Thursday, January 31, 2013

Feminism and the Stay-at-Home-Mom*: A Linkup

Edit:  if you are looking for the linkup on Thursday just after midnight, it might not be there yet.  I was delayed.  It'll definitely be up in the morning, though.

A couple of weekends ago, I was in a conversation on Twitter in which Rachel said she sometimes doesn't feel feminist enough.  I said I felt similarly since I consider myself a feminist but I also am in a very traditional role:  stay-at-home mom.  Suzannah, From Two to One, Caris, and Rachel all jumped in.  I think the topic is ripe for discussion.

So, for this link up (which I'm figuring out how to do!), please try to answer the following:
  • What is your understanding of feminism?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?  Why?
  • Do you feel feminism is compatible with traditional female roles?
  • Do you feel at odds with feminism in any way, and why?
  • How does feminism relate to your faith?
  • Any other questions that come up that I haven't thought about.  If you think there are other questions people should think about, just put them in the comments, and then I'll add them in to this post.
I'll post my entry next Thursday (February 7, 2013) and then you can come and link up your posts that day or any day after that.  I'll schedule it to post around midnight in case any of you like to stay up late writing.

*Please note you do NOT have to be a stay-at-home-mom to participate!  Anyone can participate in order to write about their experiences being feminist and traditional.

When Bible Study Isn't Bible Study

I first started attending Bible Study when I was 19 and joined a singles group at the church I'd just begun attending.  We were using the Serendipity Bible, a Bible created with study guides built into it.  They start with "ice breaker" questions, then have some questions about the text itself, and then have some application questions.  For a long time, we studied the Bible on a beginner-type level.

But I've also been involved in "small groups" that are called "Bible Study", but instead of studying the Bible, we read books.  There really isn't anything wrong with reading and discussing books; I love to read.  I just find myself wondering why people called it "Bible Study" when the Bible is not read nor studied.  Or, if the Bible is read, people just jump to "application" and do not really discuss the text.

At the same time, most Christians would probably agree that the Bible is pretty important.  And yet, we often have high Biblical illiteracy, even if people think they know their Bible.  They may have memorized some verses, heard sermons, or even read through the entire Bible in three months.  But reading it and studying it are two very different things.

I feel very fortunate to have minored in Religious Studies in college and to have taken mostly Bible-related classes for that minor, as well as Bible-related classes in my major (English).  I loved being able to really get into the text in large chunks and not just a verse here and there, loved learning historical and cultural background, and loved coming to understanding of what the Bible is.

I feel like often, we just assume most Christians will get bored with this type of study, because it doesn't always bring out the "application" that we think we all need.  Don't get me wrong; application is important, however, I feel as if we try so hard to make everything in the Bible automatically apply to our own personal lives that we actually miss out on what is in the Bible.

Of course, it is possible to spend so much time learning about it that we forget to think about how it does apply to us.  But if we do not understand it, if we think it is so simple, if we do not put any effort into learning about it, can we really apply it to our lives?

What if we apply it, and apply it wrongly, because we don't understand it?

Do we sell ourselves short?  Do we assume that we can't get into background and context because people do not want to learn, or can't understand it?  Do we avoid it because we think people will be bored?  Why? If we think people will be bored when they learn about the Bible, then don't we have a huge problem?  For a book that is so important to our faith, shouldn't we make an effort to understand it?  How can we say it is important yet not understand it?

Those are a lot of questions, and I am curious to hear your answers.  What have been your experiences with "Bible Study"?  Do you think churches should offer more in the way of opportunities for people to really study the Bible and not just application classes?  How would this be done?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: Introverts

To go along with my review of Susan Cain's Quiet, I want to feature some other sources for introverts.  The first is Introverts in the Church, by Adam S. McHugh.  I have to admit, I haven't read this book, yet, but it is on its way to me.  I have read a lot on his blog, Introverted Church, and just last night he announced on Twitter that he'd be blogging again!  The blog consists of many of his own posts, but also many guest posts by other introverts describing their experiences in church.  One of  my favorites was Aubry Smith's guest post describing an "Introvert Fantasy Camp".

Edited to add another great article:  The Quiet Pastor:  Affirming Different Personalities in Ministry

Are you introverted?  What resources have you found that have encouraged you to accept your introversion and use it positively in your daily life?

