Are Women Really Welcome in the World?

In 2017, it can be easy to believe that there isn’t much left that we haven’t seen. We’ve launched astronauts into space. We’ve mapped the human genome. We’ve harnessed technology in such a way that it has become an integral part of our everyday lives.

While we all theoretically know that there are heights yet to reach, the world seems accessed and accessible in ways like never before. Many of the stories we tell are thinly veiled retellings of stories already told—creative, but not even attempting to be original. Everything seems attainable, yet we find ourselves regularly returning to that which we have already attained.

Perhaps this normative recurrence of the same old tropes is why an experience a few weeks ago stood out to me so clearly, an experience in which I saw something that I had never seen before. While sitting on the couch in my own familiar living room, a new story played out. What I witnessed wasn’t a scientific advancement, nor a political achievement. In fact, it wasn’t even real. It was a fictional depiction of something possible in the real world, but yet to be seen. And it captivated me.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

Provocative Platforms

On Mark Driscoll, Derek Webb, Tullian Tchividjian, and my quest for missing pieces.
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I was sixteen years old when a new album came on the scene, quickly labeled “edgy,” if not offensive, in the world of 2003 Contemporary Christian Music. The lyrics were provocative, at least for the time, and my teenage heart was enthralled by them.

I am a whore
I do confess
I put you on just like a wedding dress
And I run down the aisle
—Derek Webb

I listened to the album over and over again, enticed by the call to what felt like a deeper faith, a rawness and authenticity that seemed to be missing in so much of the evangelical culture around me. The music was artistically good, but not overly polished. The lyrics were reverent (enough), but not stripped of human honesty.

I knew my salvation was secure, but I wondered if perhaps the hollowness I’d sometimes felt in the conservative evangelicalism of my childhood could be filled by the fresh air this singing provocateur was breathing. Maybe this was the missing piece.

Keep Reading at Fathom Mag.

‘Sit with Me’: Currents of Grief in “Wind River”

“This isn’t the land of waiting for backup. This is the land of you’re on your own.”

Harsh as those words are, the reality they depict is even harsher. Wind River tells the gritty story of a murder case on an Indian Reservation where a young woman’s body is found in the snow by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife game hunter, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Signs of rape and assault that are evident from the beginning are soon confirmed, and FBI Officer Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) and Lambert pair up to investigate.

The audience eventually learns that Lambert’s daughter also died in the cold a few years earlier. The undetermined, suspicious circumstances of her murder leave Lambert tormented and hungry to exact punishment. A few scenes in the film play out like near-fulfillments of revenge fantasies for Lambert, tantalizing him with the aroma of justice, offering a taste, then disappearing. Lambert pursues vengeance on behalf of the newly deceased young woman, Natalie, and her family, indulging the bloodlust that has been percolating beneath his calm exterior as he has mourned his own daughter. The retribution does not satisfy.

Wind River is bleak, even gruesome at moments. The desolation that echoes throughout the snow-covered reservation and the agony of the characters’ stories resound loudly enough for Vox writer Alissa Wilkinson to suggest that the film “risks becoming a caricature of pain.” While I do not overtly disagree with Wilkinson’s critique (I certainly found a few scenes in the film to teeter on, if not fall over, the edge of gratuitous brutality), my overall impression of the film is, perhaps, rooted in different soil.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Image Credit: IMDB

New Podcast Episode: Peacemaking Fails then Successes

The Shalom Sistas crew has a new group episode for you, friends! Tune in to listen to Jerusalem, Cara, Osheta, and me share our stories of peacemaking fails that turned into successes.

My story involves a total flop of an attempt to participate in Harvey relief. Osheta and I talk about my struggle to realize that, of course, my inability to help doesn’t mean I am a failure or “not enough,” even though that is what I’m tempted to feel. I also share one of my favorite quotes from Osheta’s book on “enough”ness.

In addition to my story about not feeling like enough, Jerusalem, Osheta and Cara talk about additional themes from Osheta’s book–the truths that we are beloved, invited, and determined to see the beauty. We laugh a lot at our own shenanigans and we hope you will too!

