Friday, September 30, 2011

Tell Me About You #3

'Handshake' photo (c) 2007, Janet McKnight - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
It's been a few months since we've done one of these, and I always enjoy better getting to know my readers, so here we go.
  1. It's craft fair time around here. If you were going to set up a table, what would you be offering? (Because this isn't real, you don't have to sell "crafty" crafts to participate in my craft fair. Think outside of the decorative country-style painted box.)
  2. What music says "autumn" to you? When the leaves change and the air gets crisp and football is on 8 days a week, what do you want to pop in the record 8-track cassette cd MP3 player?
  3. If you could pick a cool, tough middle name (like Dewayne "The Rock" Johnson), what would it be? (Hat tip to MST3K for the question idea.)
Let's do this.


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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Interview with Knox McCoy

Back in April, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to be a part of Awesometown over at Knox McCoy's blog. Now, I'm probably one of the oldest members of Awesometown and it's just a bit too noisy for me, so I summer over here in Prodigiousburgh (with the H because why stop at G?). Still a resident of Awesometown, but without riff-raff like Tamara Out Loud.

Anyway, Knox has taken a moment away from his brand new baby girl to stop by Prodigiousburgh today and talk about his delightfully funny and surprisingly insightful book, Jesus and The Bachelorette: Finding Christ Among Roses, Tanned Bodies and Hyperbole. Because the man has to pay the bills.

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Alise Wright: First, my maiden name is McCoy. What are the odds that you and I are related?

Knox McCoy: One thousand percent. I don’t know about you, but my surname has a collection of “colorful” personalities on the limbs of it’s tree, so absolutely nothing is off the table in terms of relations. If my family had less people in jail and we could actually pull off a reunion, you and I would TOTALLY see each other there.

AW: Most of us can understand the desire to write about The Bachelorette, but what made you think to tie it to Christianity?

KM: I’ll just say it: I’m kind of strange in terms of what I find similarities in. But I think on some level, for me, similarities are more impactful when they are strange. It makes me listen more. If I’m in church and the Pastor makes a limp comparison of David and Jonathan to some other bibilical pairing, I’m probably going to daydream 15 seconds in. But if he compares them to Mario and Liugi or Uncle Joey and Uncle Jesse, I’m ALL in and taking notes.

AW: Did you share this project with anyone in your church? What were their thoughts about it?

KM: Absolutely no one. I’m terrible at self-promotion. I’m savant-like in how truly awkward I can be with positive attention. And also because explaining the link between topics does take a bit of, um, finesse?

AW: While writing this book, were there any comparisons between The Bachelorette and Christianity that caught you by surprise?

KM: I think the chapter using the fantasy suite jumps out in my mind. For the uninitiated, the fantasy suite episode is basically when the contestants have the sex audition for the Bachelor/ette. I compared the awkwardness of that episode with the awkwardness of Christians who are supposed to be all about love and then judge everyone in their field of vision. I wasn’t sure that comparison was going to hold water and it’s probably pretty debatable that it did, but I liked that I got to talk about the sex audition because I mean when you can work an idea like a sex audition into a book about Christianity, I think you pretty much have to do it. Everytime.

AW: What is the line that you’re most proud of in the book?

KM: The bail out answer would be: “anything that bridged a gap between perception and reality for a reader in terms of their faith.” But you know what, Alise? I don’t DO bail out answers.

This line is probably my favorite because of the idea behind it, which is close to my heart:
“Though the big picture focus is good, we Christians tend to get caught up in thelittle picture things. The fine print of our faith, as it were, and this serves toinflame the larger cultural opinion about us. Whether it’s only paying lip service toloving our neighbors, allowing ignorant ideas to speak for us or rigidly holdingnon-believers to our biblical standards, the point is that these little details fog outour overarching hope and instead emphasize our worst qualities.”
AW: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

KM: 
  • Write. Don’t ever stop producing. Your early stuff will be awful, but it will get so much better.
  • Make friends that if you never ask them to help you, you’d still be friends with them.
  • Three drafts of everything. If beauty, wit and realization are going to arrive, they will always arrive in that last draft.
  • Find your voice and fly your freak flag. People will resonate with authentic voices, never with imitations though.
AW: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring Bachelor/ette contestant, what would it be?

KM: If you have a child, just don’t. Instead of pouring all that energy into hopefully seducing a stranger, maybe be a parent instead?

AW: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring Christian, what would it be?

KM:
  • Challenge yourself. Know what you believe and WHY you believe it.
  • Love people, first and foremost, and this will allow others to define you with you supplying the definition.
  • Concern yourself with others, particularly the less fortunate, and your happiness will be easy to maintain.
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Thanks so much Knox! Now, go forth from this place and purchase Knox's book. Because you guys, it has a chapter about sex auditions. And for reals, I have watched half an episode of a Bachelorette-style show and never the ACTUAL Bachelor/ette, and the book is still fantastic. Also, please be sure to subscribe to his blog so you can read his new serial and follow him on Twitter.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Think I'm Schizophrenic

Okay, probably not actually schizophrenic. But the alternative is to go with the spiritually depraved "double-minded" and I don't want to do that.

