Friday, April 29, 2011

Guest Post: A Laughing Matter

Today is a very happy day on the blog. I met Matt on the Twitter a few months ago and I'm so very glad that I did. In addition to being a husband, father of five, employee and pastor, he is about one of the funniest writers I've stumbled upon in the world wide internets. I always look forward to his posts, especially his Prophetic Thursdays. He makes me laugh and he makes me think and the combination of the two makes him one of my favorite bloggers. So I'm thrilled that he's agreed to guest post for me today. Enjoy his post and then be sure to stop by his blog for way more awesome. Thanks for posting Matt!


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At some point in the not-too-distant past, I transitioned from being a semi-serious Christian blogger to a mostly humorous Christian blogger. 

It wasn’t as dramatic as Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader or as immediate as little Mario becoming big Mario after running into a Super Mushroom; it was a much more subtle shift. Kind of like how MySpace went from being cool to being the on-line equivalent of North Dakota.

So now I’m known as something of a humorist. This is really strange to me because in real life I am like anyone else -- I have my moments of hilarity, but mostly I am just a guy trying to make it through the rough patches with just enough sanity to carry me Home.

I really have no business giving anyone advice on how to write humorous blog posts (my wife doesn’t think I’m all that funny and the main way that I make my kids laugh is by making particularly disgusting noises and talking about poo), but I can tell you three things that I do to come up with posts that have made a few folks chuckle.
  1. I develop my weirdest thoughts.  When I heard that one of the problems with keeping air traffic controllers awake is that they constantly monitor computer screens in the dark, I thought about how vampire nerds would love jobs like that. When I jokingly told someone on Twitter that I had a tattoo that says “Krispy Kremes 4 Life,” I thought about what other types of tattoos I would like to have. When I thought about how I have never seen an advertisement for a snake-handling church, I thought about the other items I have never seen advertised. All of these thoughts were developed and turned into blog posts. Really. 
  2. I write to make me laugh.  There is no doubt that I want to make other people laugh, but I really have no idea how to do that. From sophisticated to silly to sarcastic, the types of humor that people like vary wildly and often overlap. If I was consumed with pleasing everyone who ever read my blog I would slowly lose my mind, grow my hair out long, and start wearing kimonos. Yes -- I would become Steven Seagal.
  3. I look at the ugly painting in my office.  The colors on the painting are pleasant and can temporarily fool you into thinking that the painting is nice, but how the colors are arranged once made my eyes mad enough to write a sternly worded letter to my neck for continually turning them toward it. How does this help me? Someone saw this painting and deemed it worthy of framing. Someone else saw it and deemed it worthy of purchase. Someone else saw it and deemed it worthy of having a prominent place in an office building. When I look at that painting I am reminded that no matter how imperfect something is, there are people who will like it.  

There you have it -- three pieces of advice about how to write humorous posts from someone who may or may not be very funny. But how I try to write humorous posts is not nearly important as why I try to write humorous posts.

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
but a broken heart dries the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

I believe that the ability to laugh was given to us by God. And whatever is given to us by God is given to us with purpose.

He knows that we will endure times of great sorrow. He knows that tears will flow down our cheeks from time to time. He knows what it is like to be one of us; to suffer, bleed, and die.

God gave us the ability to laugh and the ability to create things to laugh about because He knows that often the ability to laugh is the only thing that can keep us from despair. 

So I will continue to laugh and to encourage others to laugh with me. 

And if that doesn’t work, I may resort to tickling. You’ve been warned.

(What makes you laugh?  Got any good one-liners or links that makes your heart merry?  Share away!)


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Thanks Matt! Be sure to follow Matt on Twitter and subscribe to his blog!


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Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Dream of Soup

Petey Potato - He makes a good soupphoto © 2005 Paul Hart | more info (via: Wylio)

It's funny. When you pop around the blogosphere, sometimes there will be totally unintentional themes. This week I saw a bunch of my bloggy friends writing about dreams and perfectionism. Tons of good thoughts from folks like Tony Alicea, Jason Vana and Jon Acuff about dreams and Jen Luitwieler and Kristin Tennant wrote about perfectionism and allowing things to be good enough.

And in my muddled brain, I started wondering if my dreams are good enough.

Last week when I did my interview with Knox McCoy, I said that in 10 years I wanted to be going to a soup dinner with my husband and our friends. Of all of the things I could have been dreaming about to happen in my life in 10 years and I pick soup?

Am I just not ambitious enough? Should I be thinking about things bigger and more important than soup?

I'm not sure.

Part 1: Marriage

Interfaith marriages fail at a much higher rate than similar faith marriages. There are way (way) more interfaith marriages now than ever before, but the divorce rates for those in interfaith marriages is somewhat abysmal. I don't intend for that to happen. I love my husband passionately. I intend for that to continue regardless of where our faith journey leads us. I don't think my dream of a happy marriage is too small.