Shedding Summer Skin

On one of the few days left lingering between my high school graduation and freshman year of college, Death Cab for Cutie released their fifth studio album, Plans, and I’d like to think the album’s drop was timed just for me. When I hear the hit singles that first tickled my eardrums in August of 2005—”Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth,” “I Will Follow You into the Dark”—framing the album with the nostalgia, wistfulness, and ache that Death Cab conjures up in the hearts of listeners like no other, I’m transported back to that end of summer and taken on a journey into the months and years that followed.

If you graduated from high school just before Plans released like I did, or if you have a single memory associated with their music, my hunch is that you have the same connection. Death Cab’s songs are the kind that burrow deep inside you. At the time, you thought you were just listening, the music washing over you, and then years later you hear “Someday You Will Be Loved” in a coffee shop and look around to find yourself inside a memory you’d thought was long gone.

The songs hadn’t merely washed over you at all; they had taken root inside, been there with you all this time.

There is no richer example of this for me than “Summer Skin,” song number three on Plans, its drumbeat strong, reminiscent of time marching forward, Ben Gibbard’s voice and the lyrics just inches from uncertainty. This combination evokes the tension that memories seem to so often be made of—is this the same feeling I had in that moment? Do I remember this the way it actually happened? Is the accuracy of the memory what’s important, or is the meaning in the story the memory tells?

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Image Credit: Cameron Morgan

Should I Feel God’s Presence in My Life?  

If you grew up evangelical, it’s likely you experienced the phenomenon known as the “camp high.” This experience would occur when your youth group or church made its way to a retreat center, or perhaps your parents sent you off to a summer camp. A few days into the week, when you were tired, hadn’t stopped sweating in 96 hours, and were certain that the friends by your side would be your best buds forever, the evening program would happen. A campfire, perhaps, or a stirring message from a stage, and before you knew it, every emotion you’d ever known was rising up within you, a symphony of feelings that you were sure could only mean one thing—this is what it feels like to be near God.

I have many memories associated with this kind of experience, most of them occurring at camps or retreats or on mission trips, moments sweet and safe and removed from the every day normalcy of life. Sometimes I would access those emotions in a smaller dose on Wednesday nights at youth group, or during a Sunday morning service, a certain song or message conjuring up a fiery commitment to God and His ways. How could I want anything else?, I would think. Surely, if He can make me feel this way, He must be the One to follow.

While experiences like this were peppered throughout my teenage years, when college and young adulthood arrived, they seemed to slip away quietly. I wondered, worried even, if I was doing something wrong when I could no longer access the emotional highs I had once known and associated with God’s goodness and presence. As I made my first decisions of adulthood—a degree plan, marriage, my first job, two summers on the mission field—I wondered where God was. I was quite sure factually, logically, rationally, that He was pleased with the road I was walking. But emotionally, I wrestled. Why couldn’t I feel Him? And what did it mean that I couldn’t?

Keep reading at iBelieve.

Supporting Foster and Adoptive Families

Three years ago, my husband and I earned our foster care license. Due to a series of life circumstances beyond our control, we were only able to use our license to offer respite care (weekend long stints of caring for foster children) twice, and babysit a few other times. My heart was broken by our inability to maintain our license, even as I knew God was guiding us to release it. A question emerged in a present, painful way in my heart and mind: is there a legitimate option for us to engage the local foster care and adoption community if we cannot do so through actually fostering or adopting? Do people mean it when they say that there is, or is the option binary—foster/adopt or don’t?

As God is so faithful to do, “He brought me out into a broad place” (Psalm 18:19), revealing to me that not only were there ways to be actively involved in the lives of foster and adoptive families and children, but that they were plentiful. I became convinced that I was invited to join Him in His work of “placing the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), which I have written about here.

I’ve recently spoken with several women who, like I did, have questions about engaging the foster care and adoption community. I’m delighted to share their questions, along with answers and insight from foster and adoptive families and an adult adoptee, with you today. As you read, I encourage you to pick one step to take and consider letting a friend or two know about it. Ask if they’d be willing to have you share with them what you learned and discuss possibilities for acting on it.

