#31Books: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

If you have sat at a table with me discussing spiritual matters, you’ve probably heard me reference The Message at least once. Some folks I dearly love and respect scoff at me, but I stick to my guns. Reading Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible alongside one of the more standard (i.e. literally accurate) translations (NIV, NASB, NRSV) has been an incredible source of growth for me.

I’m a huge fan.

In recent months, a video began to circulate on various social media feeds; a short film by Fourth Line Films that captured a poignant, powerful conversation between Bono and Peterson. Bono is also a huge fan; I’m in good company. Catching a glimpse of their kitchen table conversation about the Psalms sweetened my affection and allowed for a deeper connection as I continued to dig into Peterson’s other writings.

(Go on; go watch the video. Because BONO, and a beautiful lake cottage in Montana. Just go watch.)

So – back to The Message; it resonates. Phrases like this, from the NIV…

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8, NIV

….morph into this, from The Message:

God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk and silence atheist babble. I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry, moon and stars mounted in their settings. Then I look at my micro-self and wonder, Why do you bother with us? Why take a second look our way? Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light. You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge, made us lords of sheep and cattle, even animals out in the wild, birds flying and fish swimming, whales singing in the ocean deeps. God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world. Psalm 8, The Message
Not better, not deeper or more insightful. Just fleshed out somehow, added to. Like walking around to the back of a thing and seeing a little bit more than what you can see from the front. Both together are rich and redolent and these additional words seem to change me. They infect and inspire my spirit. The create powerful truth that moves me in a profound way.
So this book, A Long Obedience, came across my desk with the potential to be a big influence regardless of the content, because I’ve got such a sweet spot for the author. And yet.. I will say that have a few other pieces of Peterson’s work, and in the past they have failed to compel my attention to the degree I had expected.
So, quite honestly, my expectations for A Long Obedience were somewhat low. Even though I liked the video and love The Message.
But this book ended up on my short pile of You really have to read this tomes, and that’s how I commend it to you today. It was a delightful, life-changing surprise.

You really should read this book.

You might not find the content enticing after a quick look at the tag line: “Discipleship in an instant society”. Right away I’m thinking Dang, I know I spend too much time on Facebook and my attention span is taking a beating….this book is gonna shame me….
And I confess that my first encounter was less than scintillating, when I cracked it open and read the premise.
“The fifteen Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) that provide the text here for developing discipleship in an instant society….were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem to the great worship festivals…”
The book sat on my shelf for a year.
But I picked it up late last spring, and began to sit with it every day, and what transpired in my soul and my approach to the Divine presence we call God has been as powerful as any other spiritual watershed element in my life. Peterson helped me see these Psalms as honest and accurate depiction of the human experience from all angles, and to catch a glimpse of what spiritual communities have experienced for centuries as they strive to honor the Creator and honor one another in and out of the motions of living. It took me several months to finish this book – but only because I would read a few paragraphs and then give myself a chance to respond. I kept a sketch book and some pens with the book, and with every cup of truth from the text, I allowed the words to stir and ferment inside my soul, as I  reflected on what this might mean for me here and now. I savored this book slowly and carefully, daily, for what turned out to be about 12 weeks.
Old school Christians  would call my engagement with this book ‘Daily Devotionals’ or ‘Quiet Time’, but – forgive me – I can’t stand those words. The idea of a segment of my day devoted to reading or learning seems to me a ridiculous little box for God that restricts him from other parts of my life. And the notion of ‘quiet time’ never worked for me, because being quiet probably meant I was going to doze off. Quiet time=nap time. No offense toward anyone who enjoys daily devotionals or quiet time, but the rebel and realist in me has always pushed back against those terms.
But I’ll say this: For several months, I sat dailyquietly, my attention devoted to setting aside time to study and contemplate this book, and it changed me. It was my Daily Quietly Devoted Time, and I guess it’s all a matter of semantics. 🙂
I’ll not detail a lot more about the book, only tell you that I read it and I’ll commend it to others from this day forward. But I’ll share this, from Peterson’s musing on Psalm 131, about a topic I continue to wrestle to this day. Perhaps this will give you a glimpse of the treasures within.
It is…difficult to recognize unruly ambition as a sin because it has a kind of superficial relationship to the virtue of aspiration – an impatience with mediocrity and a dissatisfaction with all things created until we are at home with the Creator, the hopeful striving for the best God has for us – the kind of thing Paul expressed: “I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (Philippians 3.14) But if we take the energies that make for aspiration and remove God from the picture, replacing him with our own crudely sketched self-portrait, we end up with ugly arrogance… Ambition is aspiration gone crazy. Aspiration is the channeled, creative energy that moves us to growth in Christ, shaping goals in the Spirit. Ambition takes these same energies for growth and development and uses them to make something tawdry and cheap, sweatily knocking together a Babel when we could be vacationing in Eden. …Our lives are lived well only when they are lived on the terms of their creation, with God loving and us being loved, with God making and us being made, with God revealing and us understanding, with God commanding and us responding. Being a Christian means accepting the terms of creation…. (A Long Obedience, p 152-153)
A girl like me needs words like those.
Also – I discovered a brilliant little coffee shop in Bon Air. Here’s to the good folks at Perk!

