Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: Because I Can by Janet Oberholtzer

I'm not always the most thorough person when I visit someone else's blog for the first time. This was the case with Janet Oberholtzer. For whatever reason the first few times I went to her site, I read what had been linked, maybe commented and then clicked away. I didn't visit her "about" page for the first several times I went to her site. I just liked her writing and thought it was cool that she ran.

So it took me a few trips to Janet's site to realize that Janet even having a site is kind of miraculous. And the more I read of her story at her site, the more excited I was to read the book that she was working on. So I was thrilled for her when she won the Rhizome Publishing contest allowing her book to be published and available to all of us!

Janet was in an accident that nearly took her life and her left leg. Her book chronicles the events following the accident. It includes her physical recovery, but of far greater interest to me was reading of her mental and emotional recovery. Janet talks about her struggle with depression in this book. Struggles in her marriage. Struggles with her body image. Struggles with her faith.

I loved this book because Janet has what could be a really glurgy story, but manages to avoid the pat, easy answers. In fact, those answers kind of piss her off (can I say that about an ex-Mennonite?). Janet is honest and straight-forward in her writing about her emotions surrounding her life following the accident. She doesn't dress it up and she doesn't back away from the difficulties. She is honest about how it felt to be "Miracle Woman" and still be depressed. To be told that "all things work for good" and to be unable to see that good anywhere.

And she also shows us the importance of continuing even in our desperation. To be willing to ask for help when we need it. To be willing to face questions about God, even when they frighten us. To be willing to work hard for the things that we want, even through pain and embarrassment.

In the beginning of the book, Janet talks about how she couldn't bear to look at her damaged leg. You'll notice the cover of the book is a picture of her legs. This is the story that Janet tells. That shame has no place in her life. No place in anyone's life. Janet's story is amazing, but not just for the obvious reasons. It's amazing because she shows us that no matter what our struggles are, we can push through. She did, and we can.

You can order Janet's book at her website, or for your Nook, or your Kindle. If you want to connect with Janet, you can read her blog, or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Janet's book from the publisher for the purpose of review. However my opinions are 100% my own (and I paid for a paper copy because I hate trees and love my friends).

Disclosure 2: I don't really hate trees.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Sunday. Wrap-up. Go.
  • I loved this piece by Naomi over at Aiming Low about Klout. She crushed it.
  • The doughnut wars are ON, people. On the side of Dunkin Donuts, Knox McCoy. Standing up for Krispy Kreme, Jessica Buttram. The winner? Definitely us, because these pieces are hilarious.
  • My friend Katie ALICEA wrote a beautiful post about settling down, now that she's an old married woman. Her perspective on marriage is one that I share completely. 
  • Because it mentions A Prayer for Owen Meany, I have to point to Shawn Smucker's post about emotion during writing. I think it's an intriguing quote and I've been thinking about my response a lot.
  • I forgot to include this in last week's round-up, but it's too important to get passed. Great (!!!) post by Sharideth Smith about a contributor to divorce that is not talked about near often enough. 
  • Cathy LaGrow breaks down the scariness factor of snakes vs. spiders.
  • This picture over at Catalog Living made me laugh out loud. 
  • Right now at Amazon you can get 99 pieces by Mozart (well, kind of - they're counting each movement as a piece, but all movements are included, so you know, it's like 70 something pieces) for just a dollar. If you're looking for a way to balance out all of that Black Eyed Peas on your MP3 player, search no further.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your favorites in the comments!


Friday, October 28, 2011


I've been feeling a bit whiny lately. Jason had to leave a few days early on a business trip, which has him gone for 10 days in a row. And it's been mostly grey and rainy out here. And a couple of gigs for our band haven't panned out. And the good-idea fairy has been visiting everyone else but me recently. And whine, whine, whine.

It's easy for me to be negative. It's easy for me to get up on a soap-box. It's easy for me to embrace cynicism.

On Tuesday, my friend Larry Hehn posted a piece about celebrating things we like instead of simply ranting about things that we don't. I thought about waiting until next month to do this because it might be redundant to have to thanksgiving posts, but you know? I think it'll be okay if I'm thankful for things more than once a year. So here we go.

I'm grateful for:
  • that moment in the mornings when I'm alone in the house and the only sounds are a cat purring on my lap and the coffee brewing in the kitchen.
  • the smell of clean laundry.
  • that perfect spot in my husband's arms where I feel totally comfortable and protected and cherished.
  • the feeling of accomplishment after absolutely nailing a song.
  • Skype Bible study with my mom and sisters.
  • the times I get to watch my oldest daughter march with a perfect roll step.
  • silly Twitter memes that make me laugh for a solid minute.
  • the sound of my sons' combined laughter.
  • a perfectly cooked, deliciously seasoned medium-rare steak.
  • a chord in a piece of music that makes me catch my breath.
  • friends who think that the grocery store is a perfectly sane place to hang out and laugh.
  • feeling the air in my lungs when I'm cooling down after a run.
  • my youngest daughter's stories about the adventures that she and her stuffed animals are having.
  • conversations that weren't planned and interfere with what a I have to do and are completely worth it.
What are you grateful for today?


