Tag Archives: meet my friend . . .

Present and Loved: Meet Margot Starbuck

Being present to life, to loved ones, and especially to God all ends up being connected to deeper issues inside of us. How do we see and know God as God really is? What do we understand about ourselves and who we really are? I’m so excited to invite you in on a conversation with a fabulous writer, Margot Starbuck. Margot is the author of several books, including her brand new title: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God.

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MS_square_photocredit_Scott FaberMargot, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Sure. I’m a word nerd; I’m the author of five books and love speaking to audiences around the country. I live in Durham, North Carolina, where I’m a mama to three fabulous kiddos—ages 12, 13, 15. So when I’m not inspiring audiences, I’m yelling at them to pick their stinky socks up off the floor and to stop leaving Flaming Hot Cheetohs wrappers in the den. I can also be found cheering at soccer games, baseball games & volleyball matches.

Untitled-19I love the title and subtitle of your new book: Not Who I Imagined: Surprised by a Loving God. What is it now that most surprises you about God or God’s love?

I’d say the biggest surprise is the way in which God’s love is different than our human experiences of it.

We catch glimpses of God’s gracious face, God’s steadfast listening ear, in the faces of those around us but, by nature, no human being can love us perfectly.

Still, we learn what it means to be in relationship with an “other”—in God’s case, a holy other—from the faces around us. We learn whether we’re worth showing up for and sticking around for. And, unwittingly I think, we project that onto God.

My biggest surprise was discovering—in my BONES—that God’s gracious face, God’s love, is categorically different than what I’d received from humans. It doesn’t mean I don’t see those peeks of God’s face in others, but it does mean that I’ve encountered a reliable presence who does not fail.

This month on my blog we’re looking at the theme “be present”—at how we can live more attentively to God’s presence in our lives and, more broadly, at how we can really be rather than just skate through life. How do you most naturally connect with or experience God’s faithful, loving presence in your life?  Continue reading

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On Guts, Garbage, and Abundant Grace

We need grace for the brokenness, sin, pain, and garbage in our lives. And, thankfully, God gives us grace abundant! In and through this grace, we find the courage to share our grace-story. And boy, does it take courage!

One person who absolutely embodies such courage is Elisabeth Klein Corcoran. She’s walked through a lot of difficulty in recent years as she has journeyed through marital separation and then divorce. And yet God’s sustaining grace has enabled her to use her own story to minister to others. She is the author of Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage and Unraveling: Hanging On to Faith Through the End of a Christian Marriage, along with several other book and article (like this gutsy, honest TCW article.)

Have you ever wondered how God can use your past, your pain, your failures, or your brokenness? Keep reading . . .

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1940242_10202979925681396_1861604236_nElisabeth, tell my readers about yourself!

I have been writing and speaking for about thirteen years.  I’m a single mom to two great teenagers.  I seriously have the best girlfriends in the world. I love my church, my home, my dog, and going for bike rides (if spring will ever come back!).

This month we’re talking about grace on my blog. What’s one way you’ve experienced God’s grace at work in your life recently?

Over the past three years of walking out of my marriage through a difficult separation and a painful divorce, grace was withheld from me by other believers, more than I’d like to acknowledge. I’ve had people who say they believe in God look me in the eye (or metaphorically look me in the eye when they sent me an email or posted a comment on my blog) and tell me they disapproved of me or asked me why I hate men or questioned my salvation. Really harsh stuff. And in those moments, every single time, it did damage to my soul. And in those moments, you’d think that my heart would’ve just grown harder or colder or I would’ve put my guard up. But what ended up happening – only because of the goodness and sweetness of God – is that he used the pain that I received over and over when grace was withheld from me to make sure that I became a person who didn’t withhold grace from anyone, even on non-divorce-related issues. And I am so grateful to say that I have really grown in this area, showing grace to people and in situations that the old me never would have. It’s ended up being a really beautiful gift.

1620115_10202982464304860_871306973_nYou recently wrote the book Unraveling which candidly chronicles your painful journey through a difficult marriage and then through divorce. What gave you the courage to share such an honest and raw story — and to face some of the really hurtful feedback you’ve had to deal with?

I had three sources of courage to write so openly about my story. Continue reading

The Christmas Gospel (Go After It!)

Last year I had the great privilege of interviewing author and professor Patty Kirk about her great Advent/Christmas book. Here we revisit our conversation — I’m sure it will encourage you as much as it blessed me!

