I did the the fall chore of cleaning out my garden. I'd ignored the plants for the last couple of weeks. My zucchini had sacrificed all its energy to this last monster. When I brought it into the house my eldest screamed. The youngest was less than thrilled.
The zucchini plant itself was difficult to get out of the garden bed. I had to glove up because I have an allergic reaction every time I touch the leaves. You can see the scratches in my arm. The leaves were massive. The plant has grown to the point it was blocking the sun from my tomato plants. The tomatoes did terrible this year. I also stepped on a rotting bit. Nasty gross. The filth stunk. It had to go.
Later my husband and I discussed a few local and national news stories. Scary. The local paper had some extended coverage of the rise and fall of a local pastor. Such a sad story. Heroin and pastor should not be in the same sentence.
Lots of people say the Bible is only about love and we should never judge others. If you've read the full story you'll know love and grace are certainly primary themes. But so it justice.
The third chapter of Karen Swallow Prior's book "On Reading Well" also focuses on justice. I so appreciated reading through this chapter. Prior walked through a loaded topic with grace and thoughtfulness. I'm quite simply not going to be able to do justice to the chapter here (see what I did there?) I do want to share a few of my favorite quotations which were mulling through my head as I processed the morning news.
"When the justice system becomes a form of entertainment, it is surely unjust."
"Excessive anger distorts justice, turning it into vengeance."
"Injustice, no matter who seemingly private, always has public consequences."
"Compassion is individual and voluntary. It also has no cost. Justice on the other hand, exacts a price. Because the world is broken, making what is wrong right is costly. In other words, justice requires sacrifice." - On Reading Well
Here is what I know for sure about justice. God is not concerned about maintaining institutions or protecting false reputations. He is concerned about people. He is willing to tear down walls, remove leaders, crash ministries and start all over if sin, violence, injustice or pride are present. Our sorrow shouldn't be people were caught. Our sorrow would be the sin and heartbreak happened at all. And our response shouldn't be to shake our heads and turn away. Our response should be to make things right, to grieve with victims, to preach truth to the fallen, to check our own lives for what is dead and rotting. Justice is hard work.
The Bible is full of stories where God let his people fail to clean up hypocrisy and restore a right heart. Don't believe me? Go read Joshua 7 or John 2 for two excellent examples. God's story will not be stopped and His glory is infinitely secure. The end of the story is a lot about setting what is wrong right, setting captives free, restoring what was lost. It's about justice.
Truth is we all deserve death. We're all offered grace. We all have the opportunity to wipe the eternal slate clean and start over. This being made right is what moved Jesus to take our place. Great sacrifice. Justice is a virtue and character of God. When we ignore the impacts of our sin or refuse to corporately make right a wrong we are cheapening the cross. Justice means God will remove whatever he has to so heaven's darling can be seen by everyone.
"But even forgiveness can not negate the ripple effects of the past. To pretend otherwise is itself a further injustice." -On Reading Well
You knew I'd loop back to that giant zucchini right? The analogy isn't perfect but it works. In order to get my garden ready to grow next year I had to haul out the dead and stinking plants. And next year I should plant my zucchini away from my tomato plants. I really want the tomatoes to see the sun. Let's make sure justice is a virtue we cultivate. We want the Son to be seen.
My eldest invited us to an impromptu piano concert last night. Half way through the little one wanted to play something. Then they decided I better play something as well. It's been awhile since I sat at the piano bench. But I hauled out my old books and complied. It made me happy. I'd forgotten.
When I played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring my heart ached. I wanted so to be able to play it correctly. The few phrases which were correct made me want to practice. It made me want to hear it played expertly. So this morning on the way to work I blasted Josh Groban's version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.
On my desk at work is a jar full of roses. I bought them at the grocery store. Just because they were beautiful. And on sale. They make my heart ache in the same way playing Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring does.
I think what's really happening is my soul is recognizing we were created for more than our consumer focused, politically divisive, sexually exploiting, death obsessed and frenzied distraction culture. I think we're created for more than what my phone thinks is important. I think we're created for more than what the very talented marketers at Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook think is important.
