Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Tonight I'm attending "Ethos: A Dialogue on Faith and Culture," an event held at Colorado Christian University. I attended the two-night conference last spring and was really impressed. Check out the description:

ETHOS brings creative Christians together to explore innovative ways to authentically engage popular culture and the media. The conference focuses on how Christians can become involved, renewing agents of the gospel in their world. Participants will learn to understand trends in culture and discover a more effective voice for their communities. Not only will it help them use aspects of culture to develop authentic and meaningful conversations with the world around them, it will also work toward an evangelical ethos that does not wall itself off from the world, but dialogues with it for mutual enrichment.

I realize there are a lot of buzz words in there, but this conference delivered! Last year we discussed topics including internet evangelism, evidence of redemption in secular culture, art and Christianity, and excellence in worship. I didn't agree with everything I heard — which I loved! What I appreciated was the practicality of the event. The workshops gave me tangible ideas for engaging culture that I have been able to put into practice.

This year's sessions include "Authoritarianism and the Church," "Faith and Film," "How Should Christians Engage Culture?" and "Sacred and Secular" (on one of my favorite topics, the emerging church).

So if you're in the area, it's not too late to check out Ethos. It's going tonight and tomorrow night, and you can sign up for one or both nights. Look for upcoming posts on these topics.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Next Step

You know, there’s C.S. Lewis and Oswald Chambers and G.K. Chesterton, but occasionally you have a conversation with someone seemingly ordinary who stirs your heart in a new way. That was my experience in interviewing Dr. Robin Johnson. My hour and a half conversation with Robin was rife with refreshing wisdom.

Robin has been working with Children’s HopeChest to develop medical ministries in Russia. She has taken two trips to explore the possibilities of initiating baby cuddling programs, preventative health education and partnerships between Russian and American hospitals.

Speaking of some of the challenges she’s encountered, Robin said:

I don’t know how it’s going to look, but it’s not for me to figure out. God opens those doors. I just go forward until God closes the door and releases me from doing it. This summer I was thinking I’d really like to be done with this project. I just felt so heartbroken. In September I felt like I really needed to do this hospital [partnership] thing, and everyone said it would never happen. But at least I will have done what I believe the Lord laid on my heart. When something is laid on your heart, there are consequences personally if you don’t step forward. Don’t forget to act on what God has laid on your heart. There is a certain peace that comes from acting on it even if we don’t understand it or maybe feel really vulnerable. There’s an amazing security in knowing that you are under His wing. And you see His promises being fulfilled because you are stepping out in faith.

This is so convicting but at the same time encouraging. How often does the Lord lay something on my heart, and I’m excited about it for a moment and then forget to act? I imagine He chooses someone else at that point, and I miss out on a blessing and/or suffer the spiritual consequences of my disobedience. Robin’s words remind me of the benefits of walking with Jesus … one step at a time.


I spent some time with my grandparents this weekend. It was one of the rare weekends where there wasn’t a football game on, so we actually got to talk. I heard about how my grandfather’s mother was delivered by an Indian squaw in a makeshift tent during the Oklahoma land rush (they never did get land and ended up in Tulsa). Grandpa claims that his mother was only 2 lbs. at birth. I asked how a baby that size would survive on the open plain, and he said, “Those Indians have their special ways.”

Grandpa went on to tell me how his grandfather opened a dude ranch in Tulsa where he trained and bred Saddlebred horses. Grandpa learned to ride horses at age three from his grandfather. My mom grew up on an Arabian horse ranch (I always liked to brag to my friends about how my Grandpa’s stallion was asked to be in the movie “The Black Stallion”), so I thought it was interesting the horse heritage went back several generations.

Grandpa told me stories of high school, when he drove Catholic fathers over winding hills to visit widows. One time, Grandpa drove his refurbished Model-A (which he bought for $25), with bucket seats bolted to a 2-by-16. Evidently it was a bumpy ride. “Father was white as a sheet,” he said. “He said we’d never take the Model-A again.”

