Monday, December 31, 2012

Why This Writer is not Writing

Girl Reading Photo Credit: o5com

You may know that in November, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I wrote something like 34,000 words in the month. The goal is 50,000, but I was pleased with what I accomplished. I had hoped to finish the 50,000 and the story in December. However, December is ending and I am still at the same word count. December got a little crazy with 7 parties before Christmas, a flight to St. Louis with my 3 year old, and an international youth convention. In all that, I just couldn't make myself sit down and write. So my new goal is to finish the story and the 50,000 words by March 15. I think I can do that.

In November and even the beginning of December, I really felt like I was ready to commit to this writing thing and to write a little something everyday. I thought I was ready to start doing the hard work of being a writer. Then as December progressed and Christmas passed us, I felt an overwhelming and insatiable need to read. And maybe I'm not quite ready to do the hard work of writing everyday.

I fought the feeling. If I am a writer, I need to be writing on a project. I'm 32 and I've avoided writing for about 10 years now. Just these last couple months I have begun connecting with other writers and putting myself out there as a writer instead of just whispering it to myself without doing the hard work involved. I just started taking myself seriously as a writer. How can I go back on this progress? Yet the feeling wouldn't go away. It just kept getting stronger. So I wasted time by playing games on the computer. I avoided reading and writing both. I tried to not make a decision. And that didn't work either. I was plagued by my conscience because I knew I was avoiding this topic and wasting time. So finally yesterday I made a decision.

In theory, I could find time to read and write every day. However, I doubt my ability to manage my time that well. Being a wife, mother, teacher, and youth leader keeps me pretty busy. If I want to spend quality time in those roles, I don't really have much left over for both read and writing. So for now, I'm going to put aside my daily writing goals, sort of. I still plan on finishing my NaNoWriMo story by March. I also hope to journal at least 3 times a week and of course I will be writing on here. So all of that certainly counts as writing. However, I don't think I will have a story or character that I will be working on. When I finish my NaNo novel, I will not go back and edit it anytime soon. I will not be writing every day on a consistent project.

I'm going to listen to this voice that says, "Read! Read now. Read lots." I'm going to listen to the books I read and see what they can add to my knowledge of this writing thing as well as what it can add to my life. I suppose I feel like I am in research mode. I'm going to be reading anything and everything I can get my hands on with a view to my own writing. When I come out of this phase, I hope to be able to write better and do the work of sitting down to write every day on a project.

I would love for you guys to keep me accountable about this. Ask me every so often how the reading is going. Ask me what I am learning. Ask me how my NaNo novel is going. Ask me if I have written anything new.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 12-29

Thanks to Kevin Haggerty at The Isle of Man with his Funhouse Friday post, I remembered that I needed to prepare my Good Stuff Saturday post. So head over there, thank him, and then laugh. After that come back over here and check out these great reads.


National Geographic: Photo A Day - Mohawk River Picture: New York Photo 

National Geographic: Photo A Day - Wildflower Picture: California Photo

National Geographic: Photo A Day - Farmers, Basque Country

Christmas Leftovers

The Life of a Christ Follower in Albania - Christmas Shoeboxes For as long as I can remember, one of our family Christmas traditions is filling up shoeboxes. I remember the excitement of going out and buying as much stuff that I could cram into the box. Then getting it home, sorting it, packing it and wrapping it nicely. We’d take them to Church sometime in November and I didn’t think much about it until it was time to fill them up again the following year.

This year, for the first time, it was different. I was at the opposite end.

Jaime, the Very Worst Missionary - This. - But I can't help it. I just feel like the commercialization of Christmas has stolen too much, and now it's a mere shell of what it ought to be. It makes me squirm when people say, "Jesus is the reason for the season!"

I want to say, "It's hardly fair to blame this mess on Jesus."
Thoughts from House Mountain - Why I Do Not Celebrate Christmas   - This is why I do not celebrate Christmas but I worship with the Advent season instead! Even though they are almost the same thing, Advent brings me Hope, Peace, Joy and Love! Which is the true meaning of Christmas!
It is not about a wreath and different colored candles, Advent is about Christ coming to earth and living among us to show us how to live.

Cultural Differences

Prodigal Magazine - Do You See What I See? Probably Not  - We became members of the church down the street where I attended from the time I was in junior high up until I left to go to college. And although I spent numerous weekend retreats, endured countless lock-ins, and was witness to and participated in rededications with the same people year after year, no one I was friends with at church knew the truth.

The View from Here - My Apologies  - These are just a few examples of the many things that I will be apologizing for during the next few weeks. Please be patient and gracious with me and my family if we get the opportunity to see each other. We've been looking forward to this visit for a while now, and we really just want to enjoy our time together without being awkward or weird. Thanks for your understanding, and once again...I apologize.

