It’s the end of another week, and I don’t know about you, but I am really looking forward to a three day weekend! With a baby in the house, my energy levels are definitely lower by Thursday evening than they were on Sunday evening. (I’m pretty sure I took two naps yesterday after work.)

Ah, but in the midst of all this, there are a lot of good things I was able to be challenged, encouraged and fueled by. Here are a few of them…

In My Wishlist

My pal, Sonny Lemmons posted these “Dads Don’t Babysit” t-shirts, and I’m pretty jealous. I’m just now becoming aware that there is an actual movement of people who want people to stop saying that Dad is “babysitting,” but these shirts are pretty amazing.

On My “Told You So” List

The week’s biggest “told you so” has to be the story of Alex Malarkey, whose story became The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven. Well, it turns out he didn’t go to heaven, it was all made up, and he now has some rather remarkable words for the likes of LifeWay and other Christian businesses who profit from this kind of pseudo-spirituality. To be honest, I am surprised that LifeWay and the people aligned with them, who often act as the guardians of orthodoxy and biblical purity, would set aside their convictions so easily for the opportunity to sell hundreds of thousands of books…

…Then again, maybe I’m not surprised.

In My Blog Reader

Finally in my blog reader, a couple of writers seemed to have some similar thoughts as I did this week.

Sarah Bessey laments the closing of Target stores across Canada (though she admits that she never shopped there either) and draws a lot of interesting parallels between the big box retailer and churches (who, as I would say, confuse the kingdom of God with the kingdom of church.)

Anne Marie Miller tells us why the American church, contrary to popular belief, is not going to hell in a handbasket. It’s just that church might look very different from what the “kingdom” establishment wants it to look like.

And on another side of things, Lore Ferguson discusses a tension that I have felt my entire adult life – ambition for quiet Christians. Finally, Kristen at We Are That Family discusses something that I am trying to embrace – the fact that most of our biggest moments are actually very small moments.

That’s it for me this week. See you on the other side of the weekend!

Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation…

The most post-Christian place in America...

The most post-Christian place in America…

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33%. Albany, NY is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, TN ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

Continue Reading…

Everyone likes an adventure, right?

I think so. Humans live for adventure, whether we think of ourselves as “adventurous” or not. Some of us really do go out on great escapades, conquering mountains, forests or water. Other people find adventure through their ambition and work. Some of us find adventure with our children.

Even when we are not adventuring, humans live vicariously with adventurers, through stories, music, art or film. We crave the fantasy of leaving our little box, as much as we crave the security that the box offers.

I think though, that far too often, we sell ourselves short when it comes to adventures. We think that an adventure is something that we have all planned out. We think we have to have all the tools and skills and itinerary before we set foot. So we plan and plan, and we procrastinate and say “not yet,” because we aren’t quite “ready.” But the biggest, most exciting adventures that any of us have ever had probably had a few things in common:

We stopped planning and just went. We are so interested in the idea of controlling our environment, that we probably forego a lot of adventures, simply because we spend too much time trying to figure out how the adventure will end before it has even begun. None of us know how this life will turn out…well, unless we just stay home. Then it’s a pretty safe bet.

We were not entirely equipped. I love camping stores, but if you have ever been in one, you know, there is a huge market for gadgets and gear, all of which does one thing for the adventurer. We are so obsessed with having every little piece of equipment, every shiny little tool, that we forget that our biggest asset is probably our own ingenuity.

We enjoyed the element of risk. Our modern lives are so sanitized of any feeling of risk, that we have become averse to feeling any at all. But no adventures were conquered without some small risk, some itty bitty, (even imaginary) sense of danger. It is the rush of being on unfamiliar ground that has driven human history. Now that we have traded that pioneer spirit for the comfort of our “man caves,” our own personal histories might become far less interesting.

You know, I was surprised to find someone else who embraced the spirit of adventure.

adventure

Talk about someone who didn’t plan her adventure, was not equipped, and wasn’t even sure where her adventure would lead.

Maybe today is calling you to a new adventure.

Well, the days have gotten short and the nights have gotten long…

…Very long in the Appling house, at least.

