7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 18): ball pits, coffee, and gender equality

Wow.  What a crazy lot of great conversation has happened over the past week ever since Rachel Held Evans made a simple observation on Twitter about the imbalance between the number of male and female speakers at a recent online leadership conference called the Nines.  (You can see the speaker line-up here.)  Some of the conversation has been less than great - mud-slinging, name-calling, and judging each other blindly without seeking to understand does not become us, Church - but even the lousy conversations are at least doing one thing needed: bringing an issue that needs to be talked about to the forefront.

A friend asked me on Facebook what I thought about all of it.  I didn't reply on Facebook because of a comment left on his post about how there are things that matter and things that don't - and I didn't know whether the commenter meant that he didn't think this mattered or did, and I care too much about this to get in an argument on Facebook about it.  I'll argue in my own spaces, tho!  So here we go.

Why does it even matter that among all the voices featured in an international leadership conference only three of them were women?  I doubt the organizational minds behind the conference sat down and thought "let's plan a conference that excludes women and sends a statement to the church that male voices are better and more authoritative."  In fact, one of the organizers explained to Christianity Today in an interview that because of the conference topic, many of the speakers were senior pastors, and it's statistically true that there are still more men than women in senior leadership roles, which contributed to the small percentage of women speakers at the Nines.  There were also women who declined their invitations to speak.  There were very logical reasons for the speaker lineup being what it was, and an intentional diss towards women in leadership doesn't really seem to be one of them.

The reason it matters is because while I agree with Rachel that if you look at the speaker lineup as a snapshot of church leadership, it's not what the church is supposed to look like - at the same time, there are places in the church where it does.  And that's what needs to change.  There are women who, like Christine Caine said in her interview with Christianity Today about the Nines controversy, find it mind-boggling that there are places in the church where women are not free to live into the gifts and callings God has given them.  For them, the "issues" surrounding the entire idea of "women in ministry" seem irrelevant.  Calling isn't about being male or female - it's about God and Jesus and doing your best as a person with the gifts you've been given.  But because there are places in the church where that is not understood, to the point where women aren't given a voice at all - the conversations remain necessary.

The problem isn't that only three women spoke at the Nines.  The problem is that there are women in the church who would never be allowed to speak in their own churches, women who have something to say and aren't being allowed to say it, who wake up in the morning with a fire in their spirit and who cry themselves to sleep because when they own that fire, they don't fit into the molds they've been told they should - and because when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer, things like statistics cue for those of us who are paying attention a reminder that there is still justice and freedom to be gained, and we want that for our sisters because it is what God wants for them.

And it matters because sometimes people don't think things thru, and they will look at something like the ratio of male to female speakers, and conclude wrongly that that is how it should be - and nothing will ever change.

Which is one of the reasons I appreciate it when people like Rachel speak up, even when the risk of being misunderstood, shot down or accused of "being divisive."  And when people like Preston Yancey recognize that while his corner of the kingdom is getting the women-in-leadership question right, his voice is still needed, and there are things he can do to help women find their voices.  And when women like Josephine Robertson remind us that it is God who gifts and calls women to ministry, and it is God who will position us where we need to be.  We don't need men to make room for us, and we don't need to fight for a place.  We simply need to be true to who God has created us to be and trust Him to make a way where there is not way.  Sometimes that way-making may look like a fight or a concession - but He uses all of it to grow His church.

One of the phrases that often comes up in the debates about women's roles in ministry is "patriarchy."  I've started thinking about it as "the 'P' word" - its connotations are becoming so negative.  I'm going to be honest and say that maybe I just need to study this more to understand why it's "a bad word" - but I'm not comfortable using it that way.  There were things about the patriarchal system that made so much sense in the cultural settings of Abraham, Israel and even the early church.  It was, in some ways, a system that helped protect women (not in a women-are-weak-and-can't-take-care-of-themselves way) but in a this-makes-sense-because-of-surrounding-cultures way).  It might even still make sense in some contexts.

Where it doesn't make sense is in the post-resurrection Christian culture where there is neither slave nor free, nor male or female.  Where it doesn't make sense is where it has been tainted by sin to excuse men thirsty for power and domination.  Where it doesn't make sense is when women are oppressed, silenced, and abused.

The only kind of patriarchy that makes any kind of sense to me is God's.  He is my Father (The Patriarch) - and He is a good one.  He gave me a voice, and when I learned the wrong lessons and lost it, He patiently began to teach me better ones.  He has brought me on a long and winding but nevertheless straight path towards finding my voice again, and learning to use it.  It is a patriarchy marked by love, kindness, joy - by knowing that I, as a woman, have a Father who believes in me, who gave me a voice and wants me to use it; it is a patriarchy in which men and women are equal partners in His kingdom.

But that is not what earthly patriarchies tend to look like.  Which is why I understand it when "the patriarchy" is painted as "the enemy" - but we need to remember that it is a fallen system that promotes inequality.   And that there are actual people within it - people worthy of dignity and respect because they are people (even if they are wrong about some of their interpretations of Scripture).  But as Kathy Escobar points out, "the only way to change the course of history is to change the course of history."  (Please follow this link to her post - it's beautifully written.)

You should also take some time to read Tim Peck's post on Three Ways Patriarchy Is Bad For Men.  It's an angle on the whole conversation I think worth considering.

Okay, two more noteworthy links related to all of this and we will move on to something more frivolous.  I loved the insights and personal stories Lynne and Bill Hybels and their daughter Shauna Neiquist shared this week on gender equality in the evangelical church.

Lynne's (and Bill's): Evangelicals and Gender Equality
Shauna's: What My Mother Taught Me

Okay, onward to frivolity.  This is soooo cool...