Thursday, October 27, 2011


My local Facebook feed has been alight with Conference talk for a few weeks now. First the news that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were moving to the ACC (damn you ACC, for continuing to raid our conference!). Then there was some talk of WVU moving to the SEC, but we were passed over with talk about our low academic standards. Then this week it looked like it was kind of a done deal for WVU to move into the Big 12. However Senator McConnell made a call and put the breaks on that deal, which caused WV senators Manchin and Rockefeller to also stick their noses into it. And of course there is all kinds of huge money at stake, regardless of how it all shakes out.

Needless to say, all of this has been pretty hard on the WVU fans. Are we supposed to be loyal to the Big East? Do we throw our hopes into a conference where the closest school is Iowa? Do we put a hit out on at the folks running the ACC? (The answer to that? Is definitely yes.) So much rejection swirling around, it's hard not to take it personally.

'Cracked Texture 2' photo (c) 2008, Caleb - license:'re just a few days away from Reformation. Growing up Lutheran, this was always one of the biggest days of the year, right up there with Christmas and Easter. The day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church, protesting the use of indulgences and one of the catalysts for the Protestant movement.

Today, we have over 38,000 denominations of Christianity. Thirty-eight-thousand.

That is some serious shake-up going on.

Disagreements over theology, tradition, money, politics all cause us to constantly fracture and divide. We shift, we realign.

Before his death, Jesus prayed the following for his followers:
I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me. I have honored my followers in the same way that you honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one. I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world's people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me. (John 17:21-23, CEV)
We don't show God's love through our perfect theology, through our spectacular church services, or through our support of the right political candidate. Jesus said that the way we display it is through our unity in him. That's a realignment I can get behind.


What football conference is your favorite team in? What are some practical steps we can take to realign under Christ with our Christian neighbors with whom we don't necessarily agree?


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Guest Post at

I don't follow a whole lot of "how to blog" blogs because honestly, I'm mostly going to write the way that I'm going to write, good advice be damned.

But not Jeff Goins. His is a blog I read regularly. Because not only does he give good blogging and writing advice, he gives good advice about being an artist and creative in those pursuits. Sure, he gives valuable tips on how to improve your content and how to bring more folks to your site to enjoy that content, but I don't feel like the whole thing is a numbers game with him, which I really appreciate.

Today I'm honored to be over at Jeff's place sharing about the Guest Post Extravaganza from back in August.
If you blog, you know letting your site sit idle for a month can be brutal on your audience and traffic.
I knew my core group of readers would stick around, but I didn't want to lose momentum that was building.
What was I to do?
I decided to open up my blog to the public.
I'd love it if you'd stop by and read the rest of the piece!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Tainted Love

I've written a few times about how I don't think that we in the Church really trust that we're loved by God. I believe this is true and accounts for most of the issues that we have in our dealings with those who aren't Christians (and a lot of people who ARE Christians, but don't believe the same way that we do).

Yesterday in the green room I had a fantastic conversation with our associate pastor about this and I think he may have a key to the unlocking this a bit more.

We talk all the time about God's love. We quote John 3:16, "For God so loved the world..." We know that we're supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves. We even know that we're to love our enemies.

And in the process, we may have devalued the idea of love.

We've thrown around love so much that it doesn't really mean anything to us any more. Loving everyone becomes a duty for us. There's not really joy or pleasure taken in loving someone, it's just another obligation. As a result, we assume that God feels the same way.

One thing you'll often hear Christians say is that we love someone, but we don't like them. If we're honest, the fact is, that just means that we don't love them either. It's just words that we're saying because we're supposed to, not because we mean it.
'facebook like button' photo (c) 2011, Sean MacEntee - license:
My pastor's suggestion is brilliant - we start to talk about God liking us.

You tell someone who's a Christian that God loves them, and it's all, "Yeah, I already know that." But you tell them that God likes them? And it has a different connotation.

When I think about people that I like, it's a whole different dynamic. I want to spend time with them. I want to know their thoughts about subjects, even if we disagree. I want to hear their stories. I will believe the best about them no matter what. Like implies a choice.

I think people outside of the Christian culture get that love should imply a deeper, more profound attachment. Which is why I think the idea of love being applied across the board is difficult to grasp for many outside of the faith.

After talking to my pastor yesterday, I think it can be difficult to grasp inside of the faith as well.

So Christian readers, today I want you to know that God likes you. Personally. Without obligation.

He likes you.


