Category: Christian Authorship

Book Review: Sanctuary of the Soul

A good book is one you can't put down...but perhaps an even better book is one you must put down. As I read Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster, I found myself longing to behold God for myself, pulled into my figurative prayer closet. Thus, I found myself pausing my reading to pray.As the third Richard Foster book I've read, I would characterize his writing as explaining lofty concepts through doable application steps. In this book and Streams of Living Water, Foster shares a plethora of inspiring historical experiences. These are the stories of hermits, martyrs, French aristocrats, Harvard professors and many others --both well known and little known saints. I also appreciate that Foster draws from a variety of denominations and movements in Christianity and isn't afraid to share ideas that he personally doesn't practice.Three chapters in particular stood out to me --an account of a worship experience Foster had at a Quaker retreat, the chapter on recognizing God's voice and his practical answers to frequently asked questions. Another section I particularly appreciated was when he shared the process (from the human side) of learning to practice the presence of God. Many Christian writers encourage this, but I've never quite understood what they meant. Foster describes it like this: “But in the beginning our praying is uneasy and halting. It's like an alternating current of electricity. Our attention bounces back and forth from divine glories to the mundane tasks of daily….Nevertheless, throughout our seeking and struggling we are continually doing three things [asking, listening, obeying]... Finally through time and experience---sometimes much time and experience----God begins to give us an amazing settledness ...The interior work of prayer becomes much simpler. We experience more enduring upreachings of praise and a relaxed listening in the depths of our heart. All that is needed to draw us into a habitual orientation of our heart toward God are little glances heavenward and quiet whispers of submission” (30-32).Foster suggests using the imagination to visualize Bible stories or Jesus in the room with you. He encourages using artwork, nature, music, silence, tongues, poetry, and technology fasts to help you focus on God. Calming your soul, however, ultimately requires surrender and confession. If you're worried about reading a book which makes you feel guilty about not praying more, Foster’s approach is very gracious. He recognizes the the mother of a newborn doesn't have time in this season of her life; he urges the reader not to beat himself up if he is distracted or falls asleep while meditating, instead starting small. But Foster also doesn't diminish the importance of meditative prayer, reminding us that God is longing for intimacy with us.Work Cited:Foster, Richard J. Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011
Syndicated from .life is a metaphor.

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Living Revision and Listening for the Heartbeat

If you write for your eyes only in a personal journal, if you’ve written books for publication or aspire to, if you blog or write poetry or short stories or sermons, if you write letters, or have put together your family history for your kids and grand-kids, if you write at all, you’ll appreciate Living … Continue reading Living Revision and Listening for the Heartbeat
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Walking Strong in the Spirit

Well before the start of 2018, I knew that my “one word” for this year would actually be five words that form one phrase: Walking Strong in the Spirit That’s the title of this striking new painting by Abbotsford artist Linda Klippenstein, which I received as a special gift this last year. Last January, the … Continue reading Walking Strong in the Spirit
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

The Gratitude Gift That Keeps on Giving

In July of this year, I decided to cut back on writing in this space from weekly to every second week. By doing so, I hoped to make more writing room for my new book project and to ease what sometimes felt like a relentless pace of blogging.
Today I’m making an exception with this extra post, because–well, first of all–I’ve missed all of you!
And now that I’ve cut back, the weekly pace of blogging doesn’t seem so relentless, so I’d love to get back to that some time. For now though, and at least until February 1st, my current book manuscript takes writing priority.
At the same time, I just couldn’t wait to tell you about The Greatest Gift, which is a gratitude journal, scrapbooking kit, and writing guide rolled into one. What makes this so different from other gratitude journals is that The Greatest Gift is a gratitude journal that you make for someone else.
First you think of someone close to you, then you use the kit to design a journal that expresses your gratitude. Everything is included from the hard-cover journal to the gift box and card for your special person, story-telling prompts, border frames, photo corners, stickers, special notes, and more. Just add your own pictures, journal entries, doodles, and creativity to create a uniquely personal gift that’s fun to make and fun to give.

I’m still slowly creating The Greatest Gift for my Special Someone, and savouring the time I spend on it. In that way, it’s really a gift for me too.
For more about The Greatest Gift and to order your gratitude journal kit, see it now at The Greatest Gift–Scrapbooking Gratitude Journal Kit.
As always, my opinions and the choice to review are my own. Thanks to Amir at Habit Nest for sending me a copy.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: Who would you want to create a gratitude journal for and why?
Please scroll down to leave a reply or to share this article.
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Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Ch. 8: Nonexistent Plans (Old Maids are Romantic)

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Old Maids are Romantic is a serial novella with new chapters published every Thursday from October 5-December 7, 2017 (Chapter List; Character List). Click here to start with Chapter 1: Church Danger.