What's causing this? Oh, it's been around for a while.

'I am in two minds about this shot' photo (c) 2010, Nina Matthews - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Yesterday I updated my social media pic with a new one that I had taken not too long ago. Now, I think this picture looks pretty damn good. Which is why I picked it. Because I think it looks good.

I have remarkably kind friends who have complimented me on the pic. And my first reaction is to say that it's probably too severe, that I should have one that's of me smiling. And to note that my arms still look pretty fat in this one and are hopefully a little less so now. And that I probably needed to touch up my roots before I had my picture taken. (Remember, I like this picture.)

Another example. I'm tremendously excited about the Not Alone book. I am thrilled that an idea that I had was considered worth pursuing publication, that I was able, even as a small blog, to gather enough stories to fill a book, that I was able to offer suggestions that actually made some of the essays better than they were. I worked hard at this project and I am proud of the result.

Yet every time someone congratulates me about the book, I want to blow it off. My part was small, I didn't really do much, I just got lucky, it's not that original.

I want attention, but I cower if I actually get it. I want praise, but deflect it when it happens. I want grace, but would rather wallow in my guilt.

This week I finally gave a listen to the new Gungor album, Ghosts Upon The Earth and the song Crags and Clay has been jumping out at me. I don't have to be double-minded. I can accept compliments because they are a praise to the One who made me.



We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Do you have an area where you are double-minded? Go ahead and compliment yourself in the comments today. I want to know what you're doing well so I can join you in the praises!


This is a part of Joy in this Journey's Life: Unmasked link-up. Head over to Joy's site to read more and to add your own!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Holding a Corner For Connie By Joy Wilson

I first read Joy's writing when she submitted a piece for the Not Alone project. She has written her own book, Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God. Her writing is poignant and powerful and I am so happy to feature Joy on my blog today!

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Connie.  Pray for Connie.  She’s in trouble.

Connie had been in trouble the last few years by anyone’s definition.  After being turned down for ordination by the denomination she loved in spite of a hard-won Masters of Divinity, she had lost two jobs due to reasons beyond her control.  Her self-employed, well-qualified husband struggled to keep their family afloat, and now this:  failure to buy a home in the school district offering the courses needed by her gifted daughter.  This woman of incredible resilience had repeatedly experienced life events that would undermine the strongest faith.

So now what.

My eyes had opened five minutes before the alarm buzzed, and rather than blurry blankness, my mind spoke her name.  Pulling on enough clothes to go outside, I sat in the dim dawn, not knowing what was going on, but knowing what to do.  A phone call could come later.  For now, I held a corner for Connie.

I’ve often been carried to Jesus by friends when I was paralyzed by fear, or drained by too much hopelessness.  They did whatever it took to cut through the walls that prevented my escape, and hauled me to where I couldn’t go – over the river to grandmother’s house and sanctuary for the soul.  And Jesus, sensing the faith of the friends, made a house call with an entire Emergency Room in his arms.  While each friend held a corner of the pallet, the Creator loved me back to life, though my world remained unchanged.

God can certainly do anything he/she wants without help, but has chosen to make the universe interdependent – trees and rocks and humans each connected for survival of the weakest.  “Alone” isn’t in God’s dictionary, but “together” has its own page. Those of us, such as plants and water, without the ability to see or hear, still seem to share the sixth sense:  an innate ability to interact with the whole of God in a ceaseless circle of love.  We are the recipients of this blessing, even if unaware.  But if we become conscious of these gifts of grace, then we share the power to heal.

I could hear it on the phone.  The cracks in her voice didn’t match the “I’m OK.”  Connie was face down in the mud, barely sucking air.  Her “giving well” was dry, and the will to try barely alive.  I struggle with clinical depression, and told some recent stories of God’s intervention at the last second when I could bear no more.  I shared my hope with her, for her, not knowing if she could even hear.  Then my heart spoke with compassion that wasn’t mine alone.  I said,

Connie, you may not know it, but countless times you have rescued me, bringing hope in a basket to this basket-case.  You’ve found me melted and mopped up the mess, as if it was normal to be covered in someone’s shit and misery.  Often I’ve been so thankful I’ve gushed with gratitude; other times this wordsmith’s been wordless. You’ve loved me in spite of my apparent lack of appreciation and insensitivity when the best I could do was hide.  But I always noticed the vulnerability it cost you to open your heart to me, whether I marveled or distained it at the time.

I’m a professional at letting what I can’t control take control over me.  You know me well, and I’ve been to hell many times before.  But hear this, girl:  right this minute, you are brave.  On most days, your courage is blatant as you battle the odds face-to-face.  But it also takes bravery to fall apart, fail to be strong and lie still with a half-teaspoon of faith that someone’s going to show up and haul you home.  Well, here I am.

