Truth: Burning.

Villa Grove is a dot on the map, not even a stop – it’s simply a place people drive through, and while there are a few residents within the immediate township, most of the people are scattered around the San Luis Valley.  The residents of the area moved there to enjoy the tranquility of the valley, while others moved there to run away from civilization.  If you mind your own business and don’t get overly friendly, the area is a great place to live.

As a pawn for the USPS, I worked the Villa Grove post office quite often as they were seeking a permanent employee.  The office, situated on the side of the highway, faced east towards Hayden Pass and was prime viewing ground for watching smoke plumes from a forest fire in 2016.  The initial days of the fire were unnerving for people on both sides of the pass as it was unclear which direction the fire would travel. Would it remain on the east side of the pass and head towards Coaldale or would it crawl over the pass and head west towards Villa Grove?

I had a customer come in to the office and she made it clear that she was terrified of what may happen, pounding the counter and demanding that the fire be put out.  She wanted to know why there weren’t more planes and helicopters dropping retardant and water, and why there weren’t more firefighters creating fire lines.  She didn’t want to see the destruction.  She didn’t want to see the dangerous after effects.  She didn’t want people to lose homes and property.  The raging fires were too much for her and she couldn’t see any good in it.


Today I was talking with one of my friends and I was trying to explain why I was taking on more than my fair share of some group work we’re doing together.  And out of nowhere I started to well up with tears because I know this person is facing some big fires in their life, and that’s why I’m doing extra.  The fire in their life is moving along, taking out a lot of old, dead wood and I hate that they have to face the destruction.  The truth is, I’m a lot like that woman at the post office: no more pain, no more struggles, no more danger.  I want the fires out!


That fire on Hayden Pass ended up moving across more than 16,000 acres of land, burning vast areas of deadfall trees and brush – things that needed to burn.  In the following months after that fire, it was difficult to imagine the good that could come from it.  The burn scar had no protection from the rains and there ended up being great deluges in gulches, bringing down dead and burned trees and giant boulders.

As the years have passed, the benefits of the fire are becoming clearer, with healthier trees and grasses becoming more prevalent across the landscape.  The burn scar is becoming less noticeable and, if anything, it makes the unhealthy, non-burned areas more noticeable.  The fire and it’s immediate aftermath were destructive, painful, and left many feeling scared, but it’s made the landscape more beautiful.


I know that my friend has to face these fires. 

I know that it’s going to be difficult, painful, and destructive.

I know there’s nothing I can do to put out these fires –
they’re necessary and have to burn.

I thank God that my friend will be cleared of all the deadfall in their life
and will come out of it with fertile and healthy ground
to grow stronger, deeper, and taller than they were before.

May the fires in our lives burn where they must, and may we face the flames with strength and humility.  May God bring us out of these fires and into growth…into thriving…into beauty.

much love. sheth.

Truth: On Leave.

Out of character, I’ve been pretty defensive lately, keeping my guard up with the people around me.  Part of it is because there are a handful of students who have learned some of the tricks of the chaplaincy trade and they can now crack the toughest shell with ease (and I need to maintain my mysteriousness). 

As she was working on worship bulletins, Carrie was nonchalantly talking with me, weaving her way through my defenses and she asking me the tough questions.  We talked about my feelings (ugh) and she mentioned that I haven’t been my usual, happy self lately.  I responded that I’m a bit behind in classwork…I’m tired of the school’s systems and unresponsiveness to problems…I’m weary of swings too far to the left and too far to the right…I’m feeling silenced because I’m stereotyped as the oppressor.  I said I’m done with the whole school ‘thing’ and want to move on.

“Maybe you’re beginning to mourn the fact that you’re going to have to move on?  Maybe you’re a little angry that you’re going to have to leave?”


A few weeks ago I had come up with the theme for May’s student newsletter – ‘Leaving’ – and I was looking forward to writing on that subject matter because I have some things I’d like to get off my chest!  But as I think about it and the reflect on the conversation with my friend from earlier today, I’m realizing that she’s probably right – I’m mourning the fact that I’m going to be leaving.  The truth is that I’m ready to go, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to these people.  And I’m realizing that I’m not good at leaving.

I recall being in 4th or 5th grade and having to go to church with my parents outside of our ‘normal’ church time.  It wasn’t rushed or an emergency, but it was still a serious moment.  While not given all the details, I recall my parents telling me that the pastor might be leaving and the church was meeting to discuss it.