It was a Friday night. My college friends were getting drunk at some Salisbury bar. Natalia was probably busy making supper for her husband and kids. Matilda and the other old ladies were probably all sound asleep. I tried calling Sparrow, but she didn’t answer. I called Kensi, and she texted back “On a date; I’ll call you later.”
I sat and stared at my empty living room, wishing my Friday night wasn’t so empty. I wanted to do something.
I wanted to have stories about my weekend to share with my coworkers on Monday.
I wanted a friend to watch a movie with or laugh hysterically about old memories.
I wanted someone who asked about how the “family meetings” at the homeless shelter were going.
I wanted someone who knew all the names of my coworkers and the details of my job. Someone who would be interested in my stories from the week.
I hadn’t admitted it to myself before, but now there it was, staring me in the face.
I was lonely.
The concept of loneliness conjured up images of needy, desperate girls repeating lame pick-up lines: like “Did you just come out of the oven because you’re so hot?” to guys who would laugh awkwardly, shudder and then move across the room.
It reminded me of the girl who was left to partner with the teacher.
Lonely. It was a word that made me feel like I was lacking somehow. Like I was weird or had too many issues causing people to not want to hang out with me.
__________
“Girl, give me money now.” The loud voice startled me as I walked into the library for my shift. It was Rae’s boyfriend.
“No, Clyde, you've already had to much to drink. It's a weekday. Why aren't you at work?”
“You think they let me stay around when I was like this? Use your head, you idiot.” He slapped Rae hard. Blood started gushing out of her nose.
“C'mon, girl. Tell me where the money is. I know you have some hidden somewhere.” He pushed her, and she was slammed into the side of Clyde’s truck.
I stared aghast. I'd never been exposed to anything like this. I knew physical abuse happened; I just hadn't had to deal with it before in my sheltered life.
“Stop!” I yelled. I don't know what I thought I could do --all 130 pounds of me, but I couldn't just stand by.
Rae turned an angry face at me, “Anne, this ain't your business. I don't need no help. Get on outta here.”
“But--”
“You just think you’re so much better and can tell us how to handle our problems. Well, I have news for you. You don't know nothing about them.” She cussed at me.
I was stunned. Rae could be testy at times, but she had never cussed at me.
I turned and went to find Jiakiesha. Maybe she'd know what to do. She’d known Rae longer than I had.
“Jiakiesha, Rae’s boyfriend is beating her up in the parking lot. She got mad at me for interfering, but I wonder about calling the police.”
Jiakiesha hurried to the window. She muttered something under her breath. “I think Rae’s telling him whatever he wants to know. Yep, he's leaving. I don't know why Rae stays with him.”
__________
“Anne, you’ve got to stop crying.” I told myself in my sternest, most Matilda-like voice. “Get a hold of yourself. Deal with it later. You have to look presentable in half an hour for Tomas and Natalia’s cookout.”
The crying –no, I should call it groaning - didn’t stop though. I couldn’t.
It'd started with the emotions of Clyde beating Rae up and Rae cussing me out. I'd never seen anything that intense before --at least not in real life right in front of my face instead of on a screen. But then I started crying about anything and everything --missing my family, the stupid dryer not working, and the twelve albums of wedding photos I'd seen on Facebook in the last week.
Twenty minutes later, I somehow got a hold of myself. Forcing myself to quit thinking about my issues, I headed to the cookout. I'd make my appearance and then leave early. Or hopefully, I'd enjoy myself and forget why I was upset.
Natalia greeted me, “Oh, you brought your famous cheese ball! Great! How was your day?”
“Rough. I saw a coworker get beaten up today.”
“Oh, I'm sorry. Here, you can set it on the picnic table.” Natalia brushed by me, and I found myself stiffening.
Well, so much for telling her about my day.
__________
Kensi’s fiance Juan was making everyone laugh with one of his crazy stories. Well, everyone, but me.
“Nothing worked. He wouldn’t leave me alone. So I started growling at the dog. It began to back away. Then I hunkered down, put on my most menacing face and started stalking it. You should have seen it run! He tucked his tail between his legs.”.
Was I laughing too loudly? Was I too skittish, avoiding touch because I knew I would fall apart? Did I look too standoffish standing there with my arms crossed? Could they tell my mind was a million miles away?
I almost wanted them to notice. What was that phrase? Something about crowds being the loneliest places? Well, it was true. I’d cried for six hours straight, and no one here knew a thing about it.
I decided to slip away. I dumped my plate in the trashcan and grabbed my lawn chair.
“Leaving already? Cornhole hasn’t even started yet!” Tomas, Gertrude and Kensi were out on the porch when I tried to sneak by.
“You’ve got to talk about it, Anne.” I told myself. “It isn’t healthy to keep everything bottled up inside.”
“Yeah, my day was rough. I saw my coworker, Rae, get beat up by her boyfriend. And she cussed me out.”
Kensi frowned. “Why did Rae cuss you out?” She started wiping the dirt off one of Natalia’s hanging flower pots.
“I yelled at Clyde to stop. She didn’t want me getting in the way.” The tears from earlier threatened to come out. “But I couldn’t just let him keep hitting her.” My voice shook.
I crossed my arms, knowing if someone touched me I was going to start crying again. But at the same time, I could really use a hug.
“I wish my coworker--”
Gertrude interrupted me. “Sounds like she had her own problems. You shouldn’t take her cursing at you so personally. Maybe a good night’s sleep will help.” she finished dismissively. “Tomas, I really appreciated the invite tonight. People don’t always think us older folk will enjoy this type of thing, but….
I walked to my car. Gertrude would go home and talk about her enjoyable time with husband. Kensi would talk about wedding stresses with Juan as he dropped her off. Tomas and Natalia would clean up together, laughing at how young adults were messier than their kids…..and I would go back to my empty apartment.
__________
Matilda came up to me after the service. “You’ve seemed really quiet the last several Sundays. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, life’s good.” I shrugged. I folded my arms across my chest. I knew that if I let my walls down for a second, I would start bawling. I didn’t really want everyone seeing how pitiful I was.
Matilda wasn’t buying it. “Oh, really?” She peered at me over her red spectacles. “What’s wrong?”
I took a deep breath. I guess I needed to talk to someone anyway --not that anyone had listened at Natalia and Tomas’ party.
“I guess I just wish I had someone I could talk to every evening after work. I’m getting tired of sitting by myself in church every Sunday. I’m tired of being single.”
“Are you tired of being single or are you lonely?”“I’m lonely.”
“Good.”
I waited for an explanation. But instead Matilda wrapped her arms around me. “Loneliness is tough.” I tried to hold my emotion in. But I felt a tear slip out. Suddenly, I was shaking, crying, and I didn’t care who saw.
Matilda held me for about five minutes until I stopped crying.
“My apartment is just so quiet, and I want someone who knows the names of all my coworkers and all my family’s quirks. I want someone I can call in an emergency. I want to be touched.” I rambled on and on.
Matilda listened. Finally, I grew quiet.
“It took me a long time and I know that it sounds absurd, but I finally embraced the loneliness.” Matilda said.
“What do you mean?”
Matilda stared at me for a moment. “Have you ever read Amy Carmichael's poem called ‘Acceptance’? She was a single missionary to India.”
“No.”
“Look it up online and read it sometime…...and, of course, prayer is powerful. Act like it!”
__________
I went home and read the Amy Carmichael poem. It listed ways she tried to find peace --ignoring pain, avoiding it, being busy. None of them worked until she tried acceptance. What did acceptance have to do with loneliness?
Matilda talked as though one should actually want loneliness . Crazy! Although I guess I couldn’t really discount her opinion since she’d been single a lot longer than I had.
__________
Jiakiesha came into the office, barking: “Rae, get off that phone and get to work. Kensi, the trash doesn’t need taken out fifty times a day. Anne, where are those lists of acquisitions?”
