Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

One of my favorite Youtube channels is Off Camera with Sam Jones. He asks actors the questions I would want to ask if given the opportunity to sit and chat with any of these people. He is able to dig beyond tabloid fodder and grasp the humanity and experiences of the people he interviews.

A few years ago, I watched this interview with John Krasinski and thought he hit on a profound idea. At around the 2:14 mark, he says, “I don’t know how your brain accepts truths that are not acceptable unless you’ve had them dolled out to you along the way.” (Feel free to watch the whole 2:38 minutes if you’re interested in the grander context of the interview).

A few days ago, I was reading Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ by Eugene Peterson and he quoted a poem by Emily Dickenson titled “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”

The poem is as follows (Emphasis mine):

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —”

I thought of Paul who was literally blinded by his interaction with Truth and Christ and a light from heaven. (Emphasis mine)

“Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” Acts 9:1A

“As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6

“Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.” Acts 9: 8-9

How do our brains accept truths that are unacceptable?

How do we allow the truth to dazzle gradually?

What do we do if we are blinded by a sudden and life changing altercation with the truth?

At some point, accepting an unacceptable truth requires an accepting of error in previously accepted truths. Things we live by, rely on, or believe about the world that prove to be misleading, misunderstood, or flat out lies. Our naivete, lack of experience, or arrogant eagerness to make our way can blind us to truth. A slow seeing, or a slow stripping away of a different kind of blindness requires a confronting of error in one way or another.

In the video above, John Krasinski says this about “chasing box office success”:

“Now when I hear that, “this movie is going to be huge” “I’m like, really? because I have now seen enough examples of the biggest movie with the most perfect cast and the perfect director and the perfect producers didn’t even get seen. You know what I mean? So now that that conundrum has been broken for me, or that fact or that thing that people live by, now that that’s broken, this is all a lot more fun.”

He goes on to say that it was actually the experiences in the “less successful” movies with different actors (namely Robin Williams) that enabled him to accept different roles and his place in them. His experience and interaction with Robin Williams in License to Wed was worth more to him than “making his big break” from that particular movie.

We now live in a time when “truth” can be discovered by a few Google searches, an investigative report, or a documentary. We binge watch or click link after link, as if we cannot get enough.

“Look at this path that I am on!”

“I’m on an urgent mission to soak in as much as I can as quickly as I can.”

Quickly obtained truth can also lead to a different sort of blindness.

A self righteousness.

An arrogance.

I do believe their is a direct correlation between the time it takes to obtain truth and the amount of arrogance (and honestly, ignorance) a person possesses.

I have to catch myself on this all of the time. Most non-fiction books I read include a line similar to “this book is a result of ten years of research, twenty years in ministry, etc.” I am reading, watching, or listening to a highly edited conclusion that took years to master, learn, and communicate. I am not walking away with an all knowing understanding of the truth presented to me. I am again blinded by my own arrogance, ignorance, and opinions. I’m not done reading this books, instead, I am viewing them as small, dazzling truths. “This author is providing another piece of the puzzle. A different perspective. An opinion/idea/truth to consider.”

As we do grapple with the sudden and hard truths we are unable to filter or slow down our exposure to such as injustice, racism, and maybe even a coming to or crisis of faith, what do we do?

When the truth does not dazzle gradually, but instead blinds us and brings us to our knees, what can be done?

Here, I think Paul provides another beautiful example. Yes, he was blinded by his interaction with Jesus, but he was not left to wander alone. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” He’s given a purpose. “So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.” He was given aid. You can read more in Acts to see all of the ways the Lord provided for him and helped him to learn and grow, perhaps with some “gradual dazzling truths.” (Later in Acts 9, it says that “Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.” (v19B)

When there are calls to “JUST RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH.” What are we asking others to see?

I’m not as interested in providing a path, whether slow and dazzling or blinding, to many things these days. I don’t have a lot of truths I’m willing to cling onto that closely. I’m not so much growing in my staunchness of my convictions or opinions, but prefer to grow in being an avenue of truth to those who will accept it.

Where I can be an avenue for the slow, beautiful, dazzling truth of the gospel to be revealed, may it be so.

Where I can be a presence to those who are hit with a sudden, glorious, and blinding realization to the truth of the gospel, may it be so. May I be a gentle, leading presence.

May our churches be places of prayer, discipleship, and the awakening of truth- the kind that strikes awe, hope, and love into our homes, communities, and into the world. Where we are blind, may there be patience, love, and grace. Where we are repentant, may there be rejoicing, reconciliation, and growth. Where we are obedient, may there be wisdom, strength, and an in tune vision with the Lord above.

He dazzles. He strikes. In both, he is faithful. In either, his truth is always good. Whether walking along the road on a mission of destruction or calming a child in the midst of a lightning storm, truth meets us, finds us, and changes us.

Photo by Raphael Renter on Unsplash

Posted in Inspired, Random Thoughts

The Tired Thirties

I’m tired. Who isn’t?