The adults met in the sanctuary and us kids went (unsupervised) to the gym to play.  As the evening progressed, it began to sink in that if the pastor left, his daughter – my best friend – would have to leave as well.  My heart dropped slowly through the evening, and I didn’t know how to process those feelings.  I ended up using anger and frustration to express my sadness and heartbreak, and from then on I’ve been protective of leaving moments.

Leaving for college was disastrous.  I intentionally have zero contact with any woman I’ve previously dated.  I slowly let friendships die off if they – or I – move away.  I’d rather cut off, cut out, or destroy any relationship than have to face the process of leaving gracefully.

I know that’s not a healthy way to live, and I think that’s why I’ve been wrestling with all kinds of feelings lately.  I don’t want to be defensive, angry, and holding back my feelings for people – but it’s a whole lot easier than remaining attached and doing the work to maintain relationships.  And it’s a whole lot easier than having to show my feelings and be vulnerable.

I don’t know how to leave gracefully. 

I don’t know how to say goodbye to some relationships and foster others.

I don’t know how to acknowledge that I won’t see most of these people again.

I don’t know how I’ll manage to be in ministry without these talented, loving, Christ-like people by my side.

This hurts my soul…and raises my defenses.

My God,
help me to leave this place well.
let me humbly return.
guide my heart to the new
and bring me often to old.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Prayer Practice

As a child, when I would visit my grandparents on school breaks, there were a few things that I could always count on: my grandpa smelling like Old Spice, my grandma cooking entirely too much food, and devotions/prayers at the end of breakfast.  Every morning my grandpa would take out his Bible from the hutch to his right and leave it out, ready to be gathered up when he was finished eating.  He would move his plate to the side as he placed the Bible on the placemat in front of him, opening the onion skin pages to the saved location.  Using Our Daily Bread as his devotional roadmap, and with the table sitting in silence, he would begin: “This morning’s passage comes from…”

After the scripture came the devotional, followed by an ever so brief pause before moving into prayer.  While the last time I witnessed him do this was nearly thirty years ago, I can still remember that he would have very specific prayers: we would heed the day’s message; God would be in the world and lives of those who were suffering, troubled, or alone.  He would pray specifically for a few families that he and my grandma had known, as well as for the salvation of others who had not known Christ.  All told, the experience took less than ten minutes and we would soon be on to other tasks: catching lizards or fish, weeding gardens, carrying firewood, shooting magpies. 

In my immediate family’s home, we weren’t quite put together in the mornings, so our main prayers as a family were at dinner led by my dad.  These prayers were not particularly long, nor were they detailed, and they were definitely not eloquent.  Similar to my grandfather’s prayers, my dad prayed for specific people, but my dads’ prayers varied more than my grandpa’s.  But there was a phrase in my dad’s prayers that has been burned into my mind, and it’s one he still uses to this day: “Thank you for this food before us, bless the hands that prepared it.  Let it nourish our bodies so that we can continue to serve you.”

While I wish that I could say that this dedication to prayer is genetic and that I, too, am approaching God in daily conversation, I must admit that I am the worst pray-er.  I’ve written before about how I’m terrible at regular prayer, and I’m terrible at praying when asked to do so, but since I’ve been in seminary there have been two practices which have helped me in my prayer life.

A rather simple and intentional practice has been for me to remove my eyeglasses when I pray.  At first it was all spiritual and intentional: By removing my glasses when I pray, I am acknowledging that God is my true vision (if you read this in a snooty, pompous voice, you’d be correct).  While this was the intent of the practice at the onset, it’s moved beyond that, and now is a physical movement to signal my body that I’m doing the thing: Hey – we’re praying!  Stop doing everything else! Let’s do this!

The other practice I’ve been working with is using a komboskini – a Greek Orthodox prayer rope.  Moving slowly from knot to knot as I pray, the small woolen rope has allowed me to focus more intently as I pray.  My brain has this awesome ability to lose focus of the task at hand, but as I have been using this rope I have been able to have more intentional prayer times.  [The practice of using the komboskini is usually linked with the Jesus Prayer, but I have found this rope to be useful in much more broader senses of prayer]

While I’m thankful for these tools and practices, I need to remember that they are merely tools – the actions are not the moments of prayer. And there’s a real danger in that practices can become idols: am I praying to God or to this rope…am I worshiping God or am I worshiping God’s Word in the form of this book?

