A couple weeks ago I read a story about a marathon runner woman, who was training, and got attacked on her run. She had run the same path for over 10 years, but this one night a man assailed her. Thankfully she got the better of him, and was able to get ...

 

Let's Change the Conversation and more...




Let's Change the Conversation


A couple weeks ago I read a story about a marathon runner woman, who was training, and got attacked on her run. She had run the same path for over 10 years, but this one night a man assailed her. Thankfully she got the better of him, and was able to get away.

The rest of the article talked about the blow back she received after sharing her experience. She was called foolish for running in the dark by herself. She was told that she was asking to be attacked.

No. Just no.

It was rather ridiculous.

But, here is what I loved about her response...

She said, "let's change this conversation."

She did nothing wrong.

Running is not fundamentally wrong. Running in the dark is not fundamentally wrong. Running solo is not fundamentally wrong. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with marathon training.

What is fundamentally wrong is accosting and distracting another human being for the purpose of assaulting them. That is what was wrong in this scenario. And it was the only thing wrong in this scenario.

I loved her boldness in insisting on changing the conversation. This conversation is not about caution or prudence, foolishness, or what defense weapons she had or didn't have. It is not about running solo, or in the dark, or in a predictable route.

This conversation is about right and wrong. And who was right and wrong. And what actions were right and wrong.

And it seems pretty clear cut to me.

She was right. Her assailant was wrong.

No ifs, ands, or buts.

(Also, kudos to Taylor Swift for sticking by her guns in her recent lawsuit. All the yeses! and fist bumps!)

I think there are a lot of conversations where we need to actually change the thrust of the conversation that we are holding. Because we've gotten side tracked by our pet red-herrings, and we are missing the point.

Those conversations on sexual assault that lead back to what the woman should have done or worn differently, and whether or not they are telling the truth, instead of the horrendous crime committed against them and the responsibility and guilt of the perpetrator.

Those conversations between Christians on the topic of child safety in churches and ministries, that inevitably lead back to forgiveness and restoration, instead of protecting the innocent.

Those conversations on worship that disintegrate to different stances on music, instead of the many glorious facets of worship.

Those conversations on guns that lead back to Second Amendment rights, instead of to the sanctity of  (all) human life.

Every.single.time.

SO many conversations...racism. privilege. calvinism. education. student loans. health. politics. refugees. immigration. essential oils. immunizations.

But are we brave enough to change the conversation? (or brave enough to engage in the conversation change?) Can we choose to focus on the real issues that have been obscured when we've gotten distracted by these reiterated to oblivion points? Are we willing to get a bit uncomfortable and challenge our default narratives?

Am I ? Can I? Will I?

         

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La, La, La...I Can't Hear You


Recently my sister in law and I were having a conversation about the hot button topics of immunizations and school choices.

Horror of horrors!

Even though we have taken different paths, we were still able to have an amicable conversation.

Which seems rather rare in this day and age. We remarked that conversations like these used to happen between individuals. It wasn't all perfectly harmonious but...

Now most of these types of conversations happen online. From immunizations to school choices, essential oils to toxins, politics to religion. So many divisive topics. Lots of opinions are expressed. Very vehemently. Positions are dug, mountains are fortified. Very little listening happens. Too many conversations are charged with emotion and accusation, and very little chill.

By definition, a conversation is an informal exchange of ideas by spoken word. But, we've taken these conversations online, and we've changed the essential dynamics of conversation. Words are no longer spoken, they are typed. We look at screens and don't engage with a person's voice and inflections and nuances. There is spewing of opinions with no exchange of ideas.

We click like or angry or sad or happy, we answer, often without even reading the article shared. We think we already know what they are saying, we already know what we believe.

He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. (Proverbs 18:13)

We express our stances as if they are the only possible, logical, moral stance. And then we plug our ears. Conversation over.

Online lately, I often feel battered by the spoken or unspoken assumptions that are made concerning all sorts of differences. Gigantic leaps are made that bear little correlation to facts but assume the worst about those we disagree with.