Chapter two in KS Prior's new book "On Reading Well" is about the virtue of temperance. Temperance is "the virtue that inclines us to desire and enjoy pleasures well. It helps us to desire pleasures in a reasonable manner, desiring them neither too much nor too little, the virtuous mean between the vices of self-indulgence and insensibility". The virtue is about balance.
When I signed up for SeptemberJanuary to focus on my blog my kids were sad. Because I don't do balance very well. So I signed up anyway but made tracking my own health, connecting with my family and Quirky Faith a three pronged goal. I'm practicing balance. It has been refreshing.
In October I'm going to be working my way through Catherine Price's book "How to Break Up With Your Phone". I read the first half this past weekend. She convinced me I need to address my phone usage. What I loved about this book is it does not think throwing out the phone is the solution. Nor does it think shutting down all your social media accounts is the solution. It teaches balance. Temperance. If you are interested in joining in send me an email.
Pleasures are not bad. We were created for beauty, for depth, and for joy. My phone isn't bad either. I love the ways I can connect with people. I love the camera and music and calendar and occasional game. What is bad is when this good thing takes over and I miss out on piano and flowers and my children's smile. I miss the things that make life good. And my heart aches when I notice.
Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman
The Daily Question for You and Your Child is a fun way to invest in your relationship with your kids. The book is a high quality journal with a daily question to ask and record the answers. My daughters and I have been using the book for two weeks and are just in love. It's quickly becoming a part of our night time routine. I know one of the best ways to parent is to get my kids talking - and this book is the perfect tool to start important conversations. Some of the questions are light hearted and silly - and doesn't a good laugh help you bond with your kids? Some of the questions give you a window into your child's interworking and offers you both the opportunity to explore what faith, community, grace and growth look like worked out in life.
If you'd like a chance to WIN a free copy of The Daily Question for You and Your Child WaterBrook has a sweepstakes going on right now. Details Below.
Don’t have the journal yet? Here’s a few questions you can choose from!
One (1) Grand Prize Winner(s) will receive the following:
I received a complementary copy of the book in exchange for this honest review.
Huge congratulations to Jill Williamson on the upcoming release (June 19) of King's War. This is the third book in The Kingsman Chronicles and a massive accomplishment. Jill has created a believable world comparable to any found in other epic fantasy novels. Her characters struggle through trauma and loss with realistic emotions and the healings are hard won. I found King's War to be a satisfying finish to the trilogy with no easy answers and thoughtful plots. After all the adventure, I was grateful some of my favorite characters survived!
My favorite thing about everything Jill writes is the fact her heart and hope shine through her writing. This trilogy wanders through darkness and sin and corruption. It feature a vast range of human emotion and the striking pains we give each other from selfish actions. But the book - like Jill's life - is marked by a dedication to the truth of courage, hope, devotion and a powerful benevolent Creator. Well done my friend.
If you love fantasy and haven't read any of Jill Williamon's work may I suggest you get started? The Blood of Kings, The Safelands, or The Kinsman Chronicles are all complex and imaginative trilogies sure to please. You can buy the books on Amazon or at her website HERE. The website also has details about the book's release party. The party is well deserved.
Please note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review as a part of Jill Williamson's launch team.
I just adore authors. I love to sit beside them and listen as they brainstorm plots or discuss characters. I love to watch as their process unfolds and cheer on book launch days. Recently I had the opportunity to interview two lovely ladies. Here are their answers, book reviews and links to their new offerings. You'll see why I love authors and these two are on my new favorites list.
Which of your character’s do you personally identify with the most?
Tricia: I can usually identify with some aspect of most of my main characters. Though not King Respen or Harrison Vane. I would be a little scared if I identified with them. Leith handles emotions much the way I do. Renna has a lot of my fear of well, everything. Rosanna and Brandi both have my love of adventure. Alex...sad to say, I identify with his struggle with pride. Hopefully I’m less insufferable than he is, but pride does have a tendency to go after all of us in one way or another.
Sarah: Probably Maggie as she’s a mum like myself. She’s been through a lot, but she’s not bitter; rather her experiences have softened her towards others in need. I can identify with or understand ALL my characters reasoning and motivation though. That’s one of the things I love doing, getting into characters heads and figuring them out.
How has your life story impacted your writing?