Do you think Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert?

Book Review: Quiet, by Susan Cain

Update:  please see the end of this post for a Q&A with the author provided by WaterBrook Multnomah, as well as a link to a reading group guide. 

I received a copy of Quiet by Susan Cain for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, as part of their "Blogging for Books" program.  

It was hard to read this entire book, because I wanted to give it a 5 star review after only reading the introduction.  It was that good, and both introverts and extroverts would benefit from reading it.  

I've known for a long time that I am an introvert, but I also felt as though there was something "wrong" about it.  This book educated me on various studies regarding introversion and extroversion, and convinced me that introversion is not only how I was made, but made me feel good about being made this way.  Being introverted is not something that anyone needs to apologize for.

In Quiet, Cain writes about various studies conducted by psychologists along with examples of real-life people in order to understand introversion in our culture.  People range from Asian college students who have difficulty with the American bias toward extroversion to Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to Ghandi.  She explores introversion in academia, the church, and businesses.  She also gives some tips for parents who are raising introverted children.  

I don't think enough good things could be said about this book.  It should be a must-read for any introvert who wants to know themselves a bit better as well as any employer/manager who cares about his or her employees and wants to see them thrive.  

I'll leave you with a couple of quotations from the book:

"Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man's world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are." (Introduction, page 4)

"Without introverts, the world would be devoid of:

  • the theory of gravity
  • the theory of relativity
  • Yeats's 'The Second Coming'
  • Chopin's nocturnes
  • Proust's In Search of Lost Time
  • Peter Pan
  • Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • Charlie Brown
  • Schindler's List, E.T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Google
  • Harry Potter   (introduction, page 5)

Perhaps, with this book, we can all understand each other a little better, and work better together to accomplish our purposes in this world.  

Q&A with Susan Cain, provided by Waterbrook Multnomah

What would be your advice for living with a spouse who is an introvert? Particularly ways to solve disputes when only one side is willing to do any talking!

This is such an important question (and I address it at length in the chapter in QUIET on introvert-extrovert relationships). Introverts and extroverts are often attracted to each other as marriage partners (for good reason), but they have dramatically different approaches to conflict. Extroverts are what psychologists call “confrontive copers,” while introverts tend to seek to defuse conflict. The problem is that the more extroverts confront their introverted partners, the more aggressed the introverts feel – and the more they withdraw, leaving their extroverted partners feeling shut out in the cold. On the other hand, the more that introverts try to defuse conflict with quiet talk, the more vehement their extroverted partners grow in response – causing introverts to feel insulted or attacked.

The only way out of this impasse is for each partner to truly understand where the other is coming from, and to borrow the other’s coping style. For an extrovert, this means airing grievances as quietly, mildly, and respectfully as you can. And for introverts, this means engaging head on with problems, even when this feels threatening and unpleasant. Good luck, it’s worth it!

How do you classify someone who prefers their own company and activities they can do by themselves, but has forced themselves to act in a more extroverted way? I enjoy being alone and love reading and creative writing. However, in order to promote and build my dental practice, I have made myself participate in community activities, and in order to be a more active part of my childrens' lives I am part of a group of parents that work and play together. I even enjoy these activities, all the while thinking that I'd rather be home alone with my husband and kids, curled up by a toasty fire with a good book or sharing a movie with them. Have I remade myself into an extrovert or just putting on an act?

It sounds like you’re an introvert who’s gotten really good at acting like a pseduo-extrovert – and nothing wrong with that, if it serves goals that matter to you (your dental practice, your kids’ social life.) Just make sure to get the quiet time you need – and that your family probably needs, too.

What do extraverts need to understand most about introverts?

When they don’t engage animatedly with you, this doesn’t mean that they don’t like or love you! They just need to recharge their batteries frequently, and might be less demonstrative than you are. Look for signs of quiet passion!

As an extrovert married to an introvert, how can I make his social experiences more satisfying and less stressful?

What a great and caring question. Well, for one thing, make sure there aren’t too many of them. No introvert enjoys going out night after night…but they might really enjoy the right social events in measured doses. The best experiences tend to be with close friends, or based on events that are of intrinsic interest – eg a movie, a concert, etc.

How do you see introverts having any type of an impact on our predominately extrovert society?

