Tragedy and unity.

A week ago a couple of bombs constructed out of pressure cookers and hate wreaked havoc on the Boston Marathon finish line. The attack resulted in loss of life and limb, and – for a few days – freedom, while law enforcement shut down the city to search for suspects.


A few days after the bombing, a fertilizer factory in Texas exploded, rocking the town of West for blocks, knocking surrounding buildings off their foundations, killing or injuring the unsuspecting people in and outside the factory, within the affected radius.


In the wake of the Boston attack, Boston PD and the FBI and other agencies that don’t routinely converge on a city and work together so closely worked together. The New York Yankees displayed a Boston Red Sox logo at Yankee Stadium, out of compassion for the city that’s home to the team, albeit a rival. Citizens of Boston threw an impromptu street party after law enforcement arrested the second suspect. People who don’t even know each other broke into spontaneous song, holding up cell phones while shouting the national anthem.


After the explosion in Texas, I imagine many Americans – like I – sat stunned in front of a TV, shocked and saddened by the sight and sound of a shattered community. Pope Francis tweeted a prayer to his millions of followers, 16.8K of whom have retweeted it so far. People in (and I’m sure outside of) Texas donated “essential items,” gift cards, cash, and blood to people they’ll never meet.


Amazes me every time the way tragedy can propel us toward unity. It reminds me of funerals, of God using what nobody likes to draw us back together, and closer to Him.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”

A version of this post originally appeared on the blog in 2010.

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Have you ever been on an “I’m not sure if this is a” date?

We are probably usually far more sure than we say we are. But we deny we are sure so if we learn one of us doesn’t want to date the other, it doesn’t sting.

Imagine you’re a college kid. You show up first, slip into Starbucks, and slink into a big, black velvet chair. You (usually pretend to) read (who can focus at a time like this?). You try not to look at the door. And you think.

Do I buy my drink?

Do I wait to let him pay?

Does he want to pay?

Is this a date?

If only he’d been explicit.

“Can I take you out on Friday?” instead of “Want to grab coffee on Friday?” Is that so hard?

He shows up. You smile. He’s nervous.

So it is a date.

You walk to the counter. You ask for tea. He asks for coffee.

“Together, or separate?”

He looks at you.

Brother, this ball was made for your court. But he has assumed the choice is yours. Shoot! You panic.

“Separate!” you say. Did you really have any other viable option? If you had said “together,” he’d think you think you’re on a date. And that’s the last thing you want him to think you’re thinking if you don’t know whether he’s thinking it, too.

You both pull out your wallets. So it’s not a date. He smiles. Did he smile because he’s relieved? Is he offended and the smile was fake? You assume he’s happy to be out with a friend.

You assume.

And “assumptions are the termites of relationships.” (Henry Winkler)

But it doesn’t just happen among college kids on awkward first dates. This is at work and at church and in grad school. It’s in public places and on the road and at parties. It’s in marriages and families and circles of friends.

Imagine a world where we could be bolder.

Where we could communicate when we once were too afraid to do it.

To ask what someone’s intentions are (instead of guessing). To share our true feelings (instead of stifling them). To reject ambiguity (instead of using it as a preemptive defense against rejection). To explicitly identify our needs (instead of waiting for the people who can meet them to read our minds).

We assume and we act on that (which is code for “we do what presents the smallest risk.”).

But our avoidance of risk is what makes taking risks unbearable.

Our caution in effort to avoid the sting of rejection enables us not to try.

Perhaps we are too cautious.

Perhaps what we fear only stings so much because we’ve been too cautious for too long.


This + pizza = Friday nights from 1993-2000, give or take.

Over the weekend, I stumbled upon a Boy Meets World marathon, which, obviously, made my world a better place.

The sitcom, starring Ben Savage as Cory Matthews, was the best part of the Friday nights of my youth (perhaps second and third only to pizza and being allowed to stay up to 11, respectively).

After I saw the show this weekend, I like it even more. This is in part because I get way more of the jokes now, and in part because it is a wellspring of wisdom.*

In one of the episodes I saw Saturday, Cory turned for help to Mr. Turner, his seventh grade teacher, when he had to make a decision. Cory made his choice, it backfired on him and he returned to Mr. Turner. Allow me to reenact:

Cory: “I made the wrong decision.”

Mr. Turner: “I could’ve told you that.”

Cory [agitated]: “Why didn’t you?”

Mr. Turner: “You don’t listen in class, you’re gonna listen in life?”


The important part of Mr. Turner’s point is this: selectivity hurts us.

We tell ourselves it’s ok to be selective.

That we can slack off in one context and our willingness to work hard won’t suffer in others.
That we can be be dishonest in one context and our willingness to be honest in others won’t waver.
That we can tune out in one context and our willingness to listen won’t deteriorate in others.