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(From December 2012)

One extra-special part of Advent for me is the reading: The time I return to well-worn favorite books that come out just this time of year, such as Madeleine L’Engle’s books, poems, and Christmas stories or Walter Wangerin Jr.’s  Preparing For Jesus. I’m especially excited this year because I have a NEW Advent book to dwell in: The Gospel of Christmas by Patty Kirk (InterVarsity Press). Patty, a professor and author, was gracious enough to share her thoughts about Advent with me and with you, my readers.

Patty, welcome! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

PattyKirkI grew up believing in God but lost track of him in my teens -— along with most other comforting certainties — and spent the next decades roaming the world seeking I didn’t know what. I made an unhappy atheist, envious of those I encountered who somehow managed not only to believe in but to depend on the promises of an invisible, inaudible, intangible being. Eventually, I regained a sense of God’s existence and attention, but the one thing that connects my believing years — as a child and later in adulthood — with those intervening years of atheism was the excitement and, paradoxically, the longing that filled me during the Christmas season. Ever since my return to faith, I have written out of this longing every Advent, and this book is what I wrote.

Our culture is so Christmas-consumerism-crazy right now, that it can be difficult to create space in our lives — and in our hearts — for Advent. Are there spiritual practices, traditions, or habits that help you foster the Advent spirit in your life during this often hectic season?

gospel of christmasSo, for me, Advent means that period of longing and excitement that overcomes us at Christmas. The longing for something more, yes -— for meaning or certainty or quiet or, as you say, “space” in our lives and hearts for God.

But Advent is also that very hectic jolliness: the gathering of families, children’s eagerness for presents, the shopping and card-writing and tree-decking and worrying we won’t get it all done, what I like to call the jingle-belling of the Christmas season. During Advent, I consciously re-visit my old sad longing for the Bible’s promises to be true and simultaneously latch onto the hectic celebration of those promises’ fulfillment. Continue reading

Soul Pilgrimage: Meet Phileena Heuertz

As we wrap up this month’s focus on “being” and transition to a focus on “doing” for next month, I’m excited to invite you to take part in a conversation with author and ministry leader Phileena Heuertz. Through her own faith journey, Phileena’s been carving out a compelling marriage between being & doing — between the contemplative & active parts of Christian spirituality.

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phileena2Phileena, welcome! Tell my readers a bit about yourself.  

It’s a pleasure to be a part of your blog today. I’ve spent my life in social justice work among the world’s poor. I’m a member of the New Friar movement, and for nearly 20 years my husband Chris and I co-directed Word Made Flesh (WMF). During that time we served in more than 70 countries building community among victims of human trafficking, survivors of HIV and AIDS, abandoned children and child soldiers and war brides.

Chris and I founded Gravity in 2012. Gravity is for people who care about their spirituality and want to make the world a better place. My primary work is public speaking, teaching and writing on contemplative spirituality, facilitation of contemplative retreats, and spiritual direction.

I’m a member of the Red Letter Christians, featured on The Work of the People and Q Ideas and known for my theological narrative, Pilgrimage of a Soul (IVP 2010).

Pilgrimage of a Soul - phileenaYour book Pilgrimage of a Soul describes a bit of your own journey from working as a missionary among the world’s poor to a much-needed sabbatical that eventually revolutionized your faith. Can you tell my readers a bit of your story? 

Sure. I had spent many years serving among people in poverty—children and families affected by HIV and AIDS in India; women and girls enslaved in the commercial sex industry all over Southeast Asia and South America; children living on the streets in urban centers across the globe. And I thought I’d seen it all—the worse of poverty and injustice. But then my work took me to Freetown, Sierra Leone at the peak of the war over blood diamonds.

The human brutality I witnessed in Freetown was like nothing I’d ever seen. Young girls forced to watch the horrific amputation and murder of their parents, taken as “war brides” and subjected to every form of abuse—often gang-raped.

Boys as young as 5 and 6, forced to amputate the arm of their parents or be brutalized themselves, conscripted into the military or rebel army, given drugs and involuntarily compelled to carry weapons that were at times too heavy for them and forced to commit unspeakable crimes of massacre, murder and rape.