I recently read  A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle. A passage that caught my attention was one about something she coined “the tired thirties.” It says this,

“Sometime, during those years, I read The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. What I remember from it is the reference to “the tired thirties.” I was always tired. So was Hugh. During the decade between thirty and forty, most couples are raising small children, and we were no exception. Hugh was struggling to support his growing family in the strange world outside of theater. And there was I, absolutely stuck in bucology, with the washing machine freezing at least once a week, the kitchen never above 55* when the wind blew from the northwest, not able to write until my little ones were in bed, by which I was so tired that I often quite literally fell asleep with my head on the typewriter. The various pressures of twentieth-century living made it almost impossible for the young mother with pre-school children to have any solitude.”

The tired thirties. Yep. I’m only about two years into my thirties and I can tell you I am confidently claiming that title for the next decade of my life. There have been many nights of laying in bed with literal muscle and bone aches from the physical and mental exhaustion. The sleep that follows never seems to be quite enough.

The demands of each day. The never-enoughness of each day. The long list of failures of each day. The to-do list that never gets done. The whines, demands, and cries. The chopping, peeling, and stirring. The washing, drying, and folding. The giggling, imagining, and creating. The short tempers, the grace, and the restarts. 

The exhaustion is all consuming, and yet, this day is what’s presented to me. This decade or season or phase are written into the story of my life.

Writing a story. In the midst of the tired thirties.

A beautiful story doesn’t wait for the energized, awake, and alert. Sadness doesn’t wait. Joy doesn’t wait. Pain doesn’t wait. Beauty doesn’t wait.

It’s here. Today. In the midst of the tired thirties. 

Photo by Martin Reisch on Unsplash
Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

New City Catechism Pre-K Activities (Q1-7)

If you end up using all or part of this guide, I’d love to hear about how it went! It’s meant to be low prep, easy to use, and fun! I take God’s command to love him and our neighbors seriously (Thanks Jen Wilkin for reminding us that our child IS our neighbor), so I view opportunities to positively connect and learn about God as one practical way to love God and neighbor at the same time! Family worship can feel overwhelming at times and it can feel icky to only bring out the Bible verses when we’re disciplining our children, so I hope this is an easy and comfortable way for you to teach your child more about God and his love for your child!

Posted in Inspired, Jesus Chats, Random Thoughts

A Few Thoughts About Anger

Before I begin, I’d like to point out that this post is not a “subtweet” or a direct response to anyone in particular. This is a topic I’ve dealt with personally and the primary subject of this post is ME. My hope in sharing is that I do believe we are on a concerning trajectory, so if you relate or consider/pray about any of the things mentioned, I consider that a win! I do not propose to know the heart or motivations of anyone’s words or actions, so I am not positioning myself as an authoritative voice in your life, but instead my hope is to share my own perspective and experiences in an effort to help you love Jesus more.

Labels have an interesting effect on a person. For example, I was often labeled “the angry child.” As such, I both resented this label AND made an effort to live up to it. How did it feel to be labeled as angry when you are still learning how to process and express your emotions, frustrations, and objections? Belittling. How did it feel to express that anger knowing that way to respond is already expected of you to begin with? As if I was being my “true” self. Familiar. Justified.

I am afraid of anger.

I am afraid of who I am when I’m angry.

It took therapy for me to recognize that anger is an indicator, or a warning. It doesn’t have to be a demon or a way to define myself.

When I’m mad, I still get hives on my chest. My whole body feels it.

How do I process my anger?

How do I know if I’m expressing “righteous” or “sinful” anger?

I’d like to share a little bit how the Lord has been working on my heart in regards to this topic.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it– they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:19-27 NIV

Jesus lays out a pretty heavy command to the disciples (and us) in Matthew 28: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (19-20)

Make disciples. If you’ve been a Christian long, I’m sure you’ve been given MANY tools to evangelize and share the gospel with others. These are well and good. One personal conviction I have in regards to “making disciples” and also “discipling other believers” is to do whatever I can to demonstrate following Jesus and bringing him glory in as simple terms as possible. We don’t add to the gospel. We don’t make additional duties or convictions essential to the gospel. We don’t create a standard by which others must feel or act or say as we do, when we do, how we do. We reveal the beauty of Christ, the glory of the Lord, and the freedom found in salvation in as many ways as we can. One of the ways I have personally been hindered in this approach has been a draw toward anger. Anger lure us in. Anger indicates something in us or around us that needs to be addressed. I’d like to point out a few cautions and encouragements regarding it.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Cautions:

Righteous Anger as an Excuse/Justification.

One concerning aspect regarding “righteous” anger is that we will often justify or belittle any pushback against our expressions of that anger. A feeling of anger is different than an expression of it. This is why we are explicitly commanded to not sin in our anger (Eph 4:26). Do we have people who speak into our lives and observe how we speak to or about other people? How do we respond to their criticisms or concerns regarding our words/actions?

God is the only perfect executer of righteous anger. We are not. If someone is pointing us to the gospel after we express our anger in unhelpful ways, that is a true brother or sister. If our community is allowing us to act or speak harshly, foolishly, or without any accountability, this is dangerous.