They already do! Many of our finest leaders and artists have been introverts. It’s usually a matter of making your own natural strengths work for you (for example, the Campbell Soup CEO Doug Conant was famous for writing 30,000 personal notes of thanks to high-performing employees) while gaining the skills you need to fake extroversion when you need to.

Also, social media is an introvert’s friend – it’s a way of connecting with tens, hundreds, thousands of people from the comfort of your own home or office.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Football Fan Faith

At least twice that I can remember, and possibly more, I have heard the example used that we should get as excited about our faith and sharing our faith as we do when we watch a sporting event.  I mean, after all, isn't what Jesus did for us more exciting than a sporting event?

Here's the problem with that analogy:  it only makes sense to sports fans.

I am somewhat of a sports fan.  I attend, watch, or listen to 10-12 football games each fall of a college team to which I am connected (But if you ask me to pick professional teams, I will.  For the NFL it's the New England Patriots and for MLB it is the Boston Red Sox).  I rarely, if ever, watch any games on television (except the Super Bowl).  I would much rather read or spend time chatting with friends online.  In fact, I rarely watch any television at all anymore.

And I don't get so excited to jump up and down about my faith.

I wonder why athletics are used in this example so often.  Is it because we live in a culture that idolizes sports and athletes?  Probably.  Is it because I usually hear this example from men, and they are the ones who play football?  Maybe.

So what is a good example for those of us who do not relate to this idea?  What about those of us who like to dream about, contemplate, and quietly share what our faith in Jesus means?

Maybe, for some, it is more like watching a ballet performance.  It would be out of place to jump up and down and scream when the ballerina does something extraordinary.  Instead, a person watches in awe, amazed at what she can do, and how easy and effortless she makes it look.

This experience isn't any less real and valuable than the person who gets excited at a sporting event.  It's just different.  We are all created in our own unique ways with our own personalities, interests, abilities, and everything else that makes up who we are.  Some people are drawn more to a liturgical style of church, some to a "contemporary" style of church, some to a small-group style of church, and we can't all be expected to fit into one style.

The same is true for sharing our faith.  

I used to feel somewhat guilty that I didn't get as excited about it as I would at a game, but I don't feel that way anymore.  It's not me.  And that is ok!  God didn't create me to be that way, and I trust that God knows what He is doing.

So if you are someone who likes to exuberantly share your faith the way you would cheer at a football game, great!  If you are someone who likes to quietly share your faith the way you would appreciate a ballet performance, great!  You are sharing what is important to you (but don't be a jerk about it, okay?).  There's no one right way to share faith, because faith is personal to each one of us.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Church Membership: Part of the Body

A while ago, I told you how we had decided on a church.  We've made another step in the process and decided to become members of this church and have our children (ages 5 1/2 and 2 1/2) baptized (I haven't written about baptism yet; we'll save that for another day).  

Church membership is something that I've done a couple of times in the past at other churches, and also something that I have chosen not to do as well.  To be honest, I can't remember my past reasons for choosing membership, but I do know my reason for not choosing membership at one church.  They didn't allow women in leadership positions (as elders; they could do things like teach Sunday school, and I did).  I couldn't in good conscience join a church that said, through actions if not in words, that women were not equal to men and were not capable of leading.

A friend of mine was considering joining this church; she said she wanted to be able to help with decision-making through being able to vote on church issues.  Another member told her that she was wrong for wanting to do that and that there were other reasons one should join a church, but voting should not be one.  He then gave her part of a sermon by John Piper about membership.  The sermon infuriated me.  It was very manipulative and controlling, and the best (and only good) point was left to the end.  There were five reasons to join a church:
  • The church is to discipline its members
  • Excommunication exists
  • Christians Required to Submit to Their Leaders
  • Shepherds Required to Care for Their Flock
  • The Metaphor of the Body
The last one, "The Metaphor of the Body", was the only one I found to really be a good reason for joining a local church:
"Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear. That’s the imagery behind the word member in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? There is a unity and organic relationship implied in the imagery of the body. There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body."
This is part of the reason I've decided to join a local church.  In my experiences there the last five or six months, I have found it to be a body of which I want to fully be a part.  In this church, women are welcome to be a fully-functioning member of the body, and though there is still progress to be made in this area, I see that it is being made, and I am excited to be a part of it.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: Vocation

For today's edition of "Worth Reading Wednesday", I want to highlight a few posts on vocation by Caris Adel. Vocation is a topic I love, and I really liked the posts that she wrote.  This is a month-long, Monday, Wednesday, Friday series on her blog, so go there and check out the others! (I only highlighted three of them here).