Part 2: Friends

One of the things that I've missed in the past couple of years with Jason working nights and being in school has been the opportunity for us to develop friendships together. So something that I look forward to in the coming years is time for us to find people with whom we both connect. I'm sure we'll have our own friendships with people that are separate (and we're both completely good with that. I'm crazy needy so I don't think Jason will ever complain about my friendships with people apart from him.), but I really look forward to having the chance to make some "us" friends as well. These people enrich our lives and I don't think that is a small thing either.

Part 3: Soup

Soup is good. So good, in fact, that the best show ever did an entire episode about just how amazing it can be. If loving soup is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Maybe I should have bigger dreams. But really? If in ten years a soup dinner with my husband and friends is on tap, I'm going to be in a happy place.

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What do you dream about that might not seem like it's very big, but might in fact be huge? What's your favorite soup?



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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Leaving on a Diesel Bus

Bus tripphoto © 2009 Luis Argerich | more info (via: Wylio)
Last night I put my oldest daughter on a bus to New York City. We have been planning for the trip for a while, buying new clothes, packing her suitcase, picking out music to load on her MP3 player, choosing something to read on the bus, looking over her itinerary. All of the stuff you'd expect to be doing when you're preparing for a trip.

I forgot to prepare my heart to send my (not so) little girl away.

This isn't her first trip. She's done sleep away camp. She frequently spends a week or two away at my parents in the summer. She's done overnight trips with her friends and with church. So I wasn't really thinking much about her being gone.

But last night when she climbed on the bus and settled into the window seat, waving at me before turning to discuss Dr. Who with her best friend, I felt a little pang in my heart that I wasn't expecting.

Maybe it was the juxtaposition between the stylish pink bag and the frog pillow pet she was carrying. Maybe it was seeing her among all of her peers who look much older than they have a right to look. Maybe it was just that she's going to a city that I remember visiting when I was her age. Maybe it was that it was late and I was just tired.

Mostly I think it was because it's another reminder that my daughter is growing up and sometimes it's hard for me to think that I'm just a month away from being the mother of a teenager. Not just because that makes me older that I want to be, but because as my kids grow up, the choices they make have a much greater impact. The friends they choose. The causes they champion. The beliefs that they embrace or reject.

These are good things. Growing up, becoming an individual - these are things that I want for my kids. I don't want them to be dependent on me to fix things or make decisions for them and I hope that I'm giving them the tools to become the young men and women that I know they can be.

But still. I miss those moments when they fell asleep in my arms. I miss being able to get a belly laugh just for hiding behind a piece of cloth and then showing my face. I miss being able to sniff the tops of their heads and tickling their tummies and even changing diapers (because baby butts, once clean, are just plain adorable). As much as I have had an impact on my kids (and I see evidences every now and again that I have), these activities have shaped me into the person that I am as well. One who is hopefully more compassionate, more affectionate, more open with an "I love you."

One whose heart will break just a little bit if she spies a bus the next few days.

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If you're a parent, what's your favorite part about parenting? What's the hardest? If you're not, what is a good memory you have of the folks who raised you?



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Monday, April 25, 2011

I Hate People

Edwards: Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it. 
K: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.
(Men in Black) 
Fridays are one of my favorite days. Mostly because Jason doesn't have to work that night so we generally get to spend time together as a family (and as a couple. Ahem.). But I also love the Twitter phenomenon of the #FridayFollow. Basically it's an opportunity for people to let their followers know who else they might like to follow. A lot of the time people just create lists of people but sometimes folks will take the time to write thoughtful blurbs about why you should follow someone.

I love this because I am friends with some delightful people on Twitter and sometimes I'll make it on one of those blurb lists and people can remarkably kind. I've shed more than a tear or two over some of the lovely #FF's I've received.

However, I think I may have people thinking something about me that simply isn't true. In the past few months a few of my Tweeps have mentioned that I love people.

Dublin Riotsphoto © 2006 Derek Baird | more info (via: Wylio)
If you spent a day or two in my home, you would know that this is simply not so. In fact, if you spent a day or two in my home, you'd hear me say what I really think about people at least a dozen or so times. Lean in and I'll tell you.

I hate people.

It's true. I can't turn on the news or read a blog or listen to someone's story without at some point hitting on something that makes me blurt out, "I hate people!" My husband can attest to this.

It's why I love the quote at the top of this post. People tend to be awful. People take stands. They're legalistic or militant or judgmental or bad drivers. People are the cause of arguments and wars and bad television programming. I hate people.

But if you're a person, well, that's a different story. A person might not agree with me, but they'll not let that agreement devolve into some kind of pissing contest. A person is someone who isn't afraid to tell me how I can be a better person but won't make me feel like I'm an inch tall when they do. A person is someone who isn't afraid to lay themselves out honestly, even if it goes against what their "people" think. I DO love persons.

