Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Other R-Word

I don't agree with Sarah Palin about much of anything, but I'm totally with her that we should absolutely stop using the word "retarded" to refer to things that we think are silly or frustrating or dumb. It is a demeaning and flippant use of that word and should absolutely be stopped by all thinking people.

And now I'm going to admit that just writing the above two sentences sends me into mild waves of panic because I know that I probably have a reader who isn't a bad person who has been conditioned to call things "retarded" and might feel bad now. I have progressive readers who are probably aghast that I should even mention Mrs. Palin and conservative readers who are offended that I would mention that I don't agree with her on anything else.

Which brings me to the r-word that really terrifies me: REJECTION.No Admittancephoto © 2010 Seth Anderson | more info (via: Wylio)

I wish I could say that I don't care what people think of me when I write things about interfaith marriage or gay affirmation or teaching your kids about faith when you're a doubter, and to some degree that's true. There is a cathartic feeling to getting those ideas and feelings out there.

But I like being liked. It feels good to read through your comments and see lots of positives and no negatives. To not worry about getting an email full of concern. To go blissfully about my day, not wondering if people are talking about what a heretic I am. Because no matter how much I stand behind my ideas, it feels pretty crappy knowing that people might reject me because of those ideas. That I might end on the outside because of my opinions is a somewhat unpleasant feeling.

That fear can be a very powerful stifling factor when it comes to asking questions. What if we come to a conclusion that differs from what most people in our circle think? Last week Chad Holtz's story went a bit viral. We saw not a sex scandal or embezzlement scheme take down a pastor, but instead unpopular opinions led to his firing. For most of us, our jobs aren't on the line, but there can be real consequences nevertheless.

Unfortunately, we tend to think only of the negative consequences. But there can be positive consequences as well.

When we share ideas that are risky, we allow other people the opportunity to be risky as well. Risky in relationships. Risky with their own ideas.

Rejection is always a possibility when we go out on a limb. But let's not forget that sometimes the r-word that we end up with is rewards. And those are worth the risk.

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What risky thing have you done recently? What was the reaction? Do you have a favorite r-word?



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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Celebrate Women: That About Wraps It Up

Hand Held Friendshipphoto © 2008 Voldy Morton | more info (via: Wylio)
As we wrap up our month of posts about women's issues, the question we're posing today is how to raise awareness of women's issues both locally and globally. I figure that should be easily answered in a blog post. Done and done.

Oh, wait.

I wish it could be so simple. That just reading a post about feminist parenting could erase all inequity. That reading about how women inspire one another creatively would free all women to pursue creativity. That celebrating women through blogging could easily translate to all women celebrating themselves without shame.

Sadly it's not that simple.

There will still be women who doubt that they have anything to offer to their communities. There will still be children raised in homes where boys are valued more than girls. There will still be women who are ashamed to embrace their strength and femininity in equal parts.

But we can help it change.

We can encourage one another. Men, women, children. We celebrate not only women, but all people. Because the more I understand my own value, the more I can help others recognize the value that they have. The more that I embrace my own gifts and talents, the more I can help others find ways they can contribute. The more I love my unique qualities as a woman, the more I can help other women embrace that in themselves.

Before we can celebrate women, we must celebrate ourselves.




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Monday, March 28, 2011

A Velvet Crumb

Crumbsphoto © 2006 dion gillard | more info (via: Wylio)
When you read blogs about blogging, one of the rules that folks tend to give is to make sure that you have an attention grabbing title. This is an area where I'm not particularly adept, so I'm always on the lookout for phrases that catch my attention. Something that says, "Hey, that looks like an interesting post, I should definitely give it a read! And then pass it on to all of my friends! And subscribe to the RSS feed!"

So yesterday when I was sitting in the green room at church, I was delighted to hear the phrase "a velvet crumb" tumble from the lips of my best friend (he was eating a red velvet doughnut and noticed a crumb on his shirt). I made a mental (and verbal) note that this was a fantastic title and I should absolutely blog about it.

Come home, bust open the laptop, plug that title in, because it's awesome, and...nothing.

Because you can't write about a velvet crumb (the Velvet Fog is a whole other matter). Well, maybe YOU can, but I can't. There's just nothing there. I mean, it's a crumb for heaven's sake.

A cool title doesn't mean anything if there's not content there to back it up.

I think I sometimes do that with my faith.

I get all chatty about God being love, but then I don't act in a very loving way toward the person who pissed me off with a Facebook post that I disagree with. I talk about helping the poor, but I really just want an iPod Touch for myself so I can play Words With Friends. I will go on about how we should avoid dogma, but just think about challenging a belief that I hold to strongly.

The ideas sound good. But the content? There can be a lack at times.

But sometimes they match up. Sometimes I practice what I preach. I behave in a way that is loving with people that make me angry. I use my finances in a way that are unselfish. I hold loosely to an idea that feels like it should be held tightly.

Sometimes the velvet crumb actually has a story worth reading.

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What do you do when you find that your content isn't living up to your title? What is your favorite blog/book title?


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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

This is a list of some of my favorite things that I've read this week. There is a ton of good stuff out there, this is where I feature about half a dozen posts that stood out for me. Swing on by and let me (and them!) know what you think!