It is unproductive, offensive and hurtful.

When we allow our conversations to disintegrate to this, we are working from some faulty assumptions. These assumptions may not be verbally expressed, but they are certainly upholding and reinforcing our position.

1. I am better than you because I do or don't do x, y or z. This is an assumption of moral superiority. This either shuts down any conversation or becomes a pissing contest. Well, actually I'm better because...It's accusatory and arrogant.

2. I know what's better for you. This assumption drives me insane. I have a hard enough time sifting through all the facets and factors of what's best for me and mine. How in the world do I possibly think I have all the information someone else has regarding their own person and circumstances? It's an idiotic assumption, but one that people make over and over. It's accusatory and arrogant.

3. You owe me an explanation-for your choice, and for the choices of every other person who made the same choice as you. Over the past year I've heard explanations demanded for everything from voting for President Trump to racism to gun control to schools to immunizations. America did not used to work this way. We believed in freedom of thought. We are answerable to certain authorities (including God) for our own choices and actions, not for someone else's. It is accusatory and arrogant.

4. My position is right because this person thinks so. We make a faulty appeal to authority or an appeal to the crowd. A really powerful video (article, book, etc.) that confirms what we already know: the vast majority of Americans are in favor of immunizations (impeaching the president, gun control, etc., etc.)". It is accusatory and arrogant.

So, instead of amicable conversation among sane adults, we have virtual shouting matches among adults who are acting childish.

It rather reminds me of a kid with his fingers in his ears, singing "la, la, la...I can't hear you."

It's not just that we can't hear, but we are unwilling to hear.

In school, Ethan and I are working through The Fallacy Detective. This book takes up various forms of bad reasoning. Interestingly enough, the first chapter is about exercising your mind and being willing to learn. The second chapter is about loving to listen.

Most fallacies (illogical connecting of the dots) are the result of not being willing to learn or not being willing to listen.

And that actually then boils down to a matter of the heart. Though we might like to think so, none of us are right 100% of the time (actually I'm right about 99% of the time. Just kidding.). Which means, we need to be willing to listen, so that we will learn and grow. Instead of drawing battle lines and further entrenching ourselves into our positions, we need to be willing to honestly ask ourselves...

What if I'm wrong about this? Or what if I need to grow in this? What if I need to learn another perspective-at the least for understanding my fellow humans, created in God's image, if not for promulgating?

Listening and learning are the remedy for accusations and arrogance.

How can we cultivate better conversations online and in person?

It starts with a willingness to listen and learn.

 

Welcome Back, School Self



My school year self and my summer self are two completely different selves.

And ne'er the twain shall meet...

My summer self is all about long bike rides, easy dinners, afternoon naps, sunshine, outdoors, late nights followed by late-ish mornings, and lots of (fluff and stuff) reading.

My school year self includes making bread, getting up early and going to bed early, playing the piano and cleaning my house. Oh, and school. Teaching, supervising, correcting.

I become one with the dining room table.

(Which, incidentally, is a gorgeous, new model this year. A huge, dark finished cherry, built by the Amish.)


While I always regret the end of the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer, and I am always excited for the new school year. Each new school year has so much potential learning wrapped up in it's genesis.

This year we are on our fifth year of comprehensive world history, and we are studying 500 AD to 1500 AD-collectively known as the Middle Ages or Medieval Period.

I'm quite surprised at how much history is actually contained in this thousand year period. And once again I am thrilled to be embarking on this new study adventure. 

Our lecture series are titled The Middle Ages, Turning Points of Medieval History, Great Minds of Medieval History, and the Story of Medieval England.

The reading lists are a good mix of contemporary and ancient writings, fiction and non, poetry and biography. I found some new (to us) authors, that I'm hoping will be readable. Especially since I've committed to reading the entire list this year. Whew! Here's what we're looking at...

