Every. single. beautiful. word.
I was a brand new blogger when I signed up for my first NaBloPoMo in 2014. I thought the challenge to extract something interesting out of every single November day might be fun.
It was fun. And it felt good to succeed.
Well done good and faithful blogger.
My daughter cringed. She said real bloggers don’t participate in things like daily prompts and NaBloPoMos. By real bloggers I assume she meant bloggers like Ann Voskamp and Glennon Doyle Melton.
I’m not a real blogger. I’m a real person who likes to blog.
So I signed on again in November 2015. My self-imposed assignment was to look at life through 1 inch frames.
For 30 days.
Some of it was drivel, I confess, but again I met the challenge.
This year I thought NaBloPoMo would be a breeze since I wasn’t hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner as I had the previous two years.
So, again, I signed up.
I was clipping right along.
And then on Saturday, November 19 at 10 pm I had nothing to say.
I had been running on 5 hours of sleep/night for several weeks and I was profoundly tired. Profoundly tired.
Come on rally, I thought, you still have 2 hours.
But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
I thought about looking for something interesting to re-blog. But my fried brain started to whine and my fatigued eyes kept slamming shut.
I thought about re-posting one of my old posts. But whenever I scan old posts I can never find a good one.
I wanted to earn that swig of Gatorade. I wanted to give myself a last-day-of-the-month high-five. I wanted to, once again, be a NaBloPoMo success story. 3 for 3.
I ALWAYS rally. ALWAYS.
But that fateful and exhausted night I made the decision to be the boss of my blog and just let it slide.
And slide it did.
It slid for two more days down that slippery slope.
And once you’ve murdered one three day block, it’s easy to kill again.
I failed to post six times in all during NabloPoMo 2016.
And it feels like success.
Success because my affection for you, my dear blogging friends, won out over my desire for perfect attendance.
I spared you an excess of drivel and that feels right.
I can high-five that.
Makes me feel like a real blogger.
So long November.
I’ve been struggling with the intro to my Bible study. I didn’t love it so I rewrote it. But now I’m thinking maybe I should have left well-enough (but not great) alone.
The intro has two sections – a prologue and instructions on getting started. Will some of you kind souls put on your editor visors, read both choices and HELP ME? Please!
In late November 1997, I spoke at a lovely Advent by Candlelight gathering. At the end of the evening one of the event organizers pressed a book into my hands in a way that told me I was supposed to have it. The title of the book was Fashioned for Intimacy, by Jane Hansen and Marie Powers. Since I was not married at the time and since I did not feel compelled to read it, I took it home and stuck it on a shelf.
In March 2002 I drove home from a sexual abstinence conference, my head spinning with information on human papilloma virus, cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia and all the STDs that are epidemic among teenagers. I gulped at the thought of friends who had cervical dysplasia and had no idea it was associated with HPV and cancer. I thought about all my young clients at the pregnancy help center who were putting themselves at risk for grave diseases and didn’t know it. Statistically, many already had them. The reality of it suddenly overwhelmed me and I started to cry. Through tears I pleaded, “Lord, you have to warn them!” In that moment I knew that He was planning to do just that, and He was going to use me to do it, and it wasn’t going to be easy. I left my position as the executive director of a pregnancy help center and started a ministry of speaking to teens and their parents about making healthy choices.
In May 2009 I spoke at a Christian school, where I had been speaking annually for several years. That year, as one of the teachers walked me to my car on the fourth and final day of presentations, she expressed dismay over two graduates who had gotten pregnant just out of high school. As I drove home, I wondered why, when it comes to dating, so many Christian kids go the way of the world. Why the divorce rate among Christian marriages is almost identical to that of the general population. Why Christian young women – who know they are treasured by God – chase after defilement. Why do they hear and not heed? Why is the church so ineffective in preparing our youth for healthy, lasting marriages? Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships a mess?
As soon as I got home I fell to my knees and asked God those very questions. I asked Him to please explain to me what our purity programs are missing.
He took me right back to the beginning of Scripture, showed me what went wrong and how it still plays out today. He compelled me to read the book that had been pressed into my hands twelve years earlier. Through that book, He introduced me to Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell’s 100 year old book, God’s Word to Women, which He used to get this ball rolling.
It was a course fraught with danger and I was running scared – hurdling razor-sharp wires, dodging swinging pendulums, carefully and precisely maneuvering through intricate laser webs. I moved with focused intensity and the terrifying expectation that I would make a fatal mistake. As I approached each obstacle I braced myself for the big “Game Over.”
When I finally made it to the end I was mentally exhausted yet exhilarated over having survived with only a few cuts and burns. I wanted to do it again. Once I knew it was possible to survive the maze, I wanted to see if I could come out completely unscathed.
But a knowing told me I couldn’t. It told me that everyone gets only one turn. I could, however, go back and cheer others on; talk them through it; warn them of impending dangers.
That somewhat prophetic dream pretty well sums up what I’ve been doing these last fifteen years – talking teens and parents through the minefields of adolescence and dating, cheering them on in hopes of getting them through unscathed. And yet with all of the genius that I and others impart, why, I wondered, do so many young people continue to rush toward defilement? Why is the divorce rate among Christian couples almost identical to the divorce rate at large? Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships such a mess?