  • My dear friend Tamara wrote a stunning post about the unfair labels that we give ourselves. The post is beautiful and features a fantastic cartoon from the talented Wes Molebash.
  • And speaking of Wes, be sure to check out his awesome post about offensive Christian art. Some phenomenal discussion about that topic in the comments. If you're an artist or enjoy art and a Christian, you will want to read that.
  • Kristin Tennant has been going through some difficulties lately and from them, wrote a beautiful piece about worry and regret.
  • Chad Jones wrote a really thought-provoking piece about civility in the Church. It mentions Rob Bell, but that's not the point, which is why I'm posting it, even though I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't post any more about the whole Rob Bell thing.
  • This cartoon by David Hayward (NakedPastor) was about one of the best things I've seen all week. God. Is. Always. Bigger.
  • Another pastor friend, Matt Cannon, wrote a really brilliant piece about the things that are too important to forget (and some things that it's okay to forget). There's a Balki Bartokomous reference in the post, so you KNOW it's good.
On a personal note, thanks to those who went over to Hemant's blog and left comments there. Your support means more than I can say. Thank you.

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your best stuff -- I want to read it!


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Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Post at FriendlyAtheist.com

After my guest post at Rachel Held Evans's blog a few weeks ago, my friend Hemant Mehta invited me to guest post at his blog. Hemant's book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, was the first book I read after Jason came out to me as an atheist, and he and I have developed a friendship over the past year and had a chance to meet at a dinner following the Rally to Restore Sanity last November. His blog is my favorite of the atheist blogs that I read and I'm flattered that he would invite me to post at his place.

I'd love it if my readers would stop by his site and read my piece and maybe stick around and read some of what he as to say as well. I think there are things we can learn from one another and I hope we'll continue to have these opportunities for open dialog.


I love to read and I particularly like to read things that are of interest to important people in my life. So when my husband came out to me as an atheist in late 2009, I went looking for something to read so I could better understand his views. And the first book that I read wasn't Dawkins or Hitchens or Harris, but rather Hemant's. (read more)

Thank you all for your support. You guys are the best! Now, go read and leave a comment? 'Kay?

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrate Women: Wait, She's a GIRL?!?

Woman with book and palm treesphoto © 1920 George Eastman House | more info (via: Wylio)
I didn't know that one of my favorite books was written by a woman.

My dad was an English teacher and he often gave me extra books to read outside of my required reading from school. One of the books that he gave me was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I loved the book and read it in one or two sittings. I was probably 13 and I knew that the book had been written by a 16 year old, but for some reason, I totally missed that the someone was a girl.

What I learned from Hinton was that you didn't have to write "like a girl" just because you were a girl. As someone who doesn't have a particularly feminine writing voice, it's always been encouraging to me to go back to that book and remember that there isn't a single way that women are supposed to write and that the best thing we can do is to be true to our own writing style.

In recent years, probably the most influential writer has been Rachel Held Evans. My dear friend Tina linked me over to her blog a couple of years ago with this post and I've been a fan ever since. I've said more than once that she writes what I would write if I were significantly more eloquent (well, I've said it worse than that, but after Tamara's post yesterday, I'm trying to correct that). I read her and feel like I'm looking in a very flattering mirror. Of course, because her picture was at the top of her blog, I knew she was a woman.

She was one of the first authors that I read who dealt with the issue of doubt at a time when it was screaming at me in all caps. I saw someone who had a very similar up-bringing to me who ran into doubt for similar reasons as me. She writes in a way that makes me feel like we've been friends forever (and I'm quite sure that if we knew each other back in the day, we would have totally been bffs). Her content has challenged me to be more honest with myself as a writer and her voice has helped me to find a way to bring that honesty out in a more kind and gentle manner. I loved her first book (Evolving in Monkey Town) and am totally stoked about her next project.

These women have taught me that we don't have to write in a girlie voice or about girlie topics to still be a successful, influential woman writer. I appreciate that I have the opportunity to have learned from them, even if I didn't know one of them was a woman.









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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Ugliest Trophy in the World

Ugliest Trophy Ever
Last summer in the midst of all of the vuvuzela jokes, the FIFA World Cup was going on. This is a massive event and it only happens every four years. Thirty-two teams compete to win the ugliest trophy ever. Oh, and the glory that comes with being the world champion soccer team for the next four years. 

So imagine my surprise when I went looking for the score of the championship game from 2010.

1-0.

Now, I know enough about sports to know that it was going to be a low scoring game. You don't generally see huge numbers in these contests, so I wasn't expecting some 15-12 score or anything like that. But I admit, I was a little bit surprised to see that Spain beat Holland by scoring a single goal in the final after 116 minutes of play. And from what I can see, that's pretty much the way this event is won most times. By scoring a single goal.

I get it in my brain that I need to constantly be winning. That everything I set out to do has to be The Best. And that if I can't do it really well almost immediately, I'm never going to be able to do it and shouldn't bother trying. I lose perspective of the goals that I have already met, the things that I have already accomplished.

It's easy to look at a life where we see only a few things going our way and to declare that we're unsuccessful. I think the next time I do that, I'm going to remember Spain and how it only took one goal to win one of the ugliest, most coveted trophies in the world.

