Archives for category: Christianity

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It was the day I was supposed to write my column – two columns to be exact – so I could go on vacation and not have to worry about sending anything in to my editor.

And it was the day the old computer decided to work sometimes and not work other times. Like Pavlov’s dog, I sat there in my home office waiting for my treat, waiting for the screen to blink on so I could peck out some sentences on my keyboard and check in on my social media sites.

But the minutes ticked by and no treat came. Not even a flicker. Not a post. Not a tweet.

I started shuffling papers and straightening books. I noticed Colt’s tempera paint artwork and Benjamin’s acrylic-on-canvas masterpieces, so I opened up a package of Command hooks and started eyeballing where the paintings would fit on the wall.

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I dusted the bookcase, pushed the heavy Royal typewriter farther to the right and had Jessie bring in some trimmings from a friendly plant that lives in my neighbor’s yard but likes to stretch out on our side of the fence. I pulled out Grandma’s old cat eye glasses, some thread on a wooden spool and tiles from a Scrabble game. I talked and laughed with the boys while I brought out the markers and the colored pencils, the paintbrushes and the blending sticks.

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All day we tinkered and visited and colored and decorated.

All day the computer made it difficult for me to log on but easier for me to connect. Because sometimes, when I’m checking in at all those virtual sites, I’m really checking out.

So, instead of spending those hours preparing for vacation, I spent those hours enjoying living here at home. I warmed up the oven to make the boys’ favorite banana bread and fiddled with those garage sale Scrabble tiles to figure out what I wanted to spell, what I wanted to remember from the day.

The letters were almost too easy to find in the pile.

B.E. S.T.I.L.L.

A reminder of the day and a lesson for a lifetime.

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spiritual journeySometimes it’s the truth that makes fiction so powerful.

That’s the case with Sharon Garlough Brown’s book, “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” ($18, IVP Books).

“I longed for my characters to be windows and mirrors,” Brown said from her home in Michigan. “It is often easier to see true things about somebody else.”

Readers have a lot of truth to see in the four strangers that Brown introduces in the pages of her novel. The four women – Hannah, Meg, Mara and Charissa – meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin to learn the value of community and of spiritual practices like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen.

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Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.

Their stories and their true-to-life questions unfold as they learn that a spiritual journey isn’t always an easy walk.

“Reading this could evoke some very deep things,” said Brown, sounding a lot like the retreat facilitator in her book: Walking the path toward freedom and deep transformation takes courage. It’s not easy. It’s not linear. …But don’t be afraid of the mess.

Brown, who has a master’s of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a pastor and spiritual director with the Evangelical Covenant Church, paints faith as a relationship that grows and stumbles and strengthens, as something more than merely a subplot to life.

And you’ll find a bit of her in each of the main characters, especially Hannah.

Brown had been wearing herself out in service to God and to others since college, and she rarely took time to enjoy and rest in God’s love for her.

“We first moved to Grand Rapids for my husband’s job,” she said. “I wasn’t on staff at a church. I didn’t have an office. I didn’t have a title.”

That season lasted three years, and it helped her untangle her identity from what she did for God and tie it more securely to how God cares about her and about all of us – the single line of truth that makes this work of fiction so meaningful. So authentic. So worth reading.

Sharon Brown

Sharon Garlough Brown

To learn more

“My hope is that this book will help readers go deeper into a life with God and deeper into a life of community,” Sharon Garlough Brown said, which is why she offers a free 80-page companion guide to “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” at www.sensibleshoesclub.com. The guide essentially serves as a 12-week devotional and spiritual formation primer.

About the Simply Faithful book club

Joining the Simply Faithful book club is easy. Just pick up a copy of “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” and participate in the community conversation. Talk with friends. Read it at church. Share your comments on social media. Connect with us.

Then, on Monday, Aug. 25, log on to the Simply Faithful page on Facebook and meet the author, Sharon Garlough Brown. She’ll start answering questions at 8 p.m. EDT.

What to do when Lego guys find the crossAs a parent, sometimes I don’t always know the correct way to react.

The time Benjamin used red spray paint on my white washer and dryer I wanted to yell, but my husband explained that Benjamin had been trying to surprise us with a home makeover like the kind we watch on TV. I settled down pretty quickly once I realized Benjamin had kind intentions.

