on the flu shot.

I got my flu shot a couple of weeks ago, and Atticus got his last week. The very nice nurse tried really hard to get him to do the mist, but we had not prepped him for the mist so he said he wanted to do the shot. We all learned a very important lesson about making sure he doesn’t watch the needle going into his own skin because that was the worst part. I guess that is just a difficult thing we all have to learn, because I don’t think I could have gotten him not to look. He was brave even though it hurt and he got ice cream afterwards.

Today Mike got his flu shot (I think this is the first year we have been three for three) and he took Atticus with him. When I talked to them later, Atticus told me that he held Daddy’s hand and watched the needle even though Daddy did not. Apparently both Atticus and the nurse did not feel any pain, though Daddy had a different story. I did not get a report on the ice cream but my hunch is that they had some.

on voting with a three-year-old.

I took Atticus to vote this morning. On the way into our polling place, I reminded him that he was going to push the buttons for me and I needed him to listen so we could get our voting right. He declared, “I’M VOTING FOR BATMAN!” Perhaps Batman is the hero that North Carolina deserves, but not the one it needs right now, as he is not on the ballot this year.

It is fun to watch Atticus take in new situations. He stuck close until they gave him the sticker, then his excitement won out. But he reigned it in when he realized it was time to push buttons. I was prepared for the possibility that his “help” might mean that everyone in the room was going to know who exactly I was voting for as he repeated it loudly. But he did great – I had him push the screen next to the name that started with whichever letter, and he was careful to do them all right. He even helped compare it to the list that I brought in. After we were done, I thanked him for helping me vote, and he said, “Why do YOU get a sticker?” Fair enough.

Then he said, “Wait, we did not vote B for Batman!”

We might wait to teach him about election results another year. I don’t want him to think that Batman lost.


on seriously miscalculating.

When I was a little girl, we had an Admiral Ackbar action figure at our house. Looking back, this makes no sense. The two Star Wars action figures we had were Luke Skywalker (sure) and Admiral Ackbar (wait, what). Because of that, Admiral Ackbar is my favorite character and I have taught Atticus to love him, too. When he is on screen, Atticus yells, “Mama! Admiral Ackbar!” Attaboy.

After Atticus picked out his Darth Vader costume, he wanted to designate costumes for the rest of us as well. He insisted that I had to be Leia. Because I am a girl. We had some hard conversations about this. I argued that you can pick any kind of costume you want and also that I find Leia to be boring and he was firm in his belief that girls have to dress as girls. Finally, one glorious afternoon, he agreed that I could dress as Admiral Ackbar. Oh, sweet victory!

(You may have noticed that I did not, in fact, dress as Admiral Ackbar.)

After he conceded, I immediately went to my computer to order myself an Admiral Ackbar costume. Here’s the problem: such a thing does not exist.


I don’t understand it either! Admiral Ackbar is the best.

So if you were wondering how I picked my costume for Halloween it came from pure desperation. Obviously I could not be Leia after all that stuff I said, but I did not really want to be anyone other than Admiral Ackbar. Instead of ordering a costume I had an intense DIY session. It took me almost a whole month to make the Death Star based on these directions. I hadn’t done paper mâché since elementary school, but I was driven by stubbornness and a need to save face in front of my child. (I have found these to be important parenting skills.) Mike was really unsure about this project but I used that opportunity to say things like, “I find your lack of faith … disturbing.” But the truth is that I was unsure about it, too.

In the end it worked out great and was worth all the trouble when Atticus ran up to me and yelled in his Darth Vader voice, “I live on you!” before we gleefully blew up many pretend planets in our neighborhood.


Were you also wondering about Mike’s outfit? He was torn between his love for Atticus, who wanted him to be a stormtrooper, and his intense hatred of wearing costumes. Last weekend he started to worry that he was going to disappoint Atticus so I told him to go buy a Star Wars t-shirt. When people asked Atticus what his daddy was for Halloween, he said, “Daddy is the title!”


on taking a sad song and making it better.

Today is my mom’s birthday! For her birthday we took her to see Paul McCartney. He was in town, he was her favorite when she was a girl, and the Beatles are the greatest band of all time. You can’t say no to seeing a real live Beatle in your town.


The show was awesome. I guess it would have been better if he played every single song that I know, but he did play 39 songs so I can’t complain. (Seriously, though, he played for three hours. Made me think maybe I should be a vegetarian.)

Here’s what I have been thinking about the past few days: I grew up with a lot of Beatles/Wings songs so of course I know them deep within my soul. Like most of the people in the audience, I sang along as much as I could, belting out “Hey Jude” and “Carry That Weight” completely unselfconsciously. That might sound like no big deal except that I am a terrible singer. I haven’t felt unselfconscious about singing in church (the place I regularly engage with public singing) since my youth group days, when a boy leaned over and said that if I couldn’t sing on key, I shouldn’t sing at all. But on Thursday, there was some kind of special McCartney magic that made it possible for me to join in without the usual hesitations.

I was swept up by the music in a way I don’t think has ever happened at church, where I have so often felt I had to perform in a certain way or have a certain kind of experience or reaction. It made me grateful for the gift of simply being able to sing along with songs I love.

Thanks, Sir Paul, for all the fun. (And for singing the Happy Birthday song. How did you know it was my mom’s birthday?)

on being the bad guy.

Over the summer, Atticus watched Star Wars for the first time. We had to do this because our friends were tired of us getting mad at them when they would say things like, “I am your father!” (Also Toy Story 2, I am giving you some side eye.) We had a few Star Wars books and our answers to his questions about the characters were starting to feel inadequate. It was time for him to experience the movies for himself.

(Because I know are going to ask: no, he is not allowed to watch Episodes 1-3. They are terrible and we want nothing to do with them. The end.)


Watching Star Wars with Atticus was awesome, everything I ever imagined about one day sharing it with a kid. He was excited and scared in all the right places, he fought Darth Vader with his lightsaber, and he was thrilled when he met Yoda for the first time.


It was no surprise that his choice for Halloween this year was Darth Vader. Darth Vader finds peace and a little bit of redemption at the end of his story, but even if he didn’t it was satisfying to watch Atticus explore that side of himself. He spent the weeks before Halloween menacing us and threatening to blow up various planets (“but just pretend”). I don’t think I ever dressed up as a “bad guy” for Halloween but of course Darth Vader is the most interesting and terrifying character of the story. And of course we all want to be the guy who can blow up planets sometimes.


