Crumbling into Compassion

My grandmother was one of the biggest influences in my life. My favorite memories are what I dubbed “teeth in the cup” moments, when she was at her most relaxed, letting her thoughts and teachings flow. One evening, when I was a teenager, she declared in her sweet, yet serious, way: “Baby, you can be humble or get humbled, but you help choose which way God gives it to ya’.” I would be thirty years old before what my grandmother said would truly sink in.

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Strength in Silence

Photo by Matthis Volquardsen from Pexels

I rented a cabin in the southern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains last May. Having survived some of the hardest years of my life and learned too many unwanted lessons, I had made writing my outlet and hobby. For months I had been plugging away, chapter after chapter, at my first novel. The purpose of my trip was to clean up the rough draft and do a little free-writing. I wasn’t against an uninterrupted nap, either. My kids assured me they would survive, and my husband promised to feed them in my absence. After loading my suitcase into the car, I kissed my family goodbye and set out alone. 

The drive along the southern border of Tennessee was breathtaking with late-May glory. I meandered along the Ocoee River in heavy traffic, taking time to enjoy the spectacular views. At scenic overlooks I took pictures with my “good camera.” Lunch was a bag of M&M’s —because no one was around to talk me out of it— and a giant Dr. Pepper. I listened to the radio and a couple of podcasts to stay alert as the afternoon wore on and finally arrived at a sheep farm in Northern Georgia. 

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Our Newest Team Member!

Jeanine Joyner

In 2015, when this journal was born, several of us who were meeting to critique and support each other’s creative efforts felt the vague desire to present our work in a more public fashion. Things began simply, and the work and blessing has grown beyond what I imagined in the beginning. Every so often, I get flattened by humility in being reminded of our journey to this point—how our successes, while suffused with our hard work, are not the product of our hard work. The Spirit blows where it will. Anytime we add another team member, this is the case. That other people should see fit to believe in our efforts here and labor with us is amazing to me, in the most literal sense. That says something about my cynicism, I know, but I’m slowly being cured of it.

Today is that kind of day.

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An Artist, An Album, A World

How the Mark Heard Tribute Album Changed Music For Me

There are two songwriting giants in the Christian music world. I mean, sure, we’ve all got our favorites, but there are two that loom above the landscape higher than the rest: Rich Mullins and Mark Heard. Everybody knows Rich. Whether it’s because we sang “Awesome God” in our youth group or because Andrew Peterson name-checked him in “Nothing to Say,” Rich Mullins is a household name. Mark Heard, though, is less well known, and that’s a shame. He was the poet laureate of Christian music, or at least, he should have been. He took the Christian life, put music to it, and somehow made it more beautiful.

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Made Sacred

Mopping the floors, baking the bread. 
Changing the diapers, making the bed. 
Cleaning toilets, these things we dread.

We are told in Colossians that Christ is before all things and that in Him all things hold together, but it is difficult to believe that God could be a part of something as ordinary as cleaning toilets, as tedious as reading yet one more rendition of Good Night, Moon.  It is difficult to understand how we could possibly involve Jesus in these dreary tasks.  How in the world, how in the middle of this mundane world, could a holy Christ possibly relate to the filth of toilets?

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Revenge of the Humans

Stranger Things on Netflix

We were finally watching Stranger Things as a family, my teen daughter having finally sold her (over)protective parents on it. For the past couple years I’d shrugged off her complaints about being “the only kid in her grade that hadn’t seen it,” and left out of the conversations. But the Cyrs had been without a family-binge-watch show for a while, and she’d renewed her efforts since season three was released this summer. In the end I reluctantly agreed to a heavily censored version using our VidAngel subscription.

I still have my misgivings, since tamed-down sci-fi horror is still sci-fi horror, and I’m not sure the bad isn’t outweighing the good when it comes to her impressionable mind. But one of the most disturbing messages during the show came from an altogether unexpected source. Myself.

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