Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Healing in the Green Room

This weekend I played at church. It wasn't my scheduled week to play, but I was filling in for another one of the keyboard players. Normally this makes me happy. I love making music and I especially love it when I get to do it at church, helping lead others into a place of worship and thanksgiving. So filling in for another player is usually a joy.

But not this week.

I had to fill in this week because my friend Jenn is sick. Really sick. Cancer has come back to her a third time, and this time it looks aggressive. My heart hurts for her and for her husband.

The weekend was not made easier when I was surrounded by people saying that they truly have faith that God is going to heal her. That she is going to be a testimony of God's greatness.

Because the truth is, I didn't believe it.

I've believed it in the past. When little 11 year old Logan had an inoperable brain tumor, I believed that God would not let him die. When my friend Mel's husband was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, I believed that God would spare him. And yet God healed neither of these people. They died entirely too young, leaving behind people who should not have to deal with that loss.

When people told me they believed, I just wanted to scream, "How?"

Instead I just nodded. And I screamed it in my head instead.
Jenn & Andy

I wanted to believe so much. But I've seen the pain of unanswered prayers and it hurts so much. How do you say that God is loving when you watch someone bury their son? How do you trust that God wants what is best for us when you see a young wife go through the agony of watching her husband die painfully?

How do you have faith in the face of the overwhelming evidence that this woman's life will likely be cut short by the sickness that refuses to leave?

I played and as I did, I prayed.

I prayed for Jenn, but I also prayed selfishly for myself. That God would somehow increase my faith so I could believe that the healing I was praying for her might be something that could happen.

After the service, we gathered with Jenn and Andy in the green room to pray with them and for them before they traveled out of state to speak with additional doctors.

We circled around them, some holding hands, some laying hands on them, some simply standing nearby, all praying. All crying out for God to show mercy on this couple.

And in that room, where our sweat and tears and snot mixed with our words, I found that my prayers weren't just prayed out of an obligation, but that my tiny, anemic, weak faith mixed with that of my friends and it grew. I believed, I do believe, that she can be healed.

I believe this because my faith experienced healing.


Have you experienced a moment when your faith grew? What are ways that your faith is strengthened? If you pray, could you please pray for my friend Jenn?


I'm linking up today with Joy in this Journey for Life: Unmasked. You can read more submissions and add your own here.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Come and Listen

I have loved this song since the first time I heard it. It sets the stage for the rest of the album,  the piano and strings play off of one another perfectly, the use of the vocal effects help tell a story - it's a simple and lovely song.

This song also reminds me that so often we're invited to come and be quiet. God wants us with him, but he wants us to listen.

Most of the time I want to talk. I want to let him know what I want. How I feel. What he needs to be doing. What other people need to be doing or not doing.

For me, the showing up part is not the problem. I come to God regularly. I am significantly less good about the listening part.

But the listening is important. It's where God can remind me of my true value. It's where he can share what he wants for my life. It's where he can correct wrong thinking. It's where he tells me that he loves me.

Listening is where the relationship happens.


Where do you best connect with God? How does he speak to you?


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


Monday, November 28, 2011

Post at

I'm writing today over at Provoketive. With Thanksgiving just behind us, I am naturally thinking about food.
Thanksgiving is now behind us, a day that for many is filled with one delicious food after another. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Corn casserole. Jello molds. Pies, pies, and more pies. We fill our plates, we eat, we dive back in for more. We wear our stretchy pants and leave the belts in the closet for another day. 
Eating turkey and mashed potatoes isn't something that is unique to Thanksgiving. Particularly here in America, we can have a large meal nearly any day of the year. So despite the fact that we tend to focus on the food, there must be more to this holiday than simply an opportunity to eat a large meal.
Head on over to Provoketive to read the rest!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Working Together: Nuru International and CAWST

You read my blog, so you know that my favorite NGO is Nuru International. I love the work that they do. I love the people that work for it. I love the methodology they employ to empower people living in extreme poverty.

Nuru works by giving loans to people living in extreme poverty. Through these loans, people are able to purchase good grain so they are able to earn more money for their families. When they have this money, they are able to feed their families and educate their children. This creates a whole new trajectory for these families, allowing them to pull themselves from extreme poverty. The payback rate on Nuru loans is 95%, which means this works.

You can follow the excellent work that Nuru is doing through Twitter and you can also follow them on Facebook.

Because I love Nuru, it can be easy for me to see other NGOs as being in competition with them and have a bit of a negative attitude about them. But see, that's just silly. The work in Africa (and the world) is big and it takes a lot of people working together to end extreme poverty.