Identity and Vocation, Defined
"What is identity?  What’s vocation?  Why are they important?  When you do figure out a definition, how does it affect your life? "

How Does Vocation Impact Our Places of Work?
If you have Christian music playing, and have verses scattered all over, but your main attraction is something that keeps people enslaved and oppressed, then what’s the point?  What are those verses up there for anyway? Shouldn’t Christians be informed and leading the way on Isaiah 58 issues? 

Being an Image of God

Which makes me think, what qualities does God have?
Love.  Peace.  Justice.  Mercy.  Grace.  Joy.  Patience.  Etc.
I envision this idea of bearing an image something like being a mirror.  Whenever we exhibit traits like these, we reflect God.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kingdom of God Video Game

What would a video game based on the Kingdom of God look like?

I do not play video games.  I never really have.  Not only do I not find them very interesting, but I cannot press all the right buttons on the controller at the right time in order to move or jump or spin or whatever is needed.  I have never accepted an invitation on Facebook to play any game (I do play Words with Friends on my phone, though).  One day, though, when I saw that a friend had posted something on the Facebook page for an Android/iPhone/iPad game called "Rule the Kingdom", I started to think about a couple of things.  First, I wondered what it was all about; I assumed the goal is to end up in control of the Kingdom by advancing through a series of levels.  Then, I started to wonder what a video game based on the Kingdom of God would look like and how it would be played.

"Rule the Kingdom" is billed as "An unprecedented blend of RPG action, city-building, farming and storytelling!" and a couple of the goals of the game are:
  • Defeat legendary enemies with your loyal squad of hearty warriors.
  • Shatter your foes with deadly spells; train your warriors to defeat the most dangerous monsters!
  • Direct your subjects to gather various resources; become the most powerful kingdom in the empire.
I couldn't find out much more from that webpage but I am guessing that in order to advance, one must earn points or something and then finally one can earn one's way to the very top and be the most powerful person in the most powerful kingdom.  I mean, that is generally how we think in our society, isn't it?  

But the Kingdom of God video game would look a lot different.  

First, none of the players can actually become the King, because there already is one.

Things the King does:
  • Be born in a stable to a mom who first was an unwed pregnant teen
  • Be seen with partying with people who are the lowest of the low
  • Have your family think you are mentally ill
  • Let a woman study from you like the men do
  • Die and be considered a failure
Things the King's followers do, even though none of these things actually gets you any points or earns you anything:
  • Leave everything to follow the King
  • Be confused about what the King is teaching you
  • Go out into the country with a friend to spread the news of the King and take nothing with you
  • Give away all your possessions
  • Aim to be last, not first
  • Love your enemies
  • Be persecuted
  • Pray for those who persecute you
  • Die to yourself
Through all of these things, you will see glimpses of the Kingdom, but it won't be fully realized while you are playing the game.  Oh, and you only get one life in which to play it (but it's an abundant one).

It's not the type of video game that would sell very well, is it?  Is it no wonder that we tend to downplay this way of Kingdom Life when we tell people about Jesus?  We talk about how great Jesus is and how we get to go to heaven when we die, but we skip over the hard parts.  It's not a good sell.  

And sometimes, we don't even really think about these things for ourselves.  We only think about the good parts, the parts that are like the fun kingdom video games where the hero always wins, and we get to be the hero.  

How often do we think about what the Kingdom is really like?  Or do we think of it more like this video game, where the good guys dominate and overpower the bad guys, and ultimately gain control?  

What are ways that we can stop thinking in these types of terms and instead start realizing what the Kingdom really is about?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Christian Hypocrisy & Justice

Who hasn't heard Christians called hypocrites?  It's easy to point fingers when we see the headlines that show a famous Christian has really screwed up.  It's easy to say "I can't believe he/she did that.  I would never do that."

But you know what?  Even if we never do what we see others do, we're all still hypocrites.  When it comes down to it, if something benefits us, then "it's ok", we think.

Here's a case in point.