All she could do was cry.  And all I could do was cry.  And those mingled tears refilled the “giving wells” in both of us, watering wilted hope that made it possible one more time to fall into the Grand Canyon of the unknown, held aloft by friends with faith.


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Joy Wilson is the author of Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling With God and a contributor to Not Alone (both Civitas Press, 2011). She and her husband, Bud, are two life-long hippies.  They live in Bartlett, TN, with six cats, two dogs, and no TV.  She is part of an eclectic group of Jesus-followers called Outlaw Preachers and has a passion for prison ministry. Also, Joy is an advocate for middle-aged and senior women, and anyone who suffers from depression. Joy’s website is joyleewilson.org and you can contact her at joyleewilson@gmail.com.


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Not Alone Available on Amazon!

In case you missed my media blast on Sunday, Not Alone is now available for purchase on Amazon! Which means if you buy it right now and pay for stupid expensive shipping rates, you can have it tomorrow! (You don't have to do that. But you know, you could.)

And just so you don't think that I'm the only person who likes this book, here are the endorsements that it has received (so far!):



"Stories are powerful. They humanize us, wreak havoc on our prejudices, and bind us together like societal glue. The personal essays in Not Alone do all these things. For those of us outside depression, they help us recognize bits of ourselves in an unfamiliar landscape. For those already intimate with depression, these stories can be a lifeline to community, an extended hand in the darkness. They show us no one is alone, and that point is worth celebrating.” — Jason Boyett, author of O Me of Little Faith and the Pocket Guide series


“When our journeys take us down dark and unfamiliar paths, we don’t need leaders with all the answers; we need friends with open arms. Not Alone brings together the voices of many such friends in essays that are alive with wisdom, honesty, humor, and grace. What makes this book so powerful is the diversity of the stories shared within it. No two journeys through depression are exactly the same, and yet no one needs to travel alone. What a joy it is to see such an impressive assemblage of smart, talented, and creative writers speaking words of hope into the world!” — Rachel Held Evans, popular blogger and author of Evolving in Monkey Town


"A book like this transcends a memoir. These essays make up a quasi-support group, where the reader can share in the experiences of multiple sufferers. Highly recommended for those who want to understand the 'human' element of depression.” — Rob Dobrenski, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist and author of Crazy: Notes on and off the Couch


I am so excited to get this into the hands of as many people as possible. And as a little bit of a teaser, I will send a PDF including the foreword by the lovely and talented Elizabeth Esther and five stories to the first 10 people who comment here and leave a way for me to email you a PDF! (I promise, I won't spam you or sign you up for my RSS or anything gross like that - I'll just send you the sampler.)


So you have something to comment about, What book have you read recently that you would recommend? Or recommend against?

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Mourning for the Unknown Friend

I woke up yesterday morning to the news that Sara Frankl had passed away. In the midst of rousing kids from sleep, trying to find shoes, grabbing some breakfast, I read posts by folks sharing their memories of their Gitzen Girl. How she touched their lives, how she made their lives brighter, how she was a faithful friend.

I didn't know her. I discovered Sara when Matthew wrote about her a little less than 2 weeks ago. At that point, she was unable to post to her blog, to compose any new tweets, to respond to a new reader. I've heard her sing, have read her words, have seen her pictures, but I never had the opportunity to interact with her directly. I have many in my virtual village, but somehow Sara and I missed one another.

And yet I mourn her passing.

Not for Gitz. I believe in eternity and I believe Sara is sharing eternity in the embrace of the One she served while she was alive.

But I mourn with my friends who did know Sara. I'm sad that they have a season where they don't get to laugh with her, to cry with her, to talk to her, to tweet with her. To be her friend. There's a hole there and even as they choose joy, that void is apparent. My heart aches for them in this season.

I went to church and we sang Stronger:

You are stronger, you are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, Christ is risen
Jesus, You are Lord of all

Sara's body wasn't strong. It was broken and hurt. Her friends wrote of the emotional toll of hearing her yelp in pain or gasp for breath. Sara wrote about the ways that she wanted things to be and the way they actually were for her. 

But her hope was in One who was stronger. And through her writing, she encouraged others to choose joy. Not joy that ignores pain, but joy that sees goodness in the midst of the pain. Not joy that ignores brokenness, but joy that finds bits of beauty in the midst of that brokenness. Not joy that ignores sadness, but joy that finds others to lean on in the midst of that sadness.

So I mourn. 

And I choose joy.



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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Late again...I know. Sorry. I will get back in the swing of putting this together in advance so you don't have to wait all day.