But I ask you.  If you were walking along the sidewalk and came across a giant ball pit with a sign that to said to get in it - would you?

And last but not least, I totally thought this was joke.  But I'm happy to say it isn't.  Feel free to tweet a coffee to me anytime @simplefelicity7.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

whispers of glory: why social justice matters

i have had an overdeveloped sense of justice pretty much my entire life.  "it's not fair!" was probably one of my most-voiced complaints as a kid, and to be perfectly honest, it's probably one of my most-voiced complaints to God about any number of things now.  there is something woven deep into the fabric of who i am as a person that cries out for things to be right and just and fair.

and i've never had a problem with that, even on the days when i feel like a lone voice for something, because justice is something God values, too.

look at what God says about Abraham (that tells us something about God):
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?  For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” - Genesis 18:17-19 (NASB)
what Moses says about God:
He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. - Deuteronomy 10:18 (NKJV)
what Micah says about people (that tells us something about God):
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? - Micah 6:8 (NASB)
and what Jesus says about God:
"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly." - Luke 18:7-8a (NIV)
justice matters to the heart of God - and as image-bearers of God in the world, it should matter to us, too.  he is not okay with injustice, and neither can we be.

i was sixteen the first time i fasted, and i had no idea what i was doing or why, so i looked it up in a concordance, and came across these verses in Isaiah 58 (6-10):
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.  If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
and so fasting became a piece of my cry for justice.  but so did sharing my food, or buying it for people who needed it.  so did hospitality - welcoming people into my home.  missions trips.  giving.  etc.  these verses became (and continue to become) a way of life.

there is so much broken in the world, and some of us will be called to go and do big things to fix big problems, because loving God and loving people are what we do as Christians.  but we are all called to be the hands and feet of Christ where we are, and to address injustice where we see it.

"social justice" means a lot of things to a lot of people.  it can and does mean addressing big things like sex trafficking and child slavery and the oppression of women.  but it can also mean addressing big things like taking in a homeless person or buying groceries for a single mom or having a tough conversation with someone who is causing spiritual or emotional abuse.  it can mean writing a blog post or fixing someone's car for free.  it can mean speaking to thousands of people, promoting awareness of a certain kind of injustice, or talking with a group of friends at a coffee shop about how to make Christmas better for the widows (and widowers) and orphans in your community.  it can mean speaking up about the value and importance of friendship between men and women in circles where it is frowned upon, or fighting for equality in places it does not exist.

"social justice" can mean a lot of things - but what it means to me (and to all of us) is doing what i can - in prayer and fasting and in action - to be a justice-bringer.

social justice matters because wanting justice and bringing it to pass is a way of imaging God in the world.  it speaks of who He is: the One who promises - and brings - justice; the One who came to free us.  every chain loosened and cord untied whispers His glory.  every person freed from oppression, every yoke broken, every hungry person fed, every wanderer given shelter, every situation into which the hope and truth and life and light are spoken whispers "this is our God - the One who rescues us!  the One who rescues you..."

and maybe the ones who don't know Him - the ones who don't even know they need Him, who see only their situations and are amazed that you would help them - maybe they will find Him in the freedom that is waiting on the far side of injustice.  maybe they will see Jesus - through you.

my prayer is that they will.


This post is part of a synchroblog called What Is Social Justice Really?  You can read more about this topic from other bloggers who participated by following the links below (and be sure to check back Wednesday evening for the complete list):

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 17): Musical String Theory, Drum Pants and Friendship

Jen Fulweiler once joked about dividing her life into two epochs - before and after discovering the Guy On A Buffalo videos.  (Yeah, that was my fault... lol.)

I may divide my own life epochs in relation to discovering string theory explained to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody.  This video is brilliant on so many levels... but it may have been the Einstein sock puppet that sold me.

In addition, the very fact that a video like this exists gives me so much hope that I too may someday have that much time on my hands...  Tho maybe being a musical scientist is a prerequisite.  To which I can only say: "Define 'scientist'..."

In the meantime, I will consider it a win if I find enough time to finish these 7 Quick Takes on an actual Friday.

And while we're being all geeky: Drum Pants.  They're a thing.

One of the toughest things about blogging is coming up with a great title for your post that will hook readers instantly.  I think Brandon Hoops should win the best title award this week with Solomon's Cure For Bitchiness, lol.  It's a wonderful piece on what 'guarding your heart' really means (it has less to do with romance than you might think!), with some solid advice how to cultivate a life characterized by joy and gentleness.

World Vision has started a brilliant campaign called #Dreamshare.  Swing by and take some time to read some of the dreams that have been shared, and consider sharing yours.  HT: to Stephen Brewster, who shared his.  You can tweet your dream - or join the #Dreamshare link-up.  Their goal is 2 million dreams shared.  The world is waiting to hear yours!

I'm sure there are occasions when people reading my 7QTs wonder if I actually do anything noteworthy - aside from watching YouTube videos and reading other people's blogs and then spending hours thinking about them.  Wonder away.  Apparently this week, I really didn't.

I love, love, LOVE this guest post from Beth Bramstedt on Dan Brennan''s blog - A New Paradigm: Love As The Boundary.  It's simply her story about how God moved in her life at the Sacred Friendship Gathering last spring, and it's beautifully told.  I had the privilege of meeting Beth and talking with her right in the middle of the Gathering, so it was delightful to hear more about the backstory of how she got there, and what happened next.  :)  Stories like Beth's give me hope that someday, I will have a story to tell, too.  Somedays I feel like this ongoing conversation about friendships between men and women is more full of land mines than hope.  There is so much cultural and religious baggage to be shed.  But I will keep on hoping for change, and doing what I can to help, one conversation at a time.

