Category: Kingdom Living

How to Be an Ally

 

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One of the things we talk about with our kids repeatedly is the importance of being a good friend to others. One slice of being a good friend means reaching out to those who are looking for a friend and being kind to those who others are not kind to.

If someone is being bullied on the playground, we tell them that it’s their special job to be a good friend. We talk about what it may feel like to be excluded or to feel lonely. While each of our kids has a different level of empathy, compassion, and courage to reach out on a consistent basis, in general I think they are the kind of kids that look out for others.

We also want them to be in a habit of standing up against bullies– not only for themselves- but for others around them as well. We talk about how this might look like speaking up when others are name-calling. Or if they see another kid getting kicked or hit, they would intervene with words, and if that doesn’t work, to tell an adult in charge. We talk about how all kids deserve respect and kindness simply because they are humans. Our school calls this being an ally.

I also think being an ally is a part of Kingdom-living. (more…)

Who is my neighbor?

I get the fear.

It’s scary to think that someone could destroy a hundred or a thousand peoples’ lives in one second. I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. I would do anything in my power to save people from that.

And that is what is happening in Syria. Hundreds and thousands of peoples’ lives are being destroyed, so they are fleeing.

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Courageous men are taking their sweet wives and children and fleeing.

Single men who have hope and visions for a future are fleeing.

Mourning women whose husbands have already died are fleeing.

Scared children who have no parents are fleeing.

These vulnerable people are at the mercy of their global neighbors. They are fleeing and asking for help.

Who will say yes? Who will love their neighbor?

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“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[a] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. – James 1:27

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In college, my friends and I travelled to Oklahoma a couple times for a college missions conference. It was here that we prayed for the nations, where we heard courageous stories from missionaries who were serving and loving Muslims in closed countries. We heard about dreams and miracles and people coming to Christ. Lives changed. Our prayer was that more people would be able to go and share the good news. Here we are! Send us! 

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Many of those we have been praying for are now asking to come into our country. They’re asking to settle into our neighborhoods- they’re asking to be our local neighbors. They’re asking for food and shelter and an opportunity to flee from danger. The ones we’ve been praying for- they’re here. But we’re afraid. So we tell them to go away. Go somewhere else. We’re not willing to help you. We have a life here that’s good and we don’t want that messed up. But be blessed- we hope you will be well-fed and clothed.

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 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. -James 2:14-17

 

It’s time, Church. It’s time to step up and to do the right thing even if we’re afraid. It’s time to say yes even while we’re still nervous and wondering. The fear is going to be there for awhile, trust me, but it’s only going to go away by continuing to say yes, by continuing to read these passages of Scripture, by turning off the fear-mongering media channels, by praying, by reaching to the refugees IN YOUR CITY and getting to know someone who has had to flee.

 

Note: the picture above was NOT taken in Syria, but in Turkey. While in Turkey, we met many people from all over- Iraq, Iran, and Syria. This is as close as I’ve been, so I choose to use this picture to share my affinity for the people groups that the Syrian refugees represent.

2015: The Year of My Great Big Audacious Holiday Shopping Goal

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A few weeks ago REI announced it would not be open on Thanksgiving.

Just today, I came across a list of 28 major retailers who will also not be participating in the Thanksgiving consumer craziness.

I’ll be the first to admit that while I adhere to a philosophy of simple living and minimalism, deep down I love stuff. I enjoy buying myself the kids new sets of Legos and the newest, hottest education toys. If I would have it my way, I would buy new clothes all. the. time. and I’d probably have a huge scarf collection. Target is my kryptonite (seriously, have you seen the new red patterned kitchen items they have on display right now? SO CUTE).

The tension is real. Needless to say, the holidays are a tricky time of the year for me. I love thinking about what to get the kids and how to best spend our small budget on items that are worthy of being in my home. I love Amazon Lightening and Cartwheel Hot Toy deals. But I also love Advent and the time of reflecting and waiting and hoping that comes with it. In years past I’ve tried to marry these two holiday mindsets (both are about giving, right?!), but I’ve emerged every time feeling like I had a case of multiple personalities.

