Pick of the Clicks 10/02/2015

Hello and happy weekend! It’s been a flurry of a week on our side, but not so busy that there wasn’t time for some quality reading. Here are some of the best I saw this week:

This (free) downloadable poster from some secrets is a FANTASTIC resource for homes/classrooms/any space where kids are. Print one and spread the word:


Also on the topic of how we treat (and talk about) bodies, this EXCELLENT piece from Karen Swallow Prior is well worth a read: Pastors, Power, and Prettiness.

The larger issue—the theology of the body, of beauty, of creation, of male and female—is one that needs more attention from the church, not less. So let’s dig in to these concerns, instead of shying away from a conversation about appearance that might make us feel vulnerable or even uncomfortable. Let us—especially as women—think about the compliments we give, receive, and crave.

And in line with that, Sarah Powers’ The Best Way To Compliment Little Girls is stellar. I would like to speak to all little girls like this, and would love people to speak with my daughter in the same way.

Breathtaking from D.L. Mayfield (in the wake of the Umpqua shootings, and so, so much more): About Guns.

It doesn’t matter that it isn’t good for us, it doesn’t matter that it is the most vulnerable that pay the highest price. We have rights, is the thing. And besides, it probably won’t ever happen again.

Good, sturdy stuff from Christie Elkes: I am Tired of Complaining About My Children (and the importance of really hearing people when they say nice things about you and your kids!)

Best title this week (and a great essay): Sins of emission: playing my part in the Volkswagen scandal by Erica Schemper.

Great thoughts from Dorcas Cheng-Tozun: Can One Marriage Support Two Callings? This is an increasingly important question as couples figure out how best to love and champion one another’s gifts: as Dorcas writes, “one flesh doesn’t necessarily mean one calling”.

This was a powerful read from Jessica Harris: Hope and Healing for the Sexually Broken. Unless we are willing to hear about the deepest and darkest of people’s struggles and hold them with compassion, we cannot walk alongside them into hope.

This was really touching: A Photographer Grants This Family a Wish for a Complete Family Photo.

And this video was so beautiful I cried big, splashy, drippy joy tears all over my computer: This is what it looks like when people truly hear for the first time.

From me:

Writing about grace and crow-poop. Yes, I know: it’s bizarre. But it was a thrill to write over at Heather Caliri’s lovely blog: Finding Grace as the Crow Flies

Up at the Huffington Post Religion Blog: The Problem of Invisible Resistance. (I was a little surprised they ran this piece given its overtly Christian content, but I was so grateful they did and hope it encourages many. thanks to those who shared it!)

On the Blog, a piece I really loved writing: Of Baseball, Sesame Street, and the Surprisingly Complex Business of Non-Americans Raising American Kids.

Thanks for reading, friends. And as always, let me know in the comments (here, or on my FB page) if you thought there was something stellar online that you’d like to share!

Of Baseball, Sesame Street, and the Surprisingly Complex Business of Non-Americans Raising American Kids

Of baseball, Sesame Street, and The Surprisingly Tricky Business of Non-Americans Raising American Kids

My daughter took her first international trip when she was six weeks old: a fact that required us to get her to get a passport within days of her birth. When her shiny, blue American passport arrived, I laughed at the squashy newness of her face in the photo, and marveled at this, too: she was an American Citizen, and at less than a month old, could already travel so many more places than I could with my visa-restricted foreign passport.

Oh baby, the places you’ll go.

As a parent, I hoped that having an American-born child would mean she would have first class rights in the Land of Opportunity. She had the birth certificate and the passport to prove it, and while she carried vestiges of her parents’ distinctly accented English as a toddler, by the time she entered public school, her accent had adapted, too. She even donned sparkly red, white and blue clothing to wear on July 4th, and as the saying goes: if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then surely it must be…

But being a mother to American children has proved to be more complex a matter than procuring them passports and Old Glory T-shirts. As it turns out, there are myriad ways for a Non-American mom to mess it up for her American kids: a realization that made itself rudely apparent one chilly Tuesday morning.

