3 giveaway winners + 2 minute truths + 1 thank you & opportunity.

Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to try your chances in the Joy Woven Deep Mother’s Day Giveaway! It was such fun to watch the entries pour in, and each of the gals who participated in assembling the packages joins me in thanking you for the ways you promoted the giveaway and supported these dreams we’re living out in our day to day lives even on a place as wild + ridiculous as the internet.

Mother's Day Giveaway (1)

I wish I could give a gift to each of you, but since I can’t, we’ll settle for three :).

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Sign & Sparkle: Whitney Langdon Putnam
Style & Sweets: Sara Harper Taylor
Scripture & Spa: Sally Paradowski

Congratulations, ladies! I’ll be in touch with you via Facebook message or email this morning.

Before we step back into the reality of our Monday, I wanted to let you know about a little project I’m doing with my friend Sarah Elizabeth Finch. Sarah Elizabeth (SEB, to many of us) had the brilliant idea to post a devotional on her Instagram account with the hashtag #twominutetruths every day in May.

What a perfect month for this! May is crazy, at least in our neck of the woods with a youth pastor husband, multiple high school graduations, college graduations, wedding invitations aplenty, end of the school year events and preparations for summer.

I’m incredibly thankful for SEB’s idea, so thankful in fact that I’m jumping on the bandwagon! SEB is going through the book of James, and I am sharing Scripture & insights on the concept of time, on what it is to redeem it, on how we make the most of all of this “meantime” – the space between in the wait for glory.

Two Minute Truths: In The Beginning

Come join us on Instagram, and perhaps consider starting your own series as well! It doesn’t have to be every day, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. The heart behind this is to encourage the people who scroll toward our little image squares, to use something as mayhem-leaning as social media to strengthen spirits and reflect the glory of God. We’d LOVE to see what you come up with, just make sure you use the hashtag so we can follow along!

Thank you x139583 to all of you who responded to my requests for insight into your Myers-Briggs personality types and way of thinking about books + entertainment! I do a little happy dance (sometimes in my heart, sometimes in my kitchen with two little fellas joining me) every time I see a new email with responses, and the privilege of reading your thoughtfulness and preferences is a joy. I’m working hard on a blog post that explores our personality types and how we engage the world of literature + media, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

((If you’d like to share your Myers-Briggs type with me and answer a few questions about your books + entertainment consumption, just shoot me an email here. If you don’t know your type, you can take the test here and verify it by reading profiles here!))

I’m praying for your Monday – for contentment, belief, opportunities and desire to serve those in your path. May we know nothing better than to be joyful and do good all the days of our lives (Ecc 3).

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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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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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.