“What’s up with her?” I whispered to Kensi.
“I don’t know. But I plan to stay out of her way today.”
Jiakiesha yelled and fumed all morning. The copier wasn’t fast enough. The patrons weren’t quiet enough. The books from the interlibrary loan system didn’t arrive soon enough. Enlightenment came when her husband stopped by on her lunch break ---with flowers. “C’mon, darling, it's not that big of a deal.”
“Not a big deal, huh. Just something I slaved away for, pinched my pennies together and dreamed of with you ….and you say it's not a big deal.”
“I didn't realize it was this important to you. I'm sorry.
Jiakiesha shook her head, “Do you even know me?”
Her husband left the flowers on the front desk even though Jiakiesha hadn't seemed to care about them. However, after he left, I caught her staring at them a couple times. Plus, she was nicer.
__________
I was on my way out the door when Jiakiesha caught up with me. “Honey, I'm sorry I yelled at you this morning. I shouldn’t have taken my anger out on you.”
“No problem. I hope your evening gets better.” I held the door open for her.
“Oh, it will. I'm sure we'll make up.” She was quiet, and I wasn't sure if the conversation was over. “I don't know if I'm more mad at him for not understanding or mad at me for expecting him to be able to perfectly read my mind.”
“It's hard not to have expectations.”
“Yes, but no one this side of heaven, will perfectly understand me even if I live with them. Perhaps, especially if I live with them. I wish marriage didn’t accentuate one’s loneliness.” She sighed and looked up. “Sorry to ramble. Have a good evening!”
__________
“Have you found Jesus in the midst of your loneliness yet?” Matilda asked me. “I’ve been praying.”
“Ummm….” I wished I could say yes to prevent her from prying, but the truth was I'd continued having self-pity parties --without Jesus. “No, I guess not.”
Surprisingly, Matilda didn't continue the topic.
__________
Natalia came in the door with her children. She sent Maria and Sarah off to the children’s section to find some books and then carried Daniel over to me at the desk.
“I’m ready for summer! This has been a very wet spring.” she said, folding her umbrella.
“Yeah, Disneyland, right?
Natalia sighed. “Tomas thinks we shouldn’t go on to Disneyland this year. Too much money. He’s right, butI’m disappointed. I think the kids would have really enjoyed it.”
“Well, can he still take time off work? Perhaps you could go camping or somewhere closer to home?”
“Yeah, you’re right. Don’t worry. I’ll get over it. So what’s up with you?”
“Well, I’m tired of getting all these wedding invitations, so I’m disappointed about my summer too.”
Natalia looked at me compassionately, “Your turn is coming.”
“Natalia. Please.” Of all my friends I expected Natalia to understand. I needed her to understand.
I grabbed her arms and stared her straight in the face. “I hope Tomas dies, so you can take as many vacations as you want.”
“Anne! That’s awful!”
“So it’s okay for you to hope that I change my marital status because I say one teeny, negative thing about being single, but I shouldn’t hope your marital status changes just because you complain about your marriage?”
“That’s different. I’m just a little disappointed. Normally, I love being married.”
“Same with me. Normally, I love being single, but I’m just having a bad day.”
I sighed. “Listen, Natalia, I don’t mean to be rude about Tomas dying, but I need you to be on the same page. Being content is a mental battle I can’t win without my friends.”
__________
Mother's Day didn't use to be so difficult. I brushed my hair, wishing church was already over. I'd just thought of Mother's Day as another day growing up, perhaps a day to do something nice for my mother. But then a couple years ago on Mother's Day at my former Salisbury church, one of the kids I sometimes babysat brought me the tissue rose she'd made in Kid’s Church.
“That is for Mommy.” I told her.
My friend came over and motioned that it was all right. “Since her brother already gave me a rose, she wanted to give it to you.” She whispered.
I carried the rose out to my car and cried all the way home. I wanted kids so badly, but I wasn't sure that would ever happen. I wanted to take them out for ice cream and hear their stories. I wanted to build forts with them, pray my heart out for them when they started hanging with the wrong friends and watch their joy over little things like candy. I wanted a child to bring me a torn, tape-covered rose and say, “This is for you, Mommy.”
9:15! Uggh! I'd procrastinated too long. “Just get it over with.” I told myself. I'd already had my annual Mother's Day cry last night. I just had to survive a sermon about mothering and then I was free for another year.
__________
“We've all heard the saying, 'The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.’” my pastor said, “Mothers have more influence than we are even aware of.”
Why didn't we ever have sermons about how the church needs singles, or the blessings of depending on God as a single? Why was there sermon after sermon about the need for strong families and good marriages, but none about-
I was startled to see Bertha literally shaking in front of me. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed. Probably not. She was sort of hidden by a post. Raymond was searching his pockets, perhaps for a handkerchief. Should I do something? Raymond was right there to comfort his wife, right?
After a couple more minutes, I couldn't stand it any more. I slipped up a row, gave her a hug and then massaged her shoulder. Temperamental, bitter Bertha was the last person I expected to be crying. Was this about her daughter? The one Natalia had accidentally slipped and told me about? The one who wasn't speaking to her?
I started to feel guilty for my self-absorbed rant. I had been acting like I was the only one hurting on Mother's Day, complaining that the church wasn't tailored just to fit my needs when I was supposed to be the healing hands of Jesus to my sisters in Christ. I wondered if there had been anyone else whose pain I'd been oblivious to. I looked around the sanctuary. Natalia was rocking Daniel, but she didn't look like her mind was on the sermon. Perhaps she was thinking of her miscarriage right before Daniel?
Nicolas and Rosa were behind the Ramos family. Nicolas had his arm around Rosa. I remembered that their son had died in a tragic accident as a teenager.
The service ended. I gave Bertha a final hug and then went out into the bright sunshine. Gertrude was attacking a young couple who'd just started coming to our church. “When are you going to be a mother? Or don't you want kids?”
The wife glanced at her husband, and he answered for her. “Well, we've been trying for a number of years.” I winced. I almost walked on by that awkward conversation, but knowing my own pain, I hated for them to leave church with Gertrude's question on their minds.
“Hey, it was good to have you here this Sunday.” I wondered how I could soften the pain. Acknowledgement. Wasn't that what I had wanted? I wasn't quite ready to confess to eavesdropping, but I thought I'd bring the topic up since they had been open with Gertrude. “Mother's Day isn't always the easiest day to come to church.”
The woman’s face relaxed, “No, it isn't.” Good! I'd said the right thing.
__________
I arrived home and was thinking of picking some of Rosa’s daisies for a table bouquet. She always said I was welcome to them. However, then the thought occurred to me that Bertha might need the bouquet more than I.
I cut the flowers, wrote a little note and then drove over to her house. Raymond answered the door.
“I brought these for Bertha.” I said.
His face brightened. “I'll let you give them to her yourself.”
When I told Bertha “Happy Mother's Day” and gave her the flowers, she burst into tears again. “This just means so much.” she said.
She showed me a picture of her daughter. “You're right at Sonya's age. We haven't spoken in five years.”
I wondered if I should pry. But Bertha seemed to want to talk. “What happened?”
Her voice quavered. “We had a big fight about her boyfriend and so she left home and moved to Pittsburgh where he was working. She changed her phone number and hasn't called since.”
Bertha took a breath and pointed to the flowers I brought. “Sonya used to bring me flowers every Mother's Day. I was so embarrassed the one year when she plucked the tops off of all the neighbor’s roses. Bloodied her fingers to do it. But Raymond had given me roses and she wanted to give her own. She was so proud of them. I felt awful telling her not to do that again.”
 
