Pick of the Clicks 08/29/2015

Hello, blog friends and readers. Here is your line up of click-worthy stuff from the internet this week.

First, my favorite images of the week. This meme:

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And this, from a real PTA in the mid-west:

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This is outstanding from Alex Duke: Amy Winehouse and How to Watch Movies as a Christian.

This is sobering, from Florence is Dead: The Diet Coke incident – A mass exodus of bedside nurses.

This is horrifying (HOW CAN IT BE THAT PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO DONALD TRUMP?): Matt Soerens with Trumped-Up Charges (Who’s defining your church’s attitude towards immigrants?). You know I care about immigration, so this was truly bone-chilling to me.

This is eye-opening and so helpful from Jen Pollock Michel: God Does Help Those Who Help Themselves – taking a look at better ways to engage those in poverty.

This is heartbreaking and so important: A wife’s personal story: Let’s talk about what “extramarital affairs” really look like. This is a hard read… but important. Let’s not be flippant when talking about “broken covenants”, and miss the broken people, and broken lives, and broken families that these situations involve.

I LOVED this short, profound mom’s prayer for her daughter: Hope for the Gutsy Girl, from Chara Donahue.

And who doesn’t want these kinds of friendships? Dorothy Greco with rituals: 88 meals & the meaning of friendship.

I enjoyed this: 20 most profound things people thought of in the shower (how do they know this, anyway?) I particularly loved #6.

From me this week:

Let’s Talk About 20 Weeks – because when it comes to pregnancy, perspective is everything.

And, over at the Saltshaker blog, On Lists of Things That Women Cannot Do: The Problem with John Piper (and Me).

And, I shared a cautionary tale about how potty breaks can lead to pet ownership… (consider yourself duly warned.)

On Lists of Things That Women Cannot Do (The Problem with John Piper… and Me)

file4171276032990I have a post up at the Pass the Saltshaker blog which is really very uncomfortable for me. My friend Adriel Booker asked for my thoughts on John Piper’s latest podcast, in which he answers the question “Can a woman be a police officer?” I REALLY didn’t like his answer…. but in thinking about why, it raises some very disquieting questions.

Click over here to read the post, and keep a lookout for the response posts from the other SaltShaker bloggers in the days to come. I am eagerly awaiting hearing the discussion that follows.

Let’s Talk About 20 Weeks

Let's Talk About 20 Weeks

Two videos popped up back to back on my Facebook newsfeed this week.

First, a sweet little home video of three golden haired boys dressed in matching plaid shorts on a beach, each with a big bag in front of them. “What’s in the bag?” asks Daddy behind the camera, and each of the boys opens their bags – releasing three pink balloons into the summer sunshine. “It’s a GIRL!” they all squeal. Mom is 20 weeks pregnant and they had just had their gender-reveal ultrasound. When I saw the video, the post already had 227 “likes” and if memory serves correctly, I was the 88th person to write a comment wishing them love and excited congratulations.

20 weeks along and it’s a baby! a girl!

Just after that little video, another popped up: the latest Planned Parenthood video which includes an interview with a former PP technician.  In the video she follows up on what previous PP videos documented: that abortion practitioners are intentional about preserving certain body parts intact, because they are used sold for medical research. “Intact calaveriums” (by which they mean baby heads) are particularly valuable. In the latest video, the tech describes one procedure in which the doctor held the extracted fetus and showed her “something cool”: the heart was still beating. It was a good specimen: the head was intact and the brain could be extracted. So the doctor made an incision in the baby’s chin and instructed the tech to finish the job: cutting upward through the baby’s chin so they could harvest the baby’s brain.

A good day at the office, apparently: the client gets to choose not to have her baby, and the clinic gets a credit in their “line items”. The doctors talk about how they perform abortions up to 20 weeks (the legal limit) under ultrasound guidance: it helps them to extract the fetus more accurately and preserve the more valuable parts.

20 weeks along and it’s a fetus. a line item.