This is what I find so wonderful about Halloween, that it makes it possible for a three-year-old to dress as the most terrifying figure he knows, and that he can run around among the Elsas and Annas and superheroes of the world and find the lights on and doors open to welcome him.


what I have been reading (october edition).

Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond (via the public library)

I quit watching football a couple of years ago after hearing and reading podcasts and articles that talked about the brain injuries. The NFL was a regular part of our lives for the entire time we have been married, and watching on Sundays together was something we enjoyed. But I started to feel squeamish about it, about people being hurt for my enjoyment, so I stopped. I didn’t make some big pronouncement, just quietly decided I couldn’t do it anymore. The news that has come out of the NFL since has not changed my mind. (I do still watch the Super Bowl. I can’t really justify that either, but I watch it.)

All that to say, I was already on the side of the author when it came to this book, but I still appreciated how he articulated his arguments. My position has been less clearly stated, so it was helpful to read in detail about not just the brain injuries but also the financial problems and the racial problems and the culture of violence problems that I felt I was endorsing when I watched the NFL. Do I think that this book will change anyone’s mind? Not really. Do I think it might help sway someone who is feeling iffy about watching the NFL? Yes. Do I think that stuff like this will make a difference in the long run? I doubt it. The NFL is going to roll on without my support but at least I can better explain why. Recommended for: anyone who has ever had a twinge of concern about watching the NFL.


Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (via the public library)

Roxane Gay is really funny on Twitter and I listened to the Slate Audio Book Club discussion of Bad Feminist and decided I should read it. When I say that it was so good that it made me cry, that is not even an exaggeration. I loved how she examined pop culture ideas about women and race while still acknowledging her own failings in this area (this is the “bad” part of being a bad feminist – enjoying romantic comedies and/or music that is not exactly empowering to women). The part that touched me the most was in the essay in which she talks about how a group of boys assaulted her when she was in middle school. At one point, she rebuts the idea that young adult literature should be free of darkness by pointing out how much darkness teenagers can and do experience. It was a great reminder to me of why I do what I do. Many of the essays were funny, all of them are smart and interesting. Highly recommended.

50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith by Michelle DeRusha (via NetGalley)

These are great profiles of women who made their mark in Christian culture. Of course I felt there were some pretty big holes – the list is very much focused on women of the western world. Not to mention that you could profile 50 women from the Civil Rights movement alone. But I did feel that DeRusha worked hard to make the list diverse. I enjoyed the book and learned details about women I was familiar with well as being introduced to new ones. I did not always agree with the “lesson” we needed to take from their lives, but that didn’t take away from my overall interest in the topic. I am going to give this book to my grandma for Christmas, and I think she will enjoy the short chapters as well as reading about some of her heroes. (She does not have the internet, so it is safe to post this.)

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes (via Goodreads)

I won this one through Goodreads and I am finally getting around to writing about it. This is a thoughtful discussion of the myth of the StrongBlackWoman and the damage that that idea does to Black women in our culture and in our churches. The book is specifically aimed at pastors to help them examine that stereotype and to give them ways to minister to Black women in the church, providing them with space to be vulnerable. It was interesting to read this one just after the previous book and to see how the women in that book of all races were often held up for denying themselves and not showing emotion. I’m not a pastor myself, but it gave me a lot to think about culturally. On a personal level it paired well with Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry, which I read earlier this year. Recommended for: pastoral caregivers.

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (graphic novel by Dover Press) (via NetGalley)

My students love graphic novels and I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so I was interested to see if this might be a good purchase for them. I think that Sherlock Holmes and especially this particular story deserve more in terms of the art. The Hound of the Baskervilles is so much about atmosphere on the moors, and the drawings in this graphic novel do not really convey that. Not recommended.

I received copies of some of these books from the publishers but my opinions are my own.

what I have been reading (less reading than normal edition).

People always ask if I really read all these books. The answer is yes! And also I go through periods where I tool around on the internet just like everyone else. Lately I have been doing a lot of tooling around on the internet and also I am sloooowly working my way through The Wire for the first time. But I do have some books to post about.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (purchased by me)

Despite the fact that we North Carolinians like to claim Dr. Angelou as our own, I had never read all of this book. I read a few different excerpts at different times during school, but never the whole thing. After she passed away this spring, I put it on my summer reading list. What is there to say except that her extraordinary story lives up to every bit of hype and if you haven’t read it, you really should.

Blankets by Craig Thompson (from the public library)

This is a huge graphic novel – almost 600 pages. It tells the story of Craig’s childhood with his fundamentalist parents and his first love. It’s always on those lists of must-read graphic novels and I can see why – it’s a beautiful story with beautiful drawings.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (from the public library)

Not quite as good as the first one but still a great mystery with fun characters. Hits the spot for me and I just love the J.K. Rowling voice you can hear in there when it comes to the descriptions and the dry humor.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown (from the public library)

I have some friends who swear by Brene Brown, and I didn’t disagree with anything but I am not sure that vulnerability is my issue. Great book to discuss with a friend who knows you well.

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (via Blogging for Books)

I was not sure I wanted to read this memoir about Whiston-Donaldson losing her son in a freak tragedy at the age of 12. While it is an incredibly sad story, it was somehow not as bleak as I thought it might be. An honest portrayal of a mother’s grief and her family’s attempt to pick up the pieces of their broken life. I appreciated that it did not reach for easy answers or shy away from the intense pain and questions that Whiston-Donaldson was feeling, to the point that I am still not sure whether her marriage will survive the tragedy. The story is stronger than the writing, but the story is enough to keep you engaged. Unsettling but ultimately hopeful.


I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (purchased for me by Mike)

There’s a lot of buzz around this story about twins who were once close and who are now barely speaking to each other. It alternates back and forth between the past and present with the two narrators, Noah and Jude. I really did not like it. Hated the writing style with the quirky asides, hated one of the narrators (Jude), hated the story, kind of hated the magical realism aspect. I wanted to like it! But it was not for me. Recommended for: NO ONE. But if you want to read it I will lend you my copy.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood (via NetGalley)

This is about two girls in Australia who go for a term to an outdoor education camp. One, Lou, has recently lost her boyfriend in an accident and is covered up in grief. The second, Sibylla, was recently featured in a marketing campaign and is seeing new social doors open for her. They are in the same cabin but don’t forge a friendship right away. I liked this book for its depiction of life as a teenager in Australia as well as the focus on female friendship. Recommended for 12-16 year olds.

Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (via NetGalley)

Kaz works in a laundromat and has a mother with a weird disease. He sees Zoey and falls for her, but their relationship doesn’t make sense. Zoey isn’t developed as a character, and Kaz’s inability to see her as more than a cool hot chick makes it hard to feel sorry for him when it turns out Zoey isn’t who she claimed she was. Basically a mess and it’s a shame because the characters have a lot of potential.

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon G. Flake (via NetGalley)

I am a huge fan of The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake – it comes in and out of my library almost every day and it’s a book that I love and love to read with students. But I could not get into Unstoppable Octobia May. I enjoyed the portrayal of time and place but the story was hard to follow. I couldn’t see myself giving it to a student when I could barely read it myself. Huge bummer for me because I was excited about it and was hoping for more. There’s a good detective story in here and I could see some of the antics playing out so well if they had been described a little bit more clearly.

Currently reading:

We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren (via NetGalley)

I have a rocky relationship with Brian McLaren – I have seen him speak and really enjoyed his words, but I have also read some of his other books and felt like he was condescending and . . . almost unkind. But this book? I am loving it. It’s structured as a year-long study so it’s hard to read straight through but I am working through it a little at a time and the reflections on scripture are wonderful. I could see a Sunday School class getting a lot out of these discussions. Highly highly recommended!

I received copies of some of these books from the publishers but, as always, my opinions are my own (and boy did I seem grumpy with this set).

been talking ’bout the way things change.

One night this summer, Atticus stayed at my mom’s house overnight so Mike and I could have a date night, which ended up being an early dinner so we could come home to watch House of Cards. (We are very exciting people.) When Atticus wanted to Facetime with us, we agreed, but it turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Even though he loves loves loves staying at Grammy’s house and being with Grammy, he was tired. Seeing us but not being able to be with us so close to bedtime was confusing and upsetting to him.

It was upsetting to us, too, a little bit. We are used to his clinginess and his tears (and we were in the middle of a big clingy phase at that point) but as he reached for us through the screen he had a look on his face that neither of us had seen before, sadness and confusion and tiredness all mingled into something new. Tears filled my own eyes as I watched him try to make sense of what was happening.

I would have told you that I knew all of his faces, the tired silliness at bedtime and the sly side-eye when he’s doing something he knows is questionable and the quiet nervousness of a new situation. He might be a big three-year-old now, but I grew him as a tiny baby inside of me, so of course I know his faces.

But I didn’t know that one because I was seeing something he had never experienced before.

I have thought about that face a lot over the past couple of months. When Atticus was tiny, I reminded myself often how steep the learning curve must be to a little person. But now he walks (runs) and talks (yells) and I forget that there are still so many things he hasn’t seen, hasn’t felt inside.

As a parent, I think we talk more about the positive feelings that we get to watch our kids experience as they learn: pride at an accomplishment, joy at seeing something new, self-control in a hard situation. It’s more difficult to think about the things that will make him sad and scared and confused in the future and give him all sorts of new feelings he has never felt before. It’s scary for me, too. The baby stage was hard because so many people had opinions about what we were supposed to do, but this part feels hard because Atticus is uncharted as a person and it’s becoming so clear that there is no guidebook to help us discover who he is.

I don’t want to pivot to platitudes or an easy answer here. I work with middle schoolers so I am crushingly aware that these feelings of uncertainty are only going to increase over time. But I do mean it when I say that despite feeling like a terrible responsibility, I am aware that it is such a privilege to watch him work these things out and help him learn what to do with all the things he takes in. It has helped me realize how many new feelings and experiences I have had since becoming a parent, too, and that we are all three in this together.

Two Atticus faces to close us out:


Hmm, what is in this box?


Ah, yes, it is chocolate cake.

let’s go adventuring, darling.


This summer we finally gave up the stroller for walks, so we amble together down the streets and notice things. It took me a couple of months to realize that I was taking walks my way (to exercise or to take him to the park) when he had his own ideas about what we should be doing (stopping constantly to look at rocks and sticks, picking up rocks and sticks, throwing rocks and sticks into the drain and the lake, saving rocks and sticks to take home).


Shifting my perspective on these walks has made them feel so much more like an adventure. We feed the birds and we check the dam and we pet all the dogs. We climb on and jump off everything, and we chat about the things we see and hear, making mental lists of the curiosities we have to describe to Daddy when we get home. We sing a song he made up about hiking. We often get very dirty. And we barely glance at the playground equipment.


My bag is full of snacks and a handful of rocks. This time I remembered some wipes. Let’s go adventuring, Atticus. It’s one of my favorite things to do with you.

a poem for sunday.

“Little Girls in Church” by Kathleen Norris


I’ve made friends
with a five-year-old
Presbyterian. She tugs at her lace collar,
I sympathize. We’re both bored.
I give her a pencil:
she draws the moon,
grass, stars
and I name them for her,
printing in large letters.
The church bulletin
begins to fill.
Carefully, she prints her name–KATHY–
and hands it back.

Just last week
in New York City, the Orthodox liturgy
was typically intimate,
casual. An old woman greeted the icons
one by one
and fell asleep
during the Great Litany
People went in and out,
to smoke cigarettes and chat on the steps.

A girl with long brown braids
was lead to the icons
by her mother. They kissed each one,
and the girl made a confession
to the youngest priest. I longed to hear it,
to know her name.


I worry for the girls.
I once had braids
and wore lace that made me suffer.
I had not yet done the things that would need forgiving.
Church was for singing, and so I sang.
I received a Bible, stars
for all the verses;
I turned and ran.

The music brought me back
from time to time,
singing hymns
in the great breathing body
of a congregation.
And once in Paris, as
I stepped into Notre Dame
to get out of the rain,
the organist began to play:
I stood rooted to the spot,
I looked up, and believed.

It didn’t last.
Dear girls, my friends,
may you find great love
within you, starlike
and wild, as wide as grass,
solemn as the moon.
I will pray for you. if I can.

what I have been reading (back to school tired brain edition).


Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (borrowed from a friend)

When some butterflies that usually winter in Mexico end up in a valley in the Appalachian mountains instead, what happens to the community? What happens in particular to the families closest to this miracle (that could, after all, be a tragedy caused by climate change)? Maybe not my favorite Kingsolver (I have a special place in my heart for Prodigal Summer), but I loved the setting and the ways that Kingsolver cared so deeply and respected the poor people she was writing about. What good is science when your family is just getting by, and how much can farmers care about butterflies when climate change is affecting their own work? I really enjoyed this one. Recommended for: the science-minded among us, those who can see themselves in tales from a small town, anyone who has ever felt their lives were small and they wanted more.

Undistorted God: Reclaiming Faith Despite the Cultural Noise by Ray Waddle (via NetGalley)

Two quotes from this book sum up what I liked about it. “That’s the secret about religion: it better be worldly. Don’t live it all in your head, doing the math of perfectionism. Don’t forget the shaggy, swarming world.” And, “That’s what a church with its beckoning art should inspire when you sit down inside a sanctuary or assembly hall or approach a labyrinth of stone altar–the long view, a consoling sanity, a renewed search for the undistorted God.” This is mostly a story of finding God in unexpected places and learning how to differentiate the things that point you to God from God. Recommended for people who have trouble seeing glimpses of the divine in their daily lives.

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller (via NetGalley)

I have been hearing about this book for years, so when I saw I could request a copy with 100 additional pages, I was thrilled. It’s basically everything I love in an oral history, juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, scandal, and some people who are clearly very pissed about their experiences with the show and/or Lorne Michaels all these years later. SIGN ME UP. I flew through this and loved it (perfect airplane reading, by the way). My only complaint was that some of the new material seemed a little too current for the contributors to have really reflected upon what it meant culturally or even to themselves. I hope in 10-20 years there continue to be discussions with those actors and writers involved about their experiences on the show. My one suggestion for making this book better would be if the digital version had links to all the sketches that they are talking about. How great would that be, to read about a sketch and then just click to watch it yourself? Someone please make this happen. Recommended for: fans of SNL, people who kind of hate SNL, people who love oral histories and gossip.

Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life by Robert Benson (via Blogging for Books)

On my last day of summer vacation, I took this book with me as I got a pedicure, and I read almost the whole thing. It’s a quick and easy read about writing. Benson talks about what works for him as he writes and edits drafts, what does not work for him, and gives general tips from his years of experience. Rather than being dry or imperious, the tone is warm and friendly, and I took away several ideas for my own writing. Recommended for: writers and friends of writers.

Telling God’s Story: A Parents’ Guide to Teaching the Bible by Peter Enns (purchased myself)

This was recommended in the comments here one day and I finally got around to ordering it. Rather than reading the traditional Old Testament stories with your child, Enns recommends focusing on the parables with small children, then moving to some of the more complex/confusing stories in middle school, and bringing the Bible into more cultural and historical context in high school. I liked this plan because I don’t really want to read Atticus stories about Noah’s Ark or genocide at this point, and without some guidance it is easy to step back from the Bible and be afraid to read it altogether. We obviously are very new to this (and I didn’t buy the curriculum), but if you have a young child and are nervous about reading the bible with him or her, I recommend this book to you.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonski (via NetGalley)

Grayson lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins after his parents died in a car crash, and he hides from them his darkest secret: he is really a girl stuck inside the wrong body. When he tries out for the female lead in the school play, a lot of feelings that have been tucked away in his family and his community come to the forefront. What I liked about this book was that it focused on middle grade concerns. Grayson most clearly articulates the idea that he is a girl by wanting to wear girls’ clothes. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into being a transgendered person than simply switching wardrobes, but Grayson’s expression also seemed appropriate for that age. You will root for Grayson to feel the support and love he needs and admire his(her) inner strength. Recommended for: middle schools.

Disquiet Time: Rants and Reflections on the Good Book by the Skeptical, the Faithful, and a Few Scoundrels edited by Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani (via NetGalley)

If you have ever read a devotional and come away with more questions than answers, this is the book for you. After years of quiet times that left me unsettled, I enjoyed these thoughts on scripture that don’t depend on everything wrapping up neatly at the end. While of course some of the essays are stronger than others and some resonate more than others, they were consistently good and thought-provoking. My favorites were from Karen Walrond, Ian Cron, and Ellen Painter Dollar. Some other authors you might know are Brian McLaren, Eugene Peterson, Caryn Rivadeneira, Karen Swallow Prior, Susan Isaacs, Debbie Blue, Christian Piatt, Katherine Willis Pershey, Amy Julia Becker, Anna Broadway, and Gareth Higgins. This book is packed full! My only regret is that I was reading it during the first week of school, when I really did not have the mental energy for something so smart.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich (via NetGalley)

Nest is set in 1972 and is about Chirp, an eleven-year-old girl who loves dancing and the outdoors and wild birds. When Chirp’s mother gets sick, her world is turned upside down. Where can she find a safe place? As I was reading this, I felt as if it was a not-quite-as good version of Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt because of the bird themes and the neighbor Joey who is suffering from abuse. However, I can’t think of a student who would enjoy Okay for Now, but I do think this one would find a place on my shelves. It paints a realistic picture of depression and the stresses that many children face in their home lives. Recommended for middle schoolers.

I received some of these books for free but my opinions are my own.

two prayers for the first day of school.


Tomorrow is the first day of school here. I am entering this year with a mixture of determination, terror, and hope. Let’s pray together.

O Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges, and universities,
that they may be lively centers for
sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom;
and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find
you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.
(from the BCP)

And this one is specifically for the public schools of North Carolina, not that I don’t care about other kinds of schools or schools in other places. Just that we are in some serious weeds here and need some special prayers of our own.

Great, loving God, on this day, we pray for the students and educators of every public school. As people of faith and as concerned citizens, we pray for the wisdom and courage to stand up for a just and equitable education for every single child in our state and in the world. May our feet keep marching, O God, until our elected leaders recognize and value our children and teachers. We pray this in the name of our great teacher, Jesus. Amen. (from Reverend Nancy E. Petty)

what Atticus Finch taught me about watching the news.

Before I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I read a book that has been lost to history that quoted Atticus Finch: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” I have always thought of that as Atticus Finch’s most famous quote, but it is not my favorite. Good advice, but who wants to stand in Robert E. Lee Ewell’s shoes? Perhaps I am not yet ready for that level of compassion and empathy.


