how I think through desensitization.

A few weeks ago, I shared some of my thoughts on consuming books and entertainment, and invited readers to join in the conversation. I’m delighted that many of you did, and I’m going to be blogging my way through several of the questions that were asked and themes that were raised. Keep the questions coming via blog post comments or on the Facebook page!

     In my first post on this topic, I gave my thesis statement on why I read and watch what I read and watch, which is: my primary reason for reading and watching television is that literature and storytelling have an unparalleled way of fostering my compassion for the brokenness of humanity and helping me gain insight into the human mind and heart. 

     I wrote about compassion and empathy, about turning from that which breeds fear and pressing into that which brings freedom. I wrote, “I read of characters turning over rock after rock, bottle after joint after bed sheet in search of hope and I realize that these are the people all around me, in my neighborhood, my community, the world. I’m challenged and compelled to love more deeply, less fearfully.”

     One of the questions that came up, which is a question that often comes up within my own heart is this:

What about desensitization?

     I’ll confess up front that I do not have a pat answer for this question, and that I am not working toward one. Rather, I’m working toward developing a robust, God-honoring, empathy-evoking framework that empowers me to make wise, open-hearted decisions about what I choose to consume (and what I don’t).

     With that foundation beneath us, here are a few points to consider as we think through the power of books and media to desensitize us.

     First, what do we mean when we say “desensitize?”

definition of desensitize     Interesting, isn’t it? The definition provides a bit of clarity, certainly, but it also opens up a pertinent question. When we say we have become desensitized, we generally tend to mean that we have become less likely to be distressed by exposure to harmful images, and we perceive this to be a problem, even sinful. I think that this definition is often the correct one to use, and I believe that it is invariably the one to use when we are discussing the harms of gratuitous violence, salacious sex, purposelessly crude comedy and more.

     But…or perhaps, and

     I wonder if we should explore the second definition a bit more. I wonder if, sometimes, when we say that we are concerned about being “desensitized” to something, what we really mean is that we are uncomfortable in the tension of watching or reading about a character who is lost in sin and living like it and finding ourselves having compassion on that character. I wonder if we liked being grossed out by a “type” of person, and suddenly we aren’t anymore, and now we wonder if that change is wrong. The cheating husband, the alcoholic mother, the mistress, the drug dealer, the liar, we engage them in books, in movies, and on television and we suddenly find ourselves compelled by their stories, heartbroken by their pain, understanding of their failures. We become, according to the second definition, “desensitized,” or perhaps more accurately, more poignantly, we find ourselves humanizing characters and, if art is doing its job and we are allowing it to, recognizing the intrinsic value of the people around us, the stories they share, the hardships they face.

     And herein lies the question I believe we must ask, the question that I must ask myself often.

     “Does this character compel me to compassion, or entice me to emulate?”

     Does the drug addict tempt me to numb my own pain, or does he stir compassion in my heart for the plight of those overwhelmed by suffering and desperate to anesthetize?

     Does the cheating mistress chip away at my defenses, tempting me toward a wandering eye or a lustful heart, or does she foster empathy for those whose search for love is deluded and unsatisfying?

     Does the violent warrior evoke aggression and lack of regard for human beings, or does he draw me to think more deeply about war, the sanctity of life, justice and peace-making?

     It is certainly possible for both to happen at the same time – a compelling toward compassion and an enticement to emulate. It is possible to watch a show one day and feel only compassion for the flawed character, while the next day we find ourselves tempted to dabble in choices similar to hers. And this is why one of my strongest beliefs about books and entertainment is this – our choices here should not exist in a vacuum. Our choices here are not exempt from the input and questioning of our community. I don’t think this means we need to text a friend every time we set the DVR or borrow a library book, but I do think it means that we keep the conversation about what we watch and read and why open with those around us. I think it means that we are called to be soft and receiving to insight, input, even disagreement. I think it means we confess to one another if we are finding ourselves tempted by the images or words we have consumed, and that we submit ourselves one to another in establishing gracious, loving boundaries. I think it means we push one another in our definitions, that we dig toward the root of desensitization, humanization, fear, freedom and compassion.

    Community is a critical component all of the Christian life, and our consumption of books and entertainment is no exception. This isn’t about legalism; it’s not about rules, nor about “accountability partners” having ultimate authority over what we consume. It’s about keeping conversations open, leaving no room for dark secrets growing within. It’s about the journey away from fear and toward freedom together. It’s about helping one another follow the Spirit toward purity and empathy intertwined, together.


