Where Does My Help Come From?

The internet, and social media especially, likes to talk a lot about mindset -about having “intentionality” with our thoughts. I only mock a little. I get the idea, yes we should be aware of our thought patterns and try to identify and correct any woe-is-me mindset. And scripture certainly instructs us to take every thought captive and submit them to Christ.

But as Christians, we must be the ultimate realists. And we know, like deep down on a cellular level, that we are broken at the baseline. All the affirmations and attempts at “manifestations” (ahem, witchcraft) in the world will not heal what is inherently broken. We will never overcome the sinful bent in our humanness with positive thinking. We need to look outside of ourselves for that.

This is why, on this hard and beautiful Monday morning, I wanted to share my favorite Psalm of Ascent (Psalms 121). This ancient collection of poems, or songs, was sung by the faithful as they traveled to the temple to worship God. They were sung in small groups as folks walked along dusty roads. They were whispered by individuals as they came to the stone steps that ascended upward, where they would meet God.

And they are for us, too. We can sing this simple call-and-response as we are taking our kids to school. We can sing as we start our day, coffee in hand, eyes lifted upward. We keep looking up because that is where the real help comes from. Not our mindful practices, not our goal-setting techniques, not our inner-selves. Our real hope comes from a real God, who is ruling from on high and still -amazingly, gloriously- cares for us.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

6 Easy Looks for Thanksgiving Weekend

Here’s my case for Thanksgiving being the best holiday: it’s centered on two wonderful things – family and delicious food. But most importantly, it is devoid of the pressure to buy someone a gift! I know your family has issues (so does mine) and I know someone will probably burn something (it happens), but overall, time spent telling stories and sharing childhood memories over a piece of homemade pie is about the best way to spend an afternoon.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share six easy, comfortable looks for your Thanksgiving weekend plans. I’ve broken it down to three scenarios – Thanksgiving lunch (day look), Thanksgiving dinner (evening look), and Black Friday (day after Thanksgiving…and whatever you choose to do on that day!)

So let’s get going. Here are two looks that achieve the trifecta of ease, comfort, and style. The key here is to layer (because you never know how high Grandma will have that heater blazing this year) and use different textures and tones. As a bonus, the sneakers will allow for a mid-afternoon stroll around the neighborhood for fresh air.

similar beige running shoe/similar cream knit sweater/men’s slim fit chambray button down/dream pants by Everlane/ similar denim work shirt/similar cropped cargo pants w/ belt
Continue reading “6 Easy Looks for Thanksgiving Weekend”

The Virtues of Frankenstein

As many of you know, I’ve embarked on a journey of fiction (not a fictional journey, I hope!) over the last few years.

I like to think that I’m reclaiming my childhood love of reading for the pure fun of it…and because I need/crave the creative spark that nonfiction was not giving…and various other (mostly valid) reasons.

But I know myself too well (and some of you know me even better) to accept that a fa-la-la reason like fun was enough to take on the ~classics~ of fiction. No, there was something else driving this here train.

Get to the point, Sara: I’m reading fiction again, really good, rich, beautiful (and old) fiction. I’m also watching a lot of old/classic movies (and one timeless contemporary series). Hang with me and I’ll share my recommendations below.

But because I am who I am, I can’t just read and watch and enjoy, nooooo mam…I must go introspective and analyze why (always the question, why) I keep going back to the well of the old and the beautiful.

It probably has something to do with my age, and the desire to preserve the worthy art that has gone before me, and also how shallow and fast and ugly our twenty-first-century culture has become in contrast. There is also a deeply personal motivator here: I believe that we are shaped (for good or ill) by the culture/art we consume, and I want to be shaped by virtuous things to honor and reflect the beauty of God (and His good world).

One helpful guide in this pursuit has been Karen Swallow Prior’s, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books. She advocates for reading quality literature because it allows us to have a kind of simulated experience of exercising our moral judgment, therefore shaping our character, which eventually predisposes us toward virtue. Or, as she succinctly puts it, “Reading literature, more than informing us, forms us” (Brazos Press, pg 22).

The experience itself then matters; how deeply we are engaged and moved by a story, how well it is written, the cadence and word choice and character development and description of setting, all contribute toward a lasting effect on our hearts and minds. Not just content, but form. Beauty matters.

Continue reading “The Virtues of Frankenstein”

What is Christian Vocation?

When my son was about 3 years old, he had a game he liked to play, one he called “worker.” Without warning, he would switch into an imaginary mode and start addressing me as “worker,” cheerfully asking questions like, “Hello worker! What are you working on today?” There was usually some kind of costume involved (always with a hat, of course.)

The Christian Worker

When he first started playing this game, I hesitated for a moment, wondering if his dad and I were warping his impressionable ideas about work-life balance by (seemingly) working all the time. I worried that our work-from-home lifestyle (even before quarantine requirements kicked in) influenced him to think about mom and dad as one-dimensional “workers”…as people who only work.

But as we played the game off and on over a few weeks it became a fun little challenge for me to frame my role as “worker” in different lights for him to ponder. Some days I was the grocery-shopping and menu-planning “worker,” while other days I was the kind of “worker” who wrote words on a screen and held virtual meetings. In the simplicity of the game, it got me thinking about vocation and our call as Christian “workers.”

What is the Doctrine of Vocation?

One thing the Reformers got really right was their doctrine on vocation, based on Paul’s affirmation in 1 Cor. 7:17. But the idea is broader than just what we do for “work” (our careers or job); to pursue faithfulness in our vocations as believers means that, above all else, we trust the providence of God in our lives. In an essay on why and how the Reformers developed these revolutionary ideas, Dr. Veith explains the three main pillars of vocation–the household, the church, and the state.

He says,

“Vocation has to do with God’s providence, how He governs and cares for His creation by working through human beings. Vocation shows Christians how to live out their faith, not just in the workplace but in their families, churches, and cultures. Vocation is where faith bears fruit in acts of love, and so it grows out of the Gospel. And vocation is where Christians struggle with trials and temptations, becoming a means of sanctification.”

Heeding Paul’s guidance, when we are considering our vocation, we must begin in the home. The home, or “household,” is the place of our most intimate relationships as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, children, roommates/close friends, and (sometimes) extended family, like grandparents. The home, therefore, holds the relationships in our lives with the most responsibility, but also the most potential for growth and good fruit. Similarly, we each have roles within the church, and, to a lesser degree, in the state (through our private employment or daily work, or in the service of the military or government).

Continue reading “What is Christian Vocation?”

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. 

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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).

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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?

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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?

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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?

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