Wednesday

shalom & restoring identity {guest post Kamille Scellick}

Kamille has an uncommon and much needed vision for hospitality and community, and I hope one day that my travels takes me to Bellingham and her table. We met at Relevant last year, and a few hours together weren't nearly enough. I'm grateful to have her share words here.


Dark corners in my life creep out without notice or permission. As I'm sitting, walking, and going along my day, I'm hit with a sense of distress, a suffocation that begins in my toes and slowly makes its way to my neck. 

I feel overwhelmed and disconnected--with being a mom, a wife, with simply being. I want to run far away, but even that can't stop the disjointed feeling within.

Both girls napped that Saturday while I folded laundry with Ben by my side. My fuse was super short, and I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew something was out of balance. I began to tell Ben about my frustrations. How I felt like I was endlessly working and not being appreciated. How I felt the weight of expectations that were unfair and even unrealistic. As I talked, it was as if I were Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, clawing away to release myself from this metaphorical dragon skin. Peeling away layers to find the core of the issue at hand, the cause of my suffocation.

Two truths emerged. One was what Ben said: "You don't have to be Supermom, Superwife, or super anything. Remember what Rob Bell wrote about, 'You need to take your Superwhatever out back and kill it.'"

The second was me realizing I simply needed grace.

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell writes about a time his church was growing yet he found himself in a closet between  services holding his keys, wondering how quickly he could get out of there. He felt suffocated from trying to do it all. He was trying to be Superpastor.

No one can survive living a facade for long.

Bell writes about the tzitzit in Numbers 15, which are the tassels on the corners of the garment. The Israelites were to wear these tassels as a physical reminder to remember the commands of the Lord when they looked upon them. To remember where they came from, who they were made to be, and how they were meant to live life.

As a good Torah-abiding Jew, Jesus would have been wearing tzitzit on his prayer shawl when the woman who was bleeding for twelve years touched the corner of his garment. After she is healed, Jesus sends her off with this blessing: "Go in Peace."

To know peace is to know restoration. Jesus doesn't give us peace without conflict--it's deeper than that. Jesus told me that Saturday, today, and constantly:

Kamille, go in peace. Know shalom. Walk in the total presence of my restoring, redemptive peace I've given on the cross. Not just in physical realities like the woman I healed, but mental, emotional, all-encompassing peace. Let all of you be restored.

This is the holistic beauty of the cross.

Salvation is more than simply saying a prayer; it's allowing Jesus to move through all of me. To experience shalom in all that I do. It's the restoration of all things through Jesus. On Saturday, my way of doing things was breaking down. I had this image in my head of what "spiritual" looked like, what a "good" mom looked like, what a "loving" wife looked like. Bell says:

there is always a mystery behind the mystery...we try to fix things, but we stop at the first or second layer. We're stressed and so we make adjustments in time management. But a better question is, why do I take on so much? But an even better question is, why is it so hard for me to say no? Or even, why is that person's approval so important to me?

It's not until we dig up everything that we discover the core problem: walking away from Shalom and walking in sin, which for me looks like believing a lifetime of lies about myself. I believed in the facade of who I thought I should be, and that's an insult to the creative God who made me.

My job is not supermom, superwife, superbaker, superdaughter, superfriend, or whatever super-fill-in-the-blank false self I put on. I need to kill the "super" image, to rest in God alone and get back to finding my identity in Him. 

I need my own tzitzit reminders to bring me back to the restoring grace and love of my Savior. I need to turn down the volume of every voice distracting me from my job, "the relentless pursuit of who God has made me to be."

I have a long way to go in this journey, but I'm hopeful and I pray: may each of us put to death our own superwhatevers to experience true shalom and restoration.


Kamille Scellick passionately believes that gathering around the table is where the body, mind & soul will be nourished. It's around the table where you're sure to find her on any given day...eating, talking, listening & sharing life with her husband, Ben & two girls. She believes in life-giving hospitality Jesus style and sees his redemption being offered through it. Her greatest achievement is knowing she is extending this hospitality first & foremost to her family and then to others. You can find her sharing stories, hospitality, food and life with friend & stranger at her blog, Redeeming the Table. You’re invited to pull up a chair & sup with her.


shared with the folks at imperfect prose.

Tuesday

making peace with proverbs 31 {A Year of Biblical Womanhood}

The specter of gender expectation for women looms large across evangelicalism, and Rachel Held Evan tackles the topic with boldness and grace in her new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

Who should read this book?

  • People who appreciate humor, honesty, and a good story
  • Anyone who's wondered or struggled with what the Bible says about women
  • Those who suspect narrow prescriptive labels for gender, marriage, and womanhood of being a size-too-small and possibly clashing with the freedom we find in Christ
  • Skeptics who are willing to honestly engage Rachel's content firsthand instead of through the lens of her critics
  • Christians who love the Bible and anyone who mourns to see it wielded as a weapon
  • Those who trust that God is not threatened by doubts, questions, or seeking
  • People weary of easy answers who wonder how to serve God and honor a pre-modern scripture in our own post-modern context

The book is divided into twelve womanly virtues found in the Bible, and Rachel spends a month each exploring traits including gentleness, domesticity, obedience, beauty, modesty, purity, fertility, submission, justice, silence, and grace.