But if an aspiring entrepreneur will not work hard when she’s flipping burgers, is she really gonna work hard when she’s starting a business?

If a guy will not be honest with his friends, is he really gonna tell his wife the truth?

If a boy will not follow directions in the classroom, is he really gonna follow directions in life?

Deciding to embody a particular quality does not determine whether you will. Discipline does.

And we live in a discipline resistant world. A culture captivated by uninterrupted contentment and effortless gratification is not interested in self mastery. It isn’t interested in always working hard, or always being honest, or always listening. It would rather work hard and be honest and listen only on its own terms, when the social and self-focused rewards for it are instant.

Which is why people who grow up in this culture pout while they wait in line, or when the Wi-Fi is slow (or there isn’t any), or when the cable goes out, or the call gets dropped, for instance.

But if we can’t wait in line (or wait at all) without complaining, how good will we be at waiting in other contexts?

Like waiting for the dream job opp to arise while we flip burgers in the meantime.

Waiting for what we want to buy to go on sale (and not paying more for it than we should).

Waiting to meet the right kind of guy or girl (and not shifting our standards so the wrong one starts to look right).

Waiting until we are married to have sex.

But there’s a bright side. If we work hard, and tell the truth, and listen, and wait when we don’t want to, we will be better equipped to do so when we want to.

Jon Acuff puts it this way:

“…discipline begets discipline. When you step up to a challenge before you, your ramped-up resources rub off on other areas of your life. You wouldn’t think eating less ‘fat’ would impact how closely you monitor your family’s financial budget, but it’s all tied together. Discipline and focus are contagious and they tend to spread their benefits all around.”**

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*It’s a wellspring of wisdom when compared with what’s new on TV today.

**This quote comes from page 22 of Acuff’s book Quitter.

Worst things first.

There are four things I must do over and over that I frankly (and ultimately inexplicably) hate doing.

1. Laundry. While I appreciate clean clothes as much as the average young adult, I am a far bigger fan of wearing one pair of jeans a lot of times. My disdain for doing laundry is not limited to the washing and the drying. Nay, friends — it is also the folding and the hanging and perhaps worst of all, the ironing (which is why I mostly only buy clothes if they seem like they’ll look the same after I crumple them). The first step leads to the rest of the steps, and I find all the steps tedious and boring. Which is why I can go two years without logging into Facebook but can’t go a week without running out of pants.

2. Filling my car’s gas tank. Fact: I have owned a car for nine years and I have never looked at a gas price (except for the time I accidentally pressed premium instead of regular and didn’t realize it quickly. You are not welcome, Mobil.). This is because I am irresponsible how much I am paying is irrelevant if “conveniently on my way to someplace else” is the answer to the following question: When and where am I getting gas? Because under any other circumstance, getting gas is worse than doing laundry.

3. Going to the bank. Let me preface this by saying I have never had a bad experience at the bank. I’m always easily in, always easily out. Which is why the dread that overcomes me when I realize a reason exists for me to drive there cannot be explained. I just don’t want to do it. Ever.

4. Unpacking. Because it always leads to [Please refer to point number 1 above.].

The point is this:

Regardless of the ease with which I could do it, I hate doing laundry and getting gas and going to the bank and unpacking. Which is precisely why, when one of those things is on my to-do list, it is always, as in, without exception, the thing I should do first.

When I decide to wait on any of the four aforementioned nuisances, I wind up realizing at, say, 1:14 a.m. on a school night, that I have no clean clothes, or I pull a Kramer in the car, or I owe a colleague a dollar for a year (I don’t own a debit card.) or I treat a very full suitcase like an ottoman.

Doing the worst things first challenges us. It feels unnatural to do what we don’t want to do. But many-a-time, I have learned the hard way that the following quote is so true:

“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” -Olin Miller

What do you do?

Press play, and read on. (It was my soundtrack for writing tonight. Hope you enjoy it as a soundtrack for reading.)

What do you do when

  • you’re not supposed to fit in
  • and you live in a culture where fitting in means everything.


What do you do when

  • what you value with every fiber of your being
  • is regarded largely as outdated or outlandish (and the people who value it are labeled as outcasts).


What do you do when

  • what is required of you in order to stay true to your convictions (to live what you believe)
  • requires you to do (or not do) what will make most of the people you meet think you’re weird for doing (or not doing) it?


You accept

  • that when you aren’t loved
  • when you aren’t approved
  • when you aren’t accepted

you are valuable.

You trust

  • that dislike or hate
  • and disapproval
  • and rejection

have no power over who you are.

You believe

  • that who you are
  • and how much you are worth

depend only on this:

the fact that you exist.

Because you are here on purpose.

Don’t forget it.