Pick of the Clicks 8/30/2014

Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone! Here are some of my top picks from the world wide interwebz this week.

First: my favorite internet ditty from this week :-)

Kappa_56eb17_5273867On a much more serious note, I wanted to cheer for this from Carlos Campo: What the New Majority-Minority Public Schools Mean for Christians.

“Instead of leaving our local public schools, now is the time for Christians to invest more in student success. We have an opportunity to love our neighbors, and their children, in a very practical way.”

Tish Warren Hanson wrote a sobering and yet hopeful piece on what happened to cause the graduate chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship close down at Vanderbilt university in The Wrong Kind of Christian. A friend tells me the same battle is being waged in the administration of the state schools in California – so this is a particularly important read.

Excellence (as usual) from Karen Swallow Prior over at First Things with Marriage and Mating Rites – such a fascinating read on how expectations and experience shape our relational success.

Lore Ferguson invited some wise and generous friends to contribute to a free ebook on Singles in Leadership. Every one of these little essays is important. Download it here.

I appreciated Nate Pyle’s thoughts on how people have responded to the continued furore about Mark Driscoll in The Tweetable Tale of Two Mars Hill Pastors.

I love the SheLoves magazine community anyway – but this week I loved, loved, loved Fiona-Lynn Koefoed-Jespersen’s essay When the Holy Spirit is Our Midwife. I cried real tears over its beauty.

This week I wrote about the parable of the lost blue shoe. My friend Corrie, it turns out, had a similar experience recently and put it into the most gorgeous graphic parable here: The parable of the lost bear. (Check it out and marvel!)

Loved this from Sarah Damm: Don’t Ask More than God Does – such sage and comforting words to us harried moms who feel we need to do it all. (Thanks to Abby for the recommendation)

It turns out that I am not one of then early 500 MILLION people who discovered Ylvis last year when their song “What Does The Fox Say” went viral. Instead, I discovered them this week with their “intelevator” prank – which just gets funnier and funnier by the minute. These guys have such incredible vocal and language talents:

I have many, many thoughts on how the conversation about Ferguson, MO is playing out, and particularly the discussion about what constitutes racism and white privilege. I hinted at a few of those thoughts in my article at Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics this week (click here for the link), and perhaps I will write more on it in the week ahead.

On that topic, though, I really appreciated the following:

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson’s Essay on Why She Doesn’t Want Her Child to be Color Blind,

and this piece from Jeremy Dowsett : What Riding my Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege.

And Jon Stewart’s slam-dunk on the topic here from The Daily Show (language warning. Also, ice-cold bucket of truth warning):

That’s all for this week, friends. What caught your eye this week?

 

One Thing We’re Doing To Teach Our Kids About Privilege

I have an article over at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics today – talking about the one thing we’re doing to teach our kids about privilege: we’re sending them to a Spanish Immersion Elementary School. Read the intro here, or the whole thing there:

46046As American kids pack up bookbags and find their classrooms on the first day of school, more of them will be greeted with, “Hola” and “Buenos Dias.” Their bulletin boards will display colors, animals, and days of the week in Spanish. Language-immersion schools are booming in the U.S., not just in places like Texas and California, but across the country.

The Spanish-immersion education offered at public schools presents one more option for parents, many of them alreadytrying to figure out what route will be best for their children. They often spend the first years of their kids’ lives considering their options, weighing pros and cons of private school, public school, Christian school, and homeschool.

While the perks of language immersion programs are debated, the increase in popularity of Spanish immersion programs show that more parents see them as a way promote their children’s academic achievement. These programs boast language and literacy development in two or more languages, and improved cognitive skills for students.

When it came time to choose a school for our children, we also had options. There was what seemed like an obvious choice: a neighborhood school with an award-winning Montessori program 100 yards from our front door. But that’s not what we picked. We drive our kids half way across town, to the school where all the instruction is done in Spanish.

Click over to Hermeneutics to read the rest….

The Courage to Fail – {Guest Post by Natalia Kwok}

I’m so thrilled to share this Words That Changed My World story from Natalia Kwok with you. She is precious to me, and it gives me such a kick to see how God continues to bless her and bless through her, even though life has had so many unexpected turns. Welcome Natalia by leaving her some comment love, won’t you? 

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The year I graduated from college, I needed to make a life-altering decision: Do I pursue Christian ministry or graduate school?