That First Thessalonians type of praying is difficult. Praying continually just isn’t always possible, convenient, or desirable. I take comfort in knowing that the regimented praying grandpa I knew developed over decades of failure. I take comfort in knowing that my father continues to pray those same words day in, day out, not out of habit but out of genuineness. Prayer takes practice. It takes work. It takes successes and failures.

May God give me grace and leeway for learning how to pray, and may I continue to practice while moving towards perfection.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Intent

Last night I attended my first last worship service as a seminary student.  It was quite the affair as it was the first worship service for the incoming students.  Allen read scripture with power and clarity and Carrie filled the room with her bright, angelic voice.  Jonathan and Jacob sang some melodious sonnet and we all enjoyed the feast with Dr. Lord presiding.  Kallie and Rachel meticulously ensured that it all ran without a hitch.  Dr. Wardlaw, from the pulpit, preached with honesty and conviction while making us budding preachers jealous of his giftedness (he told me he just had a lucky night).

All of the ‘stuff’ changes from year to year – texts, songs, presiders, sermons – but there is one moment all students have experienced: reciting the Declaration of Intent.  It’s this small paragraph we recite in unison as incoming students but will probably never glance at again.  And why would we?  We’ve paid our tuition, attended orientation, made friends, and signed the book.  We’re in and doing the thing.

That small paragraph is a lot like those terms of service agreements I casually breeze through whenever I’m updating my computer.  I don’t read the words – I just check the box and trust that I haven’t sold my soul to Dell.  As I was in my pew last night listening to the incoming students recite that paragraph, I couldn’t help but take stock in my own declaration: have I been living up to those words?

There are five big things in that paragraph: live responsibly; be persistent in pursuing learning; diligence in prayer and praise; responsive to the needs of others; open to others equipping me for service.  These are great ideals and I appreciate that we are to commit to them, but, like those terms of service, I have glossed over them.

Sure, there have been periods when I’ve been consistently pursuing all of the things I said I would.  There have been moments when I’ve had to put them aside, quickly picking them up again when I could.  But honestly, there have been times when I’ve failed miserably in my declared intentions.  I have not always looked out for others, nor have I always lived responsibly, and no, I’m not always open to the suggestions of others.  Seriously, sometimes I’m an ass.

My saving grace is that it’s a Declaration of Intent, not a Declaration of Requirement.  I said those words with hope and determination to act in those ways, but I am in no way required to live that life all the time.  Because I can’t – I can’t do all of those things, all of the time, for all of the people.  I recited and signed with intention, and I’m going to fail.  On more occasions than I’d like to admit, I’ve received abundant grace from faculty, staff, maintenance members, the occasional squirrel, and my fellow students.  They all know and recognize my intention to be all I said I’d be, but they also know I’m full of faults. 

Grace…mercy…pardon…reprieves…they all come into play in seminary life.  While I should work towards those declared intentions, I will be sure to fill my life with grace and mercy, both for myself and others.  If I intend to do anything in seminary this year, let it be living and giving in grace and mercy, full of forgiveness.

.much love. sheth.

Truth: Always.

One of the things I’ve learned in seminary (or adjacent to seminary) is to be aware of patterns that occur in life around me: particular words, themes, struggles, or bible verses that keep occurring day after day.  In my final week of interning at a church here in Austin, I was bombarded by the words of Jesus from the gospel of Matthew: “You will always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me.”  I’ve probably heard this verse a million times, but have glossed over it because it occurs right before the last supper, the passion, the resurrection…it gets lost in the larger story of the final chapters of Matthew.  But lately it’s been at the forefront of my life.

The words first appeared in my Sunday school class, even though we were studying the minor prophets.  They showed up again in that morning’s sermon, even though we were in the book of Exodus.  The following day I was visiting with an elderly woman in an assisted living facility and she had brought up the passage in our discussion of the city of Austin.  To add icing to this frequency cake, it was brought up by my dad in a phone conversation that week as we discussed the poverty situation in my home town.

Truthfully, it’s a tough verse to swallow because it seems like we’ve been given a task we cannot complete, and Jesus’ words acknowledge this fact.  Moses spoke similar words in Deuteronomy: “There will always be some Israelites who are poor and needy.  That’s why I am commanding you to be generous with them.”  It seems that no matter how much we work to end poverty, it will always be a constant in our lives.