Week two with the baby at home is probably par for the course. Way too many people asking if we are “sleeping.” I don’t know if they are being sincere or making a joke. If it was a joke, I don’t know if it’s funny. But everything is good and the age of sleepless nights is fleeting.

This week, there were a few notables that came my way which you should definitely check out.

Me, Somewhere Else

One of my first blog interviews in preparation for Plus or Minus is over at Amateur NesterLisa writes a wonderful, encouraging blog dealing with infertility, and it’s an honor to be featured by her.

In My Blog Reader

Two related posts came to my attention this week, both written by two of my favorite writers named Emily. I’m kind of a kindred spirit with them in that publishing my writing is kind of a love / hate thing. Honestly, it’s really easy as a shy / introverted /extrovert to become really unhealthy with writing, social media and the whole feeling of “competition,” even with the way things have changed in the blog world over the last few years. So, I really loved Emily Weirenga’s The Introverted Writer: Why Publishing Is Dangerous for the Quiet Soul and Emily Freeman’s How to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015. If you are like me, you need some grounding to keep this whole writing thing fun, rather than toxic.

On the other side of things, two of my favorite guy bloggers (who do not share a name), wrote about neighboring ideas. Paul Angone’s Four Incredible Benefits to Failing Miserably and Zack Hunt’s Even Masterpieces Have Their Critics made my day. (I don’t care if it’s not what Zack usually writes about, it was good, dang it.)

Finally, if you have not seen this video, do yourself a favor. The boys smiles and expressions are just too much. And it might just be me, but I feel like boys in our culture would never compliment a girl if asked to do so.

After five years of waiting, working, praying and paying, Cheri and I have our boy at home.IMG_8136

It’s been five years, about four of those spent pursuing fertility treatments. Five years is a while to spend waiting for a child whom you want. Plenty of people get pregnant when they “plan” on it. Some people get pregnant, even when they do not plan on it. And yes, there are people who have waited far longer than we have, who have paid a higher price and said more desperate prayers. So we are far from the most long-suffering couples.

In just a few weeks, our infertility memoir, Plus or Minus will be released by Moody Publishers. You might think that with a child in our arms, infertility is forever destined to be in our rear view mirror, a distant memory that we probably will not think about much anymore.

However, when something sticks with you for five years, it tends to leave a pretty indelible mark on your marriage and your faith. The fact is that infertility has been with us so long, I just cannot imagine our marriage without it.

Yes, we have a child in our arms. But here are a few ways that all of that waiting has fundamentally shaped how we see our own child (and all of yours).

Continue Reading…

It’s that time of year. The time of year for “resolutions.”

It’s the time when people make promises to themselves.

They promise that they will do more.

They promise that they will be more.

They make promises to themselves that they will be better people. Most of these promises turn out to be empty promises, of course. But we are still compelled, at least annually, to reflect on our successes and failures, and try to do better.

I cannot remember a year of my adult life when I did not want to do more, be more, be better in everything I did.

That can be exhausting, the relentless pursuit of better. Better is almost never enough. And so we get back on the treadmill next year, determined that this time will be different. We won’t let ourselves down this time.

I spent the last week of 2014 tending to my new son. Our first child. A long time coming.

Before he came, I had plenty of fears about all of the things I would now not be able to do, not be able to accomplish, not be able to promise myself. I feared that my life would go into standby mode.

I’m back at work today though. My life is not in standby mode. But it occurred to me as I read my son his first bedtime story (a completely unproductive activity to do with a five-day-old) that this is what life is supposed to be like.

There are moments in our lives, even whole seasons which are not designed for pursuing more, for chasing better. There are seasons which are meant to be less, to be quiet, to be a retreat from all of the things the world says we should do. This is the way God has designed life to be.

So maybe you have a new baby, and maybe not. But maybe you are in a season of life when it is okay to be content with less, with doing things a little bit slower, with being a little less ambitious, with things being a little bit quieter. Make peace with this season. Don’t fight it. It is our culture of celebrity, consumerism and glittery churches that tell you that it’s never enough.

It is enough, just to exist today.

productive

Happy New Year, friends. I hope yours is as blissfully unproductive, interrupted, and contented as I think mine is going to be.