1. the Germanwings plane crash and the goodness of God

    Whenever a plane goes down, there is inevitably a news story about the people who were supposed to be on the plane but weren’t — either because their alarm didn’t go off or there was a traffic jam or they switched travel plans at the last minute.

    Yesterday was no exception.  Amidst the horrifying reports of a plane dropping altitude over the Alps and then crashing into the mountain with 150 people on board, there was the story of a soccer team who changed their travel plans because they decided the layover in Dusseldorf was too long.

    The New York Daily News headline reads that a Swedish soccer team was, “Saved By Last-Minute Plane Switch.” 

    When we hear stories like that, us Christians tend to say, “Wow! Isn’t God good!?”

    Read more →

  2. video blog: what’s the difference between a big life and a good life?

    After I spoke at an event, a girl came up to the book-signing table afterwards and told me she works a minimum-wage job and lives with her grandparents to support them.  She said, “I know I’m doing what God wants me to do, but it’s not a very big life.”  Here’s what I told her….

  3. video blog: living life in the spaces

    Hello, friends! I’m in the San Juan Islands on a 10-day writing retreat.  I wanted to keep the blog going, but after spending all day writing on my laptop, I’m tired of looking at a screen, so I thought I’d post some video blogs this week.

    First up: I met the Invisible Girls on the train in Portland more than 4 years ago.  Even though I’ve ridden the train dozens of times since then, nothing like that has happened to me since — and what if nothing like that story ever happens to me again?

    How do you live life in the spaces in between events and miracles and epic stories?

  4. ALOOF: figuring out life with a God who hides (an interview with tony kriz)

    Tony Kriz is one of my favorite Portland people.  I knew of him through his writing, and I knew he was “Tony the Beat Poet” from Donald Miller’s NYT-bestselling book Blue Like Jazz, but I had never met him until my memoir The Invisible Girls launched.

    A church in downtown Portland hosted a book reading for me, and while I was talking about the book, Tony walked in.  He’d never met me, but he’d come to support a fellow Portland author.  It’s a gesture of kindness I won’t soon forget.

    Tony’s latest book is called ALOOF: Figuring Out Life With A God Who Hides.  Recently I had the chance to sit down with him and ask him some questions about it.

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  5. the grand paradox: an interview with ken wytsma

    Ken Wytsma is the founder of The Justice Conference, a pastor, and the president of Kilns College in Bend, Oregon.  Recently I had the chance to talk with him about his latest book, The Grand Parodox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God, and the Necessity of Faith.

    ST:  Why  did you decide to write The Grand Paradox?

    KW: The Grand Paradox was an attempt to address the tension we feel in life when we realize life is messy (messier than we think it should be) and God is mysterious (less clear and forthright than we think he should be). That tension is the life of faith—the walk where we choose to obey and follow despite lack of clarity, presence of suffering or experience of doubt and dark nights.   I loved the exercise of tackling most of the deep questions we wrestle with regarding Christian faith and arriving with a God-centered and joy filled answer: that faith, hope and love are possible even in the mess and in the mystery.

  6. simon says

    Every year when Lent rolls around, I anticipate Easter, but I dread the six weeks in between — weeks that feel more like deprivation than anticipation. I solemnly put ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday, and then decide to fast from something for 40 days.

    To me, Ash Wednesday feels like Groundhog’s Day, if the Groundhog always saw its shadow and there was always 6 more weeks of winter to dread.

    This year as Lent arrived, I was thinking of what I wanted to give up for 6 weeks. As I contemplated how Lent inevitably ends — with the crucifixion of Jesus that we’ll observe on Good Friday — I thought about that sacred story, and I remembered a character from that narrative who doesn’t get much attention. Simon of Cyrene.

    When I was growing up in Sunday School, we used to talk about the only two things God can’t do: God can’t sin, and God can’t make a rock so big He can’t move it.

    When Jesus arrived on earth, the incarnation of the Divine in a physical form, there was something else he couldn’t do: he couldn’t carry his cross all the way up the steep Golgatha hill. So the Roman soldiers picked Simon out of the crowd and made him carry the cross.

    This year, I’ve been thinking not only about giving something up, but about helping someone else carry their load.