One of the reasons I have yet to run a marathon is because I know I wouldn’t complete it (and the fact that I hate running and am terribly out of shape…but that’s another discussion).  I rarely start things that I cannot take to their conclusion because I don’t like leaving things incomplete.  Up until two weeks ago I was fine with helping the poor and thinking of ways to end poverty…then I read Jesus’ words and my energies were immediately depleted.  Why would I dare take on something that I cannot finish?  Why would I put my time and energy into something that is never going to be finished?  Why does God call me to help the poor but doesn’t give me the ability to end poverty?

Our noses are constantly in our field of vision, but our brains have this mechanism (unconscious selective attention) that allows us to sort of ignore seeing our noses: “It’s thought that your mind does this because is considers the sight of your nose unimportant, so it unconsciously puts your attention on other things in your field of vision.”  Perhaps Jesus’ words are to remind us to keep the poor in our vision because we can so easily gloss them over – we can get so used to seeing them that we sort of ignore them like we do our noses.

The fact that the poor will always be with me opens my eyes to the fact that this work is never completed.  And it’s more than just the poor that will always be with me: it’s the hungry, the tormented, the terrorized, the fearful, the needy, the angry, the immigrant, the rich, the harassed, the discriminated.  As much as I would like to check a box as complete on my “Christianity To-Do List”, Jesus’ words remind me that He didn’t leave a set of chores to get done before his return.  Jesus’ words give me a task to work on, but also gives me a clarity of vision.  I must not lose sight of those who need help, I must not get used to those experiencing homelessness, I must not shrug my shoulders in cynicism and give up on helping.

The poor will always be with me – with us.  They are not a distraction and must not be forgotten.  Instead, we should show them mercy and compassion, working every day for the restoration of the children of God’s kingdom.  May we never lose sight of the poor who are always with us, and may we diligently work towards bringing them what they need – food, shelter, compassion, restoration, safety, security, and peace.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Failed Missions.

I spent last week in San Antonio with 31-ish middle school students working to repair homes in the city – it was hard, sweaty, and difficult work. Hard because I and my co-leader spent most of our time corralling teenagers who had no construction experience. Sweaty because, well, Texas in the summer. Difficult because we only provided a bandage for the home.

Most of these summer work trips are pretty much the same. An organization enters a community and identifies homeowners who need assistance with repairing their homes – roofing, painting, drywall repair/replacement, flooring, yard work, etc. Over the course of the summer, rotating groups of teenagers come through and do the work for free while paying for the cost of the materials. It’s not the best work (they’re inexperienced teenagers), but in the end the homeowners have a home that is in a somewhat better shape than what they had before. It’s a good work and is legitimately needed, because without these donations of time and materials these homes would ultimately be condemned.

A good number of these organizations pull up their stakes when the summer’s over, their interns and on-site volunteers head back to college, and the community is left alone for the following nine months. The physical work is finished, so it’s time to go. And this is where we fail in these trips.


I was speaking with my small group of kids about our homeowner’s situation – she has a master’s degree in social work and was established in her career, but because of a family health issue she had to become the caretaker for her family member. She had to drop everything – work, friends, church, maintenance of her home – in order to care for her family member and it ultimately landed them both in poverty.

We could fix her home, but there were bigger issues at play in this family’s life. Inadequate healthcare systems. Ever-rising medical costs. Gentrification of neighborhoods. Sky-rocketing lumber costs. Over-demand of construction workers. Food deserts. Insufficient financial education. Poor public transportation. Deficient education. Predatory loans. Systemic poverty. Racial discrimination. Slumlords.

Truthfully, we can continue to take kids to repair these homes, but if we want to make a lasting impact then we need to deal with the larger issues at hand. Right now we’re doing bandage work. We’re fixing the home and leaving the homeowners warmer, safer, and drier, but we’re neglecting so many other things.

We need to set the homeowners up with local organizations who will continue to walk with them. We need to teach these families how to balance their bank accounts, how to utilize legitimate financial systems, and how to access free aid. We need to find ways for these families to get basic education – reading, writing, math, etc. We need to work with neighborhoods and cities to prevent homeowners from being pushed out of their of their homes and evicted for illegal reasons. We need to restructure financial systems and work to eliminate financial predation. We need to come up with a more affordable healthcare system. We need to care not only for the home, but for the family’s mental, financial, physical, and spiritual health. The summer’s bandage work is not sustainable.

