A Few of My Favorite Things {September 2016}

A ton has been going on in my heart, mind, and life this month, and I cannot possibly explain it all here. But here are my favorite linkable resources. ~Elizabeth

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I have discovered tea. I know, I know, that sounds a little silly, so hear me out. I love milky, spicy, sugary chai tea. Yummy! At least, it’s yummy when other people make it for me. I’ve tried to make it myself, to no avail. But one day this month I was chatting with my friend from Pakistan, and she offered to make me some tea. I said yes. More yum! She uses two Lipton tea bags and adds milk and sugar — the exact amount I do not know, but her delicious drink inspired me to make my own double-bagged hot tea with milk and a sugar cube or two. I often drink it in the morning instead of my coffee or in place of my after-lunch coffee, as it’s much milder than coffee. I can now see how tea is so comforting to the English. (But no worries, I still love my coffee!)

I finally got a day-long date with my husband. We had planned to go out for a whole day on my birthday, but sick kids prevented us. Then busy schedules prevented us from rescheduling. We finally found a date that worked and enjoyed our married selves fully.

We started homeschool coop and are all loving it. It’s good for social time and active time, and we are learning brand new subjects together.

 

BOOKS

Do yourself a favor and start reading Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. As in, go get them right now! I link them below, but first, here’s a little bit about them:

I really appreciate the author’s willingness to let humans be human. Noble. Fallen. Complex. Just.like.us. I tend to gravitate towards heroes without flaws, but that’s not realistic. Unconditional love flourishes in the midst of relationships between fallen creatures. That’s the only place it can truly be called LOVE.

More themes in the Wingfeather Saga include questions like Where is home? What do you do with regret? And how do you remember — and BE — the person your Maker made you to be?

And incidentally, when I shared the above thoughts on Facebook, a bunch of people chimed in with their own love (fanaticism?) for Andrew Peterson books and music (yes he also writes music). So if you haven’t discovered his books yet, let this post be your introduction! Here are the book links:

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. This is the first in the four-book series. It has a bit of a slow warm up and some weird creatures called Fangs, but don’t let that throw you, because by half-way through the action picks up and keeps moving, and you no longer care that the story has weird creatures (spoiler alert, the weird creatures get somewhat explained by the end of the second book). Throughout the series, Peterson’s use of language and emotion is stunning.

North! Or Be Eaten. The entire second book is action. Whew! I barely took a breath the entire way through. More character and theme development happens here.

The Monster in the Hollows. I’m halfway through the third book and thankful for a little slower pace so I don’t stay up too late reading “just one more chapter.”

The last one is The Warden and the Wolf King, and I should get to it by next month. I’ve been assured it has a tear-jerker ending!

As you know I’m a big children’s literature fan, and these next two books are precious, loaned to me by a friend:

The Empty Pot by Demi. Set in ancient China, this story teaches that our integrity is more important than our productivity. With lavish illustrations.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran. A celebration of imagination and friendship, also beautifully illustrated. Reminds me of my own childhood imaginary world of Wonka Birds. I enjoyed both these books with my children.

I’m also reading Debbie Blue’s Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible with the Velvet Ashes Book Club. I’m not always fast enough to get through the book club selections on time, but this book has a slower-paced schedule, and I think I’ll be able to do it! So far I’ve studied pigeons and pelicans, and I’ve been left with much food for thought. You can download a free corresponding Bible study here, written by book club leader Amy Young and fellow bloggers Caitlin Lieder and Emily Smith.

 

BLOG POSTS

Welcome to the Tribe of Nomads by Bronwyn Lea. For all the global nomads out there.

Go to the small places by Jonathan Trotter. I always love what my husband writes, but sometimes, as in this post, it speaks to such deep places inside me that I have to specifically share them here.

The Sacred Relics of Memory by Joshua Gibbs. Intriguing observations on Bible reading, group learning, and spiritual warfare.

Don’t Follow Your Heart: Anti-Revolutionary Lessons from Pride and Prejudice by Angelina Stanford. Insightful thoughts on duty and romantic love.

Laziness by Any Other Name by Angelina Stanford. I’m guilty of this.

Those last three are from the CiRCE Institute, an organization dedicated to Christian classical education. I consistently find spiritual nourishment here, and their articles are challenging for both head and heart, a combination that can be hard to find.

The Consolation of Doubt: An Address to the Buechner Institute by Andrew Peterson (yes that Andrew Peterson, author of The Wingfeather Saga) at The Rabbit Room. Long, but beautiful and profound and not to be missed.

Have you discovered The Rabbit Room? It’s an online collective for creatives that Peterson founded several years ago. When I read their words, I feel like I have finally found “my people” — people who aren’t afraid to wrestle with doubt and longing and struggle and sin, but who also aren’t ashamed of their staunch faith in God or their unwavering belief in community or their high value of beauty. That’s a combination that is also hard to find.