#31Books: Outrageous

My daughter, Shannon, loved soccer. She began playing as a child in Texas, and when we moved to Ohio, she got connected with a great program called Ambassadors Football Club. We encountered many good people and excellent coaches, and one of the biggest disappointments of our move to Ohio was having to leave the Ambassadors program.

Through Ambassadors, we became acquainted with Aaron Tredway, and through continued connections with folks at Good City Concepts, I got wind of Aaron’s newest book.

I’ll admit to a fair bit of skepticism; I remember Aaron as an incredibly charismatic coach and speaker, and a few of the Big World Little Ball videos I’ve seen were funny and intriguing, but I wasn’t sure about his writing credentials. To be honest, I expected another How-To-Have-A-Cool-Spiritual-Life! with a dose of cheerleading; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Aaron, and I didn’t have much to go on in terms of what his written work might reflect, except I knew that he was an advocate for Jesus. So, my expectations were not – shall we say – outrageous.fullsizerender-56

What a wonderful surprise. Seriously.

Aaron sets up the book by likening an outrageous life to Jesus’s declaration that he comes to give us abundant life.  This whole challenge to ‘Awake to the Unexpected Adventures of Everyday Faith’ (the subtitle) was not what I imagined – which, I confess, was some sort of step-by-step chapter book on how to love Jesus!! and be cool!! and do over-the-top awesome things!!! and soccer!!!

Not at all, and thank you for that, Aaron, because I’m just too stinking tired to try to be more outrageous.

That’s not the point, not at all. This is a book of stories – great stories – and by stories, I mean it is like sitting down over a good meal with this guy and listening to him tell you, firsthand, about where he was last week, and who he met, and what happened. It’s not pushy, preachy, or cheesy. It’s just cool. Aaron is an adventurer, a world traveller, with access and experience in places I’ve heard of but know little about, and this book is crammed full of sentences and paragraphs that are amazing, intriguing, and funny; and they teach me a bit about these places and people that I don’t know much about. The genius of these stories and the way they are woven together is that they arouse tremendous empathy and a real sense of care, for people and places I’ve never seen. There’s a thread of compassion and connection through these bits and pieces of everyday faith and awareness.

Here’s a short excerpt that kind of lets you know what you’re in for, from a tale about an invitation to travel to the Republic of Congo to play soccer against a team of pygmies:

One player had decided that since the pygmies play in the nude, he didn’t need to pack many clothes, so he filled his suitcase with five hundred individually packaged Slim Jims instead. 

He hangs out with some interesting people.

Outrageous is a collection of Aaron Tredway’s stories, and the cool thing is that the outrageous claim rests simply on those stories, and there’s enough there to say, Hey, dude, seriously: that’s outrageous. 

And they all point to something Divine, Something or Somebody bigger than what we see, and that’s the resounding point of this book – and of his life, I think. Aaron doesn’t try to tell us what an outrageous life should be, or even give us a few pointers on how to have one. He just tells his stories, and that’s enough.

You’ll see.

I really encourage you to pick up this book (find it here). It’s encouraging and intelligent; it doesn’t pander. And it’s authentic. And funny.

And outrageous, which I find inspiring.

Thanks, Aaron.

#31Books: The Jesus I Never Knew

Timing is everything, and this book came along at just the right time. I can’t say that it’s still on my shelf because of the quality of the writing or the profound revelations within, but I can tell you this:

The Jesus I Never Knew changed my life. 

