Thoughts from September 25-29, 2017

As many of you know, I stopped blogging two years ago, mostly because blogging consumed the time that I had for writing, and I chose to write books instead of blog posts. But I still enjoy sharing thoughts with readers in a more immediate way, so I have been using my Facebook author Page to share book recommendations, reflections on culture, stories from our family, and updates about the books I’m working on. For those of you who don’t use Facebook, or who don’t want to check the page daily, I’m going to start posting a weekly compilation of those thoughts here on my website. I hope you enjoy!

Friday, September 29, 2017

I preached a sermon on love last Sunday (I’ll share it here when the audio is available), and one passage I used comes from Ephesians 5:1-2, where Paul writes, “Be imitators of God, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love.” Impossible if we see this as something we need to do on our own. An invitation to intimacy with God if we see this as a natural reaction to spending time with Him.

Three years ago this month, my second book, Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters Most came out. I wrote about this verse in that book too:

“I begin to think that this impossible command to imitate God is really an invitation to intimacy–even to the particular intimacy of a child with a parent. The intimacy of Marilee asking me to brush her nose with powder as I put on makeup. Of William standing next to me while I wash my face, just to have his body next to mine. Of Penny starting each morning with a smile and a hug and a request to cuddle for a minute. The intimacy of my children asking me for what they need without apology because they assume that my affection and care for them will last forever, no matter what they do. The intimacy that has room for anger and sadness and laziness and mistakes. The intimacy that assumes agape, a love that never fails.”

Thursday, September 28, 2017

One of Penny’s gifts is caring for other people. She is quick to respond to anyone who is in need, whether that be through praying for them or writing them a note. She learned, for example, that friends of ours would be moving a few days ago. Two days later, with no prompting from us, she said, “Oh, Mom, I wanted to write Jack and Susan a note, just to thank them for what they’ve done for us and tell them I hope they have a good move.” I was out with Marilee all afternoon, but when I came home, sure enough there was Penny’s note to Jack and Susan as well as a get well note for my aunt who had recently had surgery.

One of my favorite notes was from last summer. Penny had been asking if we could get frozen yogurt, and I finally took them all for dessert one evening. The next morning, on my pillow, I found her words: “Dear Amy Julia, thank you for taking us to sweet frog. it was amazing. inspired. dream come true. Penny”
Amazing. Inspired. Dream come true. Penny.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

My friend Sharon Hodde Miller has written an essential and excellent book. It comes out next week, and I had the privilege of reading an early draft. I will give this book away to friends. I will recommend it to pastors, to friends, to small groups of people. The title says a lot: Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not about You. We want freedom and fulfillment and joy. We want to take care of ourselves and our families. This book explores the ironic dynamic that the more we focus on ourselves the more miserable we can become, but if we “raise our gaze” to a bigger purpose and plan it frees us to take care of ourselves, our families, participate in our communities with greater peace and joy. Sharon is smart and insightful while also writing in highly readable and accessible prose with funny and poignant stories and examples throughout. I highly recommend this book!


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Even as someone who never watches football, I’m thinking about the implications of kneeling during the national anthem these days. I love living in a country where non-violent protest is a protected form of expression. In fact, I see the act of kneeling as a tribute to the anthem itself and to the ideals we espouse as a nation, ideals that include the right of citizens to speak and act when we haven’t fully lived into our own ideals.
Two articles to recommend in thinking about what’s going on here. One from the Washington Post, in which the author compares Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow. I appreciated this article because I thought he was going to compare and contrast these two Christian football players and ultimately conclude that one expresses his faith well and the other poorly. But that’s not what this article does at all. Rather, it points out the richness and diversity of the Christian faith and talks about why the Tebows of the world need the Kaepernicks and vice versa.

(Along similar lines, I just picked up an old book by Richard Foster called Streams of Living Water, which examines the six great historical “streams” of Christianity.

For another good, if sobering, read about our cultural moment and the disruption we are experiencing as a nation, I also recommend David Brooks’ piece from today’s New York Times.

Monday, September 25, 2017

I went for a run this summer and I was struck by how many white picket fences I passed. Some were fancy, others plain. Some were well-kept, others with paint peeling. My upcoming book is titled White Picket Fences: Confessions of Privilege, and this week’s work consists entirely of finishing the final chapters and then editing the book as a whole. As I spend my week thinking about White Picket Fences, I’m curious to hear what you think of when you hear or see pictures of white picket fences. What comes to mind? Are they positive, negative? Memories of childhood? Depictions of a foreign land?

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