slaying Ice Giants and other Christian pursuits

I’m riding in the back of an Uber through lower Manhattan. The Sunday morning sun is blazing already and its light touches everything – tops of cars zipping by, people moving along the grid as one unit, buildings reaching for the sky like fingers. Every surface shimmers white hot. 

While the world warms, the questions of my mind are stuck in place, immovable, frozen with fear. They are questions like, how did this THING become a giant in my life? why has Anxiety loomed over the recent days and weeks, like one of those ice statues guarding the White Witch’s castle? Because I can see it for what it is, even if I am powerless against it. 

And then, like the warm light of the sun coming through the car window, the voice of the Lord comes to my heart: You of little faith, why are you so afraid?

All it takes is a question, from the One who is Light (and in Him there is no darkness at all). The root is electrified for what it is and I can see all the way down. I can see it clearly; anxiety over my circumstance is merely a symptom of the deeper thing, the chilly grip of Fear clutching my heart. It is here, at the root, that Jesus’ question illuminates the truth —I am afraid because I lack faith, the kind of faith that will slay the ominous, lying tongue of an Ice Giant. 

The author of Hebrews says that,

“Therefore faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see…and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Heb. 11:1, 6

The paradox (and bluntness) of this scripture makes me smile; faith is like, so easy, right? All you have to do is be sure as rain (or sure as shootin’?) that what you hope is true IS actually the truth and be sure (or certain!) that God exists because otherwise, you cannot please Him. 

Yes. Yes, that’s it! Faith is not something I can figure out because that exercise lives in the mind, and the Ice Giants LOVE to hang out there. Faith must be more like something experienced, or received, like a dream that comes to you with all of its vivid detail only now the dream is Reality. Faith is holy yearning, revealed.

It is the longing of mortal Abraham “for a better country-a heavenly one” and the response of eternal God, “therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (v. 16) God rewards those who earnestly seek Him because He gives the yearning, and He satisfies it with Himself. He is the beginning and the end of all things!

I hate to say it now, at the end of this nice letter, but I must remind you —our circumstances might not change. We may still have to face fear, in whatever form it comes, and especially if the true light of God shines from our lives in increasing measure (and therefore, threatens the enemy of our soul). It’s just how things are for now. We are yet caught in the fray. 

But here is what I want to leave you with: 

  1. Our circumstances are temporary. All of this is temporary and we begin to overcome once we realize this truth (see v. 36-38).
  2. Faith isn’t something I can conjure up (Just Say No to witchcraft) but must be desired, earnestly asked for, and received in humility. 
  3. Fear might be tailing us, but once true faith is received -the revelation of Christ as the deepest reality- this kind of faith will destroy fear every time. Both now, in our everyday experience, and eternally. Glory to God! 

Ultimately, while we contend in our temporal cities of metal and stone, we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our brother Abraham, always looking toward the horizon: “For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (v.10). I can almost see it, can you? 

6 books about work and vocation

I read a lot of books. To my dear husband’s credit, he puts up with stacks of books sitting around our house that I’m currently reading, have aspirations to read, or have already read and can’t part ways with just yet. But at least I’m not quite to the point where the late fashion photographer, Peter Lindbergh, was when he said (God rest his soul),

I have a very big apartment in Paris but you can’t really move around there anymore; piles of books everywhere. I don’t want any more books. I have too many books; sometimes I have to buy another copy of a book that I know I have somewhere in my house or office because I can’t find it.

A Paris apartment stuffed with books?? Be still, my nerdy heart!

If you’re like me, you probably read a variety of things (classical fiction, biography, theology, and leadership- or tech-oriented nonfiction are my choices of late). Among other topics, I like to read about work and vocation. Not necessarily about business strategy or practices (although I will click on an article link re: those topics), but what I really LOVE to read about is the bigger journey one may take toward the work/career/vocation of our unique giftings.

Social psychologists say that the average Westerner will spend a third of their life at work (approx 90k hours). And that doesn’t even count the work of domestic life or creative pursuits! Work matters, and the ideas we have about the meaning of work matters, too.

