Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On Being a Fairy

A bit before Christmas I had the distinct pleasure of Skyping with my friend Tamara. She was every bit as delightful as I expected, but what I did not anticipate was just how completely won over I would be by her twins. These two little hobbits (minus the furry feet - as we discussed in our chat, they have "kid feet") charmed me over and over.

'Fairy Sure' photo (c) 2008, trazomfreak - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/But the main reason that these girls are my new favorites is because they called me a fairy.

I have read enough Rainbow Magic books to know that fairies are tiny and adorable, and I am neither of these things. They're also magical and I'm pretty sure I'm not that either. But I probably have some powers that I may have to attribute to my newly acquired fairy status. Here are a few of them.
  • Seinfeld quote powers. I have a firm belief that there is a Seinfeld quote for every situation. It is rarely going to be culturally sensitive, but there's a phrase out there and even if I'm not saying it aloud, please know that in my brain, I'm quoting Seinfeld at you.
  • Weird Klout bestowing powers. You may have gathered that I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Klout. Regardless, I love finding ways to mock it, and I do that primarily by reveling in my own odd areas of influence, but also by finding...interesting areas of influence for others. So I may not actually find Joy influential in profanity or Sonny influential in Twilight or Kathy influential in refrigerator. But they shall receive +K in all of those. 
  • Hat rocking powers. I can and do wear hats. Not everyone has that ability, so it must be related to my fairy magic.
  • Late to the party powers. If there's something hip and interesting, I will definitely know about it...six months after it's been popular. I do this with uncanny regularity that can only be attributed to something fairy-like.
You can trip me up with things like requiring me to turn in permission slips for school outings on time, enticing me with "one more game" of Temple Run, or by opening a bag of salt and vinegar chips. 

But for the most part, being a fairy is pretty sweet. 

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What are your fairy powers? What is the most ill-fitting (but well-meaning) title you've been given?

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Monday, January 30, 2012

This Son of Yours

'angry face' photo (c) 2008, Graeme Maclean - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I've written about the older brother in the story of the prodigal son before. Because I've been a Christian my whole life, I've always identified with him more than with the son who ran away.

Yesterday our pastor Bill spoke about the older brother. During his reading of the passage in Luke, one phrase jumped out at me that I hadn't ever noticed before. I've resonated with the older son's attitude, but hadn't paid attention to the words a whole lot.

The older brother is feeling slighted. He has been working in the fields and he comes home to find that there is a party going on. A party for the son who ran away. A party for the son who dishonored his family name.

And in the midst of his tirade to his father about the injustice of this situation, he says the following phrase:

"This son of yours."

How have I missed that?

The older brother acknowledges that they are in the same family, but he completely separates himself from his brother.

He could have said, "this brother of mine" but that would indicate a level of closeness. There might have been some temptation to bind the two of them together. Instead, he cuts himself off from the relationship by ignoring their kinship.

I do this all the time. Every time that I talk about how "that person doesn't really represent Christianity," I'm saying, "this son of yours." Every time I talk about "that pastor" or "that church member" or "that congregation" I'm putting a wall between myself and a brother or sister in Christ. Sure, we might call ourselves Christians, but we're not really in the same family. When I deny the relationship that I have with them, it becomes easier to have an attitude that is self-righteous and judgmental.

It's okay to disagree, even to disagree strongly. But before I do that, I need to make sure that I'm approaching them not just as the Father's child, but also as my brother or sister.

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Do you ever slip into the "older brother" syndrome of separating yourself from other people of faith? What is the best way you can combat that attitude?

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

Once again, the weekend has rolled around and you get to enjoy another round-up of posts that I found interesting. At least, I hope you enjoy them because dang it, this is a lot of work! (Not really.)
  • Kathy Escobar made me cry this week with her piece about why we suck at being friends
  • One of my favorite musicians, Jonathan Coulton, weighed in on the issue of internet piracy. I think he kind of nails it. (Oh, and you should absolutely buy his newest album. The Stache is all-time, yo.)
  • Please go to Preston Yancey's blog and subscribe. He is running a series right now called At the Lord's Table where people are sharing their positive experiences with the Church. It's easy to get discouraged by some of the really awful stuff that we see, and these stories give me so much hope.
  • I have been missing out big time on Glennon Melton at Momastery. I found this letter that she wrote to her son this week and immediately subscribed. So incredible.
  • Ben Emerson reminds us (read: me) that Old Testament God and New Testament God are the same  with his post about Numbers 27
  • The Gregory Brothers are back with a new Songify the News. And there was much happiness from this corner of the internet.
  • I've spent a lot of this week listening to Peter Gabriel's New Blood. It's an orchestral arrangement of some of his earlier works. The new In Your Eyes is beautiful, but I'm kind of in love with the arrangement of Red Rain. It's just $5 right now and totally worth it.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your favorites in the comments!

