when i was a child i read books

"You're having coffee with someone you meet on the internet?"  Jim's father was incredulous.

His mom defended my strange online community (It's like pen-pals!), but my father-in-law--and his eyebrows--remained unconvinced.

So yes, I met Leigh at a coffee shop outside of Nashville just before Easter.  Sitting there at the sidewalk table was like catching up with an old friend and not remotely like a creeper or serial killer.  We talked about the important stuff--family, church, writing, Jordan Catalano--over drinks and matching giant sunglasses.

I hesitate to post the photo because my wind tunnel bangs are truly abhorrent, but we're all friends here, right?

They say when it rains, it pours, and April has been a shower of these sorts of connections.  Last week, I was able to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing, a biennial literary conference hosted by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.  It was three full days of writerly goodness and two more of travel, and I cannot express how grateful I am to Jim who encouraged me to go and sorted out family life without me.

The FFW challenged and encouraged me, spiritually, intellectually, and professionally.  Being among writers, creators, and other lovers of words refreshed my spirit in a way I wasn't even conscious of needing.

I rode out with a generous local-ish friend without whom I would have never ventured all the way to Michigan.  I shared a room with Kristin and relished time together.  I looked forward to meeting Steph, Micha, Ed, and Addie, too, and conversations over drinks were a great highlight.  I connected with a number of new-to-me writers and authors and left feeling inspired in this craft of writing and storytelling.

I'm still processing the threads and themes, and I'm thankful.  Attending the conference was a gift.  I feel energized by time among artists and friends.

It's good now to be home sharing space and words with these little monkeys:

And this handsome man:

Happy weekend, friends.


the word enfleshed

The heart of the gospel is the Word-made-flesh:
the Logos of God hovered over the water.
Speaking life, he called order from chaos,
Beauty emerged out of formless void.

I AM and it is,
ever-present and so very good

He pitched his tent and dwelt among us;
the Word moves into our neighborhood.
Sharing stories and suffering and casseroles,
we lack for nothing.

A scripture God-breathed whispers truth,
birthing another way. Warm and intimate,
she reads us naked, a lover whose touch is home.
Faithfully unfixed after all these years.

The heart of the gospel is the Word-made-flesh:
bread broken, hearts healed
mountains leveled, valleys raised
beloved saved [from, to, and for]

Behold, I make all things new.
And he said unto me, Write:


lady business and lady bloggers

The "mommy wars" reignited last week--or so we're told. Politicians and pundits bandy words like weapons, fueling fires, but women aren't pawns to be sacrificed in a game.

I've written about being a conscientious objector, but I'm hardly alone. We dissidents are legion. Everyday, our lives tell a different story than the women-at-each-others'-throats narrative spun for ratings and political points.

Our differences are many, but one thread connects:  it is damn hard to be a woman. Every choice comes with compromise, criticism, and pressure, and none of us is exempt from public or private scrutiny. Young, old, married, single, at work and at home, with kids or without:  we know how it feels for our bodies, voices, and choices to be devalued.

Part of me thinks that the politicians and media frame the "mommy wars" like they do to intentionally distract from the work of addressing complicated issues or tackling real solutions together.

Doing the work is always the narrow path.

Someone who knows this is Sarah Bessey. Her consistently good writing (seriously, how does she maintain such prolific quality?) bears witness to a Kingdom fragrant with another Way.

She's compiled a list of "50 Church and Faith Lady Bloggers," and it's a great example of critique through creation and telling a better story. Many of my favorite sites are there (and others are listed in my community page.)

I am off to Michigan today for the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College.  I'm not quite sure how this all fell into place, but Jim encouraged me to go, and I am thrilled for the opportunity.  Tell ya all about it soon:)


grace like legalism, peace like fighting well

My mother loved the 700 Club, but she's always been a hippie at heart.

I suspect that parenting (and geography) partially explain how I was raised within conservative Christianity but escaped its frequently associated legalism. Faith in Christ was never about rules in the communities I grew up in or the ministries we've served in as adults. Christianity was as simple and as difficult as following after Jesus. It wasn't until I started writing about faith online that I realized how rare that experience can be, and I am tremendously grateful to my family and faith communities for modeling something better.

We all know how damaging works-based religion can be. We've seen with our eyes and felt in our bodies the havoc it can wreck. Legalism creates fearful perfectionists, punishing questioners and specific sinners more than others. It drives some into rebellion, never to return to a faith so small and sharp. Others come back bearing wounds and shame that rules alone can never heal.

Legalism is the antithesis of grace, bearing little resemblance to Jesus' ministry or the path he calls us to follow him down. Recovering fundamentalists and progressive-leaning folks, for what little those labels are worth, have been voices of love and correction to a gospel that is less than Good News.

But I'm noticing something strange from my insider/outsider perspective: the anti-legalism crowd can be just as prone to rigid rules. Their rules are of a different stripe, but they can be every bit as damaging. Recently, these two have become plain:

1.)  Favor unflinching support for the guilty/penitent (and powerful) over healthy community boundaries and caring for the vulnerable.
2.)  Insist that all criticism is "un-grace," rooted in sin or hate.

Neither of these "rules" makes sense or looks at all like the ministry of Jesus.

