Pick of the Clicks 5/6/16 (in which I sound like a budget airline)

Hello, friends.

You know you’ve been flying a lot when you can pretty much do the safety demonstration in your sleep (“in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, air masks will release from above you….” etc) You also get very familiar with the goodbye spiel at the end: “We know you have a choice of airlines when you fly, so we thank you for flying with us today.”

As I look through all the tabs I have open on my phone and computer and wonder which of these to put in this post, I am struck afresh by the VAST NUMBER of online reading options there are out there. Just SO MUCH good stuff. And then it makes me want to make a little spiel of my own: “I know you have a choice of blogs when you read, so thank you—really, THANK YOU—for reading this one.” My little blog ticker thingy tells me that today this blog will be viewed for the MILLIONTH time. 1,000,000 views. That is just stunning to me. Thank you.

million_tickerPhew! Okay, back to the point of this post… here are the other marvelous airlines articles I wanted to recommend this week 🙂

Matt Moore’s How I Discovered True Masculinity is my top pick for the week. Matt is a gay Christian, and his words have a LOT to say about masculinity to the straight world out there. FANTASTIC stuff.

This was a profoundly insightful interview between Morgan Lee and Kate Grosmaire: I Forgave My Teen Daughter’s Killer:

There are two things that people misunderstand about forgiveness. The first thing is that forgiveness is a pardon. We don’t pardon Conor for what he has done. When you forgive someone, it only means that you aren’t expecting him to pay back that debt.

The second misunderstanding about forgiveness is that it’s reconciliation. But you can forgive someone even if they’re not sorry. It just means that you’re not expecting to collect that debt.

From Karen Swallow Prior on creativity and community: Lifting the Veil

Our collective imagination is haunted by a certain image of the artist: a solitary bard, brooding alone, awaiting a burst of inspiration from a mysterious and magical muse. We see the person with the creative spirit as one who stands above and apart from the common lot, a secular priest who mediates between regular folks and the transcendent, delivering divine revelation from his mountaintop hermitage.

Poppycock.

Funny: This is what your adult life looks like in 15 brutally honest illustrations.

I hate having a cluttered life and feel the Urge to Purge like so many around me, but I appreciated this thoughtful piece from Caryn Rivadeneira and Marlena Graves: In Defense of Clutter

Poverty shapes our relationship with possessions. Americans who lived during the Great Depression or remember rationing during World War II may hold onto things “just in case” they need them in the future, trying to be prepared. With lives marked by instability and fear, the homeless tend to have special attachments to their stuff, regardless of value or practical use. I’m no hoarder, but I understand the mentality.

This is such a fabulous piece of humanity and humor from some of the leaders of the free world: POTUS, FLOTUS, The Queen and Prince Harry chiming in for smack talk… BOOM!

And THIS: Bono and Eugene Peterson in the same video. Make time for this one…

From me: I have a new piece up at SheLoves mag – When We Can’t Take It Back:

“There are some things for which there are no do-overs. Some words we can’t unsay. Some actions we can’t undo. Some things we can’t unhear or unsee—a fact that constantly terrifies me in the world of accidental clicks of the internet.

We cannot take back that terrible thing we said which jabbed at our friend’s deepest insecurity. We cannot wrestle back the relentless arms of the ticking clock to the moment before we crashed the car, or succumbed to infidelity, or pushed send on the email with the blistering, angry, self-righteous words. I know I am not the only one who has sat with a thick lump of shame and remorse wedged in my throat at the damage I can, and shamefully do, inflict.

For these things there are no do-overs. The human heart is not an app that will re-start without glitches. We are made of flesh. We bruise.”

And I hope you didn’t miss the fantastic guest post from Tina Osterhouse: The spiritual practice of sometimes saying no – even when the only one who’s qualified and able.

That’s all for today, friends. Have a wonderful week, and really I mean it: Thank you for reading.

The Spiritual Practice of Sometimes Saying No – Even if you are Absolutely Sure You’re the Only ONE Qualified and Able

 

When my friend Tina Osterhouse sent me this guest post, she had no idea how timely it would be for me personally. These are important, good words—perhaps ones you or someone you know need today, too.  

