book club

Kicking Off An Online Book Club!

So I’m officially gonna do it! I’m starting a bi-monthly online book club – starting with some of the books I’ve been sharing about recently. I’d love for you to join! I created a Facebook group, but will also keep the blog updated as well.

It will be simple, promise! We’ll read a book every other month and then come together online to discuss. The first discussion will be in late August, discussing Just Mercy. For as much as I talk about this book 🙂, it only seems right that it be the book to kick off this book club!

I’m really excited and am looking forward to these discussions. If you think others would be interested, please feel free to invite them!

Join the FB Group Here

Ink & Willow

Introducing Ink & Willow!

YOU GUYS I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS THAT I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO USE ALL CAPS. One of my absolute favorite parts of my job is being a part of our creative team and we are officially official! We collaborate, write, create, and it’s just the best. I’ll be sharing much more often about these gifts, but if you love all things creative, be sure to follow along social media @inkandwillowgifts. Here’s some more about it:

Throughout literary history, willow trees have been symbols of growth, balance, learning, healing, and harmony. Since willows often grow near streams or rivers, the name Ink and Willow was inspired by the verse in Psalm 1 about the person who delights in God and therefore is deeply planted and able to thrive, bearing fruit and prospering through every season. The word ink has a dual meaning, first as a nod to the act and art of printing words on paper, and then, in the sense that ink symbolizes life. In combination, Ink & Willow becomes the perfect metaphor for what this thoughtfully curated line of products is designed to do, which is to inspire, nurture, and engage Christians.

The Ink & Willow line infuses contemplation and inspiration into the regular spiritual practice of creative-minded Christians, wherever they are in their faith journey. Each thoughtfully curated gift product is based in biblical truth and sparks a reminder of how God reveals beauty in the midst of our ordinary.

What’s coming this Fall? ALL KINDS OF AWESOMENESS.

Find out more about each here

Changing the World

What’s Next? Policy Change

As I’ve been posting more on social media about race in America, I’ve had people reach out asking “what do I do next? How do we fix a problem so big?” I get it! It is often overwhelming, frustrating and feels too big to attack. But change can happen! One way is for policy change and keeping people accountable.

Here’s a starting list. I encourage you to look them up, see where your cities/counties/states line up, do your own research, and hold you political leaders accountable. Please remember this list is by no means exhaustive. There’s a lot of work to be done.

POLICY CHANGE

Police Accountability and Reform

  • Look up what policies your city has enacted to help decrease police violence. You can go here to read more about policies that help decrease police violence and where your city stands. Start a conversation with your city leaders about these policies.
  • Require Implicit Bias Training for officers
  • Instate body cameras
  • Public reporting that provides an annual report, including a disparity index. Having records and tracking things like vehicles stops and arrests, along with demographic information helps to reveal disparities and can hopefully help departments address the disparities. Here’s a valuable thread to read up more.

Criminal Justice Reform

There are incredible organizations out there doing this work. Equal Justice Initiative is one of my favorites. Learn more here.

  • End putting children in adult prisons: The U.S. is the only country in the world where kids as young as 13 have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
  • Support organizations who overturn wrongful convictions
  • Abolish private prisons: We should have a prison system that is rehabilitative and restorative, not one that profits off of mass incarceration.
  • End the Death Penalty: To quote Bryan Stevenson, “The question we need to ask about the death penalty in America is not whether someone deserves to die for a crime. The question is whether we deserve to kill.” This is also tied to wrongful convictions.

VOTING

Don’t just vote in the presidential elections, but vote locally. Mayors, school board members, district attorneys, etc are all major role players in what gets passed (from police accountability to programs helping lower income kids in school). Do the research of where your candidate stands on these issues.

EDUCATION

Continue on your personal journeys. Join groups like Be the Bridge (and read the book!). Read books like Just Mercy. If you are white, see the ways you’ve benefited from white privilege, uncover implicit bias, and find ways to use your privilege to help.

Changing the World, Love and Faith

I’m Tired

Artist Link: http://www.instagram.com/shirien.creates/

May has sucked. Yes, the pandemic, but that’s not really why. It’s because racial injustice in America is having some kind of day.

Ahmaud Arbery.
Breonna Taylor.
George Floyd.

How was this all in one month? All these stories out for the world to know about in four short weeks?

Not only is it horrific, exhausting, maddening, sad, and awful, but the silence of so many, especially fellow believers, is deafening.

DEAFENING.

Not one lament.
Not one tweet.
Not even a thought or a prayer.

(Yes, I know there are people who care, who aren’t or don’t post on social media. Of course I know that.)

Yet, when the pushback came, many of these same silent people had plenty to say about the riots that broke out. No one wants riots, but what does this tell me? They care more about inanimate things than human life.