Tricia: Honestly, I’m struggling to come up with an answer for this. I had a happy childhood, I have a close family, good friends. I started drawing stories at two years old before I even had much of a life to start impacting my writing. If anything, my stories have had more impact on my life than my life has had on my stories. As a writer, you have to ask yourself the tough questions and figure out what you believe and what answers you have. It forces you to think deeply and search Scriptures in a way you wouldn’t otherwise.
Sarah: My own experiences with loss, doubt, love and pain are heavily woven into what I write. Without the pain in my own life, physical and emotional, I couldn’t possibly be in a position to reach out to those hurting in similar ways. I guess that’s part of why I find I can relate to my characters, even the nasty ones. I been in bad places before, dealt with some pretty heavy things and seen things that changed me. Because of everything I’ve been through, I can relate to a wide range of people and I can share the benefit of my experience within what I write.
What do you wish your reader’s knew about why you write?
Tricia: I wish readers knew just how much prayer Christian writers put into their books. Every single thing in my books is in there because, after much prayer and Scripture-searching, I believe it gives glory to God. As readers, you might not feel it was necessary and it might not be to your personal preference, but I hope the readers never question the heart I have behind it.
Sarah: Well said Tricia. I’ve noticed since publishing, that while secular writers might get slammed for poor writing, Christian authors will have their faith questioned. It’s very disheartening when we are all striving to bring glory to the same God.
I wish readers understood that not every Christian Author writes for the same audience. For me, I want to reach the hurting and the lost. Yes, sometimes they are within the Christian community, but for me it’s more important to fulfill the mission God has been preparing me for. I write in the Christian Fantasy category because I am not ashamed of the gospel but by the same token I want to reach more than just those already ‘saved’. This means my writing has to be relatable while still providing healthy and positive examples backed by my understanding of scripture.
How has grace been evident in your life? Does grace impact your writing? How?
Tricia: Thanks to God’s grace, I’ve been a Christian my entire life, and my faith has continued to deepen the older I get. I pray as I write that God pours His grace into the words to touch others’ hearts.
Sarah: Wow. Okay, so I’m putting myself on the line here. I’ll be honest. I haven’t always lived a Christian life. I’ve been in the dark, at times crushed by fear and anxiety. I was terrified and alone, looking to worldly things for comfort. I didn’t understand the enormity of God’s love for me until later in life. I lived for so long thinking I was a Christian but had never even read the Bible, let alone studied it. I made so many mistakes, I lived apart from Jesus, without hope, without understanding of what Grace is. I didn’t understand that there is no limit to how far God will go to bring us home to Him. I didn’t understand there is nothing we can do that will change the way He feels about us. This is why I write for the lost. I’ve lived both lives. And I know what incredible freedom and joy waits for those who seek the truth.
Imagine Pocahontas in the world of Sleeping Beauty. This retelling is a fantastically fun view of women warriors, honor upheld and new love. Tricia had me believing her characters were people she knew. I'd put this book in the hands of any young adult who loves adventure with a hint of romance. Well done!
Sarah Addison-Fox writes pain and endurance as if she's seen it herself. Dissociate is the third book in The Allegiance Series which explores the intrigue of spies, slaves and redemption. If you enjoy suspense and are looking for a good weekend read this is for you.
Sarah Thebarge's new book Well made me mad. And happy. It made me think and it made me want to take Ms. Thebarge aside and explain a few things. It made me shocked at my own excess. This book frustrated the heck out of me and I loved parts of it enough to reread it again.
The book is tag lined "Healing our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa". It is a retelling of Sarah Thebarge's three month medical mission trip to Hospital of Hope in Togo, West Africa. Sarah is a gifted writer. She is able to describe people and medical prognoses to make the reader understand. Sarah is also a deeply passionate and expressive person. I am quite positive she's a joy to have as a friend.
I loved the book though because Sarah captured perfectly the culture shock and anger at American excess when children in Africa die of preventable diseases. She stated at one point she has quit asking why God allows suffering and now she's asking why WE allow suffering. When I got home from my ten days in Africa (pitiful compared to her 3 months and nothing compared with the people who work and serve and love continuously) I was quite simply ticked. My husband had to haul me out of a Peet's Coffee before I caused a scene in confronting a spoiled mom who was returning her iced mocha because she said it was "icky". Icky is not the luxury of $5 coffee. Icky is water which is full of live parasites and having no other option to bathe your children. This book is a challenge to choose to invest in giving live, hope, love and a future to the most improvised communities. It is easy to look the other way. This book is a gorgeous invitation to look closely and then to get involved.
