five for friday, volume 4

Volume four? Weird. Okay, whatever.

This week has been reentry, which has gone relatively well with the kiddos. But I’m still sick and our schedule is bananas this week (more than most, I’m pretty sure) and it’s hard going from “maybe one scheduled commitment per day” to “your whole day is spoken for except for random and inconvenient snatches here and there.” It’s fine, but I’m feeling a little scattered.

kid quote:

Brian: Mom, can I have cottage cheese with lunch? I really love cottage cheese.
Katherine: You’re in love with cottage cheese? Like you’re gonna marry it?
Brian, laughing mischievously: YEAH, and then I’ll eat it and then I’ll go to jail.
Katherine, to me: Yeah, I bet if Dad ate YOU, he’d go to jail.


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Y’all, the buzz is REAL. I saw this recommended so many places by so many people whose recommendations routinely delight me, so when Jill gave me her copy in Santa Barbara, I was pretty stoked.

And then I almost put it down like a third of the way through. I don’t want to spoil it, but something happened that bummed me out and pissed me off. I had to check in with Jill: “Please tell me this is going to get better. Should I just abandon now?” She encouraged me to keep going, and I’m SO GLAD I DID.


You guys, the Catlick podcast launched this week (he gave us three episodes to start!) and I’m SO EXCITED. So BT Harman is behind Blue Babies Pink, which is his EXCELLENT autobiographical blog series and podcast about a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid… who is gay. I was so taken with the grace with which he handled both the Church and the LGBTQ community in those 44 episodes. I binged them in like three days. The man can tell a story. So when he launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a podcast about a 56-month period in Atlanta’s history, I was all in. Basically any story he tells, I want to hear. It’s SO GOOD. Dark and sometimes violent, because this particular chunk of time was, well, dark and violent. I’m excited to hear where it goes.

moment of happiness:

There was one night Lilly was feeling pretty drowsy and wanted to cuddle. She fell asleep on me for the first time in ages, and maybe the last time ever. It was precious and a little bittersweet—it may be the last time one of my babies falls asleep in my arms. I’m glad I was holding her and glad Jenna took this picture. I find myself with this (likely) last baby being in a little less of a hurry to put her down, to send her to bed, to grow her up. Lately I find myself in her room at bedtime laying in her bed listening to her Earnest Toddler Nonsense, sometimes until she falls asleep. Sometimes if she wakes in the middle of the night, I do it again. Not because I couldn’t leave—it’s totally reasonable for me to tell her, “It’s time for me to go back to bed now” and often I do—but because I am super aware that it won’t be like this for long, and once she stops doing it, it’s actually over. I look forward to her more grown-up self (I wouldn’t trade my big girls for there preschool selves, so it stands to reason I’ll like this preschooler even more when she’s bigger), but I’m enjoying her little for now.

little bit of nature:

Let’s be real. I’m going to be using images from Santa Barbara as stock photos here for a good, long time. But this moon the first night I got there still takes my breath away. (Also, dark and warm at the same time is quite a novelty to this Alaska girl, so comfortably taking pictures of the moon is super fun. And props to the new camera for the ability to do it.)

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

looking through kinder eyes

“Wow, Mama! You look really pretty!”

(We will ignore for the moment the inevitable followup question, “Where are we going today?” as if I only get dressed on days we leave the house. )

The fact is, I hear this more often now than I did when I was young and cute. Daily or more, easily. They’re not (usually) trying to get something from me; they actually believe it.

I’ve spent the last sevenish years trying to get my head in a better space regarding my body. My attitude toward her has improved significantly, but I still frequently feel uncomfortable about my shape and the haggard look I see in the mirror. I am thankful for this body, and I usually feel just a little better than neutral about her appearance, but there are days (or, more accurately, small parts of most days) when all I can see is my size and the way my clothes don’t fit well because my proportions are apparently nonstandard. My boobs fit one size, waist another (and way higher than than normal clothes expect), my hip/belly region is a whole ‘nother thing. Most of the time, it’s fine. But there’s that last five percent that’s not fine.