I returned from Freetown empty of answers for the world’s problems and questioning God’s goodness. This crisis of faith plunged me into a classic wrestling with God scenario in which I became very aware of my limitations and deep need for God. Continue reading

Savor Everyday Mercies

How do we cherish our families? Part of it comes in learning to see the beauties hidden in the small moments of life. So I’m very excited to introduce you to my dear friend Darcy Wiley — a great cherisher of moments. Darcy blogs over at Message in a Mason Jar and is “Mom” to three kids.

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Darcy, tell my readers a bit about yourself!

cherishfamilyThanks for hosting me, Kelli. It’s a joy to be at your place today. I always say I’m a world traveler turned stay-at-home mom. I try to go about my domestic life with the same eye for discovery that I had during my decade adventuring abroad. The kids definitely keep things fresh. The world is an amazing place when filtered through the lens of a 6-year-old boy, an almost-4-year-old girl and their baby sister. We love to ride bikes, do gardening, read books, go creek stomping, and lots of other things. Full-time motherhood is a pretty amazing gig when you think about it. I take a lot of pictures, but my real favorite way to gather mementos and to process a meaningful experience is in the written word. Right now, I’m in a catch-22, where the kids give me all kinds of material but often my work of caring for them leaves me with very little time for writing a complete piece.

As you reflect on the last few months, what has God been teaching you about cherishing your family?

I’ve been learning how love needs space to flourish. To me, that means clearing the schedule as much as possible to allow for unexpected challenges and to allow time for interacting without the grumpiness that hurry brings. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable that I say no to a task they think I should volunteer for. But anytime I’ve given into false guilt at the expense of my family’s sanity, I’ve regretted it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the pull between my two callings of parenting and writing. A few weeks before my daughter was born this spring, I had put a lot of creativity and time into the Take Heart series on my blog. As much as I loved that, I found myself surprisingly excited about being forced to slow down on posting in order to focus on the intense neediness of a newborn. It has been a re-centering time when I felt the privilege of tending to my flesh and blood as my first priority. In fact, as much as I want to share my thoughts and feelings and writing pieces with a greater population someday, I feel the Lord often reminding me that these children are the masterpiece I’m sending out into the world.

It’s so easy to take loved ones for granted. Cherishing them is a choice! What are some ideas you have for concrete ways women can cherish their families? Continue reading

Just 3: Amber Robinson

Join me for a great conversation in which I’m asking just 3 women just 3 questions about living justly. Today meet Amber Robinson —  a speaker for Compassion International, the author of Mercy Rising: Simple Ways to Practice Justice and Compassion, and a talented pianist. I’m so privileged to count Amber as one of my friends.

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amberrobinson.com2_1. Why are you passionate about biblical justice?

I never set out to be “passionate about biblical justice.” In college, I took a spiritual gifts test and scored high on a couple gifts, medium on many others, and glaringly low on one gift – and that gift was mercy. So it’s ironic that many people say that justice is my “thing”, when it is obviously something that I don’t come by naturally.

Through a very long trial with health issues, God revealed to me a lot of selfishness. I realized that my world was all about me.

I began reading Scripture more earnestly – I was amazed by all of the commands to help those in our society who face injustice, and knew I needed to act on these commands. It was very hard to reorient my thinking because we are taught, even in our faith culture, to focus on ourselves and our nuclear families.

I am passionate about my work with Compassion International and slavery prevention because it works. I have seen the lives of children all around the world changed. Despite the population increases in poor countries, we are turning the tide on poverty.

Beyond the help for others, we are really helping ourselves. It is an emotionally, spiritually, physically healing journey to die to self. I feel a joy and peace that I never had before.

I feel like my life has more clarity and focus and integrity. My old thought pattern was, Once I get my finances, health, etc. in order, then I can do justice, but God’s way is this: Die to yourself, obey me, and I will give you all the rest.

We can’t give in to the lie that the people who are immersed in this kingdom work have an easier life in some way and that is why they are involved. We all have big reasons not to do this. But we can get past these excuses and start living the abundant life promised to us.

Presentation-Color-2-291x3002. All the wrong and injustice in the world can feel so overwhelming. How can we overcome discouragement?

We have a choice to make about how we will view God. We see a servant in Matthew 25 who viewed God as a harsh taskmaster, buried his talent, and did not make an impact on the kingdom.