I have plenty of more thoughts on this, but I’ll stick with someone y’all may have heard of:

(Please read more about the speech here. It was given in front of a predominately white audience. You can find the full speech here)

 

Please stop asking for “more context.” Please stop the whataboutisms or black on black crime. Please stop making excuses. Please stop saying “well, I have a Black friend.” Please stop. Just stop.

Weep and mourn with your fellow brothers and sisters. Then be moved to action.

Until the hard work of looking inside and looking at the history of America and race is done, people cannot fully understand all the dynamics of the protests or the “isolated” incidents that actually happen all the time, and change will never happen. It’s not a partisan issue.

Yes, pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray. Pray God changes hearts and that people’s eyes would open. But also do the work. Hard issues will never change without people doing the hard work. MLK Jr. (who was hated when he was alive by many in the church) and so many others absolutely prayed, but they also did work.

Read books.
Watch movies.
Follow voices of people who don’t look like you.

But please stop making excuses or ignoring the truth. Humans who are made in God’s image are dying because of racism.

That alone should be reason enough to stop, listen, and learn.

 

If you are wondering where to start, here’s a list of books and movies.

Lessons From Books, Love and Faith

Living Life Without the Worry

Last year I read The Heart Between Us: Two Sisters, One Heart Transplant, and a Bucket List by Lindsay Harrel for one of my book clubs. It’s the story of a woman, who after having a heart transplant, hasn’t quite lived up to her potential. After meeting her donor’s family, she decides to set off on an adventure, finishing her donor’s bucket list. Most of the list includes travel and unexpectedly, her sister joins her on her trip.

I liked the focus on the two sisters and their relationship (and the work they have to do on their relationship), but while it may not have been the main focus of the book, there was another unexpected reminder that came from the book: how much worry can take away from living.

I had some short and random notes from reading this book in a draft, long before a pandemic took over the world and 2020 decided to act the fool. Only recently did I stumble upon them. But, how not so surprisingly, it turned out reading about worry is something I needed. Here’s the quote that stuck out from the book:

“When I worry, I am telling God I don’t trust him. I fret about things I can’t control. I used to think worry was just part of my emotional DNA, something I couldn’t change. But the Bible tells us not to worry. It’s an actual command. Your father reminded me of that. Gently, of course.” A soft laugh. “If we’re told not to worry, then there’s got to be a way to make it happen.”

How easy is it to blame our worry on it being “just who we are?” How quickly are we prone to excusing behavior instead of the hard work of changing it?

In John 14:1, Jesus speaks these words to His disciples, but they have just as much meaning to us as well: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” What is it you find yourself worrying about? What do you try to control most?

When friends from high school started planning our 20th high school reunion (it was going to be this August, but has since been postponed until next year), they created a Facebook group. There’s been plenty of chatter and it’s been fun to think about high school days and see what folks are up to. What has been incredibly sad though, is talking about all of the people we’ve lost since high school. I don’t know if there’s an average number for a school my size, but we’ve lost quite a few. Just recently someone shared about a friend who passed away the previous year. I had absolutely no idea and it was a punch to the gut. He was someone I was looking forward to catching up with.

And once again that age old reminder hit: we aren’t promised tomorrow.

So what do I have to gain by worrying? Trust me, I know it’s hard. I know parents worry about their kids until, well, their whole lives, but is it normal parent concern or unhealthy all consuming worry? If you’re single and dating (or not dating), does finding someone consume what your thoughts, what you talk about with friends? Are you dating someone just for the sake of dating, even with the red flags flying? Are you always thinking about work?

I know there are so many more examples of worry to choose from. But one I know we are all experiencing is with COVID-19 dominating the world. Do you find yourself online reading news every spare second? Hoping somewhere or someone online will make sense of all the mess?

It’s hard. I know. We worry about things we care about. There are many times when the Lord gently reminds me of when my worry starts becoming more than my faith. But hang on to the truth Jesus has left us in His Word.

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31 (ESV)

When I’m in a rut, I try to ask myself these questions: Is my worry stopping me from God’s call on my life? Is worry causing unnecessary tension in my relationships? Am I spending more time worrying about the situation than in prayer and reading the Bible? I encourage you today, to give whatever worries you might have (whether big or small) to the Lord. That’s the best place it can be.

And know I’m there right along with you.

Love and Faith, Travel Adventures

His Majesty Is Everywhere

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.”

1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

You know what I love? That there are so many places on earth where you can’t help but see God’s majesty. I’ve been thinking of past adventures (while plotting future adventures) and thought of my time in Africa. Several years ago I had the opportunity to spend time in Zambia and Botswana. After spending nearly two weeks with some amazing Zambians, I also got to spend time in Botswana on a safari.