Keep reading at The Influence Network

How to Respond in Times of Crisis

I sat in my favorite corner of our couch, knees pulled up to my chest. A few close friends were scattered around the room, eyes soft, questions gentle. We had been at an event together earlier that evening where words were spoken that caused a part of my heart to fracture. When I left the event as soon as possible, these women called and offered to come, to sit and listen or let silence linger. We did some of both.

Mostly, I rambled, at least that’s how I remember it. I remember tears and I remember closing my eyes as I spoke sentences of which I was embarrassed of, words that made me feel faithless and weak. But most of all, I remember the tenderness of the women gathered in that room, their compassionate strength that bore the weight of my sadness and anger.

When I was in crisis, the physical presence, help, and listening ear of others was critical. Never have I been so aware of the beauty of the body of Christ as I have been when I was dependent upon others to care for me, to support my family, and to pray and believe for me when I was losing my grip on the ability to do so for myself.

When crisis comes, many of us determine to buckle down, to believe that grit and fortitude will be enough to weather the storm. But what this often can mean is that we want to be strong, though Scripture tells us that God’s grace is made perfect in our weakness. We do not want to inconvenience others, though Scripture tells us to bear one another’s burdens. We want to think of crises as linear—as having a beginning, middle, and end, life returning to a happy “normal” after the fact–though Scripture tells us that we will have trouble in this world until Christ’s return.

Keep reading at iBelieve.

On Hopeful Resistance

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
~ Emily Dickinson

I am not sure that I have ever before read a poem that I adore so fully and disagree with so heartily all at once. I am not sure if that is even an entirely possible state of mind, but it certainly seems to be the one I am in as I read Dickinson’s rhythmic words.

I did not used to feel this way about this poem. Not long ago, I found it to be only beautiful, merely soothing, simply grace. “The thing with feathers” — what a gentle, calming thought. The idea that hope could swoop down, land within me, beat its little wings and fill me with hope, why would I want to do anything but wrap my arms around that idea, embrace it wholeheartedly, maybe set up a few directional signs for the little hope-bird so it would arrive faster? Come to me, hope. Fill me up.

While I haven’t abandoned this little imaginative figment entirely, I no longer find it to be enough. I never did, I suppose, since I am one who believes her ultimate hope is in Christ, that He is the only hope in life and death. But I did find that repeating those little mantras to myself, words of Scripture, of creeds, even of Dickinson, was enough to reinvigorate the little bird’s wings, sending him flapping back into my presence, into my soul.

Keep reading at Upwrite Magazine.

Hope in My Earbuds: A Tribute to the Gilmore Guys

Say what you will about Twitter (and we could all say plenty), but I’ll tell you this: it served as the launching point for one of my favorite little bits of happiness over the course of the past year. The bit of happiness wasn’t, however, a Twitter account, a meme, or a GIF (though each of those could serve as runners up). Rather, it was a podcast.

Twitter was the meeting place for Kevin Porter and Demi Adejuyigbe, twentysomethings in Los Angeles, California, who half-jokingly agreed to chat their way through the television program Gilmore Girls, record their ramblings, and broadcast them for whoever may decide to listen. The product of their Twitter-baked plan was Gilmore Guys, a podcast which lasted for three-and-a-half years, ending earlier this summer after rising to #39 of all podcasts on iTunes during its peak of popularity.

Full of silliness, special guests, and skilled analysis made possible by their own budding careers in LA, Porter and Adejuyigbe found the x-factor that so many long to find in creative work—they invited people into a place that felt like home. While their house was built on an existing foundation (Gilmore Girls), the walls and rooms were all their own. And before we, the fans, knew it, their “home” was one of our favorite places to drop by each week. We’d peer around the corners to see who else was there, smile, and stay awhile. In the beginning, we came for the Girls, but in no time at all, we looked up and realized we were staying for the Guys.

Keep reading at Christ and Pop Culture.

*Photo Credit: Gilmore Guys