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This post is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. Find more posts and submit your own here.


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

This is my weekly repository of all of some of the awesome stuff that I've read on the internets this week. I hope you find something here that will spark some thought for you as well!
What did you read/write/watch/listen to this week that moved you? Post your best stuff for us to read!

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Friday, March 18, 2011

Survey Time!

If you follow me on Twitter or are my Facebook friend, you know that my husband is in Poland right now for the overseas learning. I love that he has this opportunity to study abroad, but I'm not very good on my own and I miss him terribly, even though it's been less than 24 hours since I kissed him good-bye. (My hat is off to all people who have spouses that travel a lot or are in the military -- you are way stronger than I am.)


So anyway, I'm not feeling terribly write-y right now, so here's a little survey for you. I had a good time making it, I hope it's fun for you as well! Have a kick awesome weekend!







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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Celebrate Women: Boys and Girls Rule and Drool

I never expected to be a parent. When I was in high school and we filled out our "what will you be doing in 10 years" thing as seniors, I was among the very few who didn't have anything about being a wife or mom. So imagine my surprise when, a month later, I met the guy that I was going to marry. And then our extreme surprise when 9 months after we were wed, I was pregnant with our first. And our redonkulously extreme surprise five years later when we had four kids under five in the house. I don't think there are words to describe it (obviously, since I used the made-up word "redonkulous").

I hadn't really given any thought to parenting at all, let alone feminist parenting, so that was strike one. Strike two is that I've never been much of a planner, so the idea of actually having a specific method of feminist parenting makes me get a little sweaty.

Regardless of my lack of preparedness to be a feminist parent, I think that has kind of happened anyway, mostly because I've found that as a parent of two boys and two girls, the rivalry between the sexes is fairly inevitable. And rarely pretty.

As feminist parents (and my husband is firmly in favor of equality, so it's a joint effort), we want to see our children treat all people, regardless of their differences, with respect and dignity. And we want to see each of our children grow into adults who are doing what best suits them, not what gender roles best suits them. We know that life doesn't always hand us exactly what we think we want, but we also believe that our kids shouldn't have to choose from a narrow group of fields. Of course, it makes me smile when my daughter chooses something like fairy princess, but nevertheless. If that's her choice, I'm good with that.

Of course, we can never really be sure if our kids are learning the ideals that we're hoping to instill in them, but every now and again we get glimpses that it's working. I'm reminded of a moment years ago when my oldest was first starting school.

One of the not-so-great-things about sending your child away from you is that they can pick up some unattractive phrases from their peers. My daughter came home one day chanting, "Girls rule, boys drool!" Of course, as a feminist mom of both girls AND boys, I commented that it was not okay to say that in our home. It took a few times correcting her when she'd say it, but eventually I heard it less.

One afternoon we were sitting around playing a board game. My oldest son had a lucky roll of the dice and he looked up and said, "Boys...and girls are equal!"

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This is a part of the Celebrate Women blogathon! Check the link below and link up your own story about feminist parenting today!












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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Brainwashing (or Why I'm a Terrible Christian Parent)

Praying Angel Girlphoto © 2009 Jo Ann Deasy | more info (via: Wylio)
Yesterday, my friend Matthew Paul Turner posted a video on his site. It appears (thankfully) to be a satirical piece, but nevertheless, one of the comments got me thinking. And after my response to him turned into a 300+ word missive, I thought perhaps it would be better to go ahead and blog about it.

Someone mentioned the age of this young woman and was talking about how this was directly related to the garbage that she likely hears from her immediate family and her church family. Granted, if this is a Poe, there's no one feeding her anything, but we've likely all seen pictures of the young children from Westboro who carry the same hate-laden signs as their parents, so this kind of attitude isn't unheard of among people, even children, who claim to be of the Christian faith. If you've ever cussed in front of a toddler, you know that kids are watching us and remember everything that we say and often repeat it back. (Ask me how I know that is true.)

Where this really knocks me out is that it reminds me that I tend to be very cautious about what I want my kids to learn regarding the Christian faith. On one hand, of course I want them to know and love Jesus. What Christian parent doesn't want that for their kids? On the other hand, Christianity is pretty diverse in its beliefs. Like, really diverse. People can get very dogmatic about their beliefs, even with that diversity. And children, with a far more black and white approach to the world, can be some of the most dogmatic among us. I've seen it in myself (12 year old me would be appalled at the adult version of me), I've seen it in my own children (my kids have no grace for a movie that scores below the "we'll go pay to see that in the theaters" percentage on RottenTomatoes.com), and I've seen it in other children (my kids have had more lectures from other kids about Harry Potter than they have from adults). So I try to be very aware of what my children learn about faith from other sources.

Some of this is, of course, due to the fact that I'm in a mixed faith marriage and I want to be respectful of my husband. But truly? I've had my doubts about really dishing out much faith-y stuff for years, since I first saw Jesus Camp. While there is something inspiring about seeing a child who is a "true believer" there is also something terrifying about seeing a child who is a "true believer." The kid who does what we think is beautiful (like praying with arms raised and tears streaming down her face) can just as easily be the kid doing something that we think is abhorrent (like holding a sign that says "God Hates You" or "Thank God for Dead Soldiers"). If a child can be so easily manipulated to think that it's okay to do the latter, why do we assume that it's not manipulation when they're seen doing the former?

