Because When Sarah Bessey Asks You to Guest Post …

It is such a thrill to be over at Sarah Bessey’s blog today kicking off this question for her Jesus Feminist book club. Each day this week a new guest blogger has answered discussion questions from the back of the book, and readers are invited to answer for themselves in the commentsand have a chance to win a free copy of the book!

I’m answering the question from Chapter 10 Kingdom Come:

How can you take part in the redemptive movement of God for women around the world?
What hurt are you drawn to heal in even the smallest way?

_______________

 

As a female Bible major at a conservative Christian college, my ministry dreams were limited. If I didn’t want to work with kids, women’s ministry was mine by default, so I took the class—the class where we learned this ministry was about putting on retreats and planning teas, neither of which was complete without a proper Bible lesson. So my kingdom calling seemed obvious …

Teach her. Teach her.

But I was young. This proved difficult. I had not yet earned the right to be heard by the women around me. I lacked seasons of serving and seasons of suffering. (Oh, thank God, no one let me be a teacher.)

HEAD OVER TO SARAH’S TO READ MORE

(Comments Over After the Post at Sarah’s)

 

Because There’s a Whole World Out There …

Lately I’ve been struck by the stories of friends and acquaintances who are stepping outside the borders of our professionally landscaped and Pinterest-pretty world and going and doing or maybe just telling those of us back home about the things we won’t see on the news or in our Facebook feed.

We get so caught up in our lives here, we really do. Spend a day on Twitter and you might think that the entire universe spins on US political party conflicts and who the modern Church is excommunicating or vilifying this week.

But I know there is another world out there, and maybe you do too. I can still feel the mud of Bangladeshi ride paddies in between my toes and still smell the alleys of Bangkok, even though I haven’t visited those places in over 20 years, and I think we all need to be reminded that there is so much more to life than Starbucks getting our coffee right.

So I’m sharing the stories that have taken me out of my little universe over the past few weeks, in the hopes that you’ll read one or twoor all of themand allow yourself to step outside too:

 

Anne & Tim Visit Zambia | Anne Marie Miller: We Saw Them Become Orphans

“One morning, I went into the room and rubbed on their thin hands in just before we left. We returned from a full day of filming and we were told the mother passed away. In just a few short hours, these babies lost their mamma …

- Anne Marie Miller READ MORE

The Days Go to Mexico | Golden Threads: I See a White Butterfly

“We see the grit and the depths of brokenness. Maturity does that. I don’t want to be a child who only sees incomplete bits, but watching my kids on this trip reminded me to train my eyes and heart to see past the surface and find the beauty …

- Stephanie Day READ MORE

A Family’s Journey to Uganda | Proclaiming at Valley: Justice to a Child is Justice to a Nation

“Neither of us could comprehend the fears that these people have to live with. We can’t imagine the horror of knowing that your children are always at risk. Many parents will mar their kids in some way at birth, scarring them in some way because they believe that makes them less desirable as a child sacrifice …”

- Diana Durrill READ MORE

Sarah Returns to Haiti | Sarah Bessey: In Which I Fall for the Beautiful Facade

“There isn’t much room for romanticism in the real world of orphan prevention and community development. This world needs open eyes, this conversation needs hard questions, these are real people. Real people. Real homes. Real families. They deserve our open eyes, our respect, and we need to honour them by hearing the truth …

- Sarah Bessey READ MORE

Kari Reflects on Rwandan Genocide | World Vision Blog: Rwanda 20 Years: Why I Was Afraid

“In a place that had played host to mass murder, I felt afraid. What do you do to vanquish this kind of fear? You replace it with love …

- Kari Costanza READ MORE

_______________

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Have you stepped outside our borders lately or read the story of someone who has? What struck you most about the experience?

P.S. Shortly after I posted this Diana Durrill published a post summarizing her family’s experience in Uganda and what they’re learning from the experience. The title? Do Something. If you’re walking away from these stories (or your own stories) moved, but unsure what that tug is at your heart, it’s a must read.

 

An Interview at Panhandling Philosopher Blog

In the spirit of Abuse Awareness Month, I’m over doing a two-part Q&A on sexual abuse in the Church with Daniel McDonald of The Panhandling Philosopher. I hope you’ll head over there to check it out.