  • If you don't read another thing in this compilation, please, please, please read this post by Tamara Lunardo over at Deeper Story. The writing here affected me (and many other). I am so honored that Tamara is one of the contributors to the Not Alone book. 
  • In absolutely gorgeous writing, David Nilsen wrote an amazing post this week, giving us snapshots of life through the years and ending with a beautiful reveal. 
  • David R. Henson wrote a poignant piece about the forgotten man that was executed on Wednesday. It's easy to oppose the death penalty when there's doubt about the guilt, less so when we KNOW he's a bad guy.
  • Jason Boyett posted a progressive intro to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood from 1967-2000. It made me and my oldest son cry. 
  • My friend Matthew Paul Turner lost a dear friend today. His post asks us to do something simple today for Sara. Just breathe.
  • Don't forget to tweet or post Nuru's video! There have been some, but I'd love to get to 50 by tonight. Thanks for your help!
  • As I mentioned at the top of this post, Tamara's post wrecked me this week (all week). This morning on the drive to church I popped in Sikkibahm to listen to and the song Baby came on. If you haven't listened to it before, click it and fix that.
What did you write/read/watch/listen to this week that moved you? Share away!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Nuru!


If you've been reading my blog for any time at all, you know that my all-time favorite humanitarian group is Nuru International. I love the work that they do and I love the way that they do it.

Tomorrow, this amazing organization turns 3 years old. In 3 short years, they have touched over 10,000 lives, helping people escape extreme poverty. By providing loans, teaching basic sanitation, helping to dig wells, teaching better farming techniques, they are providing people with a way to lift themselves out of poverty and lack.

To celebrate this occasion, the media team for Nuru produced the following video. Take a watch:



Really and truly, I just love these guys and watching that makes me all weepy and happy. I love hearing directly from the folks whose lives have been changed by what Nuru does. By what Nuru allows them to do.

I want more people to see it. That's where you come in.

Please post this video to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or your blog by midnight tomorrow night (9/25) and I will donate $1 per share, up to $50.

If you share on Twitter, please use the following tweet (this makes it easier for me to track):
I'm joining @AliseWrite to wish @IAMNURU happy birthday! Watch this video to find out more: http://bit.ly/ocmD9H Please RT!
If you share on Facebook, please tag Alise Write in your share (you probably have to like my Facebook page to do that). If you don't want to tag me, please leave a link in the comments to your share. To do that, just click on the time stamp next to the "Like * Comment * Share" bit underneath the item.

If you share on Google Plus, please tag Alise Wright. I should get an email notification for those. And if you don't want to tag me, just go ahead and leave a comment here with the link (again, just click on the time stamp to get the direct link).

And if you blog about this, please leave a comment with a link to your post. I definitely want to give it a read!

Also, be sure to give a like to Nuru's Facebook page and follow them on Twitter and wish them a happy birthday directly.

Thanks for sharing this video with your friends and helping get the word out about Nuru. I know that we can get to 50 shares by tomorrow night!

Be Hope. Be Light. Be Nuru.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Sexuality and Sex are Different (even for the gays)

I was going to let DADT's demise slip by without writing about it. I was thrilled to see it lifted, but aside from waving farewell, I didn't really have much to say about it. In 1993, it was better than screening for gays, but when the policy only punished those who told and not those who asked, that's pretty flawed. And also, the whole lying thing seemed bad. And losing thousands of soldiers who have been trained and served honorably is stupid and wasteful. With it passing, none of that mattered. I was just happy to see it go.

But this morning I clicked on a video that I couldn't leave without comment.




Regarding the booing, I know there will always be jerks out there and there will always be people willing to call to task "their" people when they behave badly. I'm quite sure my conservative friends will be condemning the booing of anyone in the US Military. I'll catch the folks on the left who do the same. It's tremendously upsetting, but that shit is best  dealt with in house.


I am not, however, going to let Mr. Santorum's statement go without comment. Because it speaks to a much larger, more common problem than booing a soldier.


Mr. Santorum said, "I would say that any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military."


You know what Rick? I agree.  And you know what else? Don't ask, don't tell had absolutely nothing to do with that in any way. 


Removing DADT did not give all of the gays and lesbians a free pass to go out and start bonking every soldier that they find attractive. 


Of course, Mr. Santorum knows this. But once again, he confuses the idea of sex and sexuality when it comes to LGBT folks. For some reason, when we talk about gays and lesbians, it's all about the sex. 


When we think about a straight married couple, we don't jump to that. We'll think about weddings, kids, jobs, dinners around the table, sitting on the couch together watching American Idol, coffee shared on a porch swing. You know, the stuff married people do 23 & 1/2 hours every day.


Think of a married gay couple and immediately it's about what they do in the bedroom. Rick Santorum laid it out pretty plainly here, but it's everywhere.


We don't want them to flaunt their sexuality (because if we see a straight couple holding hands, we immediately think of them doing the nasty, right?). We don't hate gay people, but we don't approve of their behavior (and since we probably don't care about the behavior of buying nice shoes, we likely mean the sex stuff). We swoon over Bridges of Madison County and balk at Brokeback Mountain (even though they're both tremendously boring movies about adultery). It's about sex. Sex, sex, sex.