The Longer You Look by Helena Sorensen. If anything expresses our need for awe and wonder and shows us how to cultivate it, it’s this post by the author of Shiloh. (Shiloh is still free on Kindle, and if you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely MUST read it.) On a personal note, I’m too often guilty of “looking without seeing,” so lately I’ve been forcing myself to really look and see the things and people in my life.

Approaching the Holy by Marilyn Gardner (yes, she makes it in here nearly every month). Short but good.

Save Your Soul: Stop Writing by Lore Ferguson Wilbert. Worth taking the time to read; explains a lot of things I’ve wondered about in myself and in the world at large.

 

POETRY

The following are links to the poetry of Malcolm Guite, whom I have only just discovered. As poetry is best experienced through sound waves as well as through words on a page, you can click on each sonnet to hear the author read them.

Transfiguration. (I have a mild obsession with the Transfiguration which was first brought on my Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s section on Ordinary Time in her transformative book The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year.)

Descent (the third song on this page of songs and sonnets).

Holy Cross Day: Some Sonnets on the Cross (all of them).

 

ON MARRIAGE AND GENDER ROLES

After I wrote my Peter post, I stumbled upon an announcement about changes to the ESV version of the Bible. Through reading that announcement, I found the following blog posts. They provide excellent exegesis and helpful Hebrew background, whether or not you use the ESV.

The New Stealth Translation: ESV by Scot McKnight. McKnight is author of The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, which my mom and several other friends rave about, and which I want to read but haven’t yet found the time. This article is long, but make sure you read to the end, because that ending, people, TOTALLY worth it.

Genesis 3:16 by Sam Powell.  Powell comes from a Reformed tradition. I do not come from a Reformed tradition, but I find his Biblical studies to be accurate, thought-provoking, and fair. Definitely worth reading.

Headship is not Hierarchy, Powell’s follow-up to his Genesis 3:16 post. You need to read both.

To the Newly Married, also by Sam Powell. Unrelated to the above articles; just good teaching.

 

ON RACE RELATIONS

I had no idea there was so much systemic racism in the missions community. Oh, my field coordinator had mentioned it, yes, but I hadn’t seen it personally. When the A Life Overseas blog stepped into the race conversation regarding missions (which is broader than race relations in America), I was surprised by the amount of misinformation, disrespect, and rudeness that Christians could generate.

I went into the conversation with my own history, of course, as a military kid raised in a multi-ethnic environment of Asian Americans, Latinos, African Americans, even Pacific Islanders; as a youth worker in the States who, along with a team of other church workers, attempted to do urban ministry and made massive cross-cultural mistakes along the way; and as an attendee in my organization’s trainings in contextualization, its emphasis on the universality of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and their deep respect for local believers. These things made me think one thing about life, ministry, and race relations; the missions conversation opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone sees things as I do.

With that in mind, I offer these three articles on privilege and race relations. I believe they are balanced, biblical, and clear.

Repenting of Systemic Racism by Heather Caliri (on Relevant). Presents a biblical model for repentance and restoration of broken systems.

A Letter from a White South African to White Americans by Bronwyn Lea. A cautionary tale from a woman who grew up in South Africa.

White Privilege Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means by Kristen Howerton. Explains the terminology, which I think is sometimes at the root of arguments about race.

 

VIDEOS AND PODCASTS

“My Life Just Became Following the Rules of My Eating Disorder” — Former Miss America Opens Up About Perfection on To Save a Life. Just 12 minutes and worth every second.

Grace and Children’s Literature on Bibliophiles. I’ve mentioned before how I like children’s literature the best, and I think this podcast explains the reason why.

Love Stories and Romantic Literature on Bibliophiles. I love the questions these people ask and the insights they share.

Book Discussions on Banning Liebscher’s new book Rooted. You have to scroll down a little to get to the videos. I also mentioned these videos in a recent blog post.

 

SONGS

The Golden City by Marty McCall. An older song I hadn’t heard in a while, until we were going through our old CDs. Expresses our longings so well.

We will meet in the Golden City in the New Jerusalem
All our pain and all our tears will be no more
We will stand with the hosts of heaven
And cry holy is the Lamb
We will worship and adore You evermore

Oh Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship. I know, I know, no one wants to talk about sin anymore. But I can’t help myself. I sin, and I struggle with my sin nature, and I desperately need a Savior bigger and better than myself. Jesus is that Savior, and I still need redemption and restoration. Every day I need it, and every day I could sing this song.

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Come as You Are by David Crowder. Continuing the theme of the above song.