As a parent, I see things more clearly from Atticus Finch’s side. The ways he tries to do right and the ways he fails and the messages he wants to teach his children through it all. He is a pragmatist, not a prophet. He sees things the way that they are and he points his family in the direction of change, change that looks like a young girl surprising a crowd on a tense night, change that looks like dignity in the face of defeat, change that looks like respecting the dignity of others no matter their situation. His benign neglect is not going to help win any parenting awards, but his values are helping him raise smart, brave, informed kids who are learning to think of others.


I have thought a lot about Atticus Finch this past week. He is with me often enough on a regular week, but the news of the past week has been so terrible. The shock from Ferguson and the death of Robin Williams took over most of my feed last week as we as a country wrestled with injustice and loss in the physical sphere. (And in the case of Ferguson, we continue to do so.)

There were a lot of compassionate responses. But then there were the others, the ones who claim that Mike Brown was a thug who deserved to be shot, or that Robin Williams was a selfish sinner for killing himself. There’s not a lot of nuance in that kind of story. There’s only a list of what you must do to be in, and in both cases, the central figures are most definitely out.

This is human nature, to try to set up systems that help us understand the problems we see before us. This is understandable. And it is wrong. To jump to these conclusions is to deny that the person you are discussing was created in the image of God, carries that life and light inside.

No matter what happened with cigars or pot or jaywalking, there is no reason for Mike Brown to have ended up dead on the street, shot six times (twice in the head). If you think that he was a menace, you should ask yourself why. If you don’t understand why the community is upset, you should ask yourself why. And if you feel okay with trusting the police in this situation, you should ask yourself why. Why do you think the community is having such a different response? Is it possible that they have experienced things you haven’t that make it hard for them to trust the police? Wouldn’t that make their responses just as valid as yours? Try putting yourself in the shoes of a community member. Read some books and listen to some stories about race in that area and what it is like to be young and black in this country. That’s not walking around in someone else’s shoes, but it’s a good start. Maybe you should find out a little bit more before you speak about such a large and complicated problem.

As for Robin Williams, he was never my favorite comedian, despite the places I hold in my heart for Dead Poets’ Society and Good Will Hunting. But he taught me Whitman and he taught me not to be so afraid and I love him for it, even if he didn’t make me laugh as much as he did other people. All I can think about is how terrible he must have felt, the despair that must have been surrounding him as he chose to end his life. Anyone who would reduce such an experience to a judgment call about sin and selfishness, I have some questions for you. Have you ever suffered from depression that made it hard to get out of bed? Depression that made you feel so wholly unconnected to your body that you weren’t sure how to move or speak at a normal pace? Depression that stretched into nothingness? It’s not the same as being sad when your dog dies. Maybe you should find out a little bit more before you speak about such a large and complicated problem.

Listening to Atticus Finch is teaching me what I learned as a small child, the importance of a faith that prioritizes imagination. Holy imagination draws us closer to God by allowing ourselves to see God at work in places we might not expect. We see God’s presence around us, God’s image in the people we meet.

I think we could all use a little bit more Atticus Finch in our lives this week, a little more of taking off our own shoes and trying on someone else’s. As you watch the news, especially the news from Ferguson, give that holy imagination a try. Embrace compassion. Consider what you might not know. And listen to those who can offer you a different perspective.

Some resources:

-12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson

-Black Bodies White Souls by Austin Channing Brown

-Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

what I have been reading (end of summer womp womp).

I have to go back for training in the morning so my summer is pretty much over. I would ask you to feel sorry for me but I don’t really even feel sorry for myself. This summer was just the break I needed. More about going back to school later. But first, here are some books I read this summer that I haven’t told you about yet.

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince (via NetGalley)

I have been trying to read more graphic novels, not just for my students but also for myself. This one is Liz Prince’s story of growing up and being a tomboy, never knowing exactly where she fit in. I am not sure I am qualified to judge artwork in graphic novels, but I liked the drawings and I really enjoyed this story. I particularly liked how she is a tomboy who is straight because often this type of character would be gay and I like to see a diversity of experiences represented (I boycotted the color pink for about a decade, so I feel some camaraderie with Liz myself). In the end, Liz comes to see how she is also contributing to the marginalization of girls/women by refusing to be “girly” and I loved how that discovery brought her some peace in the end. Recommended for: fans of graphic memoirs, girls who are tomboys, people who struggle with gender conformity. Oh, and it would be great in high schools, I think.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud (via NetGalley)

Here’s another graphic novel, but this one is a novel and not a memoir. It’s about David, a man who makes a deal with death to be able to sculpt anything he wants. He uses that power to make incredible street art, but when he falls in love with the woman of his dreams just before his time is up, everything changes for him. This is the kind of graphic novel that is not totally my jam – kind of like a superhero story (special powers) and kind of like magical realism, neither of which are my favorites. And yet! Despite all that, it was un-put-down-able. I raced through it because I had to know what was going to happen. I especially loved the art he would create throughout New York City in the middle of the night. I’m not totally sure who to recommend it to, but it was a really engaging story.


Landline by Rainbow Rowell (via my husband, for my birthday because he is awesome)

I am on record as being a Rainbow Rowell stan so take all my opinions with a grain of salt. On one hand, there is a certain amount of ridiculousness to this story – Georgie can’t go on her family’s Christmas trip which seems to be the thing that has finally ruined her relationship with her husband Neal forever . . . until she finds a landline in her parents’ house that somehow allows her to call Neal in the past and help her work things out with him. That sounds kind of clunky, right? Plus there’s the fact that we don’t get quite enough of how and why Georgie and Neal like each other to begin with. And yet! I still really liked it. Rainbow Rowell writes characters who are so appealing and so real despite phones that can communicate with the past. Four out of five stars with the caveat that you are going to have to just accept some ridiculousness (but hopefully you won’t mind too much).

A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace by Brian Zahnd (Amazon was giving this one away for free a while back)

This is a book about pacifism. I basically agreed with everything Zahnd said but man was it boring. (Insert joke here about how books about peace can’t be very exciting.)