Compassion - What Teenagers Learn and Share  - We met several wonderful teenagers at the Assemblies of God Zone 1 and Communaute Evangelique Child Development Centers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They were asked two questions:
“What is the most valuable or helpful thing you’ve learned at your center?”
“What have you learned at the center that you have taken home with you and taught to your family?”
This is what they shared with us …

Courtesy of Compassion International:

Compassion - Hope as Wide as the Prairie  - One time, a co-worker from Guatemala told me that Americans had never known what it was like to be poor. I instantly thought of my great-great-grandmother, working at 4 as a domestic servant.
Of the countless other pioneers who scraped and sacrificed and barely got by, in many ways living a similar lifestyle to what millions of subsistence farmers still lead around the world. My forebears certainly knew what it was like to be poor — even if it has been largely forgotten by my generation.

Courtesy of Compassion International:

A Few Other Things You Should Read

The Isle of Man - Why We Can't All be Good Will Hunting: Thank God for the Brick Layers  - The argument by Williams' character was that Will was right, in a way. There's nothing wrong with laying bricks. It certainly is noble work. But it isn't for everybody, and Will would have been wasting his life by making that choice, because of his incredible gifting.

It's inspirational. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people see that scene and movie, as well as other similar pieces of art, and they are inspired in the wrong way.

Let me explain.

A Deeper Story - 36 Birthday Pearls - #7, #17, #19, and #23 challenged me. This is a pretty awesome list, so go find what challenges you. Then do it!

This Time Around - A Spectacular Story Teaser  - It's probably some kind of sin to say this, but I don't watch Doctor Who. However, this little story snippet makes me want to start watching it. If you watch Doctor Who or House, M.D., you will want to read this.

Red Letter Believers - Why is the planet Mercury smiling at you? - Even the rocks cry out! The photo is cool, but the interpretation of said photo was super awesome.

I'd Laugh...But All This Happened to Me! - The Real Life School of Student Ministry  - I passed the test, but I did have to stop and ask myself how willingly I would do those things. Because if I don't do it willingly, then am I really doing it for the right reasons?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Jesus

Merry Chistmas! Find Jesus today tomorrow. When you find him,  say Happy Birthday.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No Internet = Posting Break

 I am out of town & have no internet. I will be back after Christmas. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

See you later

So I had a few thoughts I had considered typing up for today.

Santa is like God because he has a naughty and nice list which tells us we believe that our actions do matter and can be good or bad based on the judgments of a superior being. (If he has flying reindeer and a sleigh that goes around the world in one night, he's better than us.) There are more things that I thought of that proves to me that modern society is still desperately clinging to God, but not wanting to call him that. So society is searching and in searching we open ourselves to finding him. I call that hope.

And the word 'Incarnation' has been my motto lately. I don't claim to understand it all, but the idea that Jesus fully a part of God left the perfection of heaven to arrive on Earth as a baby and live with the restrictions of humanity and the knowledge that in the end he would carry the sin of the world forcing his Father to turn from him. That is starting to seep into my being.

I picked my One Word for 2012, Faithful. Around the house, it's hit or miss. Some days are good and some not. With people, I have to remind myself sometimes, but overall it's been good. And with the walk to which God is calling me. I genuinely want his will for my life even when it is scary. I'm praying lots about that and working on some of what he is telling me.

However, I'm not writing a whole post on those because I really just wanted to go to bed 45 minutes ago. In the morning I need to work out and shower, so that leaves no time for a post. So this is the post for today. Enjoy that thoughts. And maybe I'll get around to posting something for Friday. Maybe not. I'm also not sure if I will be posting next week or not.

So until I see you again, Merry Christmas.

Celebrate the Incarnation the way He is calling for you to celebrate. Enjoy time with him.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roxy by PJ Reece: A review

A few months ago, I heard about a website called Story Cartel. I could sign up to receive updates about books they had for review. There is no minimum books I have to review. I'm not forced to review books I don't like or am not interested in. It is totally my choice and I like that. I have had the chance to review some books through an invitation from the author. (Shawn Smucker, International Justice Mission, and Jeff Goins) Some I have chosen to review. (Death of the Modern Superhero and Wuthering Heights) And one other one, I have reviewed one other book from Story Cartel. (Bryan Allain). In all of the reviews I have done, I have genuinely enjoyed the non-fiction books from cover to cover. (Of course, Wuthering Heights is fiction.
However, Emily Bronte gained nothing by my review nor did she lose anything. So I'm not really counting it.)    A few weeks ago I got an email about a new book from Story Cartel.

It was Roxy by PJ Reece.


