I cut my teeth on L’Engle and Dillard, mulled over O’Connor and Greene, struggled though four semesters of Shakespeare, found myself in the pages of Berry and Kingsolver. Good writing has carried me along. Good writing taught me more theology than six semesters ever did.
In the attention deficit world of the blogosphere, it can be easy to subsist on the crumbs. Comments back and forth, public discussion and debate, he saids/she saids, commentary on every public event that happens and quickly dissipates. This is the oil that keeps the machine running, greasy stories and grimy bits that catch our fancy for a moment and flee just as quickly.
I want the slow meal. The feast prepared with wooden cutting boards and whole foods, the juices of meats flavoring the whole. The spice. The wine. The tablecloth and the candles. Shoulder to shoulder, leaving the dishes for later, much later. The slow food.
Spotlights, whether by association or viral fame, do not a good writer make. Good writing is made in the kitchen, with the dashes and pinches, the taste-testing and stirring, ruminating and storing, aging and serving. Good writing sits and satisfies from the first bite to the last. It is a chocolate cake with a dollop of homemade ice-cream, from which only one bite is needed—because it satisfies.
When I lived in Central America the close of the meal was signaled by the head of the home saying, “Satisfecho.” It was a statement. I am satisfied. He would lean back in his chair, push back his plate, and we would sit there still, until all were satisfecho.
This is the writing I want to read. The kind that satisfies, that isn’t clamoring for more attention, for commenting, for debate, for the spotlight. It simply is. And is beautiful.
Three years ago I interviewed for this job because my roommate worked here and said I oughta. I don’t know if it was because she worked here and liked me, or whether they liked the fact that I was brutally honest about my mistrust of ministries and God at that point in my life, but they hired me.
I boxed up all my personal items, filed away all the projects I’ve worked on for three years, cleaned off my desktop, and in a few minutes all traces of me on this computer will be gone. It’s a closing of a chapter, yes, but it also feels like a death of sorts. I love this place. I love these people. I love my iMac. I love my external hard-drive who I named Beaker (and I hope he’ll always be called that). Three-quarters of our staff is in India right now and half of who’s left is gone already for Thanksgiving. It’s a quiet day here. I won’t miss being in an office, but I will miss this office. It’s been a healing, redemptive, creative, and fun ride.
What will I be doing?
I told my man yesterday that I have a loop running through my head: You’re so stupid. Millions of people are looking for jobs and you just quit yours with no real plan.
That doesn’t sound like Jesus, he said, and he’s right.
Here’s what I’ll be doing:
Writing. Big surprise, right? But it’s true! It’s true! I have a few projects up my sleeve and I’m just trying to figure out the right time to tell you all about them. Should I tell you now and get you excited and expectant and then let you down if it doesn’t work out like I’m dreaming it will? Or do I just whistle while I work, pretend there’s nothing to see here, and tell you to move along? I don’t know. What does one do in these situations?
Speaking. Yup. I know I’m an introvert and crowds make me claustrophobic, but for some reason speaking doesn’t. I really enjoy talking about the goodness of God. It’s not about me at that point, it’s about extolling Him—and I love that. I’m available to speak at women’s retreats, college groups, conferences—if you’re interested in booking me, fill out this form and I’ll be in touch. I’ll also be teaming up with Lauren Chandler and Tara-Leigh Cobble (two of my faves) to speak. Here’s our brand-spankin’ new website if you’d like to book us!
Designing. I love graphic design and I’m grateful I can make a living doing something creative and fun like this. My print portfolio is available here. Let me know if you need wedding invites, book covers, business branding, etc. I’m fairly versatile and I like the challenge of new projects.
On my knees. I’m serious about this one. I’ve been self-employed before and I love it. But this go-round feels a little more risky than it’s felt before. I’m not sure why, but I’m praying, asking for faith and confidence in His ability (and joy) to take care of me.
Today I’ll sling my bag over my shoulder, heft a box of things I collected at my time at Sower of Seeds International Ministries, and I’ll leave my office for the last time. I’m sad about it, really sad. But I’m grateful for what God did in and through me here.
