Nine pieces of advice for college freshmen

CU Boulder students attending new student convocation.

CU Boulder students attending new student convocation.

Recently a woman who is entering my alma mater this fall asked what advice I would give to a college freshman.  After over a decade in higher education, I’ve got some.  I’ve got a lot, actually.  But I’ll boil things down to nine overarching principles.  Some have to do with school, some have to do with the general transition to adulthood and life on your own.

1. Get involved.  Ninety five percent of the time, community will not find you; you have to go out looking for community.  Go to events.  Introduce yourself to people.  Even just talk to that person sitting next to you in class – “Need a study buddy?”  And watch the sidewalks for chalkings about events.  Really, sidewalk chalk is how I learned about the majority of things happening on campus.

2. Try something new.  This goes with the point above.  College is an awesome time because there are sooooo many options laid out neatly in front of you – whether student groups, university clubs, or free events.  Someone gave me a free ticket to one of our college football games, and there I saw the marching band.  They looked like they were having more fun than anyone else in the stadium.  So despite never having tried it before, the next year I signed up.  And made a lot of friends and had a lot of adventures.

3a. Go. to. class.  At my freshman convocation, the president of the college gave these three words of advice.  When I was a high school senior I asked some of my friends who were college freshmen what the biggest difference was between high school and college.  Their answer: “You don’t have to do anything.”  That is, you are being treated as an adult and no one is checking up on you.  Professors usually don’t take attendance.  Parents won’t nag you to work on a project.  You will need to find the self-discipline to get things done yourself – because you’ll need them in post-college life, too.  You can start building good habits immediately by going to class.  Every class.  Even if you can only manage passively paying attention.

3b. Go. to. office. hours.  This falls right on the heels of the one above and I quickly discovered as a gold mine to academic success in college.  Nearly every professor holds office hours (and posts those in the syllabus).  So if you’re confused about anything, go to office hours.  It’s like getting free tutoring from the person who’s writing your test!  Go to TA office hours, too; they’ve taken this class and know this professor.  And don’t wait until the last minute before a test or project to do it – it could be so crowded you can’t get in, or the office hours may have unexpectedly been canceled due to someone going home early with a cold.

4. Get your money’s worth.  Most students are paying for part if not all of their college expenses.  In addition to going to class because you’re paying for it, take a look at all the other stuff that your school offers for FREE!!!  (Well, not “free”, but that’s covered by tuition and fees so you’re paying for it whether you use it or not.)  Recreation center?  Flu shot?  Career counseling?  Bus pass?  Student legal services?  Off-campus housing services?  Events?  There’s so. much. stuff. and I didn’t take advantage of half of it when I was a student.

5. Don’t neglect your school email address or your literal mailbox.  Yes, I know you don’t care about that email about a scholarship you’re not eligible for and that flier for the concert you’re not interested in, but in between all those emails and fliers are notices your school (and landlords, utilities holders, etc) will send out about important things involving deadlines and fees.  Pay attention so you don’t miss them.  Speaking of which…

6. You’ll mess something up eventually.  Accept responsibility, learn from it, and move on.  Like parking tickets.  Or overdue books.  Or late fees.  Or missed deadlines.  Once when I moved from one apartment to another I forgot to cancel our electricity and didn’t forward the mail and since no one moved into that apartment for four months I was billed for four months of electricity that then was turned over to a collection agency.  Oops.  I paid the bill (which was not fun) and started over.  It sucked, but I chalked it up as a learning opportunity.  (I still wish it hadn’t happened, but it did.  So time to move on.)

7. Ask for help.  Even though most students are 18 so legally considered responsible adults, colleges know that most students are living on their own for the first time and could use some guidance.  And unlike many agencies you’ll encounter out in the real world (DMV, landlords, insurers, creditors, power companies…), part of the official or unofficial job description of staff at universities is to help teach students how to navigate the unfamiliar waters of adulthood – like managing all of these new responsibilities.  So seek people out and ask questions.  Ask them to define terms or outline processes.  If you’re in a sticky situation ask about how you can keep from getting into it again.