(See what I did there?)fullsizerender-55

We were transitioning from a fundamentalist, Southern Baptist environment to one that pulsated with grace (thank you, God), and my head was spinning just a bit. I identified as Christian and was raising my kids as such; in fact, I was learning to embrace this Hi, I’m a mom of five and my husband is a minister! identity a little too completely, to the neglect of having a sense of self that was anything more than that – but there’s a different blog post, for some other time… Something had been changing in me, in my marriage, in my life as I related to God and the church and what comprised our social and spiritual network. The Southern Baptist teaching that surrounded me was one of rules and regulations, of clear-cut divisions identifying right and wrong, good and bad, holy and profane, in and out – with little in between, and obvious direction as to where Good People belonged. I’d appropriated that teaching, but it wasn’t working so well.

Looking back several decades, I see now that I initially gravitated towards those rules because I was floundering on my own. I remember quite clearly my ‘prayer of salvation’, which was not in a church revival meeting but in my mom’s sewing room in their house in Grand Prairie, Texas; and I wonder now about that ‘salvation’ terminology’, because it wasn’t until much later that I began to understand that until I let loose of trying to control everything around me – to rescue myself and everybody else through the sheer force of my will – that I could walk in freedom  But there was a moment when a counselor said the right thing and asked some hard questions, and I got honest with myself and realized that I was searching for a philosophy of life, or some sort of guiding principles that would help me navigate an incredibly confusing time. Raised in the church, I had a relatable vocabulary and a sense of worship, but no personal understanding that would connect the theological knowledge I’d appropriated in Methodism with day to day life.

I ‘got saved’ while lying on the brown shag carpet, surrounded by bits and pieces of thread and fabric remnants, the Bible open to the gospel of John; and by that, I mean that I cracked my heart open to the experience of God, rather than just knowledge.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I said, I don’t know if this is how it works, but I have messed things up and I don’t know how to get it right, and if this is how You operate, then I’m in. 

That was a good thing. I went back to the Dominican Republic, where I’d been teaching school, and I finished the year reading the Bible and having some conversations about theology and trying to learn a bit, here and there, while still navigating the mess of my life – managing my worst impulses and propensity to self-medicate through power struggles and relationships. And it was good.

And then I came back to the States and started a new job and found a church full of nice people and started playing the piano there and found a collection of rules and regulations that seemed to work for all the nice people, and I jumped in with both feet. For a decade, my type A, get-it-done personality leaned hard into being A Good Christian and, for all intents and purposes of that qualification, I did a pretty good job.

But the whole notion of what it truly means to follow the guy who came on the scene telling the religious, rule-following folks that they were getting it wrong (“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites….you snakes, you brood of vipers….” comes to mind…) is that it is NOT about following rules and regulations.

It’s following a clear representation of who God is and how He sees people and how He challenges us to see ourselves. 

And that’s a very different understanding of Jesus; for someone like me, who grew up going to Sunday School with nice people, memorizing the books of the Bible in order and getting stars on the attendance chart every Sunday. Someone who learned that good behavior is expected and affirmed, and that if you are pulled to explore bad behavior, just do what you can to keep it hidden and you’ll be fine.

Someone who opened up to welcome a new way of living and got handed a prototype of a Good Christian Woman, with instructions to just Be Like That.

Someone who assumes that being Christian means being like Christians.

That’s not it.

This book, peeled off of my parents’ bookshelf on a trip to Powhatan, Virginia, long before I moved here; during a time when the earth was shifting beneath my feet, when I was quite apprehensive and unsure about what would happen next – this book changed everything. I count it as one of the most important things I have ever read in my life, because the timing was perfect; and it presented a perspective that allowed me to find my footing in a mess of theological, social, spiritual, and emotional turmoil that was slowly eroding my ability to function.

The Jesus I Never Knew pushed me to read the gospels for myself. I read the book of John – which I had done before, more than once – but I read it without blinders, without direction; without external commentary. I read the story of a man who walked the earth claiming to do the will of his father, who healed people miraculously, who spoke hard truth to power, who offered kindness to the poor and broken outcasts. I read the story of a man who was really not of this world, one who broke rules and lived outside the accepted roles of behavior for reasons that were based on righteousness and dignity. Verses that had been preached and pushed upon me in the past out of context now appeared with greater clarity and a resonance; I read them in context and discovered a richer, deeper meaning – one that often was not easily tied up with ribbons and bows and presented as part of a We are right; everyone else is wrong social order. The gospels thrummed with life and passion and power and true invitation as I read them for myself.