What are your thoughts on books, entertainment, desensitization and community? I’d love to hear them! Comment on this post or join the conversation on the Facebook page.


     Next in this series: personality + entertainment (how our individual designs influence the way we consume and engage with entertainment). 


From Him | Through Him | To Him,

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easter sunday/resurrection day + eastertide.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Easter Sunday/Resurrection Day + Eastertide

What’s this holy day + season all about?
Rejoice! He is Risen! Easter Sunday is the day we remember Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” visiting the tomb to honor the body of Jesus and finding no body there, but an angel instead. An angel who said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” They remembered and believed, and rushed away to tell the apostles.

“The season of Easter, also called Eastertide, is the seven weeks after Easter, sometimes called “The Great 50 Days” ending in the day of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.” (citation)

What Holy Days are a part of the Season of Eastertide?
Easter Sunday – March 27
Annunciation of the Lord – April 4
Ascension of the Lord – May 5
Pentecost – May 15

What’s the history of this observance?
“There is evidence that Christians originally celebrated the resurrection of Christ every Sunday, with observances such as Scripture readings, psalms, the Eucharist, and a prohibition against kneeling in prayer. At some point in the first two centuries, however, it became customary to celebrate the resurrection specially on one day each year. Many of the religious observances of this celebration were taken from the Jewish Passover.” (citation)

What’s it to me?
I wrote “this day is everything to us” in response to this question on the Good Friday post. If Friday is everything, Sunday is the fullness of everything. Not only has our sin been paid for, it has been triumphed over. Death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ’s resurrection. We have confidence now that our pain truly is temporary, that though the dark night lingers long, it does not loom forever. The strongest forces of this world have no true power over us, because we are in Jesus Christ, and He has over come them. He is risen, indeed.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Easter/Resurrection Sunday commemorates the day when Jesus’ tomb was found empty. When, as my three-year-old says, we remember that “HE’S ALIVE AGAIN!”

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts and liturgy, and pray the Collects for Easter Sunday.

Celebrate the fulfillment of prophecy in the resurrection of Christ in the last day of our Holy week Devotional. Click to have Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant emailed to you, and keep it as a resource for future Holy Weeks..

Read Jerusalem Greer’s Holy Week ideas from last year (family friendly).

Celebrate! Gather with friends, family, roommates or members of your church to feast together and rejoice in the truth of the Risen Savior. Share stories from your life of His victory over your pain or sin. Give thanks that the Resurrection gives us hope that He has come and He is coming again.

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Easter through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Lent.

Add touches of gold + white to your home through decor, flowers or candles. “White and gold are used for Easter, symbolizing the joy of resurrection and the brightness of the day where death is overcome and through which we are invited into new life.” (citation)

For kids: Make Empty Tomb Rolls. Where is Jesus? Magic Watercolor Art. Read the resurrection account from the Jesus Storybook Bible or other children’s bible. Act out the resurrection account together.

Create a playlist from songs we’ve been gathering on the Facebook page, where we asked what people were they have been listening to in order to orient their hearts during Holy Week.

Suggestions:
Death Was Arrested by Gwinnett Worship
Oh the Blood by Kari Jobe
Power of the Cross by Natalie Grant
High Noon by Andrew Peterson
Christ is Risen by Matt Maher
This I Believe, Our Father & Calvary by Hillsong Worship
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
There is a Fountain Filled with Blood
Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
Hallelujah! What a Savior


I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on the Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing Holy Week + Easter Sunday/Eastertide?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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holy saturday.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Holy Saturday

What’s this holy day all about?
Holy Saturday marks the day when Jesus’ body lay in the tomb. Fearful that the disciples would steal Jesus’ body and claim that He had been resurrected, the chief priests and Pharisees petitioned Pilate to send a guard to the tomb. This is recorded in Matthew 27:57-45; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:44-56 and John 19:38-42. Christians believe that Jesus descended into Hell as His body lay in the tomb, as recorded in 1 Peter 3 and the Apostles’ Creed.

