Monday, March 31, 2014

i n N O A H v a t i o n

For the first third of my life, whenever I'd flop in life - like spill a beverage or drop something breakable - I would explain to my parents in defense, "I did it on accident."  And my Dad would laugh and laugh, and then insist, "No, you didn't do it on accident."  And I would argue back, already upset by the mishap, "Yes, I did. Yes, I did.  I did it on accident."  This would throw my Dad into an uproar.  Laughing even harder - near tears - he'd ask, "Now how could possibly do such a thing on accident?"

I didn't understand why my dad would laugh at my misfortune.  But since he was laughing, I knew he wasn't upset by whatever it was I did on accident.  I knew I wasn't in trouble, and that's what was important.  It wasn't until I was in my teens that I understood why such a claim would be so funny.  But to be perfectly honest, I'm still not sure why such a phrase couldn't be used in such a circumstance.  Yet I understand my Dad's point too - that when something is an accident there is no game plan or blueprint for carrying out the action.  People don't pursue or create accidents; accidents just happen.

I mention this because last week I substitute taught for six graders, and during the science portion of the day, we watched a video with Bill Nye the Science Guy on the topic of innovation.  Bill explained that part of the innovation process often involves trying and failing several times before we come up with the thing we are hoping for.  However, Bill also explained, that it's not unheard of to find something else unexpected - and really great - along the way.  He called this innovation by accident, which, of course, made me think of my "I did it on accident" days.

After the video we discussed the significance of innovation (and I added in a mini business lesson on the importance of disruptive innovation within companies, using the evolution of gaming systems as my example, and pointing out that Ataris are no longer profitable.)  As part of the discussion, I asked the students to think of an innovation they appreciate, and then called on students to share their answers.  After a half dozen or so responses, one boy energetically exclaimed, "Me!"  The boy laughed, and so did a few others.

 "Well, I don't think you would fall in the category of innovation." I stated.  "But... " I hesitated, knowing if I was going to say what I wanted to say next, I needed to make sure I kept my statement PC enough for a public school.  "Depending on your religious background, I suppose you could say you're God's innovation." 

I later second guessed what I had told the students.  I knew we were God's creation, but could Adam in the Garden of Eden really be considered an innovation?  I needed to look up the definition. 


: a new idea, device, or method
: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods

In that case, I suppose God did innovate human beings - and when He did, the Scriptures say he designed us in his image.  One of the most obvious differences between animals and humans, is that animals aren't known for their creativity.  Yet, God instilled in humanity the ability to dream and to think up new ideas and create new things.  God thought us up, and entrusted us to keep on thinking and tinkering to add to beauty to this world.

This past Saturday my friend Amy and I went for Mexican and a movie.  We decided to see Noah to see for ourselves what all the controversy around the film was about.  In viewing the movie, we learned that the writers of the screen play had gotten rather innovative in taking the story of Noah found in the Bible, and turning into something completely different. 

My Review of the Movie Noah

1)      Actor Emma Watson’s eyebrows are amazing.  Can someone please help me get mine to look that way?

2)      If you’re hoping the movie Noah will help you understand the story of Noah found in Scripture, it won’t.  It will only confuse you, and make you less likely to think well of the God that I know.   

3)      If you’re a person of faith you might be frustrated by the depiction of the story, or the lack of hope offered.  Keep in mind an atheist produced it.  The intent is to entertain and make money – not to share a message of redemption. 

4)      If you’re looking for a redemption story reflective of the Christian faith – pick up and watch the zombie movie titled Warm Bodies instead, rather than watch this movie.

5)      If you can separate out your faith upbringing to view this movie, then yes, I can recommend it for the Big Screen.  If not (which I wasn’t able), this film might be better saved for Red Box viewing. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

18 X 2 = 36

Ten years ago, for my 26th birthday, I went snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mombasa, Kenya.  Okay, so I didn't go all the way to Africa JUST to celebrate my birthday, but it just so happen my birthday lined up with the debrief/tourist portion of our team trip - after we had spent time in orphanages, schools, and in the bush. 

Mission to the Fatherless orphanage in Kenya

However, for my 33rd birthday I did fly out to Hawaii JUST to celebrate, and the same for my 34th - flying out to California JUST to go sky diving in Santa Barbara.  I wonder now, if in actuality, those two birthday trips stemmed from a subconscious "old maid" crisis stirring within me.  I figure if can't live out the life I truly want (i.e. to marry and have a family), I still better be living up life somehow, someway. 

But I think I'm beyond needing an extravagant birthday hurrah to prove to myself (and to my facebook friends) that I'm perfectly fine living the single life.  As long as a yummy dessert is involved in the day - and either family or friends - I'm perfectly happy.  So this year, for my 36th birthday, I substitute taught at a nearby high school, and then went to dinner in Ann Arbor with my parents and big brother.