One thing I have never wanted to do on Sayable is be gimmicky. I don’t want to sell things (those ads to the right were a long time in coming and I debate whether I’ll keep them or not). I don’t want you to feel pressure to comment, contact me, follow me, subscribe to me, or have anything to do with me. I want Sayable to be about the gospel and Jesus. Because it is written by me there’s going to be a lot about me here. But I like to keep it as deflective as possible. I hope you know that.
Because of that personal preference, I have hesitated to write much about something near and dear to my heart. My day job.
I love my job. If you had asked me in college to craft my dream job, this is it. If you had asked me four years ago what I wanted to be doing in four years, this is it. If you had asked me what demographic of people I felt burdened most for, it’s the people we get to help every day. If you had asked me what kind of co-workers and employers I’d want to spend the most of my time with, these are the people.
I love my job.
So it was with much hesitation this year when I felt the Lord nudging me toward other things. I balked, I meandered, I argued, I asked again and again and again: Are you sure, Lord? Because this? This I love. But again and again the answer was yes. The opportunities to do things out of my comfort zone, but within my gift-set were rising and I was having to say no or not yet to so many of them.
Proverbs 18:10 has been a verse I’ve set before me as my trust barometer: A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before kings. God has been faithful to make room for me and bring opportunities into my life, I needed to trust the room and kings were good and of Him.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In the next month I will be phasing out of my position in the creative department at Sower of Seeds International Ministries. I will leave knowing I have been faithful to work hard, work deep, rebrand, set a standard for the design department here. I will also leave with so many unfinished projects and unseen dreams done. I love this place. Not just because it’s my job, but because in my time here I have seen many other ministries doing what we’re doing in the world, and I honestly haven’t seen the kind of integrity and faithfulness to the local church and gospel I see here.
SOS is not about gimmicks and the social gospel. The men and women who work here are not out for fame, fortune, or their own futures. They do not sell a product or raise money for personal gain. We love the gospel and seeing dead bones come to life.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The purpose of this post is two-fold.
One, I wanted to let you know what the next phase of life looks like for me. I’ll be working on some large writing projects, speaking to women with some women I love (more on both of those things soon), preparing for marriage, picking up graphic design jobs (hire me if you need book covers, branding, invitations, etc. I’m game for anything.), blogging more regularly, and just generally making a go of it as a freelancer again. You are my network, so if you think of something you think I’d be perfect for, let me know! Sky’s the limit.
But second, I wanted to just point you to an amazing non-profit doing on-the-ground work in a local church context. Every well we dig, every girl who is rescued from the red light district, every child who is fed—all this happens in connection to the local church in India and north Texas. We believe the gospel is the hope of every person and the most effective way to give the gospel to someone is to meet their felt need and connect them with people who will walk with them. If you’re looking for a place to invest your time, finances, or resources, consider Sower of Seeds International Ministries. There’s nothing in that for me. Just want to leave this place commending them and recommending them to you.
Here’s a short sample of one thing we get to do:
Thanks for indulging in this little post about me.
My fiance asked me out for the first time on a Facebook message. Once he finally got my number, he texted me a few times with other suggestions for hanging out. Of course I turned him down every single time, though, because “Real Men Don’t Text” (and other junk I thought about real men…).
Girls, can I be straight with you for one minute? Whatever your idea of a Real Man is, it would be better for you right now to drop the man and just get real.
A real man is flesh and blood, made of dirt and the breath of God.
He was created in the image of God, made to reflect the many faceted aspects of God. He is merciful and just, he is gentle and fierce, he is strong and tender, he is like a father but he gathers his young like a mother, he is holy, he is sacrificial—these are the ways in which he reflects his Maker.
He is also made. He was created from the ground, the dust, the particles of the earth’s first rubbish. But nothing is rubbish to God and so He took something from nothing and made it good, real good. Real, tangible, touchable, malleable, fallible, but real. So real that you can stand beside him and know that all your realness, your curves, your imperfections, your flaws, your failures, are not more or less real than his. You are the same. And different. There is nothing else on earth as real as the two of you in this sense. Souls and bodies, minds and hearts.