8. Never forget long-term goals for the sake of short-term gratification.  College is a blast.  Really.  Go out and enjoy it and have fun.  But stay smart.  It’s very easy for the newfound freedom of college to cause people to push boundaries much further than they should have.  Small failures (and you will have some) can be great learning opportunities; large failures can drastically alter your future – especially if they have legal, health, or financial consequences.  You can absolutely still have fun while staying smart.

9. Be authentic, and stop trying to be what you think other people want you to be.  Okay, so this is actually advice for everyone regardless of age.  I had a bit of a breakdown my freshman year when I thought that even though I was a nerd in high school that no one in college would like me as a nerd.  I was too worried about what others thought of me and less willing to stand up for myself and say, “This is who I am, and I’m okay with it.”  Silly me, I found out that not only do I like being a nerd but that there were plenty of nerds in college that I could be friends with – and am still friends with!  The same thing goes for your faith (thankfully, that’s something I chose to hang onto).  You will meet a lot of different people in college with a lot of different viewpoints.  You can learn something from all of them, but you don’t have to make all of them happy.  You don’t even have to make all of them like you.  Some people won’t like you, and that’s okay because there’s seven billion other people on this planet.  Don’t change who you are in an attempt to fit in.  You will find your niche – maybe not the first week, maybe not the first month, but there are people who will accept you for being you.  Accept nothing less.

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Encouragement

Ironman was in Boulder last weekend.  It was awesome.  I’ve been excited ever since the announcement was made last year that it was coming to Boulder.  I was so excited that I specifically blocked time in my coworker’s calendar so that she could get online to register the hour it opened up.  (And she did.)

On Saturday I got out a roll of butcher paper and started painting signs.  “Go Michele, home field advantage!”  “Just keep swimming (check), biking (check), running!”  “Hey random athlete, I don’t even know you but I am SO PROUD of you!”  I taped them up on the fences along the course.

I was awakened at 4:30 by the sounds of cars circling my neighborhood, trying to find a place to park.  All morning, I kept thinking, They’re out there right now.  While I’m here eating breakfast / reading / cleaning, they’re moving.  Swimming.  Biking.  Starting running soon.  At 1:00 I went to the creek path to start cheering the runners on.

I was surprised how many spectators were out.  I mean, I know the Ironman is a big deal, but it’s also a long course.  Yet there were so many people with signs and cowbells.   If I could see their name on their bib, I tried to encourage each athlete by name.  “Good job, David.  Good job, Kelly.  Good job, Christine.  Good job, John.”  Even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112, many still managed to grunt “Thanks” when I cheered.  I rang my cowbell until my hand got tired, then switched to the other hand, then back again.

The further along in the race, the slower the athletes were moving.  At first everyone was running.  Then jogging.  Then there were some walkers.  Then a lot of walkers.  Then people with tears in their eyes.  Eagle-eyed medics on bicycles were going up to athletes asking the last time they peed.  Cheers changed from high-energy “Woohoo!” to reassuring “You ARE making progress.  Just keep moving forward.  You WILL make it.”  Some stared at us in disbelief, in too much pain and exhaustion to comprehend the sounds coming out of our mouths.

I popped back to my apartment to make more signs.  “Run, walk, crawl, whatever it takes!  You made it this far.  Just don’t give up!”  “What do they call the last person to finish an Ironman?  AN IRONMAN.”  Amidst the cacophony of noise and people and stimuli, many glanced down to read, and smiled.  Some even said, “I love that sign.”

I went downtown to see my coworker run across the finish line, but instead of heading home to bed then I went back to the path.  Now dark and deserted by most of the fans,  the occasional athlete still hobbled along adorned with a headlamp or glow necklace.  I smiled at each one that passed.  “You can do it.  You still have time.  You’re going to go to bed tonight as an Ironman.”  They smiled at that realization, or nodded while choking back tears.