One of my favorite chapters was Valor: Will the Real Proverbs 31 Woman Please Stand Up? Rachel explains that "the wife of noble character" (eshet chayil) in verse 10 is best translated as "valorous woman" and that the poem celebrates the woman as a kind of warrior. "Lost to English readers are the militaristic nuances found in the original language," Held Evans explains (76). She provides prey for her family, she girds her loins, she laughs in victory.

Like any good poem, the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often-overlooked glory of the everyday. The only instructive language it contains is directed toward men, with the admonition that a thankful husband honors his wife "for all the things that her hands have done" (Proverbs 31:31). Old Testament scholar Ellen F. Davis notes that the poem was intended "not to honor one particularly praiseworthy woman, but rather to underscore the central significance of women's skilled work in a household-based economy." She concludes that "it will not do to make facile comparisons between the biblical figure and the suburban housewife, or alternately between her and the modern career woman. (76)
Nevertheless, Rachel spends a month undertaking a slew of domestic projects in an effort to live up to what many within evangelicalism esteem as the paragon of "biblical womanhood," and this chapter is among Rachel's most endearing. The tone of her book is familiar, funny, and less serious than the voice she often adopts on her popular theological blog.

Through her project, Rachel befriends an Orthodox Jew who provides an insight I won't soon forget. Ahava explains that Orthodox women often praise each other saying eshet chayil (valorous woman), and that her husband sings Proverbs 31 to her every Shabbat: "It's special to me because I know that no matter what I do or don't do, he praises me for blessing the family with energy and creativity. All women can do that in their own way." (88).

The concept of "Biblical Womanhood" is something of a sacred cow in contemporary fundamentalism and evangelicalism. Daring to question its prescriptions is akin to heresy in certain circles, and this book has invited a firestorm from those who don't appreciate questions--or women who won't toe the line. Rachel has become something of a lightening rod for mean-spirited criticism from some Christians, which puzzles me as I find her writing to be both generous and orthodox.

But God is not honored by infighting, and this book is not intended as ammunition is anyone's battle. Rachel writes not to fan flames but to loose chains. In exploring her own frustrations with Scripture and Christian culture, Held Evans grows to love the Bible more--and the One who inspired it and sets hearts free.

Rachel has a high view of scripture. Her work is not mockery but an honest and faithful investigation. She illuminates the truth that every person and tradition interprets which makes some folks uncomfortable who prefer to imagine Bible interpretation in easy blacks and whites.

Discomfort in matters of faith may just be a sacred tension. The Bible is a complex book--or rather sixty-six. I appreciate Christians like Rachel, who lead with humility, ask hard questions, embrace mystery, and step out in a faith that is not always sure and yet believes.

Rachel Held Evans is helping a generation to make peace with Proverbs 31 and broadening a much needed conversation about gender in the Church. She's a voice of hope, helping disheartened men and women to love the Bible again and discover a faith bigger than fear, fighting, and narrow cultural lenses.

Eshet Chayil, my friend. Let them say what they will. Yours is a ministry of reconciliation, and we're thankful for your words and witness.

A synchroblog in support of Rachel and her new book, available today, locally and online. Won't you join us in raising a glass?

LAUGHING AT THE DAYS                                                  

When she said, "Where better to look than Proverbs 31?"
my heart sunk hard and I lifted tea to lips in weak disguise.

I am Suzannah's complete lack of enthusiasm.

In this sorority, we're tested veterans, survivors
of grueling initiation. Keepers of the homefront in 
sweltering season where husbands serve God, camp,
and other mamas' kids from dawn 'til taps, repeat.

We labor, too, in ops covert. Hidden in plain sight,
your gaze bore through, unseeing. Between baths and
bedtime, we quell meltdowns and pray against takedown
by tiny torpedoes, devastating in beauty and will. This

summer of solo kid-wrangling, adult conversations
are rare as rubies--or solitude. It's a shame this one's
so much about trying harder. Being better. Doing more.

That Proverbs 31 gal, she's a first degree doer:
working vigorously, providing planting making
sewing trading spinningspinningspinning
She does not eat the bread of idleness!

Character praiseworthy, competence incomparable.
Her lamp goes not out at night, she rises before the sun.
Discussion dizzies and I wonder, is there joy deep
in the serving, in the honor of hard work?

Do we serve to please our King or prove our worth?

Will we remember Whose we are when striving slows, illness
strikes or money runs out? If drought presses close, can
we trust the Gardener who makes all things grow?

Be still, dear one and know. Abide. Laugh at days to come,
for he gives to his beloved sleep and rest to weary souls.


[reworked from poem originally published here]
related: making peace with feminism

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson.


Monday

creating space for peace (guest post Kristin Tennant}

Kristin writes with candor and grace, and I always appreciate her thoughtful perspective and voice. Getting to know her was a highlight of the Festival of Faith and Writing this spring, and I'm dreaming up ways for our paths cross again soon. Thank you, Kristin, for sharing wise words here.


Our family has a rule: In this house, we don’t blame. Your sister did not make you late. Your mom did not make you grumpy. Your friend is not responsible for your bad choice.