What’s the history of this observance?
“Holy Saturday was also known as Great or Grand Saturday, as well as the Angelic Night. It was the only Saturday on which fasting was permitted in the early days of the Christian church. According to some sources, fasting occurred during the entire day or lasted for 40 hours before the Easter Sunday sunrise during the first century CE. This day was a major day for baptisms in the early church. Many churches still hold large services for baptisms on Holy Saturday.” (citation)

What’s it to me?
Holy Saturday beckons us to wait, to hold vigil for our Savior’s return. This day has innumerable parallels to the age we find ourselves living in now – an age filled with pain and longing. While we know that Jesus will return to us again, we so often experience the disorientation, confusion, anger, loneliness and fear of the disciples. “Where has He gone?,” we wonder. “Does He see our pain? Does He hold any power over it?” And we beg for the faith to believe. We grieve that He is not with us, yet we rejoice in the knowledge that He will return. I’m thinking today on how much I long for Him to burst through the temporal barriers that separate us. I want to learn how to live in this in between space, a space painful and hopeful at once.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Holy Saturday commemorates the day when Jesus’ body lay in the tomb, which was guarded for fear that His body would be stolen. This is also when we believe Jesus descended into Hell. In a word, this is a day of waiting.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts and pray the Collect for Holy Saturday.

It’s not too late to join us for an the remainder of our Holy Week journey through a simple devotional. Click to have Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant emailed to you.

Read Jerusalem Greer’s Holy Week ideas from last year (family friendly).

Wait on Him. Light a candle in a dark room, sit and pray, just be quiet and seek Him for a few minutes. Ask yourself what it would have been like to know He was laying in a tomb, experience the flood of emotions. Store up the depth of it all, with the knowledge that Sunday is coming.

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Lent + Holy Week through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Lent.

Add touches of purple (reminds us of Christ’s painful death and His royalty) and red (reminds us of Jesus’ shedding of blood) to your home through decor, flowers or candles.

For kids: Talk about what waiting feels like, why it is hard and how we can feel both sad and hopeful at the same time. Dye Easter eggs in preparation for tomorrow.

Create a playlist from songs we’ve been gathering on the Facebook page, where we asked what people were they have been listening to in order to orient their hearts during Holy Week.

Suggestions:
Death Was Arrested by Gwinnett Worship
Oh the Blood by Kari Jobe
Power of the Cross by Natalie Grant
High Noon by Andrew Peterson
Christ is Risen by Matt Maher
This I Believe, Our Father & Calvary by Hillsong Worship
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
There is a Fountain Filled with Blood
Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
Hallelujah! What a Savior


I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on the Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing Holy Week + Holy Saturday?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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good friday.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Good Friday

What’s this holy day all about?
Good Friday marks the day when the Jewish religious leaders demanded that the Roman officials kill Jesus. Based on what the Jewish leaders believed to be blasphemy (Jesus’ claim to be God) and the Roman officials’ belief that He was a threat to their government (due to Jesus’ claim to be King), they convicted Him and sentenced Him to death. Jesus was beaten, flogged, scorned, given a crown of thorns, and nailed to a cross. As He was dying, He invited the thief hanging on the cross next to Him into paradise; He fulfilled prophecy; He claimed “it is finished.” On Good Friday, most simply, we remember Christ crucified (John 18-19).

What’s the history of this observance?
There are records of Good Friday observances as early as the 4th century. The holy day eventually became known as a day of fasting and penance. Historically, many Christians have observed Good Friday by commemorating the “Stations of the Cross,” which is a series of fourteen events surrounding Christ’s death. It is also traditional to venerate a cross in a ceremony.

What’s it to me?
Everything. This day is everything to us. This is the day that we nailed him to the tree, the day that our sin and the brokenness of this world lost its power over us because the blood of the perfect Lamb was spilled. “It is finished,” Jesus said, just before He died. That’s what this day is to us. It is the day where all that we owed was paid, where all the sin and chaos we started was finished. This is the day we each deserved to face ourselves, yet our burden has been carried instead.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Good Friday commemorates the day when Jesus was crucified and killed at the hands of jealous Jewish religious leaders, Roman government officials, and, ultimately, each of us. This is the day of the Lamb of God, the sacrificed One, Who takes away the sins of the world.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Read + pray the liturgy for Good Friday.

It’s not too late to join us for an the remainder of our Holy Week journey through a simple devotional. Click to have Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant emailed to you.

Read Jerusalem Greer’s Holy Week ideas from last year (family friendly).

Attend a Stations of the Cross and/or Good Friday service at your church or in your community.

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Lent + Holy Week through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Lent.

Add touches of purple (reminds us of Christ’s painful death and His royalty) and red (reminds us of Jesus’ shedding of blood) to your home through decor, flowers or candles.

Reflect upon the debt that was paid for you at the cross, and give thanks to the One Who loved you so much that He paid it.

For kids: Bake a hot cross bun together. Braid yarn or string to make a Triduum Bracelet. Read an account of Christ’s crucifixion from the Jesus Storybook Bible or other children’s Bible.