As I learn what it means to be joined with a man, I am having to unlearn what constitutes real men and real women. In our relationship I am the internal processor, he is the verbal; I am the risk-taker, he is the solid, steady; he is romantic and nostalgic; I am no nonsense and overlook his many expressions of love. There are so many ways in which we are not what could be termed as Real Men or Real Women, but we are the realest man or woman in one another’s life right now. We are the realest expression of the image of God to one another—and also the realest mirror to our own selfishness.
The only way to be a real man or real woman is to be real in the very essence of what the word means.
Actually existing or happening. Not imaginary, not fake, false, or artificial. Important and deserving to be regarded or treated in a serious way.
You are real because you exist, you are happening. You are not fake or false or artificial. You are not wired for anything except to bring glory to your Maker—and even this is so vast and incomprehensible, how could it be contained?
You are important because you make much of the One who is Most Important.
You are a person, bearing the image of God, the Imago Dei—therefore I treat you seriously, whether or not you text first or email first or ask me out to coffee first or work from home or are a mother or a father or can bear children or will never bear children.
You are real because He took dust and bone and made you real.
I recieved many requests to make this blog into a typographic poster. I didn’t have time to give it some real artistic flair, but if you’re interested, these are free to download. Just click on them and the pdf will open print-ready.
If you print them, they are sized at 24/36″ and I would recommend getting them printed on 100# text weight or 80# cover weight paper (your printer will know what that means). These are free, please don’t alter or sell them in any way. Spread the love!
You were sold the story, hook, line, and sinker. Do this, don’t do that, build it, tear it down, cover it up, write it over—do it all and then this…
This will happen for you. Or this bad thing, that won’t happen for you. Obey, honor, submit, then shut your mouth, don’t ask questions, don’t dare defy. Do all that and it will go well for you.
And then it didn’t. It didn’t go well and it went really bad. Really, really bad. On the other side you stood there with nothing. No morals, no laurels, no crowns of glory, all your delight in shambles and your hope in rags. They said it would go well for you and then it didn’t.
This is a letter to you, you women who grew up asking how short was too short, how obedient was obedient enough, how submission looked on you, and if every single thing you did was right enough, good enough, pure enough.
This is letter to you, you girls who grew up with mothers barefoot in the kitchen, with fathers stern and unappreciative, with every boy a threat, and every girl a comparison.
This is a letter to you, liberated woman. You came out in college roaring. You threw off the shackles of fundamentalism, of second guessing, of moralism, of theology that bound instead of freed.
This is a letter to you, freed women, ones who are looking for the voices of your sisters, the ones who know it as acutely as you do. Who know the shackles, the questions, the fears, and the injustice of growing up always looking over your shoulder.
I am so, so sorry.
I am sorry that something beautiful was perverted by an enemy who steals, kills, and destroys. I am deeply sorry that you felt damaged, a cowering bird in a coyote’s world. I am so sorry that you spent your life in front of a fun-house mirror, a distortion of who you truly are. I am not your parent or your pastor, but I am you, and I am sorry.
I know you are looking for strong female voices, women who will lead the charge toward full freedom, birds who have found their flight above the heads of squabbling coyotes. I know you are looking for women who will say that yes, that was wrong, what happened to you. That, yes, the reflection you’ve been shown is not a true woman, a woman who fears the Lord and loves His word. That, yes, the subservient cloistered crouching woman is nothing like what a daughter of the King ought to look like.
I know you are looking for her.
And so I’m sorry, I’m sorry that I haven’t spoken up. I’m sorry that in the face of one perversion, I’ve let another extreme pass me by without saying anything.
The enemy’s favorite tactic is to pervert what is good, and there is none good, no not one. Except Him. And the wholeness of Him cannot be perverted.
Here is my promise to you, my sister, my friend: I promise you I will fight on your behalf. I promise I will fight for truth, for the culmination of all things in the Only One Who Is Good. I promise I will wrestle with theology and that I will not let go of God. That I will not let go until He has changed the names of each of us. Until we do not find our identity in a name or label, but that we find it in the fullness of Christlikeness. I cannot promise we will not walk with a limp, each one of us, but I think our limp will be our mark, our Ebenezer, our fist in the face of the enemy.