It was Valentines Day, and my daughter was in tears. She wanted to take candies and cards for all her classmates, and I had failed to do the necessary “mom prep” with my credit card at Target. Coming from a culture where Valentines Day was for the hormonal and horny, I did not understand what first graders were doing passing out valentines day cards: and not just to their “crushes”, but to everyone: “the teacher said so!” I had ignored the email blast about cubby protocol. I had neglected to purchase chocolate hearts or pink swirly pencils.

My daughter was undone: “I’ll be the only one who doesn’t have Valentines” she wailed. I assured her this would not be the case, but a quick survey on arriving at school proved me wrong. My American kid needed me to mommy-up and pay a little more attention: Valentines Day was different here, and my rolled eyes at the silliness of it all were not helping her.

In my first months in the US, a co-worker quizzed me about cultural traditions in South Africa. “Do you celebrate American holidays,” he asked, “like St Patrick’s Day and Thanksgiving?” I remember scoffing at the hubris of calling an Irish holiday “American”.

In hindsight, I wish I’d been less snarky, because while St Patrick’s Day may be an historically Irish holiday, it has taken on a distinctly American flavor stateside. I’d wager that on March 17th, there’s more green worn as pinch-prevention in the USA than there is on the Emerald Isle itself.

Did we celebrate American holidays like St Patrick’s Day? Or Valentines Day? No, in truth, we didn’t.

And so it is that I am slowly learning that American children are not just children who were born and raised in America; they are children who have had an American childhood, complete with its cultural cues and textured traditions. American children know about trick-or-treating, and candy apples, and that camping means s’mores. They have magical memories of Disneyland. They know the words to “take me to the ballgame”, because an adult actually took them to a ballgame.

 American children grow up to be adults who talk about their “holiday traditions”, because whether it be ugly Christmas sweaters, or Aunt Myrna’s secret glaze for the sweet potato pie at thanksgiving, American families know they are supposed to collect and articulate traditions. American children know that on Valentines Day in 1st grade, you are supposed to make a card for everyone. “Everyone knows this, mom,” says my kid.

But this non-American mom doesn’t know. She’s learning. This non-American mom went trick-or-treating for the first time in her thirties, and only recently discovered Sesame Street. She is trying to learn the rules of baseball, because she’s vaguely aware that at some point in the future, someone is going to try and have a sex talk and explain “the bases”, and she should probably at least have a basic grasp of the vocabulary. This non-American mom doesn’t really understand the draw of Disneyland, but since we live in California, realizes we will probably need to make that happen for our kids at some point.

Raising kids is usually a matter of remembering the best parts of our own childhood, avoiding the bad parts, and mixing it all with a sprinkling of what-we’ve-seen-work-elsewhere. For most American kids, this means getting the best of their parents’ memories recreated for them: July 4th fireworks, Christmas pajamas, playing football after Thanksgiving dinner, and watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

I’m raising American children, but the best of my childhood memories don’t involve any of the quintessential American markers. I have other things to share with them: a tradition of eating hot cross buns for Easter, and giving alms on the day after Christmas. I share these with joy, but with intentional fluidity: for while my children are of foreign descent, they are first generation Americans.

And so together we will learn about pop tarts, baseball, and American traditions like St Patrick’s Day. And next year, come February 14th, we will be ready with the candied hearts.

Pick of the Clicks 09/25/2015

SO MUCH GOOD STUFF OUT THERE! Here are some of my favorites are:

Pictures from FB I loved:

This church’s sense of humor.


And this Father’s beautiful appropriation of hope:

In the written world, if you read nothing else this week, read this from Sarah Bessey: the sanitized stories we tell. This is easily my favorite thing she has ever written (and that’s saying something), but more than that this is so important for us to know.

My friend Aubrey Sampson guest posted on Ann Voskamp’s blog this week, with how to find hope on the other side of shame. Friends, you need to read this one. Really.

