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Guest posts, meetings, and shopping…oh, my!

I’m sorry, everyone, for ruining your Monday with my failure to post about Fifty Shades this morning.  My day looked like this:

  • Desperately consume coffee in hopes of waking myself up
  • Drive nine-year-old to jazz band rehearsal (only 5 left before the big competition!)
  • Beta read a story chapter that I was supposed to do 2 days ago and forgot
  • Make myself not look like most of my days are spent writing and homeschooling my kid (i.e., change out of my pajamas before noon)
  • Pick up friend and her daughter to watch seven-year-old
  • Go to nine-year-old’s school for his CSE meeting about his 504 plan (for my non-American readers, that’s the Committee on Special Education, since he has an educational plan for classroom modifications under the Americans with Disabilities Act for his ADHD)
  • Drive friend and friend’s daughter home to choruses of “But it wasn’t long enough!”
  • Take seven-year-old shopping for tan tights for dance recital that we didn’t know until yesterday she needed, after I already purchased THE WRONG COLOR

Needless to say, “write blog post blasting Fifty Shades” was not on the list.  No worries–I’ll remedy that tomorrow, unless either Mark Driscoll or Tony Jones says something stupid on the Internet.  In which case I’ll probably just write the Fifty Shades post anyway.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy my first guest post over on Homebrewed Christianity.  Go read, and be sure to leave a comment.

Have a great Monday, lovely readers.  See you all tomorrow.

Guest post: Thirty seconds of silence, take two

Today I am privileged to have the amazing Daisy Rain Martin guest posting for me.  We met online by chance, through writing for ProvoketiveShe is a talented writer and all-around fascinating woman.  I hope her words speak to your heart the way they do to mine.

By D. Gayo [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

I Was Silent for a Whole Thirty Seconds

A few months ago, I wrote a smokin’ article for Provoketive e-magazine that addressed the slew of anti-public school trash talk that followed the Newtown tragedy in the name of Jesus. You can read it at your own risk here: (That last paragraph was a doozy, let me tell you…)

http://provoketive.com/2012/12/17/thirty-seconds-of-silence/

I got mixed reviews, to say the least. Many people understood my angst, but others, whom I love and cherish and would never hurt to save my life, were less inspired. Insulted would be closer.

I’m not looking to rehash the argument of the public school system being to blame for our societal ills. Public schools have never inhibited a student’s freedom to pray freely and it is not the Great Satan. I don’t need to take that discussion further with people who will never see it any other way. I do believe, however, that the discussion that followed on that thread was amazing and begged some great questions:

What’s a girl to do when she sees that a portion of the church adheres to paradigms that she knows in her knower aren’t true? What’s a girl to do when it feels to her that the church has taken that collective paradigm and seemingly created a mini “subculture” of thought which makes her feel as if she’s in the wrong if she pushes up against it? What’s a girl to do when she’s accused of being (let’s see… how many have I heard?) insensitive to the Holy Spirit, deceived by the father of lies, shaped by the world, or just straight up simple-minded. I have questioned those subgroups and voiced my opinions, sending the saints screaming into their prayer closets on my behalf, while I scratch my head and try to shake it off. I’d love some wisdom on this.

But you know what? I’m also falling in love with the church again. I see Christ’s body acting with patience and compassion all the time. I was Episcopalian for a day and fed the homeless a beautiful meal (which they do all the time—it wasn’t just a one-day shot) with some beautiful friends. A lady in my church is starting a support group for people who have been abused and just can’t seem to love themselves no matter what. She has a cure! I speak at churches whose members just can’t seem to hug me tightly enough when I tell them my story. They even let me sell my book with the f-word in it! Sweet, conservative, God-lovin’ folks who have read the book—all the words—still put their hands on my cheeks and say, “Bless you, child. You went through so much, and we can see that God has brought you from a mighty long way.”

I wasn’t expecting that.