I knew I was excited to cheer at the Ironman – just like I was excited to cheer at the Olympics or at my students’ choir concerts and tennis matches and theatre performances this year.  I’ve always like cheering for people, but I’ve never really known why.

Until I realized that it’s the hope you see on their faces.  Encouragement is a way to show love by giving people hope and support.  There’s something addictive about the look in their eyes when they realize that someone – anyone – supports them.

I realized how many people are looking for support.  Looking for encouragement.  Looking for hope.  Looking for love.  Whether it’s at something formal like a race, or just after a hard day answering calls from angry customers.  And most’ll be happy to take it any way that they can get it – even if it’s from a five-second interaction with a girl sitting in the grass with a sign and a bell.

I sat exhausted and alone under a street lamp waiting full minutes between athletes wanting nothing more than to go to bed.  But I couldn’t go to bed, not yet.  Not when more were still out there.  Not when it was easily within my power to give hope to just a few more people and I’d get to see their faces light up.

The privilege of giving a brief moment of encouragement to someone, really, we have so many opportunities to give that but we often don’t take advantage.  It’s something that costs us nothing.  Just a little bit of time, and a genuine love for others.  It could be as simple as a text message saying, “Was thinking about you today.  You’re pretty awesome.  I’m glad you’re in my life.”

The opportunity to encourage is addicting.  Next year I’ll have to call in sick on Monday so that I can keep cheering all the way through midnight.

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Secretary Tales, issue #12

So.  Last week twenty of us planked until we dropped.  (And another fifteen or so cheered, coached, smack talked, judged, and timed.)

photo 1

That’s me in the front.  I set a new PR of 3:30!

There were nineteen other participants.  The winning time was 8:10, and she only stopped because she knew she was the last one still going.  She also did the Boulder Ironman over the weekend.  Even more impressive: there were THREE competitors that made it to eight minutes or more.  Eight minutes!!!  I have a new target for our next Plank Off in January…

My coworkers are awesome.

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Releasing expectations

“Don’t let your expectations steal your joy. Today my focus will be on the beauty of what is, not on what I think it should be.”

A friend recently posted this on Facebook, and I thought it was incredibly profound and spot on.  Because I have a tendency to focus on what I don’t have rather than what I do, what I wish something were instead of what it is.

I over think things.  A lot.  Which is actually probably why I blog – as a release valve for some of those thoughts.  It’s rare that I can look at or be in a situation and just accept it for what it is without overlaying expectations on it, for better or for worse.  In work, in friendships, in relationships, in running, in travel, in teaching Sunday school…  I always find myself taking things out ten steps down the road instead of focusing on today and now.

I believe that God has a long-term plan, but I think most times he doesn’t choose to reveal it.  It’s an exercise in trust.  Will my dreams be fulfilled?  Will my nightmares come true?  Will I succeed?  Will I fail?  Most often things end up somewhere in the middle.  Today,  it’s just about daily bread.

And I’ve been convicted about releasing all of these worries and anxieties and resting in the Lord.

God, Today I Give You My Expectations.

IMG_20140731_082441And I choose joy.

 

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Secretary Tales, issue #11

(One day I’m no longer going to be able to keep track of what issue I’m on.  That day is probably coming soon as for this issue I just ran out of fingers and had to start using toes to count…)

Conversations that happen around the office: 

K: “Only 1400 more until the drinking fountain counter hits 10,000!”

Me:  “Woohoo!  We’ll have to keep a close watch so we don’t miss it.”

#thingsthatpassasentertainment

* * * * *

J: “What with all the black today?”

Me: “Well, I had a grey skirt on but it’s long and since it’s going to flood tonight it would get soaked when I walk home.  So I just grabbed this one and ended up in all black.”

J: “You have a reason for everything, don’t you.”

Me: “Yeah. It’s a curse.”

* * * * *

E looks stressed.  Me: “Do you need some tea?  I have tea.”

E: “No, I think I need coffee.  Coffee is like a kick in the pants.”

Me: “Yeah, tea is more like a comforting hug.”

* * * * *

O goes into J’s office and the door shuts partway.  Curious, I go peek through the crack.