Create a playlist from songs we’ve been gathering on the Facebook page, where we asked what people were they have been listening to in order to orient their hearts during Holy Week.

Suggestions:
Death Was Arrested by Gwinnett Worship
Oh the Blood by Kari Jobe
Power of the Cross by Natalie Grant
High Noon by Andrew Peterson
Christ is Risen by Matt Maher
This I Believe, Our Father & Calvary by Hillsong Worship
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
There is a Fountain Filled with Blood
Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy
Hallelujah! What a Savior


I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on the Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?

What are your ideas for observing Holy Week + Maundy Thursday?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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maundy thursday.

On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey. 

Maundy Thursday
(also called “Holy Thursday”)

What’s this holy day all about?
On Maundy Thursday we reflect upon Jesus’ observance of Passover with His disciples (recorded in Matthew 26). “The word Maundy is derived from the Latin word for ‘command.’ The ‘Maundy’ in ‘Maundy Thursday’ refers to the command Jesus gave to the disciples at the Last Supper, that they should love and serve one another” (citation). The two major components of our remembrance are the institution of Communion/The Lord’s Supper and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

What’s the history of this observance?
There are records of Maundy Thursday celebrations from the Middle Ages, and, while Maundy Thursday is certainly a special observance all its own, there is a sense in which we observe it each time we take communion and remember Jesus’ last supper with His disciples.

What’s it to me?
This passage puts us face to face with the truths Jesus deemed most important to impart to those closest to Him before He walked the road to the cross. “Remember me,” He said, and “love one another as I have loved you.” Those commands are so simple in their wording, yet I find them to be so difficult in their application sometimes. I overcomplicate; I refuse to walk into the small and simple ways of remembering, of loving. Maundy Thursday calls us away from all of our cultural and personal attempts to add to Christianity, leading us back to a faith centered around the person, work and words of Jesus Christ.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Maundy Thursday represents the day when Jesus observed the Passover/had The Last Supper with His disciples. It is here that He commanded his disciples to love one another as He had loved them, instituted communion and washed His disciples feet. Maundy Thursday beckons us to remember intentionally and love sacrificially.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Pray the “Collect” for Maundy Thursday.

It’s not too late to join us for an 8-day Holy Week journey through a simple devotional. Click to have Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant emailed to you.

Read Jerusalem Greer’s Holy Week ideas from last year (family friendly).

Host a Passover Seder with friends or your family. If that’s too much to pull off this year, file this away for next year and perhaps look through it and choose one component to talk about at dinner tonight.

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Lent + Holy Week through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Lent.

Add touches of purple (reminds us of Christ’s painful death and His royalty) and red (reminds us of Jesus’ shedding of blood) to your home through decor, flowers or candles.

Take a moment to write down a few areas of Christian life and/or ministry where you are tempted to be distracted from the foundational principles of remembering intentionally and loving well. Ask the Spirit to make you sensitive to those distractions and to remind you of the person, work and words of Jesus spoken at the Last Supper.

For kids: Put together a simple craft, or choose a “love one another” coloring page, and share the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.

I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my new Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?


What are your ideas for observing Holy Week + Maundy Thursday?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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Holy Week + Palm Sunday

 On January 1, I announced a new blog series here at Joy Woven Deep. If you haven’t seen that post yet, I encourage you to check it out, then come on back and join in the journey.

Holy Week | Palm Sunday

What is the time span of the season? Holy Week is the final week of Lent, beginning with Palm Sunday, which is the Sunday prior to Easter. Holy days include:

Palm Sunday – March 20
Maundy Thursday – March 24
Good Friday – March 25
Holy Saturday –  March 26

What’s this week + holy day all about?
Holy Week marks the week of Christ’s journey toward the cross, beginning with The Triumphal Entry/Palm Sunday, which we observe today (and is recorded in Matthew 21). By riding into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey, Jesus fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy recorded in Zechariah 9:9.

“The large company of pilgrims, mainly from Galilee, were acknowledging Jesus as a King by “spreading” their coats on “the road” before Him (cf. 2 Kings 9:13). Likewise, throwing small “branches from the trees” before Him symbolized the same thing (cf. 1 Macc. 13:51; 2 Macc. 10:7).

Rulers rode donkeys in Israel during times of peace (Judg. 5:10; 1 Kings 1:33). This was a sign of their humble service to the people. Warriors rode horses. Jesus was preparing to declare His messiahship by fulfilling this messianic prophecy. By coming in peace, He was extending grace rather than judgment to the city. He was coming as a servant now. He would return as a conquering King riding on a war horse later (cf. Rev. 19:11).

