Pick of the Clicks 5/2/15

peacock pick of the clicks

 

I so appreciate the letters and comments from readers saying they enjoy the Pick of the Clicks. I always appreciate good reading recommendations from others, and I enjoy sharing these. But every now and then I get a letter from a reader saying they were upset with something I linked to, and so from time to time I want to say this:

1. I don’t 100% endorse everything I link to. I post things I think are worthy of your time in reading and thinking about.

2. Having said that, reading beyond our scope of comfort should, hopefully, make us more critical thinkers with more compassionate hearts.

So without further ado, here are some links to things I came across this week which moved me to think and to pray and, in some cases, to applause. I hope they will do the same for you.

Bravo to Lucy Hawking (daughter of Stephen Hawking) for her open letter: Dear Katie Hopkins. Stop Making Life Harder For Disabled People.

This anonymous op-ed piece, Pregnant at Harvard, broke my heart this week (I wrote some of my thoughts on this on Facebook here) Oh, how I long for the compassion, gracious, healing arms of the church to be extended to this woman, and the tens of thousands who walking around smiling and achieving, but screaming inside.

Alex Tribou and Keith Collins put together infographics in this piece: This Is How Fast America Changes Its Mind. It made my mind reel to see the stats on how quickly the tide of opinion has turned on issues like prohibition, abortion, interracial marriage etc over the years. The infographics read like a speedometer on the proverbial bandwagon.

Sharon Hodde Miller’s essay on The Dumbing Down of Brave deserves a read. It is the virtue de jour to hail people as ‘brave’, but what do we really mean by that? Sharon writes:

“Speaking a difficult truth, for example, is not always brave; sometimes it is just honest, or loving. It can even be judgmental, or intentionally outrageous.”

I agree. Courage is “is facing one’s fears for the expressed purpose of love.” Our world needs more real courage.

In the wake of the conversation generated by Bruce Jenner’s announcement that he is transgendered, Leslie Leland Fields posted an essay she wrote on Becoming A Man, in which she talks about finding her identity as a wife and mother in the wild open waters of Alaskan fishing. She writes:

I don’t remember which day I became a woman on the water. The years blur together. But I became a man first.  It happened in a blow, piloting a small skiff alone through 50 knot winds. Or maybe when the nets were so full of fish we could not lift them from the water. We picked them in the water, then, throwing hundreds, thousands behind us into our skiffs for days, until we could no longer stand…

…Then, one day I became a woman again. I don’t remember exactly when. Maybe when out in the skiff with a baby ashore, my breasts filling with milk as the skiff filled with fish, knowing there was a helpless other who needed me more. Maybe when I started accepting help, then asking for it from my 6’2” crewman who was twice my weight, choosing to preserve my back for all its other uses.

Read the whole thing. It’s magnificent.

Tim Matsui just won a World Press Photo Award and a Documentary award from Pictures of the Year International Award for his project The Long Night, highlighting sex trafficking and under age prostitution in America. However, Matsui says that winning awards is not the point, changing the world is. I appreciated this photo essay in which he talks about Natalie and Lisa, the two girls he followed in his documentary, and his hopes for producing media that doesn’t just produce sentiment, but produces lasting change. BRAVO, Mr Matsui.

Natalie Snapp has some excellent thoughts on how we can have better friends by being better friends. Her post Because A Heart Sister Doesn’t Hold Stuff Over Your Head has a lot to say about friendships where the hurts we cause (and endure) become guilt-bludgeons over friendships.  I am looking forward to this book.

This, from Amy Simpson, in which she reflects on the ways that her mother’s schizophrenia touched everyone in her family, is hopeful, helpful and wise – Schizophrenia and Some of My Favorite People.

One thing I know about doing ministry in the context of mental illness is this: simply talking about it is like dropping rain in the desert. Telling a story of hope is like planting flowers in the newly softened ground.