Does hearing that someone likes you bring about a different response to you as well? Do you think that we have misused the word love and therefore cheapened it? What are the differences that you see between "like" and "love"?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

It's Sunday! Which means it's time for me to share with you some of the thought-provoking, interesting, funny things that I've collected this week on the internets.
  • My friend David has been writing about an adoption series from the point of view of the birth mother. Even though this is not something that I've been a part of personally, I've found these posts to be absolutely beautiful. He finished up the series this week and I highly recommend it.
  • Following the news that Mars Hill Seattle sent a cease and desist letter to another church of the same name, Ed Cyzewski came up with a new logo for the church in Sacramento. I'm telling you, Ed is a problem solver.
  • Matthew Paul Turner and his wife Jessica are celebrating their seventh anniversary today. Stop by Matthew's blog, read their story and wish them a happy anniversary!
  • Knox McCoy gets pissed off about all kinds of things. This week he was pissed off by speakerphones. It made me giggle.
  • In honor of the National Day of Writing on Thursday, Kristin Tennant wrote a great essay about why it's important for her to write.
  • A local photographer and member at my church, Chad Griffith, released a video of time-lapsed photos that he's taken of Morgantown, WV over the past year. It is absolutely beautiful and has gone a bit viral around here (over 29,000 YouTube hits). You can read about the making of the video here and watch it below.

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave a link to your favorites!


Friday, October 21, 2011

God's Judgment/God's Love

'hearts & leaves' photo (c) 2006, softestthing - license:

Earlier this week, my friend Neece posted this on Facebook:
I helped represent our local secular humanist organization at Diversity Week at WVU today. A girl walked past and said, "Oh, you guys are atheists?" To which I said, yes. And she said, "I hope you die." How very Christian of her, don't you think?
It makes me sad any time I see this kind of thing. I don't think that it's indicative of most people of faith, but I know that it's certainly a larger number than I'd like to believe. There are those who believe that God hates people, and that as such, it is apparently okay for them to hate right along with him.

For many of us though, we still place conditions on God's love. He's loving BUT he's just. He's loving BUT he's wrathful. He's loving BUT he's holy. So we might not say something quite so hateful as "I hope you die" to an atheist, but we know that they'll get theirs in the end. We just let God do the judging and we can keep our hands clean.

Then my friend Tony posted this on Twitter this morning:

"All of God's judgement 
is toward that which interferes with His love" 
~Mike Bickle

What would happen if I started asking myself, "Is this interfering with God's love?" when I starting adding the buts in my description of God? Would it change how I interact with people? Would it change how I treat myself?

What do you think?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Live Like Mary by Rachel McGowan

You know what's nice? When other people offer to write for you. You know what's really nice? When they write something that you really want to share. Huge thanks to Rachel McGowan for doing both of those things today!


In the Bible there are four gospels. Each gospel tells similar versions of the same collection of stories, and I love stories. I love the gospels because every time I read something from one of them, it’s a new story. And every time I read it, it is truly good news.

One of my favorite stories in the gospel is about Mary, the mother of Jesus. An angel named Gabriel comes to Mary in the middle of the night and basically shatters her entire world. Here’s the Biblical version, found in Luke: 
“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’ ’I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.’ Luke 1:26-38
 My initial thought: “I’m sorry, what?”

I mean, let’s be real. This angel just came and flipped Mary’s world upside down, and she doesn’t have a long list of questions? She doesn’t cry or flip out? She is betrothed to a man who believes she is a virgin. And she still is, but that one’s going to be hard to explain to him, what with the soon-to-be protruding bump and all. Plus, her family will be so confused. Virgin birth wasn’t exactly a known condition back then.

'Statue of the Virgin Mary, Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.' photo (c) 2011, Linus - license:
She had a reputation to maintain.

She had a life plan.

God has this awesome tendency to show up and ruin our plans.

So then I re-read the story, and I find an entire different meaning.

And my new thought is this:

I want to live like Mary.

An angel came to her and was like, “look Mary. I’ve got some news, good and bad. You’re going to have a baby. Yes…I know, I know you didn’t.  And yes, I know it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be really tough, Mary. People probably won’t believe you, and your reputation might be ruined. You might lose friends, you might lose your family, you might lose hope. It will be painful and it will be confusing.

But Mary, get this.

Here’s the good news: you have the future of the world inside of you.

He is going to save us all.

Every time he moves inside of you, remember that his hands are going to bring healing. Every time he cries, remember that his words will be a lamp to guide our paths. And every time you watch him sleep, remember that he is the assurance of hope.

Trust me on this, Mary; this is going to be awesome.”

And Mary nods her head. In humble obedience.

I think there is a time in all of our lives where God pulls us aside and whispers in our ear with some news that flips everything out of focus. I think he gently tells us that something big is about to happen. And yes, he knows, he knows we didn’t do anything wrong or bad to earn ourselves into our current standing. I think he finds favor in us, his creation. And he knows it’s going to be hard, he knows it’s going to be tough.

But we have the future of the world inside of us.

We have the power of Jesus tickling our tummies and reminding us to be his hands, be his feet, be his love, to tell everyone about hope. There is nothing we can do to earn his love any more, and there is nothing we can do to lose it.

He just asks that we follow. In humble obedience.

Yeah, I want to live like Mary.


Rachel is a 20-something lover of words, art, music, rainy days, and Diet Coke. She believes in finding good in the gross, and is passionate about helping women give voice to their stories. She works with hundreds of college students who constantly teach her about hope, perseverance, and the power of truly knowing one another. She blogs about relationships, love, and leaps of faith. You can find her on twitter, facebook, or at your local coffee shop.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Picking A Box

It's that time of year again.

Not Christmas (though I was baffled last night to see a Christmas Vacation marathon playing on CMTV last night). No, it's the quarterly sign up for small groups at church. And there is absolutely nothing that stresses me out about church more than this.

'Questioned Proposal' photo (c) 2008, Ethan Lofton - license: has nothing to do with my church. They do everything possible to make this experience as low-stress as it can be. There's a nice luncheon where you get to hang out with people, talk, get to know them a little and decide if you want to be in a group. No pressure, just lunch.

But I get stressed out anyway. Because I'm not sure what box I should check so I can find the right table to sit at.

Do I check the married box? I mean, I'm definitely married and I should fit in the "married with kids" demographic. Of course, I'm definitely going to this small group study alone. Between my husband's travel schedule and the fact that he doesn't share my beliefs, we're not going to be doing this as a couple.

When it comes to going to church, this is not a big deal. I go, I sit in my seat alone or with some friends, I sing, I listen to the sermon and take notes (or, if I'm with friends, talk about the notes I'm taking with them and disrupt their ability to listen to the sermon). I've been doing this for a couple of years now, and for the most part, it doesn't bother me.

But the same thing when we're circled up in small group? What happens then?

If I go to a women's only group, that's okay, but I'm not single. And I miss the perspective that men have. And I miss the ability to meet other couples that I might want to hang out with. And if Jason wants to join me occasionally, he can't go.

On the other hand, if I go with the married couples, I have to go alone most of the time. I don't know if I have the strength to do that.

The really crazy thing is that I think this dilemma is indicative of the larger problem of me not really knowing if I want to be in a small group at all.

Of course I want to be in one. It's been a few years since I've been a part of a home group and I miss it. I miss the relationships, the discussions, the give and take, the laughter, the tears. My small group experiences have been almost exclusively positive and I want to be a part of that again.

But a lot has changed in the past two years. Being in an interfaith marriage has changed not just which box I check, but it's changed a lot about how I feel when I step into any church-y event. I can hide that when I'm in a corporate setting, but with just a few other people? That's not so easy. I used to have answers, now I have almost exclusively questions. I used to have advice to give, now I feel like I need it. I used to have some level of certainty, now that's mostly doubt.

What scares me the most is that they don't have a box to check for those things.


Are you a part of a home group at your church? If so, what is your favorite part about it? If not, what's stopping you from joining one?


Today I'm linking up with Joy In This Journey as a part of the Life: Unmasked series. Stop by Joy's blog to read more or to share your own story.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Guest Post at

I read Matthew Paul Turner's book Hear No Evil last May and absolutely loved it. Even though we had very different upbringings (you can get a free audio version of his book Churched here - I highly recommend giving it a listen!), our recollections and love of music were very similar. He's an amazing story teller and I geeked out for like a week when he complimented my writing on a guest post I wrote.

Matthew is incredibly generous and encouraging. No, he doesn't let people get away with crap, but he doesn't let himself get away with crap either, and I deeply admire that about him. He is also very honest about his struggles with faith and the Church as the result of his church history, and that includes his own dealings with depression.

I'm thankful to Matthew for allowing me to post at his place today (which is generally a fun, entertaining place, so don't think that this piece is indicative of the regular content!).

If we met in real life, within just a few minutes you would realize that you will never, ever have a problem hearing me. I have what some might call a distinct voice. Most will probably just call it loud.
You would also quickly notice that I have a loud personality. It wouldn’t take us long to be chatting it up about something, from the mundane like the best flavor of cheesecake to something deeper like the importance of hell in a discussion about salvation to something really important like who is your favorite Bluth.
But as the grey days of autumn pile up, I find my mood becomes more muted as well. 
Head over here to read the rest. 


Monday, October 17, 2011

Advertising Mister-y

The trailer for Miss Representation has been getting a lot of play over the past week and I applaud that. It is a powerful eight minutes and if you haven't taken the time to watch it, I highly recommend it. The way the media handles women is appalling and we can't do anything about it unless we're aware.