Magna Carta
Norman Conquest
Beowulf
Canterbury Tales
Sir Gawain
War of the Roses
The Plantagenets
Robert the Bruce
Wealth & Poverty of Nations
Story of King Arthur
King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table
Robin Hood
Ivanhoe 
Plutarch (*we only got halfway through last year)

There is other great fiction available on the Plantagenets and the Tudors, by Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth George, but none of it is terribly suitable for my kids' reading list. Lots of history novelized, but also lots of garbage, because they weren't the most stellar group of people.

Also new for this year is art class! I signed up all four of the offspring for a realistic drawing class. They had their first week last week, and they each loved it. My goal is to get the more artistic ones some guidance, and to expose the less artistic ones to the enjoyment of art.

All four kids are doing Spanish again this year, but we are mixing things up a bit. BMV is continuing on to level four. E & E are going back to level one. BMV has a decent grasp of Spanish. I think the other two will benefit by the review of the earlier levels.

And now for a bunch of (non-school) randomness (because if I push it off to another post, you likely won't read it for months...)

-We are settling in to our new routine. Early to bed and early to rise...

I've not gotten up before 6:00 all summer, but my alarm is now set to 5:20. For the fall months, I'm hoping to swim a couple mornings, and the other couple mornings we will run after drinking coffee (and waking up).

-We had our annual schedule evaluation and determined what was staying and what wasn't, based on the needs of and objectives for our family.

5th grade
-Elsie is still loving reading, and horses, and riding her bike. She sprouted a lot of freckles this summer. She is sweet and vinegary in turns. Can anyone say prepubescent hormones??? She has been cooking with me, which she really enjoys.

-We are hoping to volunteer at Gilda's Club, but we will not be regularly attending our support groups any more. Meredith is doing fantastically well, and we feel we have moved a bit beyond cancer survival mode. We are so very thankful about that. No cancer in her at all, for over a year! Almost 8 months past treatment! She is doing so well, as are the rest of us.

Meres got new glasses last week, because she power washed the old pair with the hose while she was watering my plants. I'm hoping this pair has a better track record.

And, also, her hair...it is so thick, and wavy, and close to 3" long. Miracle grow is what I've been applying this summer....

1st grade-she pulled the tooth yesterday-just in time for photos...

-My oldest took driver's training in August. Which means he has hours and hours of driving to rack up. We've survived over two hours of driving in the past week (hours in city driving takes much longer to accumulate than country driving. Especially when home schooling is also involved. We stay home a lot.)

sophomore-I had to stand on a bench for this head shot. Next year he is kneeling.
-The boys will be attending a Bible study this fall. Ironically enough, the Bible study began almost 20 years ago, when a couple asked my husband to disciple their teenage son. It grew over the years, even meeting in our house as newlyweds, and then my husband asked an older gentleman to help lead it. Another year or two went by and my husband stepped out of the Bible study altogether. But, how wonderful that now our boys get to benefit from this study that has been continuously going for so long! Fun fact, BMV actually attended the Bible Study way back when he was a baby and toddler. What goes around comes around...

8th grade
-Thursday nights are going to be our official "date" night. It has kind of been our date night over the past year or so, but with Gilda's Club and other commitments, we'd often miss out. Now we are making it a priority.

-We also are determined to break in our new table by showing hospitality. Planned, and spur of the moment. I've been wanting a bigger table for years so that I could fit more people around my table. Now we have it, and now we are planning to pack them in.

-We are starting a dinner club. I've also been wanting to do a dinner club for years, and it's finally going to happen. We are gathering with 3 other couples, meeting once a season. Our debut dinner will be in October. I'm quite excited!

-I loved this thought when I read it last week...

"Giving someone a book is like giving someone a piece of your soul. You may not have written it, but in reading it and experiencing it, a book has become a part of you. Passing it onto someone else is, in a way, like passing on that piece of yourself, too. Whether it be your interests, your dreams, your fears, your opinions, or your inspirations, you are giving someone so much more than paper and ink when you give them a book."