Ministries/Platforms Built on “Righteous” Anger.

At the beginning of July, we moved away from the community we established in Texas. This was extremely difficult. We were not alone in having to interact primarily online due to this transition as EVERYONE at this time was also doing so, but I found myself even more vulnerable to seeking a primary community online. As such, I started seeking out writers, preachers, and cultural commentators who were saying things I found to be interesting, thought provoking, and/or speaking to issues and causes I am invested in.

As I curated my internet experience, a few trends started popping up:

I started to recognize that a lot of the people I was following built a platform based on anger. These may be fellow Christians, but they are ANGRY and a majority of their content was tailored around criticism, calling out other believers, and setting parameters on the “right” way to be a Christian. I saw this from Christians on the right and left, conservative and liberal. While it is good and right and true to discern between error and truth, and that evil should not be tolerated, I was growing weary from the CONSTANT criticism, anger, and “verbal” processing I was reading. I began to see people with generally helpful points and perspectives as foolish, short sighted, and arrogant. I don’t want to live with an uncharitable view of others, so I had to recognize that helpful conversations and change rarely come from online hot takes. I had to unfollow and mute a lot of people in order to remain charitable and loving toward them. I have to engage in real life conversations with people who will and do frequently disagree with me in order to grow and process in helpful ways.

I am also wary of any church that is planted on the origins of criticism of other denominations/church experiences. I am not saying these churches should be discounted, but what is the basis of the ministry? How does the pastor lead as he talks about other believers who align differently than him? As someone who moves frequently, you better believe I am listening/observing WHAT a pastor says and HOW he says it.

Righteous Anger as a means of producing sinful anger in myself or others.

As a Christian, I take sin very seriously. As such, I do not want to be a means by which another person stumbles or falls into sinful behavior. What better way to lead someone down a pathway to sin than regularly provoking anger in him/her? We’ve seen some of the scary consequences of leading others down that path. Even if we don’t have the same level of influence, why should we be guilty of the same? The impact of sinful behavior is not how we define sin. Am I saying we never speak out against evil? No. Am I suggesting we are ALWAYS guilty if another person sins because of something we say or do? No. I am saying that to the best of our ability, and as often as we can, we should seek to be loving, peaceful, and led by the Spirit, not our emotions.

Also, this means that when someone approaches me in anger, I will do what I can to listen and to not stir up additional anger in them. “Oh yeah, I can see why you’d be mad…did you know they also did/said this!? Can you believe it?” I am often tempted to join in, validate, and increase the offense. Disgusting.

So far, it may seem as if I’m pretty skeptical of righteous anger. I’m not. I’m more skeptical about how it is often defined and used to justify sinful behavior. I do think righteous anger is a grace and means to point to God in our weakness. Genesis 3 set a generational consequence of not only sin entering our world, but that our eyes would be opened and we would become aware of the difference between good and evil. (Something Adam and Eve didn’t really need a distinction of before). God hates evil, so it is good when we allow him to destroy the power of sin and evil in our own hearts and when we work to bring goodness and restoration to the world he created. Righteous anger is a tool by which God can use his people to fight against evil, but it is NOT his means of redemption. Jesus is. We need to always separate that out. Our righteous anger is not God’s means of redemption. It’s a tool. A good one when used rightly.

Encouragements:

Righteous Anger as a means to pray.

When we see oppression, injustice, and evil, it should spur something in us. We should lament, grieve, and feel uneasy. Righteous anger commits to righteousness when it first lays down any concern, frustration, or provocation at the foot of the cross.

Read a Psalm.

Pray.

Express the fulness of your anger, anxiety, and sadness to him.

Cry out.

He hears our cries. God is the perfect executor of justice.

Alignment with the Spirit enables us to work, speak, and act more effectively for God’s Kingdom. It allows us to pause in our moment of weakness and enables God to do the work, with us a mere means by which he demonstrates his power, wisdom, and love.

Righteous Anger as a means to help.

How do we respond when we find out a child or spouse is being abused? We do what we can to get that person out of the situation. We KNOW God hates sin, and especially sin that dehumanizes or belittles others. Righteous Anger enables us to see a dangerous or harmful situation and to do what we can to help. Righteous Anger toward sin in the world enables us to create and work with ministries who are doing good work to combat that evil. Their work isn’t sitting around complaining about the evil, it’s getting in the trenches and messiness of sin and bringing safety, healing, resources, and comfort to those who are suffering. We partner with these people by giving of our time, finances, and prayer. We do real ministry in real time with real people.

Righteous Anger as a means to love others.