The summary sounded interesting, but I was in the middle of a couple other books. So I passed. When I finished the other books I was reading, I came back to Roxy. I didn't see a "due date" listed, so I put in my address and waited for the email. It came and I started reading it.

To be honest, I wanted to dislike it.

Within a few pages, it didn't sound any different that so many others. Family curse, exotic location, long lost family member who is changing everything and just for good measure a teenage pregnancy. (That's on like page 10, so I can't call it a spoiler.) I really wanted to not like this story. I wanted to say it was just like all others and nothing special. But if I said that it would be a lie.

Because I started listening to Roxy.

Roxy is the 17 year old main character who travels to Greece on a family mission. Her voice is very authentic to a teenager. Sometimes she sounds so much older than her years and sometimes so much younger. The story is told very well from the first person perspective. Not once does the author slip in 'extra' information. The story is Roxy's story and the author stays out of it. The truth is discovered in a logical manner and the love interest is a gentleman. The story is not tied up in a nice bow at the end, but you are not left wondering about it either. It is does not simplify the story to a two or three sentence ending and a happily ever after. It also does not end so abruptly that we are left making up the ending. I did have to go back to see if it really ended and I hadn't missed anything. I didn't miss anything. It did end. And the more I think about the ending, the more I like it.

The main character and voice of the story are wonderfully done and likable. The ending is reasonable and respectful of the reader. The story comes to the reader and she doesn't have to go searching for it. It also doesn't rush at the reader like a linebacker in football either. It's a good story with good characters.

I liked it even though I didn't want to.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 12-15

Today I have a ridiculously long list of good stuff I have read. Sorry for the lengthy post, but I think it is worth it. There is so much amazingness here. Please check them out!

Photos and Videos

National Geographic Photo a Day - Oak Tree, Louisiana

World Vision - [Video] Away in a Manger - Today, that changes. You get the chance to see Kris Allen share a song with Sylvia and her family.

Tis the Season

Shawn Smucker - Why Christmas Can't Cure Us - We sing “Joy to the World” and “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays,” but for many of us the foundation of Christmas is Guilt. We feel bad that we don’t have the relationships we want with our kids or our spouse or our parents. We feel bad that we didn’t send a Christmas card this year or hang the lights on the house or bake cookies. We wish we could make up for that horrendous mistake we made in our past, you know, the one that destroyed everything.
And so, many of us, to cover up that guilt, manipulate Christmas. We use presents and lights and loudness to drown out what we’re really feeling: inadequate, insufficient, and hurting.

Ordinary Servant - It's About Giving  - I walked past her. Until the Lord brought to my remembrance what I read on the bus and the twenty dollar bill stuck in my coat pocket which I had completely forgotten about it.
It struck me odd that I would find a neatly folded twenty dollar bill in the middle of the street on a busy intersection during rush hour. I wondered why I was the only one who saw it.
God knew I would be passing this homeless girl and wanted me to give her the money.

Mustard Seed - The Meaning of ChristmasTo me Christmas is about redemption.  Redemption from sin and redemption from the mess we have made of our lives the rest of the year.   People are more willing to forgive, and more likely to forget, the wrongs we have committed against them.  It is also a chance to forgive the people who have hurt you in the past, even if they haven’t asked for or deserve forgiveness. 

Top of the Page - The 12 Names of Christmas  - Immanuel was what He was called because He was God - the God who hung every star in place - who came to live WITH us. Imagine what it must have been like to be alive then. You could have hugged him. I can't even wrap my mind around it. 

A Deeper Family - On Those Time When It Actually Sticks  - But then, the sea parted and the heavens opened. Choruses of angels began singing “Hosana!” There were earthquakes and lightning and thunder and stars falling from the sky. Because something had actually stuck.
He pulled Santa close (he has this habit of grabbing both of your cheeks when he has something really important to say) and said,
“But Santa, Christmas isn’t really about presents. It’s about Jesus.” 

Good Thoughts about Hot Topics 

Christian Post - Rick Warren on Gay Marriage: 'Tolerance Does Not Mean Approval' -  "I don't happen to believe in everything that my gay friends believe, but when they want to end AIDS, I'm a co-belligerent with them. We have given millions of dollars to fight AIDS from around the world, and we have worked with both gays and straights. I can work with an atheist, I can work with a Mormon, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew – and that's one of the issues we have to work on."

Read more at 

Dianna E. Anderson - Modesty and Hating Oneself: The Dark Side  - And this, too, is a major problem. Modesty codes not only negatively affect women by informing them that their bodies are public objects to be commented upon and used at will, but they also create an attitude within men that is twofold. First, they abdicate responsibility for a problem with lust to that which exists outside themselves , perpetuating an immature “blame others” attitude. Second, the lack of definition around lust makes men hate themselves when they cannot control a perfectly normal reaction.