Today I’m sharing six books that I’ve read recently about work and why you might want to check them out (…of the library, which will make you a better person than my Amazon-addicted self).

Six Books About Work

The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman

This is a handbook for anyone thinking about major career change. If you are not happy in your current job or vocation and need a step-by-step plan to help you make the change, Ken’s book is a strategic roadmap and pocket cheerleader all in one! It’s probably best suited for someone looking to get into media-related work, but the principles can apply across many industries.

My favorite part about The Proximity Principle is the way he organized the book: The People (you need to know), The Places (you need to be), and The Practices (you should implement) for success.

48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller

48 Days is a modern classic about work. Dan has been writing about work for a long time; he teaches us why we should care deeply about our work and coaches us on the practical steps to finding work that matters.

My favorite part of 48 Days to the Work You Love is Dan’s Christian worldview on calling and vocation –he understands that work is a part of what it means to worship God and his writing has a pastoral tone without being preachy.

Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind) by Rebecca Seal

On a different note, Solo was written by British journalist (and not a Christian, from what I can tell) Rebecca Seal, of The Guardian and Financial Times. Published in 2020, this was one of the first books dedicated to those of us who work-from-home (or, #WFH) or work in solo occupations (ie; freelance writer, artist or creator, programmer/coder). Rebecca grapples honestly with many topics related to remote work; some of the topics (like chapter 4, “What is Meaningful Work?”) deserve an entire book devoted to unpacking the answer. She is both curious and practical and I found myself wanting to have a cup of tea to debate some of our differing views.

My favorite part of Solo was Rebecca’s exploration of the Western/post-Enlightenment history of our ideas about work. While she rejects Christian morality as it relates to work (she’s no fan of Calvin! ha), the reader senses her desire to find meaning in her vocation, which I found ultimately hopeful.

Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (From a Former Young Woman) by Dana Perino

This is part career-oriented autobiography, part girlfriend-advice sharing time, and 100% your (nonfiction) beach read for this year. Dana is a political commentator and author, and best known for being the White House Press Secretary during George W. Bush’s administration. This book is a product of her “Minute Mentoring” program, where she mentors young women as they rise to leadership positions in their careers. The tone is very “big sorority sister” but it didn’t put me off; instead, I found Dana’s generosity encouraging.

My favorite part of Everything Will Be Okay was that it challenged me to think about ways to pass on my own hard-earned wisdom to those younger than me. I also loved how specific Dana’s recommendations were (especially for things like podcasts and fashion choices) because I think it’ll be interesting/funny to look back in 20 years at how cultural artifacts like that change.

Answering the Call in the Spirit: Pentecostal Reflections on a Theology of Vocation, Work and Life by Terry L. Cross, Ph.D.

Look, y’all already knew that I have a taste for variety in my book choices, okay? Yes, this one is a theological work on…work. Dr. Cross is one of my favorite theologians because he writes with clarity, humility, and a lightness of spirit (he is a serious thinker but he doesn’t take himself too seriously). He guides the reader to help us think about calling and vocation from a Spirit-filled perspective without being too heady or hard to follow. I find myself reaching for this book often and referencing it in my own writing.

My favorite part of Answering the Call in the Spirit is that it is the kind of theology that we -all of us- can relate to. Everyone works in some capacity and everyone asks questions about the meaning of our work, and this slim volume goes a long way to address the spiritual and yet, everyday, nature of our working life.

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Timothy Keller and Katherine Leary Alsdorf

I’ll be honest, I haven’t finished this one yet. Keller is a well-known pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian (NYC) and a popular author; Alsdorf is the founder and director of the church’s Faith and Work initiative. Together they tackle the topic of work from a philosophical and Biblical point of view, citing sources like Dorothy Sayers, Lester DeKoster, Mark Knoll, Andy Crouch, Martin Luther, Tolkein, and even Nietzsche. I can’t give you my favorite part yet, but at about a third of the way in, I already appreciate the author’s clear reasoning (which Keller is known for) on the topic of Christian vocational calling.