As one of the adults in the house, and therefore a so-called leader-by-example, I’ve had no choice but to work hard at not blaming individuals for my moods and failures. But boy, do I love to blame circumstances—especially when it comes to those responsible for shattering my peace.

The traffic was horrific. My house is a mess. The evening news was disheartening. My blood sugar is low. Any combination of less-than-perfect external factors, it seems, can throw me. It’s almost as if I am holding peace in my hand, like a fragile ornament ready to be knocked to the ground by any edge of the real world that bumps a bit too harshly up against me.

As soon as the peace shatters, I’m quick to surrender to whatever has come to take its place. What else can I do? It’s out of my control, after all, and in the hands of bad traffic/dirty dishes/frustrating politics. I am at the mercy of whatever comes to steal my peace.

****

Grasping peace when you need it most is a tricky thing. Peace begets peace, which is a wonderful truth if you can get caught up in that cycle. But when you aren’t already basking in its glow, peace can seem like an impossible place to access. It’s a Catch-22: The more tightly you’re wound up in stress, frustration and regret, the more you need peace, but the harder it is to move in close enough to embrace it.

What I want is for peace to be easy. I want it to sweep in and cover me like a blanket, right where I am, still clinging to all the junk I’ve gathered up in my arms. I just want to be warmed by it for a spell, so I can carry on in my anxious, wound up ways.

But maybe peace isn’t like a blanket. Maybe it’s something I have to move toward and gather to me. Maybe I have to let go of everything heavy that is keeping me stuck in a space beyond its circle of light. I have to let go of everything that fills my arms, preventing them from reaching out to something else—a something that will not just cover me, but fill me.

****

I had driven for three hours across the prairie to spend another three hours speaking to creative writing students at Taylor University. At the end of the day, I didn’t have time for dinner, but my host, Dan Bowman, suggested we visit Amy Peterson and her husband Jack, who also teach at Taylor. Amy and I had met briefly at the Festival of Faith and Writing last spring and we’re connected via Twitter, but we were essentially strangers.

We drove the few blocks to Amy and Jack’s home, stepping into the living room, which was strewn with toys—evidence of a hard day’s play by little Rosie and Owen. Amy greeted us without apologies, only warmth.

It was a gorgeous day—one that felt more like summer than fall—so Amy led Dan and I through the house to the back yard. The lawn was half-raked, but it seemed the piles were more about play than work. As Rosie and Owen jumped, ran, and scattered the leaves, Jack poured us glasses of wine and offered a comfortable seat in the late-day sun.

Our conversation meandered comfortably. We laughed and referenced communion as Owen dropped a chip in his dad’s wine. We talked to Rosie about the moon, which she had noticed rising bright in the evening sky, and about how people have walked on it. We talked to one another about the gritty work of writing—about being true to both the hard edges of life and the softness of grace.

Then it was time for me to say goodbye and get on the road. As I drove through the darkening dusk, into cornfields and night, I was burdened by nothing. I wasn’t in a rush. I wasn’t worried about the next day’s work. I only breathed, in and out.

In that space, created by my headlights and old songs on the radio, my mind wandered to what I had told the students earlier that day: Write like someone who isn’t sure of everything, who is willing to lay down expectations and plans, and instead to just trust and follow their stories. Think of your stories, I said, as creating rather than filling a space.

That’s a space that feels true—a space that's framed by the hard edges of life and cushioned by grace, creating a place for peace. 

Kristin Tennant (@kt_writes) has been a freelance writer for ten years. She blogs about family, faith, struggle and redemption at Halfway to Normal and writes for RELEVANT and The Huffington Post. Her essays have been included in two anthologies: Not Alone: Stories of Living With Depression, and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On. Kristin, her husband Jason, and their three daughters live in Urbana, Illinois, where they love cooking and sharing meals and conversation with friends.


shared with imperfect prose

Sunday

the peace of practicing freedom


When we keep a sabbath holy, we are practicing, for a day, the freedom that God intends for all people. We are practicing life outside the frantic pace set by financial markets and round-the-clock shopping and entertainment venues. We are practicing independence from the forces of injustice. We are trying on a new way of life as we begin to allow our weeks to be changed in response to God's promises. We are practicing--pun intended. Like a novice learning to play a musical instrument, we may be off-key at times. It may be years before we are in harmony, and we will never be perfect. But that need not stop us. Besides, stopping is less a problem than getting started.

(Dorothy C. Bass Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time)

Saturday

the peace of getting away



I drove for nearly two hours before I popped in a CD. I talked to God and let my mind meander. I planned projects in my head in blessed quiet.

Then I put on Mumford & Sons, and those four tires touched holy ground. I sung loud, wiped tears, and thanked God for night and uninhibited display.

Sometimes a person needs a little space and sweet catharsis. 

Sometime the highway stretches out like arms in praise. 

Sometimes freedom is seat-belted, and there's peace on the PA Turnpike. Glory.

I'm hitting part of the Allume conference while Jim holds down the fort. How do you manage to get away or carve out moments of quiet? 
May this weekend be restful for all of us. xo


Friday

peacemaking: wisdom from the margins





Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?