Also, if you didn’t listen to the Pope’s address to congress this week, here is the transcript. I loved how he appealed to our better nature, our heroes, and the things we are grateful for in our own lives as a basis for “do unto others as you would have done unto you” compassion, especially w.r.t. poverty and immigration. Go, Pope!

My Mom sent me this and it is fabulous: 13 Helpful Phrases You Can Say To Calm an Anxious Child.

Then I read two things this week which both gave me chills – but they were polar opposites of the worst of oppression and the most incredible freedom for women:

  • an untitled poem about one woman’s experience from age 6. It is chilling. I wept. And yet this happens and we should know.
  • but on the other hand, this manifesto from Kelly Delp, on the legacy of freedom she got from her parents: as a woman and as an daughter of Christ empowered to minister the gospel: they named me bold.

Both really are worth reading.

Hilarious this week:

This was my favorite thing from Humans of New York: one teacher on why he hates pot: “people say pot makes you more creative, but from what I’ve seen, it narrows my student’s minds…” Read the whole thing.

From me?

On the blog: I was surprised by the response to this one (thank you!): The Problem of Invisible Resistance.

Then, something new – I got to stand in at RELEVANT magazine for their advice columnist… like an “ask me anything”, but with a twist! Why Is My Husband Being Asked To Help In The Church And Not Me?

IMG_6336And then, by far the most squeal-worthy exciting thing that IMG_6335happened this morning was to receive a copy of the new NIV Bible for Women, and name in it!!! I am still so stunned to have been able to contribute a handful of devotions to this volume… so here’s the “click” to check it out on Amazon :) Look! see my


Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy all the great reads out there!

The Problem of Invisible Resistance

The Problem of Invisible Resistance

A few years ago, I started cycling.

And by cycling, I don’t mean the I-need-to-commute kind of cycling I’d done at school and doing college ministry, but the Now-I-will-wear-lycra-pants-and-shoes-that-clip-in type of cycling. To say that the learning curve was steep was putting it mildly. I still blush a little when I think of how many times I came to a stop and, having forgotten to unclip my shoes from my fancy pedals, realized too late I had no free feet to put down and so just keeled over onto the sidewalk. (It’s okay if you laugh. We all did.)

I remember taking my first longer ride out into the country: a 25 mile round trip, with a half-way stop at a cute coffee shop which was welcoming to smelly lycra-clad cyclists. The first two or three miles was gorgeous: an encouraging warm sun just rising, the breeze in my hair, the regular breathing that felt like life in my lungs. But a few miles in, I was suffering. I couldn’t figure out why: the terrain was flat, and I’d gone so much further than that on the stationary bikes in the gym before. Could I really be this unfit? Had my hours of training until now been so ineffective?

I nursed my disappointment quietly over my coffee while my riding pals chattered on, not sure whether I had the stamina to make it back. I gathered up my shards of courage and mounted my bike, prepared to make my excuses about why I couldn’t keep up with the others on the long ride home… but a few miles in was stunned to find that the trip home was going so much better than the way out had gone.

Really? Why? Why had it been so hard, and now it was going more smoothly? If anything, I’d expected the second half to be harder as the sun was higher and I was that much more tired.

I muttered to the much-more-experienced cyclist next to me: “the way home is going a little easier than I expected.” She laughed: “yup. that’s the difference a tail wind will make.”

A wind? I couldn’t feel it. I hadn’t felt it on the way there, and I couldn’t feel it on the way back… all I was aware of was the feel of the breeze as I biked… but as it turned out cycling directly into a 5mph headwind and then cycling back aided by a 5mph makes a huge difference to how much work it takes to bike. In fact, the difference isn’t even linear: it’s an exponential function (here’s a graph if you have a geeky itch that needs scratching). It requires DOUBLE the amount of power to bike at 20mph as it does at 15mph, just with regular wind resistance caused by the fact that we’re moving through air. If you have a 5mph wind against you at 15mph… well, you do the math.