I’ve underestimated the church. I’ve overestimated the church. When is it ever going to feel ‘jussssst right’?

Carlo Carretto captured my quandary when he wrote, “How baffling you are, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I would like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand what sanctity is. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and yet I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms. No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, though not completely. And besides, where would I go?”

Indeed. Where would I go?

About the author (from her web site):

Daisy HeadshotThe juxtaposition that is Daisy Rain Martin stems from being born and raised in a show business family in the bright lights of Las Vegas while trying to navigate her way out of an abusive, ultra-conservative, religious home. [read more about Daisy here]

 


You can find her books here and here, and you can read her blog here.

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Please join me tomorrow when I will be reviewing Daisy’s book Juxtaposed.  Full disclosure: She sent me a (signed!) copy late last fall, but it was not in exchange for a review–favorable or otherwise.  I read the book over the winter holidays, and I decided that the review and her guest post would fit together nicely.

Guest Post: Sports Fan

Today’s post is brought to you by fellow writer Andrea Ward.  It seemed fitting after yesterday’s post about reclaiming our power as women.  Here’s a way that Andrea expresses herself.  Enjoy!

Sports Fan

I know where the key is.
I know what a corner kick is.
I know what icing is.
I know what a 5-4-3 double play is.
I know what a Hail Mary is.
I know what a green flag pit stop is.
I know what a rear naked choke is.
I know what a natural hat trick is.
I know the difference between a K and a ʞ.

I also know over 80% of the professional teams in all major sports off the top of my head.

When is it going to be okay for a woman to be a sports fan? Admittedly, I do enjoy shocking people with the amount of my sports knowledge, but after they know this about me I expect them to respect my knowledge. Am I asking too much? Because twice in the last two days my sports knowledge has been indirectly insulted and directly insulted.

I realize that for some older folks they just can’t get used to it and rearrange their vocabulary appropriately. However the lack of vocabulary inclusion does not eliminate the ability to respect my knowledge and fandom of sports. And a majority of them are cool with me being a sports fan. So if they are willing to make room, then how about the younger generation giving a little acceptance?

I am a sports fan. I know not all women are and that’s okay. I know not all men are and that’s okay. But I am a sports fan and I would really appreciate it if those that are sports fans would treat me as a valid sports fan. Just because I am a woman doesn’t make me less of a sports fan. It doesn’t make me a better woman or a worse woman. It doesn’t make me a better sports fan or a worse sports fan. I do not nor have I played a sport. That also doesn’t make me a better fan or a worse fan. I have watched sports since a very young age. That doesn’t make me a better fan or a worse fan. It just makes me a valid sports fan. I just want to be recognized as such.

Disclaimer: I know my definition of “sports fan” is rather lofty and I can be exclusive about it at times. I’m working on that. So maybe some out there could work on accepting me too. Because I’m not perfect either.

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Andrea Ward is a blogger, writer, wife, mother, teacher, and youth leader. She loves good food, good books and good conversation. A cup of great coffee will make her day great and if it that said cup is fair trade, she’s through the roof! She blogs Jesus, You, and Me. (http://jesusyoume.blogspot.com/) and you can find her on Twitter @citrus_sunshine.

Guest Post: Decisions, Not Resolutions

Today’s guest post is brought to you by the letters Ad and Vil and the number 200(mg).  Thanks to my kids, I have a cold with a scratchy throat and sinus headache.  Thanks to James Prescott, you all get a fantastic blog post anyway.  Enjoy!

Patrick Mackie [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Why I’ve made decisions for 2013, not resolutions

Many of us make new year’s resolutions. But usually, even by now, they are a thing of the past.

If we’re honest, resolutions never last do they?

Why?

Because we haven’t changed. We’ve not made a decision. We’ve not committed to anything. We’ve simply elected to stop doing something we were doing, or start doing something differently.

