About Loren Paulsson

Loren loves to explore stories...and wonder...and the culture people create while doing things. He grew up in Washington state, studied journalism and religion in college, and now work as a manufacturing process technician. Loren met his wife, Tina, at VOICE 2013, and they live in East Wenatchee, Wash. They enjoy walking, reading, an occasional museum, and cultural events (especially musical theater). Someday, they want to visit Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China to see all the friends they're honored to know.

A Lesson in Mourning

“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. 
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. 
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. 
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. 
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.”
—Ecclesiastes 7:1-6


I imagine many of us are thinking something like this: “Okay, yes, a good reputation is valuable. I need to make sure I keep a clear conscience.” Some of us might even get all spiritual and think: “Wow, yeah, and since we are God’s people, we need to make sure we care about God’s reputation.”

But what’s this? The day of death is better than the day of birth? Yikes!

I’ve heard people teach on Ecclesiastes almost dismissively, kind of skipping ahead to the end where it says, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

Okay, what a relief, we can go on “fearing God” and doing the right thing. Good character, God’s plan for success in life.

But wait! “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”

The Bible is dripping blood and tears, echoing with the pain of human existence—Jeremiah, Lamentations, Psalms, Job.

In Romans 12, as part of his unpacking what it means to love, the Apostle Paul tells his readers, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Weep. Not encourage, not minister to, not instruct. Weep…with.

For those of you already reaching for your journal or making a mental note to “remember to weep with others,” please don’t.

It’s the difference between contemplating a cloud and being struck by lightning. You weep with someone when your heart is broken too. Maybe not in the same way, maybe not to the same extent, but broken.

And in those moments, when you don’t know, when you really can’t move, when “trusting God” seems like a cruel joke, in those moments, there is a kind of insight.

There is an earthiness, an embodiedness, to suffering. In Romans 8, Paul wrote, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”

It cries out for meaning beyond pallid spiritual platitudes, beyond success formulas based on “biblical principles.” It cries out for redemption.

God does not call us to be good or be happy or eat healthy or succeed. He calls us and our suffering to Himself.


The Bible tells the stories of prophets thrown down wells, of babies put to the sword, of Jesus bloodied, tortured, crucified—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, our grief.

The Bible tells us we are loved.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” —Matthew 5:4

An Uncourtship Story

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.” —Psalm 32:7 (KJV)


I searched the Bible for character qualities my future wife should have…and some I should have.

I made commitments to “courtship” when I was 12. I had crushes, accompanied by prayer and journaling. I read blog posts about “being the right one” rather than “finding the right one.” I looked for more character qualities I should have.

If I did what was right, I wouldn’t hurt others or be hurt myself, right?

Then I tried to “court” someone.

That’s when I discovered well-intentioned people treat one another shabbily, even when—maybe especially when—they’re trying to do everything right.

Along the way, I heard lots of advice. There were admonitions to be “serious” about relationships. But being “serious” didn’t guarantee I wasn’t also selfish.

There were admonitions to “pursue” relationship, that relationships take work. This idea pointed out where I focus on myself rather than another person. But my initiative and effort did not guarantee relationship success.

The shame became the hardest part.

While my friends were getting married and then having kids, I wondered why my relationships would last a while…and not work out.

In the two and a half years before I met my wife, Tina, at VOICE 2013, two 8-month relationships came and went—one mostly on Skype that couldn’t survive meeting in person, one relationship I ended for reasons I still struggle to articulate.

Even my good desires were all mixed up with something else. I’d think myself in the right…and realize how self-righteous that thought meant I was. I would decide my life direction didn’t match someone else’s…and then I would realize how much fear was influencing my decisions.

So when I met Tina, I didn’t experience it as answered prayer. I hadn’t thought to pray…although the guys on my team at VOICE did.

I didn’t “love Jesus more,” or receive a “rhema,” or get myself to a place where I had “no will of my own,” though those sound like good things.

Knowing Tina has been more like a sudden rain than like turning on a faucet, more like being forgiven than like “clearing my conscience,” more like grace than anything else.

Now that we’re married we need each other’s forgiveness even more. And the other’s forgiveness makes God’s promised forgiveness feel more real.

Maybe that’s the point.

Maybe grace is not “the desire and power to do what is right” but the work we discover God was doing all along. Maybe what we’re meant to know isn’t “how to live the Christian life” but to behold our Savior.

Failure to Love

Anita, Tina, and Loren Paulsson at Rainbow Falls.

I sat on the floor crying.

Earlier that day we met my parents and sister and boarded The Lady of the Lake for the four-and-a-half hour cruise up Lake Chelan to the Stehekin, Wash.

It was a beautiful day. And I thought briefly about the opportunity this was to spend time with family.

Then I got all wrapped up in photographing the lake and the mountains.

We had an hour and a half in Stehekin before heading down lake again, and I determined to get a picture of Rainbow Falls. My wife, Tina, persuaded me to stay at the foot of the falls where Mom and Dad were headed. But not to be entirely thwarted, I climbed down to make a picture of the stream.

It wasn’t until we were back on the bus that I realized I’d lost my wedding ring.

Then just before parting ways at the home pier, we had a fellow passenger take our family picture using my phone.

Mom wanted a picture on her camera too. But somehow I ignored her.

As we headed home, it hit me. I remembered the last time we took that cruise, 27ish years ago, with extended family, and grandpa and grandma who are no longer with us. I might have other opportunities to love my wife, my parents, my sister, but the opportunities of that day were gone.

Sitting on the floor at home, I felt helpless to fix it. My efforts in the present or what I planned to do in the future could not recover what was lost that day.

