750,000 Words

There’s a saying in publishing that writers should take to heart: Edit to amplify. Editing is hard work, but it makes all the difference in the world. Too many unnecessary words dilute the message and cloud the story. As Mark Twain famously said to a friend, “I would have written you a short letter, but I didn’t have time, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

There’s no one who exemplifies the power of crisp editing better than God, the world’s all-time bestselling author. His written word, known by modern readers as the Bible, clocks in at an efficient 750,000 words.

You may be rolling your eyes at that number, thinking that three-quarters of a million is a lot of words. If so, consider this. William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets total 960,000 words. The Harry Potter books come in at just over a million. As Jon Bloom observed in his blog, “Numbers like these simply make us pause and wonder over God’s written word economy.

continue reading

Unlike Other People

In recent years much has been marked by many debates in Congress, increasing campaigns by Presidential hopefuls, and a vast array of movies characterized by special effects. We have also seen the passing of influencers and among them is John Stott, whose influence has been profound and whose example is inviting and intimidating at the same time.

Let me give a personal note. In the early 1990’s I heard John Stott preach at All Souls in London. I was a college student and the impact was enormous. I was new to the Christian faith and seeking like mad for knowledge and understanding. After the message, I promptly visited the bookstall, purchased ‘Basic Christianity’ by Stott and read it until the binding failed. Over ten years later, I helped lead a group of high school students to London and I brought them to All Souls for worship on the Sunday morning we were in the city.

Peace in Place of Performance

Culture demands conformity to a never satisfied machine while God imparts peace in place of performance.

The pressure is on isn’t it? Pressure to be all things to all people and to do all things for all people.

I hear momma’s everywhere singing an amen chorus in unison. We feel it right; intangible need to be at the top of our game in every area of life?

The expectation society places on women – well okay then - women place on women, has created a pressure cooker on the verge of imploding. The current of performance driven culture makes me nauseous.

When my husband Martial and I were first married about 8 years ago, I placed this crazy expectation upon myself to master domestic duties like it was nobody’s business. I threw myself into my job, working hard to earn more so we could reach some imaginary financial status we hadn’t even defined. I came home tired and wanting to rest, but the expectations to be the perfect home maker got to me and I’d spend an hour or two every night struggling in the kitchen to cook a meal we could stomach.

When our son Justice made his life debut, life got real, real fast. I was still working full-time, still struggling in the kitchen and on top of being wife of the year, now I had to be the mom of the year too.

The summer when Justice was one, I took him to swim class every week because that’s what you do with your baby in the summer right? It was such a challenge to sneak out of work early, race home, grab my son and his swim gear and get to class on time just so he could splash around and sing the wheels on the bus. We’d race back home, he’d eat a bar and some crackers on the way (the dinner of champions I know) and again I’d struggle to cook something worth eating. On those nights, Justice could barely keep his sleepy eyes open long enough to eat.  It was exhausting and I felt awful watching him struggle to eat, bathe and get to bed before he was beyond tired (and nobody wants to go there with toddlers, am I right or am I right?).

I don’t remember when it was I finally imploded and complained to my husband about never meeting the expectation to be wife and mom of the year and the frustration and exhaustion I felt as a result. I can however, assure you it was not one of my more becoming moments.

Have you been there? Maybe the pressure cooker you find yourself in looks different than mine but we all feel pressure to be and do more than we are and are capable of right?

I distinctly remember my husband graciously telling me he didn’t expect me to be wife and mom of the year. Sure, a nice home cooked meal is great, but if it caused me to feel depleted, I didn’t need to stress over it. We could figure out a new routine that didn’t cause me so much angst. I began to realize I set the bar high for myself based on what I thought he – and the rest of the world – expected of me. I had created these crazy expectations of myself I could never keep which only caused me to constantly feel like a disappointment and a failure.

See what I did there? I set an unrealistic expectation upon myself and when I couldn’t meet it, I labeled myself a domestic failure.

Lysa TerKeurst, - she’s so wise - talks about how easy it is for a line to turn into a lie to turn into a label that becomes a liability.

The line I heard was I needed to be a domestic goddess. After a treadmill marathon, accomplishing nothing but exhaustion and frustration, the line turned into a lie I bought into, seeking approval from my husband for an expectation I had placed upon myself without him even knowing. Because I couldn’t keep the pace, I labeled myself a failure. Had I kept running at this pace, burnout was inevitable. Insert ugly liabilities. Had the unrealistic expectation not been revealed and dealt with, it could have caused serious damage to my relationship with my husband and my son, and maybe even those around me outside our home.

There is a cultural shift taking place and more and more women are talking about the pressure cooker and beginning to release the valve. Thank goodness!

Last year, the very funny Jen Hatmaker released For the Love. The book opens with Jen admitting she has a ton of help caring for her family of 7 along with all her other responsibilities. It does really take a village to raise children. We cannot do it alone, nor were we meant to.

And the fabulous Shauna Niequist released Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Life.

I’ll trade in my frantic for simple and soulful any day! Can I get a witness?