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Guest Post at InAMirrorDimly.com

Ed Cyzewski has become one of my favorite writers over the past year. I love his perspective on writing, life, and faith. His recent book about Christian unity is absolutely fantastic and I can't recommend it enough. And for just a few more days, you can download all of Ed's books super cheap. On top of all that, he is a steadfast supporter of my writing and just a great guy. Plus, he has rabbits. So yeah.

He has recently launched a new series called Women in Ministry, which, as you may have guessed, is about women in ministry. I'm honored to be a part of this, sandwiched in between some of my very favorite writers. Here's a snippet of my piece:
I don’t know if music can technically be a part of your DNA from a scientific standpoint, but I’m pretty certain that music was etched into my soul from the start. From my earliest days, music has played an integral role in bringing me joy. 
Likewise, the church has always been a part of my life. Some of my first memories are in the church. I can’t think of a season when the church hasn’t been a key character in my existence. 
It makes sense that the two would find their way together.
Head on over to Ed's to read the rest!

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Love Stories

'love' photo (c) 2009, Shirl - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I write about love all the time. I am drawn to stories about love. My favorite books, movies, songs - they all speak of love. Love that's sexy, love that's funny, love that's romantic, love that's friendly, love that's weird, love that's familial, love that's enduring.

I love these stories because they speak to The Love.

Which is why stories like the one that my friend Matthew shared at his blog earlier this week are so upsetting to me. There is love mentioned, but it's a love that it punitive and harsh. A love that holds someone at arm's length and encourages others to do the same. A love that shames someone for their sins, even after those sins have been confessed.

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a list of what love is and is not:
  • Love is patient
  • Love is kind
  • Love does not envy
  • Love does not boast
  • Love is not proud
  • Love does not dishonor others
  • Love is not self-seeking
  • Love is not easily angered
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs
  • Love does not delight in evil
  • Love rejoices with the truth
  • Love protects
  • Love trusts
  • Love hopes
  • Love perseveres
When you write about love as often as I do, you hear people warn about love or suggest that love in the Church isn't like love in the books and movies and song. But I have to mostly disagree with that. The really good stories about love resonate deeply with us because they show the things listed above.

They are stories about people continuing to love through difficult circumstances. They are stories about people holding one another close even when it would be easier to leave. They are stories about people standing up for the wounded, the broken, the bleeding, the down-trodden. They are stories about relationships that people wouldn't expect, but that thrive anyway. They are stories of putting someone else first.

Is there a time for discipline? Absolutely. Without discipline, we don't grow.

But when I read something Matthew 18 in the context of how Jesus lived his life, I see a never-ending loop of love woven in with the discipline. If someone refuses to repent, we treat them as a tax collector. Jesus has a tax collector as one of his disciples. He singles them out as the person with whom he wants to eat. Later in Matthew 18, Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant, who ends up in jail. But if I believe that Jesus took all of the sins of the world on his shoulders at the cross (and I sure do), that is also covered in love.

We are surrounded by stories of love. In our world, in our homes, in our churches. Today, let's look for someone who needs a bit of that love.

Let's create more love stories.

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What's your favorite love story? 

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sacred Friendship Gathering

Back in November, I wrote a post about being friends with a man. It spawned some really interesting discussion, which is always a treat. In the comments, several people suggested that I check out Dan Brennan's book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions. I picked it up and absolutely loved it. It was so refreshing to read a book that treated cross-gender friendships as normal. Because, you know, they really can be.

Since I read Dan's book, he and I have been in touch. And I'm very excited to announce that I'm going to be attending the Sacred Friendship Gathering in Chicago, April 27-28!

In the coming months, I'm going to do a couple of interviews with some of the presenters at the event and sharing guest posts about cross-gender friends. I'll also be live(ish) blogging the event, both here on my blog and at Provoketive.

Through social media, a lot of us have become friends with people of the opposite gender. We tweet with them, we laugh at silly pictures they post on Facebook, we comment on their blogs, we pray for them. Out in cyberland, friends are just friends, regardless of their gender. We approach one another without fear because we know that relationship is based on way more than whether we're boys or girls.

In our flesh and blood relationships however, we still often carry some of those fears with us. I've experienced  them myself. And it's not just cross-gender friendships, but any relationship with someone who is different than us in some fairly obvious way.

I'm tremendously excited about this conference where we'll have the opportunity to discuss what it is to be a friend and how to be a better friend. Jesus showed us so much about friendship and I can't wait to share that with you guys!

If you're interested in participating in the Sacred Friendship Gathering, you can go here to register. It's just $50 for registration and space is limited.

And if you're in the Chicago area at the end of April, definitely get in touch with me and let's hook up!

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How have your ideas about friendship changed over the years? What aspect of cross-gender friendships would you like to see discussed?

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Guest Post at TheHandwritten.com

Michael D. Perkins writes The Handwritten, one of the most creative blogs that I read. It is, as the name implies, a collection of handwritten posts. I find his style beautiful and unique. Seeing someone's handwritten work connects you to them in a completely different way.