And in closing - a quote.  (Jen, I think you'll like this one.)  Frederick Buechner on why wine is better than grape juice.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.16)

Guess what: it's still Friday!  (At least while I'm writing this first of my 7 Quick Takes.)  I call that victory, compared to last week.  (Hey, I'll take victory where I find it, lol.  I've written twice in eight days.  That's a win.)

All joking aside, the truth of the matter is: finding time to write of late has been extremely difficult.  Yet I know that I know that I know that writing is THE thing that God is calling me to right now.  So how do I reconcile my sense of calling with my extreme lack of time to pour into it?

I have no idea.  But I do pray for time.  For more time to write, and for energy to coincide with the time that I do have.  And if you wanted to pray that along with me, that would be awesome.  There are good things ahead for Simple Felicity, if all goes well.  Looking forward to filling you in on what that actually means soon.  (By which, btw, I mean: sometime before Christmas.  Or maybe on Christmas Day.  Time will tell.)  ;)

Also, confession: I hit the wall halfway thru writing this.  So technically, it is 7 Quick Takes Saturday.  Again.  Maybe I should start writing these on Tuesdays...  Then I'll have a chance at getting it done by Friday.

Alrighty - let's dive right in.  There's a post that has been making the rounds this week via social networking sites entitled: FYI (if you're a teenage girl).  I think that at its heart, it was meant to be a good piece.  It's a mom writing an open letter to the girls who are posting pictures of themselves on Facebook that cause her sons to (in her opinion) "stumble."  Yeah... I'll bet that was an awkward conversation around their dinner table.

But if God ever grants me the privilege of having sons, I hope it won't be nearly as awkward for us.

Because here's the thing...

Well, wait.  Let's come back to that.

Mrs. Hall, in that post, was legitimately trying to watch out for her sons.  But I think this post by a dad highlighted a very important point in response: boys, you have the ability to decide what to do with what you think and/or see.  SO much of the "purity" culture in the North American Evangelical Church deals (I think inappropriately) with what women do or don't wear - when the truth is, modesty is so much more about a heart-set than it is about rules.  Many young women have grown up feeling unnecessary shame about their bodies, because well-intentioned parents and leaders have told them to cover up and hide their bodies so that men won't lust after them, as if being created the way way they are could make someone else's sin their fault.  And the idea that women covering up is the answer to preventing men from lusting not only shames but objectifies women, robbing them of their value as unique and beautifully created people, whose curves and beauty and hearts reflect God to the world in ways that are right - and intended.  In our culture, where thin, tall, and flawlessly beautiful is the standard, the one place women shouldn't have to wrestle with shame is in the church.  Oh, how I dream of a day when that will be the case...

And in the meantime, we all need to just start giving each other the grace we say we believe in.  This satirical response to Mrs. Hall's post cracked me up (because satire is just funny) - but it also made a very valid point about how important it is, especially for Christians, to extend the grace we've received.  Sure, parents absolutely ought to be helping their children navigate what it means to be male or female and how to process and handle it when someone else is behaving inappropriately, and it's just fact that in our culture there are going to be boys and girls that dress immodestly and our kids will have to figure out how to get past what they see to understand that there are real and hurting hearts behind the facades presented by those other kids (and sometimes our own kids are going to have to deal with their own hurt and why it drives them to act/dress/talk etc. the way they do) - but those conversations should be full of grace.  And blocking someone on Facebook - which in this day and age can say so much about the level of engagement we are willing to have - for posting something inappropriate could be perceived as judgmental.  What about actually talking to that person first?  (Or if it's a teenager, their parents?)  I think "unfriending" - or drawing boundaries that create what Henry Cloud calls a "necessary ending" - should be a last resort, not a gut response.  We can't live with blinders on.  And yes, everything in us wants to shelter our kids - but we also need to teach them how to cope with what they'll encounter when we can't shelter them anymore.  I don't envy my friends who are parents this task.  But I admire it so much when they help their kids face difficult things head on.

So circling back to #2 - the thing is - conversations about modesty and friendship can be awkward, but they don't have to be.  If we change the culture and make it appropriate to have open and honest and healthy conversations about these things instead of shaming and objectifying people for their behaviours, then sitting around the dinner table, discussing it with our kids will just be normal and not weird or awkward at all.  If I'm ever privileged enough to have them, I want my kids to grow up discussing culture and theology and physics and stories and what it's like to be them and to grow up and what's hard and what's awesome and everything and anything else they want to talk about around the dinner table.  And I want us to have a dinner table that we all sit down to every day, because community happens around the table.  Good food and good conversation are two of the best things in life.  I want my kids to grow up with both.

There was a fascinating article in Psychology Today a couple of years ago called The Trouble With Bright Girls that talks about how the kind of praise we receive as children determines how we think about our ability to succeed.  If we're told frequently that we're "good" at something and "smart" - then over time we're likely to start believing that those qualities are innate rather than achievable with hard work and perseverance, and therefore more likely to give up than try to accomplish something difficult later in life.  I don't think this means we should stop praising girls for doing a good job or being smart - but it does mean that we need to be careful about how we speak, and encourage them to remember that perseverance and effort are just as important to mastering difficult skills as intelligence.

This is just one example, but it feels like a lot of the conversations I've had with people lately (about a number of different things) all come back to this one thing: language matters.  We need to think about what our words (about anything) tell us about the attitude of our hearts and what we really believe.