I’ve shared some of my frantic with you. What’s your frantic and where do you need simplicity and a refueled soul?

This past summer I didn’t take Justice to swim lessons. I just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. And this time around, I wasn’t interested in futile attempts to conform our lives and what works best for our family into a schedule that just didn’t work for us.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve discovered crockpot meals - genius - and preparing meals ahead of time which has saved me hours during the week. I have more time to spend with my family and a lot less unnecessary stress.

I have learned to identify our families values and more importantly, to hold these values at higher esteem than societal or self-inflicted expectations. Sometimes this means we don’t take swim lessons right now and I don’t cook dinner every night. Sometimes it means I order pizza. Gasp! I know! The horror! And guess what? We’re still alive! As it turns out, Justice and my husband love pizza. #winning

What are your non-negotiables? What values are worth more to you than your own expectations?

Because here’s the thing, when I read about the character of God in the Bible, I read a very different story of grace and rest and peace than the story I was writing for myself.

In his book, Barefoot Church, author Brandon Hatmaker says, "Being at peace with God means we can take a breath, relax, and stop performing." 

The Bible is the story of God with the main character entering the scene as a baby. And what I learn about this unexplainable God in reading His story is He is the God who created life and delighted in it by resting with it. Even going so far in His relentless pursuit to be with His beloved children He became a little baby and babies rest a lot.

It’s no surprise then that the most restful, peaceful, delightful part of my day, is spending time with my son Justice reading and playing while a prepped ahead meal cooks or bakes away in the kitchen.

My biggest non-negotiable is my tribe before all. And for me, I am most prepared to love and to give my family the best of me, when I am in a position to be loved and to find my worth, label and peace in the One who made me to rest with Him.

Here’s my charge to you. Read and rest in the passage below. It’s Gods’ story told so you would know and live your life resting in His unwavering love and adoration of you. His love does not deplete, not exhaust, not expire. His love fuels and empowers and uplifts.

As you read, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does this passage say about the character of God?
  2. What does this passage mean?
  3. How does this passage relate to the larger story of God told throughout the Bible?
  4. How does this passage affect my life?
continue reading

Paul Can't Keep a Secret and Neither Can I

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Q&A With Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi is the New York Times bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. He holds a D.Phil from Oxford University and has been featured in countless media outlets, including Fox News, Christianity Today, and USA Today. Qureshi has studied with some of the foremost scholars in religion in the halls of Oxford and Duke University. He saw the need for an accessible yet intelligent book comparing the world's two largest religions--Islam and Christianity--and now he has developed a resource to meet that need. His newest book is No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Zondervan) examines the fundamental similarities and critical differences between these two world religions. This is Part One of a two-part interview.

continue reading

No God But One

Nabeel Qureshi’s 2014 memoir, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, described his heart journey from Islam to Christianity and became a New York Times bestseller.

Now he recounts his intellectual and theological journey in the follow-up book entitled, No God but One: Allah or Jesus? (Zondervan).

Qureshi details how an analysis of the history and theology of Christianity and Islam reveals stark differences between the world’s two largest religions.

continue reading

Play With Fire: Interview with Author Bianca Juarez Olthoff

This summer has been an amazing one for new book releases. I got my hands on a pre-released copy of Play With Fire and was both encouraged and inspired by author Bianca Juarez Oltoff’s story of transformation by fire. We all experience trials and endure circumstances we wish we could escape. Bianca went through her own fires and discovered refinement, passion and a loving God in the midst of the flames. If you missed my full review of the book, you can check it out here.

Last week I spoke with Bianca about her debut book Play With Fire. We also talked about the A21 Campaign, Propel Women and of course Adele. "Hello..........."

Check it out below and be sure and order your copy of Play With Fire today while it's hot off the press!

Bianca, you travel the world teaching and speaking for the A21 Campaign and for Propel Women. What do you love the most about your work and what are you looking forward to in the months and year ahead?

I’m really excited because this is the year we have had the most amount of rescues in A21 history. I am excited to know we aren’t slowing down, we are taking ground. And that comes with a cost. There are a lot of sacrifices our team has made but we are very excited about the men, women and children we get to rescue out of slavery!  We have a lot of great things on the horizon with Propel Women. We have launched curriculum that can be used in a church, home or office space. We have a couple groups from google who are meeting. We have a group from Chick-fil-A who meet online. They post a video online and all get together on google hang out to discuss the topics on hand. What we’re really excited about is there are so many great Bible resources for women, but what about the practical side of things? There’s always a layer of Biblical foundation of course, but we really want to go after the heart of what are some of the felt needs women are facing today? And so our first curriculum on personal leadership, is dealing with issues regarding balance, prayer life, conflict, personal dreams, goals, etc. Those are topics people are really excited to open up and discuss. We just released our 3rd edition of the curriculum last week. We also have several events coming up on the horizon this upcoming year. It’s definitely a full schedule.

What prompted you to write Play With Fire and what is your hope for all who read it?