Today I'm sharing some of my own handwriting over at Michael's site. The post is the shortest thing I've written, just three words long, but it's a question that I want to ask myself regularly. I'd love it if you'd head on over to The Handwritten to give it a look. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to Michael's site so you can download his free e-book.

Thanks for reading my piece!

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

It's Sunday, which means it's time for me to round up some of my favorite reads of the week and present them to you in list fashion. I hope you find something here that is of benefit to you.
  • Many of you know RawFaith/Linda from comments here and at many other blogs. She is one of the most encouraging people that I've met out here. She recently had surgery to remove cancer, but because she is self-employed, the bills are pretty steep. If you would like to help her defray the costs of her surgery, you can donate here
  • We're often told that we need to enjoy every minute of parenting (or any number of activities). But we all know that sometime there are things that aren't enjoyable. Glennon Melton writes a brilliant piece about refusing to carpe diem. (I know this is older than this week. Still awesome.)
  • This Wednesday, a lot of folks blacked out to protest SOPA/PIPA. If you care about supporting musical artists, check out this infographic that shows how best to get money in the pockets of your favorite artists.
  • Elizabeth Esther had a gut-wrenching experience when her daughter fell from a second-story window. A poignant reminder that our lives are fragile.
  • Matt Appling wrote an insightful piece about how irony can quickly morph into cynicism over at Provoketive. As a fellow Gen-X'er, this one hit close to home.
  • Sarah Moon posted about what talk of "effeminate Christianity" means to women in the Church.
  • Pretty much everything over at Catalog Living is funny, but this one made me totally laugh out loud.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your favorites below!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Empty

'Dirty wine glass' photo (c) 2004, Quinn Dombrowski - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

A glass,
The remnants of what it contained
Clinging to the sides, 
The bottom.

You cast off the glory of Heaven,
Yet people could see traces of it in you.
Echoes of eternity
Held in one man.

To scrape out that kingly quality
That they glimpsed at in you,
And force it into a crown.
Something that fit their vision
Of what their savior should be.

But you withdrew,
Waiting for the time
When you would empty yourself further.
Empty of your blood,
Your sweat,
Your life.

So that one day,
This stained, chipped, dirty glass

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

BlogHer Book Club Review: The Underside of Joy

This month the BlogHer Book Club is reviewing Sere Prince Halverson’s debut book, The Underside of Joy.

This story starts out beautifully with the description of the relationship between the newly married couple, Joe and Ella, and Joe’s children Annie and Zach. Halverson gives us a glimpse of a couple that is happy, but is working through learning how to communicate in a more honest way.

When Joe dies, Ella finds out some of the areas where she and Joe had not been fully honest with one another. In the midst of that, Joe’s first wife and the mother of Annie and Zach comes back into the picture, wanting to become more involved in their lives.

I really enjoyed this book. Halverson has woven a beautiful story here. Her characters are believable and likable. And as a woman who has suffered from post-partum depression, I appreciated the treatment that she gave of this issue. Her dialogue rings true, the relationships are complex, and the outcome is very satisfying. I would absolutely recommend checking out this book.

For more information and discussions about The Underside of Joy, head over to the BlogHer page.

Disclosure: I received a copy of The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson for the purpose of review and I was compensated for my review, however my opinions are 100% my own.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Post at Provoketive.com

Today I'm posting at Provoketive as part of their synchroblog on hope.

Hope is a difficult subject for me, as I've written about in the past. Here's a snippet of what I'm sharing today.
When I was young, hope was easy. I hoped for a trip to the near-by ice cream stand on a hot summer afternoon. I hoped for the perfect new toy for my birthday. I hoped that I would be able to fake my way through my piano lesson without my teacher recognizing just how little I had practiced. 
But as I aged, my relationship with hope grew rather uneasy. Despite my youthful abandon with hope, the adult me has frequently been afraid to hope. 
I’m not afraid to share my opinion, even if it’s controversial. I’m not afraid to ask difficult questions, even if it means that I may not find a satisfactory answer. I’m not even afraid of spiders, and those things have eight legs and like a million eyes! 
But hope? That one throws me.
I'd love it if you'd click over and read the rest of my post and check out some of the others.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Silence

'(shush.)' photo (c) 2009, Piermario - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
Last night Jason and I went to Mountain Stage with some friends. At each Mountain Stage concert, there are five performers, with one or two who are a bit more well-known.

Last night the headliner for the show was Johnny Winter, who is a blues guitar legend. The auditorium was packed, and the crowd was obviously excited to see a real, live performer from Woodstock.

Like all Mountain Stage shows that I've been able to attend, I found a new performer that I really enjoyed (this time it was Ruthie Foster who just broke my heart with her stunning voice). I got to enjoy live music with some of my favorite people. I got to hear Bob Thompson kill it on the piano yet again.