But my highlight of the day, was my final hour of the day substitute teaching.  A couple 9th grade boys were bit chatty in the front corner of the classroom, so I went over to them to see what's up, and to hush them up.  And the one told me it was the other guy's birthday.  I asked, "Is it?"  The accused birthday boy replied no, and I informed them it was actually my birthday.  Immediately they insisted, "We have to sing you Happy Birthday then, Miss Blank."  I said, "No, that's okay."  But they persisted, and by then the rest of the class was in on the news, so when the two started singing the rest of the class joined in. 

At the end of the song a girl in the back inquired, "So wait, how old are you?"

I replied, "I'm 18 X 2, if you can do the math."

"You're 26!!!" She exclaimed.

"Not quite."  But thank you, girl in the back of the classroom for thinking so.

18 X 2 = 36

Friday, March 21, 2014

I see...

Today Twitter celebrated its 8th anniversary and founder Jack Dorsey - who I don't know personally, but once stood in the same room as him - tweeted the following:

Jack Dorsey @jack
8 years of seeing and sharing the world around us through tweets!  What are you seeing right now?

After reading the tweet, I glanced up from my laptop and looked out my window to see the same snow-covered woods and ice-covered lake that I've been staring at ever since I returned to Michigan at the end of December.  Our lake house sits up high on a hill, and to my left I can see the nearest three homes - one year-round residence, and two summer cottages.

And mid-front of the first cottage, there is this tree that stands out from the rest.  Unlike the others, this tree has some sort of ivy winding up the first twenty-some feet of its trunk.  And to my amazement, these leaves have stayed intact and green throughout our long winter.

With so many unknowns to my future and my body still fighting to get better, the sight of the green ivy amidst this harsh winter often reminds me, as difficult as this season may be, you will get through it.  And even if I don't - if I never return to full health - it's better to believe that I will than to give up on a maybe.

And so I replied to Jack Dorsey with a tweet, explaining what I could see out my window.

Katrina Blank @katrinablanknyc
@jack i see hope.

My friend Marty (see previous entry) is someone who continued to see and hold onto hope, despite a four year battle with cancer.  At his funeral visitation, I learned that he continued to dream and plan for the future, even at times when the status of his health didn't appear promising.  He completed his doctorate in pharmacy at the University of Toledo just last year.  And in January, he got engaged, and he and his fiancĂ© began to plan for a lifetime together.  Tragically, his life ended prematurely at the age of 31, yet Marty inspired many with how he loved and by his faith in God. 

On my way home from the visitation, I turned on my car radio and scanned through stations, stumbling upon a country station and the perfect song to accompany me as I drove into the setting sun.

By Luke Bryan

When I got the news today
I didn't know what to say
So I just hung up the phone

I took a walk to clear my head,
This is where the walking led
Can't believe you're really gone
Don't feel like going home

So I'm gonna sit right here
On the edge of this pier
Watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer

Funny how the good ones go
Too soon, but the good Lord knows
The reasons why, I guess

Sometimes the greater plan
Is kinda hard to understand
Right now it don't make sense
I can't make it all make sense

So I'm gonna sit right here
On the edge of this pier
Watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer

So long my friend
Until we meet again
I'll remember you
And all the times that we used to...

... sit right here on the edge of this pier
And watch the sunset disappear
And drink a beer

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Other Story

But before driving south to Nashville, I wrote a letter to a distant friend, and slipped it in the outgoing mail.  I composed it and mailed it, not knowing if it would actually reach the intended recipient.  Certainly, I trusted the US postal service to deliver my letter within 3 to 5 days, but I didn't necessarily trust that my friend would receive my words - in time.

Earlier this year, at my Ann Arbor church, one of the pastors spoke on the power of story.  Specifically, he encouraged us to consider the stories of our lives and how they intersect with God's story.   I find that church going people tend to call the good stories testimonies, and the bad ones prayer requests.  In general, it is the good stories that are most shared and celebrated in big church settings.  These are the stories where people find themselves in a tough spot in life, and somehow God works through the icky situation, and the individual shares some sort of happy, redemptive ending. 

We hear these good stories and think, if God worked like that in that person's life, certainly He can do the same in my own.  And so we continue to pray for the bad stories in our lives, trusting that, at some point, there WILL be a turn around.

But mid-way through this particular sermon, I got uneasy.  To help illustrate his point, the speaker played a video clip of a woman at a "rowdy"African American church, telling the story of how God miraculously freed her of a brain tumor.  Shouts of joy, Hallelujah, and Praise the Lord rose up from this woman's congregation.  Truly, it was a good and amazing story of how God healed her body and enabled her to continue on living.