ALL THE YES to this from Jen Hatmaker: I, as a white mom of two black children, do not share Baltimore’s pain. Instead, I grieve with you. This is such a beautiful example of being a peacemaker: peacemaking doesn’t mean shushing loud voices, but paying close attention to them so that people don’t have to shout to be heard. Jen wasn’t born with this wisdom or sensitivity (none of us are) – as a privileged white girl, she has had to learn it. And we would do well to pay attention and learn, too.

And this, from Dorothy Greco, is one of the wisest and best things I’ve read on marriage: Yes, Marriage Will Change You. Whatever you say to your spouse on your wedding day, don’t say “don’t ever change.” :)

Then, this: 19 One-Liners That Sum Up Parenthood Perfectly.

From my little corner? Just one offering from me this week, on why it’s hard to pray for Nepal (but I’m trying anyway). And I hope you caught Emily Dixon’s excellent essay on learning a new way to talk about sex: moving from shame to celebration.

Thanks for reading, all.

Let’s Celebrate, Not Shame, Sex – {Emily Dixon}

Please welcome my friend and author of Scandalous  to the blog today: Emily Dixon!

Let's Talk  About Sex

Do not think about hot pink polar bears with yellow sunglasses.

You did, didn’t you? The truth is the active avoidance of a thought is the same as thinking the thought – unless, you do something extreme. You must make the thought so abhorrent to yourself the mind recoils at the faintest possibility it might brush up against it. Doing this takes work, years of conditioning, and repetitive thought replacement techniques. It is so difficult that few people succeed, but if you do, undoing the process is almost equally as hard.

Unfortunately, this is exactly the process that the church has been using when it comes to issues of sex. We have spent fortunes and invested years in teaching that all thoughts of sex abhorrent, not just to themselves but in the eyes of God. Do not get me wrong, the intent was good. We want our young people to see sex as something that should be reserved for marriage, but in our fervor we often forgotten to distinguish between the act of sex which should guarded and the gift of sexuality which should be celebrated.

I found this to be particularly true for women. Between the warnings on the dangers of sex (i.e. unplanned pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional repercussions of sex outside of marriage) and the need to shield the men from the temptations of our anatomy, we have often adopted an attitude of shame towards our sexuality. Further complicating the issue is the Church’s tendency to focus on those women of the Bible who used their sexual wiles as the means to exert power over men.

Today we are far more likely to be familiar with the story of Jezebel than Deborah, Salome than Anna, and Job’s wife than Isaiah’s. The women that are selected as role models are often those whose sexuality has been expunged from the telling as in the Virgin Mary, the woman of Proverbs 31, Esther, and Ruth. Stories wherein a woman’s sexuality is central to the plot are brushed past or down played as Tamar becomes a bit player to Judah’s fear for his sons, Rahab transforms in to a shopkeeper, and the Shulamite is stripped of her humanity to become an allegory.

With this resounding silence on the beauty of female sexuality is there any wonder that so many women have been caught up in a cycle of shame and guilt over their own bodies? We know that they have been cursed, for we learned that with the story of Eve. We know that they tempt men into foolish and destructive ways, we learned that from Proverbs. We know that wicked and adulterous nations can only be compared to whores, we learned that from the Prophets.

So how do we confront this creation called woman? Is there any honor to be given to her and her dubious biology? Can we celebrate the gift of our sexuality and still remain true to our faith?

Thank God, the answer is yes! And we begin by reading the words he wrote about us. We do it by allowing ourselves to recognize the vital role that women played with his story of redemption. We do it by stripping way the layers of allegory and metaphor to get back to the humanity of his word and to see his delight in his creation. We stop accepting half-truths and easy interpretations that have allowed us to avoid the fact that God made us sexual beings with desirable bodies, sex drives, and the capacity to enjoy who he created us to be.

We reclaim of womanhood by not focusing on the curse of Eve and celebrate her not only as the mother of all humanity, but as the first to receive the promise of the Messiah that would come to this earth through body of a woman! We hear the song of Hannah as a woman becomes the first human to announce the coming of the Messiah, as she celebrates that God has blessed her sexuality in the promise of children. We read the story of Rahab and delight in the fact that God redeems our sexual mistakes so thoroughly that even a whore was deemed fit to be in the lineage of our Saviour.