And then there are the other things I think about myself—the ways I don’t have my crap together in motherhood or life. I’m only rarely kind to myself about failures and shortcomings and outright sin like I’m (usually) kind about my body.

My children and husband see me differently. Sadly, they have some of the same internal struggles I do, but they see me in the most generous light. To them, I’m pretty. And Lilly calls me “weet mama” (she can say /s/ sounds, but frequently doesn’t bother). They draw me always smiling and use snapshots of normal days to induce good dreams. I don’t know why their concept of me mostly includes the positive side of me (a far cry from the whole of me), but it’s grace.

I’m trying to remember this. To believe they mean it when they say I’m pretty or they like me. (And to take the times they don’t like me or call me THE WORST MOM EVER as a compliment.) I want to see what they see. Not because their worldview is inerrant—clearly not, these are the kids who tell me when Daddy and I die, they’ll be happy because then they can have ALL THE CANDY THEY WANT—but because it matters.

I don’t need to be blind to my flaws, but their view of me (for now) can help me from being consumed by them.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

parenting: a team sport

His feet thump down the hall suspiciously.

You don’t think someone can run suspiciously? This boy can. He use to scurry off from somewhere out of sight yelling “NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING!” when he’d done something wrong. He no longer has the verbal tell, but the heavy, fast footfalls of my 42-lb boy are unmistakably trouble.

Andrew hears it, too. “Brian Levi? What are you doing?”

He drops a small, heavy object behind him and holds up his (freshly) empty hands. “Nothing!”

“Buddy. What did you drop behind you?”


It turns out to be a tiny tape measure. Just like his Daddy’s Stanley Powerlock 25′ tape measure, but small enough to carry on a key ring and only three feet long. His big sisters each have one. It’s not specifically an “off-limits for Brian” item, but it doesn’t belong to him, either.

“Did you think you weren’t supposed to have it? That you’d get in trouble for having it? Is that why you ran, dropped it, and lied?”


At this point, I kind of sag in defeat. I’ve had basically this interaction with the boy maybe two dozen times already today. And, while I am just observing this exchange, I feel the frustration of the day and my inability to deal with it effectively. I’m glad Andrew is home.

“Brian, you know how you felt like you were going to get in trouble?”


“God gave you a conscience. That’s the bad feeling you had. You need to pay attention to that and instead of hiding, choose not to do the thing you know you’re not supposed to do.”

Oh. That seemed obvious enough, why didn’t I think of it?

At this point, I could go into a shame spiral… I know all that stuff, but when Brian does this thing over and over, I don’t think of it. I don’t think of anything, really, except how baffled I am by these behaviors and how now I have to come up with yet another privilege to take away or something so this doesn’t pay off for him. But there Andrew goes, just doing the thing, saying the words, acting like he knows what the heck he’s doing…

But I don’t.

I’m too tired for crap like that today.

This is why God gave our kids both of us. I can’t (for whatever reason) think of stuff like that on the fly. I’m hopeless at it. But I’m not alone. Props to you single moms, I totally don’t know how you pull it off.

I need him. For lots of things, but certainly for raising these crazy kids. I can put words to their emotions (bizarrely, this situation falls outside of that for me) but I have yet to learn how to consistently articulate the things they need to hear past “PLEASE STOP THAT.”

Parenting has to be a team sport—the couple and, beyond that, the community. I have friends who talk me down when I’m on the verge of losing it and friends who give me verbiage for stuff like this. There are people who share their systems (another thing I’m really bad at) and those who remind me it’s all going to be okay, even if I feel wholly inadequate. They don’t have to be local (most aren’t)… I just have to ask. Nobody is good at everything, whatever it looks like. I am incredibly grateful for people who are better than I am at various parts of this absurd job, and they’ve tended to be pretty gracious when I ask them about it, as awkward as that can feel sometimes.