Grandpa credits his good grades in high school to his benevolent driving duties; the fathers were also his teachers. “When I got to Colorado School of Mines, I realized I was pretty dumb,” he said. He failed chemistry twice but graduated nonetheless and went on to be successful in the oil business.

I enjoyed hearing my grandpa’s stories and learning a bit more about my heritage — my family consisted of hardworking, resourceful people. Learning about your family gives you more context for your own life.

[Painting by John Steuart Curry]

Thursday, March 23, 2006

In his first literary appearance (that I'm aware of), I present to you Dog-Bear, Ladies and Gentlemen.

When my brother became a junior high youth pastor, he didn't do it alone. Dog-Bear was by his side — or more precisely, on his dash. Matt had purchased the cheap, plastic bobble head at a thrift store some time during college. Applied with duct tape, the bulbous-eyed creature became a conversation starter and spawned a lively debate as to whether it was, in fact, a dog or a bear.

For more, read "Practicing Non-Random Acts of Kindness," new today on Boundless.

Friday, March 17, 2006

My Northwest

Wednesday I returned home from a trip to Washington. I had a wonderful time as usual spending time with my parents in Aberdeen, Wash. (we visited the brand-new Starbucks), visiting my little sis in Seattle and seeing the rest of my siblings in Vancouver. I also took lots of pictures (check them out on friend Bruce's site). Someone once told me to always take lots of pictures of people. Ten years from now, the picture of the Space Needle will be nice, but I’ll cherish the picture of me with my 9-month-old nephew, Ben. So let me tell my story through some of the people I saw.

Next Stop...Multnomah

I spent a couple days in Vancouver with Matt, Anna and Ben. My sister Sarah is a senior at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, so I saw her, too. Sarah picked me up at the airport amid gently falling snow (a rarity there). It was a perfect day for soup. The next day Matt, Ben and I went on the MBC campus (our alma mater), and Sarah gave us a tour of the new cafeteria. We ran into Coach Vos, the women’s athletics coordinator. She remembered Matt and me…but not quite. After ooo-ing and ah-ing over the baby, she squeezed my hand and said, “It’s really good to see you. Multiplying the earth.” After she walked away, I realized she thought Matt and I were a married couple. I’m sure it’s hard to keep track of everyone who cycles through there. In May it will be six years since I graduated!

Sleepless in Seattle

I traveled up to Seattle to see my sister Bekah at Seattle Pacific University. We went to Gasworks Park, the troll under the Fremont Bridge, Pacific Place downtown, a three-story Old Navy store, Starbucks, Carey Park. That night we met up with my former housemate Sarah who moved to Seattle in the fall. She took us to a wonderful Thai restaurant that served Kool-Aid. Sunday morning Bekah and I visited Mars Hill church. Bekah has certainly adjusted to city life. She had no trouble finding her way around. It was a joy to have her show me a slice of her life. My little sister is growing up!


Where do I start? Ben and I have a special connection. I can usually get a smile out of him, and one of his favorite things is to stare at me. I wonder what he’s thinking! Of course his mom, Anna, and I have lots of ideas: an inventor (he likes zippers!), a stunt man (he’s very good at his Johnny Jump-Up), a pentathlete (that was my idea). Ben is very observant and often serious. He is also very cute with his two bottom and two top teeth. In this picture, he’s sporting his Harrison Ford grin. One of my favorite moments was when I did a little ballet to “Rainbow Connection.” Ben’s eyes were completely fixed on me. So I scooped him up and we danced together.

Baby Kaia

One of the joys of my trip was getting to meet Kaia, my college roommate’s 11-day-old daughter. Little Kaia is 6 lbs. 5 oz. and so precious! I enjoyed spending a day with Gretta and Kaia. Gretta was my roommate all four years of college, and we continue to share a special bond. It’s such a blessing to watch my friends’ families grow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Out of the Office

I am in Vancouver, Wash. visiting family and friends. Pictures and stories coming soon!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sweet Associations

Yesterday during a training seminar, our instructor passed around a bag of candy. As I put one of those timeless Runts bananas in my mouth, it hit me: summer vacation. I find it interesting how tastes, smells and sounds can so strongly attach themselves to memories. For example:

Runts candy...the taste of summer vacation.