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (via the used bookstore)

This book is narrated by Sutter Keely, a senior in high school who is a drunk. Not just a guy who drinks too much at parties, but a guy who needs a drink first thing in the morning, who drinks all day, who is the life of the party and has beer in the trunk of his car and who can convince you to go along with his crazy plans. He’s incredibly charismatic, which makes for a great narration as you see the truth despite what he is telling you (and himself). It was a tough read because Sutter is so deluded and it doesn’t wrap up neatly at all. But definitely enjoyable. Great high school book, and I can’t wait to see the movie.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (via the public library)

I decided to go ahead and read this one because I know the movie is coming out. It’s about a girl, Mia, who is in a coma following a car accident that killed the rest of her family. Essentially she has to decide if she is going to stay on earth or pass on to the afterlife. Several of my friends have reviewed this one and none of them gave it more than three stars but it was an enjoyable page turner and I cried twice so I give it four stars. Recommended if you are prepared for the melodrama.

In Darkness by Nick Lake (lent to me by a fellow librarian)

This is a difficult book to explain – it’s about a young black man in Haiti who is trapped in the rubble of a hospital after the earthquake in 2010. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, we also hear the story of Toussaint L’Ouverture, who helped liberate Haiti from France in the late 1700s. I’m not going to lie – it was difficult to understand and get through at points. But I learned a lot about Haiti and it was masterfully told. I could see some bright high schoolers latching on to this book (and obviously the Printz committee could, too, because it won in 2013). I know that I will not be forgetting it any time soon.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman (via the public library)

When I finished If I Stay, I said that I wasn’t going to read the sequel. But I went to the library with Atticus and the sequel was right there on the shelf! So I checked it out. This one is narrated by the (ex) boyfriend of Mia and tells his story of what happened after the accident. It was okay but I liked the first one better.

The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith by Joanna Brooks (via the public library)

I have been on a little bit of a Mormon kick this summer. There are a lot of blogs written by Mormon women, did you know that? I didn’t really until recently. So I am kind of fascinated by the whole thing, especially how similar evangelical Christianity can be to Mormonism and yet there are some big differences, too. Several people recommended this book, which, oh my gosh. This book is amazing. It just shines, a beautiful jewel of a story. I sat next to the pool and read it and kept wiping away tears (of course I had forgotten my sunglasses, so I had nothing to hide behind). This is the book I wish I could write, where she has such affection and understanding for the way she used to be. I give it all the stars!

When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church by Lillian Daniel (via the used bookstore)

From what I can tell, Lillian Daniel wrote an essay on Huffington Post about the perils of being “spiritual but not religious” and decided to write a book on the topic but didn’t really have a book’s worth of stuff to say so she just told stories instead. I liked the stories in this book but there didn’t seem to be any structure to it. Also, a few (not many) of the stories were anecdotes I have heard from other speakers/preachers. I feel like that can work in a sermon but it doesn’t work for me in a book. In the end, I didn’t feel like she made a convincing case that being in a church is important (which I think is what she was trying to do). With a different title, this book might have worked better for me. As it is, it felt like it needed more focus.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (via NetGalley)

This is essentially a transcription of her TEDx talk so if you can’t sit and watch the video, perhaps try this instead. If you have only heard the clips that Beyonce used in her song “Flawless,” you should definitely read or listen to the whole thing. A quick read, but a powerful one. These are the things we should all be teaching our children, boys and girls alike.

I received some of these books through NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

3.5 and 35


When Atticus was turning three, several people sidled up to me and said, “I don’t know whether to tell you this, but the terrible twos are nothing compared to the threes.” Wait, what?! I went out of my way to insist that the twos weren’t as bad as advertised and this is how the universe repays me? Also, why is this not public information?! I needed more time to prepare.

I’m not going to lie, turning three was hard on Atticus (and therefore on the rest of us). He was more volatile and he couldn’t deal with difficulties like sharing, transitions, or anyone looking at him. You know, the usual stuff. Getting out the door in the morning was pretty frustrating, and his hair often went uncombed. A few times I had to strap his underwear-clothed body into his carseat and get him dressed at school because he would calm down there. Clothes, mama, why are you making me wear these terrible clothes? And stop looking at me!

So just imagine how I felt when I read this blog post about 3.5 year olds and how they are even more fearsome than three year olds just a few weeks after Atticus’s third birthday. He has a few friends who are about six months older, and their parents all confirmed for me that 3.5 was basically the worst thing that ever happened to their otherwise sweet and adorable children. Meanwhile, I was shaking in my boots since we were already having a hard time. All spring I pictured the summer as alternating between a screaming match and a grudge match. I knew everything would be terrible and I was kind of bummed that it was the part we would be home for.

But you know what? It’s been mostly great. A few bumps but not the horror show I was expecting. Maybe he worked that nonsense out of his system back in the winter/spring, or maybe we’re wearing him out at the pool, or maybe he decided to go through it when his friends did (syncing their cycles). Whatever it was, it’s been a summer of happy memories at the pool, time with friends and family, and ice cream sandwiches.

3.5 is full of contradictions, the things he says he can do on his own and the ways he suddenly cannot operate any of his limbs when we ask him to pick up his toys. He has trouble trying things that seem hard but there is wonder and discovery. He is desperate to see his friends but after a few hours he can’t really share with them anymore. He can’t stand for his shirt to get the tiniest bit wet but he spends hours playing at the pool. He is as stubborn and sweet as he has ever been. I’m sure that the transition back to school will be challenging but I feel so much more confident about who he is and what we can weather.

Atticus turned 3.5 just a few days before I turned 35, and besides enjoying the symmetry of the numbers, I have decided that we aren’t so different. I have been known to house some contradictions myself, to be a little stubborn and to need some alone time. Here’s to my bright and beautiful boy for defying the conventional wisdom and being not quite as cranky as everyone expects. Most of the time, anyway.

set me as a seal upon your arm.

No sense in burying the lede: Mike and I went on our anniversary to get tattoos. Neither modern nor traditional lists name ink as a fourteenth anniversary gift, but maybe they should. Maybe it’s even a little bit Song of Solomon: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is as strong as death.

It was an act of love, both with the man I love and as a mark of love upon myself. I have long been an expert at hating my body, but after it started suffering signs of aging and post-pregnancy, I reached a new level of loathing. I could allow, yes, that carrying and nursing a baby made me see a new strength inside myself, that I shouldn’t look now like I did twenty years ago, but the outside doesn’t offer a view that I am happy about. Even things I did that were ostensibly for my health like taking medicine and training for a half marathon left me changed in ways that made me uncomfortable.