But you know what? It's really not.


Lifting DADT simply means that everyone gets to be honest about the person they love back home. So the straight lady gets to show off pics of her husband and their kids. The gay guy gets to talk about his partner's new business venture. No one is obligated to say anything, but they don't have to be afraid of losing their job. They get to be more than SEX. They get to be husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends. They get to be people who are excited about their loved one's new pet or a new job opportunity or a new home purchase. They get to miss the person they love.


Maybe we can get some applause going for that.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Seven Post Challenge

'Seven' photo (c) 2009, Melanie Hughes - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I'm short on time today due to yesterday's post taking it out of me and a visit from my parents to help clean (while I was laying emotional & spiritual garbage out for you, they've been helping me with some actual garbage in my home and I am supremely thankful for that), and since my friend Janet Oberholtzer tagged me in her post, I thought I'd go ahead and do this myself. Let's go!
  • Most Beautiful Post: Tetelestai -- This was pretty early on the blog, but I still think it's pretty lovely.
  • Most Popular Post: A Christ-Centered Marriage -- I'm going with most popular on the blog, rather than most popular thing I've written, which was almost certainly my guest post over at Rachel Held Evans's place, Surviving a Conversation with an Atheist. (See how I did that there?)
  • Most Controversial Post: My Big Gay Post -- Actually, it's kind of a toss-up between this one and the previous one. I got a fair amount of push back from both of those pieces. But truly, some excellent discussion on both as well.
  • Most Helpful Post: Let's Make 37 Young -- Wherein you guys helped me raise $370 for Nuru International. Because you're awesome.
  • Post Whose Success Surprised Me: Free Will and Calvinist Atheists -- I still get a fair number of hits to this one and that catches me off guard. But I'm so thankful for my friend's honesty and her thoughts about her deconversion.
  • Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved: The Roof is Coming Down -- I often find myself in the more peripheral characters in Bible stories and this is no exception. This was a fun one.
  • Post that I am Most Proud Of: How Substantial Are Your Buns -- Mostly because I adore this title, the pic, and the fact that I was able to pull a post out of something that I was sure had no post appeal. Also, I love that you have, in fact, been some substantial buns.
Feel free to click on through and give a read to any of these you may have missed back in the day. 

And if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. If you post it on your own site, shoot a link over in the comments. If you don't want to do the game, I'd still love it if you'd leave me a link to your favorite post that you've written (if you blog) or that you've read (if you don't - or even if you do, that's cool). 

Even if you don't read anything here I still want you to have a great day, so here is my most favorite video clip about seven. Because truly, everything (!) relates back to Seinfeld.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Distance Between

'rejected' photo (c) 2010, Sean MacEntee - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I was the girl who was everybody's friend. I was funny and nice and smart and loud and weird. I played the saxophone in band, the piano in chorus, and the hussy in school musicals, but in real life, I was completely chaste. I'd like to say it was because of my strong moral fiber, but mostly it was because there weren't any inquiries. It was easy to maintain my virginity when no one was interested in procuring it.

Most of the time I could convince myself that it didn't matter. I embraced my weirdness. I did things that would insure that I would still have friends, but that any lack of interest in me wasn't because I wasn't pretty or desirable, but instead because I was just too much for a regular high school boy. I joked with the boy I liked at the cast party, but I went home and cried after because he confided that he wanted to date my friend, not me.

I wasn't exactly rejected...I just wasn't pursued.


The distance between 16 and 30 is almost indistinguishable sometimes.

I was sitting in a living room with two people who had told me that they loved me. They had told me that they supported me. They had told me that they wanted me to be a part of what they were doing.

But when I showed a little bit of who I was and people in their congregation were frightened by that, these people reneged on everything.

Oh, they didn't say that. They didn't kick me out of the church. They still said that they loved me and that they supported me. I just wasn't submissive enough. I wasn't embracing the vision of the church. I was just a little too different, too loud, too weird. I could go to church there, but I couldn't do the one thing that I was created to do. That was for other people, not for me.

I wasn't exactly rejected...I just wasn't pursued.

These stories are not the full measure of me. I have been pursued. By a faithful husband. By an unfailing God. By people who refuse to allow me to be counted strictly by what I can provide for them, but rather for who I am. I cling to these relationships because they allow me to know that my value is far greater than what I can see on my own. But the pain of lack of pursuit still gnaws at me.

The distance between being ignored and being rejected is almost indistinguishable sometimes.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Review: Run With Me by Jennifer Luitwieler

From the first post I ever read by Jennifer Luitwieler, I have been a fan. It's always a joy to find someone who is able to blend of humor and honesty in their writing and in Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, Jen does this with a deft hand.