We looked through photo albums, and it took several hours for me to get out their door. But I was glad I'd gone over. Who knew that under that tough personality, Bertha was just as needy as the rest of us?

Chapter 9: Legacy will be posted 11.30.17. If you have questions about singleness or need to talk, feel free to email Tabitha at ultimatemetaphor@gmail.com. For more posts on this chapter's topic of loneliness and pain, see "Friendships Don't Heal Loneliness" and "How to Use Other's Rudeness to Increase Your Compassion".

Syndicated from .life is a metaphor.

On Learning Empathy for Writers and Everyone

One of the many things I appreciate about Andi Cumbo-Floyd’s Love Letters to Writers is that her new book is about much more than writing. Andi writes about life–including her life on a farm, on dealing with disappointment and loss, on living with good grace and love. Both her experience as a writer and her personal warmth shine on every page.
Whether you’re a writer or not, I trust you’ll be inspired by what Andi says here about learning empathy for others. Welcome, Andi! Thank you for your friendship and for this guest post that’s filled with your gentle humour and love.
Dear Beautiful Writers,
When I was a child on road trips with my family – always to historical sites, for the record – I would watch power lines or parallel road beds, trying to see where they went when they diverged from the road I was on.  I knew there were stories there, stories I would never know but wanted to.  In some ways, this gazing at other paths was my first work as a writer.
That wanting to understand other’s stories was deepened by my mother, who insisted I empathize with other people in every situation. For her, empathy was a work of her deep faith, and she wanted that for her children.  My first memory of her teaching me to really think about other people’s feelings, to try and feel as they felt, came when I was about 5 or 6 years old. Our neighbors were going back to Florida for the winter, and I wanted to write them a note because my brother and I spent a lot of time at their house playing backgammon and holding their Yorkshire terrier Winston.  
Here’s what I wrote:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. W,
We will miss you.  Mr. W, try to lose some weight while you’re in Florida.  