Jesus rode on the “colt” (a young male donkey), not on its mother, the donkey (Mark 11:2; Luke 19:30). It would have been remarkable that Jesus was able to control a presumably unbroken animal, moving through an excited crowd with an unfamiliar burden on its back. This was just one more demonstration that Jesus was the Messiah who was the master of nature (cf. 8:23-27; 14:22-32). Surely He could bring peace to Israel if He could calm the young colt (Isa. 11:1-10).”
– Dr. Tom Constable

What’s the history of this observance?
There are records of Palm Sunday observances taking place as early as the 4th century, marked by a procession and in the 8th century, a blessing of the palms. – Church Year

What’s it to me?
As Jesus rode in on the donkey, the crowd shouted, “Hosanna!, which means, “save us now!” This challenges me to consider what I demand of Him, to realize how often it is relief now, peace now, comfort now. Jesus has come to give relief and peace; He is the One, True Comfort, but I am so rarely willing to wait, to let my definitions be rewritten in His terms. Palm Sunday prompts my heart to recognize Who Jesus really is and what that means for my life, instead of demanding that He conform to my desires.

So, boil it down for me, would you?
Palm Sunday observes the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey. The Jewish crowd seemed to recognize Him as King, as they laid their coats and palm branches in His pathway and called for Him to save them. The Triumphal Entry was a specific fulfillment of a messianic prophecy, a fulfillment which communicates loud and clear – Christ is King.

So, how could we observe it?

Read the Daily Office texts here or via this app.

Read the Lectionary texts.

Read & pray the “liturgy & litany” for Palm Sunday.

Join us for an 8-day journey through a simple devotional. Click to have Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant emailed to you.

Read Jerusalem Greer’s Holy Week ideas from last year (family friendly).

Download the Sacred Ordinary Days Essentials Workbook and grow in your understanding of Lent + Holy Week through the one page summary. Then use the workbook pages to reflect on the past season and reset for the remainder of the season of Lent.

Add touches of purple (reminds us of Christ’s painful death and His royalty) and red (reminds us of Jesus’ shedding of blood) to your home through decor, flowers or candles.

Consider the places in your life where you want Jesus’ rescue now, where patience and long-suffering seem so hard to come by. Ask Him to draw you to a place of deeper trust and awareness of His sympathy this week as you ponder His own journey of suffering.

For kids: Read this version of the account of the Triumphal Entry. Make a palm frond, or a donkey.

I would love for you to join the conversation. Would you add your voice to the conversation via blog post comments or on my new Facebook page and share your thoughts on these questions with us?


What are your ideas for observing Holy Week + Palm Sunday?

Which components of exploring liturgy and the Christian calendar are you thinking about this week?

Is this series serving you well? What are you enjoying? How could it improve?

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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where you are when you are here.

On Wednesday night, I attended a mentoring call with Bronwyn Lea through Redbud Writers Guild. During that call, she said something that I think will stick with me permanently, because Bronwyn’s words were ones I’d been looking for but seemed unable to find inside myself. Her words were simple, yet so poignant. I cannot stop thinking of them.

“This is how I think about my blog,” she said. “I think of my blog as an extension of my living room. The things I talk about on my blog are the things I would talk to you about if you were sitting on my couch.”

That is exactly how I feel about this space.

In the world of writers, there is a lot of emphasis on having a sharp, defined focus, on knowing what your niche is and staying within it, as in, “be able to say the distinct purpose, audience and tone of your blog in one sentence.”

(It’s okay, go ahead and laugh at the thought of me trying to communicate anything in one sentence.)

I understand this advice and agree with it to a certain point, but when I’ve tried to sit down and hammer out what it is, exactly, that this blog is meant for, I’ve gotten stuck. I’ve asked friends for help, I’ve talked to writers further down the road, and they’ve helped me get a lot closer, but here’s the thing – I’m just not a 100% pragmatic kind of gal, and I don’t think I ever will be. I love practical application and seek to give tangible advice, but I traffic in the philosophical and theoretical, the patterns behind what we can see, the meaning underneath it all. I tend, eventually, to get to the thing we should do, or be, or embody, but I’m also comfortable lingering a while, spending time in the swirl of thought. And sometimes that just doesn’t boil down very well into a one sentence purpose statement.