Decisions, decisions… By God’s grace, I was admitted into the top occupational therapy program in the nation. This was what I had set out to do since my freshman year of college. How could I now choose between this and full-time ministry? Was one option more spiritual than the other? Or more Godly

After a month of going back and forth, I realized that I was asking God a very simple question: which path will render me a greater agent in Your kingdom

God purposely left both doors open and I knew he wasn’t pushing me in one direction. With that, I recognized that His ultimate will for me is to glorify Him wherever I go, whether that’s graduate school or Christian ministry. I am a missionary, no matter what professional title I hold… God can just as effectively accomplish his ministry through a therapist, just as he could any other minister. 

So off I went to graduate school, fervently pursuing my education, yet still knowing that God was clearly calling me to make his name known while I was there. But how? 

And then it hit me…. Why not create a space to read scripture on campus for people in my program? I can invite people of all faith backgrounds to come and meet Jesus… and maybe even start following him. Yes. Missionary first, grad student second. 

I grabbed a fellow classmate who shared my conviction and we started planning. We figured out where to meet, what day worked best & which scriptures to use. We generated interest from Christians and non-Christians alike. We were ready.

And then we hesitated… For months, we sat around and made excuses for why it’s not the right time. But I knew deep down that I was afraid… extremely afraid. I didn’t want to fail or be rejected. Maybe this group would be too counter-cultural..What if we create social opposition? What if we fail? The risk was more than I could bear. So despite what I knew God was calling me into, I slowly backed away.

Around this time, I sat at church one day, convincing myself that it’s okay. I don’t have to follow through with everything I hear. God’s full of grace. Surely he doesn’t expect me to obey Him at the cost of my social acceptance. I like my comfort zone. I like my friendships. No need to rock the boat.

And then my pastor said something that hit me at my core:

“If you’re in your 20’s and you’re not failing at anything, then you’re probably not taking enough risks.”

And there it was. It was then that I realized this: it’s okay to fail. There is no way around risk and courage. Obedience to God’s call will likely not be the path of least resistance. It wasn’t for any of the bible heroes I know… and it certainly wasn’t for Jesus.

There may never be a moment where I feel 100% confident to do what God asks of me. But where would I be without the risks Jesus took? Where would I be if Jesus looked at the path set out for him and merely said “no, thanks” in fear of failure? What if Jesus backed away, afraid of social opposition, or even more frightening, persecution? But Jesus didn’t back away. He said yes. And even though, many times, it looked like he had failed, the world was ultimately saved through his obedience.

So despite my fears, I stepped out in faith, feeling just as Peter must’ve felt walking on water.  We made announcements, sent out invites and began, “the faith & occupational therapy group: discussions about Jesus & our profession.” 

Fellow classmates came and listened. They talked about Jesus, some knowing him well, others meeting him for the first time. And in weeks, we began to feel God moving in peoples’ hearts. His presence became known as we prayed and read his word right there in our classroom. My spirit was filled with courage, inviting others to get to know the one I call King. 

And even though there were plenty of wonderful moments, there were also moments that felt like complete failure. Weeks where no one would show up… weeks where I knew the scripture wasn’t resonating… but despite all that, I just reminded myself, it’s okay to fail. Because God is being glorified, regardless of what I look like. He is worth the risk. He is worth it all. I am serving a powerful God who will accomplish his ministry through my failures… through my risks… and I am blessed to be a part of his plan.

leray and corey- 1203Natalia has a passion for serving God in unpredictable and exciting places. She loves food, travel & all things Disney. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, who works as a pastor to college students, and precious baby boy, who came into the world not too long ago. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy and hopes to use it one day with children and also for overseas missions. You can find her blog at www.nataliakwok.wordpress.com

 

Help: I have a graduate degree and a going-nowhere-job

I have a few Ask Me Anything posts I’ve been neglecting (sorry, dear readers). I’ll be catching up this week and next. Here’s the first.

Dear Bronwyn:

I finished grad school in 2010, having loved school. However, my masters isn’t in the most applicable field, so I worked in a related medical field for over 2 years until I was let go. It took 6 months of job searching to find a job – and it is not something I want to be doing.

I’m scared. I feel like I need to make money, which I’m not really doing in this job yet (although supposedly that will change).  I feel as though I received this amazing education and I’m doing something I don’t love, which doesn’t really pay the bills. I’m newly married and I feel pressure to contribute financially (and thought I would have options with my degree) or at least truly love what I do – ideally both- but I don’t. I’ve been praying desperately for guidance. I just am at a loss. I’m upset, feeling down, and it’s getting difficult to come in every day and work as if working for The Lord. 