I still have some resentment towards the fundamentalism I experienced; it stirs in my gut even now, and it leaks out on the page. Sorrow is what I feel as well; sorrow that Jesus is so easily hidden by our processes, our rules and regulations and neatly tied packages.

But truly, he is so easy to love, seen for who he is.

Philip Yancey’s book details his own disillusionment with what he had been taught and even his own preconceptions. In the end, he was changed.

So was I.


#31Books: Black and Blue

I’m running behind; I’ve missed a few days. fullsizerender-54

I’m not beating myself up over it. Life happens.

No pun intended, but I’m back in the thick of it today with Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen. This is, frankly, not the sort of book I tend to purchase; I generally save this type of fiction for the library, as they serve more as entertainment than what I think of as a legacy book. I’m a Quindlen fan, but I’m still not quite sure what prompted me to exchange my hard-earned money for this novel.

But I did. And I’m glad I did, because as events of the day swirl through my consciousness, finding this novel on my shelf provides a way for me to coalesce and point my thoughts in a particular direction without saying a lot of things that might be better left unsaid.

Black and Blue is a story of domestic abuse. The plot line, the peaks and valleys of the drama are compelling and engaging. Abuse is bad. The abused’s path to salvation is worth cheering.

But like anything, even situations that we believe or want to believe are clear cut, black and white, right and wrong – like most of life, it’s complicated. Quindlen weaves a story of survival and digs deeply into the psyche of the victim, but she also lands squarely in the middle of the mess, and we’re not really left with a clear victory. It goes without saying that very little of life challenges are wrapped up as neatly as what we’ve come to expect in a 60-minute tv show.

But in the midst of stories and messages that are bleak and hopeless, dark and seemingly without redemption, Black and Blue successfully tells the truth and reflects our faith in the human condition that something good can come out of the worst situations. And yet – like life – there are always consequences.

Often, there is loss. Great loss.

Black and Blue is about abuse and connection, weaknesses and attractions, unrelenting hope and desperate brokenness. As a woman and as a mother, I naturally identified somewhat with Fran, the wife and mom who suffers at the hands of her husband. I’ve not been in the sort of abusive situations described in this story, but I am a female.

And a culture in which some men lean hard into their physical and sexual power is something I understand, because I am a woman living in the United States. I’ll speak only to that, rather than contemplate worldwide issues or something broader; I will use this blog series and this book to springboard into writing down a few things I have been thinking about today.

First, there is this: I have known men that act in a way I would characterize as obnoxious, tactless, crude, and vulgar. Every woman I know has met a man like that. Some say that when men get together, a sort of ‘locker room mentality’ relaxes them and allows conversation to be looser, more ‘fun’; a sort of ‘harmless banter’. I know that happens. I know that men who are capable of acting obnoxious, tactless, crude, and vulgar are also sometimes capable of behaving like gentlemen when the occasion requires.

For the record, I know women who could be characterized as obnoxious, tactless, crude, and vulgar as well. But I’m not setting up a binary argument here; I’m talking specifically to this point about men and women and language and power, and the inherent dignity of a human being.

And while I am not implying that someone who acts obnoxious turns into an abuser, there is a connection for me in terms of how we live – how we are connected – as people. Here’s the thing: When a woman knows that a man sees her not as a person, but as body parts that titillate or arouse, respect is eroded.

(To be completely honest, many women realize early in life that men like this can be ‘manipulated’, for lack of a better word; but for a woman to do so also erodes respect.)

When a woman knows that a man sees the possibility of sexual interaction with her as some sort of accomplishment or trophy, respect is eroded. And even if it is not personal – if a man is speaking or thinking that way about other women, it demonstrates something revealing about his character and perspective – and respect is eroded.

And regardless of the ease with which our culture tosses around words that were once considered vulgar and crass, used only by the basest, most classless of people; when a woman hears those words coming out of the mouth of a man who is asking for support as he seeks to represent her and all of her fellow citizens as their leader, and those words refer to parts of her body that are private, intimate, and personal – well, again, respect is eroded.

Women experience this frequently, right? Many of us are fortunate to have brothers and sons and husbands and friends who see us as more than something sexual – but I don’t know a woman alive who doesn’t have a ‘Creepy Guy Alert’ that is intuitive and protective. Whether it’s eyes that linger too long, a full frontal hug that presses too tightly, a sly joke, coarse comment, or something subtly suggestive, we walk through these interactions all the time. And we know that in the locker room, behind the closed office door, in the bar, on a bus, they might be talking about us in coarse, crude ways. And on the street, in the store, at the gas station, in the atrium at church (Yes. Even there.) – in any and all of those places, men are looking at us.