I seriously wanted to know, so I got down on my knees and asked. I begged God to show me what our purity programs are missing and He did. He took me right back to the beginning of the Scriptures and showed me where the church has gotten some things wrong. He shed a radically new light on my old understanding. Now I am extending that light to you.
Which prologue do you like better? Does either one pique your interest in the study?
Getting Started: This?
This Bible study is my attempt to share what God taught me. My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth. We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap.
Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy. On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you.
Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught. If so, don’t be afraid. Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things. Jesus often challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day and opposed the status quo. Sadly, fear and/or love of the system of belief they had established did not allow them to consider new Truth. Be brave. Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures. And please don’t just take my word for it. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).
Search the Scriptures and see for yourself. My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. My aim is to set you in the Scriptures to seek what God thinks. The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine.
I hope you will come each week ready to share what God has said to you through your study. The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you when you set your mind to understanding.
This is no fluffy, feel-good Bible study, though I hope parts of it will make you feel good. Parts of it might make you mad. It will definitely challenge you spiritually, mentally and emotionally. If you are young, I hope it will greatly improve your future. If you are older, I hope it will bring healing to your past – and greatly impact the futures of the young people in your life. My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth.
We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap. Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy. On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you. Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught. If so, don’t be afraid. Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things. Jesus often opposed the status quo and challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day. Be brave. Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures. And please don’t take my word for anything. Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).
Search the Scriptures and see for yourself. My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine. My aim is to lead you through the Scriptures to discover a more accurate understanding of what God thinks.
I’ve led enough groups through this study to know that it’s going to be a really tough task. We Christians have a very strong tendency to hold the Scriptures up to our understanding rather than holding our understanding up to them. When we read a new interpretation of them our knee-jerk reaction is to declare, “That’s not what I’ve been taught!” And then we dismiss the new interpretation, or worse yet, we hate it.
The aim of this Bible study is to rethink some of the things we have been taught; to hold our preconceived notions up to the light to see how well they actually match Scripture. The goal is not to hold this Bible study up to see how well it confirms our preconceived notions. Did you hear me? The aim of this study is to rethink some of the things we’ve been taught! If that is out of the question for you at this stage in your Christian walk, then put the study aside until the Spirit nudges you to pick it up again.
As you proceed, ask the Holy Spirit to show you heaven’s perspective. It’s His job to guide you into all Truth.
I hope you will do this study with a small group and share what God says to you. Each chapter is broken up into five sections, that way you can do one section per day and still have two days for catch up if life gets busy and you get behind.
The Lord bless you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you, dear scholar, when you set your mind to understanding.
I wrote the second “Getting Started” after I led a few groups through the study and realized just how hard it is for people to rethink. Is the rewrite too harsh?
Does either “getting started” pique your interest in the study?
I’m hoping the choices are obvious to you because they aren’t obvious to me – which makes me wonder whether I should go with option 3: neither.
Be kind, be gentle and be HONEST! And if you can’t be kind, gentle and honest then just be honest.
Thank you and God bless you for reading all 1780 words!
I happened upon this David Foster Wallace interview today. If you know anything about him, you know that he committed suicide back in 2008.
Toward the end of the interview Charlie Rose asked David about his drug use and about a previous suicide attempt. David said that instant fame is hard on a twenty-something year old.
He also said that fame is unsatisfying – especially when critics don’t experience your work as you intended.
On the one hand you are a shy library nerd who doesn’t really want fame and on the other hand you voraciously crave it.
It’s a craving that is never satisfied.
I wonder if hell on earth is like that – a craving that is never satisfied.
I wonder if hell in hell is like that, too.
P.S. After borrowing “The End of the Tour” from Redbox a few months ago, I was curious about David’s wife and found this article. Just fyi.
Competitive people are always trying to squash you. That’s why I avoid them. And writers, according to something I just read, are competitive.
Even so, I signed up for an eight week Creative Writing course at the community center. You’ll probably
end up suffering through get to read some of my assignments. Maybe all of them. The class began last week and I signed up yesterday, so seven max.
The offering is exclusively for those who are 50+ so I’m not too worried about being squashed. I’m hoping that at 50+ my classmates’ aspirations will have more to do with slowing bone, muscle and memory loss than becoming rich and famous.
“Does it meet at the Recreation Center?,” my daughter, who worked there one summer, asked.
“I remember that class. The old ladies were always asking me to staple their pages.”
Staple their pages?
I wasn’t picturing pages.
I was picturing taking my seat, smiling and nodding, learning, going home and practicing, maybe observing an odd or inspiring something or someone here and there to tell you about. That’s it.
Pages. Oh well.
I live in a very secular community. I am not secular. My life lens is almost all God.
In fact, in addition to wanting something to do, I signed up for the class hoping to tell a more creative story when I lead students through the book of John in September.
Pages. Chances are mine won’t all be secular.
I might get squashed for that.
I can take it though. I signed the Holy Spirit up to take the journey with me.
She’s always good for a few laughs on the way home.