-Overqualified, Underpaid

 

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Dear OU,

Yep: you are in a tough spot. It is a very, very hard thing to feel that you worked so hard to do something that would make a difference, and to be someone who would shine and sparkle – and yet to find yourself with a very mundane ordinary.

How does one make peace with that? I often wondered that of the many refugees I met in South Africa: men who had been surgeons and accountants in their home country, but who had had to flee for their lives, and were now working as unofficial car guards at night in South Africa – hoping for a dollar here, a dollar there. I still wonder similar things about myself: why did I go to law school, and then step it up a notch with another graduate degree in theology, only to find myself a stay at home mom who cannot stay on top of her house, doesn’t home school, but who has ninja-like mom-skills like speed-diapering (oooh!), or parallel-parking a mini-van on a dime (aaah!) Go ahead. Feel free to marvel at my accomplishments.

It is so easy to feel like a failure. So easy to feel undervalued, or unseen, or that your education wasn’t worth it, or (it’s insidious sneaky corollary,) that you aren’t worth it. It is hard to feel you really contribute when your contribution isn’t in cash. I get that.

When I took a job in vocational ministry and was making less than half of the starter job I had been offered out of law school, it was a little easier to justify the cut in salary because I still felt like ministry was “noble” and “worth it”. The pay cut from that to zero as a mom was much harder. And sometimes, I still struggle with the money side of things – but in truth, I struggle with the “is my contribution in life significant?” issue far more. For some reason, a salary feels like a good validation that your work was worthwhile.

That whole “a worker is worth his wages” verse is a double-edged sword. We use it to justify why people in ministry should be paid, and paid better than they are (because they are worth it!) But the flip side is this: when we are paid low/little wages, we feel like low-worth workers. 

For me, this has been a journey in figuring out what it that God has called me to. Over the years, I am realizing that he has not called me to be Successful: an Optimizer of all my Gifts and Opportunities. He has called me to be Faithful: a Steward of all my gifts and opportunities. In truth, so many more of my opportunities are quiet, and unlauded – and the more I find myself in the humble places of life (wiping butts, doing laundry, tending fevers in the wee hours of the morning) – the more I am noticing how many quiet, unlauded people there are in Scripture, and how God meets people there. He is, as Hagar-the-forgotten learned in Genesis, the God who Sees

I’m in a phase of life where nobody sees most of my day. But God does. And his calling to me, I believe, is to be faithful with what he’s given me right now. I”m begging him to teach me what Paul talks about in Philippians: learning the secret of being content.

From your letter, it seems like God is already pointing out two things which maybe you’ve got misaligned. The idea that “being financially successful” or “loving what you do” are the rewards for following God’s will for your life are red herrings. It may be true that you become financially successful (but sometimes it won’t be). And it may be true that you love what you do (but sometimes you might not). Also, you may find you are really good at something you don’t love doing (for me, this is admin. Bleuch. But I can get it done if I have to). Or you love doing something that you’re not particularly skilled at (think of all those garage-bands). How we all long for the sweet spot where all those things coalesce. 

I am a sucker for a good Venn diagram. (I just finished reading The Fault In Our Stars, and my favorite part was the Venn diagram). And so, when I saw this blog post from my writer friend Katherine Wills Pershey with its beautiful Venn diagram, of course I had to click on it – because it depicts truth so beautifully.

venn diagram 2

We want the bliss spot in the middle, don’t we??

But, as Katherine says – following Jesus is so often an unsexy road, even though we believe with all our hearts it is the most worthwhile path.

So what do you do now? Here are a few thoughts:

1. It might be worth talking to a career counselor. There might be more career options out there with the combination of skills you have than you are aware of. The longer I live, the more I learn about the nuanced and specific careers which are out there – perhaps jobs you are well suited for that you haven’t even heard of! Maybe a career counselor could give you a fresh set of eyes to look at your skill set and make some helpful suggestions?

2. Be honest with your spouse about your feelings about your financial contribution. Don’t let guilt or coulda shoulda woulda’s on money get between you.

3. Remember that God takes a very long view on life. You may not see any immediate fruit from some of the paths he’s had you on – but there may be seasons in the years to come when you get glimpses on why you worked that particular job, or had to search for so long, or were in that particular frustrating relationship or situation. He will redeem ALL of your story in due time. None of this time is wasted, and as far as I know, God does not “optimize” all our talents all at once. The overused Christian cliche of “seasons” is useful here: maybe there will be a “season” where you use your undergrad degree more, another where you use the skills you learned in random college internship B, another season where you find yourself counseling someone whose out of work and desperate.