I couldn’t watch all of the latest video. Ten minutes of the twelve and I was keening: a very visceral howl of grief. I cannot get my head around it. But when the initial waves of anger and revulsion pass, the question remains: what should I do? What can we do in response?

For sure: we can pray. (I am.) Oh Lord, have mercy.

For sure: we can protest against Planned Parenthood – sharing the videos and lobbying with #defundPP tags. Thousands protested against PP this past Saturday, and I was glad to see it.

But here’s another thought. We can think about how to engage those around us in discussing the video.

Direct anger, rage and grief is probably not going to help us: few people are able or willing to engage in the face of a flood of negative emotion. Added to which, there are more than likely people immediately around us who have had abortions and for whom this conversation may trigger significant regret, grief or shame. They need our compassion, not our wrath.

So, what could we say? How could we engage meaningfully and helpfully? It seems to me that one of the results from this video is that there are people who have been pro-choice who are genuinely rethinking their position on abortion. Cognitive Dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or value. The videos seem to be increasing many people’s distress: pointing out that, for example, they might hold contradictory beliefs on what is going on in a pregnant woman’s belly at twenty weeks. Baby? Or intact fetal tissue?

So I’m wondering: where are the opportunities for us to point out that the 20-week-and-younger lives are worth honoring?

How can we show support for those who miscarry early? One of the most meaningful things to me when we lost out first baby were friends who brought us a funeral wreath. At first the flowers seemed over the top for such an early loss, but their acknowledgment that this was a funeral—a burying of a child—was significant to me. What if we showed big support, acknowledging not just that they have experienced loss, but what (or more accurately, who) they have lost.

How can we talk with people about prenatal testing? There are opportunities and questions there.

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of themed parties, but perhaps we should make a big deal of those gender reveal parties. What if we practiced looking at ultrasounds, and trained our habits to notice and celebrate the details: the eyelids, the fingers, the shape of the ears. At our 20 week ultrasound with our last baby, not only could we see our baby’s heart – the image was so clear we could see the four chambers of our baby’s heart, with blood pulsing between them.

Maybe the fact that 20 week ultrasounds are the norm–and are celebrated—provide us with a specific benchmark to talk about the humanity of life at that stage. Maybe we could be as blunt as sharing the videos on social media and saying “this baby was the same age as my Mary-Louise when we first saw her fingers and toes!”

Those 20 week old babies may not be “viable” yet (the world’s most preemie baby was born at 21 weeks), but maybe we need to think and look for opportunities to celebrate them as we have opportunity. Because, were it not for a different choice on the part of the parent, that 20 week old could, quite legally, be facing such a different outcome.

Let’s talk about it. Let’s engage. Let’s show compassion and wisdom in how we approach this. The videos are horrific**, but I believe they provide us with a opportunity to advocate and build compassion. To do nothing, and to say nothing, is not a viable option.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about how we can respond well in the comments below.


**[An aside about the videos: Yes, the videos are highly edited and were published with a specific agenda (but then again – so is all media we see and read. Every interview we read was transcribed and edited for length. Every bit of investigative journalism curates the sound bytes: from Fox News to CNN to 60 minutes to Al Jazeera. And, the fact that we know certain publications or channels have a “character” to them—specific things they cover and specific angles they take—tells us they have an agenda too in their news selection). But the question is: what will we do with the information that is clearly there?]

Pick of the Clicks 08/22/2015

Pick of the Clicks (Late Night Edition)

What have you been reading this week? Here are some gems that I’ve had sitting open on my laptop to send your way… enjoy :)

The Ashley Madison scandal broke this week (ugh. just ugh.) Tim Challies’ words on this are particularly salient for us all: Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online:

One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are.

He asks a salient question: if someone could see ALL your search histories, what would they know about you? And to think: one day all the hidden thoughts of our hearts WILL, in fact, be known. But for Jesus who forgives all things, this is a terrifying thought (and even with Jesus who forgives all things, it is a sobering one.) Read Challies’ essay.