Despite the title, this is not a book about running. Jen begins running to train The Dog to poop outside rather than in her craft room and is, of course, forced to carry his feces after he has done the deed. But long after she dumps the dog and runs for herself, Jen discovers that she is still carrying poo with her. Crap that clung to her and weighed her down and told her that she was unable to do everything that she wanted to do. That stopped her from doing everything that she could do.

She dives into her struggles with depression, both as a young woman and as an adult. She talks about growing up, the daughter of a pastor, dealing with judgments from church. She writes about overcoming body issues and loving her Lycra running shorts. She shares stories that will make you laugh, will make you gag (I can take poop stories, but draw the line at booger stories!), will make you cry and will make you reflect.

I've become friends with Jen through social media over the past year and a bit, but after reading her memoir, I feel that I know her even better. And I love that in reading Run With Me, I know a bit more about myself as well.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo. Also, connect with Jen at her blog, on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

BlogHer Book Club Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Easily one of the most quotable books I've read in a while, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is a fantastic look at New York in the thirties. Head over to the BlogHer Book Club now to check out my review!


Disclosure: I received a copy of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles for the purpose of review and I was compensated for my review, however my opinions are 100% my own.

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Rebranding

'Brand' photo (c) 2011, Rupert Ganzer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Oh Netflix.

I am a huge fan of Netflix. Huge. I was a fan back when it was just DVDs and then an even bigger fan when I could start streaming. Even when they recently jacked up their prices big time, I remained. Because I can watch pretty much any movie ever within a day or two (or sometimes a few minutes) of when I want to, and really seventeen bucks still isn't that much in the grand scheme of things.

I'll be honest though, this whole rebranding thing where they somehow decided that the best way to fix a perceived miscommunication with their subscribers is to further complicate things by making two non-integrated websites is trying my patience. Now I can't see if the movie that is in my DVD queue is already available for streaming. My ratings of the television show that I just watched on my computer won't be counted in the algorithms over at the DVD side of things. Plus, they called the DVD service Qwikster. With a W. Because celebrating illiteracy is totally fun.

But I can't point fingers too hard at Reed Hastings. We Christians love rebranding stuff too. And it can be confusing and unhelpful as well.

Like hell.

At some point, the whole idea of burning in a lake of fire for all eternity seemed to lose its cachet with a number of people. Instead of talking about hell, we started just saying "separated from God." The idea didn't change, just the way that we talk about it.

I don't think I understand how that helps.

To the Christian, that is still a torturous existence.

To the unbeliever, it's pretty much how life is today.

So what's the purpose of the rebranding of hell? We still end up with an "in" group and an "out" group. Those on the inside still get to imagine people getting paid back for unbelief. We just get to use more gentle language so we don't feel like the sweaty guy standing on his soapbox, screaming at college students to repent.

What does the unbeliever gain here? They aren't any more aware of God's love, because the message is still that he's going to reject you for eternity if you don't believe. They aren't more aware of the love of those around them because they're still being placed in the out group. The message of rejection is the same, just now without the element of fear as a motivator.

One comment over at the Netflix blog said that Netflix is missing out because they lost their focus. People don't care about "streaming" or "DVD" - Netflix has always been "where we get movies." The service is what we care about. When the focus shifted from the service to the means, it has caused a mass exodus.

Dear Church, let us not do the same.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but to save the world through him.
John 3:17, NIV


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What do you think is the primary service of the Church? Are our means in line with our service?

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Sorry for all of the late Stuff I've Been Reading posts. Lots of gigs lately and getting in a 4am means that I am sleeping in later than I normally do. Anyway! Here are some of my favorites from the week.

  • This post from my friend David Nilsen reminded me of hanging out with my friends after the concert band would play out during the school day. Going back to class felt very optional those days.
  • Matthew Paul Turner reminded me again of just how real the Virtual Village is, especially to some folks. I don't know gitzengirl, but his tributes to her this week made me cry. Friendship is precious, even if it is primarily through the interwebs.
  • In the same vein, Rob Shepherd gathered some of my favorite bloggers to talk about building community on your blog. Some great thoughts from some amazing writers.
  • There were a few good posts about the new True Tolerance video from Focus on the Family, but I really enjoyed Mason Slater's take on it.
  • My friend Sarah lives in North Carolina where they are talking about a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for gays and lesbians. She pretty much nails why that's a bad idea in this post.
  • Janet Oberholtzer's book releases this week. You should head over to her site and order it right away. I'll be reviewing it here once I've received my copy, but based on her blog and the glowing endorsements that she's received, I am certain that it will be worth it! Plus, if you order now, you can save a few bucks!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Take a second and let me know!


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Friday, September 16, 2011

Bright Lights or Big City

'Lightning' photo (c) 2009, John Fowler - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
On Wednesday night when we were heading back from the concert (which was awesome, by the way), we ran into some pretty harsh weather. It was late (post-concert grilled stickies and coffee at Eat'n Park made it a bit later), so the rain and wind were disconcerting enough, but what was worse was the lightning.