God’s majesty was everywhere as we ventured on land and water. By no means a surprising statement, but we need those reminders often don’t we? I’d seen animals before in a zoo, but to watch a herd of zebras and giraffes roam freely in the wild revealed another level in His creativity. Whether it was making way for elephants to cross, slowly passing by hippos, watching crocodiles float lazily after a meal, or encountering beautiful sunsets, to this day I hold on to the profound ways it changed me.

I long to return. While that may or may not happen, I’m reminded I can encounter His splendor wherever I am. Whether that’s watching a Netflix documentary (some of the documentary footage is incredible) or stepping outside to watch a sunset from my porch, His splendor is everywhere and how blessed we are when we encounter it.

I encourage you today, wherever you are, to take time to see His majesty.

“Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

Psalm 104:1 (NIV)

Inklings

Where Did Narnia Come From?

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2020! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Well, we come to the end of yet another Inklings Week. I hope you have enjoyed digging in deeper into all things Lewis and Tolkien! To end the week, I thought I’d share this short piece of Lewis sharing just how he came up with the idea of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

From ON STORIES, “It All Began With a Picture…”:

The Editor has asked me to tell you how I came to write The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I will try, but you must not believe all that authors tell you about how they wrote their books. This is not because they mean to tell lies. It is because a man writing a story is too excited about the story itself to sit back and notice how he is doing it. In fact, that might stop the works; just as, if you start thinking about how you tie your tie, the next thing is that you find you can’t tie it. And afterwards, when the story is finished, he has forgotten a good deal of what writing it was like.

One thing I am sure of. All my seven Narnian books, and my three science-fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures. The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let’s try to make a story about it.’

At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why He came. But once He was there He pulled the whole story together, and soon He pulled the six other Narnian stories in after Him.

So you see that, in a sense, I know very little about how this story was born. That is, I don’t know where the pictures came from. And I don’t believe anyone knows exactly how he ‘makes things up’. Making up is a very mysterious thing. When you ‘have an idea’ could you tell anyone exactly how you thought of it?

Thanks again for joining this year’s fun! Until next year – Happy Inklings reading!

Inklings

Counting the Cost: A Look at C.S. Lewis’ Call in Mere Christianity

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2020! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Today I thought I would share a bit from Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis talks about “Counting the Cost.” I highly recommend reading the whole chapter (and well, the whole book too), but since I can’t just copy all of it here #copyrightlaws, I wanted to share a short bit.

After digging into why we, as humans, settle for the “easy” Christian life, Lewis points out that when we do we miss out. God has much bigger plans than we can even think of, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to get there.

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted Him to do, and we should be obliged if He would now leave us alone. As we say, ‘I never expected to be a saint, I only wanted to be a decent ordinary chap.’ And we imagine when we say this that we are being humble.

But this is a fatal mistake, of course we never wanted, never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. He is the inventor, we are only the machine. He is the painter, we are only the picture…We may be content to remain what we call ‘ordinary people’: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is no conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.

Thought-provoking and convicting all at the same time! Have you read Mere Christianity? Do you have a favorite section?

Inklings

What Would Characters in These Books Read in Their Universes? | Guest Post by Wesley of Library Educated

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2020! You can find all the posts here. Be sure to also follow the International Inklings Instagram account here. Hope you enjoy!)

Joining us today is the fabulous Wesley from Library Educated! If you don’t follow her already, be sure to for all kinds of fabulous book recommendations!

When Jamie asked me to be a part of Inklings Week I said of course, I am all for celebrating these fantastic books and authors! And then I somehow (honestly I don’t know how my brain is functioning these days) got to thinking “what would characters in these books read in their universes?” Some of these books you can read along with them….and a few of them I just think they might need.

Susan Pevensie – Susan Pevensie, the voice of reason and calm in a topsy turvy world. She’s a young woman who finds herself in a weird position. I bet these books are on her nightstand if they have nightstands in Narnia at Casa Cair Paravel or back home in England.

Samwise Gamgee – he’s just a small town hobbit gardner who suddenly gets whisked away from his cozy life in the Shire and onto quite the adventure. Samwise was not prepared for what he was getting into (though who was?) so we might need to give him some tools.

I’m assuming Talking to Crazy works on Gollum even if he’s not exactly people anymore.
All of the hobbits can share Your Life After Trauma actually

Eustace Scrubb – oh my gosh, Eustace the boy who was so awful he almost deserved his awful name. It took a lot, like so incredibly much, to get Eustace from the most awful little boy to a young man who worked hard to improve his character. There are several books for that.

Éowyn – sweetheart, caregiver, witch-king slayer, Éowyn is versatile and awesome. I bet she knows that as long as we have books we will never feel caged, so I want her to read these books that will make her feel supported and confident!