Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Stay tuned, more information about the book will emerge in the near future. For now, back to writing it! It has been such a huge blessing to be involved in this project and to be personally challenged by the amazing example of so many missional moms I have gotten to know. I can't wait to share more of those stories with you...so I better get back to work! Blessings to you and be missional wherever you may be right now!
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
My friend and fellow writer Tracey Bianchi recently wrote this post, which ties in well with themes that will be in The Missional Mom, themes such as living more simply and resisting the pull of our consumeristic culture. Read, enjoy, and check out Tracey's book, Green Mama!
Living a Sustainable Faith
by Tracey Bianchi
My four-year old has endless questions about traffic these days. Why do cars stop or go? What about caution signs? Why do we either slam on the brakes or go crazy fast at yellow? What is rush hour? The one signal he has no query about is green.
“Green means go, go, go!”
He often hollers this as if our trip to Target was tantamount to the Indy 500.
Green means go. Whether traffic signals or that childhood game, Red Light/Green Light. Green is associated with movement, activity, permission to get on with it. Even our money is green and with the right amount of that hue you can sprint off to just about anywhere.
But can green ever signal slowing down our lives?
With the burgeoning green trend in our culture, the one connected to eco-friendly, save the planet chatter, living into this new shade of green might offer us more than new products and ideas. At the heart of this movement is an opportunity for spiritual transformation and a deeper connection to God.
Perhaps you simply think about recycling when you hear the words green living. You may also associate the trend with a new “to do” list that now includes organic gardening and composting. Many families I know find eco-ideas incredibly guilt-provoking and stressful. The pressure feels like anything but a spiritually refreshing opportunity.
However, an honest, greener faith is actually about embracing simplicity. Overhauling our lifestyles so that we can pursue healthy families, build deeper communities, and enjoy God’s planet. It is about slowing down to see what is truly most important by tapping into God’s Creation and his rhythms.
To “go green” is to reflect wisely on what we buy, how we shop, where we drive, and how we move through life. Which is to say, going green is also slowing down and taking in all that God has presented us each day. From sunrise to sunset.
For people of faith, caring for God’s Creation is an opportunity to stop chasing after the chaos, the narcissistic ideals, the over-commercialized culture that glistens all around us. “Going green” provides long overdue opportunities pull off this grid, to soak in the sunshine, rest in the grass, watch those clouds take dinosaur shapes like we did as children.
So, what does a slower, greener life look like?
A greener afternoon might be one where you or your family walk to your destinations rather than drive. Take your time, talk as you saunter along and save on your CO2 emissions in the process. Green might mean staying out of the malls and playing at home. Curbing our consumption is one of the most planet friendly maneuvers we can make. Buy less, shop less, stick together at home more.
Plant a tree, spend the day at a park or take a hike. All less anxiety producing than jockeying for position on three traveling teams in one afternoon.
Get your hands muddy or let your children get dirty. Help them to fall in love with God’s Creation, with the mud and the muck, the dirt of the earth. Live into the Genesis narrative by enjoying all that God says is good. Muddy faces and skinned knees indicate time well spent. Enjoy moments in the trees rather than in classes, traffic, or the over-achieving lane.
So take another look at “going green” and in it you might find a deeper invitation to slow down a bit and breathe deeply of God’s green life. A creative invitation to rest, renewal and transformation in God’s Creation.
Tracey Bianchi is the author of “Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.” She is the mother of three and an author, speaker, and women’s ministry director. You can find more of her musings on life, faith and sustainability at http://traceybianchi.com/. You can find her new book here: http://tinyurl.com/3xzvpnx
Monday, April 19, 2010
(I recently wrote the following post for the weekly blog of Elisa Morgan's new digital magazine, Fullfill. And as I'm allowed to cross-post on my own blog, here it is. It touches on a topic I'll go into in more depth in my upcoming book on missional moms. I've been slow to post entries on this blog of late, but as I begin to finalize more and more content for the book, I hope to post here more regularly. Enjoy!)
Remember that hit song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”? I recently listened to an interview with Bobby McFerrin, who wrote and sang that catchy tune. McFerrin, who hails from a family of singers, initially thought he would be a pianist, even though his distinctive, resonant voice indicated that he was vocally gifted. It wasn’t until he was close to 30 years old that he recognized and embraced his calling as a vocal artist.
God has a calling for each and every one of us as well. Of course, the primary calling for all Christians is the same: we are called by God, to God, and for God (to paraphrase Os Guinness in his eloquent book, The Call). But how we live that calling out differs for each and every one of us. In the same way that a relationship with God is unique and personal, so too are our callings. Are you pursuing the discovery of what your calling is?
If you are unsure of what your calling might be, Guinness gives a suggestion on how to approach the search: “Somehow, we human beings are never happier than when we are expressing the deepest gifts that are truly us. And often we get a revealing glimpse of these gifts early in life.” What did you love to do when you were young? What gifts and talents were evident in your childhood, and have you continued developing those gifts over the years? Perhaps as you think back on your life, you’ll discover talents that were affirmed long ago but that have been laying dormant, buried by the demands and expectations from your subsequent life circumstances or relationships.