I wrote Play With Fire out of my desire to see those who feel their faith is nothing but an ember, to see that ember erupt into a huge flame. And for those who feel as if they are living a half-baked Christian life believing and thinking there is more to life that God has for them but just not knowing what that is. My hope is that this book gets into the hands of people who feel like they want the Holy Spirit to radically change their life and that is what this is birthed out of. Fire is symbolic of danger but fire can also be symbolic of transformation and that’s worth going after. I want people to know that trials and tribulations that seem like they are going to destroy them are actually the places where they discover the presence of God.

In Play With Fire you share about a couple individuals from your childhood and young adulthood who had profound influence on you and helped shape your perspective of God. What are some of the markers of a Godly mentor or influencer?

I think there is a level of humility and accepting and acknowledging what you don’t know that I’m attracted to. The people who have made the most profound influence on my life have been people who just simply found a place to discover who Jesus is, just the tip of who Jesus is, who God is. I’m attracted to humility and hunger. Those are the two values I look for in people I want to follow and learn from.

How can we encourage loved ones who feel as if they are walking through their fire today?

I love when we come alongside and just be in the pain with people. Sometimes we don’t need a Biblical prescription, sometimes we just need community. Like when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t turn to Peter, James and John and say, please quote the Torah to me. He said please pray with me. Stay awake with me. I think sometimes we underestimate the value of the ministry of just being present and standing with people during trials and tribulations. And then the other thing is, once they know their friends are willing to stand with them, look for those windows to hold onto the promises of God. There are times you remain silent and just bear the pain and there are other times we speak boldly and declare the promises of God. We remind them of who God has called them to be. We remind them of the plans God has for them and we remind them that our God is faithful. So presence and promises are powerful in standing with someone who is going through the fire.

In Play With Fire you talk about worship in the wilderness. You describe a turning point when your prayers changed from crying about your circumstances to crying out to God, the One who could meet you in your circumstances. How important was this shift for discovering fierce faith, unquenchable passion and a life-giving God?

Throughout scripture there is power in crying out. We see it in the life of David and we see Paul cry out to God as Abba father. We see this phrase of crying out in Isaiah and throughout Jeremiah. I think it’s healthy to cry out to God but we have to be careful our crying doesn’t become complaining. And when we are going through these proverbial deserts or seasons, it’s very easy to cry out but if there isn’t response, crying can easily turn into complaining. When we are angry with God and angry at the situation we become bitter buddies, just frustrated with life and we start doubting the goodness of God like the Israelites did. They let their forgetfulness affect their faithfulness. They forgot their faithful God took them out of slavery. They forgot their faithful God promised them there is a promised land for them. And when we go through those seasons, we have got to talk ourselves straight. Talk ourselves into believing, wait a minute, I know who I am, I know whose I am, I know what I am called to, and nothing is going to thwart this. I have to hold onto the promises of God because even though this is not a good situation, I know that all things work for good. And I may not see it today, I may not see it tomorrow, I may not see it this side of heaven but I know that God is going to redeem this situation.

What are you currently reading and what music do you have on repeat right now?

continue reading

Dear President Obama and Anyone Else Wanting to be President

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Obama (and any candidate who will listen):

Mr. President, I don’t mean to be impersonal in penmanship or in greeting. First, my handwriting isn’t going to win any awards and secondly, when I voted for you, you were still Mr. and Mrs. Obama, a couple who understands that family life takes work and that the American life also takes work.

I am writing to encourage you and for two additional reasons. First, you don’t need another critic. In fact, criticism is not what I learned from my community as a value in civic duty. Secondly, I want your help.  Let me set the context a bit. I too am from Illinois and I have a graduate degree in education from the University of Illinois. I have worked in faith based relief organizations for most of the past decade and took quite a bit of slack from fellow evangelicals for supporting you in 2008.  To me, the evangelical camp has become far too politicized in its efforts at social change and has sent its share of mixed messages recently in its political activity. In fairness, both parties have their sincere flaws. I don't think that that is news to anyone. My commitment is to follow God, conscience, and country in that order and I feel blessed to do so because our own Bill of Rights supports such convictions. I resonate with what you and Michelle highlighted in your recent speeches at the DNC, though I am white and yes, my real name is Bo. And yes, if you google my name pictures of your dog come up first. Thanks for that! But, let me explain why I am writing and why I am asking for your help.

continue reading
Tags | Global | economy | faith | global
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Get the latest updates on relevant news topics, engaging blogs and new site features. We're not annoying about it, so don't worry.

Warning: Table 'watchdog' was not locked with LOCK TABLES query: INSERT INTO watchdog (uid, type, message, severity, link, location, referer, hostname, timestamp) VALUES (0, 'php', '<em>Duplicate entry &amp;#039;cron_last&amp;#039; for key &amp;#039;PRIMARY&amp;#039;\nquery: INSERT INTO variable (name, value) VALUES (&amp;#039;cron_last&amp;#039;, &amp;#039;i:1519360293;&amp;#039;)</em> in <em>/home/conadmi1/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc</em> on line <em>172</em>.', 2, '', 'http://www.conversantlife.com/topics2?page=8', '', '', 1519360293) in /home/conadmi1/public_html/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 172