This was excellent and is so worth your time and thought: John Pattison on Churches, Covenants and Hard Conversations.

We can create a culture of rich dialogue, even around our disagreements. We can cultivate community conversations marked by gracious space and spacious grace.

I LOVE that: gracious space and spacious grace.

Joel Lovell’s essay on The Late, Great Stephen Colbert is magnificent journalism and captures some of Colbert’s most profound thoughts on suffering, comedy, faith, and gratitude. SO GOOD.

“He lifted his arms as if to take in the office, the people working and laughing outside his door, the city and the sky, all of it. “And the world,” he said. “It’s so…lovely. I’m very grateful to be alive, even though I know a lot of dead people.” The urge to be grateful, he said, is not a function of his faith. It’s not “the Gospel tells us” and therefore we give thanks. It is what he has always felt: grateful to be alive. “And so that act, that impulse to be grateful, wants an object. That object I call God. Now, that could be many things. I was raised in a Catholic tradition. I’ll start there. That’s my context for my existence, is that I am here to know God, love God, serve God, that we might be happy with each other in this world and with Him in the next—the catechism. That makes a lot of sense to me.”

This American Life’s podcast of three weeks ago, The Problem We All Live With, was one of the best, the most heartbreaking, and the most disturbing I’ve listened to. Sharon Hodde Miller’s essay in response: The Question No Parent Wants to Ask is excellent and soul-searching. All of us who debate what kind of neighborhoods we want to live in, and where we want to send our kids to school (having a choice itself being a stunning indicator of privilege) need to have a think about this.

Just WOW to this reporting from Max Linderman: “Jewish Schindler” Working to Liberate ISIS Sex Slaves.

This was magnificent: 56 delightful Victorian slang terms you should be using.

And this: 9 Words About Reading Every Book Nerd Needs to Know (because Bibliophile just isn’t enough).

Food for thought (a winner in Her.meneutics Summer Writing competition) from Dr Jessica Lilley: Our Plates Runneth Over – excellent words of challenge that our churches need to talk about food, and obesity, with more honesty and wisdom.

This was disturbingly and hilariously on-the-money: Heidi Priebe’s What Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type Is Like As a Friend. (I’m an ENTJ, and my friend Aleah just about snorted her drink when she read the description. It’s THAT accurate.)

Holly Grantham’s essay The Slow Work of Grief is painfully, beautifully wrought. If you have grieved, or are walking along someone who is… savor this.

And oh my word: it is so important we read hard-to-read words like those from Ezekiel Kweku in Slow Poison. Because otherwise we just wouldn’t have a clue. He writes: “even if the police don’t kill me, a lifetime of preparing for them to just might…”

From me:

Over at SheLoves magazine – a letter to the one who (feels she) is failing. I wrote this piece over a month ago and was surprised to read it again this week… and really humbled by how it resonated with so many people. We are all broken, you know, and all in need of such deep encouragement.

And on the blog: from “I’m bored” to “Look what I made!”… three thoughts on things our kids need to spark creativity (and one thing they definitely don’t need).

That’s all from me this week friends. Enjoy.

From “I’m bored” to “Look what I made!”: 3 things kids need to spark creativity (and one thing they don’t)

3 Things Kids Need to Spark CREATIVITY (and one thing they don't)

Summer is wrapping up, and as I write this my three kids are dressed up in tutus with hair bands twisted on their arms. Don’t be deceived, dear reader: their game has nothing to do with dancing or hair. They are in spy uniform, and the hair bands of different colors represent super powers. They are currently engaged  in a battle against a LEGO army with invisibility cloaks. The battle is fierce. The three-year old has been deployed to sing songs to make the force shields draw back.

But lest you think my home is a magical world of fantasy play and children’s laughter all the time (I wish!), let me assure you that less than an hour ago I had three whining kids climbing on me and shouting “I’m BORED!” in my ear. In fact, “I’m bored” has been top of my most-hated-things-t0-hear list for some years now. This morning TimeHop reminded me of this gem from two years ago:

Daughter, whining and wheedling next to me: “I’m bored.”

