19 December, 2014

Friday Prompt: The World

The Rules:
1. Set a timer for five minutes
2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 
3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.

Image is from my dear friend Bekah with If and When Workshop.

Find her on Facebook and on Etsy.

18 December, 2014

Moses is Not Batman

The previews for the new movie about Moses make me cringe and fill me with overwhelming sadness. The biggest reason is because, even in the thirty second over-acted snippets of Christian Bale playing the man who took Israel out of Egypt, I can tell they have totally missed Moses’ character.

Bale plays Moses as a conquer. There are great battle scenes (show me where that is in the Bible!) and Bale is the mighty leader.

Only, he wasn't.

Eric Demeter reminds us: He was a murderer and a runaway with a speech impediment. After many years of hiding in the desert, God called him to verbally confront one of the world’s most powerful tyrants. It was a simple mission from God, really: “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But it wasn’t simple for Moses. It wasn’t even something he felt at all equipped to do.

Moses was a quiet, reflective man. He fled Egypt and found a life tending his in-law’s sheep. One commentary I read said that he didn’t even have his own sheep! He was okay tending to what belonged to his father in law.

Then he meets God in an extraordinary way. How many of us have asked for a burning bush pronouncement on what to do with our life? Moses was lucky – God spoke to him and said: Go – do this!

What was his reaction: I am nobody.

They go through a dialogue of Moses honestly sharing his hesitations and God meeting him in each of them. Even after being reassured that God would be with him, and seeing the staff in his hand become a snake and go back again. Moses still has hesitations. And this time he gets to the heart of the matter:

“No, Lord, don't send me. I have never been a good speaker, and I haven't become one since you began to speak to me. I am a poor speaker, slow and hesitant.” (Exodus 4:10).
By Elizabeth Wang

God was calling him to go to the king of the world (at that time) and demand that a system that had been in place for hundreds of years be destroyed! God was telling this quiet, passive man with a stutter to stand in front of the might Pharaoh and demand the (seemingly) impossible.

The fear of Moses was so great that he asks God to send someone else. The Lord then begrudgingly agrees to let Aaron go to. Aaron was the strong and powerful one. He was the mighty orator. He was the one who could stand before Pharaoh and demand freedom for the oppressed.

The fact that Aaron isn’t even in Bale’s new movie speaks volumes on just how little Director Ridley Scott understands about the story. Ridley is himself agnostic, which reveals why the power structure between Moses and God is so messed up. Moses got his strength and courage for God. God was not the weak one, he didn’t need Moses for anything. Instead God called him to do something that could only be successful if Moses relied fully on Him.

The beauty of Moses, the encounter at the bush, his time in Egypt and all that comes in the desert after, is the tender care of God and how he sometimes chooses the most unlikely person to accomplish his purposes.

Think of timid Bilbo at the start of the Hobbit, or Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. They are the reluctant hero. And so was Moses.

He wasn’t a fighter. He was not bold. He was not the charismatic or decisive leader. His timidity had some seriously consequences later on. But in that moment, sitting with God in that cave, Moses was able to be real with God and share his fear. And the most amazing thing is – God meets him in that moment. He lets Moses be scared, the point of God calling out his excuses and asking for Moses’ trust.
Image from Prince of Egypt
Trust that God would not abandon him. Trust that God could do all He was saying. Trust that at the end, God was bigger than the oppressive king Pharaoh.

Why are we so uncomfortable with the quiet leader?

Why does the idea of someone ill-equipped make us cringe?

Why do we always need the mighty hero?

I get it, I do. We want to be entertained and right now over the top action films are entertaining.  I realize Ridley was looking for the easy blockbuster. We are in love with epic battles and larger than life heroes. This year alone we had Catness Everdeen, Wolverine, Captain America, a group of American soldiers in WWII, 300 men fighting for their lives, even Bilbo himself (just to name a few).

But the heart of the story, the heart of Moses, demands that we see him for who he is. 

When we turn Moses into the mighty hero, when we make him a Biblical “Batman,” we deny who he is. We deny his journey from the man who had nothing in the desert (and was okay with that), to the man who never lost who he was and led the people of Israel to the edge of the promise land.