Prodigal Magazine - To Tell The Truth: Courage to Speak Out against 'Respected' MenI wish someone had told me how common stories like mine are to women across the globe. I wish I had known the warning signs and had a clearer picture of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.  I wish we as women could wrestle with the truth that we are never to blame—no matter how we dress, what we look like, or how much we’ve had to drink. We never, ever deserve to have our bodies treated as objects of shame.

More God 

Katie Axelson: Living a Story Worth Telling - Worshipping at the Twitter Altar  - Instead of reaching for my Bible when I roll out of bed, I reach for my phone and cruise through the Twitter world to make sure it hasn’t collapsed since while I was sleeping.
“Worshiping at the Twitter altar again this morning, are we?”
These words whispered to my heart hurt.

Compassion - A Prayer and a Pear  - Cesar knelt while our group circled around him. We prayed, words thick with tears. And the rain began to pour, thundering on the roof. What a beautiful sound.
After the last amen, Cesar’s mother ran into the yard. She grabbed a stick and began poking at their pear tree. Pears thumped to the ground. She picked them up and brought them to us.

Courtesy of Compassion International:

A Deeper Story - When I Don't Know What Jesus Would Do - Here, where I thought to not debate the integrity of a person’s life based on the colour of their skin or their nationality, where I thought that theology meant we all had agreed to some basic principles of value and worth, I am found undone and unsure of what to do.

Do I reach out to the one who speaks hate?
Do I defend the ones being hated?

World Vision - Praying for Turkana  - John earned a degree in public health from Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, and uses his knowledge to help families in the Turkana region.
Today, he shares with us how we can be praying for the people of Turkana.

Allison Versterfelt - Making the Most of Conflict  - The other day I was talking to a friend about the idea of conflict, and he suggested that maybe conflict doesn’t always have to be a fight between good and evil, like the fist fight I described above. Maybe sometimes conflict, in stories and in life, can be between good and good. Something conflict can be the clashing of two positive values.

Jon Stolpe Streched - Walking The Tightropes of Life  - Balancing Store and Steward  - As I drove home, I continued to wrestle with my anger.  And then it hit me, there were seven new kids at youth group last night.  Every week, we are seeing new students checking out the youth group.  Most churches would be ecstatic to experience this type of growth.  The youth group is reaching students who come from broken homes, unchurched families, and typical teenager struggles.  The group is having an impact on these students and their families.

I'd Laugh, But This All Happened To Me - Tiny Jesus  - Like Ricky Bobby, we prefer a Tiny Jesus.  Tiny Jesus is cute, cuddly and much easier for us to understand.  Tiny J doesn't ask us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Tiny J doesn't remind us to take care of the "least of these."  Tiny J doesn't call anyone a "brood of vipers."  Tiny J doesn't tell us "to find your life you have to lose it."  It is much easier for us if we do not allow Jesus to grow up...

Compassion - Once: A Story of Loss, Pain, and Redemption in an African Slum  - And so the people had to leave Eden, because God had created Eden as a place to last forever. And forever is an awfully long time if evil is there.
And now their world was different from Eden. It wasn’t a forever place. It was a place where people no longer experienced perfect harmony with each other, with nature, with God.
It was a place out of balance, a place where sorrow and fear and pain and death became…normal.

Random, but Interesting

History Channel - Restaurants, B.C.E. (Before the Contemporary Eatery)  - Of course, it wasn’t always this way, and our ancestors survived quite well for millennia long before the birth of taco Tuesdays. But the restaurant as we know it is nearly unrecognizable from the earliest eateries of ancient Rome and China—and even a far cry from the first dining establishments in Paris and New York.

Katie Hawkins: Missionary to Albania - What's So Funny?  - Oh language stories. I will always have them. But are they really THAT funny?
The other day, one of the ladies downstairs came up to help Nicole & I knit. It was cold in our house so Nicole made tea for us. She asked me what kind of tea it was. I answered fish. I meant peach. Fish is peshk and peach is pjeshke. There is only one sound that is different. Apparently, Nicole & I eat crazy enough food as foreigners that this lady thought we would serve fish tea.

The Isle of Man - The Hardest Thing about Being Unemployed I don't know where it's going to come from, but I'm pretty sure it won't be solved because of a funny anecdote you heard the other day or a suggestion for me to apply for a job that in no way interests me and, quite frankly, I'm not qualified for.

I've received countless wisdom nuggets over these past few months. So, now I'm going to turn the tables here a bit. It's my turn to give advice.