But for all of the excitement surrounding seeing Winter, I just couldn't get into him. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the blues, because for all of the three-chords-and-the-truth talk, those three chords get pretty dull after a bit. And I'm not a guitarist, so I hesitate to talk much about technique or tone.

I think the biggest issue that I had with listening to him play was that there was never any silence. The solos never had any space in them. For the full hour that he played, Winter's solos were just an assault of sound.

Don't get me wrong. He has some chops. But what will grab me every time is when you can evoke emotion from me by what you don't play. When you leave me begging for the chord to resolve, when I feel like I can't breathe until you play the next note - that space is where you'll impress me as an artist.

In my life, there are silences that are borne of fear. Each day I need to chip away at these fears so that those silences are broken.

But there also need to be silence that exists so that others may speak. Silence for me to hear God. Silence for life, for love, for rest.

Today I will find time for silence.

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This video of Ben Sollee playing Embrace is one of my favorite examples of quiet music (I saw him at Mountain Stage several months ago, and the hush in the auditorium was gorgeous). Do you have a favorite example of silence? Where do you go to find it?

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

Hello, dear friends! I hope you find something in this week's links to stir thought or make you laugh this Sunday. Enjoy!
  • By far my favorite thing this week was Ed Cyzewski's new e-book, Divided We Unite. Okay, so I know that's not something that you can just click and read here, but you need to read this. You can download it to your e-reader or just read it on your computer. He's offering it for free, for the cost of your email (if you're a writer, you absolutely should sign up for his email list), or you can support a writer by purchasing it for a dollar. If you have any interest in Christian unity, I cannot recommend this highly enough.
  • Dan Brennan, author of Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, wrote a great piece about hierarchy in marriage and how that can affect friendship in that relationship. I love his thoughts about friendship in general, and I thought he made some really salient points in this article.
  • Sonny Lemmons, a new friend, wrote a simply beautiful post about labels that he had to live with growing up and how he had to learn to love himself despite those labels.
  • David Nilsen's sister Shan wrote a powerful piece about learning to give up control. Her honesty is challenging and beautiful, as always.
  • I love that Rachel Held Evans is back to blogging. Her post about Esther and Vashti this week was fantastic. 
  • Sarah Bost-Askins wrote a wonderful post about trying to figure out how to allow her daughter to appreciate girly things without locking herself into girly things. A great read for feminist moms of daughters.
  • These football cakes at Cake Wrecks are phenomenal. Or something.
  • David Crowder Band released their final album, Give Us Rest, this week. So good. If you haven't picked it up yet, make sure you fix that right away. I'll miss them making music, but they've wrapped up their career brilliantly.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link up your favorites in the comment section!

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Thanking my Critics

Tuesday started out in a hectic manner. My oldest son couldn't find his shoe and my oldest daughter woke up eight minutes before she had to leave.  The older kids missed the bus, so I had to run them to school before I drove the younger two in. My youngest daughter couldn't find her watch, and we ended up leaving later than we expected (how everyone got to school on time is beyond me).

But I was still in a pretty good mood because despite the crazy around here, something that I wrote was being syndicated on a pretty big site for Christian leaders. Which, for a little mom blogger like me, was kind of a nice boost. The post had received positive feedback the previous day, so I didn't really think much about it.

Then the comments started rolling in. And despite the positive feedback I had received the previous day, this was almost exclusively negative. I was jealous of Tebow. The piece either missed the point or was pointless. I was trying to bask in his reflected glory. I was judgmental.

'Altar of Venus and Mars 1' photo (c) 2010, Ian Scott - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/Mostly, I was just sitting here in my living room absolutely floored.

Why didn't they get it? How could I have written it better? Why didn't they like me?

I focused on a few negative comments and completely lost sight of one of the first questions that we're supposed to ask ourselves when we receive criticism.

Is it true?

I don't think it's wise to simply brush of criticism or disagreement. This is how we become better. Better at our craft. Better at our lives.

But not all criticism is equal. When my husband tells me that what I wrote wasn't very clear, that is worth examining. When my writing friends tell me that my story is muddled, I will go back and re-write. When those close to me tell me that I overuse a phrase or am not writing in my own voice, I'll take that to heart. And it's not just people close to me who offer constructive criticism. I've reexamined some phrases that I use based on responses by folks who read and comment who have no other relationship with me.

Then there is the criticism that is offered as a result of not reading carefully. Or coming to a piece with a bias against it already. Or of just being a generally critical person.

Most of the time I can suss this out pretty well and can be reasonable about criticism I receive. But not on Tuesday.

Because I became the person I was writing about - I made an idol out of my piece.

I got excited about the response it got. I was happy with the hits that it generated. I was proud that two different editors contacted me about running it on their sites.

So when I didn't get the accolades that I thought the piece deserved, I was completely thrown for a loop. I had placed my writing on a pedestal and when others knocked it down, I cried about it. The weight of the criticism was extra heavy because I had already given the piece itself too much weight.