Me: “Go nap. Read. Play. Make something. Dance. Sing. But if you think that you can lie here next to me moaning until I get up and entertain you, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Daughter: (pausing) “what’s the other thing?”

But I’m learning. Slowly. I’m learning that there are three basic things my kids need to encourage them to be more creative, and one thing they definitely don’t:

1. They need time

Kids need time to play. QUANTITY play time eventually leads to QUALITY creative play time. Every expert out there is warning us that kids shouldn’t be over scheduled… not just because they need rest, but also because they need time to play and be creative.

Here’s my crazy hypothesis: that kids don’t just need enough time to play, they need enough time to be bored and to have to come up with a plan. Necessity (for something—anything!—to do) is the mother of invention, is it not?

2. They need basic materials

I have only ever come up with one original parenting trick. Everything else, I copy from friends. This summer we stole a most brilliant idea from a friend: a creativity box. At first, it looked remarkably like a recycling box to me: a large plastic tub containing egg cartons, amazon boxes, bubble wrap, cotton balls, bendy straws, lids, and various bits of tissue paper and fabric cut offs. “But,” my friend whispered conspiratorially, “something new appears in the creativity box every morning. The kids can’t wait to see what new they can make today.” Just add tape, glue, and string and voila! Endless possibilities.

(For the record, googly eyes make a fantastic cheat addition to a creativity box. Also, a large cardboard box? There is nothing better. Transmogrifier? Duplicator? Spaceship? It is ALL THE THINGS.)

(Also: craft sticks, yarn, and if your kids are a little older, a hammer, wood, and some nails… A friend’s kid made a twigloo—an igloo constructed from sticks—this summer, and I thought it was the coolest thing EVER.

Here’s my next crazy hypothesis: toys fall into two basic categories. Lesser Toys are ones you can only use for one thing, in one way (candy land, I’m looking at YOU!). Lesser Toys get demoted to AWFUL toys if they have lights and sounds you can’t switch off. But then there are Greater Toys: those which you can use in any number of ways: LEGO and its younger brother DUPLO are the reigning Kings in the Land of Greater Toys, but blocks, paint, puppets, gears, connect-a-straws, balls, and a great many other things have multiple options.

3. They need permission to make a mess.

Let me tell you how I could keep my house fantastically neat all day: by letting Netflix play for 8 hours a day. They wouldn’t leave the couch. Not that I’ve tested that… but the odds are heavily in Netflix’s favor. By contrast, creativity is messy. There will be noise. It will be sticky. There will be art shrapnel on every surface and in every orifice. The chances of mud are alarmingly high.

It’s worth it. Really, it is. A messy house is a proof of life, right?

But here, gentle reader, is the one thing my kids do NOT need:

1. They don’t need a creativity prompt from a screen.

I don’t think we are alone in feeling that we live in a screen-vortex: the closer they get to a screen, the more they are drawn in. The more time they spend watching, the more they want to watch. One of my guru mama friends put her foot down a year ago and declared: NO MORE TV. A fortnight later she had this to say: “Well, it’s been two weeks without TV, and I think their imaginations are slowly growing back.”

We haven’t gone the “no screens” route (our system at the moment is 15 mins/day – and they can lose time for failing to complete required tasks, or earn extra minutes for additional chores), but since we’ve imposed a strict limit on screen time, they whine for it less, and they are playing so much more.

That’s it: time, basic materials, and permission to make a mess. 

Let’s play.

Pick of the Clicks 08/14/15

They’re BACK!!!! Jump for joy! It’s the Pick of the Clicks!

Curated for your joy, entertainment, and stimulation, here are my best-of-the-web suggestions for your weekend:

Tanya Marlow on Church, Disabled People and Awkwardness. Read this. A snippet:

Offers of prayer and alternative medicine come with two big assumptions: that I can be changed (which, outside of a miracle, is unlikely to happen) and that I need to be un-disabled to be okay.