I get the idea that Jesus was kind of the same way. He seemed to save most of his irritation for people, not for persons. He had all kinds of not-so-nice words for The Pharisees, but when it was just Nicodemus the person, Jesus was far more gentle. When I look at Jesus's interactions with persons, it is always loving. Turn into a people? Maybe not so much.

So if you see me turning into a people instead of a person, you have my permission to give me a smack.

And for future #FF's, please take note. I hate people. But I do love persons.

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What do you think is the biggest difference between people and persons? What makes you move from being a person to being a people? How much does it put your teeth on edge to refer to a singular person as a people?


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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Thanks for coming back for another week's round up of stuff that I think is worth reading! I'm running it a day early since tomorrow is Easter. Check out the links - I hope you find something worth reading.
  • Billy Coffey relayed a fantastic story about maturity for the blog carnival. Loved this.
  • Jen Luitwieler wrote a wonderful piece about being inappropriate.
  • Duane Scott shared a lovely tribute to one of the members of his virtual village who passed away. A reminder again that these relationships are every bit as real as our "real" relationships.
  • Jon Acuff posted his 1000th SCL post. Fantastic walk down memory lane there. Huge congrats to him for this and so many other great successes. 
  • Matt Appling tells us who was Jesus's REAL best friend during Holy Week.
  • And Shawn Smucker probably wrote my favorite post this week, reminding us not to rush to Easter.
Also tomorrow is the last day for the 24/7 Project. Please consider making a donation to Nuru International as a part of your Easter celebration. We have been given an amazing gift. Let's pass that on. (If you do choose to donate, please write "24/7 Project" in the box so we can see what we were able to raise. Thanks!)

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Feel free to link up your work - I love finding new blogs to read!



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Friday, April 22, 2011

Change

SQUINT: Birds over crossphoto © 2010 Keo 101 | more info (via: Wylio)


surrounded, yet alone
heard, but ignored
seen, but not known
believing we are unloved
that we are unlovable

we wait
longing for change

surrounded, but alone
heard, but ignored
seen, but not known
He is love
but He is not loved

He waits
longing to change


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let's Do Lunch

the elementsphoto © 2005 Bjørn Bulthuis | more info (via: Wylio)
I love to eat. If we're getting together, odds are good that I'm going to ask to meet over some sort of meal. Partly because food gives you something to do if conversation lags, but mostly because I just really enjoy a good meal. Gathering with people that I love around a table is my idea of a great time.

I think that's why today is my favorite day of Holy Week. Today is the day that we celebrate the first communion. There's something about this that is profoundly moving for me each time I take communion, and it's heightened each Maundy Thursday.

I just love the idea of the disciples gathered together for this meal. No doubt they ate as a group all the time, but they knew that this meal was special because of Passover. According to the passage in John 13, this was also a special dinner because Jesus took time to wash his friends' feet before they ate, placing himself in the role of a servant.

But I mostly I think about the event itself. Friends gathered together to participate in a tradition, one they had done their whole lives. Sitting around, talking, laughing, catching up on the latest stories. Can you pass this? May I have some of that? People who are comfortable with one another, who love one another, who have a common ministry with one another. Honestly, this is about a perfect night for me.

And then Jesus switches it up. He breaks the bread and passes the cup and tells his closest friends that this night he is establishing a new covenant with them. He is the spotless lamb and his sacrifice will save not only the firstborn, but all of God's children.

My favorite definition of the word communion is "intimate communication." When I think about that first communion meal, I am sure that there was intimate communication happening at that table.

The celebration of the Eucharist is beautiful to me because of the reminder of the intimate communication that we are able to have with God as a result of Jesus's death and resurrection.

And it is a reminder of the intimate communication we are to have with one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)
As we prepare to celebrate Easter, let's take a moment to reflect on our communion with God and with one another.

And if you're ever in town, give me a holler. We'll do lunch.




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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What You've Always Suspected...

...is true. I'm awesome.

Well, at the very least, I'm a new resident of Awesometown over at Knox McCoy's blog. Knox sent me 20 questions and I answered them. This qualifies me for Awesometown.

Seriously, I had a ton of fun with this and am really thankful to Knox for helping get the word out about the Not Alone book. He's a great guy and crazy funny. Have fun reading the interview and then stick around and read some other stuff. You won't be disappointed.


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The Adventure is in the Doing

I know that it's hard to imagine, but I'm not a tremendously adventurous woman. I like to watch movies and knit and read and eat soup. I'm not someone who, you know, DOES stuff.