Here's how you deal with someone who is unemployed:

Writerly Stuff

The New York Times: The Opinion Pages - The Art of Being Still  - The No. 1 question I get at readings is: “How many hours a day do you write?” I used to stumble on this question. I don’t write every day, but when I first started going on book tours I was afraid I’d be revealed as a true fraud if I admitted that. Sometimes I write for 20 minutes. Other times I don’t stop writing for six hours, falling over at the end like an emotional, wrung-out mess, simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated. Sometimes I go months without putting a word on the page.

Jon Stolpe Stretched - Musical Stretch (Guest Post by Dan Erikson)I’m a musician and a songwriter.  I’ve written 100s of songs throughout three decades.  No, you’ve never heard any on the radio… yet.  A few years ago, I reached a point that many call “writer’s block” as a songwriter.  I was burnt out.  I felt like I’d explored nearly every style and genre of songwriting.  I currently haven’t written a song in nearly two years.  That’s a record for me.  However, I’ve decided to stretch myself musically.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Presence: Christmas Gift

Another series of theme posts with a few different voices. At least that is the plan for now. These are a collection of stories about people understanding Christmas better. Learning that it isn't about the Christmas presents from man, but the presence of God that makes Christmas special.

Today I am blessed to have a brand new voice here! Amy blogs at unchained faith and is open about the way she sees the world and Christmas is no exception. And we are the lucky recipients of an amazing story about what Christmas really means. Seriously, this story is so awesome and so about Christmas!

“Christmas isn’t about getting—it’s about giving!  And it’s especially about a little baby named Jesus, who was the greatest gift of all.” –Grandpa George, The Toy that Saved Christmas (VeggieTales)

Silent NightPhoto Credit: Jason A. Howie

I was fourteen the first time Christmas captivated my spirit.

Before that year, I had certainly enjoyed the holidays.  I liked the lights and the tinsel and the presents under the tree; I looked forward to watching the antics of the Grinch, Rudolph, and Frosty year after year; I ate gingerbread cookies with good will.  Back then, Christmas mostly meant time off from school and a trip to my grandparents’ house.

Christmas was also frequently a somewhat stressful time in our family.  My father, being Jewish, didn’t care much at all about the holiday.  My mother was bent on creating her fantasy of a perfect Christmas, which usually ended badly.  As a result, I never had any special attachment to the day.

When I started high school, a friend invited me to her church.  Wanting to spend time with her, I agreed to go.  I had no idea at the time that it would change the course of my life.

I’m not entirely certain when I began to realize that I had found faith. Having grown up in a Unitarian church, I honestly hadn’t known it was missing.  Slowly, over the months between the start of the academic year and the first snow, the mystery that is belief unfolded in my heart.

Whether it was the timing of the holiday or some other reason unknown to my adolescent self, we didn’t drive down to my grandparents’ place until after Christmas that year.  Instead, my father drove my mother and me to the Unitarian church for the Christmas Eve service.

I’m not sure why we went there and not the Presbyterian church I was attending at the time, nor do I have any idea why my father didn’t stay for the service.  I do recall feeling uncomfortable being in that particular church when I had already traded its unrelenting, angry anti-religion for my newfound faith in Christ.

As I sat next to my mother in one of the back rows, I felt my heart come unbound at the words of the familiar Christmas carols.  I had never understood what they meant before that moment.  In my world, Christmas had been trees and decorations and television specials.  Suddenly, as though some great veil had been lifted, I saw with clarity what made this night holy.

It was my Charlie Brown moment—the moment that I understood perfectly what I had been missing.

Christmas Eve has never ceased to arouse in me the same sense of awe that I had that night at my mother’s church.  All these years later, I can still recall with vibrant detail the sights and sounds of that faraway memory.  The best part about it is that now I have the chance to pass some of that wonder on to my own children, teaching them to see the beauty and the majesty born in that humble stable.

May the Light of the World shine on in your hearts at this season of the year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Presence: Lights and God

Another series of theme posts with a few different voices. At least that is the plan for now. These are a collection of stories about people understanding Christmas better. Learning that it isn't about the Christmas presents from man, but the presence of God that makes Christmas special.

20101127 Christmas Lights Downtown (104) Photo Credit: JimyJOp

"The lights are beautiful. I wish we had them all year long."

"If they were here all the time, would you appreciate them?"

"Probably not. Heaven should have them then." *Thoughtful Pause* "Those just prove there is a God."

So most people probably don't look at the Christmas lights around town and think it is proof of God. It might be proof of man's ingenuity. It might be proof of the price of Christmas. However proof of God might seem like a stretch. But stick with me for a minute.

We love Christmas lights. I even said I want them all year. There is something special about seeing the streets lit up. We drive through our neighborhoods and seem to peep into the homes of those around us. We see a little about their preferences and who they are by their choices of lights. It welcomes you to wherever you are going and lights the way ahead of you. Not like in the sense that our car head lights do. I mean it lights the way ahead of us by marking out the houses along our route. And this time of year we are in awe of the Christmas lights that are around.