I know I’m asking a lot and I know that it probably won’t ever happen, but I have hope that it will. I have hope that someday we can fix these larger problems that are keeping people in poverty. I have hope that someday we can fix our unaffordable healthcare system. I have hope that we can have ethical and moral landlords. I have hope that we can eliminate payday loans and exorbitant interest rates. I have hope that we can make education decent and free for all.

I have hope that these teenagers I worked with will never forget what they saw last week, and I have hope that they will work to change these systemic problems in our world. I have hope that we can all have bigger hearts and the long-distance eyesight to see the bigger-picture issues before us. And I have hope that God will give us all the strength, wisdom, and courage to fix it all.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Disappointment.

As a child I received my fair share of spankings.  My parents never doled them out in anger and rarely did they act in the moment.  And they never truly hurt – the mere thought of the punishment was what caused me to cry – getting caught was never a happy moment.  While spanking was a good punishment for a time, the act ended when I started laughing as my mom was spanking me and she discovered I had placed magazines in my pants to ease the blows.  My punishments shifted to having my Gameboy taken away, being sent to my room, or denied having friends over to play.

These acts were certainly good for my attitude and were well-deserved, but honestly they were fairly rare for me as I was a pretty decent kid.  When I did mess up, I would end up having a talk with either one of my parents and then the hammer would fall in judgement.

In my final years of high school, my parents began to use the most detrimental punishment of all: “We’re really disappointed in the way you acted.”  There was no consequence, no physical punishment, no spanking – just that sentence.  And it truthfully hurt me more than any other punishment I had experienced.  If I messed up or did something wrong, they’d tell me that they were disappointed by my actions and then leave me alone.  And my heart would break.

I believe my parents – either when they were spanking me, grounding me, or speaking truths into my life – were not disappointed in me, but disappointed by my actions.  They knew that I knew better, yet I chose to not be better.  I knew not to swear or yell or lash out in anger, but I did.  I knew that there were certain people I shouldn’t hang out with, but I did.  I knew not to smoke, drink or chew (or go with girls that do), but I did.   My short-term vision couldn’t see the long-term danger of these people, actions, and things.


When it comes to my spiritual life, I think God is oftentimes disappointed in my actions.  God knows I can do better.  God knows I can be better.  God knows that I know better.  But sometimes I choose to not do what I should.  Nothing I do surprises God, but when I make those choices they bring disappointment with them.  Like my parents, God isn’t disappointed with me, but is disappointed with my choices.

Life is challenging, difficult, and filled with all kinds of ways for us to slip up and miss the mark.  God wants us to be good, decent, loving, kind, generous, and forgiving but knows we’ll screw up on occasion.  More often than not, we will do the things we know we shouldn’t.  But we should always remember that God loves us and wants only the best for us.

May God give us the ability to learn from our mistakes, and never wallow in disappointment, but get back up and try to be better.  May we generously and lovingly forgive when others disappoint us.  May we know that God loves us and is never disappointed in us, but in our poor choices and actions.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Hidden.

The church I’m attending is doing a summer series titled “Hidden Figures” – it’s about the small, not-well-known people in the Bible who have had major impacts on the people around them.  I haven’t thought about most of these people – Micah of Moresheth, Ananias, the daughters of Zelophehad (and others) – but they’ve had lasting impact on the formation of my faith and that of my Church.

As I’ve been thinking about these hidden figures, I’ve been reflecting on those hidden figures in my own life – the people who have had a lasting impact on who I am (and who I’m becoming).  People who, at the time, I didn’t know were molding and shaping me into the person I would become.

The teacher’s aides who tutored me when the teacher was too busy for me.
The lunch ladies who gave me free meals when I forgot my money.
The elderly couple who took my brother and I to eat at the fanciest restaurant we’d ever been to (they had live lobsters – a big deal for a 9 year old).
The twenty-something who took time to mentor me and take me to Elitch’s.
The old ladies who bought me lunch after church and check in on me.
These were all little things that people chose to do for me that stuck with me, showed me I was valued and loved, and taught me that I should do the same.