Let me say – it is okay to be frail. It is okay to be scared, unsure, overwhelmed. It is okay to ask God questions, and to seek clarity on what you feel He has asked you to do. It is okay to do this even if you are a man.

Because in these questions, in the quiet, in our insecurity and doubt, God comes to life! God makes an appearance and changes everything.

It is easy to appear strong. It is human to want to be the hero and conquer the mighty Pharaoh. But it takes so much more courage to be real. To be scared, to admit you don’t have it together, or that you have no idea why you are where you are.

Admit this with an open heart and a big dose of patience, and I guarantee God will show up in big and mighty ways.

Which is why we cannot portray Moses as a Biblical Batman. We have to allow him be the reluctant stutterer who trusted in a God greater than himself and thereby had the faith of a true hero.

Moses’ story is not about epic battle scenes, good versus evil, or even setting captives free. It is not a power struggle between two men. It is a story of trust, redemption, and going all in with a God who promises to be there even with the situation before us seems impossible. 

15 December, 2014

Hello Monday

Happy Monday to you! I hope you had a great weekend. Ours was busy with my grad school graduation on Saturday (woo hoo!) and a Christmas party Sunday afternoon.

I have to admit I was kind of in the doldrums on Saturday morning. I was using superficial means to look at my life and measure its worth. My husband tried and tried to get me out of it, but I was in full-fledged pity party mode and was not going to be dissuaded.

I got to my graduation in a huff because we couldn't find where to park. We were late. I was nervous and just mad at how the day had come together. I got my stuff and walked away, leaving my husband to find a place to park. I was mad, grumbling under my breath – ready for this stupid event to just be over. 

I got to the room where we checked in. Got my card, put my gown on, got someone to help me with my hood and then it hit me – two years of hard work had led me to this moment. Two years of classes online or driving three hours round-trip after working all day to attend class in-seat. Two years of wrestling with what it means to run a nonprofit well, studying finance, fundraising, HR issues, ideas of justice, measurability and what the future holds for this shifting sector. Two years of time, energy, sweat and growth – and now I was there.

I got over myself. I got over my ideas for how the day should be, who should be there, what this moment ought to look like and let myself feel what those two years, and all that effort, had led to.

Then I wanted to cry.

I texted an apology to husband. I took a moment to feel the day and let the joy settle on me. Overall, the event was bittersweet. 

Walking across the stage was incredible. It is so much waiting for thirty seconds – but those thirty seconds were worth everything leading up to it. Then it was over. We got some photos and went out to dinner. I have the case for my diploma and a moment captured in time. A rite of passage that now allows me to put letters after my name and become an alumnus of a second institution.

The moments in our lives are what we make them. We can choose to let disappointment, pain, regret or those unrealistic Hallmark expectations cloud everything. Or we can reflect on the simple, the steadfast, the everyday blessings we too easily overlook, and focus on that.

If we let the pressures of what ‘should be’ go, what is often left behind is something so much better.

Our articles today deal with courage and being true to who you are.

Ursula K. Le Guin was recently honored at The National Book Awards. Her speech stole the event! In it, she slams the idea that writing is all about turning our stories into the next blockbuster. It has become harder and harder to get published if someone doesn’t see box office potential. It’s wrong and Le Guin calls for writers to stand against this pressure and to remember that often times writing goes against what is cultural or main stream. Writing is a reflection of where a society truly is or where it ought to go.

But to be that bold takes a lot of courage. Brandy Vallance blogs about the courage to write.
“When what you’re writing starts to scare you, it’s usually a sign that you’re being real. When you start to worry about what others will think, that is the writing that will affect people the most. You’ve finally tapped into raw emotion and that’s a really good thing in fiction.”

You cannot write for the crowds. You cannot write for what the puppet master might want. There is no formula for the bestseller. In the end, be true to your voice, recognize there is fear in every step of the process but keep going, you never know what will happen.

Yet the ability to be real in our stories (to have courage!), comes from knowing thyself. Being able to pinpoint your sweet spot comes from knowing what makes you tick – the get out of bed, do this all day, it’s part of my heartbeat, this is who I am, feeling! Whether it’s what genre to choose as a writer, or what career to pursue in general, the process to figure out what makes you come alive starts by asking the right question.