J: “We’re planking.  You coming?”

Me: “Let me get my towel.”

* * * * *

I walk into the IT office looking for S.  He’s not there, but I do a double-take at the conference table.  “Uh, is that an Atari?”

A: “Yes, but the TV is too smart to play with it.  It doesn’t have an RCA input.  Only HDMI.  So the graphics are even worse and only in black and white.”

Me: “Shame. That would be a fun way to spend lunch.”

A: “Yeah, Y came by the office and saw it and got really excited and asked if it had Frogger.  And then another time D came by and asked if we could play Pong.”

* * * * *

Me: “Here’s a copy of the jack map for your reference.  Unhelpfully, the jacks aren’t the letters labeled on the actual floor plan, but are over on the side under the reference columns.  Why?  I have no idea.”

G: “Because there’s always that one thing that makes you say, really, why?”

Me: “Bingo.”

* * * * *

J walks into my office: “Longmont has palm readers.”

Me: “What? Huh?”

J: “You just put your palm down.  Scan in.”

Me: “Oh, you mean like at the hospital?”

J: “Yeah, it’s pretty cool.”

Me: “What if the reason you’re at the hospital is that you lost your hand in a table saw accident?  Do you need to bring the hand with you?”

J: “Just use the other hand.”

Me: “What if you lost BOTH hands in the table saw accident?”

J: “I think they probably let you walk right past the check in booth at some point.”

Me: “Or what if you’ve never been to the hospital before so they don’t have a scan of your palm?  Do you have to go to a reader and get entered into the system before you can be seen?  (He starts to walk away.)  I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!”

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Secretary Tales, issue #10 – Plank Off Update

So I know I’ve written a fair bit about our work-wide plank off challenge lately.  But seriously guys, this is amazing to see.  Because this randomly issued challenge seems to have brought our workplace together in a way that nothing ever has in the ten years that I’ve worked here.

Even prior to throwing down this gauntlet, this place is night and day different from when I started here – in a good way.  I mean, we weren’t awful when I started.  But we were disorganized and dysfunctional and there was no sense of a team or looking at the good of the overall organization and our customers.  We’ve revised processes, implemented new ones, tightened things up, and I can say without a doubt that we are probably one of the absolute best in the country at what we do.  (Unfortunately there’s no official ranking organization out there to confirm it, but I stand by it.)

Even with all that these amazing folks have accomplished and how hard they have worked, there has still been some discord.  We did a survey of staff a year ago and something that was brought up repeatedly is that people feel cut off from the rest of the departments – like there’s no interdepartmental collaboration and teamwork.

But all that changed on June 30 with the off-hand suggestion of a plank off competition.  The suggestion of a little friendly competition lit a fire under people.  And it’s so much fun.

One department is trying to win by stealth.  They act aloof when we bring up the plank off, like they don’t care – but we know they’re totally practicing in secret and will show up on the day of in force.  Makes it hard to do reconnaissance…

In another department a woman is trying to muster the troops to beat the stealth department and apparently they had a “practice” plank off yesterday – with rumors of a 4:30, 5:00, and 6:00! plank.  We’re uncertain if that 6:00 time is legit or just trash talk to scare us all…

Speaking of trash talk, apparently my department is trying to win that award.  I might have to bring some aloe vera to the competition for all those burns…

With this competitive edge now spreading beyond individual to individual, we’re thinking we’ll need to add a new award for department with the longest average plank – possibly throwing out the high and low times.  (And I’m trying to figure out the logistics of how we’d calculate that…)

At this point, though, I feel like no matter what we’re all going to be winners.  I know that sounds cheesy, but in addition to the health benefits we’re gaining a better work environment.  All from something that will last less than ten minutes over our lunch hour.

On a personal note, that 6:00 plank rumor lit a fire under me, and over lunch today I set a new personal best: a 3:00 plank.