To you, O people, I cry:
set your hearts on me and listen

for my lips will speak the truth

Sophia is not voiceless.

Have we not listened? We are distracted.
Have we not heard? A gift not ours to give.

Incline your ear and understand:
amplify her voice. Her story is her own
but our salvation is entwined.

For those who find me find life
together and to the full.

image by Peggy H. Davis, available for purchase here.
shared with five minute friday. prompt: voice


Thursday

the peace of keeping the darkness at bay {guest post Luke Harms}

When Luke writes about peace, I listen. When he writes about his wife, I want to drive down to Virginia and spend time with their whole family. His wisdom is no armchair theorizing or Pollyanna naivete: Luke went to war and came home a fighter for the Kingdom of God. I'm grateful to host his powerful words here today. Welcome, Luke.


there is darkness in me

pictures of torn flesh, broken bodies
echoes of gunshots, explosions, sirens
memories of dead friends, dead enemies, dead kids
and the numbness of not being able to care

this darkness runs deep

like an icy brook, it flows through every part of me
running through shoulders and arms to hands that would strike blows
rushing through hips and knees to feet that would run to battle
and crashing through tongue and teeth to a mouth that would speak death

but there is light in me

reflections of the One who is greater, truer, nobler
of the One who seeks to restore, to heal, to redeem
the One whose love casts out fear
and whose hope renews all things

this light runs deeper still

it brings life where there was only death
hope where there was only despair
it pushes down and beats back the darkness
leaving behind that blessed companion:

peace.

-----


"What kind of person does that?" and "Who wants a murderer for a father?"

I threw the questions like stones. She sat and listened while the darkness washed over me.

She had seen me at my darkest before. I was fully in it, and she could tell. Eyes dead and lifeless, voice cold and distant, this wasn't me, it was that cold, deep darkness. This was every terrible thing I had seen and every terrible thing I had done wrapping itself around me and choking the life out of me. I could not see, feel, hear or remember anything but this darkness that had become my constant companion.

But she was ready.

She stayed. And she listened. She saw me. She heard me. And when she opened her mouth to speak, the Holy Dove came to rest on her shoulder as she said,

"You. Are. More."

She went on, and her words were light and life and comfort and healing and all of the things that I hadn't felt in nearly a decade, and in that moment, in pushing back that darkness and making room for the light of redemption to shine in and reclaim what had been lost to darkness, as the One himself said,

she was a peacemaker.
she was a Child of God.

And I realized what it meant to make peace, to be ready and willing to step into the breach and keep the darkness at bay. The same way I had been intentional in making war, making peace requires sacrifice, cultivation, reprogramming.

-----

As warriors, we trained for war. We didn't go to war without an understanding of exactly what it was we were there to do. We were there to visit great and terrible violence upon those who would oppose us, and we were well versed in the means and methods of that violence.

As peacemakers, we must train even more, so that the darkness might not overwhelm. If peace is to come, we must seek first that Kingdom whose Prince is Peace. We are here to visit great and terrible grace on those who need it, and we must be well-versed in the means and methods of that Love that enables and empowers us to keep the darkness at bay.

The constant press of the darkness is always threatening to consume us, but peace is the space that exists where we've pushed the darkness out.

So hone your craft, peacemaker.

Live an ethos of peace with your family, your coworkers, your neighbors...your enemies.
Learn what it means to push back the darkness...not just in and for those you love.
Look for opportunities to make peace...even if it costs you.
Love extravagantly and unreasonably...always.


Luke is a husband, a dad, a Jesus-lover and justice seeker.  He is a former soldier whose life's work seems to be trying to make people understand why he now abhors violence. He is far less serious than some of his writing makes him out to be. Most of all though, he is work in progress. He writes about how the work is progressing regularly at Living in the Tension and also contributes over at A Deeper Family.  



Wednesday

making peace with feminism


Despite caricaturesmischaracterizations, and posts implying otherwise, feminism is not a dirty word, and it is not defined by its detractors. Even Jesus-y folks believe in equality sometimes, which is why many of us count ourselves both Christians and feminists. 

We don't hate men or masculinity. Feminism seeks to liberate women and men from "sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression," and feminism is for everybody (bell hooks). Men do not "lose" when women are equal, and dismantling patriarchy benefits us all. We affirm the full image of God in every person.

We don't think men and women are the same. Equality speaks to worth, access, opportunity, and treatment not sameness (and we're not there yet). Although sexual differences are biological, many gender differences are socially constructed and vary widely among people of the same gender. Feminists reject narrow, prescriptive gender-based roles that clash with freedom in Christ and the unique ways we're called and gifted to image God.

We aren't against "traditional" gender roles. Have kids. Don't have kids. Work. Stay home. Feminism upholds agency, and it's not about making the "right" choices. We also acknowledge that some things framed as choices in these debates are luxuries afforded the few, and that the voices and experiences of low-income women, single women, single moms, childless women, women of color, gay and trans* women, and women across the globe matter equally, too.