Lilacs...the smell of running around barefoot when I was 8.

"Picture Perfect" by Michael W. Smith...the sound of my first crush.

Ramen Noodles...the taste of a college dorm room.

Warm vanilla sugar...the smell of moving to Colorado.

The Beach Boys...the sound of road trips.

Hairspray...the smell of dress rehearsals.

Mocha latte...the taste of finals.

"Beautiful Dreamer"...the sound of my best friend, Julie.

What are the tastes, smells and sounds of your life?

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Oh, I know Tonya and I look happy enough in this picture.

But moments before this photo was taken, we were crowded in the center of a disgruntled mob that had just been denied entrance into the World Arena. The event was "Winter Jam," a Christian concert featuring Toby Mac, Zoe Girl and the Newsboys. Admission was $10 at the door, and unbeknownst to us everyone in Colorado Springs had planned to come.

When we arrived 30 minutes before the concert, we knew we had a problem. The line stretched out about a quarter mile from the entrance. It moved quickly, but several hundred yards from our goal, they announced the arena was filled beyond capacity and they would not be admitting anyone else. Tonya and I managed to get to the doors to flash our free admission passes as a mob of frenzied youth crowded around us. And then..."form two single-file lines." Yeah, right.

We were suddenly a mass-of-humanity-turned-herd-of-cattle shifting ever so slightly one direction and then another. A non-hygeinic teenaged boy behind me planted his chin on my left shoulder. I gripped Tonya's arm (as if we could be separated) as one of the teens behind us chanted: "We must stand our ground. Hold firm! For the day is coming." (I think he was quoting Scripture, though it was a very loose translation.)

I was soon giggling at the surreal madness. When we finally pushed into a single-file line (they never let any of us in), I snapped a photo to capture the moment. Tonya and I shared some interesting conversations with our line-mates and waited an hour before giving up and heading to dinner. I wasn't too disappointed. I've been to concerts before. Anyone can go to a concert. But as I said to Tonya, "We were part of a frenzy!"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Happy (late) Valentine's Day

Today I'm anticipating my trip home to Washington this week. I'll spend time with my family and see my college roommate's new little girl — Kaia Renee. Here are some very cute Valentine's pitures of Ben. I can't wait to see him!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bold Day

Two years ago, I saw "The Passion of the Christ" on Ash Wednesday. My co-worker Annette, an Episcopalian, went with me and we attended the Ash Wednesday service at her church beforehand. I found it very meaningful. How often are we reminded of our inferiority? The world sings the song of independence, inner strength, self-sufficiency. And yet, without God we are nothing.

In "Girl Meets God," a book that retraces her path of conversion from Judaism to Christianity, Lauren Winner reflects on Ash Wednesday, the day that inaugurates Lent (the season culminating in Easter):

The imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday is nothing if not bold.

The whole day is bold. There is a bold gash of ecclesiastical purple hanging on the wall of my Puritan-white simple Episcopal church, and our rector, Milind, wears an equally starling purple chasuble, which he will wear for all of Lent. It is a bold liturgy the Book of Common Prayer suggests we recite: to acknowledge that we are of dust and to dust we shall return, and to proclaim our chosen-ness as the children of God anyway.

But the ashes are boldest of all. A dark and undeniable slash across your forehead, a bold proclamation of death and resurrection all at once. You forget that it is on your forehead and you walk out of church, out into the world, a living reminder that Christ died for us. The cross Milind makes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday is no polite, small slice of silver dangling around my neck but easily slipped behind my blouse. The ash cross is bold, and undeniable.

The cross on our foreheads is meant to be a dramatic reminder to ourselves and it is that. When Milind looks at me and says, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return, " I know what God did for me. He not only created me, He then poured out His grace upon em in the blood of His son. Me, a bunch of dust!

The challenge, as I enter Lent, is to be this bold in my proclamation of the Gospel all year.

A good reminder.

[photo by Linda Smith.]