Not all men; not all the time. But it happens.

They check us out; they look us over. They rate us; they evaluate our bodies. Some we notice; others, we do not.

And it’s complicated, truly, because we are wired to be attracted to one another. Our yearning for connectivity is strong, and we are sexual beings, and to some degree, we are obeying our nature. I would never castigate a man for being attracted to a woman. However: as civilized, respectful citizens of this world, we learn to manage and mitigate our desires in order to honor one another.

At least we should.

I thank God for the many men in my life who are gentlemen, who have shown me respect and dignity, who honor me as a person above and beyond my role as a female object. I used to think that because I wasn’t a ‘pretty girl’, not the attractive, popular cheerleader type, that this would never be an issue for me. But simply by virtue of being female, I am not exempt. None of us are.

Black and Blue is about the kind of abuse that leaves one battered, physically and emotionally. But I believe that in these days we are seeing very real evidence of a soul battering of sorts; one that runs amok in our country, on social media, on the tv screens, in casual conversations. The words I heard coming out of the mouth of the man who wants me to vote him into the highest office in the land bruised me. Not because he was talking about me; but because when he talks about any woman in that way, he reminds me that at our worst, our words do damage. And what is worse is the ongoing vitriol from those who find themselves on different ends of the political spectrum, unable to see past the binary. If I am right, you are wrong. If you are wrong, I am right. There is no in between. There is no nuance.

I feel black and blue tonight, bruised by the slinging arrows of offense and defense by so many who are unable or unwilling to hold this tension in their hands.

We are broken; we can be better.

If we are not willing to allow this pain to be fleshed out, to live and breathe and stand; if we continue to batter one another, then our collective soul as a nation will continue to ache. We are black and blue, and of course bruises can heal; but not if we keep walloping one another over and over and over again.

Battered people are changed people; they struggle to stand upright and walk without fear. Bruises are outward evidence of deep pain. God, help us all. Help us to stop hurting one another. Help us live in the tension, to admit where we have failed, to pray for strength to be better, for our bruises to be left alone long enough to heal.

#31Books: The Keillor Reader

Today’s book is a representation of one of the iconic figures in my literary life.

That sounds pretentious, and totally unbefitting one of the least pretentious icons in American prose and entertainment. So let me say it this way:

I love Garrison Keillor.


I am a fan of his writing, for sure. I’ve read most of his books and this collection. When I turn on NPR at the right time (often too early in the morning) (meaning I don’t hear it very often), I hear his sonorous voice reciting poetry via The Writer’s Almanac

But I’m a fan mainly because of his seminal Saturday night entertainment offering, A Prairie Home Companion, and if you don’t know what that is, we will have to move very slowly in our relationship in order to build up some trust.

(If you do know what that is – and you are also a fan – I love you already, immediately, no questions asked.

In a nod to years gone by, Prairie Home Companion is a two-hour variety showed hosted by Keillor, featuring musicians famous and almost-famous, the occasional comedian and actor, and a poet laureate or two. The centerpiece of the show has always been Keillor; his stories from fictional Lake Wobegon, his hapless Guy Noir character, Lives of the Cowboys sketches, and his singing. It’s his show; he sings whatever he wants, and often it’s the bass part on an American spiritual or well-worn hymn. He’ll jump around and sing any part he finds, and that endears me to him; it’s like standing beside my dad in Inglewood United Methodist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas, taking up space in the pew and rotating our way through every voice part during four verses of O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing.

Find a part, any part. Just sing. And try not to giggle.

Certainly during my most hectic, chaotic child-rearing days, and even into recent years. you’d likely find me on any given Saturday evening cooking something and listening to Garrison. We’d eat late on Saturdays, because I’d start cooking around 6 and work on it for the duration. Kids would come in and out of the kitchen, and I’d say, Hush – I’m listening to Garrison.