Oh, and did you know that the pronoun used for the Holy Spirit in John 16 (and probably elsewhere, I haven’t looked) can be translated he, she, him, her or their?
She sat, legs outstretched, hair towel-wrapped, back against the wall, on her bed in a rented house in the historic part of town. An old house near the tracks, just barely safe, just barely respectable, just barely far enough away from the drunks in the flophouse. Her out of place sophistication and beauty did not go unnoticed by the beer guzzling neighbors on her right and on her left.
She called her little house the meat in a redneck sandwich. It was a temporary dwelling, until she got back on her feet.
She was on the phone, midway through a dreary conversation, when her daughter appeared beside the bed and took the receiver from her hand. Clenching her little four-year-old-fist she spoke into the mouthpiece loud and clear:
“I want to know why you don’t live with us anymore!”
There was a pause. She held her breath wondering how he would answer. She wanted to know, too.
His stern reply came through loud enough for her to hear:
“Put your mother back on.”
She was stunned. Stunned by the courage and stunned by the cowardice.
That sweet, gentle, smart little girl with the impressive vocabulary had a question brewing in her little heart that her mom knew nothing about. It had been over a year since her father left, and she was just now asking it.
Perhaps it took more than a year to muster the courage. Perhaps at two-and-a-half she didn’t know what to ask. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed, until she was four, that the dads of other kids lived with them, so why didn’t he? Perhaps she had thought he was away for a while and the while had grown too long.
“I’m just as surprised as you are,” she replied after being berated for putting their daughter up to it, “and someday you are going to have to answer her question.”
Courage inspires. Cowardice disappoints.
Sitting on her bed, receiver back in its cradle, she was disappointed.
The only answer she had ever gotten when she had asked the question was, “Marriage isn’t what I thought it was going to be and I don’t want it anymore.”
But in that breath-held moment she hoped he would muster enough courage of his own to give his daughter a gentle, truthful, more specific answer. Or at least a gentle, truthful promise to talk with her about it later, in person, when he wasn’t caught so off-guard.
But he chose angry defensiveness instead. He chose his discomfort over his daughter’s brave, vulnerable, broken, suddenly demanding little heart.
Sitting on her bed, receiver back in it’s cradle, she was inspired, impressed, in awe.
Her little girl was BRAVE. Her little girl was going to be okay in life. Her little girl had the courage to ask tough questions, to risk anger and disappointment, to speak up. Her little girl had the courage to ask for something more than the status quo.
He never answered his daughter’s question with words, but he answered it.
He answered it in the choice of his second wife, a lovely woman who is kind and nurturing and not the sharpest tool in the box, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Sometimes she marvels at the fact that he doesn’t appear bothered by the dullness of her bulb. But, then, she supposes, perhaps that is what he imagined marriage should be.
And (@ANNELAMOTT), if she remembers correctly, his you-know-what was kinda’ small.
The Diego Rivera exhibit is cheaper if you go on a Friday, but it is impossible to get a parking spot anywhere near the art museum – or anywhere in the city at all – on a weekday. Every lot, every garage is full.
So after squeezing my Escape through the torn up, road-construction-narrowed streets and failing repeatedly to find a spot, we abandoned our plan and headed to lunch.
I had been wanting to try this place. It did not disappoint.
A few doors down was a groovy coffee shop and you know how the daughter and I love the groovy coffee.
It was while I was eating my half of our sea-salted, hazelnut, chocolate chip cookie and sipping my mocha that Daughter pulled out her phone and had me read this quote:
When we speak of the wife obeying the husband, we normally think of obedience in military or political terms: the husband giving orders, and the wife obeying them. But while this type of obedience may he appropriate in the army, it is ridiculous in the intimate relationship of marriage. The obedient wife does not wait for orders. Rather, she tries to discern her husband’s needs and feelings, and responds in love. When she sees her husband is weary, she encourages him to rest; when she sees him agitated, she soothes him; when he is ill, she nurses and comforts him; when he is happy and elated, she shares his joy. Yet such obedience should not be confined to the wife; the husband should be obedient in the same way. When she is weary, he should relieve her of her work; when she is sad, he should cherish her, holding her gently in his arms; when she is filled with good cheer, he should also share her good cheer. Thus a good marriage is not a matter of one partner obeying the other, but of both partners obeying each other. – St John Chrysostom
“Yeah, that’s pretty good,” I said, “but I think he could have just said, ‘Obedience has no place in the intimate relationship of marriage’ and left it at that. Because good marriages don’t talk about or define mutual respect and consideration, they just naturally do it.”
But being young and not yet married, she liked that someone spelled out the fact that marriage is a two way street. Because so often godly Christians insist that the only godly street is a one way street.
In the car on the way home she said, “Maybe I shouldn’t urge you to play it so safe in your writing.”
And then she read a quote from Anne Lamott:
“If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the center of your work. Write straight into the emotional center of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.” – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
“Right,” I said, “because the whole beauty of me is that I don’t need to be liked. I’ll still run some of my posts by you for your yawn-o-meter, but I won’t let your people-pleasing nature stifle me anymore. Someone has to be a voice for the people who think like me, even if we are only 1% of the population.”
Solidarity INFJ sisters. And brothers.