I cringed yesterday when I thought the video was a young woman being influenced by her church to say that God caused the earthquake and tsunami to bring atheists to Jesus. Words like "brainwashing" and "conditioning" and "indoctrination" flashed through my mind. But I've heard that same sentiment at least occasionally from people I interact with regularly. People share the "whatever it takes to bring them back" stories that end in some kind of tragedy and somehow that is supposed to be good and of God, so it's not that big of a stretch to me to see a kid take that one step further and assume that something like the tsunami is a wake-up call from God to a nation that doesn't follow him. And honestly, that just scares the crap out of me.

At the end of the day, I want my children to come to know God, not because of some self-righteous feeling of superiority that it gives them knowing that they're "in," but because they experience compassion and grace that can't be explained any other way. Not because it's simply a family tradition that they feel compelled to follow, but because they've studied it and found there to be enough truth that rings in their minds and in their souls. Not because of a threat of hell, but because of the unfathomable love that their heavenly father has for them.

If he's the one doing the brainwashing, I'm good with that.


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Monday, March 14, 2011

That Label Doesn't Belong Here




I hate going to WalMart. Usually trips to WalMart are laced with profanity because the whole place just annoys me to no end. Unfortunately, I have to weigh my distaste for WalMart against driving an extra 30 minutes both ways to go shopping where I prefer and sadly, the convenience of the Super Center usually trumps my desire to drive an hour out of my way.

One way that I make these trips marginally less annoying is to participate in a meme with my daughter and Rich. We look for things labeled "Harvest ________" that have no business being labeled harvest. I found a harvest label on a carton of cheese puffs. Rich found "Harvest Chocolate Pretzels." And Deborah found a candle scent that was "Harvest Sugar Cookie." Seriously, if you know a place where I can go harvest sugar cookies, hook me up. I would like to go there.

In this case, the wrong label is entertaining. It's supremely stupid to associate chocolate pretzels in any way with a harvest, but it certainly isn't harmful. The chocolate pretzels don't really have anything invested in having harvest attached to their description or not.

This doesn't work quite the same with people. Okay, so I'm probably not going to call Jason my harvest husband (though that might be fun and confuse him for a while, especially in his sleep-deprived state!), but we do tend to attach labels to people that might not really be accurate. Sometimes they're labels that are given just because it's easier to label someone than to get to know them. The fat chick. The black guy. The gay kid. Maybe they're not technically wrong, but they're dehumanizing because we're a lot more than our weight or our race or our sexual orientation.

But sometimes out of those labels come things that are damaging and hurtful. We see ourselves in ways that reflect what we think others see rather than what we are. We pick labels that aren't accurate and use those. And when we do, others tend to follow suit. 



...we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20, The Message)
We've been made new. We don't have to wear those wrong labels.

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Where do most of your negative labels come from? What is a true label that you can give yourself today?



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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Some of the posts I've picked up through the week. Thanks for reading through and showering them with your comment love! (We live for that, doncha' know!)
  • I love Blog Carnival weeks. I've discovered so many amazing writers through them! This week my favorite post in the Future collection was this amazing story by Jake about learning to ride a bike
  • Rachel Held Evans absolutely killed me with her Rob Bell interview. Truly brilliant.
  • Emily Carter wrote a piece at Deeper Story that completely caught me off guard. Lovely reminder about judgment and how we're only seeing a page of the story.
  • In an anti-metrosexual worship leader post, Matt Cannon wrote a fantastic piece prophesying the demise of the hip minister.
  • Matt Appling wrote a great piece about being punched in the face by Jesus.
  • I finally sat down and watched One Punk Under God yesterday, which is a look at some of Jay Bakker's story. Watching him making the decision to come out as gay affirming felt very familiar (even though he obviously had a lot more to lose than I did). It was a fascinating watch and I highly recommend checking it out. 
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Feel free to strut your stuff!


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Friday, March 11, 2011

The Hard Work of Finishing

My best friend Rich is a luthier. Anyone who follows him on the Twitter or Facebook knows that he gets a bit frustrated when it comes time to do the detail work on any guitar that he's building. For the fretboard alone, there are eleven steps required to transform the wood from this:



into this: 


The process is really complicated, but there's an awful lot of sanding and smoothing and polishing involved. Tiring, tedious, annoying polishing. But if he doesn't do it correctly, no matter how beautiful the guitar (and he creates beautiful guitars), it won't play correctly. The whole instrument could be rendered worthless if care isn't taken in doing each of those eleven steps with precision. Carving out the body and seeing the shape of an instrument emerge from a block of wood is a fascinating and gorgeous thing. But what makes it special, what makes it good, is the detail work.


And there's the rub for almost everything that we do. Starting is fun. We get to carve out new ideas and see them take shape. We get to see a skill begin to develop. We get to experience the thrill of a new relationship. That's all very cool and sexy and delightful.

But then we have this thing and we have to polish it. We have to look at this idea and figure out what parts of it don't work, even if they are important to us. The level of improvement in our skill becomes less and less appreciable as we hone it. The relationship has rough edges that we didn't notice at first and that poke at us. Something that started out easy and fun becomes an exercise in patience and perseverance. 

