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At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
5 Tips to Develop a Healthy Habit: Read Your Bible (for iBelieve)
March 13, 2017 at 5:08 am 0
I'm a pastor's wife and I have a hard time reading my Bible every day. There I said it. It's actually the thing I'm trying to focus on during Lent this year -- how to create a small habit that I know will feed me. To that end, I've written a short article on some tips to develop a habit of reading daily. I think I'm still revolting over those little check-boxes Bible reading plans in my youth -- how the boxes became the reason to read through the Bible more than any other love. But we can also make the mistake of waiting around for lovey dovey feelings before we start something new. This is yet another way to fall off the wagon. Sometimes the discipline comes first, sometimes the feelings do. But to start any habit we need to help till the soil for growth to happen. And just like exercise and diet, we make small changes that add up:
I love to fit into my skinny jeans, but I also really love to eat good food. When my pants start to get a bit tight, I’m faced with a dilemma: will I change my eating habits or not? Deciding is never a question of knowledge: I don’t need to know more about nutrition, or even plan out a rigorous diet if I want to lose ten pounds. More information and more advice will never affect change. What I need for change is to be captured by a greater love. I need to want to be healthy and fit into my jeans more than I want to eat chocolate cake. Being physically healthy is made up of a thousand small decisions about how I talk about my body, what I put into it and how I exercise it. We change when we are captured by a greater love. Our spiritual lives are no different: to change we must pay attention to what we put in to our souls. If we say that God’s Word should shape our lives, then we need to move around in it. It needs to shape us. And it can’t shape us until we’ve first developed a healthy habit of simply reading it.
  I'm over at iBelieve with "How to Develop Healthy Bible Reading Habits: 5 Tips." And don't worry, they're fun.   
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How do we find holy in the land of suburban desires?
January 23, 2017 at 7:28 am 0
I live in the suburbs. I am your suburban mom with a minivan full of kids, picking them up from school, doing errands, and taking them to sports practices. But I'm also uncomfortable with that reality. Because it's complicated knowing how to love Jesus and be his church in the suburbs when everything has a sheen of affluence. It's why I'm writing my book, Finding Holy in the Suburbs, and it's why I'm writing about living in the land of desire.  I'm grateful to The Gospel Coalition for publishing an article of mine today. Here's an excerpt:
When we told our donors we were leaving the campus ministry to plant a church in the southern California suburbs—land of affluence and megachurches—we not only lost several, we also heard the repeated question: Aren’t there enough churches there already? I wondered too. Couldn’t we be more useful in an unreached part of the country? Or overseas? We can subtly think that when Jesus said to “go to the ends of the earth” he meant only jungles and inner cities, not the affluent suburb next door. But all places—suburbs included—need the good news and abundant life found only in Jesus. And the good life isn’t the biggest house and the latest kitchen remodel. In helping my husband plant Resurrection OC, I’m learning how the gospel saves us from our suburban desires for comfort and self-sufficiency, and replaces them with something much greater.  
Click over here to read the whole thing.    I'd love to know how you respond spiritually to living in the suburbs. Comment away!  
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The Ministry of Spongy Wallpaper and Cramped Hospitality (for Jen Pollock Michel)
December 9, 2016 at 7:47 am 0
When you're a writer with a herd of children and unattached to a university, nonprofit, or other place where writers, thinkers, and artists gather, you can feel all kinds of lonely. I started reading Jen Pollock Michel's Teach Us To Want last year and reached out to her because I so resonated with her story -- a wife, a mom, a writer, and a Christian trying to put all the pieces of a vocation together. After several months of voxer conversations, she's become a dear friend. I'm honored to be at her spot of Internet today writing about home (one of my favorite topics) and the subject of her forthcoming book, Keeping Place. (Pre-order it here!)  
Yet it was there in those cramped quarters where we learned not only to be a married couple, but how hospitality blossoms like the gospel.
 

Edinburgh. Image via Unsplash.