Maybe that awe of the lights is something more than just prettiness.

Humans are in awe of light because God is light and Jesus brought light into the world. So our awe of Christmas lights are the proof that deep within us our spirit is prompted by the Spirit to respond to the Light. As I struggle through this Christmas looking for a deeper meaning, I find hope in the lights that I see and take heart that maybe I am closer than I know to the deeper meaning of Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp: A review

I was lucky to get the chance to pre-read Shawn Smucker's new book, How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp and Other Tales from our 10,000 Mile Adventure. Having followed the trip via his blog, I was excited to see how he and his wife wrote it up in their book. The layout of the book was perfect, a chapter or two of Shawn's perspective and a chapter of Maile's perspective. It gave me a chance to see the experiences from both points of view. As I read, I recognized some sections from previous blog posts. It was like seeing an old friend again. Yet somehow it was new. Seeing the stories nestled within the pages of the novel and surrounded by the stories of other places they had been formed into puzzle pieces that became the larger picture of their adventure. 

As I said on Amazon, Shawn has done it again! He takes you on the adventure with his family. You see the beauty of they places that they visited and the family drama along the way. You hear from both Shawn and Maile regularly which creates an entire picture of the experience. You genuinely feel like you are riding in the bus with them discovering the abandoned graveyard of slaves, the poverty and beauty of New Orleans, the majesty of the Southwest, the danger of Teton pass, and the life lessons along the way. They tell you their fears and their revelations. You see God prodding them to give up some things and pick up some new things. By the end of the novel, you feel that you have been on Willie, the big blue bus, with them for those 10,000 miles. And they are wonderful hosts!

We may not all get the chance to go on a 10,000 mile adventure, but Shawn and Maile graciously take us on theirs. They face their worst fears together and come out better people. They provide us proof that we can survive our worst fears. And finally they leave us encouraged to go out and find the adventures to which God is calling us. 

So this holiday season, treat yourself or a friend or a co-worker or a family member to an adventure novel with a great family story and some beautiful scenery.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 12-8

Photos you want to see:
Compassion - The World Through My Eyes: Juan David

Why you need to read these:
Relevant Magazine - When People Pray for the President  - I have never really thought about the vulnerability and courage it takes to be the president. This article reminded that our President is a human and has real thoughts and feelings. You must read this one!

The Isle of Man - Is it Possible for Jesus and Santa to Peacefully Coexist?  - A little sanity in the Jesus and Santa debate. I have a few thoughts of my own on this and might be sharing those soon. In the mean time read this one. It is amazingly well done in my opinion.

Shawn Smucker - One of my Goals for Advent - Shawn always does an amazing job of telling a story about his family and fitting it into your life. He has done it again and had got me thinking. Maybe you should too.

Some truth about Christians

The Church of No People - Drinking, Gambling, Guns, and Porn are not Problems  - Your problem is you.
My problem is me.
We have “Me” problems.  Not drinking problems or gambling problems, but Me problems.
That is to say we have sin problems.  Sin is born into us.  It is part of us.  It is violent, addictive, selfish and depressing.  It is not outside of us, in a bottle, or in a bullet.  It is in us.  There are no other “underlying factors” or “root causes.”

The Isle of Man - I like your Christ, I Do Not Like Your Christians  - I think Ghandi was most repulsed by the thing that many modern day non-believers are kept at bay by:

We're mean.

Does that apply to all Christians? Of course not. But so many Christians are, quite simply, just not very nice people. And that doesn't make any sense. It flies in the face of what we're supposed to believe in.
Shawn Smucker - Why You Should Not Share The Gospel  -There is a movement sweeping through our neighborhoods. You’ll rarely hear about it on the local news, because this is good news. This is THE Good News. The Kingdom of the Heavens is among us, and it’s moving, and it’s changing people’s lives. You can either pretend that everyone within a ten-mile radius of your house has their lives together, or you can go out and be their friend. Help them get food. Buy them a coffee. Encourage them to persevere.
Join the revolution. Share the good news.
No. Don’t share the good news. BE the Good News.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A night on the town

Last weekend Drew told me about a friend coming into town. He had promised our friend a hockey game because we are all big fans. We settled on Saturday because we could all go and handle a late night. Then we discovered there was no game on Sat. So Thursday was the new plan for the two of the.m. At the last minute yesterday afternoon I decided to go to the game with the two of them which gave Ben the opportunity to go.

All of that is to tell a story about me being a ridiculous. It has been awhile since I have been I have been in a big city and the first time I have been there with a toddler. I really didn't think about it before we got there. However, when we parked in the lot and walked by a couple empty buildings, I got nervous. I worried about what those guys hanging out on the corner might say and if the new to us car would be safe.