__________

A couple of months ago, when some high profile child abuse situations were appearing in the news, Tamara Rice’s writings on these cases caught my attention.  I decided during this year’s Lenten season to take a break from my blogging and decided to ask some guests to present blogs.  

Tamara and I decided to use an interview by email format in which on behalf of my readers I would ask questions for her to answer …

click to read part one
click to read part two

(Comments will taken over on Dan’s page.)

Because Creation Sings Truth to Weary Souls

A few weeks ago, something miraculous began to happen on my back patio. Potted plants I was sure had withered and died over winter began to flush with new green growth. Truly, I hadn’t expected their reappearance. I hadn’t expected any of the plants I displayed in pots last fall to survive the winter of frosts and periodic snow; and, indeeda few of them are mere carcasses nowmuch like some of last year’s hopesno matter how much I want them back.

But the pansies.

The pansies came back. And they didn’t just come back, they came back thicker, fuller, even more colorful and beautiful than they were the first time. One in the deepest purple and another in the most fabulous orangetruly, creation at it’s finest. I marveled each morning at more and more gorgeous flowers opening to traces of Pacific Northwest sunlight and singing to me through this still cool and damp spring that summer will eventually come.

pansy hopeI was mesmerized by them. My whole life pansies had been a flower I dismissed as “flimsy,” and the word itself had been overheard as an insult directed at those perceived to be less than. An inappropriate term. A slur, even. In fact, just last night as my daughter heard it used that way for the first time in a moment of reality show ugliness, she turned to us, confused. “Why would anyone call another person a pansy?” What, my little gardener wanted to know, could it possibly mean to call someone a beautiful flower … with that tone? And my husband explained. And she was sufficiently dismayed.

But I was baffled as I reflected back on our strange and ever-changing cultural lexicon, because when those pansies came back after a tough winter in which they were completely neglected by my daughter and I, their gardeners, I knew that pansies represented fortitude. Strength. Resilience. Nothing weak or flimsy about them. They’d blossomed against the odds, just like hope returning anew despite my jaded ambivalence and a cold winter of disappointment.

pansiesI’ve been simply enraptured by the surprise of this delightful flower I’d planted for the first time last year on a total whim. How could anything that seemed as fragile as hope itself spring to life again after what seemed like certain death?

So one morning last week, when I discovered my beautiful pansies were being slowly devoured by some ravenous beast, I was heartbroken. Seeing no evidence of slugs, I blamed our sweet but sneaky family of squirrels living in the narrow space between the back fences and getting fatter with every day that spring is birthing new goodies to swipe from neighboring gardens.

I decided it was war. No matter how adorable those squirrels are. I mean, really … my newly beloved pansies!

I immediately googled natural ways to keep squirrels away from enticing plants. I planted marigolds. (Painfully boring to me, but unpleasantly pungent to squirrelsor so I’m told.) I even deposited a bag of used cat litter right next to the pots to see if that theory would hold them off, since my cat is no longer allowed outside to do the intimidation himself. (And was that a disgusting tactic? Yes. And the jury is still out on its effectiveness, though I did catch a squirrel marveling at the bag today.)

The point is, I won’t let the pansies go without a fight. They fought winter alone. I will help them fight the scavengers of spring. And today at the grocery store, even more pansies were vying for my attention, marked 2 for $3 and singing up at me in the most heart-stopping shade of crimson. They had me at hello.

Still, part of me hesitated.

The squirrels could demolish them. They might not even be whole by morning.

Like the frequent elusiveness of hope, I knew their beauty might be difficult to hold onto. But I also knew as I stood over them, in awe of their tiny, delicate—but shockingly heartysplendor that I would buy them anyway. I would still choose the pansy. This precious, determined mirror of my heart. I would take them home and I would plant them in the front porch pots this time, effectively bookending our home with monuments to gentle strength. Because these little wonders inspire me. I choose them, I am choosing pansies, despite the odds, because I am choosing the beauty and inspiration they offer when I’m blessed with their emergence.

And I will continue to choose hope too. Despite the odds and its sometimes infrequent appearance. Despite the pernicious frost of of disillusionment. Despite the knowledge that it sometimes takes perseverance and sweat to keep it alive. Still, I will wait for hope when it fades. I will tend to hope when it reappears. I will revel in it when it flourishes. And I will fight like hell when life eats away at its glorious blooms.