It has been hard to accept that the changes my life has made to my body will be carried with me, are part of me going forward. There is no going back to who I was. My mind knows that and sees it as a beautiful picture of growth, but my body looks in the mirror and does not find it good. I realized a couple of years ago that making a change of my own choosing might help.


I started walking a local prayer labyrinth after Atticus was born, and it has become a powerful symbol in my life. As I walk those twists and turns, I breathe more deeply. The path is not straightforward, but neither is any step wasted. You must stay in the present, one step at a time, without looking too far ahead. Walking the labyrinth has given me a way to accept those aspects of life by helping me unwind the knot around my heart. I never thought I was a tattoo person until I considered getting a labyrinth tattoo, and then I knew immediately it was the right choice.

I doubt that tattoos are on any list that talks about aging gracefully, but for me, the ability to accept, even in a small way, that my body has been shaped by what has come before is a gift. It was empowering to mark myself with a symbol that is important to me as a wife and a mother, one that helps me pray and breathe and think. I will carry it with me just as I carry other scars and stretch marks and sags. Just as I carry all those younger versions of who I used to be, none of them wasted, each building on the ones who came before.

Mike and I went on our anniversary to get tattoos. I have to say that I love mine. It makes me feel strong and I think it is beautiful.

(Mike loves his, too. He got a sea turtle because of the time he spent working with sea turtles in Costa Rica.)


on taking a break from church (a review of how to be a christian without going to church by kelly bean).

I haven’t been to church in a couple of months. I needed a break, not from God but from some of the dynamics that inevitably appear when you attend a church for over a decade.

It’s been nice in some ways, a relief. But in other ways, I feel a little bit unmoored. My Sundays have no particular shape, so I end up feeling even more disappointed on Sunday night when I have to go back to work on Monday. I have been a churchgoer all my life, so this much of a break is a big change, and I am not sure it is for me. I think I might be a church girl, and I have been glad to have the chance to figure that out for myself. Those uncomfortable dynamics aren’t going to be fixed when I decide to go back, but it’s nice to feel that I can choose them for myself rather than feeling stuck inside of them.

Soon after I decided to take a break, I requested a review copy of How to be a Christian Without Going to Church by Kelly Bean. I did it sort of as a joke, so I could read it and Mike could raise his eyebrows at me. (He’s been going to church a little bit.)

christianwithoutchurchThe book, as you might imagine, is about what it looks like for many people who are faithful believers but who no longer see traditional church as a priority. I should say that some of the most faithful Christians in my life are not regular churchgoers, so it was not difficult to convince me that there are other options than showing up in nice clothes at 11:00 on Sunday morning. Bean writes about other ways that practices and faith are possible even without Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible studies. These are not necessarily mind blowing things – home services, gathering for meals, and serving your community are not new ideas, but I appreciated how she framed them as opportunities for connection and spiritual growth. I was also challenged to consider how much I compartmentalize my church life because I can easily return to it every Sunday rather than letting it be a natural outpouring of my daily life.

One of my strongest objections to the book as I was reading it is that the author had experienced a certain amount of privilege in the ways that she experienced “church” even as a nongoer (her term). For example, they had a home large enough to house people who needed it and money and food enough to share as well as time to give. I was impressed with how she addressed this at the end of the book after experiencing some financial setbacks within her family.

I think How to be a Christian Without Going to Church addresses issues of vulnerability and authenticity (even though those are kind of cliches) that many people feel when it comes to living out their faith. It’s a good read even if you are comfortable with your church attendance because it offers so many practical suggestions for connecting with those around you. Even though it turns out that I am probably a church girl, I enjoyed reading this book and having the opportunity to figure that out for myself.

I haven’t been to church in a couple of months. I needed a break, but I think I will go back. Reading this book helped.

Does the title of the book still bug you? Kelly Bean addresses that well here.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

what I have been reading (beach reads edition).

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) (via the public library)

I probably don’t need to say much about this book since it’s by J.K. Rowling, but I enjoy a good mystery novel and this one hit the spot. I could sort of see the pieces coming together but couldn’t quite guess how it was going to work out, so the reveal at the end was satisfying and enjoyable. It did drag a bit right in the middle, but I was reading it so quickly that that hardly mattered. Recommended for: mystery enthusiasts, people who like to discuss celebrity culture.

The Feasts: How the Church Year Forms Us as Catholics by Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina (via NetGalley)

This book listed a different subtitle on Goodreads, but I think this one is slightly more accurate – the book is more specifically tailored for Catholic readers than Protestants or other faiths. I was hoping for some ideas about church year practices that we might include in our family celebrations, but it wasn’t structured quite like that. The first half was a discussion of the history of feasting in the church and the second half did get into more specifics about some holy days. I learned several things about the Catholic church that I had not known but didn’t pick up anything for our family. Recommended for: people wanting to learn more about celebrations within Catholicism.


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (via the public library)

Americanah is about two kids growing up in Nigeria and it follows them as one, Ifemelu, travels to America for college. Obinze, her boyfriend, is not able to get a visa and instead spends time in London. I enjoyed Ifemelu’s story (and her blog posts on racial issues in America) more than Obinze’s, especially in the middle of the book when he was bogged down in legal/visa issues. Recommended for: basically everybody, because this is a great book about the modern-day immigrant experience.


Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha (via Blogging for Books)

I read Michelle DeRusha’s blog a few times many years ago when it was called Nebraska Graceful. I remember enjoying her sense of humor and her way of looking at the world, so when I saw that I could request a copy of her book, I was excited to do so. Michelle grew up in the Catholic church but did not consider herself a person of faith. After some conversations and experiences at church with her family, she decided to be more open to spiritual ideas and began to see God moving in unexpected places. This is her story of faith and doubt and not fitting in. One of the things I liked about her blog bugged me a little bit while I was reading the book – she is great at finding the humor in situations and is careful to make herself the butt of the joke and to protect her family. After a few chapters, I began to wish we had had more information on the people around her to balance out her portrayal of herself as a bit of a grumpy goof. The book quotes a lot of authors I have read (especially Kathleen Norris) and there were times I felt that she was not adding a lot to those quotes. Still, I would recommend this for people who have struggled as outsiders in their faith, especially those who converted as adults.

