Falling Free: A Book Giveaway

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“Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all. Heartbreak, loneliness, isolation, and lack aren’t organized by zip code, and he’s begging all of us not to detour around the pain.” ~Shannan Martin in Falling Free

I live in an affluent area, surrounded by affluent people, doing whatever it is the affluent do. If the rumors are true, the teens do heroin and shots of vodka on weekends. The fathers do long hours at work, and potentially one of the women they meet there. The mothers do pills or wine or retail therapy.

This is an overgeneralization, of course. There are healthy people living full, meaningful lives in our community. Generous. Kind. Purposeful people. But, in my experience, the rumors often hold a kernel of truth. I know cheaters. I know mothers who pop or sip or over-shop. I know kids who go wild. I know parents who support their wilding.

There is a pervasive poverty of spirit metastasizing and killing families in communities like mine. It is silent, but it is epidemic. It is deadly. I recognize something of myself in the mothers and fathers and kids here. I may not be acting out these dysfunctions in my everyday life (although I have been known to shop my feelings), but I know my heart, and it’s often filled with anxiety and fear. It is prone to wander. It is selfish and consumeristic and fickle.

I recently read Shannan Martin‘s challenging new book, Falling Free, where she chronicles her family’s move from their comfortable, middle class life in a beautiful, old farmhouse to an urban center riddled with crime, drugs, and failing schools. In short order, her husband resigned from his job to become a chaplain at the county jail, they adopted a young man with an arrest record, and they flung open the doors of their home, and became a haven for toddlers, wayward teens, and former criminals.

In her book, Shannan shares her story of how deciding to follow God into his upside down kingdom turned her family’s life inside out and upside down. She writes of the good and the hard, the gut-wrenching and the holy. It’s a strong book, a call to live with the ferocious love of Jesus, a vivid reminder of what it means to truly live with a kingdom mindset today.

Falling Free left me wondering how I can obey Jesus’ call to love the disenfranchised, the poor, the outsider, when my real life is filled with the “Haves” rather than the “Have Nots”. I know for this season of life, we are living exactly where God has placed us. I’m certain that God has brought us here to grow roots, to learn what it means to belong, and perhaps, he has rooted us here to offer others a place of belonging.

I don’t know the answer to my wonderings yet. I don’t know how to meet the needs of the people around me, much less the needs of the people in communities I’ll never meet. Shannan writes, “Hallelujah, there is no one-mission-fits-all.” and I bathe in this grace. While I don’t know my exact mission for living like Jesus in my community, I do know that it begins by asking myself hard questions. It begins by examining my own heart, and looking for opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth in both my community and communities outside of it. There is room for all of us to use our gifts, our abundance, and our rootedness to show others the love of Christ. Pain isn’t restricted to a zip code, and neither is generosity.

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I’m giving away one copy of Shannan’s book, Falling Free, and I would love for you to have it. Prepare yourself for a roller coaster of emotions, because you’re going to feel ’em! To enter the drawing either leave a comment here on the blog, or on my Facebook page. In an entirely unscientific method of drawing a name out of a hat, I will choose and notify a winner by next Wednesday, Oct 5th. Happy commenting!

On Transformation and Weakness Made Strong

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“Now that I look back, it seems to me that in all that deep darkness a miracle was preparing.” ~Marilyn Robinson in Gilead

We’ve easily spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on her smile. First it was the headgear, then pulled teeth, then braces, and retainers, and unbelievably, braces again. I need a part-time job to afford this child’s teeth. Her brother, fourteen and already free from the shackles of brackets and wires, teases her. She hates it, and smirks when she discovers a fifth grader she coaches will have their braces removed before her second set comes off.

She is a seventeen and over it.

She doesn’t smile the way she used to–open-lipped, wonderful, wide. She is closed-mouthed, covering the scaffolding of her teeth with pursed lips. She is not a child who should keep her mouth shut. She is all things bright and beautiful, and her new Mona Lisa smile is too subtle, too unlike her in every way. She is laughter. Now, she is laughter compressed, caught behind a cage.

I can’t relate to the frustration of finally achieving straight rows, and then beginning the process all over again because your teeth simply won’t behave. I never wore braces, but I have perfected my own Mona Lisa smile. It’s the smile that covers up the change taking place behind it. The smile that hides the weakness beneath the surface, and the complicated system I’ve rigged up to manage this perceived weakness.

I am weakness made strong in Christ.

I know this, but often, I don’t live this way. I forget that the agent of change in my life is not the systems I’ve created or the people I love or my inner drive for perfection. It is the power of God come alive in me through Christ. It is sufficient grace.

Transformation begins in the quiet chambers, in the deep darkness, but it doesn’t remain silent. It can’t be covered up by a pursed lip or a cupped hand or status symbols or false humility or aspirational quotes or trick mirrors. Transformation is ugly before it is beautiful. Our metamorphosis through faith can’t be contained. It is weakness made strong, crooked made straight, darkness made light. It is a miracle preparing.