Because E-Readers Are Our Friends

I know what many of you are thinking: But I love actual books. I love the smell. I love the feel. I love the way they look on my nightstand and the way they look on my shelf later.

And I know all of that, because I used to feel that way too. (Oops, there it is. I just broke one of the interwebs’ new rules of social engagement: We’re not allowed to say we recognize our former beliefs in someone else, because I guess it seems condescending … Oh, well. I break rules. Because I’m telling you: I used to feel that way too.)

When my wonderful husband surprised me with a Kindle Fire and sleek leather case for Christmas in 2011, I may have smiled big and said thank you, but inside I was lamenting the fact that I’d just never use it much. (Why? NOT REAL BOOKS.) Because I was a book snob, and in some ways I still am. I love a bookstore. I love the smell of new ink. The feel of a heavy hardback novel. And there is much to be said for holding your favorite books in your hands and underlining them with ink and bending corners to mark pages and writing in the margins. (I get it, I really do.) I was even a book reviewer (like, professionally) for six years, often reading and reviewing 70-80 titles a year just for work. I mean, I really, really love books. (Kittens! Er, I mean: Books!)

So, I didn’t expect to fall in love with that Kindle. I didn’t expect the entire family to begin referring to it as “Mom’s best friend.” I didn’t expect that it would make me a more voracious reader in my post-book-reviewer life or that it would expose me to new authors and new genres I might not have tried otherwise. To be sure, it’s different. The first week of January this year, when all the cool kids were Instagramming their awesome “look what I’m gonna read” stacks of books for 2014, I just couldn’t compete. A photo of thumbnail covers on my Kindle just wouldn’t look as … well, cool or awesome.

But here’s what I love about my e-reader:

  • The volume of books I now consume. It went up exponentially, because it’s so easy to find a new book, buy it and start it—even if it’s 11 o’clock at night and you’re in your jammies. I probably read six or seven books in 2011, my last e-reader-free year. In 2012, the Kindle-owning Tam read over 20 titles and that’s increased every year since. It’s called accessibility, which brings me to my next point …
  • That I can read my books anytime, anywhere. I don’t even have to have my Kindle with me. As long as I have my phone, every book I’m reading on my Kindle is at my fingertips no matter where I find myself or how unprepared I was for the fortuitous chance to read. My library is always with me!
  • The ease of looking up new and interesting words and recording them. No, for reals, you put your finger on the word and the definition pops up. (You can’t make this stuff up.) And then you put your finger on it again and it’s highlighted and stored for you where you can access all your highlighted phrases and words with one stinking click.
  • The ease of researching anything the author mentions on Wikipedia. At some point the Kindle gods heard my cry and now when you come across anything unfamiliar that lies outside dictionary territory (like an artist’s name or a city) you can highlight the word or phrase and choose to go straight to its Wikipedia page. (!!!)
  • The ease of noting my favorite parts. Just like with single words, you simply run your finger across the sentences and they are yours forever. Anytime you want to know: What were the parts I loved so much? You can open the book, click a button, and read your new favorite quotes all in one place—no searching, no flipping pages—and you can even make notes of your own!
  • The ease of finding new authors to love. What some people don’t realize is that you can get the first few pages—sometimes entire chapters—of a book for free … zero commitment, zero money, zero trips to the library, zero time fighting for the leather chair at Barnes & Noble so you can cheat. It’s called a “sample,” and it’s legal and lovely.
  • The ease of discarding books you start and then hate. That whole sample thing? It’s completely cured my “I bought this/made a special trip for this, so I better finish this” affliction that caused me to finish many a book I didn’t even like.
  • The price.* If you shop carefully, you’ll never pay full (print) price. Is it free like the library? No. (But 11,000 public libraries in the US do support e-readers—thanks for the reminder from Susan Irene Fox in the comments!) Is it dirt cheap like a thrift store? No. But unless you are buying brand new titles, you’ll often find it to be as inexpensive as buying used. (Particularly if you watch for deals.) Example: In 2013, I bought a 2012 bestseller (The Shoemaker’s Wife) on my Kindle for $2.18. (It’s tucked away for vacation reading.)
  • The size/weight/function. Okay, so those who spend time around me know my hands and wrists are very angry with me for my career choices. The arthritis feels worse every winter and probably is, thus my hands really don’t like holding heavy or cumbersome hardbacks for an hour at a time during my nightly reading. Now I just prop up my e-reader next to me in bed and I barely even move to turn the “page.”
  • The era of Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. If you play your cards right, your e-reader will double as a tablet, which means entire seasons of Downton or West Wing or what-have-you, even while you are nestled, all snuggled in bed, and I gotta tell you: It’s a delightfully intimate experience to hold your favorite characters in your hands.