This so resonated with me. I don't give away many titles, nor do I recommend many books. I wonder if people will judge me on my book tastes? (she thinks that is funny???) Or if the book is as good as I think it is? Or will people know that it's okay chew the meat and spit out the bones? 

To like a book enough to give it away shows your vulnerabilities. At least, I think so.


-All four kids grew over the summer, but particularly the 3 youngest. Meres grew 2-1/2 inches since her well child visit in May. Elsie's jeans were an inch or two too short, the other day. And Ethan is just growing. I don't know how much, but I know it is happening.

And, on that note, I'll wrap this up. 

Happy September!
 

She Hath Done What She Could

This is a quote from Mark 14, about a woman who anointed Jesus with very expensive perfume just before His crucifixion.

The disciples were chiding her for the waste. A year's wages dumped out.

Jesus rebuked them and called her action a beautiful thing.

She hath done what she could.

As I've been pondering this for a couple days, my thoughts go two ways...

could as in allowed and could as in ability, energy, resources, etc...

So many times we focus on what we can't do, what we are not allowed to do.

Because, let me tell you, when you've been raised in a conservative family and a conservative denomination, there are quite a lot of things that women can't do. According to a traditional interpretation of the Bible. And it can drive me quite batty, (to borrow a phrase from the KJV...) making me want to kick against the pricks...

And, in life season, energy, and family, there is a whole lot I can't do. I have to consider the needs and schedules of my kids and husband. My body is getting older, and it needs rest and time to heal.

I've found this to be a year of can't's...for so many different reasons. Priorities. Health. Sanity.

Sometimes those can't's can be quite discouraging. When I focus on all the things I've not been able to do this summer/year, I get annoyed, and frustrated, and rather discouraged. I feel gipped.

It puts me in a dark place pretty quick.

But, how much more profitable to just do the things we can do. And focus on those things. With a joyful, peaceful, industrious, content spirit.

The past three weeks I couldn't do my Rockford bike rides every morning. I had to get BMV to driver's training by 9:00 each morning (plus fit in his 12 driving hours). But, I could manage 22 miles, if I left by 7:15. And it was good. I saw a rainbow, turtles, a deer, the glorious sun rises, and experienced the peace and quiet my soul needed.

This week I couldn't help a friend pack up her house for their move. But, I could double a dinner I made, and take the leftovers to their family so they could have a hot meal she didn't have to make.

This season I can't participate in, let alone lead, the Bible study I was involved with for over 19 years. But, my husband and I can invite young couples into our home, to encourage and mentor them.

This season I can't expect school to be a wrap by noon, but I can really dig into the learning process and enjoy life long learning.

This summer my babysitter's schedule and my schedule hardly meshed, so I had very few dedicated days to write, edit, or work. But, I could utilize an hour here and there, and get plenty done by simply focusing.

Summer is a super busy time for my husband's roofing business, so we can't vacation in the summer, when normal people do. But, I can still choose to enjoy the summer, and rest, and refresh, and read.

I ended up missing 5 weeks of triathlon training this summer. I can't do the triathlon I was planning to do the second Saturday of September, and I can't run the half marathon we always do at the end of September. I'm not ready. But, I can continue to train, putting in over a hundred bike miles every week, and I can realize that this was a season missed, not a life time.

I can't really change my "Rubens" body. Trust me, I've tried. But the past two years it has just gotten more and more Rubens-y. But, I can make healthy choices, and truly stick to them.

Even though I have the spiritual gift of teaching, I can't preach in the church we attend. But, I can faithfully teach my Sunday school class. I can write-here and in other spaces. I can direct the young ladies' discipleship program.



Someone mentioned that "she hath done what she could" would make a phenomenal epitaph. I think that if that was on my grave some day, I would be quite content. Not that I'd have any say in the matter....

Doing what you can do is not a cop out. It is not settling. Doing what you can is lavish, and generous, beautiful, and sacrificial.