And last but definitely not least: I came across an article in Relevant Magazine that made me want to cheer.  It's called The Trouble With 'Just Friends' and it talks about the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of believers, and the wonderful awesomeness that being a part of the body of Christ is meant to be.  The author says (and I agree wholeheartedly) that we settle for so much less than God has for us.  He says: "How we see think, act, react and speak to one another have all been so heavily influenced by the broader culture (and our dating-obsessed subculture) that it requires a deep intentionality about developing a proper theology of Christian relationships if there is to be any hope of building an authentic community."  Oh my goodness, yes.  But I will keep hoping.  And I will keep on entering these "awkward" conversations about "proper theology" until it's just normal to have them - because a better and healthier Christian community is part of His vision for His church, and talking with openness, honesty, and vulnerability through the issues is one of the ways we'll find the healing we didn't even know we needed.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 15): The Saturday Edition

Yes, in the interest of full disclosure: this is the Saturday edition of #7QT.  I meant to write this on Friday.  I really did.  I have tabs open in my browser that I have kept open almost all week because I wanted to write something about them on Friday for my 7QT post.  And when I woke up at 12:30am on Saturday and realized that I'd fallen asleep somewhere between 9:00-9:30pm on Friday, my first thought was: "oh no, I missed it... AGAIN!!!"

But then my second thought was: "Wait.  It's still Friday in California..."

So here we are.  Seven Quick Takes Friday-which-is-really-Saturday-but-is-still-Friday-somewhere.

I've heard enough about Miley Cyrus' performance at the VMAs to be sure I didn't actually want to watch it (and warning: it was way past PG-13 so please don't watch it unless you're prepared for some serious depravity (and if you're under 18 and reading this: please ask your parents first!!!), but I'm actually glad I saw it for myself.  You can wax eloquent all you want about how Hannah Montana's gone south (did you even watch that show?  have you seen the attitudes kids developed as a result of thinking that being like Hannah Montana was a good idea?) but from what I saw, Miley's gotten a ridiculously bad rap for that performance.

Let me explain:

First - it was a mash-up.  So Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams have 2/3 of the responsibility for what just happened there (as do all of their agents, etc.).  Second - have you seen the music video from Miley's 1/3 of that mash-up?  (DON'T.)  No, seriously, kids - don't.  It's messed up.

But why, dear Society, are we dragging her over the coals for being messed up during a music awards performance when she was already that messed up, and when the people she was performing with were equally messed up?  (They all had a choice: stars, background vocalists, and dancers.  They didn't have to be a part of this.  They chose to participate.)  Miley's performance at the VMAs was far less messed up than the music video to her 1/3 of the mash-up.  Have you listened to the lyrics for that three-song mash-up?  (All three of them?)  What else did you expect?!?!

Miley is just a really famous kid in her early 20's, trying to figure out who she is and what matters in life, and she's been given a really bad script for it.  Instead of bashing her for her choices, why aren't we praying that she'll return to her roots and remember that life's a climb, and not some kind of illicitly sexual performance?  Why, instead of bashing her for being a slut, aren't we praying that this kid who did (at least at one point in her life) believe in God (and maybe still does), would use her position in public society to promote His kingdom instead of her own, or anyone else's?

No, that performance wasn't right.  It was seriously whacked, and there are little girls who idolized Hannah Montana and have grown up along with her who will think that behaving that way as teenagers is what they need to do, to capture the attention of the guys that they like, and there are little boys that have grown up thinking that responding to that kind of behavior is the only way to go - but we need to tell them there's a better way.

Which is why, if you read nothing else about all of the drama concerning Miley Cyrus' performance over the past week, you do need to read this post by Elizabeth Chapin about talking to boys about girls like Miley.  It is absolutely the most well-balanced and thoughtful response I've heard to all the craziness this week.

I have a friend who is wrestling with her femininity and wondering where gender roles speak into that.

Oh, my goodness.  Can I just tell you how much this breaks my heart?!  (And how much I want to buy her a copy of Ruby Slippers?!)

Wake up, Church!!!  Divisions between men and women are supposed to be a thing of the past, and it was Jesus who made it so.  Ladies, listen: you are not less than because you're a woman.  You're His answer to "it's not good for man to be alone."  Girls, did you hear that?!  You make things better.  God didn't think the world was finished without you.  And you image God to the world in ways that men never could.  So quit thinking that your femininity is a curse.  It isn't.  You make things better, simply by being who you are.

Thank you.

And keep on keeping on.  Continue to "be who you are..." - as Dr. Seuss would say.  And men, please: be who you are, too - but please don't ever live that out in ways that restrict the freedoms that Christ has given your sisters.

On a somewhat related note:  ... the following conversation may or may not have happened yesterday:
Me: "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; she had so many children she didn't know what to do...
A. (after a thoughtful pause) responded: "She should get them all dates.  Then they'll get married and move out and she can have the shoe back to herself again."
Noted: There is nothing at all disturbing about living in a shoe.  The only disturbing prospect about any of this is the overcrowded nature of said shoe...

Here's an alternative solution: all of her children should be cast in roles that will make them potential film stars.  Ben Affleck apparently got his start on The Voyage of the Mimi.  I may not have remembered that Ben Affleck played a starring role, but if I were ever stranded on a desert island?

I totally know how to distill water with string and a piece of plastic.  While tracking whales.  #saywhat?!

That's PBS success, right there.  And look at him now, all Batman and whatnot...

And now it is almost 4:00am CST, which is an hour past Friday night in California...

Which means it is quite past time to say goodnight.


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Be Where You Are (it's not failure)

I love the way God sets things like this up.

My friend Faith has a friend who has a "book blog" (Faith, can you link to it below in the comments?  I can't remember the name of the blog at all!), and he reviewed Dan Brennan's book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions.  Then my friend Sara, who found Kathy Escobar's blog years ago, sent me a link to one of Kathy's posts about this conference at which she was speaking called Bold Boundaries, which was organized by Dan Brennan.  It was being held half an hour from my house - so I went.  One of the speakers and I became Facebook friends after the conference.  And this week, she posted a link to a post by a guy named Preston entitled "when God allows us to say when."  Which was exactly what I needed to hear this week, tho I didn't know it at the time.