Love,
Andi
My mom read that note and immediately sat me down. “Andi, how would you feel if someone wrote that to you? Imagine what it would feel like to have someone you love tell you that the one thing they wanted for you was for your body to be different.”  She stared at me with her one blue and one brown eye, asking me to get it, to know how Mr. W. might feel, and in my tiny-bodied self, I did.  Tears came to my eyes, and I realized how awful my attempt at humor must have been.  
I rewrote the note.
In some ways, I’ve been working to reach that level of empathy in everything I write – and rewrite ever since.  For me, writing is an act of empathy, an act of understanding myself and others. It’s the work I have to do to love like Jesus loved because, well, I’m a broken human being who is trying to do better.  
When I write, I want the foundation of my words to be understanding. I want to seek to love every person I put on the page – including myself – as Jesus loves us all.  So while I don’t write very often about my faith overtly – I’m not what most people would call a “Christian writer” – I hope that my faith colors my words with love. I hope that when people read what I write – even when it’s challenging – they know that at the core I am seeking to live as Jesus has asked me to live – with a wide-open heart dedicated to love.
Friends, love – real, hard, edgy love – that’s really the only thing worth writing for, isn’t it?
Much love,
Andi
Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, three rabbits, and thirty-six chickens.  She writes regularly about writing at Andilit.com.
Read more of Andi’s beautiful writing in Love Letters to Writers.
Writing/Reflection Prompt: What life experiences have taught you to have empathy for others?
Disclosure: Thank you to Andi for providing me with an advance copy of her book.  My comments and the decision to review are my own.
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I’d love to stay in touch with you!
Syndicated from April Yamasaki

Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith is On Sale Now!

From following my blog here on Patheos you know that I don’t shy away from critiquing the parts of American Christianity that I find problematic. I’m comfortable with controversy, but I don’t speak out simply for the sake of debate. I care deeply about the legacy of our Christian faith. I care about you and […]
Syndicated from The Official Blog of Benjamin L. Corey

What Writing Means for Me Today

In third grade, I wrote about wanting to be a writer some day, and illustrated my two paragraphs with a hand-drawn picture of my parents’ old manual typewriter.
Today my husband says to me, “You’re living your dream.”
That’s true in many ways, although there’s a lot about writing today that’s different from what I imagined.
Like the computer keyboard that’s replaced the manual typewriter. The explosion of social media. The way a book takes on a life of its own and makes its way into the world.
How writing isn’t just writing, but researching, interviewing, collaborating, and yes even promoting. How writing can be both lonely and a door to community, a fresh start and a long road, how it means risk and courage, both being mindful and forgetting about everything.
Through all the changes, I still love writing, I still feel as if I’m living the dream, and today this is what writing means for me:
Fantastic News #1: An Invitation
Thanks to the House of James Bookstore and Coffeeshop in Abbotsford, I’m glad to invite you to join me for a book event on Thursday evening, October 12 at 7pm.
Stories of Life features my two newest books: Sharing Faith Stories, which is a six-session Bible study for personal or group use, and Everbloom: Stories of Deeply Rooted and Transformed Lives, which is an anthology of women’s writing that includes my story on “Finding My Activist Voice.”
What the two books have in common is that they’re both about stories of life, stories of faith. How can we share our stories in healthy and healing ways? What happens when our story is difficult?
I hope we can encourage one another while enjoying something delicious from the coffeeshop and supporting the House of James which is such a wonderful part of our community. Thank you to Lando, Colin, and all the House of James staff, and to Lauryssa for creating the poster. If you’re in Abbotsford or up for a drive, I’d love to see you there!
Fantastic News #2: A Pause for Sacred Pauses
While I’m celebrating the publication of my two latest books, my earlier Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal continues to surprise me.
Now if I were more promotion-minded, I would offer regular updates each year on the anniversary of the book’s release, but once again February came and went without even a nod to Sacred Pauses. I’ll try to do something special for February next year, but in the mean time, today I’m pausing to share some news of how Sacred Pauses has been contributing to:
Thank you, Gordon, for your creativity and card

Mennonite Partners in China who used the book as a resource for their Professional Improvement Conference earlier this year. I never imagined that Sacred Pauses would be used by mission workers meeting in Laos!
Lancaster Mennonite High School in Pennsylvania for teaching juniors and seniors, where the book is also a text for an Advanced Placement class in Spiritual Formation (dual enrollment with Eastern Mennonite University).
And lest anyone think that Sacred Pauses is mainly for Mennonite readers, it’s being used as a resource for senior seminar classes in a nondenominational college, and finding readers in many places and from many walks of life. One reader in Houston, Texas even sent me a special series of cards that have been a wonderful surprise in my mailbox!

Fantastic News #3: A New Project
For those of you who follow me on When You Work for the Church, you already know that I’m excited to be working on a new book project!
I would have announced it here earlier, but because the new book idea grew out of an article I wrote on church employment, it only seemed right to share it over there first. This was the article that started it all: Is Self-Care Part of Your Paid Employment, and Should It Be?  And this is how the article led to a book contract: How Do You Handle Self-Care?
Of course, self-care isn’t only for those working for the church or in paid employment. It touches all of us, and raises many questions. How is self-care different from being selfish or self-indulgent? What does self-care mean in light of caring for community, in light of Jesus’ call to his followers to deny themselves?
I won’t say more here, since I want to save it for the book, but God willing and thanks to Herald Press, the new book is planned for release in fall 2018!
 
Writing/Reflection Prompt: All this and more is what writing means for me today. What does writing mean for you?
 
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Syndicated from April Yamasaki

A Cartoon With Uncanny Accuracy: Predicting the Winding Blog Path

See how yellow this cartoon is?
The darkest areas are tape that is no longer transparent after a decade.

@2007 Isabella Bannerman. Used by permission.