But as I've mentioned before, there is a group that is seeking adventure in one of the best ways possible. The folks at Nuru International are working together with people who are in extreme poverty to help them make a better life. Not with a handout, but by teaching them better sanitation, helping to dig wells and teaching them better farming techniques. The repayment on loans from Nuru is 98% and the crops are averaging a 300% increase. Here's a little bit about how Nuru works:



How Nuru Works from Nuru International on Vimeo.

We have a way to be a part of this adventure. I'm partnering with several other bloggers to work together to pray for the work that Nuru is doing and also to donate and ask our readers to donate as well.


Though I don't have the most current numbers, I know that as of last week we were significantly behind on our goal of $7000. We only have a few days left for this particular project. I do hope that you will consider making a donation. Even a small amount can have a huge impact on the lives of those who are a part of what Nuru does. (If you choose to donate, please include "24/7 Project" in the donation notes so we can see the total after Easter.)

Come be a part of this adventure. Let's DO something.

Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.


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This post is a part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. To read more entries or to submit your own, head over here.





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Monday, April 18, 2011

Friend Compatible

Breadboard Based Arduino Compatible (BBAC) Micro-Controller Packagingphoto © 2009 oomlout | more info (via: Wylio)

Meeting new people is one of my favorite things. There's probably a finite number of friends that I can have, but I'm not sure that I've found that number yet. Truly, I just love getting to know new people and making new friends. Whether it's online or in the real world, it's a good day for me when I make a connection with another person.

A few months ago, I got a friend request from someone on Facebook. We have a mutual friend and had interacted a few times on his page, so we "kind of" knew each other from those moments. When he sent the request, he said that he was C's friend and that he and I seemed "friend compatible." Honestly, how could I not accept a friend request based on that?

Sometimes I think we over-complicate the whole friend process.We think that we can only have a few friends and that somehow adding more friends will diminish the friendships that we already have. Granted, most of us are busy. We have jobs and families and churches and volunteer projects -- lots of things that occupy our time. So I don't mean to imply that finding and making time for friends is easy.

But it's also not impossible. It doesn't require a three hour lunch or a deep conversation. Sometimes just a quick text or phone call to catch up. A quick cup of coffee after the kids are in school. A note on a Facebook page with a link that reminded you of them.

To be sure, those long meals and in-depth discussions are important for really developing a friendship. But don't pass up an opportunity to forge a new friendship. We need relationships. Go find someone who is friend compatible and make it so.

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Have you ever reached out to someone who you thought seemed to be friend compatible? What are some of your favorite ways to keep in touch with your friends?


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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Welcome to another week's round-up of some of my favorite things from around the world wide web. I hope you find something here of interest to you!
  • Jason Boyett posted his review of "Love Wins" but really, it's mostly a review of Christianity. It's tremendously insightful. This line is awesome: Most of us think we’re right. But we can’t all be right about everything. Right on.
  • John P. Avalon wrote a fantastic piece about Sen. Jon Kyl's "not intended to be a factual statement" comment. When the satirists are more accurate than our representatives, we've got serious problems.
  • The exceedingly hilarious Matt Cannon brought it again for another fantastic Prophetic Thursday. This time? Christian bloggers as movie stars. Please, subscribe to this guy if you don't already. He's phenomenal.
  • In probably the most controversial post on the whole internets this week, Knox McCoy wrote about the hierarchy of Easter candy. While I personally fully agree with him (particularly about #1), the comments got a bit heated. I may or may not have called my friend Tamara a Communist.
  • And speaking of Tamara, she crushed it with her hardcore breakdown of awesome words
  • In stuff I've watched, I finally finished watching Lost on Netflix. I cried. And I squealed when I got to see the sneak peak into the filming of The Hobbit
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up some of your best stuff!



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Friday, April 15, 2011

Guest Post at ShawnSmucker.com for Not Alone

When I tell people that I blog, it can be met with some interesting reactions, though mostly I think it's apathy. I write for free on the internet. Just like millions of other people. Woo-hoo.

But I'm reminded all the time why I love doing this. I have connected with a phenomenal group of writers all over the country who have given me support way beyond what I could have imagined. Last week when I posted my silly vlog, making a plea for more submissions to the Not Alone book, I received not only some additional inquiries, which is fantastic, but also several offers to donate ad space for the project and a few opportunities to post about it on other sites. The generosity that the blogging community has shown me just knocks me over.

Today my friend Shawn Smucker is hosting a post I wrote about the project. I am so grateful to him for offering once again to allow me to write about something that is so dear to my heart on his blog. Giving up your space to let someone else write is always a gamble, and I appreciate it every time.

So stop on over to Shawn's blog and check out my piece. Thanks friends!

(If you would be interested in donating ad space for the Not Alone call for submission like the one on the right here, or would be interested in a guest post about the book,leave me a comment or send me an email. And if you're interested in submitting your story for the Not Alone book, be sure to check out the project document on the Civitas website. Thanks so much!)


