Sunday

were not our hearts burning?


Were not our hearts burning within us when the President preached Amazing Grace and Bree Newsome ascended that pole?
You come against me in hatred and oppression and violence; I come against you in the Name of God. This flag comes down TODAY.
One hundred fifty years from Juneteenth emancipation, six Black churches smolder, the dead in Charleston barely yet buried:
Clementa. Cynthia. Tywanza. Sharonda. Myra. Ethel. Susie. Daniel. DePayne.
And White Christians don sackcloth and ash, mourning marriage equality as churches burn, funeral hymns ring out, and wedding bells chime. They shall know we are Christians by our [lacking, lackluster, and lukewarm neighbor-] love.
Bread unbroken
Stranger unwelcomed
Christ unrecognized
and we, unmoved, unblessed,
unborn.
Give us a garland instead of ash and hearts of flesh ablaze, beating and breaking and bound up together, let love fuel our work and our days.


begin the begin


I went back to work full-time in affordable housing about a month ago. We're still figuring out how all this juggling works on the home front, but Team Paul is happy. I'm happy...thriving, even. For the first time in a long time, everyone in the family has their own physical sphere, which is good for the soul, I think.

Today is the first day of our last summer at camp. Jim's three weeks of staff training (typically the roughest of my year) are over, and I barely even noticed. Everything is changing. In the fall, Jim will launch his own business, James starts kindergarten, and we'll swap our farm house for a rental somewhere in town. So much is in flux, but we're ready to receive whatever comes next. It's time to leave well.

Thursday

Feeln {like a Mothers' Day movie giveaway}



There's always been a soft spot in my cold robot heart for Hallmark Hall of Fame movies. (We all contain multitudes, don't we?) So when Feeln, the movie subscription service of the Hallmark Channel, contacted me about a promotion, I was game, so long as I could wrangle a giveaway or three for you.

Basically, Feeln streams movies people of all ages can watch together. I was a little bummed they don't have Sarah Plain and Tall, which I vividly remember watching curled up on the couch with my mom one Sunday night growing up, but they do have that one with Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich that I also enjoyed.

But it's not just Hallmark stuff, though. Feeln has a variety of content, including award winners like Chocolat and Rain Man; classics like The Sting or Twelve Angry Men; favorites like A League of Their Own, Big Fish, and Finding Neverland; and kids' stuff like The Secret of Kells or Ella Enchanted. They have the 1985 Rainbow Bright movie which I am definitely putting on for the kids soon, along with 1989's The Wizard, with Fred Savage and Jenny Lewis. 

Feeln streams online; on devices such as Roku, AppleTV, and Xbox; as well as on mobile phones and tablets. New subscribers can save 50% and get a year for $.99/month with the promo code 0515BlogSally. Feeln also kindly put up for grabs three complimentary year-long subscriptions for Smitten Word readers. Just check out Feeln's movie offerings, and leave a comment here about a favorite film listed or one you'd want to see. That's it. Giveaway ends Monday, May 11 at 11:59 PM, EST.

Happy (almost) Mothers' Day, to everyone who mothers and mentors and loves well.



Feeln provided these (and my) movie subscriptions. Opinions mine.

i left my heart in pittsburgh


When we discovered a third floor walk-up in a brick Bloomfield row house, we knew our little family of two had come home to the East End at last. Boasting a sunny kitchen outfitted in fifties-era fixtures and compact appliances, Hobbit ceilings, and actual sleeping quarters, the apartment felt palatial at $325 a month. So what if it was accessible only by fire escape and lacked a bedroom door? The Shire was ours, and God bless the youth group parents who dropped off teenagers in the back alley for dinners and movie nights.

You Are Here is a multi-contributor storytelling site organized around ideas of place. I've got a guest piece up there today, and hope you'll come by and have a look.

shall we strike with a sword?



Shall we strike with a sword?
Shall we crucify, terrify, vilify, war?
Shall we wound with our words?
Shall we seethe?
Shall we shame?

Shall we strike with a sword
or a fist
or a chain?
Shall we make them submit to our rule?
Shall we reign?

Shall we strike with a sword?
Shall we live by it,
die by it,
crown it our god?

Shall we bow? Shall we break
every bow that we've made?
Shall we love a more excellent way?

Compellingly uncoerced,
casting out fear. Lay down arms,
forge new tools in the fire that consumes
every dross and illumines strange paths.
Plowshares strike only soil: till our hearts,
may the verdant grow wild.


Tuesday

and this world has everything



Back in college I loved the band Caedmon's Call. I had all their albums, saw a few shows, and was enamored with boys who could play their songs by heart. They were the only Christian band I didn't backtrack on there for a while, but when I got out of youth ministry, I sorta let them go, too. The over-dose was probably inevitable. One does not live by [Christian culture] alone.