But without that, these ideas, these skills, these relationships -- they can't be all that they should be. They might look like something, but their functionality is impaired. They can never reach their full potential because we didn't do the finishing work on them.


So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9, NLT)

You have the potential to create something beautiful. Don't give up.

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What are you working on that is hard to finish? Where is an area where you've seen that finishing work bring forth a good result?





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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrate Women: I Know It When I See It

Rosie the Riveterphoto © 2009 mollypop | more info (via: Wylio)
I'm sitting here looking at today's topic for our Women's History Month blogathon and I'm absolutely drawing a blank (we won't talk about how I put off writing this post until this morning instead of working on it for the past few weeks, since I've known it was coming up!). I guess I never  really thought much about what it means to be a strong woman. I grew up surrounded by them, but never thought much about actually defining what it IS. For me it's always been kind of an "I know it when I see it" sort of thing.

So where does one see a strong woman? What does she look like to me?

She's the woman who cares for the elderly, not just because it's her job, but because she genuinely cares about making their life better.

She's the woman who stares down cancer and rather than becoming bitter, she chooses gentleness and compassion.

She's the woman who looks at her special needs child and sees, not his shortcomings, but his strengths.

She's the woman who sees a male dominated field and rather than complain, simply brings awareness to females in the same field.

She's the woman who raises her daughter alone, goes to school to become a minister and who marries again, not because she's supposed to, but because she wants to.

She's the woman who stays up late on the phone helping a friend even though she has to wake up in a couple of hours to go to work for her family.

She's the woman who embraces who she is, even when she's told that it's not okay to be who she is.

She's the woman who sees timidity and fear in her life, looks at those things and says, No, I choose honesty and courage instead.

Women of integrity. Women of boldness. Women of grace. Women of love.

This is where I see a strong woman.

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Do you see yourself or a woman that you know in the above description? How would you define a strong woman?



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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Letter to Future Me

Flux Capacitorphoto © 2008 nate bolt | more info (via: Wylio)





Hi Alise! It's Alise! 

These letters are awkward because I totally know you and don't know you at all. I've done this before in junior high and high school and it's always interesting to me to see how I turn out when I rediscover the letter when the future is the present. Or however that works. Time travel is complicated. Especially without a Flux Capacitor. 

Anyway.

Right now in 2011 things are pretty good. I'm working right now to collect stories for the Not Alone project. I can't wait to hold that in my hands! That's pretty awesome. I hope future me (you? me?) is still writing. I don't know if blogging is still cool in the future (or if it's actually cool right now. Or has ever been cool.), but I hope that whatever the medium, you're still putting words together. You're not too bad at that (I know you're shaking your head now, but people tell me that I'm okay, so future me is no doubt better). (I also hope you figured out a way to use fewer parentheses. I use them an awful lot and they probably irritate the real writers who stop by here.)

I hope you're still willing to examine your beliefs. I've been pretty good about doing that up until this point, but I know that the older I get, the harder it is to make big changes, even if they're necessary. I hope that you haven't stopped thinking and re-examining ideas that you have in light of whatever information you get in the future. It's okay. I won't be angry.

I also hope that you're still seeking out new relationships. And with people who aren't just like you. My life is richer now for the people I've met in the past year or so, and I hope that you've continued to reach out to people who are from different walks of life. They have a lot to teach you. Don't miss out on that.

Continue to pursue love. I sometimes think I have a pretty good handle on this, but there's so much more to learn. You're not going to have it figured out either. Keep at it. Love people. Sometimes it hurts, but the rewards, well, they are definitely worth it.

Listen more. I love (!) to talk, not so much with the shutting up. People will listen, but they want to be heard too. Shut up occasionally. Not everything needs your commentary. 

Okay future me, that's about it from here. Hold your beliefs loosely. Meet people. Love more. Talk less. 

(Oh, and I hope powering through season four of LOST is worth it, sorry if it isn't. Watch the Afternoon Delight episode of Arrested Development again -- that will cheer you up because I'm pretty sure that's one of the best 22 minutes of television EVER.)

Be good to yourself and to others!

~Me (You? Whatevs.)

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What would you say to future you?

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This is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. To read more submissions and to add your own, head over here!

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Monday, March 7, 2011

The Most Controversial Post You'll Ever Read!

very-cute-puppy_06photo © 2007 Nicholas Wang | more info (via: Wylio)
It was a pretty emotionally taxing weekend. The gay affirming post and the atheist post at Rachel's blog both laid my soul pretty bare and even though the response was overwhelmingly positive (thank you all for your awesomely substantial buns!), that kind of writing can be draining. So I knew that I wanted to write something today that was just fun and totally non-controversial.


On Saturday I tweeted that I was going to just write about cute puppies. Totally controversy-free, right? That's what I thought, but my friend Kristin noted that if I talk about puppies, I might get into spaying and neutering pets. And that leads to discussions about sexual ambiguity and bang. I'm back to a controversial subject. 