God’s good love is never about duty and demand and performance... It's about rest and wholeness and significance.

I used to work in a prayer ministry that helped people with sexual brokenness. It was a nine month discipleship program that had three components: worship, teaching, and healing prayer in small groups. I absolutely loved it. It was drenched in God from beginning to end and wove my particular gifts together in way that made it one of the most satisfying ministry times in my life.

When I moved to Chile four years ago, I missed everything about that ministry – the friendships, the opportunity to teach on subjects dear to my heart, and I missed praying for people week in and week out.

Last fall, when I’d been home from Chile for several months, I was lost in the trenches of life. I’d come home alone, choosing to finally leave my marriage, was living with friends, and helping my children adjust to a life where they wouldn’t see their dad every evening.

My friend Jeff called and asked if I’d be willing to step back into leadership for this prayer ministry. Someone had been diagnosed with caner and he wondered if I’d lead a group.

“You’re sure you want me?” I asked. “I’m going through a divorce. I’m kind of a mess right now.”

“I’m sure. This is a minstry for the hurting.”

I agreed to pray about it, but was sure this was my opportunity to get back into ministry.

A day or so went by and everytime I prayed about it, I had this convincing certainty that I was not supposed to do it. “I can muster up the strength,” I told God. And the very thought of having to muster up the strength, made me bone tired. Which if we’re being completely honest, was my huge boulder problem. I was tired. On every level. I’d moved to Chile three years before with this monstrous faith that God was going to use me and that the time had finally come to be overseas, a life-time dream. Instead, my marriage fell apart in a big heap, I lost all my confidence in myself and God, and ended up walking through the darkest season of my life which kind of came to a crashing finale when I finally threw in the towel. I decided to move home and stop trying to fix people who didn’t want to be fixed – immediate family included.

So there I was, absolutely certain I wasn’t supposed to lead this small group. I called Jeff and decided to see who else he could ask to lead. We talked for about twenty minutes and every name I gave him of people who were qualified as leaders were not able to to do it. I was the ONLY one left. He was desperate. I told him I’d pray some more. I must have heard God wrong. He would be my strength.

After praying some more, I was more certain that ever I was not supposed to lead this group. The very thought of going to a ministry on Wednesday nights made me shudder. Every ounce of my strength was used to take care of my kids and do life, but as a woman who’d been in vocational ministry, who loved God, who loved his people, who loved prayer, and who had an ever so slight hang-up with people pleasing … this was not easy to muddle through.

And then it came to me, this was a season about self-care. I was putting the oxygen mask on my own face first and if I led that group, it would be like me taking the mask off and putting it on someone else – and I’d die because I wouldn’t be able to breathe, and what what good would my leadership be if I were dead? So, I called Jeff again, and praise God, didn’t have to talk to him. I left him a very spiritual message about how God was not releasing me to do this and blah blah blah and then I made dinner for my kids. I wondered how in the world God would ever provide Jeff with a leader. What was Jeff going to do? How would he ever cope without me?

A few days later, I called Jeff to find out if he’d had to shut the ministry down because I couldn’t lead the group. I was prepared to apologize profusely and give him a long list of why’s, but Jeff answered the phone, quite chipper. “Oh, I totally get it,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. God provided. I called down to the group in Tacoma and there was a woman who was happy to take on the group.”

I got off the phone, stunned. And took a walk. My bruised ego stung with the realization that God didn’t need me after all, which I should really know by now. He’d raise up rocks to praise him, if we weren’t willing to do it, but I’d always told God I WAS willing. So, the realization that when I said no, he’d find someone else … was difficult because one of my main fears is being left out of something good.

After a while, I figured out the whole thing was about God’s love for me. It wasn’t that he didn’t want or need me in his great work, it was that he knew I needed to rest. “You’ll get back out there,” I heard him whisper. “But you don’t have to right now. You get to be hidden and safe, out of sight for a while, and I’ll bring you food and sustenance and restore your soul.”

This was lovely, because I clearly needed a bit of soul restoration. It’s always revealing when we think the measure of our worth is what we do for God. I was off kilter and searching for someone to need me. But God’s good LOVE is never about duty and demand and performance. It’s always about rest and wholeness and significance.