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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Free Will and Calvinist Atheists

(spigolature: libero arbitrio - free will)photo © 2004 gualtiero | more info (via: Wylio)

I have been really humbled by the response from many in the atheist community to my post over at Rachel Held Evans's blog last month. It has been overwhelmingly positive and I'm very grateful for the kindness that I've been shown at Rachel's blog and in other posts around the blogosphere.

That said, there has been one common criticism of the piece and it's of this line:
Most atheists who have “deconverted” from a religious background have studied it and other religions thoroughly before choosing not to believe. (emphasis added by me)
The overwhelming consensus from the atheist community is that non-belief is not a choice. One absolutely lovely woman with whom I've been corresponding sent this to me (quoted with her permission):

I didn't choose not to believe. Losing my faith wasn't something that I did. It was something that happened to me.
In a conversation with my daughter about this, not too long ago, she had this same idea and perhaps still does -- that belief is a choice. I tried to explain to her, as a sort of illustration, suppose you're walking along the sidewalk, and suddenly a bus which is barreling down the busy street accidentally gets too close the curb and kills you.
People gather around your lifeless body. Some are sympathetic and weeping for you. But others condemn you and say "She chose to get run over by that bus."
That's how it feels for me and so many other people who were, metaphorically speaking, run over by a bus. It's something that happened to us. It wasn't a choice that we made. We were just walking along the sidewalk like everybody else does, trying to get to our destination, and we didn't choose to get run over by a bus.
When I lost my faith and stopped going to church, not one person expressed sympathy. My husband and children were upset and confused, and that's my fault because I wasn't able back then to express what was going on in my heart and mind. I wasn't able to share with them what was happening, the doubts and questions I was having, and so it all came as a big surprise to them. They were so afraid for me, because they had been taught that people who don't go to church are going to hell. I was too immature and at a loss for words and couldn't even begin to formulate a coherent explanation or talk to them about it. I tried to console them, and that's the best I could do at the time.
Everyone else simply condemned me and shunned me. They truly believed that I had chosen to lose my faith. One or two dear ladies later told me they were praying for me. Other people spread the rumor that I was a Satanist, and a Communist, and that I and my husband were getting a divorce, etc. These people were "Christians", the "saints", leaders and respected members of the church.
There was no support group or whatever, in that church, for anybody who was suffering a loss of faith. That's one thing I wish churches would form -- some sort of support network, or whatever, some sort of help for people who are going through this time of such emotional distress that is going to have absolutely life-changing impact for themselves and their families.
Such a support would have as its main focus and goal, to "be there" and to assure the person that regardless of where their search for truth might take them, they were loved and accepted.
Such a support would not be a coercive sort of thing set up to shame the person and attempt to make them conform to doctrine, beating them over the head (so to speak) with dogma and authority.
So anyway, that's one thing that I wanted to write to you about while it's on my mind, as I'm reading your blog and Rachel Held Evans' blog. I wish Christians would understand that neither belief nor non-belief are "choices" -- they're things that happen to us. We can't make ourselves believe something we don't believe, and we can't make ourselves stop believing anything ether.   It's whatever individual brains are able or unable to do. 
A simple experiment can prove or disprove this -- if people would simply think of something they don't believe, and make themselves believe it. Or conversely, think of something they do believe, and make themselves not believe it.

Needless to say, this gave me a lot to think about!

I admit, I'm still not 100% convinced that these things aren't a choice. At the very least, I would say that belief or unbelief is the cumulative effect of a number of other choices. I choose to read this book or that. I choose to interact with these people or those. I choose to attend this event or that.

When Jason came out to me as an atheist, I would say that I was faced with a choice. I feel certain that there was a part of me that could have chosen to leave my faith. There are still a lot of areas where I struggle to believe. And while I see where my friend is coming from, I would still characterize my belief as a choice.

That said, I think the larger point of being sensitive to those who are going through a faith transition, whether by choice or not, is very valid. As we talked about on Monday, our natural inclination when someone is going through something difficult is often to either try to fix them or to just pull away altogether. Taking time to simply be there for someone going through a crisis of faith is like being there for them through any other crisis.

When Thomas expressed doubts, Jesus didn't push him away, but rather invited him closer. If we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus, we must do the same.

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What are your thoughts about faith and free will? How can you offer support to someone going through a crisis of faith? How could someone with strong faith better love you if you're the one going through a faith transition?


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post at The Screaming Kettle At Home

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to have David Nilsen of The Screaming Kettle guest post (and if you missed it, remedy that immediately). This week, he's lucky enough to have me posting for him!