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken-hearted, let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, you’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart,
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless, and all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table, come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary, rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t cure

There’s joy for the morning, oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal

Lord I Need You by Matt Maher. I think I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth sharing again. I love it, all of it. I have to admit, though, that I think I’ve sung this song wrong before. When we sing “my one defense, my righteousness,” I always interpreted that to mean my one defense is my righteousness: the righteousness that comes from Jesus. This time around, I realized that the two phrases weren’t necessarily connected. They could be separate needs for God: God is our only defense, and God is also our only righteousness. Still, I think I like my original impression better. Reminds me of the old hymn “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.” Love that hymn.

All I Once Held Dear by Graham Kendrick. I’ve probably also shared this one before. It’s been a beloved song of grace for me over many years.

 

QUOTES

Edith Nesbit in The Story of the Treasure Seekers:

“You should never be afraid to own that perhaps you were mistaken – but it is cowardly to do it unless you are quite sure you are in the wrong.”

“I do like a person to say they’re sorry when they ought to be – especially a grown-up. They do it so seldom. I suppose that’s why we think so much of it.”

Madeleine L’Engle in A Circle of Quiet (I finally finished it!):

“I am part of every place I have been: the path to the brook; the New York streets and my “short cut” Metropolitan Museum. All the places I have walked, talked, slept, have changed and formed me.”

“I have intense respect for all the librarians and teachers who guide but do not manipulate. I know of at least one librarian who starts her readers on what they ask for, on what they think they want; then, when she gets to know them, when she has made friends, she offers something with a little more substance, and then, when that is accepted and swallowed, something with even a little more. And without exception, she says, when the real thing is accepted, the desire for the cheap substitute goes.”

“If [Rudolf] Serkin did not practice eight hours a day, every day, the moment of inspiration, when it came, would have been lost; nothing would have happened; there would have been no instrument through which the revelation could be revealed. I try to remember this when I dump an entire draft of a novel into the waste paper basket. It isn’t wasted paper. It’s my five finger exercises. It’s necessary practicing before the performance.”

“It was during a time of transition. We had sold the store, were leaving the safe, small world of the village, and going back to the city and the theatre. While we were on our ten-week camping trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back again, we drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. . . . I had brought along some Eddington, some Einstein, a few other books on cosmology – I was on a cosmological jag at that time, partly, I suppose, because it satisfied my longing for God better than books of theology.” (I can most certainly relate.)

“It’s a stage we all go through; it takes a certain amount of living to strike the strange balance between the two errors either of regarding ourselves as unforgiveable or as not needing forgiveness.”

“I had talked with several Congregational minister friends about my intellectual doubts. I was eager to be converted – I didn’t like atheism or agnosticism; I was by then well-aware that I am not self-sufficient, that I needed the dimension of transcendence. They were eager to convert me. But they explained everything. For every question I asked, they had an answer. They tried to reach me through my mind. . . . One line in the Book of Common Prayer made sense to me: the mystery of the word made flesh. If only my friends would admit it was a mystery, and stop giving me explanations!”

“Gregory of Nyssa points out that Moses’s vision of God began with the light, with the visible burning bush, the bush which was bright with fire and was not consumed; but afterwards, God spoke to him in a cloud. After the glory which could be seen with human eyes, he began to see the glory which is beyond and after light.”

Thomas Merton in The Sign of Jonas, found through Audrey Assad:

“Keeping a journal has taught me that there is not so much new in your life as you sometimes think. When you re-read your journal you find out that your latest discovery is something you already found out five years ago. Still, it is true that one penetrates deeper and deeper into the same ideas and the same experiences.”

Malcolm Guite in this (rather lengthy) interview:

“And [George] Herbert also wrote about windows. He wrote a poem called ‘The Windows’ in which he redeems the word ‘stain.’ He doesn’t use the word, he just redeems it. Because if you think about the word “stain,” it always means something negative, except in one context. There’s only one context in which it has no negative connotations, it’s completely redeemed, and that’s stained glass.

And he wrote a poem about being a preacher, you might say being a leader as well. This is kind of a core vision…It starts, ‘Lord, how can man preach thy eternall word? He is a brittle, crazie glasse: Yet in thy temple, thou dost him afford this glorious and transcendent place, to be a window, through thy grace.’

And the ‘brittle’ and ‘crazy’ is great. He’s really into the techniques of metaphysical poets. He’s really into taking things that people didn’t think were poetic and using them in a new way. And in those days, making glass, if you’ve seen real old glass in ancient buildings, it’s all wavy and lumpy. That’s because there was a trade-off… If you got the glass real thin and clear to see through, it would become brittle and could shatter really easy. So it was better to have it ‘crazy,’ a little bit waved, but thicker. Herbert’s great. He’s saying, normally glass is either brittle or crazy, but Lord, I’m brittle and crazy.