Righteous Anger cannot be limited by our own experiences and perspective. Righteous Anger enables us to enter into dialogue with others who see and experience the world differently than us. Righteous Anger disarms our go to responses to disagreement: name calling, belittling, and cutting people out. Think about it this way: God does not see the world the same way we do. He sees everything. Every detail, every intended and unintended consequence. Every thing. I have a feeling he isn’t particularly interested in adhering to our proposed solutions, especially when we go out of our way to limit those solutions based on our own feelings, bias, and stubbornness. As we grow in community, we grow in diverse perspectives, differences, and understanding of factors we may have not ever considered before. This enables us to view life and those issues with the complexity they deserve, recognizing the weakness and shortsightedness we bring to the table, and trusting in the God who faithfully leads his people. There are people right now who demonstrate this beautifully. There are people radically committed to God and so skeptical of their own idols and prideful efforts to earn righteousness. Seek them out. They typically aren’t fixated on growing their platform. We can become that. God can shape our hearts to depend on him fully. We can become less, so God can become more.

So, where do we go from here? I don’t know about you, but here are some of the practices I’m implementing:

  1. When sharing something controversial or devisive, I am covering that post in prayer AND sleeping on it before hitting “post.” More times than not, I won’t post it, but when I do, I want it to be drenched with truth, hope, and love.
  2. When I feel angry, run straight to God. I am horrible at this. Righteous anger quickly becomes unrighteous when we unleash in on anyone who will listen. Cry out to God. He is listening.
  3. Unfollow anyone who regularly stirs up anger in me, even if I agree with them. This doesn’t mean I stop reading anything they say, but I do so on my terms and not am drawn into controversy on their terms.
  4. Prioritize time in God’s word. If we are more familiar with and spend more time reading/watching the news and the sins of the world than we are by God’s word, there’s something off balance in our lives.
  5. Invest in community. Seek accountability and wisdom from those bold, wise, and loving enough to give it.

I’m sure there are plenty more, but I think that’s enough for today.

Posted in Random Thoughts

Gone are the Days

I recently discovered The Gray Havens and have been playing them on repeat. The song Gone are the Days has been one I have come back to multiple times in response to current events.

It speaks to the hope we hold for what’s to come.

“One day, when sorrows are gone.”

“Finally, all is right
Only love and light
Finally, all is right
When all is right…”

One day, all will be made right. One day, we will be free of our sorrows, burdens, and suffering.

How do we pass the time until then?

We will shed tears. We will carry grief. We will endure suffering.

We will see glimpses of what’s to come. We will experience joy that radiates our faces. We will find comfort and rest from the Lord. We will hold onto hope.

We live in a broken world. We live in a world that will be restored and made great.

In time, evil will ultimately be defeated.

In time, Goodness will reign.

In time, we will be those who worship the One who causes all of this to pass.

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[b] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Romans 8: 18-30

This post is part of the weekly Five Minute Friday link-up!

Posted in Random Thoughts

The Gift of Presence

Tears streaming down his face, his little arms reached up for me to grab him.

You see, my son is learning how to walk. Sometimes he takes a wrong step. Other times, he leans on an unstable object. Most of the time, he falls mid stride. Some of these falls are harmless, others hurt. A lot.

One afternoon, I was holding my sweet boy while tears streamed down his face from one of those unfortunate instances where he landed right on his mouth.

While I was holding him, I looked over to Alex and said, “Whenever Simon is sad, hurt, or angry and wants to be held, that’s all he wants. To be held. He doesn’t want hugs or snuggles, he pushes them away. He just wants me to be with him while he cries.”

Alex responded, “Oh, so he’s like you then.”

Yep.

One thing I appreciate from people is presence. Not solutions or affection. Presence.

Eleanor and Alex are different. Their guard comes down with a hug. It’s how they exhale their stress. (At home, at least :)).

Affection and presence. Not solutions. Affection and presence.

We are meant for these kinds of things.

We are meant to have safe men and women in our lives to join us in the weight of our burdens.

Our tears, sighs, and outbursts should be tended to with thoughtful, nurturing care.

We practice this at home with our falls and our disobedience. With our grumpy demeanors and our words that often lack hope.

We prioritize caring for each others soul.

We grow in grace and love by our presence.

Our presence in the midst of disagreement.

Our presence in the midst of disobedience.

Our presence in the midst of hurt and pain.

In the past few months (years, actually), I have felt unsettled and frustrated in regards to the typical dialogue and interactions I observe and experience.

A lack of presence leads to a lack of wisdom.

A lack of presence leads to quick thoughts and words that may bring more harm to a discussion or situation.

A lack of presence leads to seeing a person’s behavior without any insight of their heart, motivations, or need of grace.

A lack of presence leads to growing pride, “at least I’m not like him/her.”

How do we grow in gifting our presence to those who need us to weep or celebrate with them?

How do we gift our presence to those who disagree, disobey, or disregard our opinions? (I’m talking about the surfacey sort, not the kinds that threaten our safety or our dignity)

We become present people when we dwell in the presence of God.

Sometimes we need God’s presence for our own comfort.

“Now that we know what we have —Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God –let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.” Hebrews 4:14-16

Other times, we need the presence of God for our own refining and discipline. Presence and trust earn the right to challenge, and what is better than His presence and Word to do so?

“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way. You’re cheating on God. If all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn’t care? The proverb has it that “he’s a fiercely jealous lover.” And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that “God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble.” James 4:2-6 MSG

We become present people when presence is more important than persuasion.