It's hard to judge truth when our perception is already distorted.

So thanks to those who offered criticisms the other day. Not because I think you're right - I still don't. But you did knock over my self-constructed pedestal and helped me gain perspective again. That's a gift that I needed.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Jason Boyett

The apocalypse is coming, you guys, and who better to prepare us than Jason Boyett, author of the new book, Pocket Guide to 2012: Your Once-in-a-Lifetime Guide to Not Completely Freaking Out.

I've had the opportunity to get to know Jason a little bit over the past couple of years through the social media. His book O Me of Little Faith was the first book about doubt that I ever read and it gave me hope and assurances that I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

Jason is a fantastic, funny, informative writer. I was very much looking forward to his take on the end times and I was not disappointed. Jason gives tons of information in a way that manages to be both hilarious and still somewhat respectful (which is difficult, given the subject manner). I had the chance to ask Jason a few questions about his new book, moving from traditional publishing to self-publishing, and his own apocalypse prediction.

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Alise Write: So what is it with you and the apocalypse?

Jason Boyett: A better question is: What is it with EVERYONE and the Apocalypse? I'm not alone in my apocalypse fascination, but I guess I'm part of a smaller group that's more interested in debunking apocalyptic nonsense rather than promoting it. If we want to get into the armchair psychologist mode, I guess I can tie it back to my early teenage years. I lived through a very real (to me at least), looming apocalyptic threat in the summer between 8th and 9th grades. That was 1988, when a guy named Edgar Whisenant gained a lot of national media exposure for predicting the Rapture for September 13-15 of that year. He wrote a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, and sent it to pastors all over the country. One of them was my own childhood pastor, a guy I trusted completely. He preached that he believed the Rapture would occur that September, and I spent that summer before my entry into high school thinking it would be my last. I said goodnight to my parents the evening of September 15 -- the tail end of Whisenant's "Rapture window" -- wondering if I'd never see Mom and Dad again in this life.

I was relieved when I woke up the next morning to a bright, sunny, apocalypse-free world. I figure that's when my interest in unfounded End Times predictions probably began. I lived through a summer of apocalyptic fear. I'm a little bitter about it, and I don't want other kids (or adults) to have to experience the same. But rather than stoning false prophets, Old Testament-style, I find it easier to make fun of them. Anyway, Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse was one of my first books. It came out in 2005. Ever since the 2012 phenomenon started gaining steam, I've wanted to update PGTTA to include it. That didn't work out, so I went the self-published e-book route.

AW: There are an awful lot of end-time prophesies laid out in your book. What was your primary source for research on this topic (come on Wikipedia!)?

JB: Totally Wikipedia! Not exactly... Wikipedia is a wonderful place to start, of course, but any good researcher knows he or she needs to dig a few clicks further. There are a ton of good scholarly books about Apocalyptic fervor, many of which I listed in the bibliography section of Pocket Guide to 2012 (and had already used for my Apocalypse book). Other than those, Google Books and the Amazon "Click to Look Inside!" feature (not to mention Kindle downloads) are glorious inventions for researchers like me who already have a shelf-load of apocalypse books and aren't exactly thirsty for more.

AW: Did you have a favorite story associated with impending doom? (I was partial to the apocalyptic chicken.)

JB: Mary Bateman and her prophesying doom-chicken is a hilarious story, of course. But I'm partial to the crazy saga of William Miller and the Millerites from 1844, for a couple of reasons. The first is because it was such a huge, widespread phenomenon that, when Jesus failed to return as predicted, history actually gave the event a lasting nickname: The Great Disappointment. The second is because we're still seeing the fallout from that frenzy today -- the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is a direct descendent of William Miller's disappointed followers, and they remain pretty fascinated with the End Times.

AW: What date would you like to throw out there as a potential expiration date for the world?

JB: In approximately 7.5 billion years, our sun will follow the typical life cycle of a star and will expand into what's known as a red giant, engulfing Mercury, Venus, and maybe even the Earth in its diameter of fiery gases. Which means life on Earth -- if it still exists by then -- will become extinct. That's as far as I'm willing to reach with any kind of prediction. Also, I suspect it will happen on a Thursday.

AW: This was your first self-published book. What was your favorite part about doing this on your own?

JB: The immediacy of the timeline. When you write and get a book published with a traditional publisher, you end up finishing the manuscript months -- and maybe a year or more -- before it hits bookshelves. So you're doing publicity about content you researched and wrote about last year, and have already forgotten. I always end up needing to brush up on a topic when it comes time to do radio and print interviews about one of my books. But with self-publishing, the whole process takes place in light speed. I started writing this book in September. I finished in December. I had it edited, made some revisions, then formatted it and uploaded it and people were downloading it within two weeks of me having completed the manuscript. I love that.

AW: What was your least favorite part?