Imagine if someone came up to you when you were at church and said, ‘hi – I’ve noticed you are not reaching your beauty potential. Have you tried a face lift?’ or ‘hi – I’ve noticed you are intellectually inferior to others. Have you tried playing chess daily?’ Imagine hearing this sort of question from someone different every time you went in a public place.

Brilliant: Maciej Ceglowski (aka Idlewords) on Web Design, the first 100 years of the internet. Don’t be put off by the title, which you think you are not interested in. You really shouldn’t miss this: a REALLY funny, well illustrated look at the history of airplanes along side the history of the development of the web. It is insightful, helpful, interesting.. and did I mention, funny? (For example, he talks about competing visions of what the internet is for. Vision 1? Connect knowledge, people, and cats. His comment? “This is the correct vision.”)

A fun Tumblr account: 2 Kinds of People. Check it out. For example:

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Wonderful: Esther Emery with The God Who Sees:

Turns out, the most dangerous things I say aren’t the mean ones. Mean is everywhere. Mean is a red herring. No, the most dangerous work I do is the work of visibility. When something becomes visible, such that the natural compassion of the heart makes reparative action absolutely necessary? That’s when walls crumble. That’s when systems alter, hearts are changed.

THIS, from DL Mayfield: her reflections on being a a girl, and a parent of a girl, in a world where we are told to “be nice, and polite”, in a world where there are Bill Cosbys: Focus on the Family:

I was told for so many years to focus on my family, to make it good and strong and holy. But now all I ever want to tell my daughter is that it is sometimes those who speak the loudest about morality and spirituality who are all bluster and bluff.

I am very grateful that my husband has never been critical of how I spend my day, but I thought these observations were right on point: Samantha Rodman on Why Men Criticize Their SAHM Wives.

I loved this from Ashley Hales, on marriage in the midst of mayhem and motherhood: Losing Us and Finding Us as Lovers.

Nora Calhoun’s essay Learning from Bodies is excellent: her experiences in being with people in birth and in death have taught her about the value of physical life in a way that academia could not – and it is an education available to all of us:

We stand to gain so much by learning those lessons. Having a big family, or living with our grandparents, or working in hospice, or being a doula or doctor or what have you, is not necessarily everyone’s calling—but the corporal works of mercy are open to us all. We need to draw on the experience of spending our time and energy on the care of other people’s bodies. If we confine ourselves to ideas that are best suited to legislation, picket signs, and the combox, we will lose the richest vocabulary of human dignity, one better expressed in embraces and diaper changes than in words. If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.

I am currently reading Deb Hirsch’s excellent book Redeeming Sex. Here’s a glimpse of her thesis that our sexuality does not compete with our spirituality – it completes it: The Church’s Sex Problem. This is someone I WANT to talk to about sexuality.

This is a few short minutes you should pay attention to. Watch through to the end. I plan to watch this with my kids in a few years.

From me?

My first review up at Books & Culture on Karen Dabaghian’s Travelogue of the Interior. Think of Book Reviews like a well made film trailer: just a short glimpse highlighting the film, and yet entertaining in its own right. Now you want to read it, don’t you?

And the surprising situation in which I called 911 (and in which I hope you would do the same)…. on the blog here, and then picked up by the Huffington Post here.

On When To Call 911

When to call 911

Even as a little girl growing up on the other side of the world, I knew that 911 was the number to call if you were ever in trouble in the USA. Television shows and movies had done their work of educating this little South African girl that if there was an emergency, these were the three digits to call. In fact, I remember my Mom having to remind me often that South Africa had its own emergency number (10111) that I needed to rehearse. Just in case.