I’m not a big movie fan; I enjoy the entertainment, but I’m not one of those people who can remember lines and scenes from the big screen. I don’t remember dialogue. But an aural storyteller, pictures painted by words and music – that is my sweet spot, the place where my imagination is challenged and emboldened to do all that it can to create a wonderland of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, melody and harmony; all redolent of my childhood and my family and a sweeter, gentler time and place. Keillor seems to live back there, too; his words call me into that place, and I find peace and hope therein. In his books, and in his storytelling on the radio, he calls my imagination into action, and I inhabit the stories he tells in a way that feels almost like an actual physical transition; I move in and out of spaces and places I have only ever actually been within my mind.

Garrison retired last year; in just a few weeks, the show resumes with Chris Thile at the helm, which will be very, very different. And quite possibly, very good. I like Thile; he’s a monstrously talented musician and I admire his wit and intellect. So there’s a chance that he’ll create something new and wonderful.

But I’m not holding my breath, honestly. Garrison is gone. I am resigned to giving up my Saturdays and sticking to reruns, which makes me feel like I’m moving into a season of life for which I am not quite ready to embrace. I can’t see myself alongside the folks who are watching Andy Griffith reruns and longing for yesterday.

But there is something there, a changing of the guard that is natural and normal, I suppose. I mourn this change, but I’ll lean into it, because life goes on, and who can fight it? I have the books he has written, vibrant with his unique style and irreplaceable humor,  and I have his voice on NPR, and I catch glimpses of his sharp edges and passionate convictions in weekly editorials blasting Donald Trump in this current political season. Which are entertaining, inspiring, and insightful.

I’m just not sure what I’ll do on Saturday nights at 6pm. Maybe we’ll just order pizza.


#31Books: The Best Yes

I’m afraid this post will disappoint, but I’m just trying to be real, y’all.


This is a very good book. It’s about very important things. I certainly could stand to learn more about how to make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands, because my life seems to be a non-stop merry-go-round. That tag line at the bottom?

I’m a little overwhelmed and a lot worn out.

Yeah. I get it.

What’s funny is that I’m at this stage of life where I don’t think I need to read books like this any more. Four of my five kids are grown up, and by grown up I mean that they are of voting age. My youngest is 17, and by 17 I mean that he’s independent and requires relatively little in terms of hands-on parenting. I have a pretty good handle on my job; my relationship with my husband is solid. My schedule is somewhat predictable.

But I find myself exhausted, and I run out of time to do important things – like clean the kitchen, or wash my underwear. Or vacuum the floor. Or call a friend.

I go in and out of seasons; sometimes I feel like I have a lot of margin, and other times I sense that there won’t be time to get anything done.

And here’s the ironic – and probably disappointing – part of the post:


This lovely Lysa Terkeurst book sits on my bookshelf, along with a dozen other books, waiting to be read. I know it’s important and probably worthwhile, and I valued it enough at one time to actually purchase it – but I haven’t made time to open it and read it. It hasn’t made the cut, because I’ve certainly read a ton of books since it landed in my house.   I haven’t read it.


And that’s the point, I think; that I’m living and keeping up and doing all the things and there are things that maybe, perhaps, I ought to consider saying No to, because I’m sure she’s right and that there is a Best Yes. I just went through that, really, in the transition from Campus Pastor at Riverside back to my one job; so maybe I know that already. Maybe that was a Best Yes, because I can’t do everything.

But I’m still busy, too busy, I think. Or maybe I just sense that I’m running out of time.


I didn’t have time to read this book, yet. Maybe I will. No promises. But in that is the truth about my life; I have bookshelves crammed with tomes that mean something, and in some cases, the meaning is as yet undetermined. I value this book, even though I haven’t read it yet. I haven’t made time. I won’t lie and say I’ve read it.

But I like the way it looks on my shelf, and I like that it represents something in my future that might be a revelation, an epiphany, or something more simple. I like that I’ve heard about Lysa Terkeurst and people say good things about her. I like that I heard her share a few words in a video last week and I recognized her as the author of a book I haven’t read.

And I like the way that the principle of The Best Yes was actually reflected in what I did tonight; why we ordered pizza for dinner, why I didn’t spend an hour on work email after dinner, why I didn’t clean the bathroom (yet), why we listened to an old Nat King Cole record, and a Stevie Wonder record (and we all sang along), and why there were multiple hugs and promises that we’ll all be together again at Thanksgiving.

