Have you ever felt the weight of the world on your shoulders?

Usually on Fridays, I’m telling you about several things that came across my radar, but today I’m dedicating this post to just one thing today,9780801016561 to tell you about one book on my shelf.

So have you ever carried the world on your shoulders? Yeah, that’s Atlas Girl.

I met Emily Wierenga in Africa this January. Now, I’ve read Emily’s blog for a few years, I’ve even corresponded with her a couple of times here and there.

What I did not expect is that Emily is pretty much exactly how she writes. What you see is what you get. Her stories are not a facade, not an act. She writes vulnerably and sensitively because she is just that vulnerable and sensitive with people in real life. Traveling around Uganda and Rwanda was an emotional experience for all of us. But it was Emily who was the first person off our little bus every time to pick up the first child who crossed her path. She’s the kind of person whose actions give everyone else permission to follow.

So I was really looking forward to getting a copy of Emily’s memoir, Atlas Girl in the mail.

For goodness sakes, how can one person have lived so much?

It is not that Emily has just done a whole lot or had a bunch of adventures. It is that life has happened to Emily. You’re going to read about a childhood battle with anorexia, young romance, struggles to reconcile her own beliefs with her parents’ often rigid faith, a parent’s battle with cancer, the birth of her children, travels around the world (she has been everywhere), and some kind of desperate hope to leave the past behind and never return.

Isn’t that what a lot of us are doing? Trying to escape our pasts?

But it’s Emily’s past that has given her the voice she has today, the same as you and I. I really hope you make this book a part of your summer reading. It will inspire you as lovers of stories, as writers of stories and just as people who are struggling to live out your stories.

Check out my link to the book. You can read a few pages and pick up a paperback or send it straight to your phone or Kindle, and you’ll start to realize that this feeling of carrying the world on our shoulders…we are all carrying the world.

What is the point of being a Christian anyway?

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

Is this a picture of heaven, or a timeshare? Because the sales pitch is usually about the same.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because it seems like we need a sales pitch to get people in the door. What will I get if I agree to this thing called Christianity?

Will Jesus make my life better?

Will I be a better person?

Will I get to go to heaven?

There are a myriad of promises that were made to us when we first accepted Jesus as our “personal” savior, a bunch of guarantees that we could be certain of. I don’t usually do this, but I love Micah Murray’s blog so much, if you haven’t read his Four Reasons I’m Not Going to Heavenyou should (right after you’re done here.) He’s done a great job and I’m not going to retread his points.

There are a lot of bait-and-switch jobs we do to get people to accept Jesus. They are the little Easter Eggs that we scatter around in the hopes of making Jesus more appealing. But I’ve got to think that the greatest trick that we have perpetrated, the biggest bait-and-switch of all time has got to be the certainty that if you accept Jesus, you get to go to heaven when you die.

Here’s what I mean.

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I’ll be honest about something right now.

I kind of hate going to stores to shop. Like physical stores.

It’s not that I dislike getting in the car or handling real products as I browse.

I’m just addicted to checking the reviews of every product I purchase online. A store seems somehow primitive by comparison now. Sure, I can whip out my phone and do a quick search for an item. But that’s a hassle. The point is that I worry that without consulting the opinions of others, I’m going to buy a lousy product. How do I know if this microwave is a piece of junk?! I need random strangers to tell me!

I do the same thing with restaurants.

I can’t visit a new restaurant without first finding out what everyone else thought of the restaurant.

Yes, I know, we have to take reviews with a grain of salt. Some people give bad reviews because they were expecting something other than what the restaurant delivered. Or maybe they are spoiled or something. But God forbid, I endure a fifteen minute meal without first consulting Yelp.

My wife and I spent the last two weeks in the back country of Idaho. We rented a cabin, flew out to Boise and spent a week in solitude.

And all of our friends said, “Why???”

No one we know had ever been to Idaho.

In fact, it sounded like an absurd vacation spot. That’s potato country, right?

But I discovered something.

You don’t need to check the reviews on everything.

Sometimes, you just go.

That’s how you find secret places.

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Remember, if you are looking for a place, a adventure or an experience…

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What if we stopped living, enslaved to the reviews and just went? 

We might find something that no one else knows about.

It’s the end of another week.