My colleague Amy clipped this image out of a newspaper ten years ago when she heard I was thinking about becoming a blogger..
For some reason, I kept it.
I could not have known, then, that I would spend a whole semester in close proximity to a group of nuns.
Nor could I have predicted the evolution of subject matter from memoir to joyful aging.
The cartoon heralds another evolution, announcement.
I’ll be blogging less in the next year.
I like my friend Dora Dueck’s term “occasional weblog,” indicating no commitment to regularity but still staying in touch.
After publishing more than 600 posts, usually every week, I’m ready for a different pace.
 I’ll have a new subject: what it’s like to take care of a baby, again.
All of the subject changes of the last decade have been related to each other.
The theme of jubilación has included a sub-theme of grandparenting: “Like leaping into heaven.” 
Six years ago I documented a year (GrannyNanny Diaries) of helping to take care of grandchild #1 while living in Brooklyn for a year.
We are going to repeat that experience with grandchild #3. On August 1 we move to Pittsburgh for a year to help take care of her.
But first, she has to be born.
Any day now we expect to hear she’s on her way.
We’ll help welcome her home and share those exciting, nervous, first days and nights.
Then we’ll embark on a 12-day Nordic Cruise, followed by a week in Norway.
Expect to hear from me sometime in August, after we’ve taken up residence in a one-bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh, just up the street from Kate and Nik and Lydia.
In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful summer. May it be full of joy and adventure as well as quiet pleasures and rest.
I liked the cartoon so much, I purchased the rights to this color version.

Love to hear from you. If you blog, what does this cartoon say to you at this stage in your development?
And to all: what are you planning to do with your “wild and precious” summer days?
Syndicated from Shirley Hershey Showalter

Beyond Sex Roles By: Gilbert Bilezikian (A Book Review)

One of the marks of a good scholarly piece is that even when your opponents disagree with your main premise, they still appreciate the quality of your work.  This is exactly what I have noticed as I’ve perused book reviews on “Beyond Sex Roles” By: Gilbert Bilezikian on Goodreads and Amazon.  I’ve noticed that even though many people disagree with his conclusion, the majority have applauded him for his research, application, and writing techniques.

This book was lent to me by my pastor after a conversation surrounding the appropriate role of women in the church.  As many of you are aware, this is a topic I have been wrestling through for a few years and ultimately find confusing as both sides present good arguments for their beliefs.   Although I may not have agreed with everything that Bilezikian expounded on, his work definitely is one I would encourage any serious theologian to add to their collection.

One of the greatest assets of Bilezikian’s book is the care he takes in outlining God’s original intent for men and women.  Unlike many other authors who simply proof-text 1 Timothy 2:12, Bilezikian actually starts right at the beginning of the Genesis account, moves throughout the Old Testament, addresses women in leadership in the New Testament, and finally ends with the Apostle Paul’s instructions for a woman to be silent.

In his book, he begins by stating the verse, doing an exegesis of it, exploring the socio-historical culture, and providing a practical application for today.  Here are a few things that stood out to me in his writing:

#1: In the original creation account, Adam was formed first and then Eve.  Nevertheless, it was not until after the fall that God informed Eve that her desire would be for her husband and that he would “lord” it over her (Genesis 3:16).

The original intent in Scripture is for the man to be the head of the wife and to love her as Christ loves the church, whereas, the woman is called to submit to her husband.  But what exactly does this mean?

In English the word “head” often connotes “the person in charge” for example “the head of the board.”  However, in other languages like French, it does not have the same meaning.  Nevertheless, in this situation, the word “head” actually refers to a “life-source.”  For Eve (and therefore women) were taken from man (Adam) and therefore are a part of him. Yet, what sets Christianity apart from the pagan society of the day, is the care for which the man in this patriarchal setting would have shown to his wife.  Whereas, women in this culture were often seen as “second rate” and only useful as “baby machines”, men were taught to be servant leaders and both husbands and wives were instructed not to withhold conjugal rights from one another.  Furthermore, in the context of family, both mothers and fathers were to be obeyed and respected by their children.  The word used when Paul ordered children to OBEY their parents, is different than the word SUBMIT.  This is because although the woman is to give preference to her husband and to honour him, it does not lower her own status or infantilize her.

#2: Proponents of the complimentarian approach often have difficulty accepting a women in pulpit ministry, but what does the Bible have to say on this topic?

It is evident throughout both the Old and New Testament that women were useful for the ministry of the church in a variety of ways, including in public settings.  For example, both Testaments mention female Prophets (Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, Anna, Philip’s Four Daughters, etc.)  The interesting thing to note here is that the prophetic ministry at that time was something often included in a public worship setting.  The Apostle Paul himself noted that Prophesy was useful for the edification of the church, whereas tongues were merely useful for person edification (1 Corinthians 14:4).  Moreover, there is an injunction in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that a woman who is engaging in public prayer or prophesy must cover her head whereas a man is expressly requested not to.  According to Bilezikian as well as many other authors, this had to do with the cultural strictures of the day.  There are, of course, some churches like the Brethren who still wear head coverings, however, for the most part I have always found it ironic that churches which don’t allow a woman to preach are fine without the use of a head covering.  To me this is hypocrisy and merely a way of ensuring a patriarchal structure.

There are a few other notable women in the early church.  There is Priscilla who along with her husband Aquila served as a co-pastor and mentor to the Apostle Paul.  There are also mentions of female apostles including Junia who was considered “outstanding among the Apostles” (Romans 16:7).  In this time period, the apostolic ministry was one of teaching and pastoral authority.  In fact, an apostle was considered a higher rank than a pastor (almost like a bishop today).  Therefore, it is erroneous to believe that there would have been a female apostle but not a female pastor.