Honestly though, I'm always a little amazed that folks not obligated by blood, marriage or firearm want to read what I have to write and even more amazed that people will open up their own sites to let me post. It's a huge honor every time and I get totally nervous every time.
Kids ask questions all the time. That’s part of being a kid. The thing is that I ask questions all the time too. I’m okay with my own questions and I recognize that not all questions have answers. But when it’s my kids, I get nervous. (read more)
Please take a minute to head over to David's site and share your comments. Surf around, because he is a delightful writer and you will be entertained and moved. And if you're stopping by from David's blog, welcome! Be sure to subscribe to my feed so you don't miss out on anything here.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tell Me About You

Unicorn Silly Bandz Unicorn Macros July 09, 20102photo © 2010 Steven Depolo | more info (via: Wylio)

In the past month I've picked up some new readers (hello!) and I love that. But talking about things like women's rights and doubt and homosexuality don't really let us get to KNOW one another the way we should. So I thought that perhaps today we could take a minute to delve into a deeper analysis of my readers. Hold on to your seats. This could be uncomfortable.
  1. If you were creating your perfect Pandora channel, what bands would you include?
  2. Ben & Jerry's have asked you to design a new ice cream flavor. What is in it and (more importantly) what is it called?
  3. My kids want a new packet of silly bands (always). If I pick up the "you" packet, what shapes will it include?
Thanks for reading! You guys make this journey much more fun. 



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Monday, April 11, 2011

Enough

Quiet Pleasephoto © 2006 Jon-Eric Melsæter | more info (via: Wylio)
I'm not usually at a loss for words. I like the talky-talk and it's rare that I don't feel like I have something important to add to a conversation.

But in the past few weeks, I've had a few opportunities where my best choice was to shut up.

A friend struggling with celibacy after a divorce.

A couple grieving over the anniversary of a lost child.

A woman mourning a family member's fourth miscarriage.

A husband who is struggling to find the strength to finish the semester.

These aren't events that warranted words beyond, "I love you and I'm here for you."

This is so contrary to my nature. I want to talk. I want to help. I want fix things.

But I know that in those times when my heart is aching, all I want is a warm embrace. Someone to listen over the phone (or, even better, over food) to me pour out my hurts and just say, "I love you and I'm here for you."

Those words are more than enough.


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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

The weekly gathering of posts that I thought were worth a second (and third and fourth) read. Swing on by these sites and let the authors know what you think!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Feel free to link up your best stuff. I love finding new blogs!


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Putting an End to Terrorism

I have friends who are very committed to non-violence. They've written about it, they talk about it, they live it. I find that really admirable, because as much as it's something that I like the idea of, I don't know that it plays out in my real life so well. I mean, one of my all-time favorite movies is Fight Club. So yeah.

But I will say that I see violence surrounding us and it often just depresses me. And it is particularly upsetting when I see it being addressed with more violence. I'm not automatically opposed to all wars, but I do sometimes wonder if more guns and soldiers can really stop violence when you're dealing with terrorism and a seemingly endless supply of men, women and children who are so caught in a web of poverty and personal tragedy to have any way to avoid being sacrificed in a mad-man's delusion.

Nuru's CEO Jake Harriman was a commander in the Infantry and Force Recon, so these are issues that he dealt with very personally while fighting in Iraq. In the following video, he tells a gripping story of how he came to realize that terrorism cannot be defeated through violent means.


The End (Jake's Story) from Nuru International on Vimeo.

As I mentioned last week, several of my friends and I are blogging to raise money for Nuru International. One thing that Nuru provides through it's program is a way for those in extreme poverty to say no to joining terrorist forces. When a person has no way to provide for their family, they have very limited choices. But through the help and training that they receive from Nuru, they are able to create choices for their day to day life and those choices can lead to a path away from terrorism and away from violence.

Often something like terrorism seems to huge to tackle, but we have our own choice available to us today to help put an end to this problem. As you pray for peace, please consider making a donation to Nuru as well. If you choose to donate, please include the phrase "24/7 Project" in the donation box so we can track how we're doing on our goal. And of course, I'd ask that you consider writing your own post about Nuru or sharing a link to their site on your facebook page or twitter feed and asking your friends to join in to support this very worthy cause.

Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.


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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Update on the Not Alone Book



Here's the link to the Civitas website where you can download the project document. Thanks again to those who have submitted. You're some of the bravest people that I know and I am honored that you've chosen to participate in this. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask here or you can shoot me an email.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Guest Post: Coping With Disappointment When Calvinists Refuse to be Jerks

I met David just a few short weeks ago when he started commenting here and this guy just kills me. We have a mutual bloggy crush on Rachel Held Evans and while I keep an eye on the killer robots, he's watching out for fire ants. And I am the luckiest blogger today, because I get to feature David's amazing writing skills here. I'm not even going to invite you to enjoy this post because you will have no choice but to do so.