Now, at home, standing out on my porch with a mug of coffee, watching a lightning storm is one of my favorite activities. I love watching the rain drip off of the branches of the pine tree in our front yard, seeing the crackle of the lightning and then counting the seconds until I hear the crash of thunder that follows. Even in the midst of the power of the storm, I find it offers a measure of comfort. Or at least of familiarity.

But on the interstate driving 65 mph at 1 AM? Not so much. In that circumstance, it is simply jarring, disorienting and mildly terrifying.

As I was driving along, each flash of lightning would fully illuminate everything around me. But because I was accustomed to the darkness, I wasn't able to actually see anything. The light it provided wasn't beneficial, it only served to make it more difficult for me to drive. It was so overwhelming that it was more of a hindrance than a help.

I think sometimes as Christians we can do the same thing. We see something that looks like darkness in someone's life and we want to "let our light shine." So we come in like a flash of lightning and share an insight or rebuke and then fade away. The truth is, there was probably something worth passing on, something that could be helpful, but when we approach it in that manner, we simply make things more confusing.

Light is good and necessary, but we need to be consistent. Showing up every now and then only serves to blind and startle, it offers no real illumination. A city on a hill isn't something that comes and goes, it's established; it's reliable. Its light promises safety and comfort. It is a symbol of longevity.

Jesus called us to be light, but never to be lightning. Let's be sure that we remember the difference.

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Have you ever flashed someone? Have you ever been flashed? (C'mon people! You know what I mean! ;-D)

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bryan Allain's Blogging Mojo Isn't for Powerpuff Girls

I'll be honest, when I think of Mojo, I mostly think of this guy:

Mojo Jojo

So yeah, I kept looking for tips to defeating a big-brained monkey to show up somewhere in Bryan Allain's new book, 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo. Alas, I was disappointed on that front.



However, that was where my disappointment ended! In 31 Days, Bryan lays out all kinds of fantastic, practical advice to help improve your blogging skills so that you can get your message out more effectively.

What I really appreciated about this book was that it required something from you. Not just the normal stuff like, go write more!, but instead he offers targeted suggestions to help you hone in on your audience, your perspective, and your content. And to get the most out of the book, you need to follow through on his suggestions. Probably even the suggestions to do jumping jacks. (We writers tend to be sedentary folks.)

Bryan has a great mix of humor and butt-kicking in this book, and there's no doubt that the former helps the latter go down easier. He walks you through what you need to in order to have a better blog, but like any kind of self-improvement, you have to do the work. Fortunately, 31 Days to Finding Your Blogging Mojo has the tools that you need to get that work done.

If you're a new or seasoned blogger, I recommend checking out Bryan's book. There's good advice in it for all of us and it can help you improve your blog.

Check out the 31 Days to Mojo website and for reals, head over to Amazon and pick up the book. It's five bucks and your blog is worth more than that.

But if you're a Powerpuff Girl, you'll want to look elsewhere for tips on defeating your arch enemy. Maybe Bryan's next book.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Robots and Nerds

Tonight my bestie and I are heading up to Pittsburgh to see They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton perform. I've seen the Johns a few times before, but it's my first time seeing JoCo and I must admit, I'm pretty stoked. These dudes sing about all kinds of nerd lore and I am deeply smitten by them all.

I know, I'm supposed to hide my love of all things nerdy, but I just can't help it. These are my favorite kinds of bands. The more likely they are to sing about math, or evolution, or video games, or Belgium painters, the more likely it is that I'm going to crush on the performer.

Anyway, in addition to all of the links above, I'm going to share a couple of robot vids from these guys here. First, from TMBG:



And from Jonathan Coulton (he has a lot more robot songs to choose from, but I have to go with this one because it reminds me of my sons. Also, let this be a warning - reject the nerds at your own peril.)




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What's your favorite TMBG or JoCo song? Have you seen them in concert and if so, what's your favorite memory? Do you think you could help convince The Johns to play Turn Around at tonight's concert so I can tease my 13 year old daughter who says that is her most favorite song ever?

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not Alone Housekeeping

You guys, the book is at the printers, like, right now. Every time I think my excitement level is maxed out, it cranks up another notch or two. You've all been so awesome so far at helping me by providing stories, support, back links in your blogs, all kinds of stuff, and now that it's close, I've got a few more ways that you can help.
  • Grab a button. I've got several different size buttons/ads that you can display on your website or blog (see the bottom of the post for examples and grab boxes). These will take folks to the Civitas website where they can order the book.
  • Share the pre-order link on Facebook or Twitter or Google + or whatever cooler thing that I'm not familiar with yet. I promise you, there is someone in your circle of influence who is dealing with depression right now and these stories will be healing for them.
  • Give a like to Civitas Press and Alise Write on Facebook. We'll be posting updates on those pages and you know you love Facebook. It's okay, we can all deal with our inability to quit it together. I'll start a Facebook group where we can support one another.
  • I've got some goodies for folks who are interested in a review on their blog. You can either email me or leave a comment with your email address below and I'll get in touch with you about that. Also, if you're interested in an interview or podcast or guest post sometime next month when the book releases, hit me up now. No matter what you might hear from my bandmates, I'm really quite a nice person.
Again, thank you so much for your support thus far in the process and for helping me now to get the word out. Your friendship and encouragement have meant a ton to me and I sincerely thank you for everything!