I have a friend who often posts about injustices in China and wants to make sure she buys as much "made in the USA" as possible.  I think that's great, and I think maybe I should pay attention to that too.  And then I go track the delivery of my new computer, and it starts out in China.  Hmm.  Didn't think about that when I was researching what to get.

Or I read about the importance of buying fair-trade coffee and I think, hey, I love coffee and buy a lot of it.  I should make sure to buy fair trade.  And then I see a bunch of fun flavors at Christmastime and buy them without first checking to see if they are fair trade.

Or, as my friend Megan points out, being pro-life isn't necessarily being pro-life.
"I wonder how the committed Christians, so deeply morally opposed to the slaughter of unborn children, feel about the slaughter of innocent Afghanis and Iranians caught in the crossfire of war."
 As I've thought about these topics the last couple of days, this well-known verse has come to mind:
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"  --Matthew 7:3
It is easy to be opinionated and passionate about ideas or positions on topics and to think it is all black and white when it is more abstract. But when it is something that we are faced with personally, we tend to change our tune.  Then we see the shades of gray that weren't so visible before.  Then we start to realize maybe there's a lot more going on.  If we want to benefit from something, we will have a more relaxed attitude towards it.

I benefited from flavored coffee and a new computer, so I didn't think about how those things affected people I don't know--but I bet they did.  I didn't notice that log in my eye, even as I nod my head and agree with the writings on justice that I've recently read.

There is often a disconnect between what we believe and how we act, for a variety of reasons.  In addition to how something benefits (or doesn't benefit) us, sometimes, we have not given much thought to an issue.  Or we've only thought about it from one perspective and haven't looked at all the different angles.  Or we haven't been educated about it at all.

It's important to realize that we are all hypocrites--because we are always learning and growing in faith and discipleship.  Nobody's got it all together; nobody's got it all figured out.  We must always be aware of that and we must always realize that for everything we see in someone else, there's at least that if not more going on inside of us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday: Christian Education

Today's "Worth Reading Wednesday" will focus on the topic of Christian Education.  I came across these two articles this week:

Why Churches Should Be Starting More Schools by Shane Raynor
"Nowadays we hear a lot about church planting. New churches are exciting, and they’re certainly needed. The more the merrier! But we also need more congregations that are interested in planting and subsidizing schools, especially in areas where the public schools are failing. It’s not fair to lower income kids to make them wait for their schools to be fixed, and we can’t afford to wait for politicians to see the light on school choice. Christians can act now and take the lead on fixing the education problems in this country. And we can do it by starting new schools."

which was a response to Adam Hamilton's Put God Back in Public Schools?
"In America our public schools are intended to be religiously neutral.  Our teachers and schools are neither to endorse nor to inhibit religion.  I believe this is a very good thing.  When my kids were growing up I wanted their teachers to teach them science, reading, math, and history.  I also wanted them to care about my kids.  But I did not want my children’s public school teachers teaching them religion.  That was my job as a parent, and the job of our church, Sunday school, and youth group."

I think each article brings up some great points.  As someone who grew up going to public school but sends her children to Christian school, it's a topic I like to think about.  I like that my son goes to school and hears about Jesus there.  Frankly, I find that I have a difficult time explaining things to children and I am glad there are people who are gifted to teach children.

I do know that one concern I have is having my children live in a Christian bubble.  But, I also like that idea of protection when they are young, and I like that faith is a part of all aspects of life, not just something for a couple of hours on Sunday.  To separate the sacred from the secular is, to me, to say that the Kingdom of God has a finite reach.

If we did create more Christian schools, and vouchers were used to attend, as the author of the first article suggests, how would admission be determined?  For example, there was an incident in Albuquerque, NM where a three year old was denied admission because the parents were gay.  While schools can each develop their own policies, how would they ensure that they are willing to let anyone use vouchers?

And, how can we be sure that students are allowed to, as Adam Hamilton writes, "bring their faith into the schools.  They are free to pray any time, provided they are not disruptive.  They are free to talk about their faith, provided they are not belligerent or hurtful to other students. "  This is not always the case, as a friend-of-a-friend recently pointed out to me (story from 2005; story from 2010).

What are your thoughts on Christian Education?  Do you send your kids to private Christian schools or public schools?  What is your reason for doing so?  If you are a teacher, in what type of school do you teach and why?  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: Bible Stories That End With a Hug by Stephen Elkins

I received this book free from Tyndale for the purposes of this review.