JB: E-book formatting. I'm a designer by trade. I love drop caps and elegant typography and well-considered chapter headings and justification and spacing and all the little details of book design. But you have to forget that when you're publishing for different sizes of Kindles, and different platforms and devices. You have to let go of the fancy stuff and allow the user to dictate type size and other formatting elements, which can be maddening for perfectionists like me. You get the best, Jason-approved version of the book by downloading the e-book PDF from my website and reading it on an iPad or computer desktop. The other versions, while way more popular and device-friendly, make me grit my teeth a little.

(Alise here. If you want a more detailed answer for why Jason chose self-publishing this time, check out this blog post he wrote.)

AW: What are your plans for December 21, 2012?

JB: December 21, 2012, is a Friday, which means I'll probably be doing what I do almost every Friday night: eating pizza with my family and my brother's family at my parents' house, which is a weekly Boyett tradition. Then we'll play games together and celebrate the fact that we didn't die in an asteroid-induced inferno, or a series of crust-shaking earthquakes, or alien invasion or whatnot. Which is to say: my plans for that day will be no different than any other Friday in 2012 (though they may include dropping the price of my book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, because it will be on the cusp of irrelevance).

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Thanks, Jason, for stopping by today and letting us know where to find you for the end of the world!

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Pocket Guide to 2012 at Jason's site, or for your Kindle, or Nook. I'm not saying it will be the end of the world if you don't, but you never know.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Post at ChurchLeaders.com and Provoketive.com

Thanks all for your kind retweets and Facebook shares of my piece yesterday. You all are pretty awesome. But only in an "I like you" way, not in any kind of idolatrous way. Because that would be silly.

Anyway, my post was picked up by Jonathan Brink over at Provoketive and by the good people at ChurchLeaders.com. I'm delighted that my tiny, little nod to Zaphod Beeblebrox is getting some play out there (I assume that's the draw).

If you're stopping by here from either of those sites, welcome! You can check out some of my favorite posts on the sidebar on the right, and you can click on the button below to subscribe to my blog. I'd love for you to take the journey with us!

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Monday, January 9, 2012

I Won't Tebow to Your Idol

Tim Tebow brought the pain to my boys in Black and Gold last night, beating them in overtime with a huge 80 yard bomb that made it the quickest ending to an NFL overtime in history. And when it was over, he knelt down and prayed a prayer of thanks.

'Tim Tebow' photo (c) 2010, Jeffrey Beall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/And that act probably caused more arguments on Facebook last night than the actual outcome of the game.

On one side, you have the folks who point to Tim Tebow's success as proof of the sovereignty of God. Who see any criticism of his playing form as a criticism of his faith. Who trot out the "if he was a Muslim" argument, generally being the same people who pair "radical" with Muslim far more liberally than necessary.

On the other side, you have the critics. The folks who hate that Tebow uses his platform to proselytize. The ones who toss around Matthew 6:6 ad nauseum. The ones who seem just a little too eager to see him screw up.

Either way, we end up creating an idol. And idols are good for one thing - to serve as a replacement for the the god they represent.

It's easy to see how the fans do that. His faith has become the stuff of legend. A Saturday Night Live skit becomes an example of religious persecution. Tim Tebow is the picture of all that is good and right and just. All praise Tebow.

It's the same from the critics. Tebow is every Christian that has ever been kind of an ass. Any praise that he receives is strictly because of his over-the-top Christianity, not because he might actually be pretty good at his job. He represents all that is phony and shallow and annoying. All hate Tebow.

The thing is, Tebow is just this guy, you know? He plays a sport well. He wins some games, he loses some games. He goes to church. He uses his money to support various causes. He probably likes pizza. Some day he'll probably do pretty well on Dancing with the Stars. He likely sassed his mom at some point growing up.

He's not the embodiment of anything, he's a dude who plays football. Most of us don't know much more about him than that (I tried to find information about the pizza thing, but came up empty. I'm just guessing, based on pizza's extreme popularity, that he likes it.).

Turning people into idols or caricatures is really easy for us. We do it all the time. We do it with politicians. We do it with writers. We do it with pastors. We do it with any group or person that we don't know. We elevate them to a position that they never asked for and then we either worship them or knock them down.

In the meantime, we don't even know if they like pizza. Or Community. Or cats. Or flannel. Or Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

If we don't know that, we certainly can't know every nuance of their character. Which makes them a poor representation of God, no matter how virtuous they are or are not.

God has provided us with one accurate representation of himself. If we want to start kneeling, let's bow down to that. I'll take a spot right next to Tim on that.

As long as he likes pizza.