Lastly, there was the church leader, Tabitha who was so influential that upon her death, two men sent for the Apostle Peter to raise her up.  They were so saddened by this woman’s faith and virtue that no one else could have taken her place.  What a remarkable leader she must have been!

So how exactly do we live in this tension of the Biblical world, while also staying true to the Biblical text?  Here is a summary of Bilezikian’s beliefs:

Firstly, the original design in creation was for men and women to enjoy equal status to each other and to God.  Any form of male patriarchy is the result of the fall.  That being said, there is still a way Christ has redeemed it.  The husband is to be the “life-source” of his wife and to provide for her, whereas the wife submits to her husband not merely out of obedience but out of love.  At times, the husband and wife must submit to one another, showing preference and honouring the other.  Decisions need to be made in a mutually edifying way that give the man his rightful place not as “dictatorial ruler” but as loving authority figure.  Likewise, the wife must submit not out of childish obedience, but out of reverence and support.  Situations like we see so common in our day where the man abuses his rightful authority and uses it is a means to manipulate or harm a woman, twisting Scripture and even justifying his abuse, are the result of sin and the fall.  Instead, the Biblical mandate we see is that the husband is to “provide a source of life, of servanthood, and of growth.” (Bilzekian, 158).  This is taken from the statement in Ephesians 5:23-29, that “Christ is the head of the Church.  He is Himself the Saviour of the body.  Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.  No man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it as Christ does the Church.” Bilezikian further notes, “the meaning of the head-body duality is not authority but reciprocity.  BECAUSE Christ is the wellspring of the Church’s life and provides it with existence and sustenance, in RETURN the Church serves Him in loving dependency and in recognition of Him as the source of its life.  In a similar manner, the head-body metaphor applied to the husband-and-wife relationships serves to emphasize their essential unity, deriving from creation.  Because man as the fountainhead of woman’s existence was originally used to supply her with her very life, and because he continues to love her sacrificially as his own body in marriage, in return a Christian wife binds herself up to her husband in a similar relationship of servant submission that expresses their oneness.” (161)  In this circumstance, Bilezikian acknowledges that “being subject to” or “submitting” is a “mutual (two-way process)” much different from the “unilateral (one-way subordination)” that would have been common in this time period (154).  That is to say, submitting out of love is not the same as the way a slave would “submit” to his master.  This is an important concept to grasp as many women wrongly feel that “submission” is a dirty-word and completely close their mind to the concept.  In Bilezikian’s own words “among spouses it is possible to submit without love, but it is impossible to love without submitting.” (168; cf. Col. 3:18-19)

Ultimately, Bilezikian provides this conclusion: Our life is so much more than the merely defined sex roles of the culture.  Yes, part of life is understanding what makes a man male or a woman female, but there is so much more than just what we see at the surface.  Regardless of gender or the associated roles placed on us by society or the church, each one of us is made as an image-bearer of God.  Thus, our personhood stems from the Holy Spirit and we are all called to represent Christ and the character traits that exemplify the Fruit of the Spirit (208).  It is only then that we will find lasting and full freedom.  Not in a man overexerting his influence and damaging women.   Not in a woman becoming a radical feminist and abusing men or ignoring their status. But rather in the two separate yet unified sexes coming together under the Cross of Christ in a glorious exchange of willing servitude and submission, in both men and women entering into a relationship with Christ which they seek to emulate in their marriage and public roles, and in shunning our cultural expectations in favour of heavenly ones in accordance with the original design laid out in Scripture.

 

Syndicated from Zweibach and Peace – Thoughts on Pacifism and Contemporary Anabaptism

Interview: Heather Lehman, Light Magazine Editor

Heather and I have been friends since we were teenagers​; we've played instruments together, shared book suggestions, road tripped to Ohio, sewed purses (mine was a flop), and studied 1 Corinthians at a local coffee shop. 

Heather's unashamed desire to follow God as well as her creative and independent spirit have inspired me over the years. Thankfully, even though our lives have gone different directions, we've kept in contact through the Light Magazine.

Recently, I got a chance to ask her some questions about her part in Light Magazine.

What first gave you the idea for Light Magazine?
Digging back through the archives as far as I can, I find a single, folded piece of white copy paper decorated with markers. “Girls for God” is scrawled across the top. I may have been nine years old when I wrote this, and whatever spurred me has long since disappeared from my memory. Later I created farm “newspapers” on an old typewriter I found in the shed. I wrote a family newsletter. I created several issues of a sundry of girls’ publications. As a teenager, I decided to see if one of my magazines could become real. Ten years later, I guess I can say it did.

What do you look back at from the first issues and shudder at?
While the content from those first issues isn’t very deep or insightful, it makes me smile. It’s very personal and real. The graphic design, on the other hand, is a nightmare.

Why did you choose light as a symbol for the magazine?
I can’t really say that I intentionally choose this symbol. It sort of evolved with time. My cousin, who fielded a long list of potential magazine names, told me she liked the name Life in the Light. I used this name for seven years before streamlining the name to simply Light. Now I realize God guided our seemingly random name choice. 
 
Light is rich with symbolism that fits well with the mission of Light Magazine to bring clarity to difficult topics, to spread joy wherever we go, to be daughters of purity and integrity, and to share the Gospel with our lives and words. Light Magazine is about living in the light of truth and living as light in the world. 

Years ago, you told me that you do a lot less writing than you thought you would for the magazine. What do you mainly do? Do you wish you had a better balance? How did you develop your photography and design skills?