So I started to think, what other things seem completely innocuous but are actually completely controversial? Here's what I came up with:
  1. Ice Cream -- Who doesn't love ice cream? It's cold and sweet and delicious. But now there's breast milk ice cream. And that can open up the whole breast vs. bottle debate. Or possibly a discussion about nursing in public. No good.
  2. Flowers -- Though I'm no gardener, I do love flowers. Getting to play at Phipps Conservatory a month ago was super cool because being surrounded by a tropical garden was quite lovely. Controversy here? I imagine I'd also mention that I love getting cut flowers from my husband and that could turn into a discussion about traditional male and female roles and how it's so cliche to actually like something like that. 
  3. Bubble Baths -- Light up a candle, choose a bath scent, grab a trashy book and chill out. It's bubble bath time. Except that talking about baths will immediately get people thinking about water conservation. And I had no idea, but there is a debate about whether baths or showers use more water with people being fairly adamant about their preferred method being the most environmentally friendly.
  4. Weather -- Global warming. 'Nuff said.
  5. Toy Story 3 -- There's nothing not to like about this movie. Friendship, loyalty, coming of age, Michael Keaton as Ken. Really, it's perfect. But even this near-perfect film had three reviewers give it a rotten rating. What hope do we have?
The only thing that I think we can agree on is that we should all feel pity for me because my eye hurts. Apparently on Saturday night I had a dream where it turned evil and I tried to gouge it out because it's all swollen and gross and I look totally pathetic. It's awful.

So, tell me how sorry you feel for me and then tell me what other non-controversial controversies I missed.



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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Some of the things that I've read over the week. I hope you find something that sparks some interesting discussions for you!
  • Micha Hohorst wrote a fantastic piece about some of the reactions to Natalie Portman's statement about motherhood being her greatest role. In the midst of Women's History Month, I thought this was just spot on.
  • I got a giggle out of Elizabeth Esther's piece about the 24 hour outfit. Loved this one (though I would add a hat to the ensemble, so I don't have to brush my hair)!
  • Sarah Bessey wrote two beautiful posts regarding hell. One where she goes into her theology a bit on her blog, and one where she asks what's the point if there is no hell?  
  • Rachel Held Evans wrote a delightfully funny open letter to...the open letter. This just cracked me up.
  • Shawn Smucker has been writing about how movies teach him to write better. This week he shares the lessons he learned from The Princess Bride. I hope that he'll use Zoolander soon. 
  • Yesterday Hemant Mehta wrote a post about my piece on Friday. While he and I don't see eye to eye on everything, I really appreciate him taking the time to give me a shout out and I (mostly) enjoyed reading the thoughts of his commenters. I appreciate that he makes me think even when we disagree.
  • Be sure to check out the links to some GOOD Rob Bell posts in my silly Rob Bell/John Piper post, and also, check the posts by the other contributers to the #CelebrateWomen synchoblog (and consider joining us this week as we talk about our views about feminism). 
What did you read/write/watch/listen to this week that moved you? Let me know what else I should be checking out!

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Guest Post at RachelHeldEvans.com

Rachel Held Evans is absolutely my blogging idol. She has the most gracious, gentle, eloquent voice out there, in my opinion. She manages to take delicate, controversial issues and write about them in ways that prompt thought rather than reactions and I love that about her. Rachel's first book (Evolving in Monkeytown) was fantastic and based on what I've read at her blog, her next book should be phenomenal as well.

So I am tremendously excited to be guest posting for her today. 
About a year and a half ago my husband revealed to me that he no longer shared my Christian faith. That was a strange moment in our relationship and when he first came out to me as an atheist, I made some horribly wrong assumptions. I would like to take a few minutes of your time to help you not make those or other mistakes if you happen to meet a self-identifying atheist out in the wild. (read more)
Thanks for heading on over to read the rest of the post!

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Friday, March 4, 2011

My Big Gay Post

I’m Alise, and I affirm gay relationships.

This wasn’t something that I came to lightly. Rather, this has been a long journey that I have spent years waffling, thinking, studying, and praying about before finally coming to a decision.

I don’t think I’ve ever thought that being gay was a sin. It never made sense to me that being attracted to someone could be inherently wrong and nothing in the Scripture seemed to indicate that it was sinful. Everything seemed to be related to action rather than attraction, so I made my peace with it and just camped there for a long time. Of course, living in a small town and having no friends who were out certainly made it easier to simply not think about it and when I went to college any gay friends that I had were decidedly not Christian, so their sexual orientation didn’t really have any bearing on my theology.

And then things changed.
Tina helping me dye my hair at Camp Happy

My closest friend from high school was in a climbing accident that left her severely injured and which killed her best friend. And as we sat on the deck of her parents’ house, her covered in bruises with a broken eye-socket and grieving, she told me that her friend was more than simply a good friend. She had lost someone not only who she loved, but with whom she was in love. All of a sudden, everything that I knew about being a gay Christian was challenged.

For fourteen years I rolled this issue around in my head. I went online and talked to gay Christians who had no problem embracing their sexual orientation and their faith. I read articles and books about the difficult passages of Scripture that seem to condemn homosexual behavior. I examined nearly every avenue I could in trying to come to some peace, but peace would not be found.