“Hey, I’ve noticed you’re good at this thing I’m bad at… Any tips?”

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

politics and faith

One of the things that’s been on my mind a lot lately is politics. This is not really normal for me, but it’s a weird time to be living in America. Really, it’s been pretty weird since about the end of 2015. Anyway, I was tempted to sort of rant… The thing that’s making me the most batty is the way the evangelical church at large has been standing behind a man who represents everything broken in this world: rape and racism, narcissism and lies, ego and destruction of the least of these. He fails to own faults but never ever fails to own wins (even when they aren’t wins, or they are, but not his.)

I hate that, because I believe the Bible and love Jesus, people can assume I voted for and will steadfastly defend the indefensible actions of a man who clearly needs (but does not want) Him.

But you don’t have to look very far back in the archives know this. I don’t need to preach at you about how wrong, maddening, and exhausting the whole situation is.

And really, there are enough people doing that. Probably not enough in the American evangelical church, but enough. Also, talking about it, reading about it, is exhausting beyond measure. So instead of write all the frustration bubbling in me, I wonder: what do we need?

Grace. Hope.

Whatever is true, noble, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.

It’s a tall order when we have basically the opposite of that list making decisions on behalf of the nation, but I’m going to try.

True: God is in control. He is patient in ways I am not, but this is evidence of my lack of goodness, not His. America is not our great hope for the world and neither is Trump (or any other candidate, for that matter.) Jesus filled that slot a long time ago, and whatever happens here, He remains the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Noble: There are groups all over providing help to Syrian refugees, legal aid to people fleeing terror who have landed at our southern border, food to people who are hungry in my town and yours. Some of them you’ve heard of. I want to introduce you to one you haven’t. Desanka is a ministry in North Carolina made up of ragamuffins who love Jesus and serve people. They go to festivals to set up, feed volunteers, and love and pray for people who would never in a million years set foot in church. “Noble” is defined “having or showing…high moral principles and ideals.” Spend a minute with nobility.

Lovely: Where to even begin? My initial response is to share some nature photos. Even though I cannot possibly do justice to the artistry, sometimes I can capture a breathtaking fraction. But all of this is just a reflection of the Creator who made it and the Father who loves us and made it lovely. Even more lovely is the Gospel: that God would use our sin to demonstrate His goodness by making a way home for us? Boggles my mind. And I’m way less capable of doing it justice than nature.

Pure: This one’s hard for me to point you to without pointing you to the only One who really is pure. But that’s a struggle with every word on the list, and I can’t just be like “True: Jesus. Noble: Jesus. Lovely: Jesus. Pure: Jesus. Excellent: Jesus. Praiseworthy: Jesus.” Seems like a cop-out. So I’ll leave you with this list of organizations providing clean (pure!) water to people who need it around the world.

Admirable: See above for the problem I’m having. This seems like a departure, but it’s a cool one: Simone Biles keeps finding innovative and unnecessarily complicated (but fun) ways to defy gravity:

Excellent: Andrew Peterson just released Adorning the Dark a week ago. My copy came last night. The stated goal is twofold: to make creators feel less alone as they battle all the crazy that happens internally when they make stuff and to shift our perspective slightly so we live more like inhabitants of the Kingdom, rather than people who dream of it. I haven’t read it yet, but I trust his writing enough to say I’m sure it’s excellent and encourages excellence.

Praiseworthy: I don’t feel like it’s lazy to point this one back to Jesus. And since I was just talking about Andrew Peterson, I’ll let his words do this job. I’d recommend you take the few minutes to watch, even if you know it well. Good for the soul.

So when politics are stressing you out, go ahead and educate yourself, have the conversations, donate, vote. But also, set your heart on things that are true, noble, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. It doesn’t fix the world instantly—just perspective. I’ll leave you with this quote from Madeline L’Engle from Walking on Water:

…I was frightened, and I tried to heal my fear with stories, stories which gave me courage, stories that affirmed that ultimately love is stronger than hate. If love is stronger than hate, then war is not all there is.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

y-o-u-r welcome.