Now do you see why my family jokes that I might love my Kindle more than I love them? (Never!) But I do sleep with it. Every night. True story. (It’s called a white noise app.)

_______________

What about you? Have you tried an e-reader yet? What did you like about the experience or not like about the experience?

*Note: This is where a few of you in the publishing industry are going to complain about how less money is made on e-book sales. To that I say with all sincerity: The arts never promised you a lucrative career. You are now free to become a physician’s assistant. (I hear they make good money.) But I also say, with much less snark: If your publishing house isn’t embracing the advantages of e-book marketing, pricing and sales, then there’s an awfully good chance your publishing house is doing it wrong.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS: 

  1. How could I have forgotten that e-readers offer font size options? Set the font as big as you like and … done. I don’t wear glasses to read anymore. It’s brilliant. I’m so spoiled by this feature!
  2. Reading in the dark! (What??) If I wake up in the night, I roll over and grab the Kindle Fire and read until I fall back asleep … without ever flipping on a light. (This is not true of all e-readers. Buyer beware.)
  3. Amazon should be paying me for this post. (I only wish this were a paid promotion!)

What I’m Into | March 2014

Taking a break each month with the amazing Leigh Kramer to participate in her What I’m Into linkup is one of the most fun things I’ve done as a blogger—I highly recommend it!

ON MY KINDLE …

Divergent by Veronica Roth | So, I’m just gonna be honest and say, I’ve been tip-toeing through this one a little each night and it is just not grabbing me. I don’t find this particular dystopia very interesting, but I’m determined to finish.

Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther | Well, technically, this one was not on my Kindle. I got the real paper and ink thing signed by Elizabeth herself and wrote this review all about it. Unlike Divergent, this one sucked me in! You can read my full review here.

Oddly, this was a light-reading month. I blame that on an all-consuming work project and being sick for most of the month. I guess you could say this month I was ACTUALLY into Nyquil and early bedtimes.

ON SCREEN …

The Voice, Season 6 | I’m really glad Shakira and Usher are back. I liked Christina and Cee-Lo—who could be entertaining in their own ways, of course—but this chemistry feels right. (Have they finished the Battle Rounds? I wouldn’t know … we’re about four episodes behind!)

Resurrection, Season 1 | I’m pretty certain that like other mysterious sci-fi shows (Awake, anyone?), this one won’t get a second season, and therefor, we might never know why these people came back from the dead. Or (like Awake) we might get a rushed, unsatisfying one-episode explanation after cancellation that was never what the writers intended. However, I’m hooked anyway. It’s like a piece of chocolate, calling to me from the cupboard. Eventually it’ll be gone, and I’ll regret indulging … but I’ll just keep nibbling until that day.

House of Cards, Season 2 | How could I have left this off the first draft of this post?! We didn’t binge watch, despite the temptation, and it was worth savoring. I won’t give spoilers, but da-a-ang …

IN MY EARS …

Usher | Okay, so I blame The Voice, but I am in a major Usher (old Usher) mood. All the classics—like “Confessions Pt. 2″ and “U Got It Bad” … Come on. These songs are sung from his gut. Who else can tell a woman his “chick on the side got one on the way” and actually sound endearing? I mean, really. Wanna hear him break up with you and still make you want to sing along? “Burn”

Fleetwood Mac | We dug up our Rumours album on vinyl after American Horror Story featured so much Stevie Nicks this season, and it’s been getting a ton of play. If you don’t know much Fleetwood Mac, try this oldie featured in a recent Bank of America ad: “Never Going Back Again”

Clearly, I wasn’t into anything new as far as music this past month, but sometimes you just need to hear songs you know every note of and sing along with all your heart. Sometimes predictability is the greatest comfort.

AMONG OTHER THINGS …

camelliaMy son and I cannot get enough of Stacy’s Pita Crisps—sorta like the original chips, but lighter. Oh, heaven.