4. Don’t give up on begging God to teach you the lessons he wants you to learn right now: ask him for wisdom (more important than for answers). Ask him for contentment (more important than a new job). Ask him to give you a glimpse on how He’s showing you what’s important to him right now… because of one thing I’m sure – his purpose through all of this is to bless you by drawing you closer to Himself.

It always is.

photo credit: Darlene Acero (Flickr Creative Commons)

The Parable of the Lost Blue Shoe

A family went away on a camping vacation. Packing sparingly, the woman chose one sweater and a pair of shoes for each of the children. The youngest took his crocs; his one and only blue crocs; the only crocs he loved.

The family had a wonderful time: they climbed mountains and hiked and chased the waves back and forth and back and forth on the beach. And then, after a long day of fun, they started the long and winding road back to their campsite. The boy was asleep when the family decided on an impromptu gelato stop. His mother folded his limp limbs into her own and carried him sleeping while the others chose their flavors. He awoke, delighted to find a cup of gelato goodness in front of him. The family noticed his bare feet, and thinking his shoes were in the beach bag, carried him aloft through the bustling village.

On arriving back at the campsite, the beach bag and all other bags were upended and overturned – and the shoes were nowhere to be found. The mother, fearing them to have been left at the beach, considered her options. A 90 minute round trip to a windy beach was too far. But a 20 minute trip back to the village was not. Leaving the kids to pick berries and chase raccoons, she drove back to the village.

She parked off the main street, and searched in the ditches. Her eyes raked up and down the shoulder of the road, and then crossing the road, scoured the debris of the Farmers Market as the last of the debris was being swept away. No shoes. Retracing their steps, she walked along towards the gelato stand. A flash of blue below caught her eye, and there, tucked against a pole, she found one blue shoe. 

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Buoyed with hope, she kept walking. Past the gelato stand, past the wrinkled street side barista. And there, obviously rescued by a kind passer by, she saw the second shoe in the center of a picnic table they had not sat at or walked past. The woman squealed as she scooped up the shoe, unable to restrain an impromptu bit of street dancing.

She grinned at strangers and then called her husband: “Woo hoo!” she said, “The shoe is found!!!” 

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

For, are you not worth more than many sparrows? And many pairs of blue crocs?

When you say I can’t wear a bikini, this is what you’re also saying…  

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Dear Makers of the Pool Rules,

I’ve been thinking about your family-friendly set of pool rules, which include safety rules like “no running”, “no diving”, and “no glass bottles at the pool”. Among these, you also have a rule about acceptable clothing: tankinis and swim shorts and one-pieces are okay… but please, “no bikinis”.

Dear rule-makers, when you say that I can’t wear a bikini, this is what you are also saying:

You are saying you don’t trust me to make good choices as a woman.

You are saying you don’t trust me as a parent to be having conversations about self-respect and clothing with my children.

By spelling out a dress code for women, you are saying that, at some level, you agree with the problematic (and offensive) societal message that a woman’s acceptability and welcome is based on her body.

Spelling out a no-bikini rule adds to the horrid fear and shame culture which the women in our day are struggling with: we cover because we fear men’s eyes, we cover because it is shameful not to. I, for one, think we should cover for different reasons (to protect intimacy) – but when your rules are policing what I wear, the issue gets tangled.

As it happens, I prefer not to wear bikinis in public. I took my children to a swimming pool a few weeks ago and was miserable to discover I had accidentally forgotten my rash guard at home. I personally like to cover not only for the sake of keeping my body for my husband’s eyes, but also because I have a near-pathological fear of the sun. But that’s my choice. On that day, being found in 105F heat with three wilting and whining kids – should I have had to turn around, forfeit the $15 I paid in entrance fees, and taken my kids home because I only had a bikini?

Modesty and dress code are culturally relative things: it seems like bikinis are almost mandatory in Hawaii, whereas in France, Bermuda shorts are forbidden and speedo-type swimwear is mandatory at public swimming pools!

Yours is a family-friendly, faith-based facility, and I respect and appreciate that your pool culture prefers more coverage rather than less: Bermuda shorts rather than Speedos for men, one-pieces rather than bikinis for women. However, the way you’ve phrased the rule strikes me as legalistic, and we women are already facing such a horrid battle against being sexualized and objectified. Your rule, as it stands, is saying you’re on the side of policing women’s bodies, rather than being on the side of respect.