All of us, whether we know it or not, want to grow. To change. This is the impulse which drives new years resolutions. But simply resolving to change won’t make any difference.

If we really want to change this year, we need to get back to our core values. Those ideals which guide us. And we need to make decisions based on those values. Not set goals, but make decisions based on values.

For example, we could have a value of looking after our bodies, being healthy. So instead of just resolving to lose weight and eat healthier – which we all know is going to fall apart within a week or two – we make a decision, a commitment to regular exercise and healthy eating.

Instead of some vague promise or resolution, we’ve made a commitment.

We’ve made a decision.

And we must get accountability with close friends – the kind who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear – to ensure we keep to those commitments.

We may begin slowly, but because we’ve made a commitment, we are more likely to stick to it. Because we are changing a value, not simply making a resolution, we are more likely to change in ourselves.

This is how we can affect positive change in our lives this year. For example, here are the values/decision commitments I’ve made going into this year.

  1. Have the value of respecting and loving myself – So many others respect me, value me and my gifts. I have a responsibility to look after myself, mind, body and soul. So this year I will take more care of my body by eating better, doing more exercise, and getting more good rest. I will take more care of my mind by reading more and studying the Bible more. I will take more care of my soul by spending more time with God.
  2. Committing to honour the gifts God has given me – Steward my writing gift well by producing great work, by writing regularly, by investing in growing my writing gift and by shipping, putting work out there for others to be blessed
  3. Deciding to respond to differently to temptation – when I am tempted to get angry unnecessarily, give into old/bad habits, comfort eat or be lazy, I will learn how to spot those moments and figure out how I can respond differently. How I can respond in a way which shows value and respect for myself and others, honours the gifts I have and honours God.
  4. Learn the value of self-discipline and hard work – don’t become a workaholic or disciplinarian, but do choose to work hard, be professional and also exercise self-discipline in diet, exercise, writing, work and dealing with temptation.
  5. Value others first & Choose to serve – I will choose to put others first, commit to learn to find joy in serving and preferring others, in listening and in giving.

I might not keep 100% to these. In fact, I probably won’t.

But because I’ve made a commitment to changing my values and decisions drawn from this commitment, I’m more likely to achieve real transformation.

I may slip up along the way, but unlike when we fail resolutions – where the first slip up means total defeat – I can pick myself up and learn from the mistakes. I still have those values and those decisions which I’ve committed to.

So how about this year, instead of resolutions, you go back to your values. Make a decision what values you want to live out in 2013, and make some decisions related to those.

Then by the time 2014 rolls around, you might find you’ve undergone some real change.

Are you ready to begin?

James Prescott is a writer & creative exploring how we find divine hope in the messiness of life. He blogs regularly at James Prescott.co.uk & is a regular guest blogger for several sites. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Guest Post: Hope Behind the Picket Fence

Today’s guest post was written by Brenda L. Yoder, MA.  Many thanks to her for offering her beautiful words.

Life Beyond the Picket Fence

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” Joel 2:25

When I was a little girl, I knew just what kind of house I wanted.  It was yellow, had white trim, and a picket fence, just like my storybook friend in “Laurie and the House with Yellow Curtains.”  Now that I’m forty-something, that dream is a reality.  We have a yellow house, with white trim, and a picket fence.

Only behind the picket fence, there is dirt, manure, and weeds. 

Granted, it’s that way because our fence borders the garden.  But it also describes a life beyond the picket fence.  You know, the life-that-isn’t-what-I-thought-it-would-be life.  While sharing our picket-fence journey often makes me feel vulnerable, I find ease in sharing it when others need hope of a living God who redeems lives and restores broken dreams.

As a young parent, I first became familiar with Joel 2:25 when I read a book titled “When Counting to 10 Isn’t Enough: Defusing Anger” by Kathy Collard Miller.  It was the first resource I came across as I struggled with anger and reactionary responses to a strong-willed child.  As the years went on, power struggles with a toddler turned to full-blown, explosive, damaging fights with a hormonal teenager. They were a way of life for us, bringing turmoil and destruction to an otherwise picture-perfect home.  The calm serenity of a picket fence life was apparent from the outside, but not within.  Pain, not peace, was our routine, anger and hurt was our norm.