You’ve made it to the end of the post! Cheers to you, friend. Now I want to know…what are you reading lately? Have any good work-related book recommendations?

summer style for work

In my humble opinion, summer is the most challenging season to dress for work especially if you (1.) work in a professional setting and (2.) live in a warm climate like I do. The humidity and high temps of the South are unforgiving and I, along with many of my friends, have to get a little creative with our summer style for work. What about you? Do you live in Austin and work in finance? Work in government in our nation’s swampy capitol? You’re probably feeling this too…

Yes, it is miserably hot some days and yes, we have a bit more physical maintenance to deal with (at least in the hair removal department, but I’ll leave it at that)…but we still want to look and feel good when we go to work. Also travel is picking up for most organizations, so there’s another scenario where we need to feel put together and not look like a sloppy mess.

For the good of the order, I’ve culled a few summer looks for work that will hopefully get your gears going. Sometimes all we need is a little inspiration, right?

Continue reading “summer style for work”

spiderman, Lamentations, and the steadfast love of God

My youngest son came to me this morning, asking as he does every morning, to fasten the velcro closures on the back of his Spiderman costume (he wears this thing like it’s his job). Only this time, he looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you tired of doing this? “

What a funny question for a four-year-old to ask! I was surprised that he had the emotional capacity to shift perspectives in that moment and question how I felt about doing this thing that I do almost every day. And, of course, I answered (sincerely), “No! I love doing this.”

Because it’s true. I love that he loves this costume and wants to wear it every day. I love that his imagination switches on as soon as he’s suited up. I love his patience as I fasten all three little fuzzy circles together.

I love him; therefore, when he comes to me in need, I want to meet him there every time.

Is it obvious where I am going with this? I can’t help but hear the echo of my own questioning heart in my son’s question.

God, are you tired of me coming to you?  Are you annoyed at my inexhaustible need for you? Are you done healing my broken places?  Bored with hearing the same old prayers and petitions?

Continue reading “spiderman, Lamentations, and the steadfast love of God”

Christ’s Kingdom in the Psalms

In his slim commentary, Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis characterizes King David’s passionate worship in Psalm 27 with words like “gusto,” “rowdiness,” and a particular “Hebraic delight” expressed (for example) in verse 4,

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

Here is David coming to the very center of his desire, to what he longs for above all else…all while his enemies are pressing in on him and the refrain of war echos in his ear. It is in this terrifying moment that David writes of his eagerness to cross the threshold and enter into the courts of Yahweh. For David the Israelite, to experience God was to be in the Temple, on God’s holy and divinely-established ground. 

But glancing back at Ps. 27:4 (above), we might naturally ask questions like, Who is this Lord? And why does David get so excited in his worship?

Continue reading “Christ’s Kingdom in the Psalms”

terrifying Russian literature, a style challenge, and New Year’s resolutions

The book sat on a side table in my bedroom, the one over by the corner fireplace, for six months.

The oil portrait of its central character stared at me from the cover with those stoic, challenging eyes (like only Russians can), seemingly asking the question again, “Are you ready now? Is today the day?”

And then, a couple of days before Christmas, I was able to answer, “Yes, today is the day.” Finally, after months of looking the other way, I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and began reading.

those eyes…

Why had I resisted this book for so long? I bought it after reading (and hearing) multiple recommendations from trusted literary sources, but it just plain intimidated me. I wanted to read it, but I was scared that I wouldn’t “get it.” I was afraid that Tolstoy would make me feel stupid.  

Continue reading “terrifying Russian literature, a style challenge, and New Year’s resolutions”

An update: thoughts on writing, leisure, and acknowledging my finite human nature

parent’s summer date night, commence!


(Not to be dramatic or anything…)

I don’t know about you, but the first half of this year flew by in a flurry of work and family life. Almost without notice, months had passed before I realized that my personal writing was taking a serious back seat to everything else going on. Even before the holidays, I sensed my internal/creative/mental gears shifting.

It wasn’t planned, mind you, but once that calendar clicked over to 2021, something in my brain said, 

“Nope. Not ready yet.”

And I was like, Okay, brain. Let’s switch gears for a while. 