At least it was with this (unnamed) woman.

This was high praise, indeed.

Imagine Jesus Christ saying the same thing about you. This whole story shows what Christ appreciates, values, and sees. He values things we often don't. It was a rebuke to the disciples. It was a rebuke to my heart too.

Are you doing what you can? Or are you focusing on your can't's?

 

A Broken Hallelujah

"Given the 'normal' sins of marriage, the messiness and brokenness, as difficult and wearying as it can be, we must remember that the vows exist for precisely such circumstances. You really don't need to make a vow to stick with someone in the best of times. The inclination to run doesn't exist then. It's the low times the covenant is made for." (The Mingling of Souls, Matt Chandler page 206)


Recently I was on FB, when this came across my feed...

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Some random stranger had posted that as his status. A mutual friend commented on it and thus it made its way through my newsfeed.

Another random stranger commented, "cancer in a child?"

And I had to answer.

Yes. God is good, all the time. God is faithful. God is gracious. Even when my child has cancer.

I might say it through my tears, but I still believe it with all my heart.

What if we changed that even to especially?

God is good, especially when my child has cancer. God is faithful especially when my mom's body is shutting down from ALS. God is gracious especially when my sister in law dies in a car accident, leaving a husband and three young children.

God's character is not something He takes on and off like a jacket. He is much different from us humans in this way.

God is holy (Psalm 99:9). Which encompasses much more than being without sin.

Holy is also the idea of whole, healthy, entire. God isn't kind and good one minute, and not kind and good the next minute.

The Bible says God is love (1 John 4:8). God is light (1 John 1:5). God is peace (Isaiah 9:6). God is good (Mark 10:18). God is gracious and compassionate (2 Chronicles 30:9). God is righteous (Daniel 9:14). God is merciful (Daniel 9:9). God is true (John 3:33). God is just (2 Thessalonians 1:6).

This is more than the idea of practicing these things. These things are who He is. He is the epitome, definition and manifestation of these things.

If that is true, if God's character does not change, then each attribute and characteristic is evident in each of His acts. Creation, redemption, judgement.

I don't think cancer was created by God. I do think it is allowed by God. It is a result of the fall. Universal sin. Which is why I can still see His gracious hand, kindness and goodness in these circumstances.

As a matter of fact, when we are just strolling along, and life is good, we tend to get forgetful of all the benefits and blessings that we receive from the hand of God. We aren't actively ungrateful, we are just apathetic and unaware.

But, as we paddle through deep waters, struggling to keep our heads above the flood, we feel God's gracious, sustaining, powerful right hand upholding us. He is there.

The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

Sometimes we feel His presence. Sometimes we see His grace and goodness in the trials.

Sometimes we can't. But, that doesn't mean that He isn't.

It is an act of faith to just keep trusting, relying on His unchanging character and person. His unfailing goodness and mercies that are new every morning.

Sometimes that act of faith is an act of complete and utter desperation.

It makes me think of the vows quote that I placed first in this post. Vows are precisely for the bad times. We don't need vows to make us stay during the good times. Vows remind us to stick it out when things are rough.

We need God's goodness all the time, but we rely on His goodness especially during the hard things...like cancer, death, loss, grief, war, strife, divorce.

I don't say this theoretically. I've lived it-especially this past year.

I still don't have a clue why my daughter lost her eye to cancer. I don't know why my upright living mom has ALS. I don't know what God is doing in these things, beyond changing me/us into the image of Christ and bringing glory to Himself.

This is a hard concept. Which is why I say it through my tears. The Holy Spirit has used Scripture to comfort me through all of this, but it was not via hearing it from others. It was as I read the Psalms, and other passages, for myself. Hearing scripture from others felt awfully like a battering ram.

Furthermore, I sat in church, and couldn't sing for several months. I'm a music girl, and I couldn't choke out the words. I just cried.

I don't know the why.

But, I do know that God is good, all the time.

And from that flows my broken hallelujah.


 
 
   
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