Which is why Nuru regularly partners with other groups to do their work. From their page:
Partnerships can be a powerful force for good. Our partnership strategy says, "If our goal is to end extreme poverty, and it's really about the poor and not getting credit, then let's put aside our brands and start working together!" Partnering with other organizations allows us to extend our reach, increase our impact, realize rapid results and avoid the ever-dreaded reinvention of the wheel.
What a great attitude!

So I want to share one of their partners with you. Check out CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology). This group provides training materials to help people improve their water and sanitation hygiene. Like Nuru, they don't believe in simply giving the people things like clean water and toilets, they teach people how to clean their water and how to build toilets. They give people the tools to empower themselves. You can find more about them by following them on Twitter or on Facebook.

Rather than competing against one another, Nuru and CAWST draw on one another's strengths for a common goal.

Two organizations, one purpose.

For more amazing humanitarian organizations, I encourage you to follow the link up below and check them out. And consider adding your own favorite group to share with us as well!

If we're working to make this a better world, we're working together.

This is a blog hop! Check the linky below to read about more amazing organizations!


Stuff I've Been Reading

Happy Sunday! These are some of my favorite posts of the week. I hope you find something that you enjoy here!
  • Ken Hagerman absolutely crushes it with this post about spending time with sinners. So beautiful.
  • Cake Wrecks had some of the best (and by best, I really, really mean worst) Thanksgiving cakes ever.
  • Did you enter to win your free pair of TOMS from Knox McCoy? You really should, you know.
  • Shawn Smucker's son wants to be an author when he grows up. Because writers are ROLLING in cash.
  • Elizabeth Esther shared joy at the grocery store.
  • Not Alone is now available for Kindle! I know that it's odd to think about giving a book about depression as a gift, but honestly, the holidays can be rough for people who struggle with depression. Not only does this book let the person dealing with depression know that they aren't going it alone, but seeing someone recognize and not judge can be pretty huge as well. You can purchase the paperback version here.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your favorites below!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Kid's Table

The old card table that never got used for card games and the folding chairs that had been patched with duct tape that scratches your back were pulled out so the cobwebs could be cleaned off of them. Covered in plastic instead of cloth, so spills could be easily managed. Styrofoam plates and paper cups so nothing could be broken. Set up near enough to the the adults so there could be help with cutting the turkey, but far enough away that the grown-ups could talk about Important Things (tm) without interruption and we could just giggle about fart jokes.

'Grillen HK 2007  13' photo (c) 2007, Brian Kelley - license: kid's table.

Now I'm at the adult table. We have the hard, wooden seats that make our older backs ache if we sit in them too long. We get to have the beautiful, festive tablecloth, but there are faint stains that won't wash out on it from spills of years past. We get to use the real dishes and and glasses, but you can see the occasional chip in the dishes and at least one glass is broken each year. Our adult conversation still has fart jokes, but now we also have to tiptoe around uncomfortable subjects, and sometimes address them head-on.

The kiddie table gives you a sense of security. When we're there, nothing sticks or stains. Nothing can hurt us. There's nothing but laughter.

At the adult table, we find out that our mistakes can have long-term consequences. That things can be broken, but they can still serve a purpose. That even in the midst of discomfort, there can still be humor.

The kiddie table can feel like it provides safety. At some point we move from that secure feeling to needing to be the ones providing that security, regardless of our feelings. In the midst of the cold reality, we must provide that refuge for those more vulnerable.

But I believe there will come a day when we will all gather at one table with our Father and we will not only feel safe, but we will be safe.

And on that day, all of his children will give thanks.


Do you have any fond memories of the kid's table from holidays past? 


Today I'm linking up with Joy in this Journey for Life: Unmasked where we share life openly. Click here to see the other posts and share your own!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hipster Helping

Every time I go to Mountain Stage, I am reminded just how non-hipster I am. And while I know mocking hipsters is pretty much de rigueur, I kind of wish I was one. Yeah, I know.

One of the quickest ways to becoming a hipster is by owning a pair of TOMS. Aside from their hipster awesomeness, this company is fantastic because for each pair of shoes you buy, they give a pair to a child in a developing nation who would otherwise go barefoot. Which makes them about the most wonderful pair of shoes you could own, right?'Toms Shoes at OhNo!Doom' photo (c) 2009, OhNo!Doom Collective Chicago - license:

Today at my friend Knox McCoy's blog, you can have a chance to win a pair of TOMS shoes. And it'll just cost you five bucks.

Why the five dollars? Because Knox is helping to raise money for some of his friends whose son was recently diagnosed with fanconi anemia. For every five dollars that you donate to their medical fund, you earn an entry into the drawing for a pair of TOMS.

There is just no down side to this. If you win, you get a kick-awesome pair of shoes and you've helped ease the financial burdens of a family who is dealing with a lot of emotional crap of realizing that their newborn son has a potentially life-threatening disease. If you don't win, you've helped ease the financial burdens of a family who is dealing with a lot of emotional crap of realizing that their newborn son has a potentially life-threatening disease.