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Monday, September 12, 2011

God Hates Fred

I'm a fan of the Never Beyond campaign over at People of the Second Chance. I love the way they encourage folks to pour out grace to those who most would write off as being outside of its reach.

What a beautiful, heroic idea!

I started thinking about it. Who do I look at and think, "You know, if there's a hell, that guy is there for sure." And I realized there was one person that I hate an awful lot. One person that I am pretty sure has used up every single one of his seventy times seven chances. One person who is not is not just preaching a back-handed message of hate, but has a whole site devoted to hate. Not just devoted to hate, but with hate in the domain name.

Fred. Phelps.

Really, I can't think of anyone that I like less than this pastor. He gained mainstream notoriety when he started protesting the funerals of soldiers in 2006, but he and his family/church had been protesting funerals for years, most notably the funeral of Matthew Shepard in 1998. He has, time and again, befouled the Christian moniker. I read through his biography on Wikipedia, watch documentaries about him, and truly, I can't find anything about him that I can admire. And I can usually find some redeeming quality about most people, even folks I don't care for very much.

In my mind, he is pretty much the embodiment of one who is not worthy of any more chances. He scoffs at any hint of gentleness or compassion. He teaches children, those who are the most accepting among us, that hatred is a virtue and that love is weakness. At every turn, his rights are protected while those he speaks about with such vitriol are struck down time and again.

How do I find grace for this person? Because honestly, I'm not interested in extending grace. I see him or a family member being interviewed on a news show or in a podcast and all I can think is, "Why are you trying to reason with these people? Why are you giving them a platform? They are just media whores. They will never change."

And in my heart, up goes the big banner declaring "God Hates Fred."

Suddenly I'm stopped cold.

Because I know that God doesn't hate Fred any more than he hates any of the people that Fred claims that God hates. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees a broken, hurting, messy guy who puts conditions on God's love, just like me. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees a person who is more interested in being the center of attention and uses God as a prop to make that happen, just like me. God looks at Fred Phelps and sees someone who needs to know that he is loved, just like me.

And if God's love is big enough for Fred Phelps, then it's big enough for me.

It's big enough for all of us.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Sorry for the late post. Long day yesterday and bummed around today trying to recover and then realized, "Hey, it's Sunday and I haven't done a post!"

So here are some of my favorites from the week. Enjoy!
  • After a week off from blogging and social media, Rachel Held Evans came back with two simply beautiful posts. Please don't miss her Journeys of a Religious Misfit. Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Though I appreciated my friend Chad's "hate," I really loved this post about love.
  • Elizabeth Esther is putting her faith to action in some beautiful ways. She amazes me.
  • I really loved this cartoon about truth from David Hayward.
  • My friend Sarah wrote a great post about fear this week. Love seeing people face down fears!
  • After asking folks what I should watch on Netflix, I settled on Sherlock. Totally awesome. I highly recommend checking it out. 
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Love, Love, Love

I don't think I have anything I could add to the discussion about the 10th anniversary of 9/11. My heart aches for the families of those who lost loved ones. I pray they find peace and I believe, with all that is in me, that peace is found in Love.



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Thursday, September 8, 2011

BlogHer Book Club Review: Slow Love by Dominique Browning

I enjoy a well-written memoir and Dominique Browning's Slow Love is a lovely piece of writing. She paints a beautiful narrative and while I had to rush through reading this book far more quickly than I would have liked, I found her prose to be a delight.

I was torn on the actual content. On one hand, I absolutely love the idea behind the book. When forced to slow down because she lost her job, Dominique discovers that relationships require nurturing that can't be scheduled in the day planner. I am thoroughly in favor of this idea.

However, I was less excited about the seemingly unending writing about "Stroller" - a man with whom she is having an affair and who is clearly disinterested in her in any meaningful way. Obviously she realizes this because she is able to write so plainly about it, but it is really difficult for me to like someone who, for so long, allowed herself to be used in such an obvious manner and who seems to write about it almost wistfully. It was just hard for me to reconcile that with her over-reaching message of really immersing yourself in relationships.

We'll be having a month long discussion about this book over at BlogHer. If you have a chance to read the book, stop by and share your thoughts as well!

This was a sponsored review by BlogHer. The opinions expressed are 100% my own (like it could be any other way).

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