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  7. life on the line

    For the last six weeks I’ve been writing about singleness.  I’ve been asking questions like, Why is it hard to be single?  What unique opportunities does singleness provide?  How can friends, family and church communities better understand their single friends?

    As I’ve explored these questions, I’ve come to believe that one of the reasons why singleness is problematic is because we frame it in two ways that are vastly unhelpful.

    First, some people approach singleness with sass, as if singleness is a license for unbridled hedonism.  If you’re not attached to anyone, why not play the field, spend your discretionary income on whatever you want, and take advantage of not having to commit to anything or anyone?

    Second, others approach singleness with sadness, taking a woe-is-me attitude, focusing on how unfair it is that other people get to be married while single people are left out like the cheese that stands alone at the end of Farmer in the Dell.  

    Both the sassy and the sad approaches are problematic for the same reason: they are egocentric, focused on what you have (or don’t have), what you need and what you want.  

    Read more →

  8. Saint Valentine Was Single: A Double-Dog Valentine’s Day Dare

    Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, who was martyred in 270 A.D. for refusing to renounce his faith.

    How we came to celebrate a day named after him by giving chocolate and lingerie, I will never understand. Honestly, it seems a little sacrilegious. But here we are, T-minus 2 days until Valentine’s Day.

    If hearing those words just made your heart sink, this piece is for you.

    It’s for you, the woman whose husband never remembers the day until you remind him.

    It’s for you, the person who just went through a painful break-up, who is nauseated by the sight of couples in love.

    It’s for you, the woman whose boyfriend has lots of good qualities — but buying creative presents is not one of them. So you’ll be getting blue carnations and a cheesy card. Again. For the third year in a row.

    It’s for you, the single person who hasn’t had a date on Valentine’s Day in years.

    It’s for anyone who feels left out, discouraged, rejected, overlooked, abandoned or neglected.

    Why does the day make some of us (maybe most of us?) feel so badly about ourselves?

    Because we’ve come to use the day as a litmus test to evalulate our worth. We ask ourselves these two questions: Am I romantically loved by someone? And if so, how much?

    Then we assign ourselves value depending on the answers.

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  9. singleness is not solitary confinement

    I had a friend in high school who decided to major in Liberal Studies because it was an “unusable” degree (basically, you take a few classes in every subject, which doesn’t make you qualified for any specific vocation), so when she met her husband, she wouldn’t be “tempted” to pursue a career instead of marriage.

    It’s an extreme example, but many single women do a similar, albeit more subtle, thing. It’s as if we only have one commitment card, and we’re saving it for marriage.

    So for now, until we meet our future spouse, we won’t commit to anything else. Because if we did commit to, let’s say, a career path or a graduate degree or a few months of travel, somehow that would exclude our ability to have a relationship with a guy.

    This is a problem. A big, big problem. Here’s why.

    1) It makes you put your life on hold

    I thought I was going to get married when I was 27, because a guy I loved and had dated for several years called my dad and asked if he could marry me. And then, during the course of my cancer treatments, the guy bailed and I ended up single.

    I’m 36 now. If I had put my life on hold and waited for another guy to come along and propose, I would have missed so many amazing things that have happened over the past 9 years. These are just a few of them — I moved from New England to the west coast. I switched career paths. I wrote a book. I traveled to 10 new countries and dozens of states. I “adopted” a family of Somali refugees, and I travel and speak about them a few times a month. I went camping in the wilderness by myself (which I don’t necessarily recommend, I’m just saying that I did it.)

    If you’re still single in five or ten years, I guarantee that you will look back on those years and have regrets for everything you could’ve done but didn’t because you were in a holdling pattern, waiting to meet a guy before your adventure could begin.

    Read more →

  10. if singleness is necessity, what’s your invention?

    If you are reading this blog post and you’re single, here’s the first choice you have to make as you move forward in your life: will you let the absence of a partner drive you to inertia and bitterness, or will you embrace this seeming limitation and let it open up new avenues of creativity and service?

    Here’s the deal. Almost every invention we have today exists because someone needed something they couldn’t find. Benjamin Franklin wanted to understand and use electicity, but no one had figured it out yet. The Wright brothers wanted to fly like birds could, but how could a human being aviate like that? The list of people like them is endless — Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Booker T. Washington, Guttenberg, Eli Whitney………

    Read more →

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