I promise to wrestle with the One who promises to lead us through to the other side.
After much prayer, counsel, and time, I’ve accepted an offer to join the teams of writers over at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Many of you are encouraged to have my voice there and I know many of you are disappointed in me. My promise to both of you is that my fight is not for equality or distinction, biblical womanhood or feminism, my fight is against the powers of darkness and my delight is to walk in the light.
I believe that CBMW recognizes the lack of a strong young female voices in the Church today and they care about the practical implications of a complementarian view. I am a complementarian, that hasn’t changed, but I believe the answers many egalitarians have been pressing for have not been handled well. Unanswered questions, coupled with the distortion of truth many of us grew up with in evangelicalism, only breeds room for more distortions. I do not aim to answer questions, so much as I am to fight for purity of the Gospel. With the Lord’s help, I will aim for clarity and consistency, that’s my promise to you.
I’m tired as soon as I wake up in the morning and I’m tired long before I turn my light out at night. I’m tired of being and doing and having and knowing and I’m tired of being tired of those things.
In the past two years the gospel has felt oh, so near to me. It has been such a deep well to me and a rich source of joy for me. And, to be honest, I’m confused. I’m confused about why my heart feels so cold these days, so far from Jesus, and so indifferent to the Holy Spirit. He has and continues to abound with grace and goodness toward me, so why the weariness?
The truth is I don’t know. I don’t have an answer. I want to be spiritual and hope-filled and talk about the valleys of faith and how we have to experience the valley to find joy on the mountain or some other Christian-speak. But I have been doing this long enough to know knowing isn’t enough.
So this is what I’m doing in my valley: I’m just being weary and I’m being okay with being weary.
There is one thing you can do in a valley you can’t do on peaked mountaintop: you can walk a level path, a flat one, one made for the weary. And I’ll take it. Today I’ll take it.
Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee At the feet of Jesus In His love so free Listen to his message Words of life, forever blessed Oh thou heavy laden Come to me, come and rest There is freedom, taste and see Hear the call, come to Me Run into His arms of grace, Your burdens carried, He will take Bring Him all thy burdens All thy guilt and sin Mercy’s door is open Rise up and enter in Jesus there is waiting Patiently for thee Hear him gently calling Come oh, come to Me
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I read stories, A River Runs Through It and The River Why, and both made me into a fisherman. But two summers ago, on one of my last nights on the lake, I caught a fish and it made me a storyteller. The fish got away, but it was a big one, heavy and strong, as all the ones that get away are. My friend Matthew let me have my story and a week later his older brother caught my fish. It was as heavy and strong as I knew it was.
When I was small, I went fishing in the early morning with my father and my older brother on Lake Nockamixon. We wore denim jeans with holes in the knees and we wore flannel shirts. We stood on the rocky edges in the cove casting and reeling, casting and reeling and I caught a small bass, my first fish and my father said we should let it go. I slid it from my hands, into the pool beside me and watched its speckled body through water reflecting the sky like one of those paintings on the PBS shows we watched in the afternoons. My first fish.
I helped my uncle catch a fish when I was nine years old. He kept it for himself and I never said otherwise. Hindsight says that if anyone was helping anyone it was probably my uncle helping me. But I wanted bragging rights more than the fish itself.
A writer never knows when the stories will quit him or her and the stories have quit me this month. I feel like every word I bring up is a bottom dweller and better left to swim away in clearer waters. The words I bring to the surface are the ones that get away, no matter how strong they feel on the line and in my hands, they get away.
This makes me still a storyteller in the same way, though. I am simply telling the story of words instead of letting the words tell the story that should have been.
Tonight I feel sick in my soul and the words feel far, far from me.
I remember a line from A River Runs Through It. It was underlined in my copy of the book and probably written it on a scrap of paper tacked to my wall: Many of us would probably be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect.
And I know that is me, that I am watching and waiting for something to become perfect, a final crescendo into resolution, the one that doesn’t ever get away. But I am a writer, I am. I may spend half my time trying to convince myself that I am a writer, but the truth is that I am one and the only way I am one at all is to stop waiting for the perfect fish to hook my line and still cast anyway.