In contrast, David and John saw Christ as a gentle, good leader. They described him as a shepherd. There were two common shepherding techniques in the Middle East:  drive the sheep from behind or lead them from the front and let them follow your voice. In Scripture we see the tenderness of the Shepherd leading the sheep from the front, finding them when they are lost, and leading them to food, drink, shelter, safety, and rest. Continue reading

Just 3: Erina Ludwig

I’m so happy to invite you into a conversation with 3 amazing women where I ask just 3 questions about what it means to live justly. Today meet my friend Erina Ludwig, a Londoner now living in Indianapolis. Erina is  half of the musical duo The Yellow Kites (with her husband Kendall) and is the author of Unnoticed Neighbors: A Pilgrimage into the Social Justice Story as well as the forthcoming book The Unnamed (coming September 2013). Join in on our conversation . . .

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1. Why are you passionate about biblical justice? www.bohemianredimages.com

When I hear the words biblical justice it conjures up images of divine wrath but also an unyielding desire to see every human being flourish.

I am in no way tied to rules for the sake of keeping up appearances. I don’t do things because they’re written down somewhere. I find compassion is written in my very core and I am moved to action because of it. I see us, human beings, as being capable of so much and yet bypassing it for other trinkets. And so biblical justice is remembering we’re all walking this earth together, to remember each other, to be kind, to feel anger but let it go and for the love of all that makes us human, to treat others with respect and dignity regardless of how different they are.

The few stories we have of Jesus’ dealings with people in the Bible best capture that desire. The woman caught in adultery and dragged to Jesus’s feet and his delicate but divisive response makes me cheer. He knew how to love others and what right to be done to them.

unnoticedneighbors2. Injustice in our world can seem so overwhelming and discouraging. Ever felt that way? And how can we overcome discouragement & inertia and move forward into hopeful action?

I have a quarterly crisis throughout the year as I try and work out how we get out of the mess we’ve made for ourselves here in life. I feel overwhelmed and simply weep. I used to think that was a pointless response, but I have since learned it means my heart is still soft and still feels — which is legions better than a calloused old beater! I think it’s best to pick one thing that hits you in the guts and makes you want to vomit. Grab a hold of that injustice and start working towards chipping away at it. Remember what we do won’t always be explosions in the sky, but every act of kindness counts and changes this world we live in. (Whether it wants to be changed or not.) Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 2)

Amy Simpson is an author, editor, and leader — and to me she’s a friend, mentor, former boss, and an inspiration! Amy’s written a book about mental illness and the church called Troubled Minds. Today Amy joins me for part 2 of our interview about wholeness, suffering, and hope. (Read part 1 of our interview by clicking here.) 

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Troubled Minds #4304 CoverYour new book Troubled Minds addresses the issue of mental illness and the church — and your passion for this topic comes out of your own personal story of growing up with a mother who suffers from schizophrenia. In what ways did your difficult family experiences shape your sense of self and your view of faith, either positively or negatively?

Like many other families that go through similar experiences, our family life revolved around Mom and her illness. The rest of us had to put our emotional lives on the back burner to keep the peace and avoid stress and conflict at home. We didn’t talk much about what was happening with her. And because we didn’t feel it was OK to discuss mental illness with others, we mostly kept quiet about it when we were away from home too. We felt very isolated, as if we were the only ones going through the experience.

I learned to shut off my negative emotions because they were just too overwhelming for me—and frankly, we couldn’t afford for anyone else in our family to be struggling. Over time, I lost the ability to fully experience emotion of any kind, and I had to learn to embrace my emotions and my own needs as I worked toward healing. Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 1)

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Amy Simpson — a great friend and colleague I’ve known and worked with for years. Amy has recently — courageously — written a book exploring an issue she’s dealt with in her own family life: mental illness. Most of you, readers, have either personally known someone suffering from mental illness (or a friend of a friend) or have gone through some form of mental illness yourself (such as depression, bipolar, anxiety disorders and panic attacks, Seasonal Affective Disorder, PPD, etc.). It’s a surprisingly common pain that touches many lives. Yet it’s so rarely talked about openly in Christian circles . . . why? Join me in this 2-part conversation with Amy about “wholeness” (healing, grace, confidence, identity, faith), mental illness, and her new book Troubled Minds (InterVarsity Press).

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DSC_0043 HeadshotAmy, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I’m a passionate leader and communicator who loves to encourage Christ’s church and its people to discern and fulfill their calling in this life. I do this in a few ways. With my husband, I’m raising two kids to follow Christ. I also serve as editor for Christianity Today’s GiftedForLeadership.com and the editor of marriage and parenting resources for Today’s Christian Woman. And I’m a freelance writer and author; my most recent book is Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission.