There is an incredibly sexist ad out right now that has really had my ire raised for a while. See below:

No, there are no boobs flashing. No girl is being told that she can't do what her male counterpoint can. There's nothing in this ad that is overtly sexist.

If you're a girl, anyway.

But in addition to being the mother of two daughters, I'm also the mother of two'of sons. And I've got to tell you, ads like the above hurt all of my kids.

That ad tells my sons that if they marry a strong woman, they are going to be emasculated for every decision that they make. It tells them that if they don't make a certain level of money, their wives are going to resent them. It tells them that they are perceived as stupid and untrustworthy.

I definitely want to see change happen for my daughters. I want them to know that they can do absolutely anything that they want. But I don't want that change to happen at the expense of my sons. Advancement that is achieved strictly by tearing down the perceived competition leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

AT&T asks us to rethink possible. I'm going to ask them to rethink running ads that make men and women look like assholes. Is that possible?


What do you think? Can we achieve some level of equality by simply by treating people well rather than tearing down those who are on top? Do you have a sexist ad that you want to rant about?


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Happy Sunday! Nice to see you back here. I hope that you've had a good week. I hope you find something here that makes your day a little better!
  • I absolutely adored this post from Sarah Moon about Mark Driscoll's "God hates you" sermon. This one falls in the "if you read nothing else" category.
  • My friend Sarah gave a wonderful perspective on treating your work as art.
  • My darling husband wrote a great piece admitting a past wrong. That is really hard to do and I admire folks who are willing to put themselves out there like that.
  • David Nilsen hosts his sister at his blog once a month. Her piece this month about how the Church should be more like the smoking section absolutely knocked me out.
  • Everyone loves The Princess Bride. I love it when Cake Wrecks illustrates the plot of The Princess Bride in terrible cakes.
  • Ben Sollee is giving away his most recent album for free. For reals, go download this right now. It is creative and beautiful and interesting and will make you significantly more hipster. But really, this is definitely amazing music and you should absolutely pick it up.
  • And if you haven't read through all of the reviews of Not Alone, be sure to check out the Blog Tour post. There have been some new reviews added this week that you don't want to miss!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Share your favorite links!


Friday, October 14, 2011


'Contrasts' photo (c) 2007, aussiegall - license:

Depression words:

Community words:

The contrast of living with depression alone and sharing your struggle with someone else is stark. For the stories where these words appear, check out the Not Alone book.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Baby, this One Time I'm writing about Justin Bieber

'Justin Bieber' photo (c) 2011, Adam Sundana - license: know that I primarily write about things like faith and family and friendship and the tension and joy that can exist in those relationships, but what you may not have known is that I dedicate a large portion of my writing time to figuring out ways to influence you about one Justin Bieber.

I know that it may not seem that way at a first glance. While reading through the 200-something posts I've posted on my blog this year, you might notice that Justin Bieber was mentioned exactly one time in small, almost unreadable font. But don't let that fool you. The Bieb, as I like to call him, has been mentioned constantly in ways that no one except for the very perceptive machines at Klout have been able to pick up.

Before we go any further, I must say that Klout is the most important thing on the internet. I know this because Michael Hyatt, chairman of Nelson Publishing (the largest Christian book publisher in the world), needed to unfollow everyone on his Twitter list so his Klout score could improve. So you understand the gravitas of this whole Klout thing.

Now, on to the ways that I have influenced you about Justin Bieber without actually having ever written about him directly prior to today. I know that sharing subliminal messages defeats the purpose, but because I strive to be authentic and real here on the blog, I feel like it's time to come clean about this.
  1. Hair. Even if you don't know who Justin Bieber is, you probably know that it has something to do with hair. Is he some virtuoso hair stylist? Possibly. All I know is that I've mentioned that I have hair before on my blog, so clearly I'm influencing you about Bieber in those moments.
  2. Music. I love to talk about music. Now, no band that I'm a part of has ever performed a Justin Bieber song. This does not matter. I love music. Therefore I love Justin Bieber. You at least tolerate my writing about music. Therefore you have been influenced about Justin Bieber. (I took a college course in logic and I don't really get how that works, but I can't deny Klout.)
  3. Words. I use words every time I write a post. Justin uses words every time he writes a top forty hit. Almost every single word of "Never Say Never" has appeared on my blog (Tower - now I'm pretty sure it's ALL of the words.). 
I'm sure there are other ways that are mysterious even to me, but I don't expect to be fully able to mine the depths of what Klout knows.

Just in case you were unconvinced that I have influenced you about Justin Bieber, I want to share these testimonials with you:

Bieberiffic, people. I think that sums it all up.


Now that you know, I would love it if you would go and give me +K on Justin Bieber. I don't think anything would make me happier today than to be the most sought after Bieber expert on all of Klout. Let's make this happen. And please, let me know how you have influenced me. Or at least how Klout says that you have influenced me. (I will also happily give you +K in any area that you'd like.)