As it turned out, the struggle was that much worse not because I was failing my training in ways I hadn’t even accounted for, but because I was meeting with real, albeit invisible, resistance.

I was chatting with a friend recently who has been feeling deeply discouraged in some areas of her life where she wishes she were just doing better/being stronger. She sounded exhausted, and was filled with self-reproach that the struggle she was going through was just further evidence of spiritual failure: “If I weren’t so evil, this wouldn’t be so hard to overcome,” she lamented.

But as she described her journey, I became more and more convinced that there was something spiritual going on, too. Christian theologians have long described the enemies of the soul as consisting of the world, the flesh and the devil. My friend was accounting for the world and the flesh in her struggle (and those are real), but it had not crossed her mind that there might be more at work there than she was giving it credit for.

The western church, for all its love of CS Lewis, does not have nearly a robust awareness of the spiritual realities of a dark and evil opponent in the life of faith as our older brother in the faith did. The Screwtape Letters are worth revisiting regularly not only for their written genius, but for the stark reminder that there are evil, personal powers at work to distract and discourage us. “We are not unaware of his schemes,” wrote the Apostle Paul. Sadly, that can often not be said of us.

The image of me, discouraged and beating myself up for my weakness on that first long bike ride, came to mind as I talked with her. Just like I sometimes do not take the invisible-but-real resistance of the wind into account when biking, so too we do not take the invisible-but-real resistance of the enemy into account, as he blows straight into our faces to slow us down and impede our progress.

And exhausted, we collapse and say to ourselves the words the Accuser (that’s what His name means, anyway) hurls at us: failure. weak. evil. quitter. laughable. why do you even bother?

But it helps to know that there is an enemy. It helps to know that the resistance we are feeling is real, and not imagined, and that the fight we are fighting is not just because our faith-muscles are weak but also because we are wrestling against a skilled opponent. Satan is the invisible headwind on our course, and he delights to remain unnamed and unnoticed so that we will lose heart.

But we will not lose heart. Forgetting what is behind, we press on; fueled by faith and reaching forward—ever onward and upward—to complete the race. We learn, as skilled cyclists do, how to keep your head down and cycle close behind others: for these things do a lot to decrease that relentless invisible resistance.

And so, together, we will go the distance. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

Pick of the Clicks 09/18/2015

Hello and happy weekend! Here’s a roundup of my favorite things from online this week. Enjoy.

This, from American Mensa, on the entomology of the word “acyrologia” (and ‘social morays’ was probably my favourite here :) )



Following the Ahmed debacle, this was my FAVORITE:


This week was the US Constitution’s birthday. I appreciated Tim Fall’s reflection on this: America is not a Christian nation – Happy Constitution Day!

The United States is not now and never has been a Christian nation.

How do I know? Because the founding document that provides the framework for all laws, rules and regulations ever passed by the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government nowhere mentions Christianity.

It doesn’t mention God. Not even once.

This is the best thing I have ever read on the #whole30 trend, from the inimitable D.L. Mayfield: Whole as Whole Can Be: Dieting While Loving Ourselves and Our Neighbor. SO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT HERE. And written so honestly and simply:

At night, after both of my children are in bed, I start to eat funfetti frosting, straight out of the can.

Brilliant: This graphic explains 20 cognitive biases that affect your decision making. This absolutely makes me question the notion of “free choice”.

I am learning so much from following Kate James as she writes through her experience with breast cancer. She is funny, winsome and wise. I loved this post: My Body, Your Body

It’s interesting and unexpected that what I’m learning most in this whole breast cancer thing is, not only that my Father in Heaven loves me more than I thought, but in tandem with this reality, how deeply embedded my own sin is – wait, lets not even use the term ‘sin’. That’s too innocuous, let’s call it what it is: jealousy, hate, selfishness, vanity, and my all around solipsistic tendencies. Turns out they go hand in hand, God’s love and my sin. (Eureka!) This is the crazy-maker of the Christian life. As I understand the weight of my sin, I understand the weight of God’s glory and love.

So I’m getting pruned. Metaphorically pruned. Breasts chopped off and Frankenstein stumps in their place. And perhaps my ovaries shall get the axe as well. It hurts but all’s good. I don’t always feel like it’s good, but it is.

Fascinating: from Carl Zimmer – A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That Are Not Your Own. (scientific proof that you ALWAYS carry your children with you no matter how big they get!)

In a similar vein to my Three Words post this week, I loved this from Christine Cook: The Pictures are Pretty, but the Struggle is Real. Beautiful words and deep truth here.

Finally, I’ve been binge listening to Shane Blackshear’s Seminary Dropout Podcast this week. He has great questions and really fascinating guests. This week I listened to his interviews with Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Harper, NT Wright, and thought the interviews with Jackie Roese (Episode 99 incl. what’s really important about men and women from the story of the Garden of Eden) and Efrem Smith , Episode 98 on the theology and practice of multicultural and multiracial ministry) were particularly excellent.

From me:

New post up today at SheLoves magazine, about learning to rest in the safe, deep, arms of God: Deep in the Bosom of God.

On the blog: an “Ask me anything” question: What if God is silent when I’ve been asking for direction? (speaking of which: got a question? Send it my way here…)

On the blog: Three Words to Sum up Everything. (with pictures from our family road trip!)

Ask Me: “What if God is Silent When I’m Making Decisions?”

What if God is Silent when I'm making decisions?

Dear Bronwyn,

How do you make big decisions when you feel like God is being quiet? I’m currently trying to make a decision and I feel no clarity or peace about any of it. Friends have advised me that God may just be giving me room to choose.

A year ago I was really wrestling with whether to change jobs to be nearer to my family. I decided to stay a while longer, but now a year has passed and I’m looking at moving back and every time I go to apply for a job, I can’t do it. I find I’m not really excited about it other than being closer to family and I can’t figure out why. Am I apprehensive about change? Is this God’s way of showing me it’s not time to leave? Do I need to just do something and see what happens? Is this ambivalence, and God’s apparent silence, a sign that I’m not supposed to move?




I don’t know of anywhere in Scripture that promises God will tell us what decisions to make, either by giving us a “feeling” (of peace/certainty/whatever), or necessarily by giving us a sign or a sole “open door” (just one of the many variations of the shoot Christians say.) While God certainly can and does sometimes work very surprisingly to illuminate options we might not have otherwise considered, seeing His hand in something is often only observed retrospectively.
So my advice to you is this: pray James 1 over it: ask for wisdom + believe that he gives it +decide and don’t doubt. I think we are always wise to take some time in praying and to say “speak, Lord, I’m listening”, but sometimes he doesn’t, and he HAS promised us that no matter whether we “feel” or “hear” anything, that if we ask for wisdom he will give it.
I agree with your friends: maybe He’s giving you freedom to choose in this. And honestly, in my experience, adulthood has been FILLED with decisions where I thought “Gee, I HOPE this is not a terrible idea.. .it seems like the best option right now, but I just can’t see the outcomes here and I’m not sure…” and then, months later, it becomes clearer where the whole thing was leading.
Coming to the US was just such a story for us: there were “open doors”, and then we suddenly found ourselves stuck in England and it seemed like “closed doors” all the way: what was God doing? did this mean we’d made a mistake? And we were Feeling All The Feelings: doubt, regret, and uncertainty. We finally did get here and experienced so many obstacles in the settling-in process that we really wrestled (Christian cliche alert again! Shoot!) with regret and whether this was a ‘sign’ that we had made the wrong decision… but then a few weeks later I found myself connecting up with a wonderful College ministry and all of a sudden there was a glimmer of an “aha! perhaps THAT is what God has been doing?!” … and it gave us courage. But I do remember CLINGING to James 1 in that time: whenever my husband and I got into a conversation second-guessing and doubting our decisions, I found myself saying “well, we asked God to guide us and we just HAVE to believe he helped us. We made the best decision we knew how.”
Perhaps this is not super helpful, but I hope it is at least hopeful… because Scripture DOES tell us that whether we are sentiently aware of an answer, your prayers for wisdom are neither unheeded nor denied.
Clarity may only come down the line, and I’d love to hear the story when things make a bit more sense.
Do YOU have a question you’d like to send my way? Contact me here
Photo credit: Justin Lynham/Listen Carefully (Flickr Creative Commons)