But he goes on in that poem, and says, ‘I can be a window.’ But then he says this amazing thing: ‘When thou dost anneal in glasse thy storie, making thy life to shine within the holy Preachers.’ And he says, ‘doctrine and life, colors and light in one, when they combine and mingle.’

And again, that’s a technical thing in glassmaking. You can’t just paint color on glass. It just flakes off again. Annealing, to get the color in stained glass, you heat the glass up, which of course it used to be hot, molten silicon. You take it back almost to where it began in this fierce heat. You pour the colors in, and then you bring it back, hoping it won’t get too brittle or crazy. And it’s got this color, this stain.

And what I see Herbert saying in that poem is that we take our passions, and sometimes our faults and our brokenness and our stains, and we let God anneal his story. So there’s some point in which we become a window of grace, not, Herbert says, by being some pure, clear, beautiful thing …but by this annealing process where our colors and the colors of Christ’s passion run together in the glass.”

Conflict and Our Dustlikeness {A Life Overseas}

Elizabeth is over at A Life Overseas today. . .

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Conflict. If you’ve been in church work for long, you know what it’s like. People abound, and conflict happens. Then there’s the big blow up or the cold exit or, even scarier, the explosive exit. I’ve been in church work for a decade and a half now, and big blowups and bad exits seem to be the default setting for church conflict. I don’t like this kind of conflict. I run away from it – and from the scary people who cause it.

Kay Bruner likes to say that there are difficult people on the field. I say yes. Yes, there are difficult people on the field, and sometimes, they are ME. Sometimes I’m difficult, and sometimes conflict comes because I am difficult. Not because I mean to be, of course – but my good intentions don’t remove my propensity to offend.

I have a hard time fessing up when I offend, and my reason for this is two-fold. First, I don’t really like the fact that I’m still not perfect and that I still sin against others. The acknowledgement is still so cumbersome to me. But secondly (and perhaps more importantly), I fear I won’t be forgiven. Oh, I know God forgives me; I have full assurance of that. But I still don’t trust God’s people to forgive me. I’ve been in too many relationships where people said they would forgive, but they never really did.

Lately, however, I’ve had ample opportunity to seek forgiveness, and God’s people are proving me wrong. They are forgiving me and showing me the love of Christ in tangible ways. Receiving their forgiveness and their assurance of committed love is an almost sacramental experience. It’s a direct connection with my Savior: someone is sticking with me. Someone is forgiving me, giving me a second chance. That is Jesus in bodily form.

Finish reading the article here.

When you’re out of time

by Elizabeth

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Eugene Peterson, in his book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work (which was originally published in 1980), writes: “America does not honor the quiet work that develops spiritual root systems and community stability.”

One sentence. That’s all it is. Yet for me it was flooded with meaning. I’ve always felt myself to be outside of time. I’ve never grasped fashion (NEVER – you can ask my sisters) or been able to keep up with what’s cool, hip, or current. In that predicament, I felt I didn’t belong amongst my peers. And in fact, friends were a rare jewel throughout many of my childhood years.

At the same time, I look back over my life and see the slow development in small, local Churches of Christ, learning Bible verses by heart, studying Biblical and early church history, and thoroughly taking faith into myself. I see my soul woven into other souls – not mostly of my peers but of those both older and younger than me.

It was my parents’ choices that kept me grounded in theology and tethered to church community. It was slow — very slow. And steady: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings, every week, for decades. And though we lived in many places, my parents certainly weren’t church hoppers.

Later it was my own unconscious choices that rooted me. I think of how we got married young (so young!) and started volunteering in youth ministry right away. I think of years and years of working side by side in the local church, serving the people right in front of us. And we stayed in those small places. Even when it got hard — and it DID get hard — we stayed.

In some ways ministry has blossomed for me in the past few years, seemingly out of nowhere. But it’s not out of nowhere. It’s the fruit of working in small, local churches for many years, developing a love for people, for “small” ministry, and for the local church, which I believe is the very heartbeat of God.

All this was quiet work, silent work, unseen work, and yet it’s beginning to yield a harvest in my life. I’m beginning to understand how God uses small ministry to prepare His people for a little bit bigger ministry. And I’m beginning to see that if it’s God who roots and grounds us, we can still love, embrace, and be satisfied by that small ministry.

I may be unable to keep current, and America may only honor currentness, but in my square-peg-in-a-round-world life, I see something richer and deeper and more meaningful than fads and fitting in. I see that being out of time, in cooperation with God who is also out of time, and in friendship with His people, isn’t so very obsolete after all.

Further resources on these ideas:

Kelly Hallahan’s “Hidden” blog post

Video discussions on Banning Liebscher’s new book Rooted

You can also read the rest of my Church series here.