We aren't angry--except when we are. When women identify sexism or offer opposing perspectives (even in a most calm and fair manner), watch how quickly they are labeled "crazy", "angry", or worse. No matter how gracious and generous Rachel Held Evan is with critics, people spew truly nasty, gendered insults her way. I haven't encountered a great deal of that personally, but when my feminist critique of the emerging church went viral, I was accused of launching a "witch hunt," a particularly strange allegation ignoring the gender and power dynamics of both my argument and actual history.

Policing tone is a way of diminishing women's voices and sends a clear message: "good" women pipe down and play nice

___

Peacemaking is the work of restoring wholeness created and lost in Eden. It is the Kingdom of God taking ground over oppression, brokenness, and violence. It is shalom shining light on every shadow that obscures the image of God.

Feminism is about human dignity and equality, not "man-hating" or matriarchy. It is a movement with a history, present, and purpose that cannot be erased by careless or calculated efforts to cast it as boogeyman or foil.

Feminists strive to topple hierarchies, level playing fields, and raise the bar. For all of us.

Tuesday

peacemaking: play as resistance {guest post Bristol}

I'm grateful today to introduce you to Bristol, one of my very favorite voices. She writes with the wisdom of a contemplative and the beauty of a poet. Be sure to check out her blog, Diligent Leaves. Welcome, Bristol!
 


In the gospel of Mark, Jesus tells his followers multiple times that children know something special about the Kingdom of God, something that adults seem to be missing. If you can't accept the Kingdom as children do, Jesus warns, you will never figure it out.

My first year after seminary, I worked in under-resourced public elementary schools in Oakland, a city strained by urban poverty and racial tension. The children I met there showed me what it means to be Kingdom builders, peacemakers who make peace with their bare hands and sheer tenacity.

---

When the Occupy movement took up residence in downtown Oakland, I was working at a large public elementary school a few blocks away. I was doing school recreation in service of building positive school climate, so I spent most of my day outside playing with the students, most of whom came from low-income immigrant families. Inner city kids have an incredible resilience; they just play on like nothing is happening. I, on the other hand, had to adjust to Occupy's impact on the city.

That learning curve of adjusting was steep.

I learned how to yell loud enough to be heard at recess over the constant sound of low-flying helicopters. Each week I would walk our after-school program to the ice rink. Our path took us right past Occupy Oakland's campsite, so I learned how to answer nine-year-olds' questions about protest and economic recession. And when armed police swarmed the neighborhood or vandalism shut down the nearest BART station, I learned how to find alternate routes home from work.

When people started getting hurt, I learned how to cry about it out of sight of my students.

I knew people who were arrested, evicted, beaten. And it wasn’t just Oakland. There were fire hoses and police raids in San Francisco. There were crackdowns and pepper spray on the University of California's Berkeley campus, a mile from where I lived, as police dismantled tents and forcibly removed students. Soon, the helicopters weren’t just downtown when I went to work, they were hovering over my neighborhood at night.

Those months, it felt to me like chaos was closing in on my students' precious, magical world of childhood, the world that I was trying to protect. As if drop-out rates and gang violence weren’t challenges enough, now these kids were shoved into the midst of a charged political battle being fought on the very sidewalks of their own neighborhoods.

It was like the whole Bay Area was constricting, tightening in on itself – whether an involuntary muscle contraction or a show of flexed strength, it was hard to say.

The first time I saw police in riot gear, I cried, for the sheer insanity of it – for the insanity of plastic shields and zip-tie handcuffs, when 15 minutes earlier I’d been playing with the six-year- old children of Chinese immigrants who lived on the next block.

Peace didn't seem accessible. We were in the precarious realms of survival and desperation.

---

Month's later, when I spoke to people who hadn't been through those months of violence and upheaval in the Bay Area, I realized how much it had changed me. After all, I had been telling myself, I'd been there, but only by proximity. I wasn't really participating. I thought I'd been a neutral observer.

Maybe I could have been a neutral observer, if it hadn’t been for those children. But I was there with them every day, in the midst of that chaos, holding their hands and playing four square. In that place, children played like warriors – unknowingly fighting the forces of evil that knocked on the doors of their homes and schools.

The helicopters and riot police were small compared to the sound of those children’s laughter, to the determination of their imaginations, to the precision of their talent. Racial tensions could wind tight enough to undo the power of their potential. Their play was powerful – not a folding submission but a fierce fire of resistance. To play in the face of tension and conflict isn't to ignore it or to give in: it's to fight back.

That fall, I was playing on the playground with children, but I was also bearing witness to their wisdom about what it means to bring the Kingdom into our daily lives. Pulled between the chaos of the adult world around me and the imaginative world of those kids, I learned something about making change. Certainly they were changing me.

They showed me that we – we who play, we who dream, we who hope, as children do – are doing the real work of peace making, of Kingdom building. Jesus was right when he warned his followers that when adults lost sight of that truth, they lose something very valuable indeed.