Troubled Minds #4304 CoverThis month on my blog we’re looking at the idea of being “whole”–and, inevitably, this means also looking honestly at the brokenness in our lives. One quite common experience of brokenness that many women go through is depression. Other forms of mental illness are also common. Yet we often keep problems like these hidden away, behind a facade. Why do you think we hide these kinds of struggles?

This is very common for several reasons. Here are a few:

In our culture, many people think God owes us a happy and comfortable life. So struggling with our mental health can be deeply disappointing and confusing, and it can be very hard for us to even acknowledge to ourselves that our lives don’t measure up to what we thought we deserved.

But mental illness doesn’t mean God has broken his promises to us. Despite what our culture suggests, comfort, happiness, and perfect health are not our natural state. God has not promised them to us in this life, and he doesn’t owe us anything. In fact, humanity forfeited our claim on a perfect world way back at the beginning, when we chose to reject God’s rule—and we have been making this choice ever since. Jesus didn’t promise us health in this life, nor problem-free living. In fact, he guaranteed us we would suffer: Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33). Suffering is not unusual and should not surprise us. What is shocking is that despite our sorry condition, we have hope. “But take heart,” Jesus said, “because I have overcome the world.”

Another reason people stay quiet is because they believe the lie that mental illness is an indication of spiritual or religious failure. They don’t want to admit that they just can’t measure up to God’s expectations, when the people around them seem to be doing just fine. But mental illness generally is not a spiritual problem (although the mind certainly can affect the spirit, and vice versa). A person with a mental illness has just that—an illness. While spiritual practices like prayer and Bible reading can help facilitate and support healing, illnesses require treatment. Besides, God does not hold himself out of reach and demand that we earn his grace or demonstrate that we’re good enough for his healing touch. Jesus asked “all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens” to come to him and “find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). He condemned legalistic religious leaders, “For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden” (Luke 11:46). Following Jesus may not be easy, but it’s not a religious burden. If someone tells you your suffering would end if only you were a better Christian, that message is not from God.

A third reason is because mental illness is heavily stigmatized. Continue reading

What’s Your Mark?

Friends, I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Kim Goad. Kim’s newest book Inked, co-authored with Janet Bostwick Kusiak, explores the messages that mark our lives. Read along as Kim and I chat about how we can experience wholeness by grounding our worth and identity in the Truth.

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Welcome, Kim! Tell my readers a bit about yourself. 

kim3I have a passion for helping others find their true mark – whether it’s helping companies with their marketing and business development practices, or using my counseling background to help others find God’s true mark for their lives. In my dream world, I’m doing it all while hiking or traveling the globe.

You recently co-authored the book Inked which is all about “Choosing God’s Mark to Transform Your Life.” It uses tattoos as a metaphor for how we can understand our identity in Christ. So, let’s get this out of the way first. Do you have a tattoo? If so, what is it?

No! I brave a needle about once a year when I need a shot for a poison ivy breakout (even that once resulted in passing out in the doctor’s office with the needle still in my hip), and I can’t even commit to a hair color! But I have a fascination with tattoos and, like everyone, I’ve been marked by life nonetheless.

To build upon this metaphor, I think many of us feel marked — labeled — by things we didn’t choose. Marked by pain or shame from our past, by others’ expectations or judgments, by cultural definitions of our value. Why do you think this is such a struggle for women? Why is it so hard to strip these “marks” away from our sense of identity?

It’s a struggle for everyone. We’re learning more and more about how our brains are shaped by our thoughts, or others’ words and actions. However, I do think women have unique challenges when it comes to identity. For example, research shows others observe men’s successes and women’s successes differently. If a man is successful, we tend to attribute it to his skill. If a woman is successful, we tend to attribute it to luck. 

When something goes wrong, men tend to attribute the blame to external causes, where women tend to internalize the blame. Here’s the good news, though, male or female: Research also shows that we are capable of changing the negative and harmful  patterns. But, of course, as Christians, we’ve always known that. The apostle Paul urged first century Christians to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. It isn’t always easy, but it is possible.

3D Book CoverIn Inked you write, “Every day, we have the opportunity to choose good markings. To be made new.” What do you mean by that? Practically speaking, how can a woman move toward embracing God’s truth about her value and identity? Continue reading