We become present people when we prioritize safety. Safe people listen without speaking harsh judgements or condemnation. Safe people honor the conversation and the person by resisting temptation to gossip. Safe people point to the grace and reprieve found in Christ.

Our presence is never a substitute for God’s presence. We will never master the ability to perfectly dwell and endure with those with personalities, beliefs, or choices that differ from ours. Our presence is not reliant on our own abilities.

What if we were more focused on how we receive others instead of how others receive our opinions or objections?

What if learning how to be present is key to learning how to speak those hard truths that lead to love and grace and NOT division?

What if presence is an essential component to receiving truth?

How would our lives change if we regularly dwelled in the presence of God and prioritized being a safe and loving presence for others? What do you think? Even in times when we can’t be physically presence, we can still practice this.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life–and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12:1-2 MSG

Photo by Artur Tumasjan on Unsplash
Posted in Random Thoughts

Christmas 2020 Gift Ideas

I love any reason to give a gift. Last year, I had a lot of fun making a post all about white elephant gifts people may actually enjoy. (You can click on that last sentence if you’d like to see what I included last year.

With all of the COVID fun this year, I’m not sure how many holiday parties/gatherings are happening, so I thought I’d make a general idea list this year.

Super inspired by The Lazy Genius, I decided to lump the different gifts into categories.

Also, as a general rule I follow, I like to think of gifts for people that either add to convenience/success in what they already do day to day OR something fun/”treat yourself” type of things. My husband is the most practical of humans, so I try to think practically when giving gifts. (Still learning :)) SO, some of these may be things you want to purchase for others, or maybe I don’t know anyone with the interests you are buying for. Either way, I hope this list serves some inspiration for you!

A few of these items can be mixed and matched to make a gift basket if you want to spend a little more.

None of these are affiliate links or anything fancy.

Happy Gift Giving!

A Thing From Their Amazon Wishlist:

For real. Ask them if they have one first. I bet there are things on there they want way more than any of this if they have one. Unless they are one of THOSE kinds of people who ONLY put items $150+ items on there. (Don’t be that person :)).

A Few Things I am Asking For:

Okay, I am not including this list so you will buy me anything. Instead, I hope this list serves as an indication as to what types of gifts I would like to receive to give you an idea of what constitutes as practical or worthwhile to receive :).

Inklings in the Rabbit Room Print $35 + shipping + frame. I like C.S. Lewis, Alex likes J.R.R. Tolkien. I love this print because it combines our interests and I think it would be a fun addition to our reading room.

Inklings in the Rabbit Room print by Stephen Crotts

Recipe Keepsake Diary $12.99. I like to keep our favorite recipes in one place. This recipe diary is something I’d like to fill out and eventually pass down. Some of my fondest memories happened over a meal, and there is plenty of spaces to write memories associated with the meal in the diary. I failed at baby books, but I’m hoping to pass down a love of cooking and fellowship to my children, so maybe they will cherish this too someday.

Beeswax Tapered Candles $27.99. I have a couple of candle stick holders on our dinner table. They seem to lighten the mood and environment at dinner time, which is usually a somewhat stressful time in our home. Also, the lit candles serve as a visual “timer” of sorts for Eleanor to know that she needs to sit at the table. She gets to blow them out, signaling the time to take her plate/bowl/silverware to the sink.

Some of my favorite colors!

Foodie Fun Gifts:

Gift ideas for foodies!

Souper Cubes $36.99 for a two pack. Tis the season for SOUP! Why not give a tool to help freeze perfect portions of leftover soup/broth/chili? There are various color choices, but how cute are these sprinkled holders? (You may see a sprinkle theme throughout…)

Silicone Sit Up Scraping Spoon $9.95. I have one of these and it is THE BEST. There are quite a few color choices as well.

(SPRINKLED) Ice Tray with Protective Lid $14. How cute is this!? I see it paired with a fun Icy Tray Treats cookbook or cocktail recipe book.

Magnetic Measuring Spoons $14. These are awesome. Double sided and they stick together for easy storage. I use mine all the time and never regret using liquid ingredients before dry spices :).

Anything from Women’s Bean Project $6-$10 + shipping. This program gives employment to women in the Denver area who struggle to obtain it elsewhere. It’s a comprehensive program that employs and trains them to graduate and move on to a entry-level job. Give their website a click and read more about it!

Gifts to Aid in Beverage Enjoyment:

I’m going to spend less time here because there are SO MANY cute/practical options for this.

Greatest Hits Mistaken Lyrics Coasters ($30). Know anyone notorious for getting lyrics wrong? This may just be the perfect gift for them.

These can also be found at Uncommon Goods.

The Mug With A Hoop $25. **Kid Friendly** There are options for football, hockey, soccer, and baseball as well.

W&P Porter Ceramic Mug $25. I love this. A travel mug is always useful.

It’s Hard to Get a Handle on the United States mug ($15).

Disappearing Bill of Rights mug ($15). It’s an election year. Why not?

Why not pair the mug with the Teas of the Boston Tea Party? ($35) You could probably find a cheaper tea leaf set on Amazon.