Summer has officially started, of course. After a couple of weeks of summer school art classes, I’m actually going to leave school for a little while. I’ll be gone for the next week and a half, on retreat in the peaceful Sawtooth Ridge region of Idaho. Cheri and I going to do a lot of resting. We’re going to look at mountains and walk around lakes and streams. I’m going to do a lot of writing. We will probably eat some potatoes. It’s going to be wonderful.

Before I leave, here’s some cool stuff that’s been really great for me this week.

On My Bookshelf9780800721794_alt2

The funny thing is, I don’t actually have time to read this book.

This book is so well timed for me, it’s unbelievable. One of my blog-friends, Bonnie Gray has just released Finding Spiritual Whitespace. You know how most books you read are some kind of a to-do list? Not this one. It would be ironic if it was, because this book is about laying down the false god of being busy and giving our souls the rest and space they need to thrive. It’s about finding peace. It’s about finding shalom. It’s about stopping, which is a good thing sometimes.

Yeah, I don’t have time to read this book. That is the point. 

Go find this book and read it next to the pool, at the park, or during your own retreat this summer.

In My Art Room

The last two weeks have been spent on summer art camp, an amazing, intensive time when we get to do stuff that just doesn’t work with a full classroom of students. Check out my Instagram feed to see what we made.

In My Blog Reader

Interestingly, there were several great blogs that popped up in my reader this week that were about writing, something that as bloggers and authors, we all struggle with. There is no romanticized reality when it comes to writing. It’s hard. There’s never a perfect time or place to get it done. (That’s why just getting started is one of the biggest hurdles for writers.) KC Proctor shared how he struggles not with writer’s block but writer’s doubt. And Birgitte Rasine share some practical points on The Write Practice on how to write through duress.

On the subject of practical living, there were also a couple of great blogs. Jeremy Statton laid out the five elements of a great ten year plan. And The Art of Manliness, one of my perennial favorites, discussed the virtues of and how tos of one of my most dreaded activities, (and something we were all told not to do), talking to strangers.

There weren’t a whole lot of religious-type blogs this week. But, Zack Hunt of The American Jesus took advantage in the pause to ask a question about the importance of almighty “truth.” Is our faith simply a list of propositional statements?

That’s it for me.  I’ll see you in a couple of weeks!

We Americans enjoy celebrating a lot of stuff.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

There are literally millions of images like this on a Google search.

Those of us who consider ourselves Christians like to talk about and celebrate God. That goes without saying.

We like to celebrate family too.

Some of us like to celebrate freedom.

Or even America itself. Many of us will celebrate America in just a couple of weeks…on Flag Day, the most important and widely celebrated holiday of national patriotism. Well, maybe not. Most of us will celebrate a lot of “American” stuff a couple of weeks after that. I don’t really know what Flag Day is for.

Here’s what’s happening though, and it might be something to think about the next time we come to a holiday or other celebration.

People can celebrate anything they want. Americans celebrate a lot of diverse values. But those of us who celebrate God, had better be extra careful.

Because God is sharing space with a lot of other things that seem to get equal billing.

Here’s what I mean.

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School is out.

It’s time to make some memories.

Maybe you will make memories at home with your family, with some spontaneous or silly moments in the summer twilight.

Maybe your memories will be made out of trying something new with the people you love.

Or perhaps, you will make some lasting memories by going some place far away.

The thing that I’ve discovered about living in the age of blogging and social media is that we started out doing cool things and then thinking, “That was awesome. I want to share that.”

Then, we start feeling the need to share more.

And our thoughts shift to, “This would make a good blog post,”  “I’d better tweet about this.”

And then finally, we start looking for things, sniffing through the corners of our lives, for things we can share, almost like we need a steady flow of information about us being broadcast, so that people know I have a life.

I’m just as guilty as anyone. But the thing I’ve discovered is that mindset is a trap. It makes us a lot less creative. It makes life a lot less fun. Because it makes life a means to an end. It makes life about a product. The product is our blog or our social media feed.

What’s the best thing we can do this summer?

Make some really great memories…

Do some really awesome stuff with the people we love…

And don’t tell anyone.

Don’t blog about it. Don’t tweet about it. Don’t post Instagrams and wait for the likes to roll in. Let the best parts of your life be a secret, fantastic secret between you and the people you share those memories with.


Next week, I’m leaving town, to make some memories with my wife. I’ll post a few pictures. I’ll share with friends. But the best moments, I’m keeping for myself.