Writing is my first love when it comes to creative pursuits. Art, music, photography, sewing, graphic design, and baking are nice, but writing won my heart first. Still, it’s true that I don’t do as much writing for Light as you might expect. My articles get cut first if space runs tight, and even if they stay in, that’s only four articles a year. Meanwhile, I have one hundred and twenty-eight pages to layout and design and several dozen articles to edit. The ratio, while not my preference, is needed. Plus, though I love writing more, graphic design comes much easier than writing during seasons of personal dryness. 

I’ve learned to appreciate graphic design as a form of communication in its own right and do genuinely enjoy it. Unlike writing, which I’ve studied formally, I’ve learned design entirely through trial and error, which has only recently been supplemented by a few classes through Lynda.com. Most of the photography is delegated to the staff photographers or done by freelancers.

Did editing Light Magazine help prepare you for your current job?
Absolutely. The magazine gave me practice doing graphic design, editing other people’s writing, and communicating extensively through email. I use these skills all the time in my work as publications editor for DestiNations International (the mission agency of the Biblical Mennonite Alliance).

Only recently did I realize that all your DIY type activities in Light Magazine had a spiritual focus. Why?
With the advent of Pinterest, most of us don’t have any trouble finding projects to do. The greater challenge is finding ways to bring the fragments of our lives into a cohesive spiritual walk with God. Light can’t really compete with all the tutorials and activities available to us, but what we do try to offer is something different: a holistic approach to life that doesn’t separate fun crafts from spiritual reality.

Your family lived in Tanzania for 3 months when you were growing up. Later you spent some time in New York City. How do those places affect the type of material and perspective that you bring to the magazine? How have you provided a global focus for Light Magazine?
I turned fourteen in Tanzania and have vivid memories of that birthday. My dad took me out for lunch, and I ordered a chapati and tea while the geckos ran around in the thatched umbrella over our outdoor table. Those months we spent in East Africa challenged me to see beyond my own experiences and into the lives of others. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of visiting several other countries and working with people from many ethnicities in New York City. 
 

Heather Lehman (Istanbul, Turkey)

These experiences have helped me resist the status quo of the western world. I have no qualms about being different and standing against the tide. For Light this means I want to share insights from around the globe to help others gain a broader perspective, and I want all of us to live with the understanding that sharing the Gospel is my job -- not just the job for a professional missionary.

There’s nothing more encouraging than hearing how God worked in someone else’s life. Two of Light Magazine's features focus on this --the Good News Record and Jasmine’s interviews. Tell us a little bit about these two features.
Sure. The "Good News-Record" is the oldest regular column in Light Magazine and consists of two pages in the very center of every issue that are dedicated to sharing true stories of God’s faithfulness or provision. Jasmine Martin also writes a regular column called "Life on Purpose". Based on interviews, she shares the life stories of others with us. 
 
I’m a huge fan of true stories and believe that recounting stories of God’s faithfulness brings Him glory and fuels our faith. While we occasionally share stories from the past, most of the stories in these features are current so we are reminded that God is at work in our day and our generation.
 
Do retreats and magazines go together? Tell us about the Light Retreat. Would you ever do one again?
I’m meeting with a friend this Saturday to discuss possibilities! ☺

If someone wants to subscribe, how do they do so?
The easiest way is to just visit the website: www.lightmag.com/magazine.

Syndicated from .life is a metaphor.

The Return of the Religious In ‘The Young Pope’

“I don’t believe in God, but I miss Him.”

When Julian Barnes, the man booker prize-winning British novelist, penned the above quote, he echoed something within much of the heartbeat of modern secular society. It seems in all of our “liberation” of the absurdity in religion, we still yearn for the divine order to be true.

The writer and director of TYP is not, to my knowledge, a religious person, but the aesthetic of the show dominates. You might even say the religious symbolism is the main character. TYP is also being featured on HBO, so there are scenes that make one grateful for private viewing so as not to be embarrassed by the pressing of the fast-forward button. In other words, though they are very few, watch with caution.

The following are 10 reasons that you might enjoy The Young Pope:

The intrigue surrounding what appears to be a corrupt pope is simply good advertising attempting to play on the psyche of secular America, by appealing to what we think we know about religious leaders – leading us to actually watch a show about a Pope who, while very rigid, is not necessarily a reflection of these typical tropes.
The Young Pope takes on the subject of a series of doubts that are nested in faith, promoting a faith that takes the risk of giving oneself wholly to a Christianity we do not completely understand.
The subjects of memory, parenting, and the loss of innocence are shown as very real drivers in the choices we make on a daily basis, even if one is the Pope.
While very narcissistic, Pope Lenny is sincere, honest, and very devout in his convictions; a faith that seems to be able to withstand terrible burdens and responsibilities, leaving the most radical leader in today’s religious climate to be portrayed by none other than a conservative.
Even though HBO may not have a history of respecting religion, The Young Pope does just the opposite: in the young universe God is real, allows for visions, contains instances of genuine healing, miracles, and even the liberation of the truth – containing the justice that comes when saints pray, not just make power moves.
Lenny may appear to be unbelievably rigid in his beliefs, but the show demonstrates his ability to transform the way he thinks through relationships, argumentation, and a steady diet of the scriptures.
The hero, whether people admit it or not, is a conservative, leaving the villains to the progressive side; a move many will not appreciate, but one that is at least tapping into one side of the story often unheard.
The best debates on the main issues are had here, and they are excellent. One of the best discussions on abortion happens in an episode, with all of its nuance and tension, related to forgiveness and care; as well how different generations understand our shared orthodoxy and orthopraxy.
The younger generation seems more radical and more conservative, which emerges from the malaise of modernity.
The aesthetics of this show are in Catholicism itself, leaving the viewer to recapture the beauty of religious devotion, and to admire its many complexities.

Syndicated from Jon Beadle

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