August 17, 2014

Best Vacation Ever

We spent five days in the Northwoods of Wisconsin at Camp Highlands Family Camp last week. It was just about the best vacation ever. We ate really well, had a cozy cabin all to ourselves, and spent our days kayaking, canoeing, hiking, archery, swimming, boating, paddle boarding, climbing on the low ropes course, and playing softball, basketball, and gaga ball. We also saw (and heard!) loons and bald eagles.

Juliette loved the low ropes best. That kid can scramble up a wall and rappel down like a pro. This video was taken her first day, when she was getting lessons on the rope wall. She moved on to the rock wall lickety-split.


I tried it, too. I do not have nearly the skills as my six-year-old. I could hardly heave myself up the wall and then when it was time to rappel down, I learned something new about myself: I am a hysterical laugher when facing a particular kind of fear. I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Camp Highlands is owned by church members, and over the years lots of members of our church and community have gone to Family Camp or sent their boys to the regular season camp. It was special to be in a place that is so special to so many we know and love. It definitely felt like sacred ground, especially the spot near our cabin where a tree honors the memory of the beloved son of dear church members, and a plaque bears the benediction of the late Rev. Bob Kemper.

The last night the girls got a little crazy in the cabin. I wish I'd gotten a video of the dance they were dancing and the shrieks they were shrieking while they danced.

One of the best parts (other than the fact that they had a babysitter that both girls adored) was that we had little to no internet access. When I did log on briefly, I was inundated with bad news. The connection dropped out before I could find out what happened in Ferguson, MO, so I prayed generic prayers for a few days. I'm feeling that groundhog impulse to run back to the woods, to disconnect, to opt out of the internet altogether. I can't, for better or for worse. And there is obviously something to be said for knowing what's going on in the world, of not choosing to be ignorant. But.

As we drove away from Camp Highlands, we listened to Mary Gauthier's beautiful, haunting song, "Mercy Now." It was just the song we needed to ferry us away from a place of deep grace to a world that is in deep need of grace.

August 8, 2014

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World

So, I wanna tell you a little story.

A couple of years ago, I followed a link that a bunch of my friends had shared on Facebook. It was Sarah Bessey's essay called Incarnation. I had a visceral reaction as I read it, as though I'd stumbled onto holy ground.

And I had.

At first I wasn't sure I could trust a Deeper Story. It claimed to be a community of storytellers, but I was suspicious. Surely there was an agenda behind all that narrative theology, right? And surely that agenda was conservative and evangelical. It probably wasn't a place where, for instance, a woman ordained in a liberal mainline tradition could ever really belong.

I wondered that again when Preston Yancey wrote "Coming clean about the women in ministry issue," and said as much in the comment section. But then, six months later, he wrote about how he changed his mind. Nobody ever changes their mind about anything, especially on the internet. And yet there it was.

And there I was, a contributing writer for the new Deeper Family channel. Turns out there's a place for me in that community of storytellers after all.

The thing about a Deeper Story is that it isn't just a bunch of really talented storytellers who generate beautiful work. It's this gathering of writers and readers who all seem to have fallen off of different fences into the same field, and instead of running back to our tidy theological and ecclesiastical compartments, we mix and mingle and befriend and listen. Sometimes we even change our minds about things because of what we have heard.

All of this exists because of Nish Weiseth.

This is the origin story of a Deeper Story: "In January of 2011, Nish Weiseth decided that she wanted a place where she could talk about the difficult topics in Christianity and culture, but she was tired of reading nothing but heated, over-simplified rhetoric that did more to push people out into the margins than it did to draw them in. She wanted to start addressing these issues using the art of storytelling, but she couldn’t find a place on the web for her to do that. So, she built a place herself."

This week Nish released her first book, Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World. It's a wonderful book, and in many ways is the manifesto of the philosophy and practice that shapes a Deeper Story. I was honored to blurb it; when you read it, you'll see these words in the front of the book: “Nish Weiseth is a gifted storyteller, but the paramount gift of Speak is her invitation to tell our own stories: around the hearth, over cups of coffee, and along the path as we walk together in the ways of Jesus. I’m newly convinced that sharing our lives will truly change our lives—and the world.”

Look at this girl, being surprised by her bestie, Sarah Bessey, who flew to Salt Lake City for the book release party tonight. I can't even.

Congratulations, Nish, and thank you for inviting me to tell my stories, and extending that invitation far and wide. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Letters and Life: On Being a Writer

A few months ago, I swore off writing book reviews after a monumentally awkward encounter with an author whose book I had reviewed. In defense of this Author Who Shall Not Be Named, I walked right into it. I strongly encourage writers to refrain from cheerfully approaching authors whose books they have reviewed. Learn from my mistakes.

My disavowal of book reviewing didn’t take, obviously. I had already committed to reviewing a new title for a print publication, so I had to shake off my abject mortification and put on my big girl pants. Thankfully, I loved the book and didn’t have many negative criticisms to weave in to my otherwise glowing assessment. It was such a pleasant experience I decided I would revise my prohibition against book reviews. I simply wouldn’t review books I didn’t wholeheartedly love, thus saving me from future mortification and preserving the egos of authors whose books about which I could not, in good conscience, gush.

All of this is to say that when Chris Smith, the wise and winsome editor of The Englewood Review of Books, sent out a call for reviews that included Bret Lott’s Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian, I hastily called dibs on the book on account of my supreme confidence that I would love it.

August 2, 2014

Celebrating my 10th Bloggiversary in Style

Yesterday I realized that I'd let a moderately important date pass without acknowledgement: as of July 31, 2014, my blog is ten years old.

I wish I could go back and whisper in the ear of my 24-year-old self that night I claimed "" and picked "any day a beautiful change" from the album notes of my newest Innocence Mission CD. She'd be awfully pleased to know that ten years later, to the day, she'd have a new essay up at the Christian Century site. She would, however, be severely alarmed that it would be about listening to Contemporary Christian Music again. My twenty-four year old self probably wouldn't want much to do with my thirty-four year old self, alas.

Ten years of blogging seems like something to celebrate, so I bought myself a present. I bought it with money I've made from writing, which seems especially appropriate. And I bought something I've wanted for nearly all the time I've been blogging: a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Perhaps, if you're a long time reader, you recall that I used to blog a bit about vacuum cleaners. In one of my twenty-two posts during the month of October in 2005 (I was so prolific before children), I confessed my partiality for the Dyson.

In my sermon tomorrow I'm going to quote Donald Miller talking about what it means to live a good story. "If we are a person that wants a Volvo and is willing to work overtime to get it, than the moral of the story we are teaching the world is work hard and someday you’ll get a Volvo. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not a good one, either." I thought of that while I was tooling out of Target with my RedCard- and Cartwheel-discounted purchase. I felt a little sheepish.

I don't mean for the moral of this post (or my blog) to be about celebratory vacuum-cleaners. The moral of the story is that my blog has helped me live a better story. The vacuum cleaner is just the icing on the cake.

Disqus for any day a beautiful change