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Coming soon: A giveaway of Shannan Martin‘s new book Falling Free. I received an advanced copy, and I wrestled with it for weeks. Shannan and her family left behind their comfortable jobs and their idyllic life on beautiful patch of farmland, to live among the urban poor and work in prison ministry. This book will shake you up, and quite honestly, I needed the shaking. Maybe you do too?

Three Strategies for Dealing with our Kids’ Mistakes

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Before I had children, I assumed if you raised them right and prayed enough and set the very best example, they’d skip the rebellious stage. The lying stage. The sneak out and drink, or swear or post terrible things on social media, stage. They’d love God and love me, and I’d pat myself on the back in my gray-haired years on a job well done.

I think you know where this is going…

Join me at For Her to read the rest of the story and receive a little hope for the battle-weary mom.

When You Wish You Started Sooner

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One after the other, when asked what they would do differently for the next assignment, each student said, “I’d get started sooner and stop procrastinating.”  I listened from a seat in the corner of the classroom, and their lament struck a chord with me. They were all of eighteen years old, and even with our age gap, like me, they wrestled with a fear of mismanagement. Their fear manifested in sweaty palms the night before class, and questionable essays constructed between pizza slices and texting. My fear manifested in sleepless nights and rambling journal entries wondering if I’d mismanaged the past two decades of my adult life.

I used to imagine what my life would look like if I’d started “living” it sooner. If I’d moved away from home sooner, embraced my writing sooner, known and understood my own soul–sooner. The list trails behind me like a thick cloak–one I’ve worn for far too long. The problem with this fictional reality is that it appears like an underdeveloped photograph. Only part of the picture is revealed, while the rest remains blurry. I can’t see how an impossible future would take shape because every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Every confident step towards an imagined path, requires that I step away from the reality of another.

In my twenties, I was living my life as authentically as I knew how. There is no need for shame or regret or a cloak of if-onlys dragging behind me on the wandering path it took me to arrive in my forties. What I once saw as a putting-off or procrastination, was simply growing up. Embracing new experiences, making every-size decisions, falling, failing, losing my way, trying again.

There is always an alternate path shimmering like a mirage in our imagined future. But it is the path of reality, the one worn with our footprints, crowded with the faces we love, lined with the rooted growth of the seeds sown year after year that appears in sharp focus. Our mistakes may litter the path, but our triumphs and great loves and moments of illumination do too.

If you find yourself wishing you’d started something sooner–family life, pursuit of your vocation, self-care, loving others well, faith-building–it’s never too late to start. Looking back and wishing for the imagined past, will not improve your present or give you a fresh and prophetic vision for your future. Cast off the cloak of if-onlys. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. It’s the road ahead with its infinite possibilities that matters.

Choosing to Change with the Seasons

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“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” ~ 2 Samuel 11:1

As a woman, daughter, wife, and a mother, I’m still learning how to live a life in rhythm with the advent of each new life season. When I fool myself into thinking I’ve mastered the requirements and needs of my family or my own during this current season, the winds of change stir themselves up into a frenzy and blow away this theory.

A newly-licensed teen driver, a change in jobs, a move, a death, even the small, subtle shifts of my family’s emotional landscape, all force me to adjust my perspective. They require me to become attentive in new ways, aware of where I belong, and who needs my time and energy.

I struggle most not at the onset of change, but when I set my shoulder like a stone and lean against it. As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, there is a season for everything, and accepting the ebb and flow of life’s current, eases the tension the swirling waters create.

When I wrestle with the season in which God has placed me, when I resist the natural shift of tides, I find myself making poor decisions out of a fearful and reactionary heart. I choose self over others, distraction over commitment, or my desires over God’s desires for me.

In 2 Samuel, King David chose to stay behind in the city during the season where kings are called to battle. Rather than leading his people, defending his land, and conquering old boundaries, he remained in Jerusalem. There, he fought an even greater battle against his own flesh.

In the remaining chapter, we see David standing on a rooftop as he discovered Bathsheba bathing nearby. David found himself in the wrong place in the wrong season with the wrong woman. It awakened a desire in his heart that eventually led him down a path of adultery and murder.

David’s experience is larger than life in relation to most of our choices, but it reminds us that we must be focused on the still, small voice of the Father. To what is he calling us? To where? To whom? If we refuse the direction of this season because it is painful or wounding or it strains against our own desires, where will it lead us? Envision the current path in your mind and follow it to it’s natural conclusion. What lies at the end of it?

God continually calls us forward into new seasons of growth. The Christian life is not stagnant; it is ever changing, ever growing, ever evolving. When we bind ourselves to the past, when we refuse to fight new battles and step out into deep waters, we become deaf to the voice of victory calling to us from the future.

To everything there is a season. Let’s move with the wind and the waters and learn how to embrace every hard and holy moment we find in it.

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I wrote this devotional some time ago for another site, and it’s ended up in my archives. I thought I’d offer it here as a little devotional kickstart to our weekend. September often ushers in a season of change, and it’s especially true of my family this year. My oldest turned seventeen, entered senior year, and became a licensed driver all in one week. Pass the smelling salts, please.

As always, thanks for reading.