Three Words To Sum It All Up: Lessons from a 3000 Mile Roadtrip

We took a 3,000 mile road-trip this summer. We packed camping gear and snacks and clothes and kids into the back of our minivan, and headed towards Yellowstone: the oldest and most prestigious of America’s National Parks.

We saw dinosaur bones, and glaciers, and sharp jagged teeth of mountains jutting into the air.



We saw sulphuric pits spewing dragon’s breath, and colossal geysers.



We skipped stones and paddled canoes, we huddled against each other as it hailed. We took photos of all things brights and beautiful, all creatures great and small.




We paddled on the most tranquil of waters, and picked our way through intricate subterranean lava caverns.




We laughed with friends old and new, and collected family stories which we will tell, and retell, and retell.

At the end of our trip, I collated our photos and uploaded some of them onto Facebook so our far-flung family could share in the sights of a land they’ve not seen. And of course: put like that, in a photo album, it looks like the trip of a lifetime. And, perhaps it was.

But really, that’s not the whole story. I joked with a friend a while ago that if I were to start this blog again, perhaps I would call it “Not Pictured”. Because not pictured in that photo album were the many hours we spent driving. And driving. And driving. And how we had to stop every thirty minutes because Mommy, I need to pee.

Not pictured were the tantrums. Or the whining faces of Are we there yet? Not pictured was the sweat of pitching and striking a tent every one to two days, while we swatted away kids and mosquitos to get the work done faster. Not pictured were the potty accidents. Or the hours we spent in dingy laundromats on the road, having rooted around in our bags to find the least stinky items of clothing to wear during the wash.

Not pictured were the bouts of anxiety our eldest struggled with as we moved through campsites with bears and thunderstorms and hail, culminating in her asking one morning with tears brimming: “Mommy, did you know there would be storms out here?” I told her we didn’t know exactly what the weather would be like, but that we had prepared for a number of possibilities. She was having none of it. “Didn’t you think of the children at all when you planned this trip?” she accused. Also not pictured: me sniggering instead of comforting my tearful daughter.

And so, when we returned home, people said: “How was your trip? Your pictures were amazing!”

And truthfully, I had to answer: “It was great. Except for the parts that were boring or terrible.”

In the weeks since we returned home, our days have fallen the routine of the school year. We have sourced shoes one size bigger, figured out the car pool, and developed a rhythm for the various activities that have been dropped into our calendar like tetris time capsules. We have first-day-of-school pictures and slowly-growing art folders to prove it. And now that we are settling in, people are asking: “How are you guys doing? How’s the school year?”

And truthfully, the answer is the same: “It’s great. Except for the parts that are boring or terrible.”

I’m thinking that maybe these are the three words that are true for all of life, pictured or not. The blessed life is one which is “great, except for the parts that are boring or terrible.” For none of us, no matter what story that pictures tell us, are exempt from suffering, and none of us lives a life which doesn’t have stretches of the just-plain-boring. There is nothing exciting about loading and unloading a dishwasher. Or learning your times tables. Or flossing your teeth. But that doesn’t mean life isn’t as great as it can be.

One day, of course, our firm hope is that we will be with God, and the “boring parts” will all be rest, and the “terrible parts”  will all have been wiped away as tears from our eyes. When we see him face to face, it will be great all the time.

But until then: this is how it is, and really this is the most this one blessed life could hope to be: Great, except for the parts that are boring or terrible.