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How Boulder taught me about offensive grace

A few weeks ago, my pastor was talking about a conference he had been asked to speak at. It was a church-planting conference full of eager young pastors who wanted to seek and save the lost. No doubt if you’re a Christian you’ve heard that catch phrase before. It’s a nice one and sounds genuine and compassionate. He said he asked them a question, which he also asked to us at the service: “What level of lost-ness are you comfortable with?”

Because here’s the thing: people are messy. People have been hurt. People have hurt others. People have committed crimes. People have mental health issues. People have physical health issues. People cuss. People might not bathe as often as you would like them to. People might be really overly annoyingly friendly or inappropriate. And people have engaged in those particular sins that we Christians like to think of as being the “worst” sins. And when God says that he loves ALL people and that he sent Jesus for ALL people, he really did mean ALL people.

Many Christians (and churches) will talk about wanting to seek and save the lost, but when we get right down to it we’re only comfortable with people that max out at 6 on the lost-ness scale.  At 7 or 8 we gulp and sweat and our hearts beat faster, and when there’s a 9 or 10 we whip being-in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world out of a Biblical holster as we flee – saying we don’t want ourselves or our children around people like that.  Instead maybe we look on them with pity, saying how sad their sin makes us but never deigning to cross the gap and hear their stories.

I listened to the sermon three times, because I kept being struck by that question: “What level of lost-ness are you comfortable with?”  When I look back at my life I can see how much this question has dogged me for 14 years.

Fourteen years ago, I arrived in Boulder as a young and admittedly-naïve 19-year-old. I had grown up in a sheltered and conservative and Christian environment. Attending Christian schools for all of my upbringing – as a kid and then by my choice; volunteering at church as a Sunday school teacher since age 12; going on three mission trips to Mexico before age 20; being a goody-two-shoes rule follower; and deliberately building a nice, safe Christian bubble around myself.

Don’t get me wrong, those things aren’t necessarily bad. Some of them are even really really good – like I’m so grateful for the opportunity to attend phenomenal Christian schools and go on those missions trips.

It’s just that after years of working to build my very impressive Christian bubble, I was completely unprepared for Boulder.

For those that may be unaware, “The People’s Republic of Boulder” has a reputation. It’s the town of hippies and potheads and liberals and crazy environmentalists and New-Age Yogis and Buddhists and atheists – as well as the natural, organic, outdoorsy, athletic folk. The joke in Colorado is that Colorado Springs is full of the religious freaks, and Boulder is full of the rest of the freaks. In other words, Boulder was unlike anything I had known whereas Colorado Springs might have fit me like a glove.

That was the height of the University of Colorado’s party-school rep as well. While in high school I had surrounded myself with people whose idea of a fun night was movies and board games and crafts, I was now confronted with a college culture where people were drinking, using drugs, engaging in casual and/or experimental sex, and occasionally having a riot burning couches in the middle of the street. Surely there were people in my pre-Boulder days doing things like this, but thanks to my Christian bubble I never even knew they existed. (Likewise, it’s important to point out that there were plenty of students at CU who did not do these things.)

I’m certain that I would have encountered situations like this anywhere that I had gone to college. But I don’t think I would have sat up and paid attention and felt as uncomfortable and be as forced to grow in my faith as dramatically anywhere but Boulder.

One morning as I got off the bus at 7:40 a.m. and was walking across the still-silent campus to class I cracked open my Bible, and a verse jumped out at me.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”  Acts 18:9

I sought out a campus ministry and latched on hard. I sought out a church and latched on hard. To this day some of those people are still my closest friends. And I discovered that it was true that God had many people in this city. They also had some of the strongest faith I have ever known – maybe from living in an environment like Boulder where it’s difficult to be a casual Christian. Even then I worked to never let myself get “polluted by the world” – or polluted by Boulder in this case. My Christian bubble had been shaken by my physical relocation, and now I felt like I was constantly patching leaks.

The longer I lived in Boulder the more I discovered that, like all stereotypes, Boulder’s reputation was mostly just that. A stereotype. Sure there were liberals and hippies and radical environmentalists and potheads – but the vast majority of the people I met were just as vanilla as the people of suburban Denver I had grown up around.