Preston's post (which is definitely worth your time) is at its heart about seasons, and being okay with the fact that there is a time and a season for everything.  Being okay with the fact that not all questions have easy answers, that healing isn't as simple as we would wish, and that some things just take time.

Being okay with that can be tough, especially in a world that values productivity, efficiency, success, and knowledge as highly as ours does.

I was on the phone with a friend earlier this week, and he asked me two questions: "Who are you allowing to invest in you?" and "Where have you failed lately, and what are you learning from it?"

Now I've spent enough time reading, studying, and discussing leadership principles over the past 5 years that I know these are good questions.  Having good teachers to listen to, good mentors to turn to for advice and counsel, and good friends who pour their time, love, and faithfulness into your life in ways that you receive it best are important to your personal and spiritual growth.  Learning from failure and not allowing it to cripple you but rather to teach you what not to do next time and to shape your character in positive ways is healthy.  They were great questions.

But I couldn't answer them.  And I felt like I had been measured and found wanting.

As an INFP (or an INFJ - it depends on the day), I need time to think.  Even if I did have good answers to those questions, it would probably take me awhile to formulate clear answers.  Answering them within ten minutes' time with no warning they were coming?  Not something that would go well under most circumstances.

But even after giving it some thought, I still couldn't give clear answers to these questions.  Do I have good teachers, good mentors, and good friends?  Yes!  Do I have a ton of time to invest in utilizing the resources I have right now?  No.  Do I agree that learning from failure is really important and that having the humility to be vulnerable and honest about how I've failed is good for my character?  Yes!  Do I think I'm failing miserably at anything that ought to be teaching me something right now?  No.

And so my emotions and my train of thought took a downward spiral as I wondered, "Am I a failure as a leader because I'm not being intentional right now about investing time in relationships that will help me grow and because I'm not failing majorly (that I know of) at anything?"

And for a very long split-second I thought maybe it was true.  (Can I say that I'm failing at failing?  Does that count?)

But then I remembered Preston's post, and his advice: Sit still.  Breathe. "You can tell God when you are ready for the next thing."  (And you'll probably find out when you do that God has already been working that next thing into your life without you even noticing anyway.)

It's okay to just be where you are.

You couldn't be anywhere else in this exact moment anyway, so worrying about it, fighting it, or wishing it was different won't do any good.  Owning where you actually are, tho - that's actually doing something about it.

It's kind of like how you can't get accurate directions to where you want to be on Apple Maps without letting your iPhone access your current location.  A blue pin on a map is great and everything, but if you don't know how to get there, it's not much more than a pin on a map.  But if you know where you are, you can figure out the best way to get where you need to be.

For me this week, owning where I am so that I can figure out how to get where I want to go next means realizing that, as Ecclesiastes 3 says, there are times and seasons for everything, and that it's completely okay to not have good answers to great leadership questions right now.  It means recognizing that I am learning and growing in other ways right now, and that I do have answers to other questions - questions that are actually pertinent to where I am and what I'm learning.  Questions that actually matter - at least to me.

Maybe those leadership questions matter to someone else right now - but they don't have to matter to me today.  There have been times when they have, and there will be times in the future when they will again.  But for today, this day?  As long as I am listening for His voice and following His directions one step, one moment at a time towards whatever's next, it's okay to be wherever the flashing blue dot on the map finds me in this moment.  I couldn't be anywhere else.

And neither can you.

So, in the words of Dr. Seuss, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."  And don't feel like you need to be something you're not.  Just be where you are, knowing you are dearly loved.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 14)

ROAD TRIP!  There's something about getting out of my typical environments and just being away that restores my perspective like nothing else.  I only have a couple of days, so I hit the road this afternoon and headed up to the CityFlats hotel.  I love this place.  Environmentally friendly, classy, and fun.  The architecture is artistic, and every room is furnished and painted differently, so each stay is a fairly unique visit.  I'm on the fourth floor this time - slightly smaller room, but super-quiet.  It's the perfect place for a mini-retreat.

My friend Katie told me once that I walk differently when I'm in Michigan.  I don't know if that's actually true - but I noticed it again today: as soon as I crossed the state line, I started grinning.  I've been a lot of beautiful places in my lifetime - but this is definitely still one of my favorites.  And there's something about coming back to a place that feels like home that just makes me feel lighter.  So maybe I do walk differently.

Road trip sidenote: I found myself wondering today what kind of music there will be in heaven.  I hope there will be lots of different kinds.  Station surfing turned up some really great songs today in a number of different genres.

One of the best moments of this day was an absolutely amazing latté.  If you're ever in Holland, MI, be sure to stop in at J.P.'s Coffeehouse.  It's not on their menu anymore, but if you ask for a hot buttered rum, you won't be sorry.

A few years ago I was out for dinner with some friends when I noticed a woman sitting at one of the tables near the windows.  She was alone, and reading, over what looked like an amazing dinner.  I suppose I could have felt sorry for her - but I didn't.  My first thought was: "That's brilliant."  And watching her enjoy herself gave me the freedom to follow in her footsteps.  I had a lovely dinner tonight at a rooftop restaurant with a great book.  It was introvert heaven.  ;)

One of my favorite things to do to unwind is watching odd movies.  Tonight's movie of choice: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  (Said league appears to involve a female Victorian vampire.  I am amused.)  It's a little more violent than I'd anticipated, so I'm not sure I'd recommend it (or let a thirteen year old watch it - what's up with the rating system?!  Sheesh!) - but there are some great quotes.  So far my favorite conversation in this movie is between one of the bad guys and one of the lead characters:  "What are you?!"  "I'm... complicated."  Aren't we all...