Who doesn't want to teach children about God's love?  We want our children to understand God's love and not develop an unhealthy fear of God, and some Bible stories can be pretty scary.  I was interested to see what stories the author of Bible Stories That End With a Hug would choose that would be great to...end with a hug.  When I opened it, I joked about wondering if the story of Noah and the flood would be included.

Then I saw that it was there.  Cain and Abel were there.  The sacrifice of Isaac was there.

These are Bible stories that end with a hug?  As I read, I discovered that any Bible story can "end with a hug", just by hugging the child to whom you are reading.  The content of the story does not really matter.  Each of the 74 Bible stories contains a summary of the story and a Bible verse (that may or may not apply to the story itself), and a reason for ending the story with a hug.  Here are reasons for some of the questionable stories:

  • Noah:  "Give the one who will obey God no matter what...a great big hug!"
  • Cain & Abel:  "Give the one who pleases the Lord...a great big hug!"
  • The sacrifice of Isaac:  "Give the one who honors their father and mother...a great big hug!"
Also, in the telling of the story of Noah & the flood, it says "Remember they stopped laughing at Noah when it started to rain."  It declines to mention the reason they stopped laughing at Noah was because they were probably terrified because they were all about to drown to death.

Some of the stories with hugs are good lessons, however, such as:
  • Rebekah/kindness
  • Nehemiah/prayer before doing a job
  • Esther/bravery
  • Peter/fishing for people
  • Salt and light/shining for Jesus
  • Good Samaritan/being a good neighbor
  • Saul to Paul/life changed by Jesus
The illustrations were also quite cute.

The biggest problem with giving a hug with each story is that nobody is going  not give the child a hug, whether or not the child exemplifies the reason for the hug.  Another problem is that the hugs (expression of love) are for doing the right things (works) rather than "teaching about God's unconditional love" (from the back cover). For example, in the story of Jonah, the hug at the end is for obeying God the first time.  Do we all really obey God the first time?  And children know they often do not obey their parents the first time, so what is it that this is teaching them?  

A couple of other problems were:
  • Page 59:  "We call the Bible 'God's Word' because that's how God speaks to us.  Everything you need to know about living for God is written there".  This is a bit simplistic and doesn't take into account hearing from God in other ways.
  • Page 97:  "Jesus loved to go to church (called the Temple)".  Church and Temple are not the same thing.
  • Page 117:  Q:  "How do I grow my faith?"  A:  "By obeying God's Word!"  While obedience and Bible reading can help grow faith, faith does not just come from obedience.
I understand that it is very, very difficult to teach the Bible at a level that children can understand.  That is why it is imperative that we find better ways to do it than resorting to the concept of a works-based relationship with God and teaching facts that are incorrect (such as the church/temple example above).  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More on "Abundant": MOPS Devotional

I go to a MOPS meeting on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month, and am in charge of devotions for this year, so on those Thursdays I'll be posting here what I say there.

The other day I wrote on my blog about how I don't make New Year's resolutions.  Because, really, who likes to fail?  I know, I know, failure is the way you learn and grow but i still don't like it.

Then I heard about choosing one word to live by for the year.  I liked this idea because it is full of possibilities and mystery instead of prescribed actions.

I chose the word "abundant" , taking the idea from John 10:10

NRS John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

If you use the popular NIV, it'll say instead

NIV John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  N.T. Wright translates it as "full to overflowing" (John for Everyone, page 147).

Life that is to the full or abundant is not the way we typically live.  We live cautious and guarded and planned lives--or at least I do.  

But I'm tired of just living like I think I am supposed to--of just getting through what I need to do each day and not taking the time to live it abundantly:  with gratitude, joy, love, and however else "abundant" may play out.  

In this verse, which is a section about sheep, we have a comparison of two things:  death and life.  

When we usually think about death and life in that order, we think of physically dying and then "going to heaven".  But that's not really what this is about.  It is about living an abundant life now.  

When we are not fully living, what are we doing?  We are dying.  

What are the things in life that suck us dry--that steal our energy and our joy and our zest for life?  I look at my kids and see how they live abundantly--they live in the moment and they live joyfully and they just live life.  