But I also want you to know what you’re in for, reader. I want you to know what kind of living room this is, how we talk here, what we discuss. So, with the help of some friends, here are some of the parameters I’ve set around Joy Woven Deep (JWD).

  • JWD exists to help people uncover the deeper places, encouraging them on their daily walk of faith.
  • JWD is a place for writing toward the wild and the rooted, to reveling in the mysteries of God and peering in to all that He reveals.
  • JWD is a reflection of the path God is leading me on, the gifts I believe He has given me, and the insight He imparts to me to share.
  • JWD is motivated by the prompting of the Spirit and conviction surrounding the truth and the ministry of reconciliation; it is not motivated by clicks, readership or numbers.
  • JWD is a space for sharing and conversation, for spurring one another on toward deeper thoughtfulness, stronger affections and meaningful action.

You know what I love about that list? It’s (in nearly every way) the same list I have for my life, relationships, ministry opportunities, family engagement…all of it.

So, yes, this blog is an extension of my living room. A place where I’ll talk personality tests, literary fiction, mass incarceration, Shonda Rhimes, trinitarinism and clinical depression with you in the same night. A place where my kids will make appearances but not be the epicenter of the evening. A place where we come with questions, and sometimes we leave with answers, but sometimes we leave with even more questions. A place where we know each other and love well. A place where you are welcome.

I’m so genuinely glad that you are here with me, that you are a part of what is shaping this space and my desire for it. If there’s anything you would like to see featured or discussed on Joy Woven Deep, would you let me know here or in the post comments? I’d just love to know.

As of yesterday (hooray!), I have a public Facebook page. Would you hop over and “like” it for me? I’ll be so excited to see you. We’ll be hosting a great deal of discussion over there and I don’t want you to miss it.

Thank you for being in this with me.

From Him | Through Him | To Him,

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PS – Palm Sunday is just 2 days away! Download your copy of Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant, an 8-day devotional for Holy Week by entering your email address here.

on consuming books & entertainment.

booksA few weeks ago, I read a book called Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont. The first time I heard about this book, I heard that it was written by a young MFA student who was yet to graduate but had sold this manuscript to a publishing house for six figures (essentially unheard of). Finding it to be no disappointment, I held in my hands 330 pages that I devoured in one day, words strung together like they had always been looking for one another, like they were fulfilling their purpose in forming sentences together. The book was stunningly beautiful in its writing, heartbreaking in its content, profoundly insightful into the human experience. It also contained crass sexual language and was based on the premise of the family-shattering damage of an extramarital affair.

This book called to mind a question that I often find myself asking: what is my reason for consuming what I consume, and why have I decided that it’s my reason? More simply, how do I decide which books and television shows are appropriate for me, and what do I mean when I say “appropriate?”

I think that many of us who come from the evangelical world and/or conservative communities have decided that moral conformity is our general standard for what we consume. I get that, and in some ways, I agree with that. But I’m realizing that in a lot of other ways, I really don’t.

Let me draw this out a bit. For many in the Christian world, the decision-making metric around entertainment sounds like this,

“How much violence is in that movie?”
“Is there sex in that book?”
“Do they cuss a lot on that show?”

The goal is generally to minimize the amount of immorality by not allowing books/entertainment in that don’t conform to a certain moral standard, or at least only letting those in that err to a seemingly small degree.

On the other hand, some choose to think of entertainment as a relatively harmless thing, not filtering it through much of any kind of lens as long as the content isn’t overly explicit or gratuitous. They enjoy primetime television because it’s good television, blockbuster movies because they’re entertaining. That’s all it is really, it’s entertainment.

As I’m somewhat prone to do, I’d like to propose a third way, a third way which I will immediately admit is in no way my original idea.* My thesis statement, if you will is this: my primary reason for reading and watching television is that literature and storytelling have an unparalleled way of fostering my compassion for the brokenness of humanity and helping me gain insight into the human mind and heart. 

I don’t think this statement is a free pass to read or watch anything I want, no moral filter required. In fact, I actually experience quite the opposite. Since I am approaching my reading and entertainment choices with an intentional lens, I make decisions quite carefully, just perhaps not for the same reasons that others do, at least not every time. I consider the plot and the characters – what are they telling me about the world? I consider the quality of the writing – is this author giving me the opportunity to read the words of someone who was created to write? Whether intentionally or not, will this book, film or television show reflect the beauty of the Creator, or reveal the intrinsic need for Him?