There’s this verse in Hebrews, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2, NIV).  I think it could be reworded: “Do not forget that strangers, in showing you hospitality, are angels and you didn’t even know it.”  The truth is, most of these hidden figures in my life were angels for me.  They gave me hope that I was smart enough and I could learn my multiplication tables.  They showed me that I won’t ever go hungry if they’re around.  They gave me something good and nice for no reason at all, other than because they loved me.  They knew the importance of guidance, mentorship, and discipleship.  They let me know that I was valued and visible to them.

I should acknowledge the people who do so many small things for me that I don’t fully recognize as being impactful in the moment.  The janitors, housekeepers, and groundskeepers who maintain the facilities around me and keep me safe and healthy.  The administrative assistants and secretaries and finance office people who do all the paperwork to keep things running.  The nurses and assistants who do 99% of the actual work in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  The people who send me cards in the mail just because they were thinking about me.

And I should also keep in mind that I may be someone’s hidden figure.  I may not always know it, I may not always intentionally be doing something, but I will nevertheless have a lasting impact on most of the people I come across.  I need to be mindful of my actions, my thoughts, and my words and be as loving as I can possibly be to all the people I meet.

May we all see the hidden figures who have made us who we are today.  May we be thankful for those who have had positive impacts on us and forgiving of those who have had negative impacts on us.  May we have eyes to be more aware of those around us who are hidden in our day-to-day lives and acknowledge their impact on us today.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Pets.

One of my friends has had to say goodbye of two of her elderly dogs over the past few months, and it’s heartbreaking for me to see her go through this – I ache for her and the losses she has had to deal with amid school finals and life’s never-ending messes. I wish I could make her dogs live forever, or at the very least I wish I could spread out the losses. Many people here at seminary think I’m not a pet-friendly person, but that’s not the case. I love pets dearly – it’s saying goodbye to them that I don’t like, and to guard my heart I put up my stalwart stance.

My family picked up our dog Sunshine when I was four or five and she was a constant in my life over the next decade. She would play with my brother and I in the backyard, stealing our baseballs and chasing our snowballs. She went with us on our family vacations to the Sand Dunes, Blue Mesa, Grand Mesa, and my grandparents’ property in Coaldale. She moved with us to three different homes, was terrified of fireworks, and was always ready to greet me at the door when I came home.


As the years went on, her muscle mass deteriorated and had facial paralysis – we eventually had to put her to sleep. It was a decision my parents made, though they asked me if I wanted to skip school and go with them, but I couldn’t do it. I remember that day vividly as I walked to school and my parents drove to the vet – my mind was cycling through all the memories I had of Sunshine and me playing together.

We picked up Josie from the shelter in Buena Vista a few years later, and while she wasn’t a replacement, she lived up to the paw prints left by Sunshine. She was a pit bull/ rottweiler/ something-else mix, and while she looked intimidating, she was one of the sweetest dogs I have ever come across. She was a little goofy, a little ditzy, but full of love and affection. She performed zoomies with perfection, was intimidated by statues, would wiggle her tail-less butt with excitement, and rarely would she bark out of fear or anger.


I left for college and she was ready to greet me each time I returned home. When I was depressed and contemplating suicide, Josie was there by my side. When I was watching the terrorist attacks in 2001 and getting ready to fearfully travel overseas, Josie was there with me as I packed my bags. In all the chaos of my early 20-somethings, she was by my side. While I was living in Greeley, my mom called to tell me that Josie had gone to sleep the night before but never woke up. I was just as devastated as I was with Sunshine, and I grieved just as fiercely.

The truth is, I love pets. I loved all the pets that I’ve had in my life: dogs, cats, birds, a ferret, hamsters, and a myriad of goldfish. I loved all the pets that my brother has had: the big dogs, the herding dogs, the little dogs; the goats, cows, and horses. I love all the pets that are around me currently: Scooter, Muji, Mylo, Cooper (x2), Winnie, Blanche, Loveern, Shiloh, Potter, Radar, Kodac, Migelito and all the other dogs and cats, squirrels, frogs, and birds who reside on campus.

I love pets – it’s the end of their lives that I don’t like and what I guard against. I don’t like the hurt and pain and emptiness that comes when they leave. I don’t like the tears and crying that I end up doing because they’re gone. I don’t like missing my best friends and constant companions for years after they’ve left. I don’t like losing pets, which is why I guard my heart against the inevitable ache.