Those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile know that no road trip would be truly complete without at least one fun wildlife encounter.  I call this "Squirrel with Pizza Crepe Unidentified Breaded Object".  I'm pretty sure it was bigger than the squirrel was.  And I'm kind of in awe that neither breaded object nor squirrel fell from the tree...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


I'm "helping" (whatever that means) with the redesign of a website right now, and one of the super-fun tools we're using to do it is called inVision.  Essentially what I'm doing is creating jpegs that look like what we want various pages of the website to look like, and then using inVision's crazy cool magic to link them together so it feels like you're on an actual website - but really, you're not.  They call it a wireframe, and from what I can tell, it's pretty much just a bunch of pictures without authentic functionality.  And as I was working on this project today, it hit me: sometimes we try to wireframe life.

It's possible that if you understand wire-framing on a deeper level than I do, the analogy might not really hold - but think about it.  You get up in the morning, and there's this idea of "this is what this day will hold."  And in theory it's all great.  You go here and this happens.  Move that way, and this other thing happens.

But that's just a wireframe.  It isn't real.

And sometimes we get so attached to the way we think things ought to be that we miss out on what they are - or what they could be.

I don't want live that way.  Do you?

Sabbath Fun

Shara and I went to the Windy City today.  We didn't have a plan for what we would do when we got there.  We mostly just drove around until we found a place to park, and wandered.

We ended up at Navy Pier.  Worked our way slowly thru the Stained Glass Museum.  Learned a few things about stained glass, symbolism, and Chicago history.  Did you know that Chicago is the only city in America named after a food?  (I can't remember whether we learned this before or after I mistook part of a particular stained glass window for a corndog...)

We waited in line for over 1/2 an hour for $10 hot dogs that were almost worth it.  Then we wandered toward the Magnificent Mile.  I'm not sure we ever actually found it.  We got distracted by the Chicago Tribune building, which is decorated by pieces of stone from all over the world.  It was really cool.  We also wandered slowly thru an art gallery and fell in love with $9000 acrylic on aluminum paintings.  Spent some time in Millennium Park, taking pictures, talking with tourists, and respecting the art by not climbing on it.  (There was a sign that said we couldn't.  We did, however, hug it.)

We both came home with new challenges.  I'm going to learn how to paint on aluminum.  Shara's going to figure out how to deep fry mashed potatoes.  And I think we both came home inspired.  I know I was.  We encountered so much beauty and creativity today - from aluminum paintings to stained glass to architecture to creation itself.  The clouds were incredible on this odd October-like day in July.  And good conversation, good food, great company, and time spent creating or enjoying creation are essential elements to a really great Sabbath.  I'm inspired to get back into the habit of planning ahead a little more - even if it's as unplanned as saying, "let's get in the car and go and see where we end up" - so that more of my Sabbath days are packed with moments of unexpected delight.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 13)

Seven posts in seven days.  No problem, I thought.  I can do that.  So I took Jen up on her challenge and posted a link to my blog.

Good thing I'm a night owl.  And that my dear friend Shara was kind enough to take me up on my double-dog dare to blog along with me.  Fear of mockery Accountability is a powerful motivator.  Welcome to Day 5!  (And be sure to check out Shara's blog: desperate madness.  She's been writing some really great stuff.)

This week has been insanely busy.  "When are you not in a busy season?!" someone asked me this week.  Fair enough.  But one of the things I love about seasons when the pace is almost too fast is how much more I appreciate the moments when things slow down - even just for a minute.  Standing in a driveway, looking at the stars, with some of my favorite kids on the planet.  Playing hooky to go out to dinner.  Reading a short devotional over a cup of coffee on my way out the door in the morning so that I will have something worth thinking about on my way to whatever is next.  Loitering on my way to what's next to talk with one of my best friends.

Life is short.  We need to pay more attention to moments like these.  Busyness highlights that for me in a way that nothing else can.  And reminds me to check my level of activity to ensure that it's sustainable.  If it's not - I need to chill out and slow down and create more moments worth remembering.

If you have not been following Natalie Trust's series on friendships between men and women, you need to start now.  Her last post in the 3-part series is absolutely brilliant, and the conversations in the comments (especially the notes from Aaron and Dan) are icing on the proverbial cake.  Please take a few minutes to read thru it.  This conversation is so important.

I got a text message today from a friend, wondering how she could pray for me.  She had no way of knowing that I'd been (at the very moment her text came) in the midst of a minor freakout about a lot of things.  (Mostly due to the fact that this week has been nuts, and I'm super-tired.)  So we sent a few messages back and forth - about real things - and the rest of the day went so much better, simply because by a text that probably took 5 seconds to send, I was reminded that I am not alone.

The next time you feel like you should pray for someone, do me a favor - drop them a text or an email or a FB message or a tweet or SOMETHING - just to say that you are.  It could change their entire day.

I have been completely hooked on this song for two weeks.  And I have no idea why.  I think it might be the poetry and paradox of the lyrics combined with the catchiness of the tune itself - but the video is amazing.  So incredibly well done.  Love the artistry of this piece.  In spite of the fact that there's that one line in the pre-chorus that reinforces ridiculous relational constructs.  Oh, and that one guy's haircut (or lack thereof).  (And ... who's the guy with the nice haircut, the one who looks like he ought to own the letter jacket?)

My sister says this next one is "right up my alley."  Welcome to my alley.  (It has a kitchen.  Complete with lemon juice.)

And while we're on the subject of kitchens being a source of excellent musical instruments....

It is now on my bucket list to learn how to play a cup.  Who knew dishes could be so awesome?  Oh, wait.  Rich Mullins did...

