We packed a whole lot into this month! Here are some of the highlights. ~Elizabeth
Watching the Kansas City Royals win the World Series with our kids. The Royals went to the World Series last year, but try as we might to stream the last game to our home in Phnom Penh, we weren’t able to view it. And then the Royals lost anyway. Not so this year! Yes, it’s true that these kinds of close-scoring games stress me out, and yes, it’s true that I went and hid in my room and blogged for most of the series (see here, here, here, and here for the evidence), but I did muster enough courage to come out of my writing cave for the last inning of the last game. Another plus: my kids got to learn the rules of baseball, which, since no one plays baseball in Cambodia, they didn’t previously know. I hope they always remember the autumn we spent in America and watched our home town team win the world series for the first time in 30 years.
Meeting other bloggers in person. In a two-week period I met four! First I met Robynn Bliss, who blogs weekly at Marilyn Gardner’s site Communicating Across Boundaries and who co-authored Expectations and Burnout, a landmark book for women serving overseas (and which I reviewed here). Then Jonathan and I hung out with Kay and Andy Bruner, who are on the leadership team with us at the collective blog A Life Overseas. Kay has written several books, the most notable of which is As Soon as I Fell, which women all over the world have fallen in love with and which I previously reviewed. Kay blogs here and has just written another book which I’ll review below in the books section. Lastly, we spent an evening with Aaron and Danielle Wheeler. Danielle launched the website Velvet Ashes as a watering hole for women serving overseas. Every single one of these people is a true kindred spirit to me, and I still can’t believe I was able to meet them all in person this fall.
Meeting old college friends. We were able to share meals with several sets of friends from our old campus ministry in Rolla, MO. Many of them we hadn’t seen in years — one couple we hadn’t seen in 8 years, another we hadn’t seen in 12. Yet with all of them, it was like no time had elapsed at all. We just picked up right where we left off, and it was a balm to my soul.
Viewing the night sky through a telescope. At the house of some of our oldest college friends, we stayed long enough into the night to see the sky through their telescope. (They live in the country and they home school, so yes, they do cool things like that.) We didn’t stay awake long enough to see some of our friends’ favorite parts of the sky, but we were able to glimpse the nearest galaxy: Andromeda. It’s just a smudge on the glass, and it was a reminder to me how very far away even our nearest galaxy is, that it’s not clear even with a telescope. We also pointed the telescope to a section of the sky that doesn’t appear very populated with stars, but because the telescope can catch their light better than our naked eyes can, we were able to see dozens of stars in the void.
Watching the moon. (Yes, seriously.) Ever since the total lunar eclipse in September, I’ve been simply fascinated, all over again, with the moon. Watching the moon grounds me. It reminds me how small I really am. I think about how big the earth under my feet is, compared to me, and I marvel. I stare at the moon and think about something that’s so far away but that still appears as big as it does in our sky. I think about how we see so much detail in its surface even though it is so far away. I get a thrill out of looking at the moon and imagining where everything is currently positioned in the plane of the solar system (similar to my musings on Jupiter earlier this year). I really cannot explain in words my sense of wonder at our plain old moon.
Mission Smart by David L. Frazier. This book isn’t too thick, but it has some really practical questions to consider when preparing to move overseas. They were things I hadn’t thought of before, and I hope everyone in training for moving overseas will read this book.
Debunking the Myths of Forgive-and-Forget by Kay Bruner. I was privileged to review this book pre-publication, and Kay drew applications from Jesus’ words that were extremely insightful and that I had never thought of or heard about before. In fact I need to go read it again! She also differentiated between healing and forgiveness and offered some helpful graphics on the topic.
How God Became King by N.T. Wright. I picked up this book again because at our organization’s Team Leader Summit this past month, speaker Jerry Trousdale talked a lot about the Kingdom of God. It sparked my imagination and resonated with me because of the little I’d read of Wright’s book. Then, at the end of his presentations, he recommended the book! So I knew I needed to get back to it.
VIDEOS AND PODCASTS
Laura Hackett Park on trusting God. I love Laura’s music and have talked about it several times before. I love her take on trust here, how it stretches without pushing and is honest without being fake. It’s gentle and grace-filled and freeing. Do yourself a favor and watch this 2-minute video.
This physical representation of the Pythagorean theorem, which states that the sum of the squares of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse. Or you can just look at the pretty picture.
An expanding visual of the Fibonacci Spiral. I’m obsessed with the Fibonacci spiral and draw it on graph paper every chance I get. Fibonacci, golden, and other logarithmic spirals are beautiful and found many places in nature: galaxies, hurricanes, nautilus shells, pineapples, pine cones. Even apart from finding them in creation, I just can’t get over the numerical beauty of these spirals.
Andy Stanley’s N Commandments. We listened to some of his sermons on our long travels. Our kids are old enough now to really pay attention to a podcast and even to find it interesting. They really enjoyed the way Andy tells a story, and we had some good discussions afterward. I’m realizing that my kids are growing up and craving higher-level thinking about the Bible. Time to take it to the next level, I guess.