Thank God for pets: for their love and compassion towards us when we are so undeserving of it. Thank God for pets: for always giving us a moment of joy, a time of happiness, an ear of understanding. Thank God for pets: the better being in the relationship time and time again.

Thank God for pets.

much love. sheth.

Truth: Gossip.

I usually start my favorite conversations with: “Did you hear what happened?!”  Immediately following this question I give the scoop – who it was, what they did, when it happened, where it happened, and why they did it.  My high school journalism teacher would be proud that I am able to report so succinctly after all these years, though he would probably be questioning the accuracy of my source material.

The truth is, I love to gossip.  I love to hear all the details, then speculate on the subject matter, and pass judgement.  But my gossiping isn’t always this nefarious thing where I’m attempting to damage someone’s reputation – sometimes it’s just sharing information about what I heard from someone who heard something from someone else.  I’m a sharer of information!

I’d like to blame my gossiping on my grandma, who would go to McDonald’s with her best friend and the two would gossip for hours.  Multiple times a week they would finagle their way into getting free coffee while discussing all the news that wasn’t fit to print.  But as much as I would like to, I can’t blame my genetics on my propensity for gossiping.

The thing is, I’m not a fan of gossip and the damage it creates.  I’ve seen pastors battle with congregants over rumors of retirement.  I’ve seen men sort through the gossip to save their marriage.  I’ve seen friendships destroyed, jobs abandoned, relationships ended, and innocent lives taken because of gossip.  I’ve been the victim of it and know how hurtful and judged a person can feel being the subject of gossip.  And yet, I still do it.


I know the Bible has copious verses on idle talk, mischievous tongues, slanderous lips, busybodies, and gossips.  I know the damage that my own words have done when I have spread gossip, when I have taken tidbits of information and exaggerated them to expansive proportions, when I have learned something about someone and speculated on it with someone else.

There’s this line from an old country song that sums up what I’m feeling when I gossip: “I always feel the best when my conscience hurts the most.”  I really, truly know that gossip is hurtful and damaging, and still, I do it because it makes me feel good.  If I can tear down someone who I think is better than me, I’ll feel better about myself.  If I can condemn someone else’s actions, I can feel better about my own.  If I can damage someone else’s reputation I’ll look better than them.

When I gossip, it’s usually because I’m not feeling good about myself and I want to bring others down to my level.  When I can lower others I think I’m not such a terrible person.  But I’m not doing anyone any good – I’m just damaging them and myself.

Living in a small community where my neighbors are my friends and my friends are in class with me, gossip is HUGE (yes, it’s a Christian community, and yes, we manage to gossip a lot).  We talk behind people’s backs, we tear one another down, we bend the truth and spread it quickly.  We gossip about people not living up to certain standards when we ourselves aren’t living up to them, either.  We’re petty and manipulate the truth.  Gossip takes control and runs us over.

There’s a fine line between sharing information and sharing the juicy details.  It’s a short walk between telling an anecdote and telling gossip.  I wish the lines were clearer, the boundaries bigger, the differences larger.  I seek definition and turn to the dictionary to define ‘gossip’, but it’s pretty unclear: “rumor or report of an intimate nature.”  What are the qualifications for information becoming gossip?  What qualifies information to be just information?  At what point does a conversation turn into a gossip session?

I think part of what defines a conversation as gossip is the intent – is this a conversation about a person or is it about revealing something hurtful about that person?  Is it the full and honest truth, or is it just picked-out details to paint someone in a negative light?

Another part that defines a conversation as gossip is interest – is it because I’m truly interested in the person and situation, or because I’m wanting to get into their affairs and speculate?  Am I putting my nose where it doesn’t belong?

Lastly, what defines a conversation as gossip is outcome – am I sharing this information as it pertains to something or someone else, or am I sharing it because I want to cause damage?  Is it an attempt to bring someone else down a peg or two because I’m not at their same level?

This gossip thing is hard, and I think there’s something to be said for it’s frequent condemnation in the Bible.  God desires for us to love and care for one another; God desires for us to lift one another up in all conversations.  God wishes that we would be better, do better, and gossip a whole lot less – because our gossip not only hurts other people, it hurts our Creator.

Let’s think before we speak.  Let’s question the information we’re about to share.  Let’s find other things to talk about.  May our words be tempered by wisdom, may our mouths build bridges, and may our conversations be beneficial.

much love. sheth.