But a few weeks ago, I came in to the dining room and noticed something different about the crystal cross my mother-in-law gave us as a wedding gift. There, at the foot of the cross was a Star Wars Lego guy and more Lego guys were on the arms of the cross and at the very top.

I had no doubt whose toys these were – or who had placed the Lego guys there – but I wasn’t sure what to think of mixing play things with a symbol of something sacred. Should I insist they be removed as a show of respect? Should I allow my boys more access to the cross so they could see the sacred as something approachable?

Before I had time to figure out how I felt, my Star-Wars-Lego-loving Benjamin strolled in to the dining room.

“Hey, do you know anything about what’s going on over there at the cross?” I asked, nodding my head over toward the side table.

There was a small, impish grin and then the answer that turned everything on its head: “It’s a rescue mission.”

I think he went on to tell me something about Darth Vader chasing the good guys, but I really don’t remember. I was too stunned by his comment, a comment that was overloaded and spilling with meaning.

Of course it was a rescue mission. Isn’t that the whole point of the cross? 

Bad guys, bad attitudes and bad hurts all chase us to the foot of the cross and sometimes it seems we aren’t safe until we climb into the very arms of Jesus – the arms that are always strong and welcoming.

I didn’t ask Benjamin to move his Lego guys.

I decided they were right where they needed to be.

 

 

OKC bombing sacred groundWhen the oldest son came home talking about how he’s studying terrorism in school, I didn’t even wait until after dinner to pull out the pictures. I knew if I hesitated, I’d never tell him what it had been like that Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

He could get the facts from his teacher, but he needed to hear the story from me.

So, we started with pictures of a half-standing shell of a building and the thank you banners for rescuers that we all signed with our pens and our prayers. Then, the 168 empty chairs that became part of the official memorial, and the picture of the man walking solemnly along with his hat in his hands.

I tapped my finger on the man.

You see this? I asked Jessie. You see how he treats this place as sacred?

We all do, son, because love is there.

When our world was shattered, when we couldn’t imagine a more painful or a more frightening time, love met us there. Right where the bomb had taken half the building. Right where the ground itself was broken.

Love came rushing in and gathered babies in its arms to carry them to safety. Love brought meal after meal to rescue teams. Love joined hands and held tight to those who were mourning.

When enough love is there, when it seeps in to the cracks and the crevices, broken ground becomes holy ground.

When a tiny nephew arrives too early, and a co-worker swerves too late. When your mama goes in for another surgery and comes out with no more answers. When that annoying mole on your head takes stitches and staples and introduces the word cancer to your medical file. When the car won’t start and the dishes never end. When the whole earth shakes and tears beneath you, trust that love is rushing in.

And when it arrives?

Take off your shoes and know you are walking on sacred ground.

Sensible Shoes #6453Like most people, I enjoy a good book, but I don’t like to take time to weed through the mediocre ones. That’s why I love recommendations from friends.

And that’s why this summer’s Simply Faithful book club pick is “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” by Sharon Garlough Brown ($18, IVP Books). A friend suggested it, and I read it and fell in love.

Now, I can’t wait to discuss it with you and introduce you to the author during a Facebook chat in August.

Brown does a masterful job of introducing us to four strangers who meet at a spiritual retreat center and begin the difficult work of unmasking themselves. Hannah is a pastor on a forced sabbatical. Meg is a widow haunted by her past and struggling with an empty nest. Mara has experienced a lifetime of rejection and now is in a difficult marriage. And Charissa? She is a graduate student who desperately wants to do what is right.

They all wrestle with faith in such a true-to-life way – a way I often don’t see in Christian fiction – and that’s the real gift of this book. Brown, who has a master’s of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and is a pastor and spiritual director with the Evangelical Covenant Church, paints faith as a relationship that grows and stumbles and strengthens, as something more than merely a subplot to life.

She also weaves in scripture and spiritual practices, like walking a labyrinth and praying the examen, so readers come away with tools to draw closer to God in their own, non-fiction lives. In fact, at www.sensibleshoesclub.com Brown offers a free 80-page companion guide to the book, which essentially serves as a 12-week devotional.

In the next few weeks I’ll share more about the author and your chance to chat with her. In the meantime, what do you say? Will you join us for the Simply Faithful book club?

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