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Five years ago I was a Calvinist, a Biblical inerrantist, a young earth Creationist, and if there had been a Reformed position on microwave popcorn I probably would have held to that too. Culturally I was progressive, but doctrinally I was a Calvin fanboy. I may or may not have had a t-shirt that proved it.

Then my faith sorta fell apart in spectacular fashion. It was the classic God feels really distant stuff at first. Then, after about a year of not feeling one iota of spiritual passion whatsoever, my defenses were sufficiently stripped away for me to start questioning the beliefs underneath them. I tied my brain in knots trying to figure out sovereignty and hell and the problem of evil. It's almost like there aren't any good answers to this stuff, I would say to myself. This went on for a couple years.

During the course of all this, I realized the earth is really old, Adam's sons didn't have pet velociraptors, the Bible needs to be interpreted a bit differently than I always had, and the issue of salvation and eternity is way more complicated than I had ever allowed myself to imagine.

And I was terrified to admit these things to anyone in my Reformed, Young Earth, Inerrantist church, where my wife and I still attend. I was sure we would be forced to wear scarlet H's as heretics and be out of the club.

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I think one of the problems with most of us who consider ourselves progressive Christians is that we live in constant expectation of being judged by our fellow believers who are more conservative. It happens sometimes, but not nearly as often as we look for it. When I post something on my blog or on Facebook that I know runs contrary to the beliefs of many Christians I know, I can almost taste the judgmentalism coming. I monitor my blog comments waiting for a form-letter response like this:
"Dear Future Resident of Darkest Hell,
We noticed you recently decided to ignore every obvious truth of the Bible and turn your back on God. We're disappointed in you, of course, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't see it coming. It was, after all, established before the foundation of the world. God is receiving glory for your failure even as we type, so we're getting over it pretty quickly. We realize this might be hard for you to hear, but we'd like to remind it you it's your own fault for not having faith. As a consolation, we'd like to offer you this 10% off coupon for Christian McJerk's new book 24 Ways I Already Know You're Wrong and 13 More I Plan to Infer as We Go.
You're welcome.
Deep blessings,
The Real Christians."
You know what, though? I've never gotten this kind of response. Not once. I have yet to have a Calvinist respond to me in any of the ways we progressive Christian bloggers like to reassure each other they'll respond when poked. In fact, the Reformed, conservative Christians I know have shown me nothing but grace, concern, love and understanding, darn them.

Oh, they've disagreed, and told me so. But in doing so they have spoken kindly, loved me as a person instead of regarding me as a doctrinal point, preserved the bonds of friendship, understood when I've expressed the confusion and discouragement of certain points of my story, and generally been all around better people than I am. I'm often left thinking I don't understand. The brochures promised you'd be rude.

So.

If you find yourself in disagreement with conservative Christians, please give them the same chance to be loving, grace-filled, Jesus-following people as you would want them to give you. Some of them won't be, but chances are most of the ones you know are sincerely trying to follow Jesus just like you are, and they don't hate you, and they probably feel bad for poor people at least as often as you do, and they don't think dumping motor oil in the ocean is a good idea, and they probably don't really believe you're going to hell for voting Democrat. Yes, they believe some things that are frustrating, and yes, they will say things that come across as harsh, but they want people to know the love of God just like we do, even if they interpret it differently. We just have cooler magazines.

Let's drink the medicine we're selling. We preach acceptance and the freedom to disagree, but I know in my own case I am often reluctant to grant these things to those who are more conservative than I am. I expect judgment, and to be honest, sometime I want it. Imagining I'm being attacked allows me to discredit people I don't want to have to listen to and take seriously. Soon I'm a photographic negative of a Fundamentalist.

We don't have to agree with Calvinists, or Young Earth Creationists, or Inerrantists, or Complementarians, or whoever else gets under our doctrinal skin, but we do have to show love, and (what is sometimes even harder) we have to be willing to receive it from people and groups we've been conditioned to expect the opposite from.

If we'll take this step, we might find exactly what we've wanted in church all along - peace and unity in disagreement, and the love that should define us as Christians.

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David lives in Ohio with his wife and young daughter, whom they adopted in 2008 from Guatemala. He currently works a totally unsatisfying job as an I.T. Specialist at a bank, which is a job most trained monkeys could do, except monkeys would get treated better because people would feel bad being mean to monkeys. He also runs a used and rare book business part time and is planning on opening a used book store in the next year or two. He's been writing since childhood and would love to do so for gainful employment at some point. And he make better paper airplanes than you. You can check out his blog here.






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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Roof is Coming Down

Sun-setphoto © 2009 Julia | more info (via: Wylio)

We don't own a lot of things of value. Much of what we have is handed down from family or friends and the rest is stuff that we bought on the cheap. Don't get me wrong, we definitely have some nice things (I am blogging from my own computer after all), but we do try not to be too consumer driven.