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

delighting in the Sabbath

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
     and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
     and the Lord's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
     and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
     and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
     and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
          For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
                                                     - Isaiah 58:13-14

I've been thinking about these verses off and on for years.  It's an "if"... "then" situation: IF you do these things, THEN you will find joy, etc.

What does it mean, really, to "call the Sabbath a delight"?  What does that even look like?  It doesn't really sound like just taking a day off to do nothing...  (Tho there are days when that sounds utterly delightful...)  And does it look (or have to look) the same for everyone?  I don't think so.

But if there are things we need to do in order to find joy, and calling the Sabbath a delight is one of those things, I think it's logical to assume that calling the day a delight might actually involve something more than looking up from your book and saying to the Sabbath, "oh, hi, Delight - how are you?" as she strolls through the living room on her way to the kitchen to get a snack.  No, to truthfully call something delightful means that it needs to be and is actually delightful - and creating a day that qualifies may take some intentionality and forethought.

God created the Sabbath; let's imitate Him and create them, too.


There's an exercise I've been doing off and on over the pass few weeks as part of my physical therapy.  I'm sure it has some sort of technical name, but let's just call it the yoga ball pass.  You lay flat on the ground with a giant yoga ball between your feet, lift your legs (without bending them) straight up in the air, take the ball from between your feet and touch the ground behind your head with it (as you lower your legs, without bending them, to the ground), and then you reverse the exercise to pass the ball back between your feet and onto the ground again.  I'm supposed to be doing this 30 times a day.  (It's not happening yet.)

Here are the following things that can go horribly wrong while attempting this even just once:

  1. You can drop the ball on your face.
  2. You can fail to grasp the ball firmly enough between your feet, resulting in the ball (which can be very bouncy) escaping.
  3. You can fail to grasp the ball firmly enough between your hands, again resulting in the ball escaping.  (This is particularly bad if there are other people doing physical therapy on the floor anywhere near you, and/or if you are exercising in or near a hallway.  Tho I can see how being near stairs could be even worse.)
  4. You can lose count.
  5. You can forget to breathe while every muscle in your core is sending a message to your brain informing you that they do not want to be doing this exercise.  At all.  Ever.
But here's what's happening while all of this often awkward, painful, relatively amusing (to outside observers) activity is going on:

  1. You are strengthening your core muscles - the muscles that hold the rest of you up.
  2. You are teaching your core muscles better habits.
  3. You are burning calories you didn't really need anyway.
  4. You are developing perseverance and endurance.
  5. You providing yourself with fodder for a spiritual twist on a blogpost that could have just been a funny story about that one time at the chiropractor's office when you dropped the yoga ball on your head and it went bouncing down the hallway.

Who you are at your core matters.  So what is it you need to do to strengthen yourself?  What needs to go?  And what habits do you need to form?

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
- Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Paper Cranes

Paper Crane
photo edited with Vintique

I learned how to make paper cranes today.

My grandfather used to make them all the time.  Oh, how he loved them! And I'm not sure why.  Maybe making them just gave him something to do, or was a creative outlet of some sort.  There is something rather mesmerizing about the process - all those folds that need to be made just so, and the intricacies of the folding process.  It's really fun.

And I thought he was amazing for being able to make them.  I didn't know anyone else who could.  I also didn't know anyone else who had parakeets, or old-fashioned printing presses (he owned a print shop, so it was at least somewhat logical - but they were so cool...).

Making paper cranes today brought up so many memories.  The time we went fishing and Grandpa was waiting til he caught a fish to eat lunch, and the seagull who flew by and um... left something on his sandwich, just as he was about to eat it.  The time he went to the beach with my Dad and my sister to feed the swans, and a swan chased him 1/2 a mile down the street to our front porch because it wanted more bread.  The way he looked in his suit on his way to church on Sundays.  And the way his eyes twinkled when he'd catch us sneaking sponge candy from the candy dishes on top of the piano, and would sneak a piece himself.

I don't know a lot of his stories.  As a painfully shy kid, I lived mostly with my nose in a book, and I rarely thought to ask questions.  But what I do (and did) know, is that he loved me tremendously, and was always glad to see me.  He was one of the first people who modeled God's love to me - and while I didn't understand it or see it at the time (and I'm not even sure he would have thought of it in those terms, either) - I am so grateful for it now.

Do you know that God loves you tremendously?  Because He does.  And He is ever so glad to see you when you come to Him - no matter what this day held.

This Deep But Dazzling Darkness

         There is in God, some say,
A deep but dazzling darkness, as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
              See not all clear.
      O for that night!  When I in Him
      Might live invisible and dim!
                      -from The Night, by Henry Vaughan

I have loved these words from Henry Vaughan's poem for more than half my life.  It was Madeleine L'Engle who introduced me to them when I was maybe 12, in her book A Ring of Endless Light.

There is something so beautiful and incomprehensible and mysterious about God.  I love the way the Voice paraphrase of Scripture puts it in 1 Corinthians 13:12: "For now, we can only see a dim and blurry picture of things, as when we stare into polished metal.  I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture.  But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face.  In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God."

"When Jesus arrives."

O Lord Jesus, come soon...  This deep but dazzling darkness is wonderful - but oh, how we long to see Your face.

wearing the glass slippers

A good friend of mine dropped me a note shortly after I preached last month, and one of the things he said was, "I think it was the first time people got to see you onstage.  You seemed very comfortable with yourself and your message."  It struck me as a little funny...  I mean, who was I the last time I preached?!  But I know what he meant.  I've changed a lot over the past year and a half - and I was more confident and more vulnerable onstage than I've ever been.

It's been a crazy journey, this thawing of my inner ice princess to becoming what my pastor refers to as "Sunshine Happy."  It's required a fair bit of courage and vulnerability and relational risk - but every minute of it, no matter how difficult, has been worth it.