 

Tina_11_IMG_2072Tina Osterhouse is passionate about living deeply and authentically. Through fiction, blog posts, and creative essays, she writes about ordinary life and the way God meets us in our everyday circumstances and creatively weaves the sacred into them. She studied ministry and theology at Northwest University, most recently lived on thirty acres in Southern Chile, and finally returned to the Seattle area in June of 2015.

 

 

 

Running Like an Inflated Drunkard

It is no secret that it is Tim Fall’s fault encouragement that got me blogging. I always enjoy Tim’s words, and am delighted to welcome him here today with his usual blend of funny, warm and robustly encouraging insight.

Running Like an Inflated Drunkard

Contrary to the impression I might have given with posts on running a 6 mile obstacle course and a half-marathon in the Happiest Place on Earth, I am not wont to join a few thousand strangers in order to traverse long distances in company.

But I did it again.

This time it was a 5K through a bunch of bounce houses. Three miles and a dozen inflatable obstacles made for a fun-run in the truest sense. It also made me feel like the folks in this verse:

They reeled and staggered like drunkards … . (Psalm 107:27.)

Tim Drunkard

Me reeling and staggering, but not falling down.

 

We signed up along with a bunch of people from the gym. As the day approached the young guy who owns the gym – and whom we looked to as our fearless leader for the race – went and blew his knee out and ended up having surgery.

That didn’t stop him from taking the course. He said he’d do it, and he did. And we did it with him. He couldn’t run so we all walked with him 3.1 miles from obstacle to obstacle. He hobbled through the obstacles along with the rest of us, laughing and joking around. It wasn’t the way the course was designed to be taken, perhaps, but it was the right way for us to go.

The Right Way to Go

Which reminds me of another verse:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24.)

This group of friends stuck together for the sake of the one who could not run full speed. It’s the same with the church, the people of God. We are called to come together, to be with one another, to love each other in the good times and the bad times. In fact, it’s this love for one another that shows people who we belong to.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35.)

How can you love one another so that people will see you belong to Jesus? Good question, and one I hope you’ll help answer in a comment. For me it often means encouraging people. I don’t restrict this to fellow Christians, of course. Jesus’ love is something I can share with everyone God puts in my life.

When we love those outside the body of Christ, we do it without expectation of reciprocation. When we do it with each other, though, it should be a mutual care and love for one another. It is this bond of love – the back and forth, the give and take whether everyone can run at the same speed or not – that shows people who we are.

That’s what Jesus said.


Tim Fall pointsTim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 28 years with two grown kids, his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. He blogs, and can be found on Twitter and Facebook too.

 

 

The first year of marriage

 

Why is the first year of marriage so hard?

“So, how’s married life?”

It was a question we were asked hundreds of times in that first year. It was a question that always left me feeling a little bereft as to what to say.

The truth is, our first year of marriage was hard. Very hard. Not because we’d made a mistake, not because I regretted the decision, not because I wanted out. Even though I was sure we’d chosen right and wanted in – it was still hard.

We may have been in love, but we hadn’t yet begun to learn how to love one another well. We hadn’t yet begun to learn that beyond the declarations of love and commitment comes the daily study of learning what your spouse likes, and deeper than that – how your spouse thinks.

I cried. A lot. Tears of frustration. Tears of pain. Tears of despair. Tears of martyrdom, spilled out on my pillow before sleep finally came: “Oh God, I promised to love him even if this means feeling this way fore-eh-eh-eh- (sob)-ver…zzzz”

There was no particular sin or problem that made it hard. It wasn’t that we were mismatched. It was more just that it was painful to figure out the changes. I think the most honest thing we were able to say about that first year was that it was “a big adjustment“. Here are some of the things that were hard for us to adjust:

It was hard to change our expectations of how time together was spent. When we were dating and engaged, our time together was spent “TOGETHER”, and then we went home to our respective houses and did our alone-time things alone. But once we were married, was time at home together time, or alone time? How did we figure that out? I expected marriage to feel more like an extended low-fuss date. I think he expected it more to feel like alone time, except with me in the house. It was painful for both of us to figure that out.

