Archive for June, 2013

June 29, 2013

Our task is the opposite of distraction. Our task it to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God’s active presence in their lives. Hence the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks into the silence.

– Henri Nouwen, as quoted by Adam S. McHugh in Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, p. 151

June 18, 2013

I’ve Found a New Book to Flog

Y’all know how last year I was rather insistent on the marvelousness of Tullian Tchividijian‘s Jesus + Nothing = Everything. I believe I said something to the effect of, “If you read one book this year, let it be this book.” Right? You totally remember that. 

Well, I’m pretty sure Lauren’s 2013 Book of the Year Award will be going to Rosaria Champagne Butterfield‘s The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

Carl Trueman said this about the book:

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I do not agree with everything she says; but I did learn from everything she wrote. It deserves the widest possible readership.

It’s a pretty rare thing for someone to be able to say, about any book, “I did learn from everything she wrote.” I can only hope to one day write that sort of book. Or, heck, that sort of blog post.

Butterfield’s style is unlike that of any other writer I’ve read. She’s writing a memoir, but in a very strongly retrospective voice. We hear her thoughts from a certain time, but also her thoughts about her thoughts, and her thoughts about her thoughts later, and sometimes also her thoughts about her thoughts now. I’m not saying she’s myopic. In fact, the beauty of her story comes in part from the communities that she’s been a part of throughout. We learn a lot about people – many people – who were and are important to her. This little book covers her life from peak of her professional career as an English and Women’s Studies professor at Syracuse through last year sometime, including along the way her incredibly life-disrupting conversion to Christianity, a number of moves, a few dogs, and an incredibly fabulous use of a quote from Jane Eyre.

Incidentally, I hear this was the book that was flogged like crazy at RUF Summer Conference this year. (BEST WEEK OF YOUR LIFE! That was for all you RUFers out there.) It’s a bit heady, but not in the theological language sense; and brilliantly, it’s less than 150 pages. The way Butterfield writes practically begs you to pace yourself and be thoughtful.

There are all kinds of delicious bits, but here is my favorite (at the moment). It comes near the end:

One time, Kent [Butterfield’s husband] was filling a pulpit at a small church in a small town. These places scare me, and for good reason. Knox was asleep on my shoulder and Mary was asleep in the car seat. A man walked up to me, not knowing that I was the preacher’s wife, and said: ‘So, is it chic for white women to adopt black kids these days?’ I took a deep breath and stood up to meet his gaze.

‘Are you a Christian?’ I asked him.

‘Yes, ma’am,’ he replied.

‘Did God save you because it was chic?’ We locked eyes until he dropped his head. He stammered something unintelligible and backed away slowly, seeming to understand that even when the bear does not look like the cubs, the trauma of having one’s head ripped off by a protective mama can be bloody business.” (111-112, emphasis mine, because clearly that is the best part)

[I feel I should clarify that, in the context of the text, Butterfield clearly does not think that she is “saving” kids by adopting them. Adopting children after the same manner in which God adopts us means choosing them, not because they are going to make us “look” a certain way to others, or make us feel better about ourselves, but because of love. This is the same God who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6) – and He has principally done that in adopting His people as coheirs with Christ to join the family of the Trinity. Which – think about that for a second – is awesome and crazy and weird.]

It’s really, really good. So read it.

June 17, 2013

And she only laughed at me in that cool way of hers and said I was old fashioned. Well, I dare say I am old fashioned, but I still think I was right.

– Agatha Christie, Five Little Pigs, 93.

June 16, 2013

Hitting “Save Draft”

I have been mulling over a blog post for the last week or so. I talked it through a couple of times. I sat down to write it last night. 

It was terrible. 

I think the main problem was probably everything. The basic thesis wouldn’t fit into a sentence unless I cheated and used about 20 semicolons. The post was rambly and long and the tone was all wrong. 