I came across an article a few weeks ago about Cinderella and her glass slippers.  The author contrasts the glass slippers - a gift from her fairy godmother - with Cinderella's character - just as Cinderella remained sweet and kind and caring in the midst of trying circumstances, so the glass slippers remained intact through an evening of dancing, and even being dropped on the ground as she ran from the palace.  The prince, the author said, surely saw Cinderella's beauty, but he did not go looking for the beautiful girl with whom he had danced.  No, he scoured the kingdom for the girl who could wear glass slippers without breaking them.

We were all of us - men and women - given a gift from God when we were created: the privilege of being image-bearers of God in the world, showing the world what God is like. And as we grow up, we encounter a variety of messages from our families, our friends, our teachers, our churches, our cultures, etc. about how to do that, about how to be who we are.  Some of "the rules" seem innocent enough.

Boys like blue.  Girls like pink.  Boys like to get dirty and run around.  Girls like to have tea parties and wear pretty dresses.  We are taught to observe and adopt a myriad of social and gender constructs - without being taught to question them.

But what if I like playing in the mud and am more comfortable in blue jeans than in a skirt?  What if I can't decorate a cake, but I love to climb trees or go mountain biking?  We have a word for that: "tomboy" (which has an interesting etymology).  So... I'm acting like a boy. And the implication is that this is bad, because I'm a girl and I'm supposed to act like one.

Over time, whether we are conscious of it or not, we end up with a list of (sometimes conflicting) rules about what men and women are and are not like that we use as a measuring stick.

The problem is that sometimes our measuring sticks are anything but accurate.

Jonalyn Fincher, in the introduction to her book, Ruby Slippers, likens the problem for women to trying to wear corsets we were never meant to wear.  We allow "the rules" and expectations to shape us, focused on achieving an image we think we want, hoping, as Jonalyn says, that "the hooks don't bust open and reveal who we really are." (p.15)

But it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  (Galatians 5:1)

One of the reasons I was able to truly be myself onstage a few weeks ago is that I've spent a lot of time over the past few years loosening corset strings, finding better measuring sticks, and becoming more comfortable with who God created me to be.  I am so grateful to the women in my life who have shared so openly and honestly their struggles with trying to be what my friend Erin calls "the better Christian woman" - this paragon of a person we've created in our heads that no one could possibly be anyway.  Their stories have helped me look more closely at my own story and begin to find some of the freedom God wants for me.  Freedom to simply be myself without so much fear of what other people might think of me.  Freedom to explore what it means to be a woman of God in this day and age and culture.  Freedom to extend grace to those who would seek to shame me back into the limiting corsets of rules not found in Scripture.  Freedom to live with bolder boundaries in my friendships.

And the freedom to embrace my femininity as a part of why God is calling me to write and speak and lead, because it is at the core of who He created me to be.  It is the glass slipper that fits.  And in the arms of the King who gave me these glass slippers to begin with, I can be confident that I am at least becoming the kind of girl who can wear them without breaking them.

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol.12)

--- 1 ---

I had the privilege of teaching at Torch Church last Sunday as part of our #shine series.  Jesus left us a new command: to love one another.  But what does that really look like?  Where do we get it wrong, and how does that affect the way the world views Jesus?  And what can we do to better love one another?  You can check out the video or download the podcast here.

--- 2 ---

There is some great conversation going on over at Natalie Trust's blog this week.  She wrote a post (the first of a series, yay!) called Of Friendships Between Men and Women: Dealing With Fear and Shame, as a response to Dan Brennan's book Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women.  One of the things that strikes me every time I read a post like this is the profound relief in the responses of so many who comment.  I love seeing this movement of God to restore our broken ideas about how we ought to relate to each other as it's surfacing in so many places, and it's so interesting to me the way this conversation is happening not just in the church but in our broader (Western, at least) culture as well.

--- 3 ---

I was listening to a podcast yesterday of a talk Alistair Begg gave at Biola University in April this year.  One of his sub-points caught my attention - I'd never thought of it this way before.  The phrase "carpe diem" - "seize the day" - is one that has worked its way into our cultural philosophy, but at its root, that phrase expresses the idea that you ought to seize the day because yesterday is gone and you might not get tomorrow - and that's kind of depressing when you really think about it. But with Jesus, the past has meaning and the future is promising, and that is why today matters.  It's a subtle shift in thinking, but one worth considering.

--- 4 ---

I read so many great things worth sharing this week.  Here's one - a post from Seth Godin entitled Thinking About Money.  Great perspective, and good reminders.  Well worth your time.

--- 5 ---

Here's another, from Kathy Escobar a few weeks ago, on dealing with our inner Pharisee.  I absolutely love the ending: 7 prompts towards things to consider when we're aware that we're being judgmental towards someone and need to pray our way out of it.

--- 6 ---

I'm sure I'm not the only who experiences this, so I'm just going to own it: sometimes coming up with 7 things for 7 Quick Takes is a little challenging, especially on weeks when not much of report has happened.  It was a week with a holiday, so there could have been fun stories - but I had the flu, so I've been home doing not much of anything except reading and sleeping for the past two days.  And does anyone really want to read about that?

--- 7 ---

Here's something exciting, tho!  There's a movie coming out soon called Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins.  Rich Mullins' music was incredible, and his love for Jesus so visible.  (I still remember something he said that so profoundly impacted my own walk with God - he was talking about the passage in the gospels where Jesus is calling His disciples for the first time, and it says that Jesus called those He wanted.  "Anybody can be used by God," Rich Mullins said in that interview.  "But to be wanted..."  That's pretty incredible, knowing that God wants us).  I'm so looking forward to seeing this film.

(For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!)