You know, I'll be honest with you.  Even though I love being home with my kids, it is not an abundant life for me.  I would go crazy if I didn't have the opportunity to read and to write and to engage my brain.  My life is not just about being a mom and is not just about my kids.  I think that's where a lot of us moms get stuck--we make everything in life about our kids--and we can lose ourselves in the process.  

There are a lot of things that suck the life out of us.  It could be too many activities.  It could be certain people in our lives.  It could even be church.

On Sunday, as I was getting ready for church, I had a few thoughts I wanted to explore and put into a study guide that I am writing.  I decided that I'd spend the Sunday school hour doing that instead of going to my class, because I knew that if I waited until I got home, I'd lose the momentum I had and I wouldn't be able to work on it without interruption.  That hour I spent reading parts of my Bible and looking things up and writing down ideas was life-giving to me.  It energized me.

Those are the types of things we need to make sure we do--what gives us life and energy?  For some, it'll be spending an hour quietly praying.  For others, it might be going for a run or doing some other physical activity.

When Jesus said that he came to give us an abundant or full life, he didn't mean some time in the future.  He meant now.    We forget that, a lot, I think.  So having an abundant life is my focus for this year.  I encourage you all to think about your own lives and whether they are dying or living--and look to find ways in which Jesus is calling to you and offering you a life that is full to overflowing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday

I probably need to start making note of how I find these things, if it is due to another blogger or someone on Twitter.  If you think I found it through you, then thank you for sharing it so I could pass it along!

you're a pretty good speaker for a woman by Kathy Escobar
"a weird thing happened to me a few weeks ago. i was at the twins’ basketball game on a snowy december night, sitting by myself, when a vivid memory swooped in out of the blue from 7 years before.  it was when i was still on big-church-staff and we hosted a special winter event where several of us shared dreams for our different ministries to gain financial support for the church.  right afterward, an elder came up to me and said “wow, you’re a pretty good speaker for a woman.”
“you’re a pretty good speaker for a woman.”"
Why This Matters by Kristin Lucas
"The woman they are standing with is their youth worker from when they were kids. They brought her up on that stage, in front of 60,000 college students, to show the impact that one person can make in the lives of, well, 2 + 60,000 + …??… people. 
And the two men “in charge” brought up a woman—A WOMAN—and told everyone how deeply impactful she had been on them. Not because she was their mother or their sister or their aunt or their grandmother. But because her ministry as an adult leader in their lives was important. "
At 2:15 in the afternoon on March 28, 2010, Conor McBride, a tall, sandy-haired 19-year-old wearing jeans, a T-shirt and New Balance sneakers, walked into the Tallahassee Police Department and approached the desk in the main lobby. Gina Maddox, the officer on duty, noticed that he looked upset and asked him how she could help. “You need to arrest me,” McBride answered. “I just shot my fiancĂ©e in the head.” When Maddox, taken aback, didn’t respond right away, McBride added, “This is not a joke.”

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A Word to Live By

graphic by Melanie at
One word to live by for a year.
"One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long."
This is an idea I came across only last week, and it intrigued me enough to pick a word instead of even thinking about attempting to make any New Year Resolutions.

But what word?

I have spent the last year with more time to write than ever before, and this has been fantastic.  It has been due to a move, one son being in school part-time, and staying home with the boys.  Even though I loved what I was doing before this move, I have loved having this time to read and to write.  More than any other time in my life, I have sensed God's hand in that move and in the direction I am going with writing.

I learned in the past year that insecurity is extremely common among writers and that I needed to just flat-out say that I am a writer and believe it.  I do believe I am a good writer, and I believe that God is calling me to write.  I am excited about the current project I am working on, and I am excited about future projects that I can't even imagine right now.

Writing has helped a part of me to come alive again, a part I didn't even realize had been dormant.  It is helping me to know myself better and to want to be fully me.  I want to embrace all of this as living out my calling in a confident and secure way, and not letting fear or insecurity hold me back.  I want to fully follow God's call, and live so that I pursue it wholeheartedly.  I want my life to overflow with God's love and encourage others to follow God's call too.

To have life, and have it to the full.
To have life, and have it abundantly.