For the life of me I can’t focus on Jesus and waiting and hoping and quieting my soul while I’m frantically searching for the best deals and (to be honest) dealing with a mild case of both the gimmies and the frustration of “the gifts I buy will never show the love I have for the person I’m giving them to.” Other people might be able to. Not me.

So, this year I’m trying something totally different.

This year I will be done holiday shopping before Advent even begins. Yes, I will miss many deals. I will probably pay more for things I buy and our holiday budget won’t go as far. But my goal is to be able to focus my heart on the season of Advent. To slow. To celebrate. To pray. To spend time away from the ads and messages that tell me my life would be just a bit easier/happier/simpler/spiritual if I had one. more. thing.

 

How do you stay sane during the holidays? What practices help you manage the tension of the season?

 

 

Work: How We Spend Our Days Matters

Day28 Work How we Spend Our Days Matters

I can’t remember a TON about my childhood, but one thing I do remember is spending a lot of my time “playing” work. I would beg my grandma to slip me a few extra deposit and withdrawal slips at the bank so I could use them in my “bank” at home. I would copy my picture books, word for word, because I wanted to be a writer. I’d go around my kitchen, explaining all of the advantages of such-and-such cabinet or color of wood or appliance choice, because, yes, I was wanted to be a kitchen salesperson. (I can’t make this stuff up).

Work has always been tightly intertwined with my identity.

Even before the Fall, there was work. Because of this, I believe that work at its finest is meant to be something wonderful, and not something mundane and life-zapping. (more…)

Review: Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World

When Ada was born, we gave her a middle name that is a bit unusual. She is only recently enjoying it.

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Nouwen.

We named her after Henri Nouwen, a man who, through his writings, has deeply influenced Jake and I’s spiritual journey. The first book we read by Nouwen was Compassion, which is about our call as Christ-followers to be compassionate (suffering with), instead of seeking to gain more power and more control over both our own lives as well as others.

Of course, it’s not enough to just talk the talk, but to also live it out in real life. In another of his books, In the Name of Jesus, he shared a little bit about how he lived out compassion when he moved from working in Ivy League schools to serving those in the L’Arche community, a community for people with intellectual disabilities. He spent the last 10 or so years of his life living and serving in this community.

It seems weird, doesn’t it? A brilliant man decides the next best thing was to live and serve those whom our society pretends doesn’t exist. How’s that for a smart career move?

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The Token in My Pocket

Summer vacation for us means that we’ll most likely find more of these little things lying around.

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Our kids are drawn to those penny-smashing machines like a bee is to a flower. The gears. The pictures to choose from. The huge hard-to-turn crank. The penny-in, penny-out magic never gets old. The kids will carry these smushed down pennies with them wherever they go- in the car, on their bikes, and sometimes even wrapped in their little hands as they fall asleep.

By the time fall comes, these pennies will be forgotten. Sometime in late August, I will gather them all up from under the couch cushions and behind beds, and put them in their memory boxes, small tokens of the fun we had together.

As 3 of the 4 kids bound off to school, however, their pockets will not be empty. With the new school year comes a need for a different kind of token. A reminder of home. A reminder that someone loves them. A reminder that they aren’t alone, even when they’re on the playground and may not know who to play with or what to do. In the morning, if they need it, I’ll slip a penny or a note or a small picture into their pocket or backpack, telling them that if they get sad or lonely, they can feel for it and think of me.

I carry a different kind of token. It’s not physical and it isn’t in my pocket. Instead, I carry it around in my heart, and I touch it to ask the Holy Spirit to remind me of my purpose and my calling, especially when I feel bored or forgotten or insignificant in the mundane, day-to-day routine. While Scripture is not something to take out of context and use to make us feel good, sometimes choosing one verse of Scripture to hold onto (while knowing and understanding its place within the chapter, book, and whole story of Scripture) is incredibly powerful.