I was also frustrated with this book. Ms. Thebarge made it clear she did not agree with the management of the mission or with the approach of many of the life time missionaries in the area. My concern comes from a commitment to striving for unity across the Christian faith. I cringed at how Ms. Thebarge described people who had given their entire lives to this hospital, people she had judged almost immediately. While Ms. Thebarge may very well have some valid points of contention I wondered if she had shared these with her hosts prior to including the sections in her book. I think perhaps Sarah has not yet come to peace with some of her trip and I wish those chapters had been healed a bit before throwing the story to the world. I think we in the faith do better when we work out our differences and are able to show grace and love to each other despite disagreement. I completely understand disagreement. My hope though is there is more to this story - a chapter where Sarah and others wrestled through hard conversations and had relationship at the end.
Well is a book which grapples with deep pain. It faces questions of disparity, of disease, of loss and sacrifice. It also contained clear calls to love deeply and to watch for opportunities to make a difference. I loved scenes where simple songs or staying present made a difference. Most importantly, it paints a picture of a Creator who loves His people. This book made me want to know God better. The book offers no easy answers and acknowledges brokenness but it also taught the lesson of love well. Love isn't trite. But it is powerful. And perhaps powerful is the best word to describe Sarah's book. Messy and painful but powerful. It was not an easy read. But I recognized myself in the pages and it made me want to go back to Africa.
I went to the Bridge the Gap fundraiser today. Oh my goodness. I successfully avoided hauling home an autographed football and signed jersey of Russell Wilson because I thought my husband might be surprised if I had decided to donate our children's college fund to the cause. However - I did bring home a renewed vision for why we decided to use some of the proceeds from The Scramble for the Kids (a charity golf tournament I help with every year) for this amazing organization. Bridge the Gap helps by providing funding for foster kids to do the "extras" in life - they pay for art classes, rent band instruments, pay for tutors, sports fees and even purchase yearbooks and prom tickets. Last year, Bridge the Gap helped 1602 foster kids in Clark and Skamania counties. Today one of the speakers was a stunning student who is about to graduate. When this brave soul shared her story the entire room sat in rapt attention and then gave her a standing ovation. And then the paddle raise. Goodness me. If you need to renew your hope in the world go check out Bridge the Gap and get involved.
I spent the afternoon reading one of the books in my stack. The stack has grown to ridiculous levels and I have a goal this month to power through and get caught up. This afternoon's read was a fantastic thoughtful and engrossing book by Christina Baker Kline called The Orphan Train. The book traces the relationship between a modern day foster child and a 92 year old woman who find friendship through sharing their similar childhood experiences. The book made me want to be kinder to everyone I meet. People carry such pain and kindness makes a difference.
Book Review: Whisper by Mark Patterson
I've been thinking a bit about hearing from God. The idea was on various twitter and Facebook pages because of some negative remarks on the tv show The View about Vice President Pence perhaps being crazy because he "hears Jesus speak". Apologies were given and the VP didn't seem to mind. But it got me thinking people outside the faith community clearly have questions about what believers mean when they say they hear from God.
Frankly - people inside church have questions too. I've talked to confused kids and concerned adults who were worried their faith was suspect because they didn't have audible conversations with the Almighty. Conversations usually include talking about how God speaks when you read the Bible, when you pay attention to your conscience, when circumstances bend together in serendipitous ways. And sometimes there are miraculous stories where God did in fact make it clear through sound or situation what He was trying to communicate.
From now on, when I talk to someone who is wondering about listening for the action of God I'm going to encourage them to read Mark Batterson's new book Whisper. Batterson's book works through the seven ways God speaks and left me encouraged. One of Batterson's contentions is that our society is too busy, too loud, too distracted and this is why people can't seem to hear the voice of God. His advice to take a break, shut everything off and be quiet enough to listen is refreshing. Whisper contains practical steps to take to settle your soul and stories of people who have found God's voice to be the very thing which filled up the silence.
Bottom line? You want to hear God? Shut up long enough to let Him speak.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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