We got out. Both Drew and I checked over the car. We headed toward the arena. We walked by the abandoned buildings. We stopped at the light. Right in front of the group of guys hanging out on the corner. And....

A street corner in Barrio Lavapies in Madrid Photo Credit: CharlesFred

They started up a conversation about hockey and basketball. I felt like a total idiot. So after a remarkably pleasant conversation between adults, we crossed the road and went I to the stadium. I found myself facing another dilemma, the security check. Do they check a three year old? And how will my three year old react? I sat my purse down. And grabbed both of Ben's hands like a game. He was to be next and...

Tel Aviv -  Herzl security wand Photot Credit: Whistling in the Dark

The gentleman looked at in my purse and wished us well. I felt surprised and honored. He recognized my gesture as permission to run the wand over Ben and I. That willingness (and my hockey shirt with matching hat) was proof enough of our good intentions. 

We had arrived late and by the time we found our seats there was only about 5 minutes left in the first period. At intermission, Drew took Ben to go potty. While they were there, the team launched t-shirts into the crowd. One of the final t-shirts thrown landed in the hands of a twenty something man. He cheered and turned back to his seat. The two kids nearby looked disappointed. And...

061212_BBMhannahanrehab3 Photo Credit: lindsayjf91

The guy turned back around and gave the little boy the shirt he had just caught. I felt proud to be a part of a crowd that would do that. The little boy was overjoyed. He was jumping up and down. 

It was really a very special night that impressed upon me the opportunities to see God at work in humanity. Opportunities I don't often get to see because I'm too busy looking at my life. It was nice to see God prove me wrong 3 times tonight.

Look for the opportunity today for God to prove you wrong.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Presence: I don't get it yet

Another series of theme posts with a few different voices. At least that is the plan for now. These are a collection of stories about people understanding Christmas better. Learning that it isn't about the Christmas presents from man, but the presence of God that makes Christmas special.

Candles Photo Credit: ConstructionDealMkting

I remember singing "Silent Night" in a darkened church and lighting the candles of the people next to me. I remember playing with the previously melted wax on the little paper. I remember watching with fascination as  new wax dripped down the candle. All the while singing about that first Christmas night. Something seemed very special, very holy because of the presence of God with us here on earth.

Fast forward 20 years or so and those special holy services seem so far away. Christmas has long been about juggling schedules to make sure everyone sees us at the appropriate times, so they can give us presents and we can give them presents. It has become about learning the right songs and the right timing for this performance or that one. It has become about finding something, anything to check people off the gift buying list. It is about finding time for 6 Christmas parties.

I am exhausted and frustrated. I have lost Christ in this Christmas season. I don't know about peace on earth or joy to the world even though I sing those songs. I don't know about how love came down at Christmastime. I know that I feel like this is a quick sprint to the end of the year and somehow still a slow march of unending overcommitment and a hopelessness to change it. I know that I dread Christmas.

So this series came from a desire to understand Christmas better. Not the commercialized Christmas, but the real Christmas. Not the presents at Christmas, but Jesus at Christmas. As I have been searching my heart about Christmas, I find commercialism and vapid prettiness. I find that I like Christmas because it has pretty stuff and I get stuff. Of course I get to give stuff too, but that still making about the presents and not the presence. It's about more than stuff. It's about peace, joy, love, and Jesus. In my head I know that, but my heart doesn't know it yet.

And what's worse, I don't even know in my head that is about more than the birth of Christ. Yes the birth is important because without it we wouldn't have the death. However, shouldn't Christmas be about more? After all Advent is about waiting for Christ to return while remembering when he came the first time. Shouldn't Christmas be something like that? Maybe I'm just crazy here, but there is a small voice telling me it is more than stuff. I want to find that more than. So I'm trying to listen to that voice, but as I try to study and read I just end up with a vague childhood memory. The whole thing leaves me rather stumped.

How have you found the "more than stuff" in Christmas? How do you find the presence of love, joy, peace, and Jesus in the Christmas season?

Monday, December 3, 2012


it can hurt, too Photo Credit: Barbara K.

Words hurt sometimes.

We try to build walls to pretend they don't, but they do. So how do we go about 'fixing' the hurt? How do we make someone realize their words hurt without using words of our own to hurt them?

Sometimes it isn't even the words that are said.

Sometimes it is the words that are not said that hurt. How do we fix that? Do we ask for those words to be said? Does that really get us anywhere when we are begging for someone to say something? Do they really feel it then? 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Good Stuff Saturday 12-1

Pictures and Videos

Pictures of Poverty - Double Sweet Guatemala

Pictures of Poverty - An angel in Burkina Faso

An amazing result from some really hard work. Marching Bands are awesome!