We liberate the story of the Shulamite from the bondage of allegory and see her as a woman. From her we learn to chase after our husbands and to dance before him in abandon as he delights in our bodies. Perhaps most of all, we learn that our bodies were not created for his pleasure alone, but so that might enjoy this gift of sex with no shame, no guilt, and in utter amazement that God would create such a stunning being as a woman whose intimate union with her husband is one of the few image that begins to describe the deep delight he has in knowing his people.

When we stop treating sex like that sunglasses wearing polar bear, and learn to embrace our sexuality as a gift from God guarding our sexuality stops being motivated by guilt and shame. Instead, we are freed to enjoy its beauty through the revelation of God’s marvelous design for our bodies to be source of pleasure for our spouse and ourselves.

emily dixonEmily Dixon is an artist, writer, and teacher, a mom, wife to Ty, and refurbisher of an awesome Gypsy Bus. She is convinced there is a desperate need for the truth of God’s love, mercy, and redeeming power to be shared with the world in a bold new way. She is the author of Scandalous, and blogs at Misdirected Musings

On Why It’s Hard to Pray for Nepal (But I’m Trying Anyway)

Hard to Pray for Nepal

I was half a world away, in my first year of high school, when the 1989 San Francisco earthquake hit. I remember watching television footage of chunks of the Bay Bridge collapsing on the decks below it, cars skidding like skittles.

I had no idea, then, that twenty five years later I would find myself living in shaking distance of the San Andreas Fault, and every time I drive across one of the long bridges spanning the San Francisco Bay, I wonder “will this be the day? The day of the Big One? Will my car be in the footage of this bridge crumpling into the sea?”

I try not to tell my Mom these things. She worries enough already.

And so it was, on Saturday morning, that I was making my way across one of those long bridges, imagining earthquakes and my imminent demise, when I heard the news of the earthquake which devastated Nepal. 7.9 on the Richter Scale. Over 4000 lives lost already, and tens of thousands more crushed physically, emotionally, and financially: their world literally shaken.

I have friends who have taught me to love Nepal. My sweet friend Katie worked there for some years in a home where children rescued from sex trafficking were being loved into wholeness. We have other friends (whose names I can’t share) working at a missions hospital. I savor their newsletters. I pray for them, hoping in some way to partner with them in the work they are doing there.

I have prayed for Nepal many times, but this week-with my social media flooded with prompts to #PrayForNepal-I’m feeling stuck, and not sure how to pray.

My first instinct is to reach for the soul-notes I learned in the Church of England: Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. But there’s something about that prayer that sticks right now: as if God were engaged in twisting the world’s arms behind our backs until we, in our pain, cry “uncle”.

This is the sticking point: the deep feeling that I need to pray, but the deep disquiet I feel that God could have prevented this, could have stopped this. Believing that God is mighty enough to help half way across the world necessarily means I also believe Him mighty enough to have made things go differently.

I just finished reading a treasure of a book: Karen Dabaghian’s newly released Travelogue of the Interior. In it, she chronicles a journey God took her through the Psalms – a year spent marinating in, and learning to pray and write poetry in response to, God in the Psalms. The most arresting part of the book to me was her chapter on lament, which she describes this way:

“Lament… is the act of pouring out in thoughtfully crafted, brutally honest speech all the accusatory, self-serving, pain-drenched thoughts and emotions that fester in the deepest recesses of my soul when God doesn’t come through for me in the way I believe He is supposed to…. Lament is casting our full selves on the fathomless mercy of God, because only His mercy is big enough to bear witness to our bitter accusations and still let us live.”

So, this morning instead of praying for Nepal, I tried lamenting. Asking God WHY he let this happen and WHAT was he thinking and WHERE was he? My fingers skimmed through my bible, finding the passage in Luke 13 where Jesus talks about what conclusions could be drawn from a tragedy in his day when a tower in Siloam fell and killed many, too. I hunted for the verse somewhere which talks about God shaking the earth.

But at some point my fingers stilled and my breathing got slower, and I found myself in 1 John 1:5, and the reminder that God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. No hint of caprice, no mean streak, no schadenfreude.

I found no answers to why this all happened, but I felt God gently point out that I’d come to prayer with no small amount of resentment: as if I cared more about those suffering than He does, as if I had purer motives than He, as if I had to try and persuade Him to do good for a change.

Ouch.

Instead of assuming that God is petulant and reluctant to bless, I needed a reminder that God is more than the giver of blessings, He is the Gift himself. And so, once again I’m on my knees asking that He would make it better, but… so much more importantly… that He would MAKE IT COUNT. That His presence would be near. That even though we don’t know the WHY, we know He is WITH.

My prayers feel puny, and my faith is small. Honestly, it felt more useful to send a donation to the missions hospital where my friends serve since I knew the money would at least be of practical help (you can donate too: here).

But I need to pray, too, reminding myself that I cannot outdo God in compassion or mercy. In the wake of this devastation, I know this much is true: He cares.

And so I pray.

Pick of the Clicks 4/24/2015

PofClicks

A few gems for this weekend. Enjoy!

For digestion (in the “solid meat is for the mature” sense of the word): Karen Swallow Prior’s “But Jesus didn’t say…“, on lessons to be learned from Huck Finn and Pride & Prejudice in reading Scripture, and how the ‘red letters’ need to be read through the black letters.

For laughs: The 8 Posts People In Their 40s Write On Facebook, by Rose Maura Lorre. #hilarious #blessed

For loving people better: Nancy Comiskey’s Dear Kate: Living With Grief – a mother’s reflection on grief (and how people handled it, and her) in the ten years since her daughter died.

For learning to receive hard things as gifts: Micha Boyett’s This is Ace, in which she celebrates and introduces her beautiful little boy born with Downs Syndrome. (Welcome, Ace. So many people love you already. You are already changing the world.)

For grappling with unity in diversity: Marlena Graves’ Shared Savior, Split Traditions is a very wise, generous word on different faith traditions and denominations, and why she tries to be generous to Christians who see important things differently.

For anyone who’s ever wished the number on the scale was different: Lisa K’s The ‘After’ Myth, where she has a picture of her “before” weight at 225lbs, and her “after” weight at 120, and talks about what the difference that weight loss does (and doesn’t) make. MUST READ.

For reading People magazine as a way to learn to be courageous and keep it real: Addie Zierman’s The Duggars, Rock Hudson, and the Courage to Change the Narrative is gorgeous and wise and true, and more profound than anything I’ve ever come up with while reading glossy gossipy mags. I am really looking forward to her second book!

There were more things I read, but I lost track. More things I wanted to say, but I forgot. That’s okay. These gems are enough for today.

Thanks for reading, everyone, and happy clicking!

How To Spell Love – {Cindy Brandt}

I don’t think I will ever make another friend in the same way I met Cindy Brandt: she and I were the two people whose posts on marriage were featured on mammoth-blog Momastery’s Messy Beautiful Summer series last year (Cindy’s awesome post was on How Captain America Did Not Save My Day, mine is here.) Both of us were newish to writing, and both of us were bowled over by the honor of being on Glennon’s blog. So of course, we became Facebook friends. Cindy and I have since traded hundreds of messages and read thousands of one another’s words. I am both a friend and a fan of this across-the-world writer. If we ever get to meet face to face, it will be EPIC. For today, though, I’m thrilled to introduce Cindy to you as she’s just released a new book, Outside In, which you can get for FREE here

Cindy Brandt love food

Many habits of the West seem strange to me. Football, watching and cheering men on for crushing each other? I don’t get it. Eating cold foods like salads or sandwiches? Here, unless we have steam rising from our food, it’s not considered a real meal. But probably the steepest cultural learning curve for me has been the casual usage of the word “love.” Westerners say “love you,” to indicate anything from a deeply heart felt expression to conversation fillers to an everyday farewell quip. In English, you can love everything from ice cream to celebrities to your husband. Love covers a multitude of meanings, it’s quite incredible.

In Chinese culture, we are generally much more reserved with our affection. For better or worse, controlling our emotions is considered a virtue, and a lavish show of “love” can come across as reckless. By no means does this indicate Chinese people are incapable of love, we just communicate it in much different ways. For example, it cannot be understated just how much food is a love language in our culture. The act of feeding people, whether it’s a mother for a child, or a friend to another, is a deeply significant gesture of generosity. When someone gifts me with a food item, it floods me with a profound sense of gratitude. I appreciate this in many ways: the beauty of love captured within something as ordinary and necessary as nutritional sustenance—an embodied love communicated through a primal, physical act of ingesting food.

Because I see love expressed in such divergent ways, I don’t make the easy assumption that we mean the same thing when we talk about love.

When Gary Chapman’s “The Five Love Languages” was published in 1995, it began an important conversation on how we give and receive love. The premise of the book is that just because our intentions are to show love to another, does not mean they will automatically receive it as such, because we are wired to feel love differently. Although Chapman’s ideas provide a good framework, I would push it much farther than just the five love languages. The variety of ways humans of all different cultures can express and receive love is truly a testament to the breadth of God’s love reflected in us.

As heartless as this may sound, it doesn’t matter how much you feel like you are loving someone, if they don’t perceive it as love, it will mean very little. And if you don’t at least try to communicate it in a way that is meaningful to the recipient, your love remains weak and inauthentic.

As a mother I know deep in my bones how much I love my children. From the moment they were born, my heart beats outside of my body with my two growing littles. But even at birth they needed to be loved differently. My baby girl liked to be held and rocked, while my son was content with stroller runs around the neighborhood. Today, she’s a blossoming pre-teen requiring my sensitivity to her changing moods and he still likes my hugs and snuggles, but “not-so-long, mom.” I’m not perfect, sometimes I have needed to apologize and trust that my children believes I love them despite how I’ve made them feel. But those are stressful demands on tender young spirits. I want them to feel effortlessly loved. This requires that I do the hard work of paying attention to what lights up their eyes, and how to anchor them in the assurance of our unconditional love.

“They shall know us by our love,” says our sacred Word. The command is crystal clear: as Christians we are called to love generously and lavishly and universally. What is unclear is how to share this love in a way that is genuinely felt by the wild diversity of individuals we encounter. Love is so much more than warm fuzzies; it is laborious and costly and not for the faint of heart. It asks us to carve out space for someone who may look differently, think differently, and love differently than ourselves. It is counterintuitive and uncomfortable. But this space we create to listen hard and be attentive to other’s needs, it never infringes upon our own space. On the contrary, it expands our capacity to love in more ways than one. When you stretch the limits of the ways you can love, you become a bigger person, capable of so much more than you thought possible.

My book, Outside In, takes us to those boundaries and asks how we can stretch them by creating space for those who find a disconnect between the love that is preached and the love that is received. My conviction is that the doors to our churches can always extend a little bit farther out to include one more unique story, one more individual perspective, one more way to love.

Learn more about Cindy Brandt’s book, Outside In, and get it for free here.
_MG_9851_2Cindy Brandt writes about faith in the irreverent, miracles in the ordinary, and beauty in the margins. She is more interested in being evangelized than evangelizing, a social justice Christian, and a feminist. She blogs at cindywords.com, tapping words out from the 33rd floor of a high rise in Taiwan, where she lives with her husband, two children, and a miniature Yorkie.

A Life-Changing TED Talk

There have been a handful of times in my life where I can viscerally remember my world being turned upside down. I can remember where I was, what was said, and how everything changed in that moment.

Hearing Gary Haugen speak was one of those moments.

Like so many of you, I am someone who has a picture of a sponsor child on my refrigerator. I have supported missions trips to build water for clean wells, written checks to educate girls, bought a stake in a goat to feed a hungry community.

But until I learned about the Locust Effect, it had never crossed my mind that it was little use to provide a vegetable garden to a widow in Uganda, if her greedy neighbor can steal her land and produce and get away with it. It is of little use for me to pay for school fees and uniforms (and menstrual supplies) so that girls can go to school, if they are so afraid of being raped on the way that they cannot go. It is of no use at all to send clothes and books and staples to impoverished communities in India, if the people are enslaved and physically cannot leave the property to avail themselves of help.

Compassion needs to move us to address the heartbreak of poverty. (And, thank God, it does.)

But wisdom needs to inform our compassion so that, in addressing poverty, we are also addressing the violence which so often keeps poor people poor.

Maybe you’re not a reader. Maybe books like the Locust Effect and Half the Sky are not your thing. But maybe you have twenty minutes to watch a video clip, or to cue this up to listen to as a podcast. It’s a game-changer.

Please listen. This is the best TED talk I have ever listened to. And, I dare say, probably the most important. (Click on the picture, and it will direct you to the talk.)
63afd4defc16088ed0b38318b048d6cf54c5a88c_2880x1620

Share the video, find out more and follow up with International Justice Mission here.

“History will convene a tribunal of our grandchildren, and they will ask us…. “what did you do?” – Gary Haugen

I want to have a better answer to that question.

Pick of the Clicks 4/18/2015

Well, hello there. This is a picture taken in my garden earlier this week. Gorgeous, yes? Happy Spring to you too.

iris

It’s been a busy week, so here are just a few of my favorite reads from around the web (with very little commentary!)

Marla Poplova’s piece on Cheryl Strayed’s Advice to an Aspiring Writer on Faith and Humility is a must read for artists and writers. MUST READ. (But language. You have been warned)

Jerry Jones’ article on The Seven Lies of Living Cross Culturally is spot-on. Just spot on. If you’ve lived abroad (or even in a more local, yet cross-cultural, context) – you will nod your way through this entire piece.

Amy Chase’s Let Someone Else Define You: You Suck at It is worth thinking about. We so often have a really skewed view of what we are good or bad at. Working in ministry was one long exercise in faithfully calling out gifts where I saw them, and more often than not people were completely unaware of them. We need the perspectives of those around us to see ourselves clearly. Worth thinking about who we are listening to, and what we are saying to others about themselves, too.

In a similar vein, with a different conclusion though, is Abby Norman’s piece at SheLoves Who is Holding the Pen?, in which she reclaims that – contrary to her high school boyfriend’s opinion that she should leave the jokes to someone else – she actually IS hilarious. (So in other words, reading Amy and Abby together: don’t listen to Everyone on the topic of You. Do listen to Someone, but choose them carefully :-))

This, on Dan Price, the CEO who thinks he’ll live a luxe life living on $70k a year is my FAVORITE NEWS STORY of the week. This guy is awesome. I hope MANY follow his lead.

Hannah Anderson weighed in on the discussion on birth control which has been raging (again), and I really appreciated her perspective: Choosing a Better Way: Rethinking the Rhetoric of Independence in the Birth Control Debate. She writes:

“…(W)e must not mistake the brokenness that surrounds pregnancy—whether maternal health in Malawi or single motherhood in rural Appalachia—as simply a lack of autonomy. In reality, the brokenness more often stems from a lack of community.”

I finished reading Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday last week: a gorgeously written book with some painfully insights and very thought-provoking points on church, millennials, evangelicalism, the sacraments, and just generally how followers of Jesus can hurt and heal one another. Yet I’d been unable to pinpoint what was niggling at me while reading it. Ben Witherington III’s review – A Searching Book – helped me tremendously. I think Rachel’s book is absolutely worth reading. And so is Ben’s review.

Aubrey Sampson had a fantastic guest post this week with Pinterest Wishes and Overstock Dreams. Hope you read it!

From me? My favorite piece I’ve written in a long time: About the Chutzpah of Crazy Jewish Moms  (on Instagram) and the fascinating and fabulous things it made me wonder about.