reading round-up (5.30.14)

Happy Friday! This week held a very noteworthy celebration: The first “real” piano student sign up of my Minnesota piano studio! We toasted this occasion with the most despicable-tasting sparkling cider available in the Target clearance aisle. (Seriously. It was awful. We both said something like, “We should have just had champagne. I think pregnant ladies in Europe drink sometimes and their kids are okay…”)
photo 2 (1)

Here are some reading suggestions for the start of a beautiful weekend…

[One] You guys, it’s been legitimately sort of HOT this week. We haven’t turned on the AC yet (we rebel against that sort of thing for a while), but it’s toasty enough to reschedule Max’s mid-afternoon walk so we can go to the basement for downstairs chores and naps instead. I have been really happy with my strategic door-and-window opening plan, which was inspired by this old post about “Living without A/C and Liking It!” from Like Mother, Like Daughter. We actually don’t know if the air conditioning unit works in this house, so we’ll get it cleaned out and hope for the best when it starts getting hotter! (I keep thinking… if you can’t make it until June for a/c when you live in Minnesota, you’re in serious trouble.)

[Two] I’ll probably whack out a whole post about how ridiculous the “mommy wars” are, especially in evangelical Christian subculture, but this post from Jen Wilkinson was particularly encouraging as I gear up for being a part-time working mom.

[Three] This look at the stairway to wisdom from David Brooks includes some great thoughts about the personal stories behind statistics, especially in relation to teen pregnancy.

[Four] I’ve seen this post about homeschooling popping around among friends quite a bit. I’m not going to deny that if I wrote an article about homeschooling (as someone who was homeschooled, has worked closely in tutoring other homeschool families in upper grades, is married to someone who was homeschooled, and will need to make some decisions about educating my own kid in the future) it would say the exact opposite of this one. In general, my opinion is that 85% of homeschool families need a more serious attitude about academics and a lot less restrictions for everything else. But it’s worth reading and reflecting critically whether you agree with it or not!

[Five] I love these thoughts on “scruffy hospitality” and welcoming people into life as you are!  Good, good words from Jack King.

“Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’ …Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

[Six] Two different friends have recommended the “Hillsdale Dialogues” series to me for combating intellectual decay. These lectures on literature have provided some mental stimulation lately, so they are worth checking out even if you’re a little intimidated (or not immediately interested) in hearing about The Illiad or Sir Gawain.

[Seven] Maybe especially because, finally, some things are really coming together —PhDbaby, duckling, puppy… what else could we want?– we’ve been battling a lot of thoughts about hopes, both the ones we felt were dashed so many times in the last few years, and the ones we’re still not sure about for the future. There are questions about calendars and things that don’t look like we thought they should at this point, birthdays that came before all the things we wanted to do by that age were done, and uncertainty about how to redream for some of life. I loved this encouragement from Ann Voskamp:

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination. Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy. And so what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing. All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles.
“Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”
Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope.Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope. We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

“The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” – Psalm 147:11

The mosquitos are particularly nasty, but we’re hoping for another weekend of bonfires, laughter, Max adventures, and some more painting. (I can tell it’s making a big and beautiful difference in this house that needed a lot of “lipstick and rouge,” but will it ever end? I think “soft flipping” a house and getting a puppy effectively eradicated the possibility of ‘relaxing weekends’ before the baby arrives. )

(You can enjoy more quick reads at Conversion Diary!) 