There is never any shortage of new marketing tactics to help get the word out about the grand ways in which the world can be changed. And I suppose that is found wherever there is commerce, but it is often found more emotionally wrenching within the non-profit sector. I get that. You know? I understand that.
Unfortunately, though, sometimes we confuse the having of those feelings with the acting on those feelings and within the non-profit circle there is no shortage of passionate pleas, cries, and shouts directed toward those feelings.
I work in the communications department of a non-profit that many would categorize as a social-justice vehicle. And this is true, we are passionate about justice. This means that we are passionate about the message and the act of justice, and committed to follow-through.
I’ll confess something to you, though, I frustrate myself sometimes because I am an artist and I want the medium to touch the deepest parts of a person and affect them at a heart level—but to evoke real change, it has to end with action. I’m also frustrated because I see non-profits who are less concerned with maximizing the actual effect a world over, and more concerned with marketing their message here.
But this frustration reigns me in, holds me back, gives me insight, and slows my reaction time and so I continue to let that frustration build and grow in me, teaching me to be circumspect.
DOING SOMETHING ISN’T DOING ANYTHING
When Invisible Children first came on the scene several years ago, I was in college and we, as college students are wont to do, rallied along that cause with the passion of an army of our own. We spent the night in cardboard boxes, we wore t-shirts and bracelets, we hung posters. We were doing something.
Or were we?
A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting some social justice causes that on the front seem to be rocking the world. You’ve heard of all of them, I’m sure, because their marketing tactics are clearly working. You probably own a pair of TOMS (I do) or Warby Parkers (I might). Maybe you have a t-shirt emblazoned with the cause. You may or may not have donated money. What the article said so brilliantly, though, is that none of these causes are even coming close to solving the problem. The thing they are doing well is marketing to feelings, and feelings, if manipulated properly, can lie.
And that’s what marketing is, really. We want to chose the perfect palette of colors, pick the perfect photo, tug on your heartstrings enough so that you’ll take $60 out of your pocket and provide a pair of cheap canvas shoes that will last about four weeks for a street urchin in the slums of India.
I’m not judging. I do it too. Every single day I open up my Adobe Creative Suite and I manipulate sizes, shapes, and colors, wording and phrasing, photos and illustrations. I want to get you to give us $150 so that we can rescue one girl from the Red Light District. One girl. One girl who has been yanked from her home in rural Nepal, drugged, beaten, and who is now raped an average of 20 times a day. Can you afford to give me $150 to get her out of that life?
See what I did there?
We need to think very carefully about the difference between feeling something and acting on it. And, furthermore, we need to think very carefully about what ‘acting’ on it means. It doesn’t mean a simple retweet or Facebook share. It does not mean hanging a poster or wearing a bracelet. And it most certainly doesn’t mean that we’ve accomplished anything by doing any of the above.
KONY 2012 AND ME
I watched Kony 2012 (video at bottom of post, shared 57 Million times so far) the moment it came across my desk, that’s what I do, I watch marketing tactics of other non-profits. And I won’t lie, my heartstrings were pulled, my feelings were stirred, my righteousness sprang into action and I retweeted that video as soon as those 27 minutes were over. But after a few hours and a little thinking, I pulled that tweet down for multiple reasons.
1. CLEANING UP CLEAN MESSES
I’m not a fan of the US going around cleaning up messes in other countries. That makes me sound cold and heartless, I’m sure, but it’s much more deeply thought-out than that simple sentence makes it sound. The most vocal supporters I know of Social Justice movements are the ones who are also most vocally anti-war (anti-Bush, anti-Republican). That’s a huge red-flag in my mind in situations like this. We are all about cleaning up messes until the mess is ten years old and costing us billions of dollars. We want clean messes and wars never are. 2. THE ART OF POLITICS
I voted neither Republican nor Democrat in the last election and I have no plans of voting either in this election. However, the marketing strategy of the Obama campaign was brilliant. And the marketing campaign of Kony 2012 is equally brilliant, specifically in an election year. Did anyone else notice the interview of Shepard Fairey in Kony 2012? Do you even know who he is? Did anyone else notice the gorgeous design of the Kony 2012 Kit? Iconic and so familiar?