Good has some questions to aid in this endeavor:

1. What reflects who you are?

2. What reflects your interest?

3. What allows you to share your gifts?

4. What allows you to help others?

5. What allows you to be “financially viable given your desired lifestyle?”

The article has follow-ups for each of these questions. Good positions these questions in relation to meaningful work, but I think the same questions ring true when it comes to finding your voice, being real as an artists, and trying to pinpoint what will help you feel fulfilled and thereby be able to help others.

Have courage dear friends! Be who you were made to be and find the small joys in today.

03 December, 2014

Book Review: Quiet

Image via GoodReads

I recently finished Quiet by Susan Cain. 

I am a tried and true introvert. I enjoy one-on-one conversations. I need time to ponder things. I don’t react in anger. I value authenticity and want to create space for you to be you.

I love people.

My favorite Saturday activity is to brew a pot of coffee, stay in my pajamas and write all day.

I get more out of my one-on-one Bible study than I do out of worship with 500.

In Quiet, Cain addresses the struggle to be an introvert in an overly extroverted world. Overall, we value less the skills that those who are more introspective bring to the table. We lift up people like Miley Cyrus, the Kardashians, and others, who beg for attention but have little to offer. We shun those who are not gregarious and loud. Who don’t find value is idle chatter. Who really want to know how you are.

Cain highlights some of the powerful introverts of the past: Eleanor Roosevelt, Steve Wozniak and Lincoln. We have changed Lincoln into this bigger than life orator, but in reality, he was an introvert.  These are people who had an impact by being who they were. And she repeatedly highlights how introverts are made to feel like there is something wrong with them. I had never considered that until I read her book.

As a child I loved to read. I lived in my head. My favorite activity was to play in the woods behind our house, by myself. I would go on exciting adventures – being a world explorer, solving mysteries and going back in time. Imagine Nancy Drew meets Laura Croft! I did not have friends in school. I felt no one understood me and I hated the game of fitting in.
Image from A Mighty Girl

Cain writes that we have gone from being a culture of character to one of personality. We value intelligence, contemplation, quiet and servant leadership less. Instead we let anyone have 15 minutes of fame without questioning their contribution to world.

In this 140-character, instant society, we could all benefit more from unplugging and just being. We grade students by how much they talk in class, not by if what they are saying is relevant, intelligent or necessary. We do not teach our kids to be thoughtful and educated, but to spout whatever idea comes into their head, regardless of how ignorant, offensive or stupid it might be.

Introverts have changed the world. And you need both. You need the Orphas, but you also need the Emma Watsons (an introvert). Personality is not everything, but too often it is what wins out. Cain looks back to the 2008 recession and notes several introverted, successful stock traders (yes, those do exist), who warned over and over about the coming bust. But they were ignored, passed over by those who were louder, who could rile up the room and turn people to their thinking.

It is an interesting read. One I think most people would do well to take time to explore. She talks about why open offices and pod-schools do not work. She writes about why things like Wikipedia have been successful online but do not translate well into real life.

She also writes about letting kids be who they are. Let your child be quiet, introspective, and creative. Let them read and do not push them to be some broken ideal that strips away all the things that make your child great. So your daughter might not grow up to be Kim Kardashian. She might grow up to be Malala, Mother Theresa, Eleanor Roosevelt or Rosa Parks. And really, who would you rather have your daughter strive to be?

01 December, 2014

Hello Monday: World AIDS Day

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a safe and happy holiday weekend. I tried to unplug as much as I could. It was a chance to be with my family and try to evaluate what matters. This time of year, while bringing up reminders of family, friendship and togetherness, can also be a struggle for some who don’t have the ideal family life or have suffered loss during this time. This season can also be a time to reflect on the small things, to not take the joy in your life for granted, and to remember the true meaning behind it all.

Here are some articles that caught my attention last week:

World AIDS Day

Today we stop and remember all those who have died from HIV/AIDS and those still battling the disease. Over 35 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2013 (World Health Organization), mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Zonta International is working to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child. Partnering with UNICEF, Zonta has provided over $2.2 million since 2008. Now, “89% of health facilities offer prevention of mother to child transmission services and 62% of HIV+ pregnant women received antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy” (Zonta International). Through this work, UNICEF and Zonta are working on ensuring the next generation is HIV-free.