But that Sunday morning - at my church in Ann Arbor - I wasn't encouraged in hearing it.  Instead, I left church thinking about my friend Alicia who passed away this past fall from a brain tumor she had been battling, and wondering how much time my friend Marty had left before he would do the same.  I knew Marty could still be healed, but when I stuck the letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't so sure he would be.  Well, as it turns out, Marty did receive my letter - in time - but today I received the heart wrenching news that Marty has passed on to be with God in His perfect peace and presence.  His fiancĂ©'s plans for a wedding have been replaced by a funeral. :(

While I was at my church in Ann Arbor, hearing the good story testimony of healing, someone at my church in New York, shared the other story - the unhealing in his life.  My lawyer friend Teresa insisted I listened to the podcast (which I did and you can too if you'd like).  The main point of the sermon is that the focus of our faith should be relational - not transactional.  The pastor who spoke (AJ) reminds us, the Christian journey isn't about what you can get God to do for you, but rather it's about God being with you every step of the way.

At the tail end of the talk, AJ invited a member of my NYC church to share his struggle with lyme disease that he and his family picked up when he was a kid.

In his story of unhealing, he shared the following:

We’ve been to healing services, redemption ministries.  We’ve fasted; we've prayed together;  I’ve had people pray over me and tell me I felt the disease leave you; you are no longer sick.  And the next day you wake up and you still have the same pains.   How do we reconcile it?  Now here’s the thing I’ve had to wrestle through all of this. God doesn’t promise us health, he doesn’t promise us a spouse, money,  a job, he doesn’t even promise friends.  He only promises us one thing, and if you read your Bible you will find this is true:  that he will never leave us and he’ll never forsake us; that even in the midst of our darkest times he will be there with us.  That’s the promise that we have.  So as I’ve cried out to God, I’ve sobbed to God, I’ve  beat my pillow and I’ve even cursed God he’s made one thing abundantly clear to me:  that is, never value a sign or promise more than your relationship with me.   (*Transcribed by Teresa) 

This man has decided to continue to choose God, even though God hasn't chosen to heal him.  I'm confident that both Marty and Alicia did the same in their final days here on earth. 

But I'm beginning to think, these are the types of stories we need more of in our church sermons and gatherings - stories of trusting God through storms, even when there is no glorious outcome.

* To hear the entire podcast of living a relational faith, the sermon is posted here: and is titled
THAT YOU MAY HAVE LIFE | 02 (AJ Sherrill » 12 January 2014)

Also, if you like the sermon, AJ just released a book called  Quiet: Hearing God Amidst The Noise

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Yesterday I ate breakfast in Nashville, lunch in Louisville, and dinner in Upland, Indiana at Ivanhoes ice cream place, just down the street from Taylor University.  And yes, I ate ice cream for dinner, unaccompanied by any real food.  (I suspect author Brennan Manning would have approved.)

But the night before - Friday night - I joined five other friends in Nashville, for Thai at a place called Koi.  And over dinner I explained to my Nashville friends that Christian Mingle is what prompted me to visit their city twice within the past six months.

I'd like to say there is a guy involved (although, I'm sure there is one responsible); however, my trips to Nashville stemmed from theological discontent, not romance.  For several years now, Christian Mingle's tagline theme verse has irked me greatly.  It gets under my skin that Christian Mingle misuses Scripture by insisting, IF you delight in the Lord, THEN he will grant you the spouse of your dreams.  Psalm 37:4 is not a verse that should be applied to dating or, for those who are already married, the ability to get pregnant.

To do so implies singleness and infertility are the result of an individual's inability to delight in the Lord correctly.  Christian Mingle's advertising is saying men and women who desire to marry, but haven't yet met someone, are single because they are bad Christians.  As Eric Metaxas recently pointed out, in 1970, 84% of 30 to 44 year old citizens born in the US were married.  Today, less than 60% of 30 to 44 years old born in the US are in a marriage relationship.  Singleness is part of the cultural fall out of the world in which we live today - not something that God withholds from single people until they can "get right" with him.

So, last summer, after Christian Mingle's most recent commercials showed up in my Facebook newsfeed, I decided I'd like to submit a theological complaint.  So I went to Christian Mingle's website, hoping to find a customer service e-mail address, but instead, I stumbled upon Christian Mingle's 2012 advisory board, composed of five men and one woman. 

I wasn't at all surprised by the gender imbalance, but I was curious, who was this woman, and how in the world did she make the cut to serve on this advisory board?  After reading Jenni Catron's bio, I stalked her twitter feed to see what else I could learn about this woman from Nashville.  In doing so, I noticed a tweet,  mentioning she had 2 spots left for a women's coaching group, and that applications were due the next day by midnight. 

Curious, I explored the leadership program on Jenni's website.  Rather quickly I decided to forego my Christian Mingle complaint, and started working on my application to participate in Jenni Catron's coaching group.

And so, that's the story of how Christian Mingle brought me to Nashville.