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Peace at the Laundromat

I was livid. A prominent pastor said "Some of you, God hates you." This flies in the face of everything I believe about the God I serve, and it had me all fired up. I watched the full sermon to make sure I wasn't missing anything and it left me even more angry and hurt. I was composing a post in my mind. I was ready to ask some hard questions and make some strong statements.

'Laundromat' photo (c) 2010, Alisha Vargas - license: I had to take my comforter to the laundromat. My laptop battery is completely fried, so I took some crochet work with me and figured I'd write the post when I got home.

I shoved my giant comforter into the oversized washing machine and plunked the quarters in the slot. Sloshed some lavender scented detergent in the hole and set it to wash. My mind was racing as I sat down and started to crochet.

The project that I was working on was a baby blanket for a close friend. He and his wife are expecting their third child and I want to give them something personal for this little one. Usually when I'm working on a piece, I spend time praying for the person who will receive it. So I was praying for this little one. Praying for her healthy delivery. Praying for her parents and siblings as they make this transition to add a new member to their family. Praying that she will know that she is loved by those in her life and by God. Praying that she will give love to others.

'Crochet: Winter Warmth Shawl' photo (c) 2011, Sewing Daisies - license: washing machine buzzed, alerting me that the cleaning was complete. I took my sweet smelling, but now extra heavy comforter to the dryer.

I picked up the blanket and started crocheting again. A couple came in and started their own laundry and then sat down beside me. We exchanged brief pleasantries, and then I turned back to my project. They began talking between themselves about jobs and money. Jobs that were ending in two months and money that wasn't going to last much longer than that. As I changed yarn to the variegated yarn that reminds me of the ocean, my prayers shifted from my friends to this couple I don't know.

As the machine dried my comforter, my prayers moved from them to others. For children who are going to bed hungry tonight. For husbands and wives that don't love each other any more. For pastors who have questions about what they're preaching. For my angry heart.

With each stitch, with each prayer, my heart was calmed.
"Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it." (1 Peter 3:10-11, NIV, emphasis mine)
I put away my crochet and gathered my clean, warm, blanket from the dryer. Wished the couple sitting with me a good evening. Climbed in my van, came home, and wrote a different post.

I hadn't planned on pursuing peace, but it found me at the laundromat.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Save Point

With the new Zelda game just a few weeks away from release (at least, this is what we hope), we've been playing a fair amount of old Zelda around the house. And by we, I mean my kids. Mostly because they destroy me at video games and it's just kind of embarrassing to play so poorly in front of these people.

Anyway, a few months ago we downloaded Majora's Mask on our Wii and the kids have finally started trying to play it for real. This incarnation of Zelda is significantly different than most other Zelda games in lots of ways. The game play is far less linear. The side quests are fairly essential this time compared to most games where they are optional. But the thing that is most frustrating about this particular game is the distinct lack of save points.

In most Zelda games, you can save pretty much any time you want. You might have to start a temple back at the beginning if you shut it down, but you won't have to beat bosses again, you'll have all of the money and weapons that you have collected, and any shortcuts that you've opened will remain open. Saving in Majora's Mask is significantly more complicated. Because the whole thing takes place over the course of three days, in order to save, you need to go back to the first day over and over again. But if you don't do it correctly, you will lose everything that you've accomplished so far. And if you don't finish the first part in a reasonable amount of time, you have to start the whole thing over again. So my kids will sit and play for a while, not finish and all of the time spent playing will be wasted because they have to do everything over again.

It's a pretty exhausting way to play a video game.

It's also an exhausting way to live as a Christian.

We get started in our faith journey and then we start doing things. We gather the things that we need to be good Christians. We win battles, defeat enemies. We level up in church and upgrade our armor of God. We do and we do and we do.

Then we encounter life. One of those demons that we wrestled to the ground and thought that we beat comes back. Illness, death, or sadness enter our lives and we find out that the armor that we thought was strong doesn't hold up in the face of that pain. The church that was a source of comfort becomes a place hurt and doubt creeps in. We search frantically, looking for a save point, something that let's us keep what we've earned so far.

And we miss the most beautiful save point. Grace.

Grace that doesn't require us to strive. Grace that doesn't require us to collect or stockpile or level up. Grace that has already won the game.

The game is much more fun when you know the Save Point.


Where do you struggle to apply grace to your life? Do you have a favorite video game?