If that sounds good to you, head over to Knox's blog now for the full details.

If you win and don't want to look like a hipster, let me know. I'm willing to make that sacrifice for you.


Monday, November 21, 2011

I Kissed Dating (My Husband) Goodbye

Jason and I have never been very much for dating. When we first got together, we were a long-distance couple. We didn't see each other very often (about every four to six weeks), so when we were together, we chose to stay in. When we married, we were on completely different shifts, me student teaching bright and early in the morning and him working retail until late at night. We then moved, got pregnant, moved again, got pregnant three more times in under three years, and found that staying home was way easier (and cheaper) than trying to find a babysitter for four young kids.
One of our best dates

But finding babysitters and time are just excuses. The real reason that we don't date is because we are very bad at it. We will occasionally have a nice time out with just the two of us, but those are the exceptions. Our bad dates tend to be atrocious. I submit the following:
  • We were on vacation. My parents stayed with the kids while we went to see Spiderman 3 (so there's already THAT). We didn't pay attention to our exit number and got completely lost when we came home. Added probably 3 hours to our trip. Massive thunderstorm, screaming at each other, all within about one mile of the hotel the whole time.
  • We decided that we really wanted to attend the Rally To Restore Sanity. Got there in (what we thought was) plenty of time to take the Metro to DC and see our two favorite satirists. Were hours late, saw none of the rally, had to walk for hours trying to find a place to pee, then walked the entirely wrong direction to find dinner and ended up walking an additional 30 or so blocks out of our way. Pissed off my in-laws because we were getting back about 6 hours late and wouldn't be able to pick up our kids at the right time. Also, he slept the entire drive to DC and I slept the entire drive home.
  • First night out after Jason graduated. Got all fancied up for a night out. Received a call from our daughter about 15 minutes after we left that her brother had just yakked everywhere and we needed to come home. Grabbed Chinese from our favorite restaurant on our way home, only to discover that it had new owners who make the worst food ever.
  • Another vacation mishap. We were drawing a nice, romantic hot tub to set the mood for a night of marital relations. Had just entered the bubbles when the single most terrifying, obnoxious sound happened. The hotel's fire alarm was going off.
  • Last Friday Jason had the day off. After weeks of travel and weekends that were entirely too full to really have any quality time, we had a whole day together while the kids were in school. We went out to lunch. Terrible service, overpriced meal, and the topper? Jason's margarita had an olive garnish. An olive. In a margarita. 
So we've decided that Josh Harris was right after all and we're going to kiss dating goodbye.


Tell me about your worst date. Or tell me about your best date. It's okay, I promise I won't get THAT jealous.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

It's another Sunday and therefore it's time again for my weekly list of my favorite reads.
  • Local mom and blogger Heather Laurie shares what it's like to be a 30-something mom of five and know that you're dying. This is a challenging, funny, heart-wrenching piece. Put this on your "don't miss" list for the week.
  • Janet Oberholtzer wrote a really interesting essay about looking beyond labels. I thought this was a really interesting perspective.
  • This post by Amber Wackford about her Harry Potter reading group made me smile. I love discovering new things with friends!
  • The single most hilarious story I read this week. If Tina and I were attending a funeral, I feel confident that this would happen to us.
  • This guest post about creativity and Zelda by Wes Molebash is absolutely brilliant. (Pssst. Happy release day for Skyward Sword here in the states! Hooray!)
  • My friend Shawn Smucker is apparently a masochist. Last weekend he did the Tough Mudder, which basically is just twelve miles of torture. Anyway, he wrote about it and the importance of his idiot friends in completing it.
  • Last week I was introduced to Lake Street Dive at Mountain Stage here in Morgantown. So amazing. Go check out their most recent album right away. Also, if your local NPR carries Mountain Stage and give it a listen. A great source for finding new music.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!


Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Post at Meet the Buttrams

I met Jessica on Twitter a while ago and absolutely love her blog. She has a wicked sense of humor (as you may remember from her doughnut war post a few weeks back) and she also has a beautiful way of stringing words together that make your heart just burst.

At the beginning of the month, I just happened to be the 1000th comment at her site and my reward was that I got to write a guest post for her! So last night, when she was no doubt wringing her hands at the EXTREME  lateness (but not in a good way, like with Doritos) of my post, I sent her my post about...wait for it...procrastination. And making my daughter a really. ugly. doll.
Sometime in early October my daughter told me that she was doing a book report and that she wanted to dress up as the main character. Part of her costume required a rag doll. And since we had six weeks to get this assignment done, naturally I agreed to help her in the construction of said doll. 
My daughter would give occasional updates, reminding me to buy fabric so we could work on the doll and I would promptly forget them. Then, all of a sudden (except, not really), the report was due in three days and we still had no fabric, no poly-fil, and no doll. 
I made an emergency trip to A.C. Moore to find some supplies. Bought a small bolt of fabric, a gigantic 32 oz. bag of poly-fil (apparently I thought we might need to make 400 dolls), and some new needle and thread so I could pull this thing together. I’ve got to tell you, I was feeling pretty Martha Stewart-esque about the whole thing.
Now, head on over and check out this doll. I mean, check out the post. And the super cute little girl holding the saddest doll ever. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to her blog - it will make you very happy.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

BlogHer Book Club Review: Sea Change by Jeremy Page

This month I had the opportunity to read Sea Changes by Jeremy Page for BlogHer.

The book opens very strongly with the tragic death of Guy's daughter. It then takes on a dual story-line. In the real world, we see how Guy's life falls apart. He and his wife divorce and he moves onto a boat where he sails on the North Shore.

The way that he deals with his depression is by writing an alternate world where his life continues as it was supposed to with his daughter surviving and his marriage flourishing. Every night he writes in his journal, escaping into a world where everything is good and safe.

As a blogger and someone who writes regularly, I wanted to like this book, but honestly, I just bogged down in it a lot. The prose that starts off thick just never. lets. up. It's beautiful, but after a while I just kind of glazed over. Between that and the difficulty of moving between the real world and the construct that Guy has created, it was just not a book that kept my attention.

For more discussions about this book, stop by the BlogHer Sea Change page. You can participate in the first discussion about the small moments here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Sea Change by Jeremy Page for the purpose of review and I was compensated for my review, however all opinions are 100% my own.


Results Not Typical

Last night I was watching some Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. I tend to do most of my television viewing online, so I rarely see many commercials. Which is why I missed the one for InventHelp until last night.

The commercial talks about a guy who invented a water toy that he pitched to Wham-o with the aid of InventHelp. He's now a big successful inventor. But the part of the commercial that really grabbed me was at the 20 second mark.

Did you catch that?

"Bill's experience is not typical and most inventions are not successful."

I admit, I went back and listened to it again because I was sure that I hadn't heard that correctly.

Like everyone, I'm used to hearing disclaimers at the end of a commercial uttered at break-neck speed or watching them scroll across the bottom of the screen in barely legible type. "Results not typical" is a pretty common phrase in advertising.

But I don't know that I've ever heard an advertisement come right out in a normal, personable voice and say that the consumer probably won't be successful.

Unfortunately, many of us live by that ideology regularly.

No use to start that exercise routine, I probably won't be able to follow through with it.

No use writing my novel, it probably won't get published.

No use learning an instrument, I probably won't be any good at it.

No use pursuing that friendship, they'll probably reject me.

No use going back to school, I'm stuck in this job no matter what.

This week my daughter was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by her eighth grade classmates. I (of course) tweeted my pride in this accomplishment and my friend Katie posted this:

That is a powerful statement. I think we need to be willing to apply this to one another and also to ourselves. We need to kick the "no use" comments to the curb.

No, maybe we won't be hard-bodies or sign a 5 book deal or become a multi-millionaire, but we can be more fit or leave a story for our families to read or learn something new. We can expand our view of what it is to be successful. We can recognize the greatness in one another.

And I would say that when we do that, our results will not be typical.


How can you help recognize the greatness in someone else today? What "no use" idea do you need to jettison?


If you have a story about overcoming fear, you can submit it to the Not Afraid project that I am compiling. Check out this link for more information and to download the project document.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More than Friends

I love to ask people to write guest posts about unexpected relationships. I think most of us have at least one of these friendships and I believe there is a lot that we can learn about ourselves through them.

I particularly love this topic because of the many unexpected relationships that I have in my life. I have written about my husband and my dear friend Tina. Those are both relationships that existed for a long time and then had a sudden shift causing me to reexamine them, ultimately reaching something even better.

But I have another friendship that is unexpected, and that’s the one with my friend Rich. I write about him fairly often, but I’ve never written about the dynamic of being friends with a man.

I'm always hesitant to write about this topic because the prevailing opinion in evangelical circles seems to be that married men and women should not be close friends. And no matter how it’s dressed up, it all boils down to the idea that if men and women are friends, they have to have sex. Or want to have sex. Whatever it is, they have to be more than “just friends.”

I do understand that there are legitimate concerns regarding opposite-sex friendships. And I absolutely believe that if you’re married, your spouse’s feelings regarding any of your friends need to carry some heavy weight (like, the most weight).

All pics of us are like this -
Rich blocking a good shot of me
But it frustrates me when I look at all of the rules that Christians tend to make regarding male-female friends. No meals. No car rides. No texting. And good heavens, no front hugs.

You see, Rich and I break all of the rules.

I read that we need to “avoid the appearance of evil.” I mean, he does have that goatee, but I don’t know that it makes him look evil. One site that I read said that being seen together in public will give the wrong impression. I suppose that being put on the same check might give the wrong impression that one of us is a big spender, but we’re generally able to clear that up by requesting separate checks.

The other big warning is that we’re to “flee temptation.”

Let me be clear.

I do not want to have sex with my best friend.

I want to play music with my best friend. I want to eat tiramisu with my best friend. I want to live tweet The Next Iron Chef with my best friend. I want to have conversations about the inane and the insightful with my best friend.

Because these are the things we do with a close friend. We share interests. We share food. We share conversation. We share life.

To the critics out there, you’re right. Rich and I are more than friends.

We’re BEST friends.


Do you have any opposite-sex friends? Can married men and women be close friends? If you don't want to get into that, tell me a story about your best friend!


Today I'm linking up with Joy in this Journey for Life: Unmasked where we share life openly. Click here to see the other posts and to leave your own!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Guest Post at (again!)

You read that right - Rachel Held Evans is having me back at her blog!

I had the opportunity to post at Rachel's back in March. It spurned some great conversation at her place and a follow-up post here. I'm so grateful to her for opening up her blog to me to once again share a bit more of my journey dealing with "the other."
Too often we keep people at arm’s length because we fear what might happen if we find out too much about them. We may find out that we have different theological views. Different political leanings. Different priorities. And we worry that if we discover those things, we won’t be able to find any common ground or that the commonalities that we have will disappear. We fear that our bonds of friendship will be unable to withstand the differences. We worry that our love may diminish to mere obligation.
I hope you'll head over to Rachel's blog to read the full piece.

And if you're here from Rachel's, welcome! The links on the right will get you started. Be sure to say hello - I love meeting new friends!


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Thanks for stopping by again! As always, I hope that you find something here that moves you and causes you to think. And away we go!
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave a comment with what you're doing!


Friday, November 11, 2011

40 is the New 20 by Deanna Davis

Today Deanna Davis is dropping by the blog to share a bit about her life as a 40-something. As one who is fast approaching the 40 mark herself, I appreciate the perspective that she gives. Be sure to check out her blog for some great thoughts on relationships, spiritual warfare, and writing!


As a Sunday school teacher of college students, I talk with a lot of young 20 somethings about life, love, God and the world. One of the recurring things I’ve found myself saying to them over the years is, “These years are the crossroads of your life. You are making more important choices that will affect the rest of  your life…studies, marriage, career, friendship, location, lifestyle… If there is ever a time for you to be dialed in to God’s will for your life it is now, in your youth."

And now I am a 40 something.  I am at age where me and my 20 something buddies are either reaping the blessings of good decisions or suffering the consequences of bad ones. None of us thought we’d be a statistic. None of us thought we’d be overweight, gray-haired, divorced, depressed, in a dead end job, estranged from our kids, financially strapped or looking at a life that was nothing like we had planned. Not all are in such dismal straights and some are doing quite well…but many of us are nowhere near where we hoped to be.

Now, as I am beginning the second half of my life, I am finding that those words I’ve spoken to so many others are boomeranging back into my own life. While many of the framing events of my life – marriage, career, house, children – are set, there are still many, many decisions that lay before me. Joy or bitterness? Indulgence or discipline? Spiritual maturity or complacency? Simplicity or conformity? Relational depth or isolation? God’s will or mine?

The difference between being 20 and 40 is…20 years have passed. And if experience is the greatest teacher, then I just might actually know some things now. My body might be moving a bit more slowly but my brain is just getting revved up. My heart is more engaged in my relationships than ever before. My words land with greater impact in the lives of others than I ever thought possible. I am more aware of who I am, who God has made me to be and what it is He wants me to do with the time I have left on the earth. I have much more life and influence in front of me than I ever thought I would at this age.

The crossroads of middle age look eerily similar to the one I faced at 20, but with higher stakes. Much higher stakes. These decisions won’t just determine where my life goes, but who I will ultimately become. I thought that decision had been made a long time ago, but I’m coming to realize I am just getting started. And this time around, there is no second half coming with which to make adjustments.


Deanna is a wife, mom, Bible student and teacher, missionary, TCK, book worm, writer, recreational cook, conversationalist, cultural observer, avid traveler and follower of Jesus. She writes a blog called Intersections where she externally processes all that life throws at her. Sometimes she realizes that she should keep some of it internal.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Book Review: The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us by Matt Woodley

The good folks at InterVarsity Press have a new series of commentaries being released, called the Resonate Series. The second book in this series is The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us by Matt Woodley. As someone who is not so much a non-fiction reader, let alone a commentary reader, I was a bit hesitant to agree to read and review even just one chapter for the blog tour. But since it was just a chapter (and because Ed Cyzewski is a persistent friend), I agreed to go ahead and give it a whirl. And I ended up going back and reading the whole thing.