A Cozy Home:

I’m all about making our homes cozier, especially since we’ve had to spend so much time in them!

I Hope You Can See How Art Print ($15 + Shipping + Frame). I love this reminder to appreciate the little things. It’s 8×10, so it is small enough to keep on a desk or on a collage wall.

Abbie Ren Illustrations, Etsy.

Caldrea Pear Blossom Agave Countertop Spray. ($28 for a two pack). I could only find other scents sold solo, but I can only speak for this smell. It is AMAZING. Gift one, keep one if you want. You won’t regret it. Also, cleaning spray for a GIFT? I know. But really, why can’t we be a part of making the mundane tasks more enjoyable?

Turkish Hand Towels ($25 for four) There are plenty of other color options too. These towels are great for few reasons: 1) They get softer with each wash. 2) They dry really quickly and do not smell like mildew. 3) They are pretty!

Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags ($20 for four) One of my friends has these in her house and THEY WORK!

Meh Sign. ($18+shipping). I have this sign in my house. It’s pretty small, but always inspiring 😉

Online /Printed Content:

One thing I am also asking for that I did not include above is content I regularly use that I would like to actually invest in. For example, I create a lot of things on Canva, so having a paid subscription would be helpful for me in having more options of templates/images/fonts/etc.

I also enjoy The Atlantic, Christianity Today, and the New York Times. A magazine/online access subscription would be awesome. I don’t know what specific things the person you are buying for likes to read online, but it would be worth it to see if there is a magazine/website, podcaster, etc. they would like to financially support in order to have additional access of content.

Christmas By Mail:

If you are unable to travel and want to send something a little more personal, Giften Market has some unique and special (albeit pricey) gift box options. I think it’d be worth taking a look at some of the fun products they’ve found to serve as inspiration as well.

Mystery Lovers: Dear Holmes letters look like a fun game to receive via mail. It’s a subscription service and the letters build on each other to solve a mystery until Sherlock sends a concluding letter with his own deductions.

Indoorsy Boxes from Fabled Bookstore. If you’re interested in supporting a small book store, this is a great option. The selections for the adult boxes are as follows:

Hardcover Indoorsy Box ($40.00 + $3.30 tax) 1 Hardcover book, plus indoorsy surprise
Paperback Indoorsy Box ($45.00 + $3.71) 2 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
“The Stacks” Indoorsy Box ($60.00 + $4.95 tax) 3 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
“Top Shelf” Indoorsy Box ($75.00 + $6.18) 1 Hardcover, 2 Paperback books, plus indoorsy surprise
via Fabled Outdoorsy box ordering form

You are able to choose various genre preferences for the box.

Thanks for checking out some of my gift ideas for Christmas! Even if you don’t find anything you’re interested in gifting to others, I hope you are inspired! If you’re not inspired, I suggest making Amazon wishlists a mandatory Christmas tradition for your family and friends.

Happy gifting, friends!

Posted in Random Thoughts

Tears of Rage, Words of Contempt

I’ve learned that experiencing sadness does not always produce tears, but often, profound, deep anger does. This is not to say that I am frequently profoundly and deeply angry, but that when I am, tears are sure to follow.

“I feel so angry I COULD CRY!” is not something you hear everyday.

In particular, I think of the numerous conversations in which I’ve been “mansplained” and dismissed. I’ve been misunderstood and assigned with an uncharitable and inaccurate view behind my intentions. When the tears rise, I’m reduced to an “emotional being” that just needs to be comforted.

Do tears signify a potential need for comfort? Yes.

Is a need to be comforted a sign of weakness that invalidates someone from their frustrations, concerns, and viewpoint?

Are my tears a helpful signal that my anger may be driving my responses to the conversation?

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21 ESV

Am I justifying the (sometimes) sinful and wrong response of the other person by prayerfully reconsidering my participation in the conversation? Not at all.

I am recognizing that their sinful OR correct, yet frustrating response should not drive me to sin.

Even if I have every reason to be angry, I need to humbly remember that MY anger is not what produces God’s righteousness. Feeling offended, misunderstood, or dismissed leads first to tears of rage, second to words of contempt.

In my arrogance, I can reduce a person to MY personal experience with them. When that quiet, tear filled rage leads my interactions, I am easily manipulated in my mind by betraying the purpose of discovering what they are saying and WHY they are saying it.

Am I quick to feel offended simply because this person is disagreeing with me?

Am I justifiably hurt because this person IS speaking to me in a dishonoring and dismissive way?

For example, I once received an email that I received as hurtful and unkind (okay, I’ve received more than one). After reading it, I was angry. My immediate response was to discuss it with another person under the guise of, “What do you think of this? CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?” I feel instant contempt for the other person. Their opinion isn’t even worthy enough for consideration, instead, they must be reduced to a hateful, unkind person.

After the rage settles, I reread the email. In it, I actually find some constructive criticism and an intention coming from a place of love. As a leader, you always fight the tension of seeking feedback while fighting the urge to express how little of the “big picture” people actually see.