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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stuff I've Been Reading

It's Sunday! Grab a cup of coffee and settle in to read some of my favorite posts of the week. Lots of good stuff out there - I hope you enjoy what I've got for you here.
  • Sarah Bessey wrote a simply beautiful piece about what her marriage looks like. This is one to just soak in for a bit.
  • Caleb Wilde wrote the most popular article at Relevant Magazine this year. His post about being the most famous funeral director in his hometown is absolutely hilarious. Congrats on the hits, Caleb, and here's to that diamond encrusted apron!
  • Knox McCoy has begun his Bachelor recaps. This is crazy long, but the fate of Crazy Eyes will keep you glued to your seat the whole time. I don't watch the show, but his posts almost make me want to.
  • I loved this post by my friend Joy Bennett over at A Deeper Story. Fantastic story about speaking up, even when it might be uncomfortable.
  • Michael D. Perkins, who authors one of the most creative blogs out there, has written a creative manifesto (which is better than calling it an ebook). You can get a free copy by receiving his posts by email. Check out the deets here. It's absolutely beautiful, and getting his posts in your inbox is a good thing.
  • This video about questions from Matthew Paul Turner is absolutely phenomenal. Definitely worth the six minutes.
  • I finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King this week. Dag, I just love his writing so much. This one was really fantastic. Interesting look at time travel and how our actions affect other people. Was a great read to start off the new year.
  • In personal news, I was excited to find that my piece, Why I Oppose Gay Marriage was one of the most read pieces of 2011 over at Provoketive and is still going strong.
What have you read/written/watched/listened to that moved you? Come link up in the comments!

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saturday Evening Blog Post: December 2011 edition


Elizabeth Esther is hosting her monthly link up party at her blog. In this, we're asked to link up our favorite post from the previous month.

For December, I chose the post that I wrote on Christmas eve, entitled Hark. Christmas eve is definitely one of my very favorite days of the year, but it is insanely busy (and has been for as long as I can remember), and as a result, I'm often not attentive to the story that is unfolding before me. Also, Hark, the Herald Angels Sing is my favorite Christmas carol.

Head over to Elizabeth's place and link up your favorite from December. And feel free to leave me a link here as well so I don't miss it!

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Friday, January 6, 2012

What If...

'Question Mark' photo (c) 2011, Ranjith Siji - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
What if...

     ...you auditioned for that play?

     ...you made the first move in pursuing friendship?

     ...you took a pottery class?

What if...

     ...you sang out loud the song that's in your heart?

     ...you let the words in your head bleed all over the page?

     ...you danced with your whole body?

What if...

     ...you spoke up when you saw injustice?

     ...you celebrated small victories?

     ...you questioned the status quo?

What if...

     ...you forgave more?

     ...you laughed more?

     ...you believed more?

What would you learn about yourself? How would your life change?

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If you've overcome the objections, the worries, the fears about a "what if..." moment, I invite you to share your story in the upcoming Not Afraid: Finding Stories of Significance book that I'm compiling with Civitas Press. I am accepting submissions through January 31, and I would love to read how you overcame fear and what it taught you about yourself. 

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Redeeming the Conversation

'Conversation' photo (c) 2009, Search Engine People Blog - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Sunday sucked.

Sometimes we need to get that junk out. To shake our fist at the sky and try to make sense of a faith that (no matter who we are) excludes us. To voice our concerns about the trends that we see and to ask if maybe, just maybe, we need to rethink the message that we're sending to our brothers and sisters.

But after our fist shaking and question asking and concern voicing, I think we also need to step back and remember that we're on the same team.

I was angry on Sunday. But the pastor wasn't trying to make me angry. I'm absolutely certain that he doesn't hate women and I seriously doubt that he thinks they're less important than men. I'm sure that he knows that God loves men and women equally.

I think the biggest problem that he faces - that most of us face - is that we're limited by our experience.

I got married when I was 22 and had my first child when I was 23. Because of this, I didn't even think about how those comments would be perceived by someone who was single. This isn't because I don't care about my single friends, my experience just keeps me from hearing it through that lens. I think I'm getting better at practicing empathy, but I still need people to remind me that my experience isn't the only one.

So even though I'm tired, I will still try to engage.

Not with everyone. Some folks aren't interested in conversation, and I'm getting too old to fight.

But I don't want to fall into the trap of assuming that everyone is looking for a fight. I think a lot of people simply aren't aware of how the things that they've grown used to hearing and saying affect those around them. They just need someone (or several someones) to say, "Hey, maybe that's not the best way we can say this. Let's grab coffee and talk about this through."

I want to make sure that I'm looking for ways to redeem the conversation.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

15 Reasons Why I'd Do It Again

Today Jason and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage! To each other! Consecutively! Exclamation points!

All joking aside (for the record, it is never, ever aside in our house), I am ridiculously happy to be married to Jason. He is my most favorite person and I consider myself lucky beyond words to get to spend my life with him.