{concerning hospitality} ignored at church

{Hospitality is on the brain — brace yourselves for a few different ideas coming up in the next little while!}

When we spent a recent weekend in Minnesota, our schedule didn’t allow for visiting the church we were most interested in. Honestly, if it was just vacation we probably would have read a Psalm over a cup of coffee and called it “good,” but since we had committed to moving there, we decided to jump in church-shopping right away. I mean, we could be a few hours away from meeting our new future best friends!
We perused the worship options listed on a search engine and picked one that looked okay based on the time the service started and lack of overt references to any creepy, extremely liberal, or dangerously isolationist teachings in their website. We arrived early (sort of by accident because we missed the Starbucks turn off on the way over) with our Bibles in hand, bought coffee from their snack stand, and spent the next 10 minutes smiling at people. It was a small, young church with a very “hip” feel.  We walked in feeling exhilarated and happy, wanting to make friends — and in the entire morning, no one spoke to us. It was embarrassing and discouraging. We crawled back into the car feeling cranky and frustrated. I was wondering if we had just made a huge mistake in deciding to move. That experience was rough and it shouldn’t have happened, but when I checked with friends and family, I found out being ignored while visiting a church was really common.
church shopping
[Every red dot in this picture represents a church… Aaron commented that we didn’t need to move up, because, he said, “The Christians are already here and they are organizing!”]
Because we spent all weekend chatting with people in Aaron’s new lab, music store employees, cafe workers, and even people sitting around the hotel hot-tub in the evenings, the drive back to Iowa was punctuated with incredulity and jokes about how the “Minnesota nice” hospitality stopped at church doors. It occurs to me that our response of laughing it off would have been very different if we were weary, wounded, lonely, hurting, or burned out, and it would be really hard to try visiting that (or any other) church again if we weren’t in good spirits going in to the morning. While we are pretty sure we won’t be back there again for other reasons, I kept thinking about what the Bible says about hospitality and greeting other Christians, and opted to send a quick e-mail to the pastor.
So let me say, first, that if you’re reading this and you’ve also been ignored at a church — I’m sorry. That isn’t supposed to happen. That isn’t how scripture tells Christians to greet others and because I’m sure I’ve ignored guests before, I’m just as guilty of this as everyone I observed in that church. But if you had this experience, I encourage you to prayerfully consider proactively contacting someone at the offending church so they can pray for you while you search and change their own behavior to accurately live out what the Bible says we should do.
Hi Pastor,
My husband and I spent the weekend in the area, and since he accepted a job there that begins in January, we wanted to visit at least one church while we were in town. We ended up worshiping with you guys and I am checking in with you since we didn’t get a chance to chat while we were there.
We both really appreciated some of your thoughts about prayer and vision in the sermon, which were very encouraging with this upcoming move! Sometimes when visiting churches it’s hard to tell if the pastors actually like their jobs, but we could see a great deal of brotherly love and happiness in everyone who spoke.
Please know that we consider ourselves partners together in the gospel, so I wanted to speak with you briefly about something you may want to prayerfully address with your people… My husband and I arrived at your location 10 minutes early with our Bibles in hand, bought coffee from the snack table, and smiled at your congregants. We complimented moms on their cute babies, cracked a joke about my husband’s doughnut, and asked where we could find a bulletin and information about the church before entering the sanctuary and smiling at the people sitting in our row. Throughout the entire morning, not a single person said hello back, asked if we were visiting, or introduced themselves to us. It was pretty discouraging, and it was a sharp reminder of how rough church-shopping can be. I’m not trying to make you feel bad about this, but I want to be helpful and encourage you to consider how to implement what the Bible says about hospitality (Hebrews 13:2, 1 Peter 4:9 and 5:14, Romans 12:13 and 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20) within your congregation. As a fellow believer, I have failed often in this area, but I believe it should be a priority and I would really want to know if a visitor had a similar experience at my church!
We are praying you will be encouraged and spurred on to greater love and hospitality (not frustration or embarrassment!) as a congregation, and that your love for each other and visitors would abound more and more. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions – I would be happy to email further if you want, but it’s not necessary. I am praying for you and wish you all the best as you faithfully shepherd your church!

Have you been ignored at church? Or had a great experience as a guest? What makes it work, or not? Have you ever thought about contacting a church you visited and chatting with the pastor afterwards, even if you knew you wouldn’t be back? Since there is more church-searching in my future, I’m thinking a lot about what visitors can do to make hospitality easy for the congregation, so I’d love to hear if you have suggestions for that, too!