So… do you remember that time I whined loudly on facebook about the grammar of the entire Internet last week? It went something like this:

Are we being punked? It feels like the entire internet did a search and replace and every “your” is now “you’re” and every “their” is now “they’re.” I’m looking up verses on multiple sites and every single translation that has either “your” or “their” has it wrong. YOU CAN’T DO THAT TO THE BIBLE. (Also, every blog post, magazine article, and news story I clicked on last night while waiting for kids to sleep had issues with those words.)


Too early for April Fools’ Day. What in the world?

Let me back up a little.

I’ve been a bit of a grammar nazi for most of my life. I try not to be obnoxious about it, but I generally notice errors. A couple weeks ago, I started seeing them in places that they really shouldn’t be. Places that should know better, like my email’s news site and (think Turbo Tax and Quicken.)

I took crappy cell phone pictures and sent very ragey texts to my sweet husband, who completely understands my hatred of misused apostrophes. The one that really killed me was this one:


Amazon. AMAZON.

Somehow this hit me as the worst kind of bastardization of the language. If anyone should be able to afford editors that know what they’re doing, Amazon should. I don’t know. It made me SO MAD.

But I kept it inside.

For a little while.

And then last week, I was writing a post about my (then) upcoming ultrasound and all my crazy fears. I was working so hard to point myself back to the One who can calm those fears (and who commanded me to “fear not.”) I had some verses in mind, but I try to link to Bible sites so that you can check my hermeneutics if you want to. I don’t ever want you to take my word for it when you could instead take His.

And when I went to both and (my go-to sites), both of them had your/you’re, they’re/their/there and it’s/its problems in every single instance and every single translation. I lost it. And by “lost it,” I definitely mean “posted a very angry rant on facebook.”

A couple days later was date night. Andrew and I had a lovely time out, and on the way home, I finally remembered to ask him about it. “Did you do something to the internet?”

Yes. Yes, he did. Apparently, my loving husband found (as in went looking for, not stumbled upon) some Chrome extension that switched every usage of its/it’s, your/you’re, and rotated uses of there/their/they’re. (Also replaced every use of “less” with “fewer,” which I didn’t come across.)

In that moment, I wasn’t sure whether his ability to punk me in the most subtly effective way possible was evidence that he was the best husband in the world or the worst.

In either case, it was pretty clear that a counterattack was required.


Many months ago, I stumbled across an Instagram photo of someone’s color-coordinated bookshelf. I thought it was beautiful. I also knew that it was strictly out of the question in my house. Andrew would go insane. He’s touch color blind, and he organizes things by category in his brain (and certainly not by color), so he’d never find anything.

So, naturally, I laughingly showed him the picture, with the qualification that of course I knew this would never, ever happen in our house because he’d hate it.

He nearly made me sleep on the couch for “impure thoughts about the bookshelf.” (He was kidding. But only kind of.)

So obviously…


I picked a day I knew he’d be out late and went to work. The girls gleefully helped (I definitely just told them I was reorganizing, not that I was messing with Daddy) and we spent ALL. DAY. We have nearly 40 feet of shelf there, and a fair bit was stacked two deep.

(And, yes, I notice how nerdy it sounds that my husband and I have prank wars involving bad apostrophes and bookshelf organization.)

We sorted, we cleaned. It was a crazy mess, and it cut off access to the bathroom. (Whoops.) I even called in backup from a local “move a body” kind of friend. (As it turned out, I did finish just before she came, so we just got to hang out. Win!)

At one point, Jenna decided it was way too dusty and insisted on a dust mask, which she made with string and a styrofoam cup:


The girls loved it. Jenna gushed on and on… “It’s so pretty! Daddy’s going to be so surprised and SO pleased!!!” Oh, he’s gonna be surprised!


It is pretty.

(Also, we own a LOT of blue books.)