The rage fades, the conversation begins. What I can’t take back is the contempt and attempted assassination of another person’s character I participated in. I don’t regret feeling angry and defensive, those are normal responses in our brain. I regret allowing those emotions to obsessively justify my own righteousness. “I’M GOOD, this person is BAD.” “I AM RIGHT, this person is WRONG.”

My rage led to sin.

My anger did not result in the righteousness of God.

My anger produced the same behavior I was accusing the other person of doing.

I’m praying that my tears of rage would instead lead me to look to words of comfort.

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I’m praying for a heart that does not easily feel contempt for another human being.

I’m praying for a heart that can wisely establish boundaries and limits to those who are bent on destruction and pain of others.

I’m praying for a heart that longs to see the flourishing of others.

I’m praying for a heart that desires to enter into the stories of others, without trying to control the narrative.

I’m praying for a heart that disagrees graciously, and also humbly accepts when others disagree with me.

I’m praying for a heart that knows when to challenge, but also when to comfort.

I’m praying for a heart that leans more into silence and contemplation than shouting and arrogance.

I’m praying for more of this:

“Brew coffee or tea, sit with a friend and ask them questions—questions just one step riskier than the last time you talked. As you listen, observe the flickers of sadness or hope that cross their face. Try to imagine what it must be like to live their story, suffer their losses, dream their dreams. Pray with them and dare to put into words their heart’s desires, and dare to ask God to grant them.” Andy Crouch, Strong and Weak

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash
Posted in Random Thoughts

How Do I Teach Truth and Morality to My Kids?

I promise this is more of a question I am working through than it is I question I am about to answer. I am inviting you to enter into my thought process, not my prescription. I am a mother of two small children, I do not propose to have a lot of wisdom or insight to offer, and I just have some thoughts I am trying to flesh out.

One of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked is, “why do you believe in God?”

It seems like it should have a quick, well thought out answer, but in reality, I’ve found it much easier to answer questions like, “What do you believe about God?” “What is the gospel?” “What does the Bible say about ____?”

“Why do you believe in God?”

The answer to this question is foundational to how we live out our morality and how we interpret truth. The answers to what we believe ABOUT God and the gospel also pretty well inform our belief IN God. I think a big part of why it is difficult for me to answer is because that answer, above all else, can easily be dismissed as idiotic and nonsensical. Sure, our application of Scripture can come off that way as well, but only because of the basis of our belief in Him in general.

“Why do you believe in God?”

Is it enough to tell you that once, as a teenager, I told my dad I didn’t? “I do not believe in God.”

Is it enough to tell you that his response as someone who did surprised me?

My dad was not an outwardly spiritual man, and I’m not really sure about the in’s and out’s of his faith (other than he was a Christian), but he did believe in a moral code.

“That saddens me because I have a deep sense that he does exist and I wish you did too. Nevertheless, I would encourage you to take seriously what other religions and worldviews say, because even your lack of belief in God carries with it beliefs you will have about the world, humanity, and purpose. Even if you research and find yourself more comfortable in another religion, I will still love you.”

“Okay.”

I know that probably sounds like the least effective strategy to making a case for God to a doubting child, but my dad knew how my brain is wired. I took his challenge seriously and checked out books about other religions. I read about Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I read about Mormonism, and Judaism. I also read into Agnosticism and Atheism. I am STILL always learning about other religions.

What is the foundational belief system?

How do you reach heaven? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell?

What rules or code of behavior would I have to submit to in that religion?

Some may say I settled into a belief in the Christian God for a couple of reasons:

“A differing religion would have been difficult to truly exercise in the context of your culture. How many mosques or temples do you have access to? How would you exercise dietary restrictions when you are not in charge of the grocery shopping? Etc. A drift to the Christian God is easy because it fits easily in your culture and family.”

“You were raised with Christian beliefs. The other would have been too foreign for you, so you naturally drift to comfort. People are not by design prone to shift to belief systems with such large changes like that. A drift to the Christian God makes sense because it is comfortable and familiar.”

I think there is some validity in both of those responses. Really.

But, coming to the conclusion that the Christian God was (probably) the one I believed in did not actually affect my life significantly. For a long time, the only thing it did was serve as a mental way to feel shame, guilt, and disgust with myself.

“You believe in God, but He does not approve of you.”

“You believe in God, but do everything you can to avoid being alone with your thoughts. You don’t know what kinds of scary things can happen there.”

“You believe in God, but in the past, that belief has led you to be unkind, judgmental, and snarky to people. Avoid affiliating too closely with that belief.” (As if that prevented me from being those things in other ways, even when “religious conviction” (and actually acting on behalf of the religion of self) were not the guiding factors. Cruelty isn’t limited to those misusing the Bible.)

In essence, believing in God alone did not save me from thoughts of condemnation, fear, and sin.

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? James 2:19-20 ESV

19-20 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands? James 2:19-20 The Message

This is, in part, why I am not surprised that a large percentage of Christian Americans differ morally, ethically, and politically. “I believe in God” is not enough to produce meaningful transformation across a wide spectrum.