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Hi friends! Nice to see you here for another round-up of things around the internet. I hope you find something interesting here.
  • Sarah Bessey over at Emerging Mummy had a pretty kick-awesome week over at her blog (not that she doesn't most of the time, but it was really extra exceptional this week). She wrote a powerful letter to women's ministry and then a great follow-up piece. And then Ed Cyzewski wrote a phenomenal guest post about men's ministry. Really, read Sarah's blog all the time, but don't miss these posts.
  • Kristin Tennant wrote a wonderful piece about four spiritual lessons she learned from Steve Jobs. 
  • Bryan Allain wrote a pretty great piece knocking down some spam he received. Super fun.
  • David Nilsen wrote a wonderful essay about when he and his wife Lyndie took in a birthmother and found that friendship changed their perspective.
  • While most of us know who Steve Jobs is, there were two other men of note who passed away on Wednesday. I loved this tribute to all three from Emily L. Hauser over at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.
  • Last Sunday night I went to see Mountain Stage at WVU. Lots of great music including Ben Sollee, but the band that I loved was Vandaveer. If you're a fan of The Civil Wars, I highly recommend checking out their latest album. Lots of good stuff!
  • If you haven't looked recently, be sure to check out the amazing posts that linked up for the Not Alone virtual book tour. Truly, some beautiful stuff there. Thanks again to all who took the time to add their voice to the project. If you weren't able to join us last week, I'll be leaving the linky open, so feel free to add your reviews to it.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link you your favorites in the comments!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guest Post at

I am not one of the cool kids and I am totally okay with that. But today I totally get to hang with one of the coolest people on the whole internets, Jamie, the Very Worst Missionary (and one of my blogging heroes). She invited me to guest post for her Missionary Positions (do you see why I love her yet?) and of course I had to do it.

When I start thinking about missionaries, I think about people are sharing Jesus with people. A missionary is someone who knows the gospel message and whose life goal it is to tell that life-giving message to anyone who will listen. I’ve been in the Church long enough to know that you don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary (though it totally helps your missionary cred), but missionaries have a group they’re out to make sure to tell the story to. The unsaved.
I’m a Christian and my husband is an atheist.
So we all know who MY mission field is, right?
Head on over to Jamie's site to read the rest!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (Pre-Cog Edition)

When I heard that people were already reviewing Rachel Held Evans's yet unfinished book, I couldn't wait to jump on that bandwagon. I've been a fan of Rachel's blog for a long time (well before she was being interviewed on NPR and showing up on Oprah's blog), so I feel that I am uniquely qualified to offer insight on books she hasn't finished writing. I considered reviewing her third book, Pissing Off Liberals AND Conservatives by Daring to be Reasonable, but I thought that maybe I'd at least wait until she had pitched it to her agent.

For the most part, I was impressed with what I imagined Rachel wrote. In my mind, she had, as one would expect, a fantastic blend of humor and insight. From talking about her weekend with Chip to making her own clothes, I believe that Rachel wrote about her experiences with the grace and eloquence that I have come to expect from her blog.

But I will also say, I was surprised at some of the less publicized choices that I'm falsely claiming she made.

While we all have seen the pictures of her time in the purple tent while observing the purity laws, I was surprised to pretend to read about her interest in tampon art during her Proverbs 31 month, particularly trying a project that was so obviously masculine. It felt like a departure from the whole idea of biblical womanhood that I was expecting.

I was also taken aback at the sheer number of Smurfette references that were scattered throughout the book's non-existent pages. I know that this was to be a much longer work than Evolving in Monkey Town, but I thought that padding it with references to the lone female Smurf was a little cheap. I will give her some grace because I know that pop references are hard to pass up.

Where I cannot extend my theoretical grace is to Ms. Evans's clear disdain for fiber arts. I feel as though an apology is owed to the Ravelry community for the misrepresentation of how difficult it is to knit. It is prejudicial and my fake disappointment can barely be contained in a mere blog post.

All things considered however, I will still absolutely recommend this book. And next year, when it has been written and released for people to actually read, I will encourage you to take a look and see what you think about it. Because generally, the best reviews are written after a book has been written, rather than before.

Disclosure: I was not provided an advance copy of Rachel's book. Because it still isn't finished. I was not compensated for this review, however, I am hoping that when we meet next summer, I can remind her of this and she'll pick up the lunch tab with her vast piles of author money. All opinions and fabrications are 100% my own. Because the book isn't finished yet.


If you were writing a fake review of a book that you haven't read or that hasn't even been written, who would you pick as your target? (Also, I really can't wait for Rachel's book and I do expect to enjoy it when it comes out. And I'm sure I'll post a proper review at that time.)


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feeling Rank

In case you missed the one thing that I have talked or written about pretty much non-stop for the past couple of weeks, Not Alone is available for purchase. On Amazon. Where people buy books by John Irving and Stephen King.

One of the things that happens when you have a book on Amazon is that your book has a rank. If you're someone like Irving or King, then that's a good thing. Your numbers are probably like 1 or 2. You write something, millions of people buy it, you go live it up with your big piles of book money and you don't give your Amazon ranking a second thought. Or at least, I imagine that's how it works.

When your name is Alise Wright, it's a little different.