We suffered from decision-making fatigue. Before we were married, we had to decide on a few things together, and we figured we were pretty good at making those decisions. But once we were married, we discovered that every part of every day and every routine in every chore needed now to be decided on: we didn’t want to presume to do it “his” way or “my” way, so that meant having to have conversation after conversation about what “our” way was going to be. When should we eat dinner? what to eat for dinner? Who will do what prep and cooking for dinner? How long after dinner is it acceptable to wait before doing the dishes? Should washed dishes be dried and put away at once, or left to drip dry until morning? None of these questions was important, but much like the fatigue of a group of friends all trying to decide on a place to go for dinner and the conversation just goes and goes and goes because no-one wants to decide for the group, or the fatigue of a 4
-year olds’ “why”…. we were tired.

Another complicating factor was that it was hard to figure out our social obligations. While dating, I had a large circle of (mostly single) friends, with whom I spent about half the nights of the week. Once
married, what happened to those friendships? I wanted to keep those friendships and not be the friend-who-dropped-off-the-face-of-the-earth once she got married, but I couldn’t leave my hubby alone at home 3 nights a
week, and I couldn’t always just invite my girl friends to our house: they were my friends after all, and while they liked him they didn’t exactly want to bare their souls to my new hubby.

And so I did what all nice-girls-in-a-bind do: I cried. In private.

Would telling the truth about it being hard that first year have been understood? Would it have been seen as betrayal? Betrayal to my husband, or to the idealized notion of marriage? At the time it felt like it might be both.

And so one night, when an older, wiser friend asked: “So, how’s married life?”, and then followed it up immediately with, “It’s hard, isn’t it?”, I just about sobbed with relief. It was hard. It was such a relief to say it. And you know what? It got better. That first year wasn’t all terrible, but to be honest – it wasn’t all great.

I have friends who have had most wonderful first years of marriage. I’m so happy for them. But I just wanted to put in writing that it was not so with us. Just in case there’s anyone out there, whether in year 1 or year 4 or year 14, who feels this marriage gig is HARD and I-didn’t-expect-this and am-I-doing-something-wrong? and will-I-always-feel-like-this? and I-don’t-regret-this-but-I’m-still-crying-all-the-time…

Just in case that’s you, I wanted to say: “So how’s married life? It’s HARD, isn’t it?”

I know. We struggled through it, and we came through the stronger for it. You can too.

You might be interested in this post over at Start Marriage Right: Why we ditched the “young marrieds” groups

Pick of the Clicks 4/22/2016

phone

My friend Corrie drew this for Poetry month in November to illustrate Jeanne Murray Walker’s “Staying Power”. Last week I got to meet the poet and showed her this sketch: VERY COOL to share art with an inspirational artist! Read the poem at http://bronlea.com/2015/11/17/staying-power-jeanne-murray-walker/

Hello dear readers,

I’ve been absent from internet reading for several weeks, but am slowly getting back into reading and writing after a long hiatus. Here are some of my favorite things from the internets I couldn’t wait to share with you:

This, from Julia Baird, was fascinating: How to explain mansplaining:

So here is the conundrum: Including women is not the same as hearing women. As the Princeton and Brigham Young study noted, “having a seat at the table is very different than having a voice.”

Carrie Pierce Kuba’s piece on how, after twenty years, she has made her way back to the swimming pool, is beautiful and redemptive: Swim.

This was my favorite comedy-doing-the-best-work piece on the internet: Be an Exegete, from Adam4D.

This wins an award as being the MOST AWFUL gift I can imagine anyone giving my kids. please, just don’t. I will have to unfriend you: A Frozen Songbook FOR THE RECORDER! Do you wanna kill a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman….

Chris Boeskool’s words should be noted by everyone: When you’re accustomed to Privilege, Equality feels like Oppression:

Equality can feel like oppression. But it’s not. What you’re feeling is just the discomfort of losing a little bit of your privilege — the same discomfort that an only child feels when she goes to preschool and discovers that there are other kids who want to play with the same toys as she does.

It’s like an old man being used to having a community pool all to himself, having that pool actually opened up to everyone in the community, and then that old man yelling, “But what about MY right to swim in a pool all by myself?!”

LOVE this from Jen Wilkin: Why Hospitality Beats Entertaining.

Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared.

Entertaining, exhausted, says “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really.

Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

From Jane Chung: What Do You Say to Someone Who Murdered Your Dad? (oh gosh. SO MANY TEARS on this one.)

And from me? It’s been a while since I listed what I’ve written so here are the titles since the last Pick of the Clicks:

Something I learned recently: it’s possible to have that terrible feeling that you’re missing out on all the fun (and what to do about it) –When you have FOMO, even when you’re there

Thoughts on the upcoming election season and how we face it as Christians: Voting for Nero

And two things on parenting:

Why I don’t want my kids to be fearless, and

Why I won’t paint my sons toenails (or let him wear a dress in public)

That’s all for this week, friends. Happy clicking and reading!

When You Have FOMO, Even Though You Were There

 

FOMO

A few years ago, I was introduced to a little four-letter acronym that put a name to a feeling I was all too familiar with: FOMO. The Fear Of Missing Out.

Turned out, it wasn’t just me who felt a stab of sadness when there was a dinner I wasn’t invited to… even if it was a dinner I didn’t particularly want to attend, I still felt sad to not be invited. FOMO hits when friends I like hang out with each other without me. FOMO strikes when I see pictures on instagram of happy groups at the theater, at the park, on vacation. Finding out that FOMO had a name—that it was a thing‑made me take a harder look at this phenomenon, and why it is that I compare my messiest self with others’ glossiest online presence. The twin beasts of comparison and envy lurk close by, and as one friend recently said: Social Media is like Miracle-Gro for envy.

I recently got to attend a writers’ conference: a FEAST of a festival, with speakers and professionals and an abundance of online friends there in person. More than a few of my writer friends expressed their great sadness that they couldn’t go: “I’m going to have to stay off the internet for a week to keep the FOMO at bay,” wrote one. Wanting to be sensitive to those same feelings of loss that I experienced, I kept fairly quiet about the fact that I’d be attending. I didn’t live tweet each session. I didn’t post pictures of all the wonderful people I saw. FOMO is a thing, and I didn’t want to kindle it.

I got to go. I didn’t miss out. But here’s the thing: at the end of the first day I had a creeping sense of loss and sadness, and it took me a couple of hours to figure out what it was: my old nemesis FOMO, right there with me. After fifteen hours of constant interaction and input on that first day, I found myself strangely sad about all the conversations I hadn’t been able to finish, the people I hadn’t manage to connect with, the sessions I couldn’t attend because I was in a brilliant parallel session.

“How ungrateful you are”, I chided myself. “How ridiculous to have your whole day tainted by what you didn’t experience, rather than be amazed at what you did?” I spent some time before the second day began mentally preparing for the day ahead and taking my FOMO—now that I’d identified it—by the horns. I would aim to be present with the person right in front of me in conversation, to keep my eyes from flitting to the stream of people walking past behind them. I would take good notes in each session, and keep a record of the gems in front of me. I would keep my hands open, ready to receive every good gift that came my way, and ready to give generously if I had opportunity.

The second day was so much better, and the third better yet. The practice of being present and attentive to the graces before me is something my FOMO-bent heart needs all the time, for I am strangely capable of missing out on the good thing right in front of me just because I’m scared of missing out somewhere else.

I come home from the conference a little wiser about myself. I’m learning that the cure to FOMO is not to be found in being invited to all the things and attending all the events. It’s making sure I attend—with present, mindful, attention—to the place I am at. It’s not cured by physically showing up; for me it’s about emotionally and spiritually showing up in the conversation I’m having and the situation I’m in right now, without letting my heart and attention flit elsewhere.

Our Fear of Missing Out will not be cured by receiving more invitations. Rather, God is inviting me—and you—to attend to the good gifts right in front of us, for He Fears we’ll be Missing Out if we don’t.

 

Photo credit: Lilong Dolrani/ Lonely (Flickr Creative Commons), edited by Bronwyn Lea using Canva.