My best yes has always been my kids, even in light of the fact that one of them spoke honestly tonight of the challenges they faced growing up with a working mom, one whose job never ended at 5pm, one whose life was spent investing in other people. She replied an honest Yes when I asked So do you think maybe you got cheated out of my time? , and that was hard to hear, but the best yes is rooted in honesty and authenticity, so I’ll take it, thankful that she can tell me the truth. My best yes is to be a better human tomorrow than I was today, every day, especially when it comes to my kids. I pray that as they work through whatever challenges they faced as children (Don’t we all screw up our kids, somehow? Some way?), I can be a resource for support, for listening. For a safe space. For home.

I try not to be overly idealistic. It’s not perfect. But, for me, the best yes is when we say Hey – everybody’s gonna be around on Monday. Do we want to get together? and Sarah cleans the kitchen, Sydni talks me through the food order, Shannon and Travis travel in from Richmond with Amie and Daniel in tow, David brings Austin, Mom and Dad drive over, and Tony leaves the music store early enough to grab a bite of pizza with us.

This is my family, and tonight the endless demands took a back seat to the wisdom of this: That a brief glimpse of love will hold us over for another two months.


#31Books: Lab Girl

fullsizerender-50We’ll start with the current occupant of my nightstand: Lab Girl by scientist Hope Jahren. I confess that I picked up this tome based on the decorative and somewhat creative cover art, but mostly because my beloved husband often calls me ‘_____ girl’ (think, ‘Ice Cream Girl’, or ‘Piano Girl’, or ‘TB Girl’) and I liked the way it sounded. I generally lean towards fiction and I’ve never had much scientific curiosity.

And yet…

I love this book. I love the science, the almost-casual discussion of the miraculous ways that trees grow, and what a mass spectrometer is for, and what the life of a research scientist is really like. I love the way Jahren bounces between sketches from her personal life and the ‘epic love story’ of the wasp and the fig. I love this; that the timing of what I’m learning about the amount of magnesium needed for chlorophyll so that trees can have a normal life cycle lines up so brilliantly with a teaching and discussion group exploring the coexistence of theology and science. I read about how a barrel cactus sheds its roots to live without water, and I ponder the miracle of all creation.

Without giving too much away, I will state that what pushed this book to the front of the line for me unfolded in Chapter 9, completely unexpected and almost jarring. It is as honest and straightforward glimpse into mental illness that I’ve ever seen, and because it lay in wait quietly, without any foreshadowing, the surprise was both exhilarating and devastating. I confess that I’m on the final section of the book and have not quite finished – but I am propelled to complete it in its entirety because I have come to care so deeply about this scientist. 

I’ve never given trees a second thought, but in the past few days I’ve looked harder and higher, and I have seen some things. Did you know that the leaves at the top of the tree are intentionally smaller than those on the bottom branches? Do you know why?

There are questions I never thought to ask, for which I now crave answers. That’s what a good book does.


I wrote about important people in my life in 31 Days of Door Holders.

I did thirty one days of songs.

In 2013, I wrote 31 days of moments – things I noticed. That was the beginning of my October journey of discipline, and I’ve had three consecutive years. I confess that 2016 has flown by, full of goodness and grace and way too much busyness, and today really snuck up on me.

But I have been thinking about this, and toying with two different ideas; and so today I have to decide, and I have.

I’m going to do 31 days of books. 31 books.

img_1948This is a snapshot of three shelves on one of the nine bookshelves in our house. There are dresser drawers full of books as well. There are books stacked in a basket in the bedroom, and in the nooks and crannies of the coffee table.

There are books everywhere, and it is by choice. I consistently cull and weed out as I can, but I have come to understand this about the books in my house: They are important. These books represent ideas, epiphanies, new ways of thinking, changes of direction, new ideas. They hold memories of specific seasons. They are keys to my history, and often represent my future as well. Mine are mostly fiction, theology, memoir, scrapbooks. My husband’s are textbooks and things like The Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers from 1942. Together, we fill the shelves; and, for us, these shelves offer a unique perspective into our lives and what – and who – we love.

In the next 31 days, I intend to write daily about one of the books currently on my shelves (or something from the library that left a mark). I have no list, no plan; this will be random and inspired by the spirit’s leading. And this is what I know to be true; I’ll learn more about myself in these next 31 days than you will.

And this is another thing I know to be true: Every time I learn a little something more about myself, I inch closer to becoming whole.

Thanks be to God.

I welcome your comments, encouragement, and accountability. For my fellow book lovers, I am hoping you might offer a few tidbits and sneak peeks into your lives, whether through conversation about books I share here, or by some revelation of your own.

We’ll start tomorrow, with a book about trees.