For a Christian, called specifically in the Bible to love God and love others, these missed opportunities are not unfortunate misses along the road to a nice life but failures of my heart to take shape. I wanted to punish myself and hide like Adam and Eve did, even from God.

But this is also when the promise of “beauty for ashes” means the most. This is when God comes and finds us. This is when the sin-destroying love and mercy of God in Christ yanks us from the shadows and exposes the sinfulness even of our efforts to improve. And when all else is burned away, the promises of God remain.

How Not to Watch Movies

Since getting married four months ago, I’ve watched “13 going on 30,” three seasons of the show “Scandal,” and a number of other things I would never have experienced otherwise.

But the most humbling part has been realizing how narrow my perspective often is.

What does this say?
I find myself avoiding things I don’t immediately understand instead of asking, “What does this say?” I tell myself I’m asking other questions, such as whether a movie is edifying or whether it has cultural value, but I often define “edifying” and “valuable” by what resonates with me.

What’s wrong…and right…with this picture?
Sometimes I avoid “liking” things because I don’t want to admit that I’m just as messed up as that song on the radio or character in a story is. I like to pretend that if I don’t watch that movie or listen to that music then I won’t fall into this or that sin. The truth is I’m drawn into sin because sin has already taken some form in my heart.

There have been moments I’ve identified with something and then realized, “Yikes! I like that because the selfishness…or whatever…it expresses already lives in my heart.”

Who is this person?
Asking what’s right about something might be even more unsettling than asking what’s wrong because it forces me to confront blind spots. What ideas are underneath the story? How do the characters in this story see themselves? How does that challenge the way I see things?

The Christian narrative teaches me to look for the image of God in others, though it be marred, and that means allowing others to challenge how I see things, even if they’re partly wrong too.

How are we called to respond?
If art is people saying things, and people are made in the image of God, and we are all sinners, then we have a theological basis for listening to what others are saying in and about movies.

We’re not called to like everything everyone else likes. We’re called to love our neighbors, which means giving a lot less thought to the question of liking things and a lot more thought to what others are saying.

What’s dangerous is to imagine we already know.

Beginnings and First Things

see the frost

It’s that time again, when I finish reading Genesis…and hope my resolution holds to read the whole Bible by next January.

When Moses assembled the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, he was leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. The people had been slaves. They needed a history and the sense of identity that comes with it.

Genesis appears to be a chronological collection of stories, some of them kind of strange. But we can detect a direction and subtle changes in tone and perspective.

A lot of those changes occur wherever we see the phrase “these are the generations of…” (KJV). The first chapter describes the creation of the world, and provides a cosmology for the rest of the book. Chapter 2 describes creation in human terms.

Then we hear about Cain and Abel and Noah. It feels very matter of fact. God is talking to people, and we even occasionally know what God is thinking, but we feel a distance from the action.

Then the book focuses on God’s increasingly intimate relationship with Abram. We see God making promises and changing Abram’s name. We see Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah.

There’s controversy in Genesis too—whether we’re discussing how long the “days” of creation were or questioning Judah’s attitude toward women. We read about the messiness of Abraham’s family.

see the moon

Then we come to the story of Joseph. God only speaks once in the last chapters and only to Jacob. But Joseph avoids Mrs. Potiphar’s advances and upholds sexual purity because of who God is. He tells Pharaoh it is God who gives the interpretation of dreams. When his brothers come to Egypt, he forgives them for selling him into slavery, because “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, KJV).

Somehow Joseph saw things differently than I probably would have, and maybe that’s what ties it all together. Genesis records the beginning of God’s revelation of Himself.

It teaches us to see the hand of God, despite the sinfulness of humans. So that just as Abraham believed God and it was “counted to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6,KJV) we too may begin to see with the eyes of faith.

Genesis teaches us to see the world and ourselves in the context of who God is.

Beginnings and First Things

see the frost

It’s that time again, when I finish reading Genesis…and hope my resolution holds to read the whole Bible by next January.

When Moses assembled the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, he was leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. The people had been slaves. They needed a history and the sense of identity that comes with it.

Genesis appears to be a chronological collection of stories, some of them kind of strange. But we can detect a direction and subtle changes in tone and perspective.

A lot of those changes occur wherever we see the phrase “these are the generations of…” (KJV). The first chapter describes the creation of the world, and provides a cosmology for the rest of the book. Chapter 2 describes creation in human terms.

Then we hear about Cain and Abel and Noah. It feels very matter of fact. God is talking to people, and we even occasionally know what God is thinking, but we feel a distance from the action.

Then the book focuses on God’s increasingly intimate relationship with Abram. We see God making promises and changing Abram’s name. We see Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah.

There’s controversy in Genesis too—whether we’re discussing how long the “days” of creation were or questioning Judah’s attitude toward women. We read about the messiness of Abraham’s family.

see the moon

Then we come to the story of Joseph. God only speaks once in the last chapters and only to Jacob. But Joseph avoids Mrs. Potiphar’s advances and upholds sexual purity because of who God is. He tells Pharaoh it is God who gives the interpretation of dreams. When his brothers come to Egypt, he forgives them for selling him into slavery, because “God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20, KJV).

Somehow Joseph saw things differently than I probably would have, and maybe that’s what ties it all together. Genesis records the beginning of God’s revelation of Himself.

It teaches us to see the hand of God, despite the sinfulness of humans. So that just as Abraham believed God and it was “counted to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6,KJV) we too may begin to see with the eyes of faith.

Genesis teaches us to see the world and ourselves in the context of who God is.