I decided to listen to that instinct and take a step back from my regular blogging and newsletter writing (and social media interaction) and allow myself to focus on other areas of productivity. Like the final classes of my undergrad degree, which have been amazing but, you know, demanding of my time and energy…

as well as my actual job (the one where I get paid) of professional development consulting…

and my perpetual role (the one where I get headaches and sweet hugs) of mothering.

Shew. I’m tired just reading that.

working lunch

Speaking of, have you seen this? 

While the conversation about the gender pay gap is nuanced (for instance, women tend to work less traditional hours and choose more flexible careers), I’m all for tearing down any stigma that may still exist around the phrase “working” mother. The truth is, every mama works! I’ve already ranted about how Big Media loves to offer the (obnoxiously) narrowly defined glam version of the “working mom” here, while the rest of us are living a very different (and down-to-earth) reality– somewhere between the carpool line and our Gmail inbox.

So for now, I’ll just add “Mother” to my LinkedIn profile and invite you to connect with me there (if you so desire). Whether we are changing diapers or fielding client requests, we all want to know that our daily work has meaning. 

Inadvertently, I chose to take the first quarter of the year to re-direct my internal resources to other, less public areas of my life because I am finite and I’m learning to acknowledge my limitedness (I think this is called humility…?) But the time off gave me a fresh perspective on something so subjective that it’s sometimes difficult for me to make clear assessments on, that is, about my work as a writer.  

A quick digression: The twentieth-century German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper wrote a famous essay in 1948 about the idea of “leisure” –that it was not the simple absence of work, but the attitude and perspective to be able to contemplate things outside of their immediate utility.

We see the lack of true leisure (ironically) in the uber-wealthy who “live a life of leisure” and are still extremely unfulfilled. Precisely because they have not given their life over to something bigger and more meaningful than their own comfort, they are unable to experience authentic times of leisure.

We see the highest form of this when Jesus would pull away from his time with the disciples and public ministry to go and be alone with the Father. Jesus was resting, praying, being filled up, listening, contemplating, and abiding in the love of God. How much more do we need the time and space to gain a more full, rightly aligned, and eternal perspective of our lives?  

Pieper wrote, 

“Leisure is the condition of considering things in a celebrating spirit…Leisure lives on affirmation. It is not the same as the absence of activity…It is rather like the stillness in the conversation of lovers, which is fed by their oneness…

And as it is written in the Scriptures, God saw, when ‘He rested from all the works that He had made’  that everything was good, very good (Gen. 1:31), just so the leisure of man includes within itself a celebratory, approving, lingering gaze of the inner eye on the reality of creation.” (Pieper, “Leisure,” 33) 

I haven’t yet experienced a dramatic “a-ha moment” from my time of pausing/stepping back from writing on the internet…but I am enjoying writing this post to you immensely. I mean, I really missed you guys! And for now, that feeling of joy is more than enough. 

And -funny timing- right smack in the middle of this quiet time, an article of mine was published in Be Still magazine. What a fun surprise to see that in my mailbox! If you haven’t yet picked up an issue, you can do so here. 

Here is what I’m learning: I am human, and therefore a limited creation (by design). He is God, and without limit. If we believe that God is our loving and generous Creator, and if He made us to be limited in our resources, then let us honor the reality of our nature (and place our trust in His infinite one.) Our ultimate freedom and daily joy will be birthed from the acknowledgement of this foundational truth.

Let’s listen to the whisper of the Spirit and take those moments of leisure to step back and fully appreciate who God is, who we are, and the wonder of all that He is doing in our lives. In this sense, leisure is a very real part of living coram Deo, and I’m here for it…what about you?

p.s. I recently came across some writing of Jonathan Rogers (one of my favorite authors and a fellow Tennessean) and interestingly, he also referenced Pieper’s thoughts on leisure. Must be something in the water. You can read his letter here.

If I Stand – Rich Mullins

There’s more that rises in the morning
Than the sun
And more that shines in the night
Than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here
That keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger
Than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies
Than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean
Than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer
Than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s
When her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper
Than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs
That I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes
For the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver
Of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

If I Stand – Rich Mullins (Wheaton College 1997)