Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Winsome Wednesday 12.30.15

From where I'm typing (Chicago) the weather outside is frightful and I tend toward gloomy moods on dreary days. Here's a little truth, beauty and authenticity this week to fuel prayers and action:

Philippians 4:8 MSG
"Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse."  

The Brilliance performs "Brother" 

This video just moved me to tears when I first listened to it. I've already shared it on Facebook, but it's so lovely and timely I'm gonna share it again. I heard Jesus in these lyrics.

Itty Bitty Beauty
Beautiful and tiny painted lockets, dubbed "daydreams in a nutshell" by artist Khara Ledonne. View her Etsy Shop or this little video about her process. After being deluged over the holidays, she's temporarily closed the shop to restock. When she reopens, I'm thinking a custom locket with a meaningful scene might be an interesting way to focus prayer. 

Helping Homeless Help Others
"We don't need coats, we need jobs!" Hearing these desperate, angry words inspired college student Veronika Scott to create a business that hires the homeless to sew innovative coats that turn into sleeping bags. I saw this inspiring story on my cousin's FB feed and am moved by the good things happening in Detroit at The Empowerment Plan. 100 bucks covers the cost of materials and the seamstress's wages for one coat.

Picture Books to read in January
I was thinking about goal-setting and resolutions for the new year, and how to encourage my kids to try something new this year. Google landed me on a NYC SAHM's witty and wise blog, "What We Do All Day." I love her crisp writing style and have already placed library holds on half her list "Childrens Books About Trying New Things."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year, New Direction

My blog is changing again.

I've written this post in my head a hundred times, but I can't quite seem to make myself sit down and actually post it, for fear that I'll change my mind about how the blog is changing or that I won't be able to deliver on the proposed changes. You might have noticed I've changed my name to Behold & Reflect. It's a nod to 2 Corinthians 3:18, which talks about how as we continually gaze at Jesus, we become more and more His reflections. This is one of a handful of my "life verses;" like the others, it has stuck with me since high school, but its meaning and application has grown richer and deeper along the way. As my new name suggests, my blog will primarily chronicle my thoughts and experiences beholding Jesus and the reflections that spring from basking in His multi-faceted beauty. Specifically, I plan to explore prayer through personal experience, through interviewing passionate, prayerful souls from across the Christian spectrum, and, of course, by reading lots and lots of books. But while previous iterations of this blog were primarily a repository of book reviews with a little bit of random reflection sprinkled in, Behold & Reflect will prioritize my prayer experiments (exprayeriments!) and journalistic pursuits, with book reviews playing a secondary role.

How can you help me?
Though I've always enjoyed blogging for personal edification, it would be so, so much better if some of my praying friends would follow me and perhaps join in on the prayer exercises I hope to post each week. I'd love to hear your prayer stories. I'd love to learn about new ways to pray. I'd love to connect with people you know who know a thing or two about prayer. I'm interested in gathering stories from other sources and presenting a well-rounded narrative about Christian prayer. Will you join me?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Mahtob's memoir is part psychological thriller, part a lesson in forgiveness, peace and gratitude

So, you remember the 1990s Sally Field movie Not Without My Daughter about Betty Mahmoody, the American woman who defied the odds and fled Iran with her daughter after being held hostage by her violent, radicalized Iranian husband? Mahtob Mahmoody is that daughter. It turns out she's as intelligent, resourceful, resilient and  as her mother.

Mahmoody's moving memoir, My Name is Mahtob (I totally did not mean to use that much alliteration) -- begins with the harrowing story through an exceptionally bright 5-year-old's eyes. The account is gripping. I found myself both appalled at the behavior of Mahtob's father and Iranian relatives and cheering for those decent strangers that were willing to help Betty and her daughter escape.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

McKnight avoids pat answers to questions about heaven

A couple of years ago, several Christian authors started an eschatological fray with books about hell. Scot McKnight's newest book, The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible's Truth About the Life to Come, puts forth a hope-filled side of the afterlife, with the premise that the Bible contains clear promises about heaven, such its existence: there's a "first heaven" and a "final heaven" (46), what it will be like:"a utopia of pleasures" (76), and who will be there: "Jesus and those who are in him" (157).