Relevant Magazine, a well-read website among Christian twenty-somethings and beyond, recently published an article about gender and sexuality by Hugo Schwyzer, a man with an admitted history/[present, 2013] of predatory behavior and violence against women, sustained antagonism toward women of color, and a current writing resume (Jezebel, etc.) that would disgust most Christians. They did so without disclosure or apology. Complaints were raised and a conversation introduced about how to demonstrate grace to abusers without re-victimizing people or silencing dissent, but none of that happened at Relevant, as they deleted a number of dissenting comments and defended their author. I emailed them concerns and never heard back.

Christians know that God's grace cannot be earned and is given freely. We should proclaim from the rooftops and by the lives we lead that all are loved and made in God's image, and that all can find forgiveness, freedom, and purpose in Christ. This is the gospel, and it is good news for all of us sinners, including Schwyzer and other abusers of power and people.

But grace does not eliminate consequences for sin--or abuse. Often love looks like accountability, especially for people who hold positions of leadership or authority. Love looks like protecting vulnerable people from harm.

Grace never means that anyone is entitled to a mic, a platform, or a public ministry. Grace is the opposite of entitlement. Using grace to claim privilege or to favor the powerful over the hurting isn't grace at all--it's oppression-as-usual for the sin-soaked empire and out of place in the Kingdom of God. Authentic redemption and community healing cannot play out of the backs of the hurting or abused.

Christian community may offer forgiveness and still withhold positions of authority from certain membersGrace and accountability are not mutually exclusive. The privilege and responsibility of public leadership is not a birthright. Grace is free, but trust is earned and lost, sometimes irrevocably.

Criticism can be handled with grace. Some battles aren't worth choosing, but we don't get to decide that for one another, and there is space to wrestle through hard things within Christian community. Accountability is necessary and vastly preferable to faux peace or abuse-enabling.

Speaking truth-in-love is a delicate, difficult balance to strike. Favoring one over the other is an easy trap, but Jesus is Truth, God is Love, and there is no other way for Christians called by Christ's name.

What if peace isn't the absence--or squelching--of conflict? Disagreement is, after all, inevitable. Community life is considerably less pleasant in practice than our romantic ideals betray. Can shalom be found in the fight? Reconciliation is hard work, and I suspect that love requires digging in as much as letting go. Let's do it with grace, yes. But perhaps our concepts of grace are both too broad and too narrow.

So we take our cues from Jesus and his upside-down, last-shall-be-first Kingdom. We bind up broken hearts and push back the darkness clinging stubbornly to even our best intentions and sweetest sounding words. We incline our ears to stories from the margins and repent of every rule that chokes out the shalom we long to reveal in our midst and our ministries.

The work will be slow and difficult, but when we taste the fruits of grace and peace, we won't settle for counterfeits any longer.


i left my heart in san francisco

i'm wondering if i tucked my ability to concentrate into the seat pocket of the red-eye back to nashville.  (we drove to cleveland to fly to nashville with jim's family before we ever made our way to the west coast, clocking a dizzying number of hours traveling.)

i want to tell you about the trip, our first away just the two of us.  i want to tell you about the hills and the quiet, the wine and the coast, and the many unexpected blessings along the way.

but i'm mulling it all over, and re-entry has been hard.  i'll unravel some of the stories tucked away, but for now, here's my hello and a few photos.

happy saturday, friends.  may yours be nourishing, restful, and filled with much joy.


we belong to each other

Thanks to The Bully Project for sponsoring my writing. Visit their website to join the movement and learn more.  

It's an impression more than a memory.  Our gym class class met outside that day, probably to run the dreaded mile.  Navy tees and grey shorts were the uniform, but matching jersey can't erase social distinctions. Those are carved in stone.

Or flesh.

One boy was slower, his smile kinder than most.  The others taunted, and he laughed, believing himself to be part of their fun instead of its cruel target.

I barely remember.  Not his name or any of their faces.  There was a dare, and he obeyed, wanting to play, to belong.  Not understanding that some kids cannot be trusted.

Innocence trusts, but age and experience prove many unreliable.

They made him expose himself.  Their laughter was ugly, exposing their callous, careless hearts.

Our silence exposed our own, we who saw and did nothing.


Inaction is itself a choice, a vote for the status quo.  Human kindness requires more than merely not joining the cruelty.  Bystanders' hands are stained, too.

Aren't we all our brothers' keepers?

I've written about our responsibility in the bullying of LGBTQ kids, but there are many ways to be different.  Race, gender, religion, size, speech, intellect, appearance, ability, economic status, and anything else that distinguishes people turns some into targets.  Adults may like to talk to kids about being special and becoming leaders, but playgrounds (and classrooms) reward conformity richly.  This world can be exceedingly punishing to any who fall out of step from the herd.

I want so much more for my children than for them to blend in, fearful of rocking the boat, expressing passion or personality, standing up to injustice, or holding an unpopular opinion.  That's no way to live, and certainly no way to be faithful to a God who calls us to be not conformed.

I want my kids--and all kids--to feel safe in this world.  To believe that adults have their backs.

We do, don't we?  Not just our kids but all kids?

We belong to one another.   Our burdens weren't meant to be born alone.

Shared with the Imperfect Prose community.

I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls CollectiveFind showings in your area for The Bully Project and buy tickets here.


flowers in your hair

Jim and I are in California celebrating our upcoming tenth anniversary with wine and much appreciated time together.

It will likely be quiet here a little longer. Have a blessed Holy Week, friends.
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