When I was five years old, I wrote a story about a family of rabbits who survive a big storm and live to tell about it. My kindergarten teacher told me that the story was “special”, and so I gave it to her. I’ve never seen the story since, and I had nearly forgotten about the incident. But thinking back to this moment in my life, I realize that although I have always enjoyed writing, I never devoted myself in any serious way to fiction-writing. Whenever I think about trying it, I tend to focus on my fears and self-doubts: “What makes you think you can write fiction?”
In Scripture, we read the numerous accounts of people who experience God’s calling and whose initial reactions are to deny the calling in one way or another. Moses expresses his feelings of inadequacy. Sarah laughs at the implausibility of God’s plan for her and Abraham. Jonah runs as far away from Ninevah as he can. And yet we see that as God’s servants display openness for his plans, he leads them towards the calling that he intends, despite their initial disbelief or inaccurate understandings.
We need not worry about outcomes or adequacy. As we keep ourselves open to his calling, we discover that through his strength, we can achieve much more for his kingdom than we ever would have imagined, more than we could ever have done on our own abilities. Who would have believed that inarticulate Moses could lead the Israelites out of Egypt, or that ancient Sarah could have a baby, or that rebellious Jonah’s words could help turn around a wicked nation?
Sometimes our calling is clear and we merely have to embrace it, as Bobby McFerrin did. Sometimes, the calling seems outlandish, and we have to have faith to accept it. Perhaps the more improbable the potential outcome, the more evident it is that God is the one who has called us in the first place. Ultimately, our job as Christ-followers is straightforward: answer God’s call. Don’t worry about the outcomes. And be happy for the unique gifts and abilities we have been given to further his kingdom. That is something worth singing about.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I recently heard a clip on NPR, referencing a new book by Wharton economist Joel Waldfogel entitled Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Gifts for the Holidays (Princeton University Press). In the book, Waldfogel makes the claim that every year, billions of dollars are wasted in the holiday shopping season, because gift-givers cannot perfectly predict the needs or wants of the gift recipients in their lives, resulting in Christmas mornings all around the country during which millions of people open presents that they never really wanted to begin with. “If you discovered a government program that was hemorrhaging money—say, spending $100 billion of taxpayer money per year to generate a benefit of only $85 billion—you would be outraged,” Waldfogel writes.
The more I think about the premise of this book, the more convicted I feel about my own Christmas spending habits. Sure, it may be true that the dollars I spend help to boost a sagging economy, but is potentially wasteful spending really the best use of our family's funds? I confess that as the mother of three young boys, I enjoy thinking about ways to brighten Christmas morning with gifts that they will find memorable and enjoyable; I tend to keep a file all year of ideas for presents that they might like, things a little out of the ordinary or that cost a little more. But to be honest, even I, the keeper of all relevant information with regards to my sons’ likes, dislikes, and preferences, am hit-or-miss when it comes to their gift selections.
The Sesame Street DVD that I was certain my three-year-old son would adore last year? He’s watched it once. The car design drawing set that I was positive my auto-obsessed eldest son would spend hours using? He’s pulled it out twice in one year. The toy guitar I bought for our music-loving youngest son? He much prefers the real piano we already have. I'm sobered to realize that, shipping and tax included, that's $75 of waste right there—and that's in the context of selecting gifts for people I know best. Imagine how much more potential for waste there is for recipients I don’t know nearly as well. Multiply that experience millions of times over, and you get the idea that Waldfogel is on to something.
What if every individual or family with the means and inclination took a moment this Christmas season to think about whether the money they are using is truly being well-spent? What if we all took a portion of the money we typically spend on gifts and instead allocate it to a cause that would make a concrete difference in the many global needs that surround us? I don’t mean to dampen people’s Christmases and throw gift-giving out the window entirely. For many people, gift-giving is a way of communicating and receiving love from their family and friends, and I have certainly appreciated many gifts that I have been given over the years. But for every good gift I’ve received, I can think of another three or four that I have either never used or don’t need. And I am sure the reverse is true, too, that I have given many gifts that have ultimately ended up in a trash dump somewhere. So this year, I’m thinking about ways in which our family can reduce the shopping waste, create a climate around Christmas that is less about the gifts and more about the Giver, and help inculcate in our children a perspective about Christmas that frees them from ongoing cycles of holiday consumerism.
My kids are now old enough to have expectations about Christmas, and despite our reminders otherwise, most of those expectations have nothing to do with celebrating Jesus’ birth (although they are clever enough to answer the “Why is Christmas important?” question in a way that would make any Sunday school teacher proud, even as visions of presents dance in their heads.) Just today, my seven-year-old son said to me, “I think you have Christmas presents already hidden all over this house. Lots of them!” This expectation is, of course, entirely my own fault. I love watching my kids' gleeful faces when they emerge from their rooms on Christmas morning, stunned at the sight of a tree under which presents have mushroomed overnight. What parent doesn't enjoy gift-induced moments of our children's gratitude, even as we know the joy they're experiencing is fleeting at best? What parent can successfully counter the false gospel that material possessions are a source of contentment if we ourselves are perpetuating that fallacy with our lifestyle choices, particularly at Christmastime?