Jesus says, in the gospel of John, that he has come so that people can have an abundant life.  I want that to be mine, and yours as well.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. --John 10:10

The word abundantly will be my word this year, and it will draw me back to this verse again and again, to remind me why he came, to remind me what he offers, to remind me what I can have.

Have you chosen a word to live by?  What is it, and why?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

When Pain Strikes At Your Heart

Often, when we are struggling, when we are in pain, when we are going through something we've never gone through before, we wonder if we will ever get through it.  We wonder if the heartbreaking pain that we feel will last forever, or if it will ever stop.

I think it will stop.

know it will stop.  

I saw the words of Psalm 25 recently as I was looking through my Bible for another psalm.  The verses were bracketed with a date next to them:  7/3/04.

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart,
and bring me out of my distress
Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
--Psalm 25: 16-18

I don't remember why I marked them.  I  don't remember what was happening on that date.  I have no idea what I could have been going through that I felt lonely and afflicted and distressed.  Obviously, it was something that was just a blip on the radar screen of life.  It didn't last.  

It didn't last.  

There is some pain in this life that hits harder and will last much longer, but even that too, will lessen over time.  When one is in the middle of it, though, it can be all-consuming and sometimes it seems as if it will last forever, as if the pain will be the focus of life.  

And then life moves on.  Each day brings something new, each day brings a tiny bit of healing, as immeasurable as it may be that day.  But it adds up, so that sometime later, that pain is a distant memory.  

These aren't words that we can readily acknowledge while we are in pain--they are words that seem impossible, words that make us thing "yeah, whatever, you don't understand".  It's only through living in the present and hoping for the future that we can let go of the pain that holds us back.

Let go.  Live.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Worth Reading Wednesday

I know I read some great stuff in the last few weeks, but did I save it to share with you?  Nope.  So I am going by memory and looking back to see what I tweeted recently (not much) and only have a short list for you.  Enjoy!

I Stopped Guarding My Heart Ten Years Ago by Emily Maynard
"Until I discovered that you can’t shut down part of your heart and not shut down all of it. You can’t block all the negative emotions and still have enough space for the positive ones. It’s impossible to have a life overflowing with love in all areas when your heart is blocked up with fear and shame."

Isaiah 10 and the Fiscal Cliff by Morgan Guyton
"But God doesn’t have any respect for our individualist libertarian logic. God expects us to take care of our neighbors. People who are struggling have a right to be taken care of in God’s world. Now it is fair to ask what taking care of someone really means and to seek to avoid creating unhealthy dependencies, but this is a reason to make sure that we’re not making budget cuts that undermine having an adequate pool of social workers to manage poor clients so that decisions aren’t being made frantically by people who are overextended with enormous caseloads. Somebody has to stand up for the poor and make sure their legitimate needs aren’t sacrificed as part of a fiscal deal."

When You Can't Get Anything Done...Do One Thing by Time Management Ninja

"The other night I found myself unable to get anything done.
I was tired. Energy levels were low.
My mind just wanted to shut down for the day.
Yet, I had 2 hours of free time on my hands and a todo list a mile long.
I was having trouble getting motivated to do anything."

A Checklist For Building Your Platform in 2013 by Phil Cooke
"If you’re a writer, producer, filmmaker, artist, pastor, business or nonprofit leader, politician, or whatever – take a few minutes right now to think about how you’re connecting with your social media followers, donors, general public, and customers. Here’s a few good places to start:"

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Writing Plans in 2013

I kind of fizzled out with blogging sometime in November, so I'm going to try to keep to a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule and see how that goes.  Since I'm writing this Wednesday morning I've already missed Tuesday, but I'm going to see if I can just backdate it and post it with yesterday's date ;)

I stink at making resolutions, so the only one I really am making is to really concentrate on my writing.  I also think I will do this "one word" idea, although I haven't come up with a word yet.

My specific writing plans for 2013 will include:

  • fewer book reviews, or at least requesting books on a different schedule so they don't all pile up at once, so I can concentrate more on writing what I want to write (but free books are SO tempting, so it'll be hard)
  • picking back up with some of the on-going series such as "Exploring the Heidelberg Catechism" and "What I Learned".
  • Writing and scheduling posts ahead of time
  • Completing my women in leadership study guide by the beginning of March (we start the class at church on March 17) and pursuing how to possibly get it published.
There, that's not so many, and it seems manageable!  Here's to a productive 2013!