The purpose of these commentaries is to provide insight into the passages in a new way. Rather than to simply break down verses and explain their cultural meaning, these books also seek to make them culturally relevant for the reader as well. The author finds a theme (or several themes) in the chapter of each book and develops those.

I chose to look at the commentary for Matthew 16.

First, I had to smile that the title for the beginning of Matthew 16 (which is also the end of chapter 15) is "Faith is 'Impossible'". I don't know that I could have chosen a more apropos chapter!

 I loved that through this chapter, Woodley used contemporary examples to illustrate the themes that he is exploring. While discussing the impossibility of faith, he frames the discussion by using the example of Francis Collins's and his journey to faith through his work on the Human Genome Project. He moves seamlessly between modern examples and the biblical texts. Later, he addresses the idea of "spiritual not religious" in terms of how Jesus wants to build the Church and how it relates to Jesus calling Peter the rock upon which he would build his church. I found each of the examples engaging and easy to understand.

If you're interested in a deeper understanding of the Scriptures, but have a hard time wading through some of the academic language present in many commentaries, I recommend checking out The Gospel of Matthew and the other titles in the Resonate Series.

For a look at some other reviewers' thoughts on this blog tour, you can check out this site.


Do you have a favorite Bible commentary?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for the purpose of review, however the opinions expressed are 100% my own.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Saving the Rant for Another Day

'chubby soapbox' photo (c) 2008, daretoeatapeach - license: like to get ranty. I could easily link every one of the words in that previous sentence to a rant that I've written here on the blog. And that wouldn't even begin to touch on the litany of verbal rants that I've issued over the years. Strong opinions are kind of my thing.

And right now, there are a lot of issues that are very deserving of strong opinions. The whole Penn State pedophile problem and how this could be Joe Paterno's unfortunate legacy. Bob Jones University appointing Chuck Phelps to its board of trustees, despite his defense of rapist Ernie Willis. The Mississippi Personhood Amendment and what that may have meant. All big stories, all worthy of discussion.

But as I started thinking about how I might write about them, I also started thinking about a post my friend Ed Cyzewski wrote about six weeks ago. In it, he wrote:
When I think of how we could use our blogs, I wonder what it would look like to use them as our story-telling platforms for the Kingdom-building work that God is using us to do. That requires first getting into the game by recognizing what God wants us to do where we are: bringing healing where there has been racism, injustice, homophobia, misogyny, or a natural disaster. 
Then we can tell our better stories and create a proactive, redemptive culture in the church.
It's very easy for me to write about what's wrong, but it's often harder to wrote about what's going right.

But today, here are a few proactive things that I see going on.
  • Darkness to Light is a fantastic organization that is training people to help prevent child sexual abuse. They offer lots of practical information on their website and they have a Stewards of Children online program that you can take for only $10.
  • I've mentioned before (and will mention again!) that my friend Tamara Lunardo is compiling and editing the book What a Woman is Worth through Civitas Press. You can submit your story to help encourage women know their value.
  • The Good Woman Project is a fantastic website and ministry that is reaching out to women to help them see their true identity. They have a mentoring program that connects women in a more personal way.
What are some ways that you choose to be proactive rather than to just react to negative stories that you hear? Do you have any recommendations for groups that serve those who are hurt by the stories listed above?


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why Do I Blog?

This week marks my sixth year of blogging. As you may have gathered from my post last week, it's probably a surprise that I've managed to last this long. Trust me, no one is more shocked than I am.

'Blog With Authenticity Without Getting Fired' photo (c) 2009, Search Engine People Blog - license: why do it? Why, day after (almost every) day continue to put it myself out there? A few reasons, I suppose.
  • The fame. Nothing distinguishes you from the masses like having a blog. I mean, there are only 152,000,000 blogs on the internet. Famous things are popular. Therefore, because it's popular to have a blog, I am famous. (Like my Facebook page! Follow me on Twitter!)
  • The money. Famous = rich, right?
  • The easy content. Since posts go up more days than not, it makes sense that the actual creation of posts is simple. Knock out those words, then sit back and rake in the rewards.
Okay, so anyone who has blogged (or written anything) knows that this is not so. Blogging probably won't make you famous or rich and frequently it's not all that easy to come up with compelling, worth-while content. So for reals? Why keep doing?
'I'm not a player, I just blog a lot' photo (c) 2011, J. Money - license:
  • The relationships. No, I'm not famous (though I've had the opportunity to blog for some folks who are significantly more famous than me!), but I've made some really amazing relationships over the years. My virtual village lives in blogland and I am truly grateful for the friendships that I've developed.
  • The book opportunities. Again, these aren't big money-makers, but due to the blog, I have been able to have a book published and am currently working on compiling a second. I would not have had these opportunities if not for blogging.
  • The hard content. I'm thankful for this being a place where I can write about stuff that's hard, like coming to grips with an interfaith-marriage or tackling LGBT issues. You have made it safe to write about feeling rejected or even just anticipating rejection. Blogging has let me work out some of my crazy and I hope that it's given a reader or two the opportunity to work out some of their own crazy. 
So thanks for continuing to read. This place would be way more boring without you.