This month over at the Graham Blanchard blog, the Mom Mentors and I are sharing some of those tokens that we hold onto during our current season of life. We live in very different spaces and places, but we all have found that holding onto certain passages of Scripture helps us to persevere, find joy, be reminded of our calling, or simply keep our head above the crashing waves. Here’s what I shared, but please feel free to go on over and read more of the others’ if you want. 🙂

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

I’ve been a stay at home or work from home mom for nearly 8 years (with a 1 year exception), and sometimes I feel, well, tired of being at home all the time! On occasion I am tempted to believe that my work caring for kiddos at home is not as Kingdom-building as some other things I could be doing if I was working outside the home. It’s during these seasons that I hold on to this verse, which reminds me that God asks me to glorify Him in WHATEVER I’m doing, even in those tasks that feel quite mundane. This verse also brings my attention back to the overarching call on my life to be a whole-life worshipper, and reminds me that I can do that ANYWHERE, especially in my own home.  So, when that feeling of restlessness begins to saturate my mind, this verse and ones like it helps me to regain perspective and patience.

What’s the passage or verse of Scripture in your pocket this season? 

Top 8 Reasons the Justice Conference Was Fantastic

Jake and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this past weekend by heading to the Windy City for The Justice Conference 2015. We had a fantastic time! Here’s why:

1. Chicago

I LOVE Chicago. Great people, great artists, great ideas. We stayed at the HI Chicago and it was a GREAT experience. I was a little unsure about hosteling, but now I wonder if I’ll ever NOT do it, given the option. The accommodations were clean, the people were friendly and interesting, and the location was PERFECT. We literally walked across the street to go to the conference.

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2. The Auditorium Theater

The Justice Conference took place in the Auditorium Theater- it is GORGEOUS! Every seat was a good one, and I thought it was so cool that some people could watch it all from little side boxes- ha (excuse Jake’s blurry face in the pic below, and look at those seats- so romantic :))! For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Auditorium Theater is just a couple block walk from Lake Michigan, and very near Millennium Park, which was a great place to walk around during the breaks.

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3.  The Expo

Across the street from the Auditorium, they had an Expo with a bunch of organizations and publishers represented. I was like a kid in the candy store with all of those publishers in ONE PLACE and selling books at a discounted price. IVP took most of my money (thank you very much!). A couple organizations represented that we particularly enjoyed talking with:

Plough Publishers: A publishing house from upstate New York, the woman at the table were so fantastic to talk with. This group has a deep commitment to resources that encourage people to put their faith in action, specifically in the areas of peacemaking, forgiveness, christian discipleship, the valuing of children, environmental consciousness, etc. As a bonus, they were giving away free books (I think the only one there at the conference doing so!).

Micah Challenge: I have come to really love this organization. I reviewed a book they just put out a few months ago, which was a must-have because it was SO PRACTICAL. So sure, perhaps we aren’t going to lobby in Congress or go to Palestine, but there are so many things that we can do in our daily lives that help make the world more just. I had a great discussion with a guy at the booth who explained about some legislature that Congress passed several years ago that isn’t being followed yet. It was a fascinating to hear about the process of going to Obama’s office, talking to his staff, giving signatures, etc. This is an organization making things happen in the name of Jesus.

4. Diversity of Speakers

I have been to quite a few conferences, and despite peoples’ (so-called) best efforts, I can almost guarantee that there will be 90% white men speaking, with 1 token woman (normally being interviewed), and 1 token minority. This conference was different. People from all different backgrounds were speaking or being interviewed on stage and IT WAS SO REFRESHING. I have a whole new group of amazing men and women to learn from and follow on social media. I feel sad that I’m just hearing about them now! Just to name a few: Eugene Cho, Soong-Chan Rah, Austin Channing, Rev Traci Blackmon, and Gabriel Salguero.

5. Worship (through music and poetry) Sessions

We were led in worship by a wide variety of people– Micah Bournes, Malcolm London, David Crowder, Rend Collective and a fantastic worship band (David Bailey, Angie Wong, and a few others– those of you who were there- help me out!). We even sang a song in Spanish and Urdu which I thought was really meaningful. I’d love to do that more often!