I also focus a great deal on what leads to fear in my heart and what leads to freedom. For example, while war movies can teach us a great deal about the human condition, I can very rarely watch them. This is not because of the blood and gore, but because I’m sensitive to hatred and animosity. I spend the entire movie trying to sort through the layers of what kind of loyalties could lead people to slay one another like that and before I know it I may as well have been writing a dissertation on the film during the two hours I was attempting to watch it. After the fact, I’m shaken, thinking about the fact that those soldiers used to be little boys just like my sons and my mind is stuck in a loop that roots me in fear and does not allow me the energy to find a place of compassion for others.

Conversely, books and television shows that get into the deep, difficult places of the human search for belonging through companionship and relationships drive my heart straight toward freedom as I call to mind the hope that I have in Jesus, the gift of a great marriage that came straight from Him, and the ways that I can engage with those in my life who are looking for love in all the wrong places. I read of characters turning over rock after rock, bottle after joint after bed sheet in search of hope and I realize that these are the people all around me, in my neighborhood, my community, the world. I’m challenged and compelled to love more deeply, less fearfully.

My hope for this post is that it can be the beginning of a conversation. I plan to write more about this and would love to hear your thoughts as well. How do you determine what you read and watch? Do you find that it ebbs and flows with seasons of life? (I do.) Do you find that certain types of literature and entertainment drive your heart toward freedom, and others to fear? Do you think that certain personality types are able to consume different types of content well, while others should avoid them? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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(This post was prompted by a recent update to the book nook, where I tell you about my recent reads along with reviews and to whom I would recommend each volume.)

*Mike Cosper, Director of The Harbor Institute for Faith and Culture in Louisville, Kentucky, has shaped a great deal of my thoughts on culture and entertainment. See some of his articles here and here, and his book here.

deep & lowly: a devotional for Holy Week.

Last week, I posted about my struggle with depression. I shocked myself a bit by actually publishing it, but my surprise at my own writing was nothing compared to my surprise at the volume and vulnerability of the responses I received. I am so sure that I’m not alone in this, because so many of you told me that I’m not.

Convinced of the sisterhood of the long winter (brothers welcome too!), I wrote an 8-day devotional for Holy Week, for us, called Deep & Lowly: taking refuge in the Suffering Servant.

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The devotional is made up of 8 simple, daily pages of with Scripture, my reflections and questions for you. It is for those of us in the pressed down places, and for those of us who want to know the sufferings of Christ more fully. If you’re reading this, I think it very well may be for you, whether your life is a blizzard or breezy these days, whether there is pain in your heart or your past or the lives of those around you. Our High Priest is one who sympathizes with our greatest weaknesses and pain, and that is why I wrote this devotional.

Anyone who is signed up for the mailing list by 5pm today will receive the devotional by email this evening. After that, it will go out to anyone who signs up tonight through Easter Sunday in their immediate welcome email.

Throughout next week I will be publishing reframe posts for each of the Holy Days and coordinated discussion on the devotional. I would be so honored and thankful to have you join me, and to invite a friend or two along, especially someone who knows well the long winter.

My heart craves to know Jesus as refuge, and that is what I am praying constantly for you and me in these days leading to Easter. May we be hidden in Him in every way.

something different.

winter scene

Late last week, the song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” started playing in my head. I don’t know why; I don’t know from where it came. If I knew, I would send it back to its mother.

It was as though the song was on a loop, the sing-along tune repeating over and over and over again. It seemed to begin entirely unprompted, and it hasn’t really gone away yet. But, it’s a little different now.

On Friday, as it played once again, I caught myself changing the words, almost subconsciously, maybe subversively, maybe both.

I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
I’m still deciding if I’m following Jesus.
Will I turn back?
Will I turn back?


Owen spent this past weekend with my sister and her husband. We met halfway between our homes on Friday afternoon and again 48 hours later, agreeing to find each other in the same parking lot the second time as the first. I entered the Chevron’s address into my maps app, but when I glanced at it moments later, it didn’t say Chevron anymore. Instead, it read,

“From: your location
To: something different.”

I laughed at this, took a picture of it. From “your location,” to “something different,” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. That is, when the rewritten hymn isn’t looping yet again.


A few years ago, I started seeing a counselor. It was shortly after we moved to College Station and I was so unsure where I fit. We were living with my parents while we built a house. Jared was flourishing in his job. I was battling anxiety, though I wouldn’t have called it that at the time. My heart raced any time I heard Owen cry, flashbacks to months of screaming and colic and feeling so isolated that I wondered if I would ever know myself or anyone else again. And so, for these reasons and many others, I started seeing a counselor. And it helped. It helped so much. She gave me, as my mom says, “a place to put things,” a place where I wasn’t a pastor’s wife and a pastor’s daughter and Abby who writes and Owen’s mom. A place where I could be entirely unsure about who I was. A place to look for myself, to see who I found.