And if you figure out how to get famous and rich from blogging, let me know.


Do you blog? Why do you do it? Leave a link to your blog and/or to your favorite blog in the comments!


Monday, November 7, 2011

Forget to Freak Out

Two summers ago, we went on vacation to North Carolina with my extended family and while we were there, we visited Chimney Rock. It's a beautiful location and everyone was looking forward to it.

Except for my oldest son.

He has a sometimes crippling fear of heights. Even with clear boundaries that he knows will protect him from a fall, he will often keep his distance. When he was younger, even minor elevations could cause him to start shaking. So the thought of climbing to the summit of Chimney Rock at 2480 feet was downright terrifying.

But his sisters and his cousin and his dad and his grandfather and his aunt and his uncle were all making the climb and he wanted to be with them. And they all wanted him to be a part of the experience as well. So he made the choice to ignore his fears and climb to the top.

Later, when he was recalling his climb, he would tell us (and anyone else who would listen), "I forgot to freak out!"

His eyes were so focused on the goal that he forgot to be afraid.

We are currently accepting submissions for Not Afraid: Stories of Finding Significance and I would be thrilled if you would consider adding your voice to this project.


Have you ever experienced a moment when you realized that you were so engrossed in what you were doing, you forgot that you were supposed to be afraid? 


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stuff I've Been Reading

Thanks for coming by yet again to check out the links I've collected through the week. Hope you find something here that causes you to think and maybe have a good conversation.
  • This post by Kathy Escobar moved me to tears. If you have ever felt marginalized by the Church, go read this right away.
  • If you're looking for proof that reconciliation can happen, be sure to read this story about the former skinhead who has his facial tattoos removed. A powerful reminder that ANYONE can change.
  • Jamie Wright has a crazy cat named Knives (after Knives Chau from Scott Pilgrim). He licked the butter. And Jamie wrote one of her best posts yet (which is something, because pretty much everything that chick writes is gold). 
  • I mentioned this on Thursday, but I cannot express how happy I am for my dear friend Tamara who is heading up the What a Woman is Worth project with Civitas. If you would like to contribute, check out this link.
  • I absolutely adored this cartoon by David Hayward. I have never pictured this verse that way, but I will from now on.
  • Allie over at Hyperbole and a Half is back! I'm sad that she went through a bout with depression, but she describes what it feels like remarkably well and I'm glad to see that she's on the other side.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Leave a link to your best stuff!


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Saturday Evening Blog Post

It's the first Saturday in the month, so Elizabeth Esther is hosting the Saturday Evening Blog Post link up yet again. Stop by Elizabeth's blog and link up your favorite post from October. And be sure to browse around and check out some of the other links. I always find several insightful posts in the list (and of course, don't forget to subscribe to Elizabeth's site).

The post I shared for October was Peace at the Laundromat. If you link up, let me know and I'll be sure to check out your post as well!


Friday, November 4, 2011

Who's the Bully Now?

'Bully' photo (c) 2009, Thomas Ricker - license:
They're at it again.

On November 2, an anti-bullying bill was passed in Michigan that had some last minute changes put in it. Once again, people who have chosen their lifestyle are asking for special privileges that will, almost certainly, make other people uncomfortable. Families will have to have difficult discussions with their children. Some may even feel like they need to pull their children out of schools because this group felt the need to strong-arm language into this bill.

Yes, before the bill was voted on, the Senate Republicans in Michigan added language to Bill SB 137 that made an exception for bullying that was a result of a "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."

Oh wait. You probably thought I meant the gay folks.

See, when you frame it that way, it sucks to be on the other side. Yet this is how many in the Church have framed nearly all conversations regarding LGBT rights.

We talk about choice of lifestyle. We talk about how it affects our children. We talk about special privileges. We talk about agendas.

All the while ignoring that religion is a choice. That our actions affect LGBT kids and the kids of gay and lesbian parents. That religion is a protected class. That we have our own agendas that we want to promote.

And we forget that we're to consider others as better than ourselves.

We have a word for people who use their power to push around those who are in a position of weakness.

I don't know about you, but I don't want my religious convictions to be an excuse to be a bully.