Shep Fairey is the designer responsible for the iconic HOPE poster used voraciously in 2008 during Obama’s election campaign. The design of the Kony campaign is strikingly similar (though I don’t believe Fairey designed it).
I don’t mention that because I’m against Obama being re-elected, my politics have nothing to do with this. I mention it because what IC is doing, by inciting 57 Million young people to political revolution, has repercussions that 57 Million young people are not thinking about. My friend Tony wrote a brilliant post on young people rocking a vote that they know nothing about, so I won’t rehash it here, but putting a hammer in the hands of someone does not mean they know how to use it correctly.
By using iconic design, interviewing a pop-culture design guru, IC was not only inciting 57 Million people to stopping Kony, but also saying “If we can get the Obama Administration to pay attention to us, send troops to inner-Africa, we’re proving that history can repeat itself.” And that is a possible 57 Million uneducated votes for Obama.
But what about in ten years when the US troops are tired and haggard from a war in Africa? Do we vote for our new iconic savior and bash Obama for the next ten years?
What are all of our social-justice cries gonna be then?
3. ENDURING ACTION
Paul said if we don’t have love we’re like a clanging gong or a noisy cymbal, and I’ll be honest, folks, it’s really, really easy to be both of those things these days. Social media spreads messages faster than ever before, and probably with less foresight and thought.
Real love, the kind Paul wrote about, is patient, it waits a moment or two and thinks. It is kind, it does what is long-term the best solution. It doesn’t envy or boast in its brilliant marketing tactics. It isn’t arrogant, thinking it can solve a 20 year issue by the end of April. It’s not irritable or resentful, reactionary and disgruntled when people fuss at its motives. It doesn’t rejoice at wrong-doing, but pursues truth (to its very end). It bears all things, even when it’s unpopular within the non-profit sector, the social media sector, and the political sector. It believes all things, without manipulation. It hopes all things, even in the face of disappointment after disappointment. And it endures.
It endures beyond viral videos and passionate pleas. It endures when nothing seems to be changing. It endures when posters and bracelets and t-shirts don’t seem to be working, when the money isn’t there, and when the world isn’t cheering from the sidelines.
So pass on that video if you like, by all means, get the word out about the monster that Joseph Kony is and the unspeakable acts of horror he’s inflicted in inner-Africa. Educate your grandmothers and kids and shop-clerks in your small town. But think about what your action is doing. And then find some way to actually act.
To truly act might mean you have to do unpopular, sacrificial, or heart-breaking things. You may have to spend some time educating yourself politically, and directing your energy where it will really make a difference. These are things that will actually change the state of the world, and not give you the impression that you’ve done something heroic by retweeting a cool video.
Please make sure that you read the two articles that I linked to, as I think they both add valuable content to this post and are worth your time. Again:
If you’re looking for action points, here are a few:
1. Partner with local aid groups in Africa. The stronger and more independent we can help people in the Congo, Southern Sudan, Uganda, etc. be, the more they are equipped to defend themselves against people like Kony. If you need a list of groups, I can get you one. (By the way, Invisible Children itself does a fair bit of on the ground aid in Africa, so if you’re already supporting their aid work, keep on with it. But one thing to keep in mind is that we want to, whenever possible, support Africans doing aid in Africa—equipping them personally, instead of being an American crutch.)
2. Educate yourself and others here on what ramifications your “benevolent” actions have in other countries. Western tactics are not always the best tactics and it’s very ethnocentric of us to act like they are.
3. PRAY! Kony is just a man. He’s a monster. But he’s just a man. He’s done horrible, horrible things, but so did the Apostle Paul. He’s not beyond the reach of God and so we pray for that!
My name is Lore (Lor-ee) Ferguson. In every particle of life we're hearing messages, people are saying words at us, shouting them over the noise of the day. My hope is that Sayable is a place where the message is quiet, encouraging, and somewhat simple. Here's my story, I'd love to hear yours.