During these years, hope was something I desperately needed but couldn’t find or hold on to.  As leaders in our church and community, we were afraid to share our struggle, fearful of judgment or condemnation. I wonder if you’ve ever felt that way? When you walk a hard road alone, it’s a perfect recipe for hopelessness.  Hope is elusive when pain and turmoil is all you know.

As I’ve walked our journey and have accompanied others on their roads, I’m convinced one of the most essential needs of humanity is hope.

Hope that things can change.  Hope that God is good even in pain and struggle.  Hope that while people fail, God never does.

Hope for me came when I realized I couldn’t control the other people in the equation.  Just like an algebraic formula, I could only control one variable, me, and I hoped making changes would result in a different outcome.

As a result, I took obedient steps in what the Lord was calling me to do, making difficult decisions about behavior, sources of stress, and my own needs.  In the process, peace gracefully entered our home. It wasn’t an earth-shattering event, but was an equally powerful moment.  It began with a conversation in my kitchen, one that was probably routine in other homes.  For us, it was the first of its kind between a mother and child who had been at odds with each other for years. When the conversation ended, the presence of Hope was so powerful you could feel it.  My Savior was tangible that day.  Hope had arrived.  

Over the course of time, God has continued bringing hope and healing into our home, providing joy and restoration where pain and despair previously resided.  Hope came when obedience accompanied prayer, creating a catalyst for change I believe God desired to bring.  Now that we are on the other side, having journeyed from darkness to peace, it’s important I share with others that hope isn’t an elusive thing like that picket-fence image.  Hope isn’t feel-good front we put on when our world is falling apart.  It’s acknowledging that when life is full of dirt, manure, and weeds, good things can still grow. It’s allowing the Gardener of Hope do His work, weeding out destructive elements.

Hope, sometimes, is a choice.

Brenda lives life on a farm in Northern Indiana with her husband and four children, ages ranging from elementary to college.  She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and BA in Secondary Education.  She’s been a stay-at-home-mom, teacher, and is currently a part-time school counselor, behavioral service provider, and has a small private counseling practice. Her greatest passion is encouraging others and sharing hope.  She does this through writing and speaking at www.brendayoder.com, where she authentically shares life beyond the picket-fence image. She is a contributing writer for The Purpose magazine, The Hometown Treasure, Not Alone Mom, She Stands and Circle of Friends online magazines. She is a speaker for Stonecroft Ministries, and is an inspiring bible teacher for women and churches.  You can contact Brenda at yoderbl@gmail.com.

 

 

Guest Post: Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much

In lieu of my usual Friday News, I’m honored to feature another guest post.  Please welcome Tim Gallen.
Live Well, Laugh Often, Love MuchMission statements. Mottos. Slogans. Words to live by.
Especially this time of year when we reflect on new beginnings and making substantive change, we love summing up in succinct and memorable phrases how we wish to live our lives.
Well, I’ve heard many mottos and catch phrases, but – and I’ve done the research on this – I think the Gallen family motto has them all beat. We don’t claim to have originated the compilation of these six words but we certainly do our best to adhere to them.

In this season of new beginnings, I encourage you all to live well, laugh often, love much.

Live Well
To me, living well has always dealt with one’s character. Living well is about where we focus our time and energies. Living well means being actively engaged in life instead of cowering in our caves of comfort. Living well to me is about authenticity. It’s about living from the deepest and truest essence of ourselves.
To live well means to live by excellence. Perfection is a myth. There’s only ever been one person who was perfect and he died for you and me. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
To live well means to be kind and understanding. To stand up and fight for your beliefs but not to tear down others for disagreeing with you.
Living well means caring for what has been given to us; being good stewards of our lives. To live well means engaging in the world. It isn’t easy, but it sure beats the alternative.