It's very easy for me to get obsessive about stuff like this. The first day that Not Alone was available on Amazon, I was intrigued, watching the sales rank float around. For me having a small blog, being with a small publishing company and having strictly word of mouth advertising, I felt like the rank was a perfectly respectable number.

And then it started falling. By numbers that seemed ridiculously large.

'Gold star for the study carrels!' photo (c) 2009, Quinn Dombrowski - license: I did what I normally do, which was to get all weird and then tweet about it. My very wise friend Kathy suggested that I not log into Amazon for a while. Or ever. Because the sales ranks fluctuate dramatically and someone is going to hate the book and give it a 1 star rating and none of it matters that much anyway. She is smart, so I shut down Amazon. For like seven whole hours.

Because what I'm really good at is ignoring advice that is absolutely solid and will result in me being slightly less neurotic than I actually am. What I'm really good at is tying my worth to a number that is completely subjective. What I'm really good at is taking something that is really simple and making it much more complicated.

I do this with my faith all the time. I brush off advice from those who have more wisdom than me because to do what they suggest requires far more self-control than I want to exercise. I put my value in how many ministries I'm serving in or how much time I spend reading the Bible or how many times I talk about God on my blog. I take something simple like "love your neighbor" and make it all complicated by attaching conditions and addenda to it that make it more palatable to me.

And in all of this, I start ranking faith. Not just my own, but everybody else's. And it fluctuates wildly when I do this. Catch me when I've had enough rest and I've played with my kids and listened to some good Christian music and written something spiritually insightful and bam! I'm hanging with the big boys. Or maybe I was up late dealing with an angry child and I ate a whole container of Ben & Jerry's and watched 5 episodes of South Park in a row. And I feel like I'm sitting down at the bottom of the pile.

Jesus told us how to be great. Be like a child.

When I get all hung up on my Amazon ranking, it takes two seconds of hanging out with my kids to be cured of that. They. Don't. Care. I mean, they care in the general sense that it's cool that I have a book, but Amazon ranks don't matter. What matters is just that I was engaged with them. And when I do, it's a benefit to all of us.

God doesn't have a ranking system that updates hourly and makes adjustments depending on my actions. He just wants me to engage. He wants me to love him and love people around me. And when I do, my God ranking doesn't improve, I improve.

I don't even need to be an Irving or King to do that.


Where do you compare yourself to others? What can you do today to engage with God and/or with those around you?


Today I'm linking up with Joy In This Journey as a part of the Life: Unmasked series. Stop by Joy's blog to read more or to share your own story.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Not Alone Blog Tour

October 1 was the official release from Civitas Press of the Not Alone book. In order to celebrate, I've asked the contributors and some other blogging friends to share portions of their stories and their impressions of the book. This link-up will be active all week long and I hope that you'll stop by throughout the week to check it out and see what people are saying about the book.

If you have read it, I'd love it if you would consider leaving a review at Amazon. I genuinely believe that this is an important book and I would love to see it reach as many people as possible.

Thanks again to all who are participating in the blog tour. I know this wasn't an easy book to read and I appreciate you taking the time to review it. And of course, thank you a million times to all of the contributors. Your stories are powerful and dynamic and I am incredibly grateful to you for your generosity in sharing them.

Now, start to the clicking!

(Quick note to those linking up: Where it says "your name" please type the name of your post or your blog. That's what will be displayed in the link-up. And in the link, please include a direct link to the review. Thanks!)


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Welcome! Finally, back in the saddle and posting at a reasonable time. I hope you find something in the following links that is of interest to you.
  • Luke Harms wrote a great response to Mark Driscoll's parable about poverty theology. Like Luke, I am exponentially more pleased with my kids when they want to share what they already have. Particularly when they see a need.
  • This post from my friend Katie is 2 weeks old, but I forgot to post it last week and it SO deserves a mention. In it she talks about her man and it's absolutely beautiful.
  • Matt Cannon wrote a fantastic post about the falling satellite and trust.
  • I really liked this post from Kristin Tennant about our need for community. I think she nailed it.
  • While this isn't a typical cartoon from David Hayward (nakedpastor), I thought it was absolutely stunning. I'm so thankful for the people I have with me in the journey.
  • And for listening? Do not download a single other thing before buying Gungor's new album, Ghosts Upon The Earth. Absolutely brilliant. I haven't liked something this much since David Crowder Band's A Collision. While I in no way care if the music that I listen to is explicitly Christian or not, it is always a treat to find explicitly Christian music that is also phenomenally creative musically. And folks, this is just amazing. (My favorite so far? Brother Moon.)
  • When you're done downloading and listening to the Gungor album, check out this fantastic episode of Star Talk with my nerd crush, Neil deGrasse Tyson, where he interviews Jonathan Coulton and Moby. If you're a musician, I would suggest that this is required listening. 
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up, my friends!

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