Bristol is Midwestern girl at heart but spent the last few year on the California coast studying religion and ethics. She completed an Americorps term of service creating positive school climate -- in the classroom and on the playground -- at public elementary schools. Recently, she moved to New England where she directs youth and family ministry for a Lutheran church. Bristol writes about faith at Diligent Leaves, take photos of bees on flowers, and goes for long evening runs around her neighborhood.





shared with the communities at imperfect prose and bigger picture moments

Monday

a peace wisdom-sown


My boy-babe is three:

tiny dancer
fist pumper
car-singer
mischief maker

James Edward Paul, III,
of baby blues, wide smiles, wild ways
and Christopher Robin bangs

Unafraid and unbeholden,
you potty-trained yourself this month
--except for naps. "It wasn't an accident,"
you made that much clear.
Every. Time.

Playful, imaginative, stubborn, and sweet
you cheer our days ("I love you, mama!") and
when night falls we pray again to

listen with our ears,
speak kindness with our lips,
help with our hands and
love well.

You remind us that peace is wisdom-sown,
forged in fire and forgiveness. May we reap
that harvest of righteousness
as one.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:17-18)

Sunday

the peace of breathing the rhythms of rest


So let us remember the Sabbath. Let us breathe deeply in the rhythms of life, of the earth, of action and rest. Traditionally, Sabbath is honored by lighting candles, gathering in worship and prayers, blessing children, singing songs, keeping silence, walking, reading scripture, making love, sharing a meal. Just as we must wait until the darkness falls before we can see the stars, so does the Sabbath quietly wait for us. As darkness falls, as the light of the world fades and disappears, we light the inner lights, the lights of home and refuge. Our steps take us home, and the light draws us in.

Wayne Muller Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives


Saturday

the peace of disconnecting to reconnect



WILL 

Three generations back 
my family had only 

to light a candle 
and the world parted. 

Today, Friday afternoon, 
I disconnect clocks and phones. 

When night fills my house 
with passages, 

I begin saving 
my life. 

MARCIA FALK The Book of Blessings: A New Prayer Book for the Weekdays, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival


Friday

the peace of being saved by Story {guest post Amy Peterson}

Amy and I crossed paths because of the Festival of Faith and Writing last spring (and later found our our sisters worship at the same church!) Smart and passionate, Amy writes (and teaches) about faith and pop culture, as well as motherhood and making all things new. This post is challenging and beautiful, and I'm so glad to host her words here. Welcome, Amy.


In Ezekiel, God condemns the false prophets who cry, “Peace!” when there is no peace.

Am I that false prophet?

My husband and I, we are peace-lovers by nature. We are quiet, we move slowly through ideas and emotions, we usually agree. We are far from perfect, but there is true peace in our household, even while I am stepping on legos, hands full of dishes, and Jack is playing chase the preschooler with the toddler riding on his shoulders.


We rent a house in a small town in the cornfields of the Midwest, cloistered in a Christian college community. We spend our evenings tired, writing songs, sewing scraps together, and watching far too much tv.

Sometimes I wonder: Do the daily routines of my peaceful life imply–falsely--that I live in a peaceful world, no battles left to fight? Have I created a life so protected that I can deceive myself into thinking that everything is alright?

Does anything in my day point prophetically to the deep brokenness of our world, and to a great Healer? Does anything in my life acknowledge the global realities of war, famine, disease, persecution, and poverty, or do I live as if those things don’t exist?

Am I living a life that effectively proclaims “peace” when there is none?

I like to think that small things in my life do point to the realities of our broken world and our great Healer. That when we eat Haitian-style red beans and rice, and pray for Kensley, a child we sponsor through Compassion, we are expressing solidarity. That my unwillingness to buy clothing made in sweatshops is a way of pursuing peace. That when I teach one child to have empathy or generosity towards another, I am nurturing souls who will someday have empathy and generosity in the wider world.

But I’m not convinced that those tokens are enough. Shouldn’t I be fighting for peace, rather than taking safe baby steps toward it?

Everything in me longs to see true redemption, true conflict and resolution, the beautiful Story of resurrection at work in our world. And yet: when I wake up, I am more interested in checking twitter than praying for the persecuted church. Before I go to sleep, I am more concerned about Kristina Braverman’s cancer than I am about the 26% of mothers in Swaziland who are infected with AIDS. Instead of engaging in the true Story, with all its risks and heartache, I daily choose other stories to satisfy my needs for drama and meaning.

I allow the artificial conflicts and phony resolutions of television shows and social media to fill the emotional space in my heart that could be spent on the true needs of the world. I have neatly protected myself against encountering true difficulty, true tragedy, any story that might be too much for me to bear. And I feed my God-given desire for story, for conflict and resolution, in a safer way, one that promises to always resolve neatly, and usually after just half an hour.

I am poorer for it. Peace, after all, whether you look at it in Hebrew (shalom) or Greek (eirene), implies not the absence of conflict but its resolution. Peace is hard-won.

I need to rededicate myself to peace, not because the world needs me to save it, but because I need to be saved. I need to let go of the false peace born of ignoring the deep cracks in the world; I need to resume fighting for the true peace that is the Kingdom coming to earth. When the credits roll, I want my voice to ring with the true prophets, not just to fade into the same old theme song. 

Will you help me? Will you join?


Amy teaches ESL Writing and American Pop Culture at Taylor University, and spends most of her time making a home for her best-friend-husband and their two (frankly adorable) children.