When I went back to Denver or other parts of Colorado and said that I was from Boulder, I could see people’s eyes go a little wider. They would ask what it was like living there.

I think they expected to me to say that you can’t help being stoned all the time because everyone is constantly smoking pot everywhere – when in reality I didn’t even know what pot smelled like until a year after I lived there and someone identified it for me. Or that I had to learn to survive on wheatgrass and kefir because there was nothing else available to eat – when in reality I survived on Subway sandwiches, not because I particularly liked them but because I was a poor college student and a foot long veggie sub was $3.50. Or that you couldn’t drive a car because environmentalists were blocking the streets to protest carbon emissions – when in reality the streets were usually just closed for new construction. Or that I couldn’t sleep at night because the naked hippies and their drum circles kept me awake – when in reality I could sleep fine, except if there was a raucous party down the hall (still a college town after all) and I have yet to see a naked hippie in Boulder though I have seen a guy riding a bicycle wearing nothing but a red thong (still a college town after all, plus it was Halloween).

There were still some oddball people in Boulder, for sure, but they were definitely the exception rather than the norm.

As for the atheism, yeah, there are non-Christians in Boulder. I don’t know how many. I haven’t bothered to stand on the sidewalk with a clipboard and survey people. But I also haven’t been punched when I say I’m a Christian. But there are non-Christians everywhere – even if they aren’t as visible or outspoken as the ones in Boulder. Just because one lives in an environment where Christianity is more of the norm and more ingrained in the culture doesn’t mean that the people living in it are Christians.

I think what was so interesting about Boulder is that people felt authentic. Because Boulder’s reputation for weirdness was so high – and most people didn’t meet those levels – they felt comfortable expressing their own varying levels along the spectrums of weirdness. And they were overall accepting of the weirdness of others. The longer I lived here, the more I enjoyed weird Boulder and its weird people.

Let me pop back up to that question “what level of lost-ness are you comfortable with”. Because before and in my first several years at Boulder, I wouldn’t go higher than probably a 4. Maybe even 3. I’m the girl who in high school boycotted Disney because of their support of gays. I’m the girl who shunned a friend after she gave her testimony about how before choosing to follow Christ she slept around. I was the girl who was shocked that my college even had alcohol mitigation efforts – because if you’re under 21 you shouldn’t be drinking it in the first place and why weren’t they rubbing that law in people’s faces?

I wasn’t quite Hillary Faye, but I was close.

I thought I was better than everyone else.  Well, maybe not everyone, but at least I was wrecking the curve and proud of it. And even though I went to school there and later lived there, you’d never see me associating with the heathens of Boulder or CU. I thought everyone who was “worse than” me was undeserving of grace. Maybe God might extend grace to people once they cleaned up their act and moved from being a 6 to being a 3 or a 4, but they had to come halfway.

And because to me they weren’t worthy of God’s grace, they weren’t worthy of mine – or even my consideration or acknowledgement.

One thing that opened my eyes was attending Flatirons Community Church. I think they do a great job of welcoming anyone and everyone who is interested in finding out more about Christ. Once I was coloring with some kids in Sunday school when they started talking about moms. “My mom’s a teacher.” “My mom’s a nurse.” And then one little girl said, “My mom’s.. in jail,” and her lower lip began to wobble. I’d attended other churches that tried, really honestly tried to be open and welcoming to everyone – but I also knew that in many cases the opportunity for juicy gossip would make a confession like this extremely unlikely.

Another thing that opened my eyes was discovering a weird corner of the internet called Offbeat Bride (later expanded to Empire) where there were photos and stories of people with vibrant tattoos and crazy piercings and colored dresses getting married – even pregnant brides and lesbians! Basically, the kind of people you would probably never see in bridal magazines. The more I observed and read their stories, the more I realized that people were still people no matter what they looked like or where they were from or what their backgrounds or beliefs were.

And God loves EVERY one of them.

So why didn’t I? Why was I drawing arbitrary lines in the sand?