The Misfits by James Howe (via my own shelf even though I had never read it)

I decided to read this one because I am thinking about doing a book club with it next year, focusing on students who are outsiders and possibly doing our own No Name-Calling Week. If you have read this and have ideas for me, let me know! If you haven’t, it’s a good middle grades book that helps students think about bullying.

A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves (via NetGalley)

Marlena Graves grew up with an alcoholic, mentally ill father which has helped her to see how God is present in the wilderness. She writes about different ways that God has spoken or moved in her life in the wilderness and testifies to the faithfulness of God using scripture and examples from her own life and others. I found the first half of the book to be slow and I couldn’t tell where she was going or understand what point she was making. The book picked up about halfway through, but even so, I wished there had been a stronger structure on which to hang the book, because the wilderness metaphor did not seem quite right for a lot of her stories. In the end, it didn’t feel a lot different than other books that I have read about trusting God in difficult times. I saw so many good things online about this one, but I have to say it didn’t work for me.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (via the used bookstore)

I’m probably the last person in the world to read this but in case you don’t know, it’s about Walls’s experiences growing up in neglect and poverty in Arizona and in West Virginia. I had put off reading it because I had heard people say it was as tough as it sounded like it would be. Agree, but it’s also a captivating story, and it’s made easier because you know she managed to pull through (since she did write the book and all).

Some of these books were provided to me by the publishers (as indicated above) but my opinions, as always, are my own.

the world cup at our house.


I never updated about how Atticus’s soccer season went, and that is because it was bad. He did okay, for the most part, but he is stubborn and a little bit nervous around crowds. I think that even if he had had a coach who was good with his age group and who had shown up to all the games and practices, he would have been shy about the part where everybody runs together to get the ball. But the problem was that he didn’t have a coach who showed up for all the games and practices, so he never really got a chance to get comfortable. It was a disappointing shame, and if you live in my town, I don’t recommend the YMCA soccer program.

I wanted him to play soccer because the idea of it was so cute with the little jerseys and the shin guards and the running. There is something more, too, and I can’t quite explain except to tell you that he was in my stomach kicking away four years ago and I watched those World Cup games and hoped he was taking them in. Those were my first ever soccer games, and loved watching them with my friends (and Twitter). I dreamed of watching the games with him in 2014, of cheering on the national team and showing him the countries on the map. Signing him up for soccer seemed like a good way to encourage that.

Before the 2010 World Cup, soccer was something that was sometimes on at other people’s houses. I have a hazy memory of being in a friend’s apartment for what must have been the 1999 women’s world cup, but I didn’t watch the game. All I could see and think was that the field seemed so big and that no one seemed to really have control of the ball. I am a basketball girl at heart, raised on Dean Smith and his four corners and a 45 second shot clock. I couldn’t get my mind around soccer and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

I have thought about that a lot over the past few weeks, that sense that the game was too big and wild. Soccer still seems like that to me when I turn it on, but after a while I get into the rhythm of it and I see the fluidity as a beautiful thing rather than a barrier.

There are many things in my life that seemed big and out of control until I was able to focus in and understand. In my teens and 20s, I think I made a lot of decisions based on fears of wild, untamed feelings and places I wasn’t sure how to handle. It was only when I saw the wildness as a welcoming place, a place where understanding could be found, that I was able to heal.

I have learned to enjoy soccer for the quick touches and the long game, maybe even as a metaphor for life, the ways that things might seem out of control until we look from a different perspective. I think learning about the World Cup in 2010, entering into that confusion, was good practice for me as a parent, because those are skills I have used many times since.

Atticus has not watched an entire game during this World Cup, but he has seen a lot of soccer over the past few weeks. We have talked about good guys and bad guys and goalie goals and believing that we will win. It has exceeded what I hoped for him four years ago when everything I knew about him came from his active kicks. I don’t know if we will sign him up for soccer again but watching the game with him has helped me get over the bad experience we had with the YMCA, reminding me that taking steps into things that you don’t understand can turn out to be pretty fun after all.

god and the gay christian by matthew vines.

god and the gay christianSince I bought Torn by Justin Lee, my copy has been passed around and my best guess is that it’s been read by eight or nine people. I think the combination of Justin’s story (I call him Justin because he lives in NC and therefore we are basically buds) and the seriousness with which he talks about his faith make that book a winning combination, but the analysis of scripture is only a part of the book rather than being the main focus. While our lived testimonies are an important part of Christianity, the gap between what people believe the Bible says about being LGBT and what they hear from their friends about their lives is confusing to many.

Enter God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, which takes a full chapter for each of the “clobber texts” that are often used to condemn LGBT relationships and discusses them in depth. He also takes on some of the ideas about gender that influence the ways that we talk about relationships and marriage. Vines considers the words that are used in scripture and also brings a lot of information about the context of the day and time that are helpful. If women are considered to be less than men (and, let’s not be coy, they were in Bible times and continue to be in many denominations despite linguistic trickery like “first among equals” and “equal worth, different roles”), then it is considered a degradation for men to take on a “women’s role” in a relationship. If you believe that men and women are actually equals, there is more room for relationships founded on love and mutual respect regardless of gender.

I was a little bit concerned about reading this book because I listened to an interview that Justin Lee did with Matthew Vines and I did not think that Vines came across very well. (To be fair, I think Justin Lee is possibly the nicest person on the planet, so maybe all of us would suffer in comparison with him.) In this book, though, Vines puts forth a view of scripture that appears to be even more explicitly conservative than Justin’s, and he seems kind and thorough.

Should you read God and the Gay Christian? I say yes, even if you are convinced that you will never change your mind about LGBT relationships and the church, because this is the most comprehensive take I have seen that is written for the layperson, and I believe it is better to read and understand for yourself. The scripture analysis will not be new for people who have already looked into this topic, although I did learn a few new things about the history of same-sex relationships, and I enjoyed the fresh appeal to the egalitarians among us. (Interestingly, I think that is the part that has his critics the most nervous as it undermines their theology in multiple ways.) I also recommend Torn, and these are great companion books to one another.

Other resources for you:

-This the study that I did at church a few years ago when Mike and I were first reconsidering this topic (it has been updated a little bit).

-Matthew Vines’s video (and transcript) that were the basis for this book.

I did receive this book for free from the publisher but I was not obligated to review it. As always, my opinions are my own.