The Fellowship of Suffering

There are many things that I love about the internet and technology. I love writing here and talking to you all on Instagram stories. I love producing a podcast and listening to my favorite podcasts. I love ordering books on Amazon and getting perspectives from around the world. Something I don’t love is the constant influx of news. It’s not that I want to bury my head under the sand, ostrich-like in my intentional ignorance. But it’s overwhelming to get reports of injustice and brokenness and suffering happening continually all over the world. I find myself longing for my true home more and more often.

In the middle of Philippians 1, Paul is debating between life and death. He says he would rather have death because then he gets to be with Christ. Honestly that sounds pretty good to me some days. I long for the glory of new creation. I desire to be with Jesus and not fight to remember Him in the busyness. I would gladly be rid of the sin that hurts myself and those around me. Then Paul says something shocking. He says he would choose life because it’s fruitful labor, because it’s progress and joy in the faith for others. He’s postponing the ultimate joy to continue the mission of God.

He was facing a potentially gruesome death. He wasn’t trying to skip that by choosing life though; his life was one many would choose. He had physical problems. He was weighed down with worry over the state of the believers that he was serving. He was frequently beaten and stoned for sharing the gospel with the lost. He had been abandoned and deserted by people who had once stood by him.

Defend and Confirm: a tour through Philippians

It’s easy to think that you know a book of Scripture only to camp out and see whole new depths. Our Friday Bible study is working through Philippians for the summer and we all agreed we were just familiar enough with the material to use verses out of context. We’ve divided up the material and are committed to reading the whole book every week as well as studying the specific portion. I hope to share some thoughts from our study with you throughout the summer.

Paul told the believers at Philippi that they were “all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7)

I get stuck imagining things when I read the Bible. The “defense and confirmation of the Gospel” stopped me because I’ve been considering how we ought to teach and defend the faith, and how much it matters that we actually live out what we believe, not just that we speak it out.

How to Navigate the Election Season

After the primaries in the last presidential election, I wrote a political post and it still is the most-read piece I’ve ever written. I had to turn off comments because keyboard activists aren’t always guided by civility. You will notice I did not link to it here.

We’re gearing up for another heated presidential race. Tempers will rise; voices will follow. Already arguments are stirring and logos are circulating. There are passionate feelings on all sides of every single issue.

If you’re anything like me, you feel like you don’t actually belong anywhere. Neither major party in any way reflects my beliefs or how I feel like my beliefs should be lived out. It’s easy to sink into despair before the action even gets underway. And if I start there, where will I end up? How can I continue to respect and love well people with whom I disagree? How can I remain hopeful when there are constant announcements and ceaseless whispers that everything good is ending?

Lamenting Losses: distance is a familiar foe

This morning one of my dearest friends is coming to my house with her kids. When she leaves, instead of heading back to her house, she will get in her van and drive on down the interstate. She won’t go very far today, but tomorrow she and her family will drive to Florida with all their belongings. After church Sunday night, the boys and I walked out of the building with her husband and two children. I casually said bye to him, and then we both stopped and realized it was actually goodbye. We hugged and cried in the parking lot.

I’ve had several friends move over the past few years and when this friend told me she was moving, I came home and announced to my husband that I was no longer going to make friends. I would be friendly, but I would not be friends, and for me, there’s a big difference. It’s one thing for me to hold space for you; it’s quite another for me to step into the space and open my heart.

Refusing to form friendships is, of course, nonsense. We are designed for community. God lives in community. The church is a body, a family, and we need other people. We all shrivel left to ourselves.

Falling in Love with the Process and not just the Results

When the enneagram “Eight” song released in February, a woman that I follow on Instagram shared that Sleeping at Last had an entire podcast episode discussing the making of the song. I listened and was captivated by how much the vision for the song changed as he worked.

I’ve become obsessed with process. I watched the director’s commentary on the extended edition of Moana. I listened to Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive talk about making “Maybe Next Year.” I’ve been reading books and articles about writing by people who are writing well.

Google may define the word process as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end” but all of these people started with an idea that changed drastically once they started working. They had no idea what the work would come to, but they had a tiny thought that they started chasing.

When we develop ideas- books, companies, songs, ministries- we start with tiny ideas. We start working on the tiny ideas and they are shaped by the changes we make, the influences we exert. We’re not sure what’s going to come from them, if anything. It’s not just Andrew Peterson and the superb job that he and his team did with Resurrection Letters, Vol 1. (Although, friends, it’s almost Easter. This is your time to go listen it. Spoiler: I like it so much that I listen to it year round. It’s a favorite. It makes me feel simultaneously hopeful and homesick.) This is about making anything: a life of significance, a marriage, grounded community, knowledge of the Bible, a book, a song, a dinner event.

Where Discipleship Meets Reality

I’m rereading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit in little snatches, standing in the kitchen or ducking into the bathroom. I rarely call myself an artist but I do love to make art. I piddle around with sketching and painting and writing stories that are hopefully more than just words on a page. I file away ideas in a folder that I’m not sure I’ll ever have time to open, but I keep cramming them in anyway.

In chapter four, she talks about using memory in creative work. She’s a dancer, a choreographer, so she discusses muscle memory. As an athlete, I understand muscle memory (also, I never call myself an athlete either so that felt weird). Your muscles learn to do certain motions and they perform just fine until you start thinking about it. Then you suddenly can’t remember what to do next.

She discusses how she used to stand behind great dancers and mimic their movements. She would learn how they danced and it improved her own dancing. She told how authors had become great writers after they spent hours copying the work of the masters. She spent hours pouring over photographs of famous dancers in the New York Public Library. When she was dancing or planning a performance and felt stuck, she could consider something they did and it would flow over into her own work.

Why We Should Practice Telling the Story

I’m studying 1 and 2 Samuel right now and Samuel gives a farewell speech to the Israelites in chapter 12. Samuel briefly rehearses the history of Israel and he recalls- well, you can go read it. Chapter 12, 1 Samuel. You got it.

What grabs my attention is how often the Israelites tell this story. God brought His people out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. This is told over and over. The Psalm recount the stories of God creating the world, God rescuing His people, God providing in the midst of no sustenance.

Maybe it was because they didn’t have paper and books and iPhones to read from. Maybe it was that storytelling burned deep in the hearts of a few of those humans and they didn’t have Evernote files saved to the cloud. They couldn’t stay up too late typing notes on their Macs.