She shares her mostly unedited thoughts about faith, motherhood, books, movies, television, and food at www.amylepinepeterson.com. Connect with her on twitter @amylpeterson.

Thursday

when parenting doesn't feel peaceful



Parenting is hard
, which should go without saying, but when people wield Answers like knives, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves.

Parenting is hard. It's funny and blessed and extraordinary, but damn is it hard.

Nearly five years in, we still don't know what we're doing most days. There are a few things I know in my heart to be true and good and us, and everything else we're learning as we grow, adjusting our sails as winds, seasons, and children change.

But that all sounds a bit more romantic than it is. Many days feel more like crash and burn in spectacular defeat (and oft public humiliation).

So like the phoenix, we pick ourselves up from the ash. We mark our foreheads, shaking the dust from our feet and the devil from our backs.

We weep and repent.

We lament with friends who give not Answers but priceless Me, too.

We practice resurrection together.


We'll take confession if you like. What's hard? What helps? How do you find peace in parenting when it's most fleeting?

Wednesday

peace amid debate & political storm


The tactic of nonviolence is a tactic of love that seeks the salvation and redemption of the opponent, not his castigation, humiliation, and defeat. A pretended nonviolence that seeks to defeat and humiliate the adversary by spiritual instead of physical attack is little more than a confession of weakness.
True nonviolence is totally different from this, and much more difficult.
It strives to operate without hatred, without hostility, and without resentment. It works without aggression, taking the side of the good that it is able to find already present in the adversary. This may be easy to talk about in theory. It is not easy in practice, especially when the adversary is aroused to bitter and violent defense of an injustice which he believes to be just.
We must therefore be careful how we talk about our opponents, and still be more careful how we regulate our differences with our collaborators. It is possible for the most bitter arguments, the most virulent hatreds, to arise among those who are supposed to be working together for the noblest of causes. Nothing is better calculated to ruin and discredit a holy ideal than fratricidal war among "saints."
(Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 1968.)
Oh, election season. Oh, internet. Oh, outrage machine. Oh, privileged silence. Oh, crumbling national discourse.

Heaven help us to live and work at peace.

image: DUCKMARX

Tuesday

the peace of knowing the enemy {guest post Kelly Chadwick}

Kelly is a friend from way back when we served Jesus and middle school girls at summer camp. Social media made our paths cross again felicitously, and she is as charming and passionate as ever. She's traveled all over the globe with the World Race and is now in Atlanta leading arts and worship, speaking, writing, and serving wherever God calls.


Maybe it was the parents that told me I could never really do my job with college students well because I didn't have children of my own.

Maybe it was the never-ending musical chairs as I'd rearrange myself at dinner tables to avoid splitting up any newlywed couples.

Maybe it was the friend who said, "You're just not in my orbit anymore," when we discussed the change in our friendship as she began a new relationship.

Or maybe it was the discontent inside my own head and heart that caused me to turn anyone and everyone who had what I wanted into the enemy.

And so, when they innocently said, "until you have children yourself, you won't understand," I heard, "you can't possibly know what real love feels like."

When they wistfully commented, "you must have so much time on your hands without a family to take care of," I heard, "you're all alone. how pathetic."

When they off-handedly remarked, "we had couples night last night," I heard, "we've graduated into the grown-up club now, but don't worry, I'm sure you'll make it in one day."

(No one will be hiring me for my translating skills anytime soon.)

And so I had to be angry with them mostly because I was afraid they were right.

Maybe I couldn't really understand love until I had a husband or children of my own. Maybe I was selfish and pathetic and that's why nobody picked me. Maybe I really did want to be in their stupid grown-up couples club, but I couldn't let them know. I didn't want them feeling sorry for me, after all.

But the worst part was that I was creating a pretty bleak future for myself if the very place I wanted to end up was in "enemy territory."

And so at some point I had to acknowledge that the enemy wasn't "out there" somewhere in my friends and family. The enemy actually lived somewhere inside of me. It was my own fear. My own insecurity. My own disappointment and my own pride. And the enemy was causing me to hear their (mostly) well-intentioned remarks through the filter of defensiveness and self-preservation. Instead of leading me toward the relationships I wanted, the enemy was destroying the ones I already had.

Peace doesn't always come by giving up the battle.  Sometimes peace comes by knowing what to fight.


Kelly is a dreamer, creator, and world traveler who loves to find magic in the smallest moments. She writes about faith, life, and struggle and most days she tells the truth. Her one vice would be diet coke, but she maintains she can quit at anytime.  She shares her story in hopes that somebody else can say, "me too." You can find her at www.kellychadwick.orgon twitter, and at her etsy shop, un:caged creatives.


photo: atmtx

Monday

peace & the still, small voice {guest post Becky MacKenzie}

Becky recently relocated with her family from Virginia to Ireland where her husband is a visiting professor at Trinity College. (Cool, right??) She is funny and honest, and I love what she shares about discovering peace, calling, and even quiet within the wilds of motherhood.


When I started filtering out the noise of culture, family, and what the me of fifteen years ago thought I should be doing, wanting, and feeling, I finally began to hear my own voice. I started to think about why I had been put on this earth. What talent had I been given to share?