6. Hard Conversations

The topic of racial inequality and white privilege (or white supremacy) was a big topic discussed, preached on, and expressed through poetry and art. I learned a lot, was able to confront some of my own biases, and was reminded how much I’m unaware of a reality that exists for so many people. My toes got stepped on a little, and while I didnt agree with every word said about it, it was a great chance to listen and learn from people from different perspectives.

7. A Like-Minded Community

While I’m sure we were all different in a lot of ways, we all love Jesus and feel a deep commitment to loving our neighbors, both here and far, in ways that cause us to suffer and to sacrifice. As Dr. Cornel West said, “To love is to learn how to die.” It was great to be reminded that there are many others who see the essentialness of justice to the Gospel, and who aren’t so caught up in pursuing the American Dream that they lose sight of the call to love the marginalized. It reminds me that I’m not crazy. A girl needs that reminder every now and then.

8. Amena Brown Owen

If I ever have a conference (I mean, just pretend with me), this lady is at the top of my list to ask to host. Amena is a beautiful woman who is real, funny, and a little bit sassy. She was the perfect host for this conference!!

My main takeaway from this conference is that my necessary next step is to get serious about surrounding myself with other voices, voices that aren’t white men and women. I bought a couple books there that will start me in on the process, but I’m also subscribing to a few new blogs (and unsubscribing to others). In a week we’ll be having our next Racial Bridges study here in Madison, which is where the real life community discussion and movement is happening. I’ve learned a lot over the past couple years and commit to learning more from others who don’t look or sound or worship like me.

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If you’re interested about next year’s conference, check out their website or follow Justice Conference on FB And Twitter.

 

Review: Searching for Sunday

I’ve been reading Rachel’s blog from the early days. I mean, probably not the EARLY early days, but as soon as her first book came out, I was subscribing. I mostly started subscribing because I was then friends with a guy who was friends with her in college, and he insisted on how great she was. Okay, I’m in.

I think her blog’s content has really evolved from when I first began reading. The topics got a bit weightier, she became more vocal in what she was for and what she was against. I know from personal conversations that some of you really enjoy her blog, and others of you really don’t. I think that’s fair. Either way. This book.

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Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church interweaves Rachel’s navigation of church life through the lens of the sacraments: baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage. In some ways I felt like I was reading two separate books: one about her relationship with the local church and one about the relationship of the local church and the sacraments.

Rachel shares her story of how her relationship to the body of Christ changed as she went through a faith shift. What was once fantastic now annoyed her. What was once secure now unsettled her. Growing up in a fundamentalist church, Rachel began to push back, ask questions, and eventually realized that the faith of her childhood was no longer the faith that she could own anymore.

I thought this passage was hilarious, because THIS IS MY MIND. I’ve been getting a lot better about trying to tame it, but it will rear it’s ugly head if I let it:

On Sunday mornings, my doubt came to church like a third member of the family, toddling along behind me with clenched fists and disheveled hair, throwing wild tantrums after each offhanded political joke or casual reference to hell…

‘America is a Christian nation,’ said the man making the announcements.

Is it?

‘Those who do not know Christ will be separated from God for eternity in hill,’ said Pastor Doug.

Will they?

‘If the Bible is the inspired Word of God then we must accept this as historic fact.’

Must we?

‘God has called us to pave the parking lot.’

Has he?

But.

She also shares about how she’s grown. How her faith has become deeper, richer, and also more speckled with doubt.

This book is more than a memoir. It’s also a book about the Sacraments, and how these elements of our faith calls us to a deep, rich, holy relationship with Christ. I learned quite a bit in these pages.

I’ve read (and liked) all of Rachel’s books, and this is by far the most maturely written, both as a Christ-follower and as a writer. She shows her deep appreciation for the church that raised her and introduced her to Jesus. She also shows a deep appreciation for the variety of local churches who are doing things differently, experimenting with different ways of connecting with God in a way that makes sense to them. It’s a unifying type of book.

I think Rachel has an important perspective for all of us to listen to, whether we agree with it or not.

 

Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for the free book in exchange for an honest review!