After fifteen years, I would, without hesitation, marry this man again. Here are just a few of those reasons:
  1. He makes me laugh harder than anyone else.
  2. He knows how to play.
  3. He is the most honest person I've ever met.
  4. He has a killer ass.
  5. We never run out of things to talk about.
  6. He is smart, but never gets tired of learning more.
  7. He is generous, even when he doesn't have much to give.
  8. ***censored***
  9. He is passionate.
  10. He has always treated me with respect, even when we disagree.
  11. He introduced me to Beavis & Butt-head
  12. He produces ridiculously good-looking children.
  13. He agrees that for our fiftieth anniversary, we will go to a clothing optional resort.
  14. He chooses to put others, including me, ahead of himself.
  15. He tells me that he loves me every single day.
Happy anniversary, baby. I hope I've given you even a fraction of what you've given me. I love you.

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What's your favorite thing about your significant other? If you're not with someone, what is something that you're looking for in a mate?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Message Isn't Working

I've written that Christmas is one of the hardest seasons for me in my mixed faith marriage. This year was better than last, and while I still had a couple of rough days, we made it through the holidays relatively unscathed. The marriage is feeling good, the family is feeling good, I'm feeling good.

I guess I should have remembered that sometimes the bad isn't simply related to memories or what's going on in my mind. Sometimes it's related to stuff that people say.

The church service started with a clip from the movie Courageous. It struck me as fairly patriarchal, but I chalked it up to being grumpy because I was operating on a couple hours of sleep. I didn't really think that much about it, especially when the sermon started and seemed to be about having courage in the new year. A weak tie-in, but I can be pretty forgiving of stuff that I've done myself.

Then it took a bit of a turn.

The pastor started talking about how men were the ones to lead their families. Because if a man didn't do that job, "who else would?"

Then he asked the men to stand. And prayed over them. And invited them to yank their wives away from finishing their make-up to get to church early for weekly prayer. And said that the entire month of January would have sermons related to being a better leader, because that's the man's job.

'Father Knows Best 1955   ' photo (c) 2009, mem45414 - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/Yeah.

I have written before that I hate stuff that belittles men. And I think that the Church has an obligation to pray for men and women as they deal with the stuff of life. And I guess that some women are late putting on make-up, after they get every other person in the family ready to head out for church.

But if I had been in the aisle, I would have walked out. Because I'm just plain tired of this stuff.

The pastor is about to embark on a month-long sermon series that is going to neglect every woman there who either A) doesn't have a husband or B) doesn't have a husband who attends church with her. And in a less dramatic way, is going to tell the women who do have husbands who attend church that their role in their family is less than that of their husband.

This isn't cutting it. It didn't back in the day and it isn't now.

In 2007, about 26% of all children are being raised in single parent homes, and of those, 84% are women. As of 2006, 25% of marriages in the US are interfaith marriages and these marriages have a significantly higher chance of ending in divorce.

More women are attending church than men. However, in the past 20 years, significantly more women have stopped attending church (11% fewer women to 6% fewer men).

The same message isn't working.

It didn't keep men in churches, and now it's driving women away from churches.

There are so many divisions that occur between the sexes already. We are faced every day with messages that tell us that we're different, that we're incompatible, that we're unequal.

In my own marriage, I'm already acutely aware of the differences that exist between us. It's obvious in the empty seat beside me. Pointing it out does not encourage me and it doesn't bring my husband to church.

I think there is plenty of room for courage in the Church. But it needs to extend beyond simply changing the packaging.

Real courage is going to require examining the message itself. When we turn from a divisive and exclusive message to one that really embraces oneness and unity.

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Should-ing Myself

someecards.com - I can't believe it's been a year since I didn't become a better person.

The first post in the new year. It feels like it should be a momentous occasion. I mean, in the past two weeks, I've only written two new posts, so it's definitely time to pull out the big guns and write something that is profound and hilarious and proves that I didn't completely lose it while I was resting.

Except that's not really how it works.

Inspiration doesn't seem to know when it should strike. It doesn't wait for a new year or a birthday or a new blog or whatever milestone I've got planned. Inspiration does NOT follow my time tables. Which is really inconvenient on days like today when I feel like I should be bringing it.

At the beginning of the new year, it's easy to look back over the past year (or past mumblemumble years) and think, "I suck. I should have given more. I should have exercised more. I should have read my Bible more. I should have created more. I should be more."

When I start should-ing myself, I find that I just shut down. I'm not good enough, I'll never be good enough, so why bother trying. One place where I am quite talented is in the realm of talking myself out of doing things.

Something that I've discovered about inspiration is that it actually does show up rather often, but it requires me practicing the discipline of doing to reveal itself. When I sit down and write every day, I can see a bit more clearly the story behind the story that might be worth our time (mine in writing, and yours in reading). I stop worrying about what should be happening, and focus on what is happening.

Something that I'm learning about myself is that when I stop worrying about what I should do and just focus on what I am doing, I have greater success. Because I can build on what I am doing. Recognizing areas where there can be improvement doesn't negate progress already made.

Part of my do year is to stop should-ing myself.

You should I invite you to join me.

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How do you deal with the "should-ing" that you do to yourself? What one thing are you already doing that you can make small improvements on?

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