If I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was not a sin, there could be a rift in relationships with a number of people – people who probably thought I believed the way I did on nearly everything else just to be contentious. I didn’t know how to look at a pastor and say, “I think you and most of your colleagues with years of biblical training are wrong about this issue.” I didn’t know how to tell my family, “Add this to the list of thing that I don’t agree with you about.” I didn’t know how to tell my kids, “You’re probably going to be told that homosexuality is a sin, but I don’t think it is.”

I could do this with things that affected me more directly. I could explain why I primarily vote Democrat and consider myself a liberal. I could carry on a discussion about why I accept theistic evolution and have a real problem with things like the Creation Museum. I could talk about social justice and the importance of caring for the poor. But gay stuff? Why would I put my neck out on the line for that? I’m a straight, married, stay-at-home mom of four. What’s the up-side to me not just supporting gay rights, but going one step further and affirming gay relationships in the Church?

Of course, if I came to the conclusion that homosexuality was a sin, there was only one person where there could be a relational shift. But that one person was important to me. She was a person with whom I had shared fake birthdays. She was a person who invented games with me. She was a person who had been my best friend during my unbearably awkward teenage years. And she was a person who wanted what I had – to share her life with someone that she loved.

I spent years agonizing over this.

And then it clicked.

God is love.

Tina and me at a friend's wedding
I want to make it more complicated than that, but that’s it. God is love. Two people wanting to share love is of God. John 13:35 tells us how we know we’re being disciples of Jesus – we love. Love isn’t something that needs to be fixed or healed or redeemed. It’s already the highest law. It’s what God created us to do.

There are other reasons why I’ve come to this conclusion (I highly recommend Jack Rogers’s excellent resource, Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality for a more thorough examination of the Scriptures and history surrounding the issue), but the primary reason is because of love. So maybe I can change my opening statement just a little bit.

I’m Alise, and I affirm love.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Depression's Dreaded Sidekick

I met Joy on Twitter and I've been moved as I have gone back and read her story. Joy is a beautiful and honest writer as well a wonderful woman and I am so glad that we connected. I'm honored that she would share part of her story here with us today. If you would like to contribute to the Not Alone series and book, go here.



"God, I can't do this. Please take her before I screw her up."

I was sobbing as I huddled on the floor, back wedged into the corner of my parents' office. I was numb from exhaustion, almost too tired to blink. I had carried her downstairs so that she wouldn't wake anyone else up.


My 5-year-old daughter lay in the middle of the floor, kicking her legs, rocking on her back, rolling from side to side, and yelping happily. Wide awake. At 2am.

So many nights were like this. It never failed. In what felt like mere seconds after I fell asleep, I'd hear her start making her happy noises, loud and persistent happy noises. I'd lay in a state of half-sleep, begging God for her to go back to sleep so I wouldn't have to get up. Most of the time, she'd ramp up the whining and the volume, irritated that no-one else was up partying with her. I'd drag my weary cranky body out of bed to make sure she wasn't in a bad position or laying in a puddle of vomit or bleeding out her nose, and plead with her to be quiet and go back to sleep.

Sometimes I was angry and bitter. Sometimes my words and my tone were harsh, graceless.

I endured years of nights like this and days thick as mud and heavy as an 80-lb pack.

Looking back, I can see that this chronic exhaustion cloaked years of low-grade depression.

Very few people talk about the grief that parents of children with special needs experience. It is a cyclical thing, recurring every time their child experiences a setback or another child their age reaches a major milestone. Raising a child with special needs changes your life in countless ways. A simple trip to the grocery store is no longer simple. Priorities invert. Death lurks in your mind's corners, haunting every step.

My daughter's needs were significant. I didn't let myself step back and evaluate much -- I didn't have a spare moment or brain cell or ounce of energy for that. But once in awhile, it all became too much and I'd break down, often begging God to end it. I lived in fear that I would make a life-altering mistake. I lived in guilt that I could actually verbalize that I wished it over. I lived in dread of the day when it actually was over.

The weeks after she died, all those desperate moments when I begged him to take her slammed into me like a wrecking ball. Had I somehow wished this on us? On her? Was this my fault? Thus began the rapid downward spiral.

Today, almost two and a half years later, I've made peace with the circumstances surrounding her death. Most of my days are ok. But when the dark closes in, I always find guilt right behind, whispering half-truths about past sins, present battles, and the future unknown.

I feel like I'm in a cave, trying to climb straight up a rock to the sunlight, clinging to the barest of grips. I dig a toe into
"For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
Fingers claw at
"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" and "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us."
Sometimes all I can do is hang on to those until the dark recedes and my head clears. Then I remember that my daughter is whole now, and that neither my God nor my daughter holds these things against me any longer. I remember that Jesus moved toward Thomas when he expressed his need to see. And I know that God loves me in the midst of the dark and in the midst of my worst moments. I burn those truths into my heart for the next time I find myself clinging to the rock in a dark hole.





Joy is a writer, mother of four, wife, reader, follower of Christ, bereaved, asker, and lover of rich soil, good food, music, and sunshine, listener… in no particular order. Two of her children were born with serious congenital heart defects, including her first. It was quite an initiation to motherhood. Between the two of them, they've been through six open-heart surgeries and countless nights in the hospital. This writer learned to give shots, insert feeding tubes, run i.v. pumps, measure in mLs, and pronounce words like tracheomalacia. She's blogged since 2005, writing on faith and doubt, family life (which is always humorous even with the medical spin), grief, and the depression that she only recognized a year after our oldest died at the age of 8. You can read Joy's blog here and connect with her on Twitter here.