Can I respectfully suggest, then, that perhaps you rephrase your policy? Perhaps something like this:

“Our family-friendly community values modesty, and we trust you to show respect for yourselves and others in your dress code. Thank you.”

A move like that would be consistent with all the other, wonderful, life-affirming programs and activities you hold. And, such a rule surely would be better at teaching us about dignity from the inside-out, rather than trying to impose it from the outside-in. As Gina Dalfonzo’s helpful rule of thumb says: “Dress like you respect yourself.”

Just a thought.

Thanks,

A self-respecting and respectful woman.

 

 

 

 

Pick of the Clicks 8/20/2014

It’s baaack! (Although, it’s a Wednesday and not the Weekend – but we’re away this weekend and I have so many tabs open of things I was waiting to share with you all, I figured it was time.) Here are some excellent clicks for you all:

It feels as if the world has gone mad the past two weeks: so much shock and sadness around – of the handful of things I’ve read, I really appreciated:

Ann Voskamp’s thoughts on depression and suicide after the tragic news about Robin Williams: What the church and christians need to know about suicide and mental health.

In the wake of all that is happening in #Ferguson, MO, Thabiti Anyabwile’s post Coming (Back) To America: My One Fear deserves a careful read. Actually, every one of his pieces at the Gospel Coalition this week should be read. Slowly. And listening.

Melissa Fabello’s piece Let’s Talk About Thin Privilege is an important, excellent piece about body image and women… but it should really be read and considered in light of this week’s talk about white privilege because it makes excellent, clear, nuanced and helpful comments about understanding what privilege is and how it works. It. Is. Brilliant. (Recommended by Erin – thanks!)

The genocide in Syria has me heartbroken. I cannot handle reports from trusted friends that it is, in fact, true that christians (including children) are being beheaded. I appreciated this from Hannah Anderson, who pointed out that if we feel we just can’t handle it, maybe there are things to learn from this. Stanford Gibson’s piece on Praying the Psalms from Privilege also gave deep insight and help into how we can pray for the suffering. Read it: it’s excellent.

imagesThis past week reminded me of why we have changed our profile pictures to the arabic sign for “n” (abbreviated for Nazarin, which are what Arabs in Syria call Christians) – it is a sign of solidarity with those being persecuted. I wrote about this last year at Think Christian: Christianity Includes All Y’all: From Syria to Egypt to Texas. I am really proud of this little piece, and was encouraged to re-read it.

Loved this two minutes clip from the ever-wise Karen Swallow Prior on whether the Bible should be read differently to other literature. 

Also, if you didn’t yet read about Glennon Melton’s kitchen renovation yet – do so IMMEDIATELY. (Hint: it’s not what you think. It’s 10000000 times better): Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt.

Once you see how awesome Glennon and the team at Momastery are, you’ll understand why I SQUEALED when I found out that  my  post on Angry Socks and Silences was to be featured over at Momastery last month. I got the email in the airport departure hall – and even though there were 300 travelers around me, I did a giddy and uncoordinated dance of glee.

Excellent: from Ann Swindell –  Complaining is a Spiritual Problem.

As someone who attends a predominantly white church that longs to be relevant cross-culturally, this was a really eye-opening, uncomfortable and GOOOOOOD read from Kathy Khang: Just Because the Door is Open Doesn’t Mean I’m Welcome Here.

A MUST-READ for college students and all those who love them – this, from Sammy Rhodes: College Doesn’t Change Your Heart, It Reveals It. 

This was my favorite thing to come out of shark week (thanks to my other wonderful Erin friend, who proves regularly that missionaries can have really fabulous, irreverent senses of humor):

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Also loved this: if company slogans were honest, this is what they would look like.

This, from Tyler Vigen, is a HILARIOUS insight into correlation. So freaking funny. (and also, important: because correlation is NOT causation, people!)

I get very frustrated with the media portraying dads as deadbeats so often… so I wanted to stand up and CHEER(io) for this ad: This is How to Dad….

http://youtu.be/6GYxH2-WeZY

And this is really important food for thought if you have boys:

http://youtu.be/OFpYj0E-yb4

And FINALLY: my top posts of the last month: Dear Bronwyn – Help, I love him, I love him not (speaking of which – got a question? Click here!), and my reflections on the ten year anniversary of our being in the USA – it’s been nothing that I planned, and I’m so grateful.

Got a click you’d like to share? Go ahead and leave the link in the comments – I love recommendations!

Thanks for reading, everyone. To take a line from the airlines – I know you have a choice of where to read around the internet, and I appreciate you choosing to read here :-)