 

 

 

 

Why I won’t paint my son’s toenails (or let him wear a dress in public)

Lenci boy and girl

My kids have always wanted to take part in the things I do. From toddlerhood they wanted to help crack the eggs, apply their own sunscreen, and climb into the narrow space between my body and my cello whenever I took it out to play. “Me too, Mommy,” they have said, “I want to do it also.”

Each of them has also wanted me to paint their toenails. Every time I pull out my selection of miniature rainbowed pots, my kids huddle around to watch. From time to time, I paint my daughter’s nails, but my eldest son was fairly young when my husband asked if we could please not paint the boys’ nails. Even in culturally-masculine blue tones. My then-one-year-old had just poured half the bottle of blue paint all over our bed, which made it all the easier to agree.

So, the first reason I don’t paint my boys’ toes is out of respect for their Dad.

But there’s another reason, which has become increasingly significant as the years have gone by. That second reason is this: we don’t want the unhelpful and unhealthy constant commentary that comes with things like having boys wearing nail polish or other such “counter-stereotyped” choices.

This became incredibly clear to me two years ago, one spring morning when my youngest son and I went out to run errands. In the way of many younger-brothers-of-older-girls, our son spent a lot of time being “dressed up” by his older sister. At home, under the creative direction of his Adored Older Sister, he wore fairy wings, princess dresses, feathered boas and sparkly crowns… and loved it. (And yes, we are okay with that. Just like we are okay with our daughter dressing up as a pirate and a ninja and a bear. And with all our kids playing with LEGO. And with all our kids playing Avengers. Or enacting Frozen. Or wielding swords. I am ALL FOR kids playing with whatever toys they like according to their interest, not their gender.)

On that particular morning our youngest was wearing a princess dress and loving it. It was a Cinderella dress: “a BLUE dress, Mommy, just like my eyes!” he pointed out. Since we generally don’t leave the house in costume on Days-That-Are-Not-Halloween, I asked him to take it off before we went out, but he was having none of it… so my blue-bell prince and I hit the town to run our errands. Friends, this is no exaggeration: I have never had so much attention from people IN MY LIFE as the day I took a boy out wearing a dress. Every single adult we passed that morning—from the fellow Christian parents are pre-school drop-off, to the complete strangers in our very liberal city—commented on his dress. Not one of them said something mean, but everyone said SOMETHING: each one of them variations of “oh, look at your dress!” and “today is a fun day for dress up!”

Each of the comments was benign and banal, but by the twentieth, and thirtieth and fortieth comment, the message to my son was loud and clear: LOOK HOW MUCH ATTENTION YOU WILL GET IF YOU DRESS DIFFERENTLY! EVERYONE WILL SEE YOU. EVERYONE WILL NOTICE! And on that day, I realized that I wouldn’t let my sons go out in “girl” dress-up again: not because I’m afraid of them being shamed or confused about being boys… but because I couldn’t help feeling that there was damage being done by how much attention was focused on something that should have just been child’s play.

I know that there is such a thing as gender dysphoria, and my heart goes out to boys and girls struggling with their sense of sexual identity. I don’t have neat answers for how to parent in those situations. But this I do know: for a kid who might be craving adult attention and affirmation, one sure way to get it is to dress “opposite” at a young age.

I believe that what adults say, and focus on, in talking with children does much to script the way kids view themselves when they are older. I want my daughter to know that her body is more than beautiful: it’s strong, and useful, and hers – and so I work hard to focus my words in that direction. And I want my boys to feel free to show interest in all sorts of things – in sports and LEGO and science and in dress-up – without every single passer-by commenting (and thus reinforcing) the message that dressing-like-a-girl (or painting your nails) is the Most Important Thing To Say About You.

And so, we keep our boys’ nails color-free, and we keep the princess dresses at home. Because I want the people we meet to talk about school, and play, and books, and the smile on their faces… and not what they wear. There are more important things to say to kids than “look at what you’re wearing!” Let’s say those things instead.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment!

Photo credit: Museum of Childhood, London – Lenci Boy and Girl/Suzanne Gerber (Flickr Creative Commons)