16 Days of Advocacy

From November 25 – December 10, groups around the world are increasing awareness about violence against women and girls, and to hopefully bring an end to it. Most of this is happening on Facebook. Check out Let ThemHave Faces, Zonta of the Pikes Peak Area or UN Women to find out more. You can also use #16Days on either Facebook or Twitter to find the threads.

Remembering Rosa

It was on December 1, 1955 that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery. This quiet, introverted woman’s defiance started the bus boycott and fueled the call for equality in the South. Read more about her story on A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page.

Cyber Monday

It’s Cyber Monday! I’d like to recommend a few fair trade businesses that are incredible and are doing something to make our world better (plus you support a local business – double score!).

25 November, 2014

A woman sits on the train

Here is my entry from the last Friday Creativity prompt. 

A woman sits on the train.
image from SimpleScrapper

A woman sits on the train alone.

A woman sits on the train alone going north.

A woman sits on the train alone going north to see her mother for the first time in a decade.

It is not that she does not want to see her mother. She loves her mother. Her mother is springtime and sunshine, warmth and joy. She smells like fresh cookies. Her house is always slightly too warm. There will be a cat in the window and new trinkets of sailboats or lighthouses.

It is the first time she has seen her mother since her divorce. Yes, the divorce was five years ago and she should be passed it. But somehow she fears that nothing she has done, not rising to the top of magazine world, becoming the first woman to edit a major publication, or her apartment near Times Square, will be enough. Her mother drilled into her from the time she was little that she was to get married and settle down. By her age she should have four children. By her age she should be baking quiches and attending knitting clubs, gossiping while her husband does profound things in the city during the day.

She had found that man. A man who bought them a home in Martha’s Vineyard and told her to settle in. And she did. They were going to have a family. She was going to become one of those women in the ads she rolled her eyes at the in the magazine. She was going domestic.

Only it never came. Three months, six, one year then two. And every month she was bewildered when her period came and she had to break the news that she was not pregnant. There were a few months in there when she thought it might happen. The doctor told her she was anemic and to eat more protein.

So he left. Told her to take the apartment downtown (which she promptly sold) and he would keep the house on the Vineyard. Now he was there with someone else, someone who could give him the domestic bliss in those ads she secretly hated.

But she wasn’t bitter. She was happy with her life. She got herself a better place with a view, found a group of friends who didn’t want kids either. They had parties and went out. They loved their freedom, the ability to slip away to the coast or on a cruise and just get away. If you asked her, she would say her life was idyllic in many ways. That is, until she got on the train north to go home.

Turning the page in her book, she hoped the ride would be over soon. She had already worked her way through the stories she brought to edit. She sketched the countryside and tried to sleep. But with nothing else to do, she tried to get into a story she had given up on an hour ago.

Hearing the horn for the next stop, the woman looked to the aisle for a moment. Looking back to her book, she wondered what was waiting for her at the end of her train ride alone going north.  

24 November, 2014

Hello Monday

Here are some articles from around the web that caught my attention:

Interview With Brandy Vallance

Author Brandy Vallance talks with B.D. Riehl to discuss about her first novel The Covered Deep. She also provides a teaser about her second novel. A charming interview with a truly incredible author.  

No, You Are Not ‘Running Late.’ You Are Rude and Selfish.

A rebuke of those who are always running late and how it has become the acceptable standard in our culture to never show up when you say you will. When did 30 minutes late become the new on time? Greg Savage says what is hard – and reminds us that all of our time is valuable. When you are late, you rob the other person (or persons in a work meeting as Savage points out) of time in their day. It’s selfish and needs to stop.  I hope it is the start of an on-time revolution!

It was a good reminder for me, someone who is always trying to get just one more thing done, and is therefore always five minutes late. But no more!

When Risking it All for God Means Staying Where You Are

Those of us who are adventurers and full of wanderlust are always looking for the next place to go. We see home as a temporary stopover (one that might last years, but a stopover nonetheless!) and are always checking the horizon for the next thing.

Kris Beckert asks: What if, more often than not, the riskier thing to do for God is to stay exactly where you are and keep doing what you’re doing for the time being? … What if we should be allowing our feet to sink in a while and keep at the hard, dirty, messy work in which we’re involved?

Another excellent book on the topic of digging deep where you are is The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove.