).

Yes, it’s gained a lot of attention since Breaking Bad was filmed there and now Better Call Saul is being filmed there.

Yes, there are a lot of people who want to live there and more people who do.

But on the whole, especially among natives, New Mexico often sounds like the whiny, unpopular kid who wants to know why people don’t like her.

I was there visiting my family a couple of weeks ago when the first episode of the Bachelor that was filmed in Santa Fe aired. You should have heard the news media going on about how poorly New Mexico came off on the show.

Granted, I didn’t see the episode (or the second part that aired a week later), but the media ran clips to illustrate their point. Let’s just say that I didn’t see New Mexico or Santa Fe getting a bad rep, but I saw at least one very ignorant woman (who apparently was in Santa Fe). She appeared to think she was really in Mexico… “Why do they call it New Mexico?” she asked. “They should call it Old Mexico… or just Mexico, that’s what it is.”

This was quickly followed by Better Call Saul’s star, Bob Odenkirk, saying that he liked Albuquerque because it was easy for him to focus on his work because there’s nothing to do there (that ruffled a lot of feathers too). As much as I really like Odenkirk, I think he’s just flat out wrong there – but that’s just me.

New Mexico Magazine often has a section called “One of the 50 is Missing” and it documents stories of when New Mexico was mistaken as outside the United States. Seriously. Some people don’t know it’s part of the union. Nor that it has been for the last 103 years… (NM even edged AZ out – they entered the union the same year but a bit later).

I’ve experienced some of the same stories printed in NM Magazine.

I’ve been asked if I needed a passport to get to another state and people were shocked as to why I didn’t have an accent or can’t really speak Spanish.

I’ve also been told I need to pay international shipping for something coming from Ohio (kid you not).

But through all of this, I’ve pushed it off on other people’s ignorance. And even a couple weeks ago, when I listened to the New Mexican media whine about how poorly the state is portrayed, I wondered why they cared so much.

I wondered, why does NM need the approval of the rest of the country?

But I began to realize why that is during my conversation the other day.

I lived in Ohio for four years and now I’ve lived in Maryland for almost seven – I cannot count how many times some of my closest friends would think I was from Arizona. Why do you remember that state and not New Mexico?

Why did the woman who thought Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation were in Arizona and not New Mexico? More importantly, why does she dismiss both of them as being the same (here’s the odd part, she claims to have lived in Texas for many years…. actually, considering Texas’ relationship to the rest of the country and especially NM, I guess that’s not odd)?

I think for too long, much of the rest of the country, especially the more populous eastern half, has dismissed New Mexico as either (1) part of Mexico, (2) Arizona, or (3) the red-headed step-child nobody wanted (or cared to remember was part of the family to begin with).

No wonder New Mexico has an inferiority complex.

Well as a proud New Mexican who now masquerades as a Marylander – be proud, New Mexico! Don’t listen to what those other people tell you! You have a great state! Yes, it has its issues – but don’t we all?

I’m here to tell you your worth is not dependent upon the ill-educated woman on the Bachelor or Bob Odenkirk. Your worth is wrapped up in friendly people and sunny skies. In Hatch chile and the mystery of the desert. There is something about the air in New Mexico and the richness of the culture, even in spite of its rocky past.

New Mexico is beautiful. It’s time you start acting like it.

Sometimes you just need to have fun…

16439026926_242f1dbde2_kI was exhausted yesterday.

Not just tired, even though I go by tiredkate (including the url for this site); but exhausted.

I was mentally and emotionally drained in addition to physically wanting to lay down and take a nap.

As we met with a legal aid who works with the immigrants of this area, I stopped wondering about the information she was presenting and found myself incessantly looking at the clock, waiting for the break I knew was coming.

I didn’t just want that break – I needed it.

Because the reality is we’re not robots or machines. We can’t just keep going forever without adequate rest. And even though I’ve had somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night we’ve been here, it hasn’t been enough.

Some of it is likely because I hadn’t had a day off in two weeks (my own fault). Some of it is the fact that I had some extremely long days in the weeks before I got here and every day has been full from start to finish here in El Paso. And some of it is the high emotional toll this week has taken.

Yesterday I got a break since my passport is expired – while the rest of the group went to Mexico, I and two others spent some time napping and just hanging out.

Then when the group returned, we went out to dinner – where we ‘celebrated’ Tom’s birthday (see picture above).

It was fun.

Sometimes you just have to have fun.

Now, due to a schedule change, we get a break this morning, too.

It’s been more than nice.

It’s been needed.

I’m far more refreshed and ready for what comes next rather than dreading it.

But it makes me wonder how the people who struggle from day to day to make ends meet find ways to relax – how they recreate.

How do they take a much needed break when they are working 7 days a week to make ends meet?

Especially when it’s not a luxury – it’s necessary. So much so that it’s built into the creation account of Genesis 1.

Sometimes you just have to have fun.


10312883_10152982463791690_261341261900745012_nI thought I was swimming.

I was wrong.

It’s Thursday night and I’ve been on a border immersion trip with other leaders in my synod (geographical grouping of churches) for the past three or so days. Three very full days.

I’ve been here before. In 2003, while I was in college, I took the same trip with some folks from my campus ministry. I’ve seen the poverty. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve borne witness to the pain that the US/Mexico border creates. All of which are why I thought I was swimming along. I know all these things. My faith was born here. It was nurtured here. This is why I came back.

I was wrong.

I still have some of the same questions I had as a teenager all those years ago and as a young adult in college.

Why do I have such privilege, simply because I was born on one side of an imaginary line?

Why is it so easy for us to forget we’re a country of immigrants?

We say we believe in the American Dream (though I’m not so sold – and I’m an American) and offer it up to the world as a model but then shake our heads and wonder why some undocumented immigrants haven’t learned their lesson when they’ve been deported three times when all they want is a better life – often times not even for them, but for their kids. Who among us wouldn’t want that for our kids? Wouldn’t sacrifice everything for our kids?

All these questions swirl around in my head along with some larger questions – questions that wonder how we can help Mexico and other Latin America countries improve their qualities of life so people don’t need to look toward America to find a way to sustain their families.

Now I have other questions too. Questions that arise because this place, while still very much the same, has changed since I was last here. Questions that come because I also have changed. I have new eyes to see and we’re having some experiences I didn’t have all those years ago.

So now I wonder why we have so many more detainees in ICE facilities when the rate of attempted illegal crossings has decreased dramatically.

Why do the officials we’ve talked with repeatedly say the reason we need such a protected border is to prevent terrorists from exploiting our borders when those who flew the planes into the Twin Towers were here legally?

How should our border be protected? Should it be open and allow people to come and work (a lot of businesses want this) then go home to Mexico? Is the solution simply to offer more visas? What does immigration reform really look like?

And as I sat in a Federal courtroom yesterday morning, watching almost 30 men go before a judge in a way that we’d cry was an abuse of the judicial system if it had been American citizens, I wondered if any of them were Jesus who was also arrested. It also made me wonder if I’d be the one to arrest Jesus. Or prosecute him.

I don’t know.

I thought I was swimming.

Turns out I’m drowning.

And for the moment, that’s okay.

Questions are good – I’m going to live in the questions for the moment until I discern an answer or two.


© kate davidson 2020