Why do you believe in God?

I was captivated by not only God’s existence, but through his word (the Bible).

I’ve wrestled with a lot of the same questions as everyone else: “if God exists AND is a good God, why does suffering and evil also exist?” “What in the Bible still applies? ” “How to we receive the Old Testament law?” “Why are there so many confusing and controversial passages in there?”

As you’ve (maybe) concluded from above, I am naturally a researcher and enjoy the process of learning new things.

I eventually concluded that a faith in the Christian God means that the Bible is probably pretty important in understanding Him and what it means to follow Him.

Unfortunately, we also are prone to look for information to confirm, not convict. We look for information to point to a THEM problem, not a ME problem. There are plenty of “Biblical” resources out there to help guide us in this way. The only ME problem I have is needing to acquire more blessings. The THEM problem is THEIR sin, misunderstanding, and misapplication of Scripture.

My belief in God quickly expressed itself through arrogance in the wisdom and knowledge I possess about God, his law, and who does and does not deserve his grace based on what I read and studied.

It easily aligned with world views, political stances, and people I disagreed with.

It blinded me to the ugly effects of self righteousness. I am capable of misunderstanding and misusing the word of God.

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:6-10 ESV

Why do you believe in God?

A significant factor in belief is having your views affirmed by other believers. The church, past and present, local and global serves as a testament of God’s presence to me.

I have seen church disfunction. I have witnessed pastors abuse their power. I have witnessed the effects of pastors stealing from the church, cheating on their spouses, and using the word of God as a tool for manipulation. I firmly believe God hates ALL of this sin. I have read and heard the words from pastors and congregants that encourage or justify racism, hate, and toxic tribalism. I have heard sermons that sound more like political campaign speeches. I firmly believe God hates ALL of this.

I have been hurt by people in the church as well been the participant in hurting others. I have fallen in more ways than one: I have been dismissive to struggles and hurts of others, I have gossiped, I have been self seeking, I have led others to sin by encouraging gossip or other ways of minimizing the dignity of other image bearers. I firmly believe God hates all of this.

I am capable of being a sinful, divisive member of a Christian community. I am not exempt from needing grace, forgiveness, and criticism from other brothers and sisters in Christ.

In true gospel community, a family with God as father and Christ as redeemer, this is a radical concept. Complete acceptance in Christ. Complete commitment to bear with others as we walk out our salvation. Recognizing and anticipating that grace will be needed in ample supply. Recognizing that is only possible because of Christ’s commitment to us.

God enables a community of boldness, gentleness, and grace to point each other to truth and oneness in Him alone. Believing in His existence results in a shared goal, meaning, and hopefulness for things to come, while spurring each other on to good works.

1-5 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Matthew 7:1-5 The Message

So, HOW do I teach truth and morality to my kids?

Especially in the light of the election, I have been thinking a lot about this. My kids are still very young, so we really didn’t have much discussion about it. Still, I wondered, “if they were older, who would I tell them to vote for? What do I tell them is worth advocating for? What issues are most important to us? How does this relate to our faith?”

Then I realized…there are a few things in particular that matter to me most:

We need to define the terms we use. Culture at large throws a lot of terms out there with various definitions. It makes discussion very confusing and difficult at times. If we are disagreeing with a stance about something, we need to ensure we are explaining it accurately and objectively, using correct terminology and assigning the correct meaning to it.

We need to recognize and hate our own sin first. There are actions and behaviors in others that I truly hate. It is humbling, however, to recognize that my anger never results in God’s righteousness. Also, if I start hating other people, I am guilty of sin as well and blinded by it.

19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:19-27 The Message

Am I saying we need to subject ourselves to racist and hateful rants, endless conspiracy theories, and the sin of others? NO. I am saying that in my teaching about our morals, values, and beliefs, I cannot lead and point to Jesus from a posture of hate for others. I can hate the SIN in others, but I need to begin by hating the sin in myself so much that I am incapable of hating another person for falling victim to sin in their own lives. I see my value in Christ alone, so therefore I do not see my value in being morally superior to anyone else.

Tim Keller says it like this: “The moralistic grid says, ‘The good are in and the bad are out,’ and the relativistic grid says, ‘The liberated are in and the oppressive are out.’ But the gospel says, ‘The humble are in and the proud are out.'”

In teaching our children, humility needs to be at the forefront of the instruction.

We need to be willing to hold convictions, yet remain open to listening and feeling uncomfortable. We will encounter others who have experiences, worldviews, and perspectives unique to our own. How can we teach our children to be comforters? How can we encourage our children to be prayerful and honest when they feel confused, unsure, or challenged? How do we teach our children to lead with conviction AND gentleness? How can we encourage our children to work out their salvation and/or their doubts?

In conclusion, I’m processing HOW my beliefs lead me to teach and interact with others while also recognizing we will be teaching our children some unpopular and uncomfortable things. (Whether they agree or disagree is left to them :)). Also, as I mentioned before, this is a large question looming in my head. If you have any wisdom to offer, I am all ears.

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash