Mar 24, 2010

Desert of Doubt

I met Erik Guzman through Steve Brown, the former Voice-Over personality and Marlboro Man spokesman, turned  pastor and theology professor.  Erik works for Brown and has a good blog in which he calls himself  "the Merry Monk of Love." (merry love monk..ey?)

It's Lent, and Erik/LoveMonk has a great post about the "Desert Of Doubt."  He is in that desert right now.  Not knowing if what he's believed is just a bunch of dookey, or if it's really true. It's a very difficult place to face that existential crisis.  Maybe we made it all up: peace, love, God, etc.  What proof do we have aside from our own subjective experience?  I remember being in that place. And in a way, I miss it: Miss that time when finding those answers was more important than food or housing or friendships.  Anyway it's a great post.  Check it out here.

Have you been through that desert of doubt?  Did you get any answers? Are you still in it?

Mar 22, 2010

Star Trek meets Chick Tracts?

My friend Allen Lulu alerted me to this. All I can say is, "wow."

So did your church's drama department ever veer this far off the captain's log?

Mar 19, 2010

Eat Pray Love, the Movie

I had a love-hate relationship with Elizabeth Gilbert's book, "Eat Pray Love." I loved her journey in Italy, liked her stint in India, and hated Indonesia. I was ambivalent about they way she finally made peace with her ex-husband .... in a cave in India, alone. Sure, she felt great settling accounts in a cosmic space, but the real husband wasn't there to respond. 

Nevertheless I was grateful for how she wrote. I read EPL while I was writing my book, and she gave me permission to write candidly and conversationally. Thank you Ms Gilbert.

Now comes the movie starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem.

I think will see this when it comes out.  It's directed by Ryan Murphy, creator of GLEE, so at the very least, the music will have to be terrific.

What do you think? Did you like the book? Will you see the movie?

Mar 17, 2010

Male Bake Off: The Cake of Foreskins

I really do love the blogosphere. My friend Bryan Allain emailed me to tell me his friend Kari Bauman had read my book and blogged about it. Kari had actually emailed me just a few hours before.  It was a very kind post indeed.  What I really loved, is she mentioned that she and her husband enjoyed the part in my book when God and Jesus were snickering about the hill of foreskins (and they say there aren't any jokes in the bible?). 

The previous year her husband  entered a Male Bake-Off at her church. Every Super Bowl Sunday, the men show off their creative baking skills before the kick off.

Her husband baked a cheesecake with peanut butter topping and chocolate shavings, and called it the Foreskins Hill cake.  He won the award for "Most Biblical." I wonder what won the following year? I mean, how could you top that?!

Thanks to Mike and Kari Bauman for letting me post this picture.  Visit her blog to find out more.

Mar 16, 2010

Dreams and Coincidences

A few nights ago I had a dream I was in a room with a bunch of people who shared my birthday.  We were all gathered around in a circle, looking at each other.  And saying, "hey we were all born on the same day."

That's all I remember about the dream.  I would not have even remembered that, except that an acquaintance who shares my EXACT birth date, emailed me the morning after the dream and  said, "I don't have anyone to celebrate with, want to fly up to Canada and celebrate?"

Two nights later I had a fragment of a dream about the "the two Coreys,"   Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. I don't even remember anything associated with the dream except the phrase, 'the two Coreys."

The morning I woke up, I found out that Corey Haim had died.

This got me thinking to a very dramatic dream I had probably 15 years ago.  I dreamt I was on a plane heading to the Telluride film festival. I'd gone a previous year with a bunch of people from church. They kind of used the festival as a way to corner people at parties and talk to them about Jesus. I didn't like they way things were done, and I never went back to the festival. Not with them anyway.    But I had this dream I was on a plane heading to Telluride with other Christians. I was sitting next to film director Sydney Pollack. he was sharing some difficult moment in his life, and I really wanted to talk to him about god. except I was afraid or embarrassed, or didn't want ot be "one of those" people who introduce Jesus like an Amway product. So I didn't say anything to Mr Pollack in my dream.

I woke up from the dream and that afternoon, a small plane crashed near my apartment in Santa Monica.  Sydney Pollack's son had been the pilot, and he died in the crash.  It was so freaky.   Not long after that I had a terrible, abusive thing happen at my church that sent me running from God for a while. The church had been very involved with prophecy and dream interpretation. I closed the door on all of that mystery, maybe to my detriment.

These past few weeks in Lent I have thought about the silence and the mystery. Perhaps I cheated myself out of some important ways that God communicates with us.  After all, those dream fragments of the past few days.   Perhaps if I spent more time in silence, more time writing down my dreams, what else might I discover about God or myself?

Mar 15, 2010

Facebook Jesus

When I first joined facebook, I added "Jesus" as a friend. I Ddin't know who had put up the Jesus profile, but I figured anyone who wanted to get Jesus on facebook was probably a cool cat.  I soon discovered that the person behind this Jesus had very different idea than I did.  "Jesus" posting some vitriolic statements and flaming out others as heretics.  It made me uncomfortable, so I defriended "Jesus." My friend Kara Lee emailed me: "I read your news feed, "Susan is no longer friends with Jesus." Fortunately facebook no longer puts "defriends" in my timeline.

I recently met a talented young author named Renee Johnson. She just published a devotional called "The Faithbook of Jesus." She wanted to title it "The Facebook Jesus," but she would have faced copyright infringement.

Renee is full of energy and excitement. And she will tell you this didn't come from life always going well. Even at the ripe old age of 27 she's got her own bag of craptastic moments from which to share. But she's turned it into gold. 

Renee has been blogging for six years, where she created an online devotional for twenty-somethings. There aren't any devotionals out there written for 20 somethings by an actual 20-something. So Renee's book is unique and will find a new audience to add to those who've already become part of her blog community.

Here's a brief Q and A with Renee.

Q: Please share a little about yourself!

A: I am an author and speaker to 20-somethings, but my tagline says "spirited." This is an understatement which I'm sure you can attest to after meeting me! I love Jesus. And, I don't just say it--I live it. I recently graduated from Biola University and for the past two years I've had the pleasure of working with talented speakers and authors at Outreach Events. Just this year I decided to take my writing and speaking full time and fill in the gaps for 20-somethings where the church left off.

Q: Your new devotional book released last week called "Faithbook of Jesus." Tell us more...

A: I've put my heart and soul into this project. Since 2004 I've blogged devotionals on, and just recently I was discovered on Twitter by my literary agent and publisher, NavPress. Not to mention the devotionals I've been saving for the past 7 years. I'm honored to have written the first daily devotional for people, ages 18-35. No matter what age you are though, it will make you laugh, cry at my story (I hope anyway), and enjoy getting to know more of Jesus' daily.

Q: In some of your devoitonals you seem to have some "angry conversations with God." To which I can relate. What brought bout yours?

A: Well, for the past 14 years I've struggled with all kinds of health issues from severe eczema (a skin rash) to anxiety (from the skin rash). I've learned to put my faith and trust in Jesus because without Him I wouldn't be here. I love writing how I feel-and sometimes how I feel is ANGRY. If Jesus is God and He can heal me instantly, then why does he wait? Or why am I still single? Those are probably where my most angry conversations with God happen!!

Q: Can you share a sample devotional you think my readers would like?

A: Sure, I hope your readers will love this one...

Week 25: Wednesday, page 152
Evidence of Blessing

I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me. — Job 10: 1-2

Job is angry. No, he’s pissed. He’s not hiding it anymore. In fact, if he were standing in front of you and me today, he might drop a curse word or two. The poor man was clearly suffering. Sometimes we feel like that, too.

In the New Testament we’re told to rejoice in suffering, and in the Old Testament we see suffering for what it is — tough. Our body’s natural reaction is to fix whatever is wrong and to not experience pain. Pain hurts. It’s uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s too much for us to bear.

The hardest part of our pain is not getting angry at God. From the very beginning, Job’s wife urged him to curse God and die (see Job 2:9). He never did. Job had too much class. In the midst of losing his children, material possessions, health, and sanity, he somehow kept it together.

This verse is one of my favorites in all of Scripture because it shows the appropriate response to our trials: vent to Jesus. He already knows anyway. Tell him. Complain to Jesus. Charles H. Spurgeon said, “Could this not be the reason God is dealing with you? Being left alone by Satan is not evidence of being blessed.”

Like Job, your trials could be the direct result of being in Jesus’ will and the evidence of his blessing.

Dear Jesus Who Blesses: Don’t let Satan mess with us. When we feel we can’t continue, remind us that there is a blessing waiting for us at the end of our trials. Amen.
If you're looking for a devotional like this,  check out her book's website. You can also click on
“Community” to share your stories with Renee's community.

Mar 11, 2010

Change Your Life! official trailer

Here's the official trailer for the mockumentary, Change Your LIfe, that I filmed a couple of years ago. It's a Christopher Guest style mockumentary exposing the multilevel marketing industry.  It stars Tony Plana (Betty's father on Ugly Betty), Ada Maris, Wayne Thomas Yorke, Catheryn Brockett, Time Winter and myself.

It will soon be available on iTunes and DVD. Here's a link to the Change Your Life website. You can sign up to get an alert when it's available.

Mar 9, 2010


One March afternoon in my first year of college, I stopped at the school’s theater box office to buy tickets to some nihilistic bucket-o-blood experimental theater production. I had to see it for class credit. I noticed the woman behind the glass had a black smear on her forehead. Maybe she had to do scene painting for class credit. So I kindly informed her of the schmutz.

“It’s Ash Wednesday,” she glared.
“Oh, yes of course!” I apologized. I may have added that I was Lutheran and was on her team. She kept glaring. Maybe she was a staunch Catholic, and viewed my Lutheran people as The First Defectors.

Still, I left feeling elated, knowing there was at least one other Christian in the theater department. One person who was bold enough to say, “Screw you, nihilist bucket-o-blood theater majors! From dust you came and to dust you shall return!”

Growing up Lutheran, we didn’t give up things for Lent. We just thought sobering thoughts. When I reached adulthood, I joined a non-denominational church, threw off the old liturgy and embraced total formless freedom in Christ. I immersed myself in God’s love, disappeared into long rock worship sets, attended healing conference and hung out with Jesus. It was awesome, as my hippie pastor said.

But as I got older, I started to miss the liturgy. (Besides, the non-denom did have a liturgy: 45 minutes of rock music, followed by a 45-minute sermon. It’s still a liturgy.) I wanted less spectatorship and more participation. I wanted to recite the creed. Most of all, I wanted to take communion every week. I would gladly cut 25 minutes out of a 45-minute sermon to make room for communion. So many of those 45- minute sermons only had 20 minutes of content anyway.

Two years ago my husband and I landed at an Episcopal church. We observe the liturgy and the church year. The rectors wear robes and swing the incense ball. We read the appointed scriptures and the pastor preaches on the appointed text. (It’s not all scheduled stuff: we pray for each other, the Holy Spirit shows up, and God is moving on our little parish). Church isn’t always an earth-shattering experience. Sometimes the hymns are dull, dull, DULL! But for some reason – maybe it’s the Age, or maybe it’s my age – the liturgy is working on me.

I started observing Lent a couple of years ago. Lent is the forty days before Easter when we honor the forty days Jesus fasted in the wilderness, and we do this by giving up or adding something to our life. (I’m not really sure how they count the forty days of Lent. I think they skip Saturdays and government holidays). In any event, I decided to go with the liturgical flow and see how Lent would work on me.

This year I gave up facebook and twitter. It was a selfish move, really. I was getting too many updates and the notifications were clogging my email In Box. And facebook sent me four emails for every single event that occurred on facebook that it was getting insane. Besides, I didn’t have time to trade useless factoids or Farmville animals or Monty Python dead parrots. I've already blocked Mafia Wars for cryin' out loud.  Anyway, I needed to spend that time on important things, like writing, my husband and God. Facebook and twitter had to go.

The first thing I did with all that free time was to catch up with “30 Rock” on Hulu, play online scrabble with a friend, and check craigslist for a used IKEA day bed. I also thought about the things I was supposed to do with my free time. (In my defense, my husband was busy updating his status on facebook. All he gave up for Lent was Tostitos Lime Chips.)

Time with God still eluded me, or maybe I eluded time with God. Nature abhors a vacuum, and maybe my human nature abhors silence. But I know better. Whenever I’ve spent time alone with God, I’ve loved it. I’ve even gone on a few silent retreats. The first hour is always excruciating, but by the time the weekend is over, I kinda don't want to start talking. I like the silence.  Well, Lent is not yet over and I hope that I can master some time alone with God.

But there’s something else I feel called to abstain from: righteous anger. When it comes to Fight or Flight: I get my dukes up. I recently kicked a BMW SUV when it knowingly barreled through a crosswalk I was walking in. Yeah: It slowed down, saw me, and then sped up and right through. (The license plate was GRNYMAE. If you know Granny Mae, warn her never to drive through Pasadena. I’m looking for her.)  But even if the driver was jerk, it’s not a good idea to attack a moving piece of machinery.

It’s easy to make a vague promise like “turning the other cheek.” That is until God gives you a specific person to whom you should turn the other cheek. I recently got a specific person. Our dog. Well, Wally doesn’t want to be my dog; he wants to be my husband’s dog. He’s a 9-month old corgi, and corgis are stubborn. In the past month and a half, Wally has decided he needs to push me out of the pack. Because Wally has decided to hate me.

My husband says that’s not true. Wally is a dog; he’s not capable of feeling human emotions like hatred.

“Well,” I reply, “What would you call it if the dog you’ve been feeding and walking and praising and loving on, decides to growl whenever you come near? If he lavishes affection on complete strangers but ignores you? If when you try to pet him he recoils at your touch?

"That's because he picks up on your anger and sees it as a threat," Larry suggested.
“I thought you said he doesn’t feel human emotions!”

Larry suggested I praise him and treat him even more. But that’s what I had been doing all along! Besides, someone told me that dogs can interpret your kindness as weakness, and then try to push you out of the pack! And the Dog Whisperer said I needed to act like The Boss. Which Wally interprets as threatening.

(There are other mobius strips of rationale in the Dog Training world. Like: “Don’t punish a dog. They don’t remember what they did five seconds ago.” VS: “If you punish a dog, the dog will remember that about you and be scared of you.” Which is it? The dog remembers or the dog doesn’t remember?! The dog wants me to be nice or the dog wants me to be tough? Which because I can’t figure it out!! I can’t win. I am a wimp or a threat!)

This insanity sent me into fits of righteous apoplectic anger. Which in turn sent my husband recoiling from me as well. So everyone hated me. I wanted to hate everyone right back. Which made me hate myself. If there is anything I am ashamed of about myself, it is my anger.  Anger wasn't modeled well in my household. My father got angry at everything, and when he cursed it felt like I was getting battery acid thrown in my face. Needless to say I don't like getting angry. But people get angry. And I'm a fighter. So when I get angry, it feels like it swallows everything else in my life.  I hate it and then I hate me.

Amazing the amount of drama and self-loathing, launched over a teenaged dog.

The Dog drama did get me thinking about God, in a palindrome kind of way. I wondered how God must have felt when I complained he was neglecting me, or when he brought something good my way and I feared it was a trap. I shuddered to remember the times recoiled from God altogether. And yet God never banished me to the proverbial service porch, as I had done to our dog. or squirted me with a spiritual squirt gun, as I was told to do to the dog to stop bad behavior.  (Come to think of it maybe God had leveled me with his cosmic squirt gun. Exhibit A: The year 2003.  See also opening chapter of Angry Conversations.)

Two weeks ago, before the Wally Debacle hit its peak, we attended the Ash Wednesday service at church. It was my first Ash Wednesday service. I’d never had ashes spread across my forehead. It took me by surprise when the pressure of my pastor’s thumb on my forehead and the words whispered to me made me cry.

“From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.”

To dust I will return. I will not be here forever. It felt like a sobering call to duty: to go out into God’s world and do what he’s called me to do. Go out and live a big story, as Don Miller says. Do something bold and risky and remarkable. Like blessing Granny Mae when she sideswipes me in her car. Or continuing to love a dog that isn’t loving me back. Or something even scarier I haven’t begun to imagine.

But I couldn’t possibly do those things. I wasn’t capable! I was the jerk in my own story!

The other part of the sentence came to mind: From dust I came. I thought of Psalm 103: “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” He has compassion because he knows how weak we are.

If only I could extend that compassion to Granny Mae, or to our dog. Or to myself when I get angry.

My husband scheduled a private session with a trainer at PetSmart. I resented it. I had cleared my Lenten schedule to do important things like write (and watch Hulu). How could I take time to see a private dog trainer?

But I went. Well, I protested by spending the day at the library, and met Larry and Wally at the last minute. I was shocked when Wally greeted me with a wagging tail. The trainer said it was because we were meeting on neutral ground, where we’d had no history of acrimony. “Wait until we get back home,” I muttered.

She asked me to remember how much I loved Wally up until a month and a half ago. I wondered just what Larry had shared with the trainer.  Did he come in crying, "my wife hates my dog! This cute adorable corgi!"  I wanted to protest to the trainer, "hey I don't hate this adorable dog! I love him!  But when I thought of how much heartache he'd caused me, I had to stop and think back on how much I truly did adore him before he turned into Iago. It was hard not to remember how much I'd loved him. If I’d never loved him I wouldn’t be so upset over it.

“You can get that happy relationship back,” she promised me. “Just forget what happened before.” I didn’t believe her. I didn’t think Wally would forget. I didn’t think I could forget. Or maybe I couldn’t forgive. Or maybe I couldn’t get over my emotions.

In one hour, she identified Larry’s and my behaviors that sent Wally the wrong message. She told me what to do instead: to react to his growl by staying confident and calm. (Really, squirting him with a water bottle made him more scared? Who knew.) She taught me a new bonding game to play with the dog (Really? So “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” encouraged competition not bonding? Who Knew.)

I tried her suggestions at home. Wally did react differently. I didn’t want to get overly excited, this would take some time. But Wally had begun to change, and so did I.

Not long after that, we discovered Wally had some smelly open sores on his tail. He’g gotten some flea bites and just chewed his skin raw. We trimmed back his fur, applied antiseptic and some anti-itch cream, and then Larry snapped on the “Cone of Shame” to prevent him from biting. It really is a shaming cone: Wally hung his head, tucked his tail and sunk into a corner. I came over and sat down next to him. And he let me stay there. He buried his nose against my thigh. Isn't that the way: we have to reach total humiliation and pain before we let Someone get close to us.

“There, there Wally. We aren’t going to kick you out of the pack. Don’t be ashamed of your weakness. We love you even more.”

He stood up, crawled up into my lap, sighed, and plopped his head across my legs.
I sat there petting him for a good long while, until he drifted off to sleep.

Mar 1, 2010

Video From Jubilee

I haven't blogged much. I'm trying to hunker down and get some much needed writing done. But I thought I would share this. A young woman who attended the Jubilee Conference last month captured the first part of my show. Here it is if you are interested.