Have you ever been the target of bullying? Have you ever been the bully? Have you ever reconciled with the person that bullied you/that you bullied?


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guest Post at

I don't remember who retweeted this post by Tamara Lunardo, but I wish I did so I could hug them for introducing me to her. What I do remember is that when I read it, I so wanted to be friends with this chick. Like, immediately.

I don't know if our friendship was exactly immediate, however it has definitely grown over the past year. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and I look forward to the day when our friendship can extend to a place where our laughter is louder than an LOL and our embrace can go beyond brackets.

All that to say, I'm practically giddy to be guest posting for Tamara today. And because she is definitely one of the coolest people in my virtual village, I decided to let you all know how cool I am as well.
I write a primarily Christian blog. Most of what I write about ties back into my faith. But truth be told, my faith isn’t always completely orthodox. My brain has some big questions and my mouth has a small filter. And sometimes when I write about faith-related stuff, my atheist friends don’t hate it. In fact, they’ve been known to say that some of what I have to say is reasonable, even admirable. 
When this happens, some of my fellow Christians will claim that this reaction from those outside of the faith only proves that my goal is to prove how hip and with it I am, rather than to spread the gospel. Because if there’s one thing we know about good news it’s that it pisses people off and leaves them feeling alienated. If what I’m saying about Jesus makes someone think that he might like them, then clearly it’s not the right Messiah. 
Stop over and read the rest. While you're there, do yourself a huge favor and subscribe to her site. She's brilliant and you do not want to miss a post.

Also? Be sure to check out her new project with Civitas, What A Woman Is Worth.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Post at

For the record, this is gonna' be one of "those" weeks. You know, where I post more elsewhere than here. Sorry.

My friend and publisher Jonathan Brink has started a new online magazine called Provoketive. Jonathan has a really fantastic way of gathering together top notch writers giving them a place to shine and he's doing that yet again with this endeavor. I'm honored to be among the writers there and to share my first piece. Where I write about Beavis & Butt-head.
Heh. Heh heh heh. Heh heh. 
The smartest show about the dumbest people is back. 
Last Thursday night I cozied up with a wine cooler, some nachos and turned on MTV for the first time in years to watch the return of Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-head. 
One of my favorite moments in the show was just two minutes in, when the screen turned to flame and Beavis began chanting "fire!" Those familiar with Beavis and Butt-head will remember that shortly after the show premiered back in 1993, there was an accident involving fire that was blamed on the show, resulting in the banishment of that phrase from further episodes. The glorification of destructive behavior on a satirical show for adults was held responsible for the actions of a five-year old child. This was around the same time of the infamous McDonald's coffee lawsuit, and we began to hear a new buzz word emerge. 
Personal responsibility.

Head on over to Provoketive to read the rest of the article!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Writing Strategies for the Perpetual Procrastinator

Most weekdays I try to post something new to my blog. I have been able to do this consistently for about a year and a half now. Today I share my method with you.
  1. Jolt awake at 3:27 AM with a brilliant idea. Realize that you forgot to buy that notebook you've been meaning to pick up for the past 8 months for moments like this. Determine that this idea is so good that there's no way you can forget what it is, so rather than getting out of bed to jot it down, go back to sleep, secure in the knowledge that it will be waiting for you in the morning.
  2. Oversleep because you forgot to set alarm. After getting everyone out the door, remember that you had an idea in the middle of the night. Realize that you can't remember it, and promise to buy a notebook to put by your bed for moments like that so you don't forget it the next time that happens.
  3. Sit at computer so you can get started writing.
  4. 'Coffee' photo (c) 2011, Erin Kohlenberg - license:
  5. Realize that you forgot to make coffee. Scroll through your Twitter feed while the coffee brews, because you don't want to interrupt your writing to get coffee when the press is done. Hope to find an idea you can steal from one of the people that you follow.
  6. Get coffee. Read email and play mindless game on Facebook while you drink it because you need to be focused to write and coffee helps with that.
  7. Start writing. Get about 200 words in, decide that it's crap and delete the whole thing. 
  8. More coffee.
  9. Check out blogs in the reader. Now on top of feeling uninspired, feel like a terrible writer compared to everyone else. Consider deleting blog.
  10. Wonder if it's too soon to write another post about how neurotic you are.
  11. Decide you don't care if it's too soon. Write an opening sentence.
  12. Watch YouTube video of a kitten chasing a laser.
  13. Look at the clock and realize that it's now noon and the day is half over. Blurt out 300 words (most of which are eerily similar to what you deleted earlier). Hit submit.
  14. Try to decide if noon means that it's okay to switch from coffee to wine. (This step? Is why you still don't have that notebook by your bed for the 3:27 AM ideas.)
What writing strategies do you employ? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Or do you have any other writing goals for this month?


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

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