So I shared with my son that actually, I’d like for us to handle Christmas differently this year, and think about giving more of our previous Christmas spending to those who desperately need it, as well as taking more time to understand what Advent is all about. I explained that as his parent, I definitely wanted the chance to give him something special just as God gave his children the best present of all that first Christmas, but that we would tone things down from this year onward and have a different perspective about gift-giving at Christmastime. I felt a bit Scrooge-ish saying this, and I admit that I was worried that this news would deeply disappoint him, but after taking a moment to ponder my words, he answered, “I totally agree with this plan!" (Children, I've come to learn, often embrace spiritual truths so much more quickly than those of us who are supposed to be older and wiser.)
So we are beginning the process of change in our household this Christmas, small changes but hopefully in the long run, significant ones: we’re letting friends and family know that we’ll be giving a gift to One Day’s Wages in their name as opposed to buying them a gift and asking that they consider doing something similar; my husband and I have agreed to not give each other gifts, but to instead jointly choose something we both need and can use; we will spend time shopping for gifts together as a family for needy children in our area, and yes, we will get some gifts for our own kids as well, but I’ll stick to a plan of fewer and more meaningful gifts. My hope is that over time, our family and especially our kids will think of Christmas as the time of year when we primarily strive to make a difference in others’ lives rather than benefiting our own. Who would have thought that a little dose of Scrooge was just what I needed to reclaim the true meaning of Christmas?
Monday, November 23, 2009
In recent years the word missional has become popular in describing churches that encourage everyone in their congregation to have an outreach-oriented perspective rather than an inward-focused one. In other words, missionaries are not the only ones who should be thinking about ways to spread the gospel, love others, and make disciples of all nations. Instead, each and every Christian is to embrace the responsibility to be faithful to the Great Commandments and the Great Commission. The missional mindset is one that continually asks, “Lord, where and how would you have me serve you? How are you calling me to have an impact for your Kingdom today? How can I encourage my family to do the same?” Missional Moms (both the book and this blog) will seek to tell stories of and encourage women who are living in this manner. If you are a missional mom or know a missional mom, please get in touch with me! I'd love to hear and tell your stories.
The other day, I saw this article in Time Magazine about parents who overparent, otherwise known as "helicopter parents" for hovering over their children all the time. The article describes the growing backlash against this type of parenting: "There is now a new revolution under way, one aimed at rolling back the almost comical overprotectiveness and overinvestment of moms and dads."
I am not an extreme overparenter, but I do think my behavior with my own kids probably seems to qualify. I'm the parent who has a hard time leaving my crying child behind in the nursery, who often sacrifices entire Saturdays shuttling her sons to music lessons and related activities 45 minutes away because, well, that's where we found the best teachers and because our boys seem to exhibit a certain amount of proficiency in their instruments. I'm the mom who wants her kids to learn Mandarin even though we aren't Chinese-American. And then this year, I started homeschooling our two eldest sons, 7 and 4 years old. Sounds like overparenting, right?
In contrast to the mom who overparents as described in the Time article, a missional mom is not one who is obsessed about her children's future and who does everything in their young years to position them for success in school, which is supposed to lead to success in college, which is supposed to lead to that high-paying job and a good life as defined by worldly standards. Instead, a missional mom entrusts the future of her children to God's hands, and while she takes her responsibility to train and guide them seriously, she is not driven by cultural pressures to keep up with other families and kids, but by the desire to do what is pleasing and right in God's eyes.
The interesting development for our family is how our homeschooling experience has actually freed us to think more more missionally about our future. In future posts I'll go into more detail about how this whole concept of being a missional mom is changing me and my family, slowly but surely. But for now, I can say that homeschooling, as opposed to being another piece of the overparenting pie, is allowing us to think critically about what kind of neighborhood we want our kids to be a part of as they grow up, and not to automatically assume the neighborhood with the best schools is the place to be. (Especially for Asian Americans, who tend to flock towards towns with schools that are highly regarded, this type of paradigm shift can be very challenging to make.) As much as I love the city where we live, a fully-resourced community where the average income is in the six-figure range, I sense in my heart of hearts that this may not be the place where God wants us to be long-term.
While I do still fall victim to overparenting at times, I am trying to be open to doing to whatever he would want us to be doing. If I do overparent, at least I want it to be with the right motives--not for the sake of advancing my children's futures, but for the sake of advancing God's mission here on earth through myself and my family. Isn't this what God himself did? He was the ultimate overparenter; He did way more than sacrificing a few hours of time on the weekend for those he called his children. He sent his own son to die on the cross for the rest of us, and if that isn't extreme parenting, I don't know what is. But God is a parent on a mission--and that's exactly what he calls me to be as well. Be missional, as God is missional--a good motivation for any parent and one that ensures that even if you do overparent, it will be for the best cause this side of heaven.