Friday, March 27, 2015

South Carolina Food Taste Test

...In which several West Coast people--people like me--sample South Carolina delicacies for the first time. Shrimp and grits, boiled peanuts, or spicy ginger ale might be a little uncommon. At least I've never tried them before. But where did they find Californians who haven't had sweet tea?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Smiles in the Aisles

When I went on a company-sponsored cruise a few years ago, I was dismayed by the pressure to be pleased at all times. Am intrigued by the idea that happiness is something you can engineer, cajole, produce, or mandate.

It seems that part of offering great service is telling people you’re offering great service. That’s like persuading people to like you by telling them how much they like you. Amazing how often this works (though, silly me, I want to reserve the right to come to my own conclusion).

On a flight home from Orlando I noticed (and yes, smiled) at Delta Airlines’ boast of “75 years of smiles in the aisles.”

Is labeling the java “great coffee” supposed to set people up to enjoy it more? Does it work? 

Thursday, March 05, 2015


OK... so blogging is hard to fit in these days. February was another month of publishing 40,000+ words elsewhere, and both February and March have had a sometimes frenzied load of travel and teaching. I meant to at least get a newsletter out before it began but settled for a frantic-sounding one, midstream, a few days ago.

Perspicacious readers should be able to tell that I need more time to sit still and ponder, but that's not going to happen just yet. I get back home from my last trip on March 21, but will probably be behind on my graduate school studies by then and have to scramble to catch up.

Of course, each of these activities has a sweetness of its own and can be very rewarding. That's part of why I do them. But the adrenaline from these events, increased by doing them all at the same time, is a dangerous addiction. Both Hubs and I are prone to this pattern. So the days one of us wants to just chill out are often ones when the other wants to be productive and has a long to-do list. I don't see us getting a consistent weekly sabbath until school is out.

I wonder if we can schedule a spring "break" to disrupt this cycle? Maybe around Easter?

If you haven't seen that frantic newsletter (and want to), take a look.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

I might blog. I might not.

I'd like to blog more just like I'd like to read more. In both cases, the old habits suffer from too much competition. I'm spending my words elsewhere. Decided to keep track of the bigger chunks for a bit. My records show I wrote/edited about 30,000 words in November, 50,000 in December, and 40,000 in January. I started counting because I had friends doing National Novel Writing Month (with its 50,000 word goal) and I wondered how my own capacity might compare. Now that I've got a read on that I'm not sure I'll keep counting.

Up next? Travel-and-teaching season. I'm scheduled to teach eight classes or workshops in various cities across Oregon and Washington over a period of 3-4 weeks this spring, and following that, will make one of my semi-annual business trips to Florida.

In light of this schedule, I'm leaving the door open: I might blog while I'm on the road. But in case I don't, I'll try to schedule some reruns of favorite posts and topics from the 8+ years of Telling Secrets. Diving into the archives from time to time reminds me where I've come from and helps me reconnect with ideas I still find interesting or helpful. I hope they'll interest you, too.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

Women in Missions: William Carey's Praying Sister

It's been many months since my last entry in the series of accounts and reflections on women in missions, but just came across something good I want to share with others who are interested in this kind of thing. This comes from Joni Eareckson Tada. I'll have to do some more digging to find the original source material.
"While he labored in the distant land of India, back in England, William Carey had a sister whom he affectionately called Polly – Polly was bedridden and almost completely paralyzed for 52 years. William wrote to Polly all about the details of his struggle to create primers and dictionaries in the various Indian dialects, as well as the difficulty of figuring out how to get these books typed and printed. And with every letter from William that she received, Polly lifted these needs up before the Throne. Every day for 52 years, she faithfully prayed for her brother.

"Now I don’t have to tell you that really inspired me. There she is Polly for all intents and purposes a quadriplegic, unable to walk or use her hands. But that didn’t paralyze her prayer life. And, oh, were William Carey’s efforts blessed by God – not only was India reached for Christ, but what he did became a model for modern missionaries even to this day… all because a paralyzed woman prayed.
"A lot of people know about the work of William Carey, but not many people know about the sister behind the scenes whose prayers guaranteed the success of his efforts. Polly’s testimony tells me that the life of any Christian can have huge repercussions for the kingdom. Think of it: if God can use bedridden quadriplegics to open doors to the Gospel around the world, what can He do through your prayers?! Little wonder the Bible says, 'Pray without ceasing.' … for God knows what great things are accomplished when people pray."

» Read more.

Teaching on Women in Missions

I need to brush up on this topic in preparation for teaching Perspectives classes this spring. One of the lessons I regularly teach is built around four men who are held us as "pioneers" of new ways of doing mission: William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Cameron Townsend, and Donald McGavran. Since all four men were married (Carey had three wives and Taylor and Townsend each had two), it's a cinch to fold in content about the eight women, and hard to resist adding in a few more women who were a significant part of their ministry teams.

I think it's important not to wave the "girl power" flag too briskly. It's too easy to send out a male-bashing message, and we certainly need more men who are willing to serve in missions even though they long been outnumbered by the women. Yet mission history is still typically written and taught with a focus on men, and the women's stories ought to be told as well.