Once, in my freshman seminar at Wake Forest, I wrote a paper based on a rather wild theory about The Turn of the Screw. I looked at a lot of literary criticism, and no one had put forward the theory I was working on. I knew it was a little on the atypical side of things, but I was surprised to find that I was the first person to come up with it.  I talked it over with my professor, and she thought it sounded interesting. 

“Interesting” can be a very versatile word. 

The night before the paper was due, somewhere around the actual writing of point two, I found something in the text that undermined my entire theory. Okay, so actually, it blew it to pieces.

It was about 11 pm. I decided to just finish the paper. Deadlines and all that. 

Thankfully, I haven’t had a moment like that since. But sometimes, I wish I had realized I was wrong, or not making sense, or unwise in something that I said or wrote before I couldn’t take it back. So, over the years, I have gotten quieter and quieter. (I know some of you are thinking, “Holy hand grenades, Batman, this is what she’s like QUIET?” And all I can say is, I’m afraid so, my friends.) I have held my tongue – or pen – or laptop keys. Oh, I still put my foot in my mouth. I still talk when I should shut up. I still have to apologize because I’m still saying wrong things, or saying things unkindly or inappropriately, or just flat out saying things  badly. But now sometimes I keep quiet when I should have spoken. And for a loud person, I think perhaps it’s progress that I fall off the horse on the quiet side occasionally. You know, instead of burying my feet in the loud side. Of the ground, not the horse. I mean, burying my feet in the ground, not the horse, but on the loud side of the horse. 

What horse? Never mind. 

Point is, last night when I finished that blog post, I hit “save draft” instead of publish post. And I fell asleep thinking about how glad I was that I didn’t hit “publish post.” 

The “save draft” is a good button. Thanks, WordPress. 

June 9, 2013

Who Is Red John?

I’m a big fan of The Mentalist. In the season 5 finale, we found out who’s on Jane’s list of suspects (which has been vouched for by the show’s creator, Bruno Heller). Given certain information, Jane was able to narrow the list of possibilities to seven. Here they are, along with the list of episodes each character appears in. I’ve tried googling “who is red john? episodes” and “suspected red john episodes” and all kinds of other things like that, to no avail. So although it’s way outside the normal realm of this blog, I thought I’d do a public service and post it. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming shortly.

Bret Stiles (Head of Visualize Self-Realization Church)

Season 2        Episode 20        Red All Over

Season 3        Episode 3       His Thoughts Were Red Thoughts

Season 4        Episode 16       The Blood on His Hands

Season 5        Episode 8       Red Sails in the Sunset

Gale Bertram (CBI Director)

Season 3        Episode 1                  Red Sky at Night

Episode 4                  Red Carpet Treatment

Episode 13                  Red Alert

Episode 16                  Red Queen

Episode 23                  Strawberries and Cream: Part 1

Episode 24                  Strawberries and Cream: Part 2

Season 4        Episode 1                  Scarlet Ribbons

Episode 2                  Little Red Book

Season 5        Episode 1                  The Crimson Ticket

Episode 3                  Not One Red Cent

Episode 14                  Red in Tooth and Claw

Ray Haffner (Former FBI Agent; former CBI Supervising Senior Agent; currently a private detective. Also, known Visualize member.)

Season 4       Episode 2             Little Red Book

Season 5       Episode 13            The Red Barn

 Reede Smith (FBI Agent)

Season 5       Episode 1                  The Crimson Ticket

Robert Kirkland (Homeland Security Agent)

Season 5       Episode 5       Red Dawn

Episode 7       If It Bleeds It Leads

Episode 8       Red Sails in the Sunset

Episode 16       There Will Be Blood

Episode 18       Behind the Red Curtain

Episode 19       Red Letter Day

Sheriff Thomas McAllister (Sheriff, obviously)

Season 1          Episode 2          Red Hair and Silver Tape

Brett Partridge (Forensics Tech, considered a Red John expert)

Season 1             Episode 1            Pilot

Season 2             Episode 23            Red Sky in the Morning

Season 5             Episode 15            Red Lacquer Nail Polish

Episode 22            Red John’s Rules