One thing of value that we own is our house. Even though it's old and cramped and messy, I love it. One of the first things that we did when we moved in was to replace the roof. It probably hadn't had any kind of repairs done on it in thirty years (or more). It was rotted out pretty badly in a number of places. Fixing the roof was a top priority when we moved in.

So when Bill mentioned the story of the paralyzed man being lowered through the roof by his friends, it hit me again about just how annoyed I would be as the home owner. I mean, sure the guy was healed. He had awesome friends. But they totally destroyed this guy's house in bringing their friend to Jesus. Clearly this was a nice guy. He was hosting a party so fantastic that people were spilling onto the street. So maybe he was all, "Woohoo! This is so awesome that people are coming in through the ROOF!" But probably not. More than likely he was thinking that his home was being totally wrecked because of this traveler that he had invited in.

I like to think that I'm the friend lowering a hurt friend in to see Jesus, but I think I'm probably also a lot like the homeowner. Jesus is in my house. We're chillin'. I've got all of my stuff the way I want it, but I'm okay with it being rearranged a little bit because he IS Jesus, after all. But for the most part, I'm still running the show. He's a guest.

And then people come in and just beat the living crap out of what I've set up here. And not stuff that is small and unimportant. No, it's things that I treasure. Beliefs I have that seem valuable. Ideas that keep me safe. Rituals that keep me comfortable. Enclosures that help me keep Jesus to myself or to just share him with people who I know are going to respect my rules for how we engage with him.

But the treasure isn't the beliefs. It isn't the ideas or the rituals. It's Jesus. And if someone needs to mess up my stuff so I can see him do big things, then I guess the roof is coming down.

Have you ever had a something you thought was valuable completely wrecked by your relationship with Jesus? And how annoyed would you be if someone tore a man-sized hole into your roof?


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This is a part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.



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Monday, April 4, 2011

Rerun: The Beholder

This is something I posted over on my old blog back in October. It got some good responses there and I thought I'd recycle it today.

"People often say that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder,' and I say that the most liberating thing about beauty is realizing that you are the beholder. This empowers us to find beauty in places where others have dared not look, including inside ourselves." ~Salma Hayek, attributed

Photo by prakhar
My husband is not a liar. Really, he's probably the most honest person that I know. Yet for the longest time when he would call me beautiful, I simply couldn't believe him. I would trust him on everything else, but for me, beauty has a certain look and I do NOT have that look. I would say that even today, that is the thing that he says to me that still is hard to swallow. Most of the time I want to say, "What are you talking about? I think I'm funny and kinda' smart. I write okay and I'm not terrible at the piano. But beautiful? No, I believe you're thinking of someone else there."

But this quote really just knocked me on the head. For the most part, I think I'm able to see beauty in other things, and not just "typical" things. I loved the quote from the Brad Yoder interview when he said, "Some of those things are lovely and joyful and beautiful and some of those things are incredibly sad and there is something also equally amazing and beautiful about having the privilege of experiencing some of those sad things too." Life is truly full of beauty and I don't want to overlook it.

I don't want to sound like I'm advocating narcissism, because that's not it. Heavens knows, I'm a selfish person. But I also don't want to miss the beauty that is inherent in me as well. I think when I do that, I miss part of what God has placed in me. When I look down on my gifts and abilities, I'm looking down on the One who gave them to me in the first place. I don't want my children to see themselves in a self-deprecating way, why would I think that my Father would want that for me?
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
Do you struggle seeing beauty in the world around you? In yourself? What do you do to appreciate beauty?


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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Welcome to another Sunday where I link up some of my favorite reads from the week. Click on through and see if anything resonates with you as well!
  • Kevin Simmons wrote a wonderful piece about John Mark McMillan's sloppy wet kiss line in How He Loves. I love the original line and thought this piece nailed why I like it so much.
  • I laughed the whole way through this post from Jon Acuff about meeting a famous Christian. FTR, I would have totally been that lady sitting beside him, plotting ways to wake up Smitty.
  • Kathy "Katdish" wrote the best guide to successful blogging I've ever read. Truly, you need to follow all of her rules religiously.
  • Matthew Paul Turner reminds me again why I stop by his blog every day with a lovely post about anger. Matthew wears his heart on his sleeve and I just love that about him.
  • Because of the spectacular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy references, you must check out this cake over at cakewrecks.
  • And I'm crazy excited about my friend Jennifer Luitwieler's book announcement! Seriously, any book title that includes the word "poo" in it is definitely one that I want on my bookshelf. That it's written by someone with such a beautiful soul just is icing on the cake (but not a poo cake or poo icing, because that would just be super gross.).
  • In music, if you haven't picked up The Civil Wars yet, please remedy that as soon as possible. Wow. Just stunning.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you this week? Please feel free to link over to your blog so we can all share in the awesome! 


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