And who wouldn’t love the white camellias that surprised us in our garden this spring, pictured here? It’s the fun of living in a new home the first year and seeing what the yard already offers.

In keeping with the beauty of spring, I was also so pleased that the potted pansies I put on my patio last fall have come back in all their dark orange and deep purple glory, even fuller and thicker than they were in the fall.

Spring carries a particular sort of magnificence—a reminder that second chances can often be better than beginnings!

SO, WHAT ARE YOU INTO?
Tell me all about it in the comments or linkup your blog post over at Leigh’s place!

The Realist Speaks: Because It’s About Kids

Yes, that’s a World Vision link in my sidebar, and, yes, it’s been there since I did contracted writing for them last year. And, yes, it’s going to stay there.

Over the past 48 hours I have cringed as I’ve watched the fallout from this Christianity Today article, in which World Vision announced their plan to remove a hiring clause that prohibited married homosexual Christians from working in their U.S. offices. I’ve had so many emotions. I’ve started this post so many times. One version was called “Because They Are Being His Hands and Feet.” In it, I tried to show how people don’t have to be following a particular denomination’s definition of faith to be doing God’s work in the world, because His work is His work, period, no matter who is doing it. But I gave it up … because some people will just never be convinced of that, and I’m not going to change their minds.

Another version was called “Because Your Selective Outrage Is Deafening.” In it, I tried to talk about people like Albert Mohler condemning World Vision when they refuse to condemn or even address the pastors and churches within their own denomination who have protected child molesters, and how this is a horrifying example of selective separation, selective outrage, selective morality. In it, I tried to show how dropping the support of an innocent child who’s been committed to while at the same time refusing to drop support of a corrupt mission board that mishandles child abuse (“because innocent missionaries”) is hypocritical to a stomach turning degree. But I couldn’t write about these injustices without my anger dripping through every line, because seriously … why—no matter what the issue—are innocent children always last on the list of these big-time “gospel” priorities?

Another version was written just in my head. It was “Because Ecumenism Means Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.” But you know, Ben Irwin did it so much better.

So I’ve settled on the version that I can write in peace. That I can say with my whole heart. It is this:

Be careful what you say.
Be careful what you say tonight at the dinner table.
Be careful what you say today on the phone.
Be careful what you say this morning on Facebook.
Because  your children are listening and reading and watching.

And maybe they are struggling with who they are, and you can’t see it. You’re just too close.

But if they are, and if you are not careful, you could send them a clear message: You can never tell me the truth. If you do, I will reject you. I will turn my back on you. I will separate myself from you.

As an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, I’ve been trying to get the church to see this for several years now. When you dismiss victims, when you consider them an enemy of your ministry, when you bicker with them over “proof” in the blog comments section, you are sending a clear message to the youth currently abused inside your organization: Don’t tell. Don’t speak up. You’ll be rejected. You’ll be argued with. You’ll be hindering everyone else’s important work.

Because they are listening. They are watching. They are taking notes. Because they know a day will come when they can no longer hold it in, and they are trying to figure out if you will still love them.

And so are the kids struggling with their sexuality.

About kidsYou can believe that being gay is a sin. I’m not actually going to argue that with you today. I’m just here to remind you that young people struggling with their sexuality are anywhere from 2 to 3 and half times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers. And one of these young people might be living under your roof, whether you want to believe that or not.

And my heart just breaks when I think about the things they have heard said at home and online over the last 48 hours … and what they might even hear said from the pulpit this Sunday. Because what you say and how you say it can make all the difference to them.

They are listening. They are watching. They are taking notes. Because they know a day will come when they can no longer hold it in, and they are trying to figure out if you will still love them.

Be careful what you say.

______________

P.S. It would be remiss of me to write this post without linking to this one: When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me. You might believe that being a gay Christian is an oxymoron, but I invite you to read this post anyway. If a grown man feels this rejection so deeply, how much more a child who doesn’t understand the nuances of Southern Baptist separation theology and the “political implications” of recognizing gay marriage? Please. Be careful what you say.

Fair Warning: In the spirit of being careful what we say, I’ll be monitoring comments closely. 

UPDATE: It seems at some point today World Vision reversed their decision. I don’t have words for how baffling this is. Once again, the power of selective moral outrage is evident, and I can’t help but wonder where all that outrage goes when child abuse is the issue on the table.