Articles that opened my eyes

Katie Axelson: Living a Story Worth Telling - Top Four Things Never to Say to Someone Single  - But instead I found a swarm of (mostly) women crying out the same frustrations. In reflection on the comments and conversations, here are the top four things NOT to say to someone who is single:

Prodigal Magazine - Yes (Wo)man  - And when two different friends (who both wanted to call me their “best” friend, by the way) would compete for my attention at the same time, I would have this way of convincing each of them, separately of course, that there was plenty of me to go around. I could go down in the GUINNESS Book of World Records for the shmuckiest people-pleaser.
It really does get exhausting after awhile.

Shwan Smucker - Why Our World Doesn't Need More Santas  - For a few hours, those women had someone to help them with their kids. For a few hours, the kids had kind men around to help them build their gingerbread houses or tease them or talk to them about school. For a few hours, the Kingdom of the Heavens was among us.
* * * * *
We try to be Christmas to people by giving them presents and money, and that’s not all bad. Gift-giving can be an important part of showing someone that you care. But people don’t need more Christmas – they need more Incarnation. They need us to be love, in person, dwelling among them.

Drip Jesus- Did That Please You?  - I read this a few days ago and I had to put the book down.
Not because I was angry with Ravenhill, but because I was convicted.
I mean, I ask myself a derivative of that question each week:

Articles that made me think

Prodigal Magazine - The Only Break-up Advice You Will Ever Need -

But they didn’t actually help me walk through my pain and do any real growing.

They kept me focused on the external things rather than what was going on in my heart and soul.
Those rules offered me a chance to justify behaviors I knew were unhelpful to me, because a certain list allowed them. They gave me the chance to mask my pain, to sort of feel like I was doing it all the right way, without truly engaging in a meaningful way with my sadness. What those well-intended, thoughtful lists of advice offered me was another chance to control more than my proper share of the situation.

Uknown Jim - Has Blogging Jumped the Shark?  - Why? Because most blogging is simply a way for writers to find instant gratification. Real writing takes time. Going for the quality, not quantity. It means writing a thousand words to keep a hundred.
It means grinding it out and hustling on a project. Putting in extra hours instead of just publishing something to stick to a blogging schedule.

Top of the Page - Leaving my Nets  - This account in Mark reminds me that being a disciple is inconvenient. It can confuse and hurt the people closest to you. And it requires total devotion. To live in joy and deep fulfillment, sometimes we have to walk away from something. We have to leave our nets and follow Him. 

So back to Christmas. I haven't asked Jesus, yet, where all my "nets" are that I need to walk away from to follow Him this season. But one, certainly, is the way we have handled gift giving in the past. This year, my husband and I are walking away from some of our past traditions in that regard. We got uncomfortable. We lost joy. We had a vision for more. So we left some nets. And it's not completely smooth in our extended family. We seem a little crazy.

101 Books - "F. Scott Fitzgerald Died Believing Himself a Failure" - Think about that for a second.
One of the most prominent American authors of the 20th Century had 25 people at his funeral. The minister did not even know who he was.

Articles that made me feel a part of a bigger community

Red Letter Believers - Don't be a Stranger to Danger  - He’s put all that medical experience to good use. He’s now a top nurse at a hospital and I’m so proud of him. I wonder how many little boys he's cared for over the years and he looked at them with knowing look. "Dude, how you got this injury is just so awesome."

There is something about living on the edge that is dismissed as foolishness in our grown-up society. People are taking all the fun out of our society. There' s a new report about how dangerous bouncy castles are! Really?  "Ban them," they cry. 

But my problem is that I have mistaken dangerous things for stupid things, and made tragic mistakes that were just plain dumb. I've spent a lifetime sorting out the difference.

Run With the Big Girls - My First Love  - I even planned this whole challenge to try to motivate myself, and I fear that I may lose.
But as I’ve been thinking about it, one of the biggest reasons I started this blog was to gather a community of people who were dealing with all of the same stuff.  And as I go on this journey, maybe motivate someone else along the way.  Helping people.

A Deeper Story - Thank You Church  - Even so, we experienced the hands and feet and heart and mind and hospitality of Jesus in the aftermath of our daughter’s illness. The church fulfilled its role beautifully and profoundly. A few snippets:

Katie Hawkins: Missionary to Albania - Gëzuar 100 Vjetorin e Pavërsisë!!! - Today is Albania’s Independence day. But not just their Independence day but their 100th Anniversary! So a normally undercelebrated holiday has become quite festive! There are flags everywhere and people have been wearing Albanian colors for the past two weeks. However, there has been a big controversy.
The flags.