For anyone who teaches this lesson and wants some ideas, here are a few of the women whose contributions I highlight. I've also blogged about some of them here, it's easy to find more material online, and I'm happy to share my teaching notes.
  • William Carey: wives Dorothy, Charlotte, and Grace; teammate Hannah Marshman
  • Hudson Taylor: mother Amelia, wives Maria and Jennie, teammate Emily, sister Amelia
  • Cameron Townsend: wives Elvira and Elaine, niece Evelyn, the anonymous woman who told him he'd be a coward for going to war and leaving the women to carry out missions, and the teams of single women he sent out like Loretta Anderson and Doris Cox. 
  • Others: If there's time I usually fold in stories about Mary Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Ann Judson, Isabel Kuhn, Lottie Moon (and her sister who was a physician in the Middle East), and the women's societies formed to support missionaries and send out single women.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Anticipating Apartment Life

It's been nearly 20 years now since I moved from my last apartment into a small house in the Denver suburbs, rented from a friend and shared with a roommate or two, and featuring a two-car garage, white picket fence, and a dog. A yes, a little bit of the American dream. Lived there until my move into fairly similar digs in Oregon at the end of 2011.

The move to Oregon was fairly wrenching since it required sorting through everything and putting most of my stuff in storage, saying goodbye to a lot of friends and a great church where I was known and loved, moving in with strangers, and six months later setting up housekeeping with an actual husband and a couple of teenaged kids who had their own stuff and ideas about how to live and keep house. Moving, marriage, and step-parenting quickly revealed how little my efforts to avoid becoming an inflexible and eccentric old maid had succeeded!

So it is with some trepidation that I now consider our next step, which this time involves a 3000-mile cross-country summer drive to a different part of the U.S. It means saying goodbye to our first home together and moving into a furnished two-bedroom apartment much like the one I left when I upgraded to a "real house" in my twenties.

Chris starts his new job around September 1, and my classes start the third week of August. In terms of the job, it's a big step forward, but in terms of our standard of living, well, it will be a campus apartment. We'll be surrounded mostly by other young marrieds, many a couple decades younger than we are.That's going to be a change.

By global standards, we'll continue to live a life of plenty and privilege. Almost 900 square feet just for the two of us? Should be plenty, right?

I wonder: Have a couple years of marriage since the last move made me more pliable? Or has the continued aging made me less so? I hope it's the former. I feel more secure now than I did then, and therefore ready to say goodbye to some of the stuff and way of life I clung to so hard when I moved to Oregon.

Those Caleb Project files boxed up in the attic? I really don't need them anymore. I can let go. The books? I don't have to keep them all, either. If Chris can give up his moped and barbecue grill, well, the couple pieces of furniture from my childhood home which I went to great effort to move to Colorado and then to Oregon may finally be garage-saled, too. It's not worth it to get a moving truck at this point, not with a furnished apartment. Since Chris's folks have offered us space in their attic, we may not need a storage unit either. If everything comes through on the rental, we'll sell what can't go in the attic and travel through life a little lighter. Since "settling down" and buying a house are at least a few years in the future, living with less is the only wise thing to do.

I'm not the only who has attachment issues to work through, though. Our son is dismayed to see the two big recliners from which he's watched hours of television (and fallen asleep doing homework) are both on the got-to-go list. Sorry, kiddo!

Friday, January 09, 2015

"God had better start treating me fair"

This comment, from someone named Lyle, was posted through the Q&A forum on a website I help manage:

"If god wants me to start going back to church, he had better start treating me fair"

It's been haunting me ever since I read it.

If it's true, as A.W. Tozer once said, that the most important thing about us is what we think God is like, what about this perception so many have that God is wronging us, that God, if there is a God, is clearly giving us so much less than we deserve, that God is cruel or deeply unfair? Sounds like a monster, not a God. How could you embrace, love, and worship such a God?

Yet many do not seem to get past this trap, believing that they could only worship a God who was much better than the only God they can imagine must exist based on all the trouble in their hearts and in the world. Of course, looking to our own imagination as a reliable source of what God is like is not the only option, but so many seem to start there and can't get past the obstacles they find.

I heard something similar from a friend who is trying to figure out if there's a way to rediscover and reclaim the faith of her childhood after having walked away from it some years ago. As a young adult she just couldn't keep believing in or trusting the Christian God whom she saw doing things like letting little kids get leukemia and die. Years later, she's still struggling with much the same thing. How can God let her suffer like she has been suffering lately? Why is God making her and her family go through all this pain and torture? She's prayed and found it doesn't "work." God does not do what she's begged him to do. Her problems - and they are serious ones - have not gone away.

Well, there are worse places to go with your anger and disappointment at God than to talk to people who love God, or even talk to God himself about how angry you are. He can take it.

I want to comfort my friend in her struggle and not push religious or trite answers on her, but she's practically begging for answers, and certainly a part of her suffering is with the sense she has that God himself has let her down. So perhaps the kindest thing I could do for her, along with just listening to and loving her, would be to tell her or show her how she's got God wrong. I want to tell her he's not like that, not at all like that.

Doesn't she see - doesn't my online commenter see - that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love? That we, who were made for a purpose, for relationship with him, reject him at nearly every turn and yet he pursues us, and showers us with blessings whether we respond to him or not? That the existence of evil and pain in the world does not mean God himself is evil and the source of pain? 
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
“For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.”

– A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961), 1.