Why I’m Grateful for My Anxiety by Heather Caliri. A life-giving post on how the struggles we think are so bad for us can actually guide us.
Where’s God in the Maze of Life by Katrina Ryder. Katrina strikes again with something fresh and original, which, I’ve gotta admit, is hard to come by these days. (And if you’re a writer who needs an editor, Katrina is now freelance editing. Let me know if you want her contact info.)
Same Same, Thankfully by Katie Kleinjung. I cannot tell you how much I loved this guest post on A Life Overseas. (“Same same, but different” is a common phrase in Cambodia and Thailand.) Katie is both funny and piercing.
Why Arguing with God is Not the Same as Not Believing in Him by Justin Welby. I’m so glad I read this piece. It’s ok to argue with God! It doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Him. Rather, it’s a good thing; it means you’re still talking to Him. Then Jonathan quoted Billy Graham in his sermon yesterday, and it made so much sense to me: “The Psalms teach us how to get along with God.” It’s true; sometimes I argue with God. And sometimes I have a hard time getting along with Him. I tell Him things aren’t fair; I tell Him things aren’t right. I tell Him I’m not happy with the way things are. It’s good to know I’m not alone in that, and that it’s ok to say such things to the ruler and creator of the universe.
Confessions of a Good Girl by Amy Medina. I’ve followed Amy’s blog ever since she wrote a killer emotional post for A Life Overseas earlier this year. Not only is Amy honest and truthful about a subject many of us have struggled with (grace), but she’s funny while she does it.
Joy in a Minor Key by Tanya Marlow. The phrase “joy in a minor key” is an apt description of where I’m at these days. Sometimes I feel stuck on Lament Cycle and unable to move on from it. I have a wonderful life — a wonderful husband and four wonderful children, friends I love, and work and ministry I enjoy — but I mourn a lot of things in life, both personal and public. It’s hard to hold the joy and sorrow in tension, but I’m trying to get more comfortable with it.
Good Will Come: How Life and Living Overseas Has Changed My Views on Suffering by Lisa McKay. I have not had nearly the number of bad things happen to me that Lisa has, but just the same I’ve had to grapple with the concept of suffering, and I’ve come to the same conclusions as Lisa. I’m so glad she put it into words here — comforting words that I promise will not hit you over the head with a God who wants to hurt you.
Commodity from Remedy Drive. This album is the perfect combination of longing and hope. We listened to it a lot on our travels, and it gave voice to a lot of what was going on inside me. If you ever tire of typical Contemporary Christian Music, Remedy Drive’s “Commodity” is the album for you. Do yourself a favor and get the entire album, don’t just pick a few songs here and there. You need the entire thing, and you probably needed it yesterday. You can get a taste of the music here.
Painting Pictures of Egypt by Sara Groves. When I talked about longing for the past in my most recent Velvet Ashes blog post, one of the commenters told me about this song. It.it.perfect. Every word, perfect. I love this song, and it’s going to be in my head for a good, long time. This is the chorus, but you can read the rest of the lyrics here:
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I want to go back
But the places that used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned
This I Believe (The Creed) by Hillsong Worship. Even in the midst of all my complaining to God about this world He’s made, the world we broke that He has yet to completely fix, I can still fully declare my belief in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in the Resurrection. It’s something that’s imprinted more deeply in my heart than even the Lament I sometimes get stuck in. God’s character and redemption story feels like one of the truest things I know. And I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: not many songs get my hands raised high to the sky. So when one does, I pay attention to it. I find the song usually speaks to deep, core beliefs of mine, truths I need to return to over and over again:
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saints’ communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe, in the name of Jesus
THE LORD’S PRAYER
Seven Reasons to Ban the Lord’s Prayer by Steven Croft. Although I’m not English or even Anglican, and as such am unaffected by the controversy this post describes, if you read a bit further down the page, you’ll get to his theological reasons for why the Lord’s Prayer is important in the Christian life. Beautiful.
And in that same vein, Jerry Trousdale, whom I mentioned earlier, did some teaching on the Lord’s Prayer at the Team Leader Summit. It impacted me greatly, and I furiously scribbled down the following notes. This is how he unpacked it:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
(Our ministry should be unbranded and not for ourselves. We’ll work with others, we won’t care whose name is attached to the results, and God will get the glory. ALWAYS.)
Your kingdom come,
(Jesus is the King; we are His subjects.)
Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
(It’s all about transformation, about the restoration of Eden, about bringing heaven down to earth.)
Give us this day our daily bread,
(We must depend on God for all our provision. Just like manna.)
Forgive us our debts,
(We take sin seriously.)
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
(And we take reconciliation seriously.)
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(This is about spiritual warfare, which he didn’t elaborate on.)
I really latched onto Jerry’s explanation of the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer I can pray personally, but with more meaning than before. It connected the prayer I usually think of as a personal prayer to the larger world of missions, something I really appreciated.