Grace is so offensive that if you aren’t offended by it you probably haven’t encountered the real thing.  -Tullian Tchividjian

A few years ago a friend sent me a link to a sermon from his church about Judas where the pastor posed what if Judas went to heaven? There is a list of disciples in Mark 3:13-19.  Judas is mentioned last and is the only one with his sin spelled out.  But read through this modified version of that same passage from Mark (bolded sections added in):

These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter) – who denied Jesus three times the night before he was executed; James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”) – who were consumed with the place and privilege of power; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot – all of who abandoned Jesus in his time of need; Thomas – who doubted that Jesus actually resurrected; and Judas Iscariot – who betrayed him.

What if it’s more than theology and perspective that make us want to demonize Judas?  What if we like putting Judas (or others like him) at the end of the list with his sin spelled out because we like to believe that we are on the front end of the list with our sin being hidden?

We have no way of knowing where Judas is, of course.  But we do know that Judas followed Jesus for three years and witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles and teachings and that Jesus sent him out with the other 11 disciples with the authority to heal disease and cast out evil spirits… and then Judas capped his life by betraying Jesus. Did that one specific sin exclude him from heaven? The Bible says that one sin does not seal our fate (nor does a thousand sins, while we’re at it).  So was Judas a candidate for grace?

I brought this up once when I was at a Bible study, and I could see people in the room were visibly offended that I even SUGGEST the POSSIBILITY that Judas COULD be in heaven. And it was like looking in a mirror. I saw then how I had been judging everyone whether I knew them or not, based upon their sins or circumstances, and how grace truly offended me.

Because grace covers everything. EVERYTHING. God extends his grace to anyone and everyone who wants it.

I’m not saying that there isn’t sin and that everything is permissible. I’m saying that it’s not my place to judge anyone; that’s been left up to God. What I have been called to do is to love everyone and let them know that God loves them. The most-asked question of Jesus was, “Why are you hanging out with those people?” By associating with them he wasn’t saying that their sin was okay, but he was saying that he loved them now (Romans 5:8 – “while we were STILL sinners”). And I became convinced that I should love them now too. Not wait to bestow love and grace upon them if they one day choose to follow Christ and clean up their act.

I’ve really grown to love Boulder and all of its weirdness. Because the dreadlocked, barefoot woman picking out avocados at the farmer’s market and the old guy in the fedora and roller skates who’s always dancing at Bands on the Bricks and the dude who was wearing nothing but the red thong remind me that God doesn’t draw lines marking some people “in” and some people “out” when it comes to grace. And thank goodness! Because if he did, why did I always think that when he drew a line I would fall on the “in” side? Because I have sinned as well. Sooooo much. No details because it’s not your business, but you can already see some of it in what I’ve admitted to above. Hate. Pride. Arrogance.

When I tell people I’m from Boulder, I still get some wide-eyed looks. Even from people who may only live a few miles away. And now those offend me. Because there are just as many weird and lost people in your city. Probably, like me, you’ve just chosen to not see them.

Loving weird Boulder doesn’t mean I’m out doing street preaching and handing out tracts. (For one thing I don’t think those things have great efficacy in our culture and for another thing I’m still an introvert.) It also doesn’t mean that I’ve embraced Buddism and taken up smoking pot. (Though the Boulder environmentalists have taught me how to be a better steward of God’s creation.) It does mean that I’m more interested in getting to know and build relationships with the people that God brings into my path – which includes a lot of people that I would have run from before.

And the levels of lost-ness that I’m comfortable with have slowly been going up. They’re not great and I still need to work on my extrovert skills, but I’m starting by doing my best to not look down at anyone.

A few months ago a high school student was telling me about Seattle, where her brother goes to college and where she was considering going. She said that per her brother naked old people would gather under a certain bridge to party. Fourteen years ago my first thought would have been shock and horror and “I’m never going to Seattle”! Instead, my first thought was, I’ll bet those are some really interesting people. I’ll bet they’re having a fun time. And I would genuinely be interested in meeting them. 

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