Now… we have a rule in our house that you can’t pull any pranks you’re not willing to help clean up, so this actually represents a tw0-day commitment to the silly bookshelf. (But I love my husband, so it really won’t stay.) (Andrew: if you’re reading, weekend after Easter?)

So I got done, put kids down, cleaned things up, and awaited his arrival.

10:30 pm, Andrew walks through the door. He takes a few minutes futzing with the fire, then he looks up. “What did you do to my bookshelf???”

I answer, with a very satisfied smile, “Y-O-U-R welcome.”

He thinks for a beat. I’m pretty sure I see it all register. “…You suck.”

And that, my friends, is love in real life.


This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

liturgy of home

I’m writing this Saturday night to publish Sunday morning, which marks the shortest buffer I’ve had yet this month. Andrew is out running sound for a group called The Rad Trads at the UAF Pub until midnight (later?) and the house is finally quiet. After feeding the kids mac and cheese (blue box) while they watched Moana (a special dispensation for a daddyless Saturday night), the big two asked for a sleepover on the back deck. Now, we’re mid-20s overnight (Farenheit) here, but I’m tired and sick and thus not really in my right mind, so I said yes, sort of. They could stay out on the back deck as long as they did not come in and out and did not fight and they could not stay out past my bedtime. I put the little two in their respective bottom bunks and looked at the living area—living room, dining room, kitchen.

It was wrecked.

This isn’t a shock—I’m not at my best today, plus Andrew has been out since late afternoon. I wasn’t on top of making the kids clean up between things. I have not, in fact, been on top of much, unless you count the futon. But this isn’t a way I can comfortably go to bed (more accurately, it’s not a way I can reasonably wake up on Sunday morning) so I started setting things right.

“Setting things right.” You might not notice, but that marks a subtle change in the way I frame housework. “Catching up” or “managing the mess” or “damage control”? Sure. I’ve lamented at length the quotidian nature of housework—the way nothing I do manages to stay done for more than 24 hours. Most of my tasks have a shelf-life of less than that: kids need to be fed three times a day. Bottoms need wiping, areas need tidying, limits need enforcing over and over, all day every day. But my attitude towards some of these mundane jobs has been shifting lately.

Madeline L’Engle talks about true art as drawing cosmos from the chaos: taking disorder and finding or creating meaning out of it. Putting things in order. I’m not sure sure there’s a more elegant way of describing every aspect of homemaking, and she equates it with art.

Since February, I’ve been thinking and reading about spiritual disciplines and liturgical worship. Disciplines and liturgy are effective because it trains our hearts by directing our habits, but liturgy is a lot broader than I ever thought. Really anything I do repeatedly with my heart pointed to the Lord has the potential to become liturgical worship.

And so it is with housework. While I’ve certainly allowed the repetitive nature to breed resentment and contempt, it’s slowly morphed to become worship. It’s a chance to bring order from chaos in one small area for a few minutes and that mirrors God’s work in the tiniest way.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

reentry: field notes

I got home at 2am yesterday morning and I got home sick. I’d been coming down with it early in the week, but the funny thing about getting a cold on vacation is I get to rest. Yesterday, after a good sixish hours of rest, I woke feeling like I’d been run over. Debilitating headache plus a full-service cold meant we would definitely not be going to Classical Conversations. Jenna came home halfway through the day with a fever. This morning, Lilly woke up with one.

This sounds like the worst. Reentry plus sick kids plus sick mama? No thank you.

Bizarrely, this is the best reentry I’ve ever experienced.

I’m trying to dissect it because reentry is always really hard and if I can duplicate this, I’d sure like to.

My expectations are down.

For me, of course—I feel pretty bad, so I look at the laundry and the unpacking and the schoolwork and kind of shrug my shoulders. If I get to it, awesome. Today’s about keeping kids alive. The rest of it will still be there tomorrow.

Also, I’m asking less of my kids.

This isn’t a sustainable way to live all of life, but I’m being much more choosy about the battles I pick. Let’s not worry about plowing through history and science. Also, I’m going to cancel that appointment I made a few weeks ago. How about I just read you all picture books instead? As a bonus, we get some snuggle time we’ve all been missing this last week.

I’m more present.

I can’t be thinking about the next thing or noticing the chores I’m leaving undone. The ziploc full of travel liquids that are covered in goo from one exploded bottle? No. I don’t have the capacity to even consider any of it. I can handle exactly one thing at a time, and very slowly, and that thing is whatever is right in front of me.

Weirdly, I don’t think I’m getting any less done than usual.

I know, I know, all the productivity research says I accomplish more when I am not trying to do a bunch of things at once, and I think being sick is forcing me to prioritize differently than I ordinarily do. The laundry is getting done. The dishes are caught up (enough). The kids and I are fed. I’m writing a piece to publish in the morning, for crying out loud.

I don’t have any idea if I can repeat this next time I take a trip. I don’t even know if it makes any sense, to be honest—my brain is not at its best. (I just had to stop and think about whether that “its” needs an apostrophe or not in that last sentence, which is a flag for me—maybe I should not make big decisions today.) I do know I need to write it down or there’s no chance I’ll remember it tomorrow, let alone next time I return from a trip.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

five for friday, volume 3

…and now for something a little lighter…

I spent six days in Santa Barbara visiting friends on my own. There was much rejoicing and much napping, sometimes in the sun like a cat.

kid quote:

This is an oldie (see: out of town sans kids)… Lilly was twenty-four hours old.

Me: Girls. Get off your sister.
J: We’re not on TOP of her.
K: We’re covering her.
J: We don’t want others to see her!


Inspired by Rachel Held Evans. This is the first RHE I’ve read and, in line with yesterday’s conversation on fear-based clean and safe Christianity, this is one that would have been off the reading list some years ago because she comes to some theological conclusions I don’t. BUT she did point me to the God who is good, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. Beautifully written.


I listened to all available episodes of the podcast Last Day. They zoom in on the day someone died (this season, of opioid overdose) and zoom out to tell how they got there. Real stories, told with empathy and respect for the families and the addicted. This is not an “out there” problem.

moment of happiness:

I biked around Santa Barbara for the most part, because my Airbnb hostess also rents ebikes and so I skipped renting a car this trip. I biked half an hour to Butterfly Beach, sunscreened up, laid on my face on a towel, and slept for an hour. It was bliss.

little bit of nature

Dear SB:

Thank you so much for being full of lovely flowers, trees, succulents.


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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

clean and safe Christianity

I have no use for fear-based faith anymore.

Oh, I used to, for sure. I’d make up all kinds of rules about which things were safe and which music I definitely didn’t listen to (and which I would listen to but not purchase…) Am I allowed to watch Smurfs? Read Harry Potter? I’m not knocking discernment in media consumption, but I wasn’t doing it to be discerning, I was doing it to be good. It all gave me this illusion that I could make myself acceptable and keep myself that way.

The phrase seems like a punchline to a bad joke: fear-based faith. An obvious oxymoron. But it’s so common (or perhaps just in my little evangelical subculture?) that I sometimes forget how absurd it is.

Fear-based faith starts with the assumption that we’re doing okay, so long as nobody screws it up. I mean, yeah, everyone is a sinner, but we have our sin problem managed right now with our quiet times and our praise choruses. But it’s important not to let “wolves in sheep’s clothing” into our midst. That guy who has some doctrine that doesn’t square with our reading of scripture? We won’t read his books—they might lead us into error. The group from the church with some questionable theology? We definitely won’t sing a word of their music, regardless of the actual content, for fear their views will infect our relatively healthy space.