I’m still deciding if I’m following, Jesus.
Will I turn back?
Will I turn back?


From: my location
To: something different.


Because of everything that has gone on in our lives in the last few years, people often follow up the question “how are you?” with an apology, or a “that was a dumb question,” or a “you may not want to answer that.” I appreciate this. I generally smile and say it’s okay, I’m glad they asked. I say that there are at least 7 different answers to that question, that we are grieving but grateful, that Gabe pulled up/cruised/crab-walked this week, that Owen hit his head but has recovered, that Jared is working a lot and praise the Lord that he loves it so much.

“We’re doing okay, Gabe had an appointment last week, his braces are fitting well (or aren’t), he’s sleeping well in them (or isn’t).”

They ask how I am and I answer with we. I’m not really answering the question. This is partially because I don’t want to. This is mostly because I don’t know the answer.


It turns out that “Something Different” is the name of a café in the same parking lot as the meeting place Chevron. It’s a small town Texas restaurant with a sign from the 1970s and a menu unaware that gluten is no longer on trend.

It also turns out that I don’t know what my “something different” is right now, that I can feel a part of my old self breaking off and floating away. It turns out that I don’t know if I want it back or if I’m content to let it drift.


Over the last three years, I’ve continued to go back to counseling on a semi-regular basis. When life started to feel like it was falling apart, when words like “genetics” and “mutation” and “potentially progressive” became a part of my everyday vocabulary, I dropped the “semi-“ and became a full-on counseling regular.

I also started taking anti-depressants.

A little blue pill every morning, a little reminder of my humanity, of brokenness, of how entirely insufficient I am on my own. This is my first time to write about this publicly, to share this part of my story. And I’m going to share more about it for many reasons, one of which is that I have a hunch some of you know waves of grief and depression that run so wild in your soul you’re not sure you’ll breathe again. I have a hunch that some of you know what it feels like to want to sleep more hours than you’re awake, to wonder if those memories of thriving seasons are an illusion, if they ever actually happened. I have a hunch that some of you are part of the sisterhood of the long winter, that the wait for spring has wreaked havoc on your soul.

Depression often comes in waves, unannounced waves, waves of various sizes, waves of tremendous force. Late last week, a wave hit me hard, knocked my feet out from under me. By Monday, I didn’t want to get out of bed. Today, it’s 1:20, and I’m under the covers as I type this, embarrassed that my prayers are a pathetic request for God to cause my children to nap or play quietly long enough for me to feel like I can get through the afternoon. This is my day today. There is no praying my way out of it. There are not enough Bible verses. There are not enough encouraging words.

There is the Spirit within me, God’s people around me. There is the little blue pill. There is the cozy chair in the counselor’s office. There are the words waiting to be said, waiting to be written. There is the discomfort that I do not know what those words are.

There is the fact that I wake up every day and have to decide if I believe God is real.
There is the fact that when depression hits like this, I wonder if I will turn back.
There is the fact that I want to believe.
There is the fact that, today, “help my unbelief,” is a much more honest statement than, “I believe.”


I’m not sure where all of this will lead. I am somewhere along a winding path between my former location and something different and part of me wants to turn back and part of me wants to just lay down on the road or in the nearby woods and stop moving and part of me wants to race ahead to that something different, believing that surely its better than here. I don’t know much of anything right now. But I know I’m going to keep writing about all of it. I know that sisterhood is one of the only things that keeps me breathing on these darker days. I know that it is no coincidence that our Bible study covered Ephesians 2:11-3:13 today – dividing walls abolished, the people of God brought together, leaning against one another, built upon the Cornerstone.

A friend in that Bible study today mentioned that we are quick to talk about grief and suffering when its over, when we feel confident of what that season taught us, when we’re a little more sure of things. She’s so right. And my response to that reality is this declaration: I am sure of so little right now. I am very much within the grief. I am very much within the suffering. I have no idea what I am learning or if learning is even the point. But I’m here, and you’re here, and He’s here. And if what Scripture says is true, then the fact that I’m here and you’re here and He’s here is a really joyous thing. That’s what I’ll be pressing into in the days to come, both within my soul and within this writing space. And you are so tenderly, openly, hopefully invited to join me.