Laugh Often
We take life way too seriously. (Seriously!) Ensuring we have laughter in our lives is essential to keeping us from getting caught up with the things we often think are so important in our lives. I always like to think I have mastered laugh often. I mean, I don’t just laugh often. I laugh just about all the time. But I still stumble into fits of taking life too seriously.
Laughing often encompasses the joy and wonder of our lives. When we experience something truly awe-inspiring or wonderful, we can’t help but smile and let out a gleeful laugh. Far too often, we get stuck with our heads down, focused instead on that which take us away from the wonder of creation.
God calls us to be like children when we come to him. This is because of all the wonders in the universe, He is the most wondrous of all. Also, he knows how easily we adults fall into the trap of seriousness. At their truest, children accept all, don’t seek to fully understand, and simply embrace the amazing things that they experience. Their only response is to laugh. And often. (See what I did there?)

Love Much
This is the most important piece of the puzzle. As St. Paul reminds us in Corinthians: Without love we are nothing. We may have faith, we may have hope; we may speak with the smoothest eloquence, but without love? Forget it. Our lives will never be complete. And let’s be honest here: Without love, it is simply impossible to live well or laugh often. When we fail to love much, our lives are always empty.
What does love much look like? I’ll admit, though I talk a big game, this is the most difficult of the motto for me to exercise in my own life. Sure, it’s easy to love my family, friends, and even myself. But, like Jesus said, if all I do is love the lovable, what good is that? The true test of love much is to reflect the fierce and ruthless love of Jesus to all of whom we meet – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When we love much we break down barriers, alter perceptions, and melt cold hearts. To love much means being generous beyond comprehension and never asking for anything in return.
Yes, when we love much, we even change the world.

Tim Gallen is a writer on a journey of recovery, rediscovery, and irreverence. You can connect with him at his blog, The Daily Gallen, or on Twitter @tim_gallen.

Guest Post: 2013: A Year for a New Feeling

I’m thrilled to be starting 2013 with the very first guest post ever on this blog.  Many thanks to Andrea for her contribution.

By Konrad Westermayr 1883-1917

A Year for a New Feeling

My emotions often show up on my face before they show up in my head. I have people ask me, “Are you okay?” A questioning looks crosses my face and I say, “Yeah.” Sometimes I throw in, “I’m just tired.” That’s to make them think I’m less crazy not because I really am that tired. After they have asked the question, I pause to think about why they asked that. Sometimes it comes to me right away and I realize what I am feeling. Sometimes it just doesn’t come to me and I have no clue what ‘that look’ on my face meant. I have somehow shut the door from my emotions to my brain. For some of you that might sound like a great thing and maybe it would be. Maybe if you pushed that door shut a little bit life would go better.  Maybe it wouldn’t. For me, it isn’t working anymore.

You see this year I felt a very clear call from God to write a memoir about the way people have influenced my walk with Him. I finally realized this year that I have been holding on to and not dealing with a whole lot of hurts. Holding on to them has served to ingrain them deeper into my psyche, my dealings with other people, and my habits. I also realized that I am not alone. There are others that are going through this struggle silently. They, like me, think they are alone or that they have dealt with it or that it isn’t that bad. And all of those thoughts are wrong.

So if I need to write this memoir to help other people dealing with this that I am dealing with, then I need to know what I am feeling and why. I need to know what I have felt and delve into those past events and past feelings. So this year I am committing to journal 3 times a week. I am going to be writing down what I am thinking and searching for what I am feeling. I want to embrace those things and open that door back up. So I am looking forward to 2013 as I rediscover my emotions.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

Andrea is a working family woman who writes about faith and relationships.  She takes seriously the call on her life to encourage others.  You can read more about her on her blog, Jesus, You, and Me.