As a Mom wanting to prepare my own kids for “just in case” situations, I started to talk with my kids about when to call 911 a couple of years back. Just like we played a “airplane game” to prepare for airports and international travel (picture it: stand in line, go through security, stand in line some more, walk a bit, stand in line….), so too we started playing “911” from time to time. I was always afraid something would happen while I was alone at home with the kids, so I started with those scenarios:

“Let’s pretend we are sleeping and we wake up and we see FIRE in the house. What do we do?” My preschooler and I would lie under blankets, open our eyes, scrunch our noses up at the imaginary smoke, and then run outside and pretend-dial 911. I would do a rapid role switch from sibling to dispatcher, and we would practice on the phone. Me: What’s your emergency? Her: There’s a fire… and we practiced our address and name.

We practiced scenarios where a kid falls off a play structure, where Mommy gets hurt at home and can’t get to the phone, where someone who is not our friend breaks into our house and we feel scared. We also talked about how calling 911 is only for emergencies: not for when your brother won’t share a toy or the LEGO structure you’ve been working on got smashed. But fire? death? injury? crime? You know who to call.

Perhaps it was because of this “only call if you KNOW it’s an emergency” thought that it didn’t cross my mind at first to call 911 when I saw a teenager sitting alone outside a gas station at 11pm. Our family was on the last stretch of the long trip home, and—with three sleeping kids in the back—we pulled off the highway for a final bathroom break.

Both my husband and I noticed the girl as we tag-teamed our potty breaks: she was sitting off to the side of the parking lot, in a darker spot rather than under the lit area. She didn’t seem hurt, or panicked, but my gut told me something was off: a teen girl, greasy hair, alone late at night in a seedy part of Nevada, carrying a stuffed backpack: what was in there? Something about her hit a trip wire in my brain, and on my way back to  the car, I went over to talk to her:

Me: Are you okay?

Her: Yes.

Me: Are you safe?

Her: Yes.

Me: Are you waiting for someone?

Her: No.

Me: Oh. Is there anything I can get you?

Her: No.

Me: I’m concerned about you: you don’t seem safe to me. Are you in trouble?

Her: No.

I didn’t believe her. 

I walked back to the car, not sure what else to do. My husband and I exchanged observations (he had noticed her rocking slightly when he went past), and while we were talking, we saw the girl get up and walk further away from us: deeper into the dark night.

We didn’t know what to do. We drove after her a couple of feet as we talked, and she ducked behind a dumpster. After doing a series on sex trafficking last year, I had learned that an alarming number of runaway teens get picked up by traffickers within their first 24 hours on the street. I was terrified that even if she wasn’t being trafficked now, she was in grave danger of being so in the very near future.

I keep the number for the National Trafficking Hotline in my phone (you should too: it’s 1-888-373-7888), but I wasn’t sure she was being trafficked. I just thought she might be at risk. (In hindsight, I think I could have called them, too). So who to call? I wasn’t sure about calling 911: there was no blood or crime or ER-worthy situation… but as we thought about it, talking to local police seemed the best option, so with some trepidation, I dialed 911.

The dispatcher was immediately responsive: I gave a description of the girl, where we were, relayed the conversation we’d had and my gut instinct that she was running away, and they sent out a dispatch car within two minutes. I suppose in Nevada’s gambling cities, police are aware of the dark underbelly of trafficking in a way I can’t even imagine. They were ON IT.

With nothing else to do, we headed back towards the freeway, and as I drove with a hollow gnaw in my stomach I prayed for this girl: that she would be found, that she would be saved—whatever salvation needed to look like tonight. My phone rang a few minutes later: the 911-dispatcher asking a few more questions about the direction we had seen her walk in, and I took courage that this meant they were actively looking for her.

Identifying at-risk teens had never been on my radar as a situation in which I might call 911, and it isn’t a scenario I will add to the play-acting repertoire with our kids. It IS, however, a situation which I now know 911 does respond to and wants to know about. We call 911 when someone is hurt, or danger is imminent. Sometimes we don’t know how dangerous that danger might be: if someone collapses, we don’t know whether they’ve fainted and will revive with smelling salts, or whether they’ve had a heart attack – but either way, we call 911 because there’s an imminent threat of danger.

Now I know that seeing lonely teens with nowhere to go and no one to call in the middle of the night falls into that same category.

If you see something, say something.