I had just had three babies in under four years. Life with littles is loud and exhausting, but amid all that crazy is the wonderful reminder of being part of something larger. Motherhood hit me upside the head with big questions. How would I act on the answers?

I wanted to become intentional about all sorts of things but at the core was living out my faith. That meant I had to discern my calling. I had to be mindful. I had to notice.

You know that warmth you get in the pit of your stomach when you get a tiny baby to laugh? That feeling that if you could stay in this moment forever you would? That is the feeling I get when I am in communion with the Holy Spirit. It's what I was looking for in my daily life, that sense that I was doing something I was created to do.

It turned out I had been acting out my calling long before I gave it any thought at all. If it the Holy Spirit could work through a teenage girl to secure salvation for all, it could get me to at least nod in the right direction at a time when intentional meant little more than intending to drink a whole cup of coffee while it was Still Hot.

While I was hauling everyone off to preschool, nursing the baby, or loading the dishwasher, I squeezed in moments of reflection and noticed a thread throughout where I felt right. It was when I was telling another mom that it would get a little easier. It was when I was helping others find connection in the community. It was when I smiled at an international student. It was when I was praising my child.

I realized that I felt a connection with the Holy Spirit when offering encouragementWhen I am in tune with those Spirit-nudges, I experience contentment, and that peace allows me to better hear the Spirit's prompting.

Of course, there are times that I fall out of that cycle and am cranky, cross, and overwhelmed. Once I realize where I am, I try to step away. It might take a while, but eventually, I get to where I am able to do one small thing. I smile. I pray. I hug. I am slowly refilled. I come back to the light. My mustard seed faith assures me that the Holy Spirit works even in this.

I was not raised in faith. Figuring out how to pass along spiritual beliefs is hard, but motherhood, too, is part of the Spirit's call for me. So I teach my children to breathe. I remind them that everyone has value and can be an instrument for good. I have them consider the impact of their actions on others. I close my eyes and say a prayer when it all goes awry.

Self-awareness can be the first step towards spiritual awareness. Identifying my own passions and gifts helped me to listen to the Spirit who gives them, so I teach my children to listen for that still, small voice and have the courage to act on it. I remind them that God has a plan.

We go to church. We pray. We try our best.

We listen. We love.

We have faith that the Holy Spirit is at work.


Becky blogs about her one year adventure in Ireland at The MacKenzies Go Adventuring.






Sunday

the peace of sharing stories



Civitas Press and Cara Sexton are putting together a book. The working title (likely to change) is Soul Bare: Reflections on Becoming Human, and the thrust of the project is is redemptive, personal storytelling weaving themes of connection, growth, healing, discovery, and joy.

There are a host of contributors signed onto the project (including me!), and I share this with you because submissions are open until November 1. Maybe you'll contribute an essay. (Do it!) But this isn't just about that.

If I've learned anything from four plus years of blogging, it's that there is catharsis in writing-it-out. There is peace in sharing our stories.

Of course, it's not merely the domain of writers to tell tales or artists to bare souls.

We all have stories to tell. 

There is risk in allowing people to see ourselves as we really are, but relationship is rarely forged on anything less.

So let down your guard. Let someone in. Tell your story.

It may just crumble walls and heal other cracked and broken places.


  1. 31 Days to Practice Peace
  2. the peace of shared chaos
  3. the peace of killing the approval god
  4. peace of leaning into the light
  5. making peace with a postpartum body {guest post Danielle}
  6. the peace of putting it out there
  7. the peace of wild things
  8. the peace of quiet activism {guest post Tara Pohlkotte}
  9. the peace of imperfect hospitality
  10. making peace in prison {guest post S}
  11. the peace of subversive sabbath
  12. the peace of perseverance
  13. waging peace: the sword that heals


Saturday

waging peace: the sword that heals


Peace is not the absence of tension.


Peace is rarely "maintained" but worked through, sweated for, and hard-won.

Peace, like war, is waged. It does not shy from conflict. With girded loins and steady feet, it battles clean and hard for justice, healing, reconciliation, and redemption.

Alex Haley: [...] you and your followers have been branded “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators.” Do you feel you’ve earned these labels?

Martin Luther King: [...] 
nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword that heals. Our nonviolent direct-action program has as its objective not the creation of tensions, but the surfacing of tensions already present. We set out to precipitate a crisis situation that must open the door to negotiation.
I am not afraid of the words “crisis” and “tension.” I deeply oppose violence, but constructive crisis and tension are necessary for growth. Innate in all life, and all growth, is tension. Only in death is there an absence of tension. To cure injustices, you must expose them before the light of human conscience and the bar of public opinion, regardless of whatever tensions that exposure generates. Injustices to the Negro must be brought out into the open where they cannot be evaded. (MLK, Jr. 1965)


  • Agree? Disagree? How do you typically react to tension? 
  • What are the costs of waging peace? 
  • How can nonviolence be "a sword that heals"? What benefit is there to bringing tension to the surface?
  • What sorts of people today get branded "rabble-rousers" (stirrers of disunity, etc)? Who does the branding? What do they have to gain? What purpose do such labels serve? Are they warranted?


{photo credit. also, find the whole fantastic alex haley/MLK interview here.}

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