The problem, of course, is the premise: we are not “relatively healthy” and, aside from the Bible itself, there is no material that meets the inerrancy criterion. We’re all a mess, and any music or books or teaching or anything that isn’t the Bible is going to be from human origin, and whoever that human is… they’re a mess, too. So we end up drawing these arbitrary lines around whose doctrine is “too far” and whose is “close enough” and it’s all completely incoherent.

I cannot hold any human author/artist/theologen to the standard of inerrancy. To do so is to put them in the place of God, so… idolatry.

In the preface to Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water, Sarah Zarr makes this point:

Strangely, as much as I heard the word secular as a label on things that should be avoided by good Christians, I don’t ever remember hearing the word sacred as its opposite. Instead, I heard the words clean and safe. to describe what was not deemed worldly. Clean and safe. How puny those words are. What a pitiful reduction of the grandeur of the created world and its inhabitants. What a sad commentary on the church’s understanding of the God of the universe.

We were never meant for clean and safe. We were meant for sacred. Sometimes sacred overlaps with clean and safe, often not.

So rather than clean and safe (or from a source that is without error), might I propose true, noble, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, right, and good? Does it direct me to the God who is without error?

I am over “fear of contamination” as a justification for any choice I make.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.

how I study the Bible

A friend of mine asked, after I’d published this post on spiritual practices, how I did word study and inductive study.

There are lots of people who say lots of things about this, and probably better than I will. Ordinarily I’d just direct the question that way, but October is long and I’m only halfway through it, so… sure!

Word study

When I have a topic I want to drill down into, this is how I go about it: I pull out my concordance (metaphorically—actually I open Blue Letter Bible on my phone) and search a word. Right now, I’m reading a tiny book by Beth Moore that’s based on a study of the word “pit”—how people get in them, stay in them, get out. I look at all the verses in the Bible with the word I’m searching, see what original-language words the various writers used. Is it always the same? Are there a couple different words? If there are different ones, what are the differences in nuance between them? I generally fall into a rabbit hole or two or three in this process, examining obscure stories I’d forgotten, looking at characters I want to know more about, etc. But by the time I’ve gone all the way through my list of verses and associated bunny trails, I have a fairly reasonable grasp on What the Bible Says About ____. If I want to or have reason to or if the results of my search were especially multifaceted, sometimes I’ll organize my thoughts on paper, but usually there’s not much call for it.

Inductive study

This is the form of study I do more frequently. I’ll pick a book of the Bible (frequently whatever Eric is preaching on at church) and dive in. I tend to use Precept upon Precept studies, but you don’t have to. Basically, it involves looking at the text, finding key or repeated words (often marking them, either in my Bible or, more frequently, on a double-spaced copy), seeing what’s there. In a study Bible (or in my Precepts study), there are cross-references to see what other books say about this event or this period in time. When I did a study of Esther this past summer, I kept a running list of what I knew about each of the characters, a list of details about each of the many feasts and the various decrees. I looked at the ways God (who is not mentioned) orchestrates events throughout. Frequently, this involves, again, pulling out the concordance or Bible dictionary to learn the nuances of the words being chosen. Sometimes (typically after I’ve done all the above steps) I wind up consulting commentaries. (Can I plug the BLB app again? It’s free! Concordance! Dictionaries! Cross-references! Commentaries! On your phone!)

In my regular life

Some people do this daily. When I order studies, they’re typically laid out as five days a week. I’ve tried to do this, but it hasn’t worked well for me. Rather than finding 20 minutes to half an hour a day for study, I do far better setting aside a couple hours one evening after bedtime to do it all at once. I find it takes the 20-30 minutes to just get my brain in a good space for this, so doing it daily is frustrating—it feels like drudgery for the first little bit, and then about the time I get into it, the day’s work is done. I think of both of these as analogous to “date night” study. My relationship with Andrew is enhanced by dates, but not sustained by them. Going out on dates every day would be fun, but not realistic. In the same way, I find a few hours once a week to be kind of the ideal blend of helpful and manageable.

This post doesn’t feel very exciting or story-driven, but I challenge you to try it—the Word of God is both.

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This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.