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Celebrate Women: Couch "Potatoe" Feminist

At the end of my senior year of high school, the Vice President of the United States of America took a single mother to task. In one of the more famous "real life meets fiction" moments, Dan Quayle called out Murphy Brown, a fictional news reporter on a television show of the same name, because the character was single, pregnant, and choosing to have the child alone. The thought of a smart, successful woman raising a child by herself was apparently a threat to family values.

At the time that Murphy was in her heyday, my other favorite show, Designing Women, was winding down. Here was a show about a group of women -- married, divorced, widowed -- working together, laughing together, crying together. They addressed issues like domestic abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, homosexuality, birth control -- and that was just the first season.

During high school, week after week, my best friend Tina and I would sit together and discuss the latest happenings on these shows. And while we were watching primarily for entertainment, these shows were teaching us how to be strong, compassionate, thinking women.

I never really talked about feminism with my mom. She's an incredible woman who has influenced me greatly, but I can't recall any conversations with her specifically about feminism or women's rights. I don't think my sisters or I spent time talking about it. Honestly, in my formative years, I don't remember any discussions with anyone about feminism.

But at the lunch table, in physics, after school, Tina and I would be talking about issues that were shaping us. We would marvel at Murphy's ability to be a part of the old boy's club while not losing her femininity. We would laugh about Mary Jo getting fake boobs and instead of feeling more demure, becoming really aggressive. We would swoon over Julia's most recent rant against whatever injustice she encountered that week. I think we both wanted to grow up to be any one of those women.

What has amazed me is that while I'm certainly not exactly like any one of those women, I've picked up a number of the traits that they modeled. Empathy. Compassion. Humor. Grace. Courage.

I was talking to Tina just this morning, trying to find a video clip for the post (which sadly, we couldn't find), and we started reminiscing a bit about these shows and just our general thoughts about feminism, and she said something really profound. She believes (and I totally agree) that feminism is just believing that women and men are equal. Not the same, but equal. And that when we're born, our default setting is feminist. Whatever stories and lessons we learn along the way are simply taking us closer to or further away from our natural tendencies of trust and acceptance.

All I know is that if being a feminist is cheering when Murphy Brown cuddles with her newborn son, and badly sings Natural Woman to him, sign me up.






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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

John Piper is Jealous of Rob Bell's Glasses!

I'm a day late on the posts about the Rob Bell controversy (at least -- I guess since Justin Taylor's piece went up on Saturday, that makes me like 4 days late). And I've already read a ton of posts about the issue from various bloggers that I follow. But I don't feel like I can let this go without adding my voice to the crowd. Sorry.

So here are my brief thoughts (and I really will try to keep it brief):

1. I was hurt by John Piper's tweet. I'm not Rob Bell, and I know we're not supposed to take up offense for other people, but still. That one just stung. I think because I know that I believe things outside of orthodox Christian belief and it pains me to think that these beliefs not held by the majority of my brothers and sisters in Christ put me on the outside. And of course, it really kicks my heart in the ass as the wife of an unbeliever. Farewell? That's it? I don't understand why someone would be interested in participating in a religion when one (potentially) false step gets you kicked out of the club.
Envy Adams

2. If wrong theology gets you a farewell, we're all screwed. Seriously, different sects of Christianity don't agree on anything. And even people who agree on almost everything can find one place where they disagree. It's just how we are. So it would seem to me that piecing together a completely "right" bit of theology will end up with one guy sitting around in heaven, which is not exactly the banquet feast I envision. If people who follow a theology that states you must believe in Jesus don't even think that is enough because you also have to believe in hell, where does it end? To me, this idea places the idea of belief in hell as superior to belief in Christ. I don't think I'm okay with that.

3. But mostly, I think this has to do with all of the focus on Rob Bell's glasses. You know, John Piper wears glasses too. If I had to listen to people rave about Rob Bell glasses day in and day out and I wore the exact opposite kind that he had (rimless glasses instead of thick-rimmed black glasses), I'd get pretty frustrated. So frustrated that perhaps I might seriously overreact to a 2 minute book trailer before I even bothered to read the book. At the end of the day, we're all a little bit self-conscious that we're not as hip as the person next to us. That can make anyone a little grumpy. I just have to think that maybe questioning hell is simply the tipping point because of the whole glasses issue.

So what is your main take-away from this whole controversy? I've seen posts that think it has exposed a need to really tackle the theology of hell again. I've read posts that are saying we need to treat one another more kindly. I've read posts that think it's just a book and we should get over ourselves. I've read posts that think that this just exposes that each of us have our own pet theologies.

Me, I'm going to stick with the glasses theory.

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We're probably all sick and tired of talking about this whole thing, so what's your favorite Scott Pilgrim quote? And if you wear glasses, do you favor the Rob Bell style or the John Piper style? And how do your favorite Scott Pilgrim quote & glasses style relate to your theology about hell?


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