I hadn't listened to or thought of them in years when the chorus of "This World" got stuck in my head:

This world has nothing for me
And this world has everything
All that I could want
And nothing that I need

But this time, these once-familiar lines caught me off guard. I don't believe anything close to that anymore. Did I even back then? (This is why I bang the media literacy drum!)

What about the Genesis creation narrative in which everything God makes is unequivocally deemed to be good? Are Christians somehow exempt from basic human needs: food, shelter, security, love? Is the kingdom of God not inaugurated here among us, "on earth as it is in heaven," as Jesus proclaimed? What the hell kind of world is this song even talking about?**


This world is making me drunk
On the spirits of fear

Despite believing "perfect love casts out fear," Christians can be among the bigger manufacturers of it. Isn't fear partly what drives the desire for safe alternatives to "worldly" bands, movies, gyms, and schools, so Christians can be "in the world" (ish...) "but not of it"?

I don't believe retreat from the world is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. I realize "the world" (and "the flesh") function as metaphors, but words shape our thinking, and overemphasizing these can lead Christians into devastating and idolatrous territory.

A world vacant of value is disposable, and so are its inhabitants. Dualistic theology prizing the spiritual and heavenly over the material and embodied cannot functionally practice neighbor-love or the sort of ministry Jesus models. In that worldview, people of other faiths and no faith at all are easily seen and treated as projects--which is objectifying and dehumanizing--rather than kindred, beloved co-bearers of the image of God.

I get that the Bible talks of Christians having heavenly citizenship, being strangers on earth, and following Jesus above all else. Christians believe in more than whatever we see and experience now, but ours is not a pie-in-the-sky gospel of go-to-heaven-when-you-die. It's the gospel of "Today salvation has come to this house,""the kingdom of God is at hand," and "all things new," even now. Even here.

Creation, incarnation, and resurrection reveal deep, abiding goodness in our world and bodies. In beauty and pleasure. Learning and work. Art and play. Friendship and hospitality. Birth. Growth. Sex. Justice. Community. Love. We worship, serve, and practice our faith in this world, with our bodies, like Jesus did. This side of heaven, there is no apart: falsely elevating the spiritual divorces our bodies from our very selves, diminishing wholeness and shalom among and within us. We are physical, emotional, rational, sexual, spiritual beings all at the same time, and it's good.

The gospel of Jesus is good news for people-with-bodies and a world which God created, loves, and redeems.
And now I'm waking up
And now I'm breaking up
But now I'm making up
For lost time

**Edited to add:
YOU GUYS. Amy Peterson told me she read "This World" as a rejection of the insular church subculture the group grew up in, [There's tarnish on the golden rule/ And I want to jump from this ship of fools/ Show me a place where hope is young/ And people who are not afraid to love] and my mind is blown. Please weigh in, nerds.

i'm just so good at spaceships


"I'm just so good at spaceships," he admits, blue eyes sparkling proudly. He shows me the nature one, the water one, the sports one: an entire cottage industry of space craft in every hue. I admire his work and confidence, not altogether sure which skill I'd claim for myself.

I used to be a good youth minister, but that was a while back. I was a good caseworker and a good student before that. Am I a good mom? What's a good mom, anyway?

I certainly don't "control my kids," picky eaters and chicken chasers in perennial need of a hair brush. They're part of me, but they're their own little people, too. I'm not sure their strengths or mistakes are ever mine to fully claim. 

But mine are. I'm just so good at kissing their soft necks. I'm so good at read-alouds, and I make a mean chili. I'm really good at scouting fish frys and remembering where I've seen that actor before. I'm reasonably good at starting fires and packing lunches. It's no secret I'm terrible at being patient or on time, but I try to apologize and model how it looks to make things right.

James reminds me that good is a different beast than perfect. Cold space craft are perfect; noisy, naughty, messy, creative people are warm and good and velveteen-real.

Monday

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer



I met Micha Boyett the first time I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in 2012. I'd long admired her blog writing and enjoyed hearing firsthand about her book project, which although mostly drafted, was far from making its way out into the world.

Just two years later, at that same conference, I had my own copy of her published work in hand and was able to congratulate her in person. Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayeris one of the loveliest books I read last year. It's partly about finding a home in the rhythms of the liturgical year, which is why She Loves Magazine chose it for their book club during Lent this March.

I enjoyed the beautiful writing and resonated with Micha's struggle to find meaning in the lonely ordinariness of young motherhood, particularly after the harried pace and purpose of professional ministry. Others would certainly connect with the perfectionist anxieties she documents and her search for peace in God apart from the try-hard faith of her youth.

It's a book about an honest and at times uncertain faith with deep roots and room enough to breathe, grieve, and celebrate big joys and little victories. If you want to read along with She Loves, they've got a Facebook group and they'll be talking about it on March 25 at the site. Happy reading.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...