 

The Ministry of Spongy Wallpaper and Cramped Hospitality

1/5 Leith Walk BMT, Edinburgh, UK We wore our wool coats in the middle of a southern California summer, waved goodbye to our mothers, and boarded a plane to Scotland a year after we said our “I do’s.” We touched down in northern Scotland a day later, bleary-eyed and discombobulated watching a foreign countryside fly past on the wrong side of the road. When we made it south to Edinburgh a fortnight later, we were struck we didn’t know what “BMT” stood for — the ending to our first address as expat postgraduate students in Britain. It was the basement and when we’d creaked open that peeling paint of the blue main door and walked down the stairs, we realized why our rent was so cheap. We’d imagined all sorts of exotic sounding appellations for BMT with no idea that it meant a “basement” flat with one tiny window to let in the light. We didn’t know enough to be sorely disappointed. We hadn’t yet puffed ourselves up with multiple children and proper jobs to feel we were entitled to a better habitation. It was sufficient. It was what we could afford. We could walk the several miles to university and back. We could make it work. There was enough love and tea to go around. And plenty of books.  
But it wasn't always so lovely... Read the rest here.   
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At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Deliver Us from Christmas Cookies, We Pray (for The Mudroom)
December 7, 2016 at 6:40 am 0
  merry2   It's the season of sweets. As much as I want to indulge, there's often a tug-a-war on what to eat and what not to eat going on under the surface. Or, most likely, I chuck it all and indulge and vow to eat healthily later. I'm finding that eating (like most things) isn't often about eating at all. It goes much deeper. Today, I'm at The Mudroom writing about food, deliverance, and prayer.  
The problem isn’t the food or my inability to eat healthily, to say “no” to what is bad for me and hunger after what is good. The problem isn’t food at all. Like so much else — relationships, sex, church, houses — food is a gift. It is sustenance and grace and provision. Like good gifts it is meant to be received and enjoyed. But when we obsess over it, Gollum-like, through our indulgence or abstention, we’re simply using the gift of good food to say something about ourselves. That I don’t measure up unless I measure up. That I use food to feel my feelings because I’m too scared to feel them. Swallowing them is much easier. That I feel productive when I eat healthily so I’ll beat myself up when I deviate from my plan. That I deserve this coffee or cocktail or this cookie because somehow it’ll make up for hard decisions, tired mornings, and feeling unseen and unappreciated. As if food could solve soul problems. Food is the safest drug we have.
Read the rest here. 
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Leaning in to the Weight of Waiting (for Kris Camealy)
November 30, 2016 at 6:01 am 0

ComeLordJEsus

Perhaps the snow this year has already lost its luster. Or instead of snow, you just have wind that goes right through your bones. Or if you're in a sunny spot, you long for what you do not have: the snow boots, the snowmen, the glint of sunlight on icicles. We're always waiting, aren't we?

I live in the midst of wait-ers. We wait for the bonus, the promotion, the sale, that will put us over some financial edge that will allow us to finally attain the good life. But the edge keeps moving back. The houses and the cars don't satisfy. If we do get what we want, we're on a walkway that moves so quickly we don't have eyes to see anymore. It takes more shopping, more stuff, more alcohol, more fancy vacations to quell the ache.

Or, we have a particular Jesus-y version of the suburban gods of accumulation: we reason if we had a better quiet time, more "authentic" worship experience, a different (bigger, better) church down the road, followed through on a Bible reading plan,  a mentor/counselor/spiritual director/therapist who really saw me, then we'd arrive.

But we still wait.

What if the waiting was actually how God comes near? Maybe waiting is (at least part of) the whole point? Maybe we need to lean into the pain of waiting and offer up our broken hearts. That's all we have to give.

I'm thrilled to be over at my friend Kris Camealy's blog today writing on these themes. Here's an excerpt:

The world is heavy these days. Every day we have an onslaught of news — of hate winning, of earthquakes and air strikes, of just feeling buried under the grind of the mundane. In our world, all that has been broken for a very long time has reached the surface. It’s as if all the things that were cheap, easy, and horribly bad for it, we’ve been feeding to our collective body and they have made our skin green and our insides twisted. We just now see it. It’s hard to pull away from online chatter, it’s hard to do the good, hard, next step: show up, make dinner, seek forgiveness (not just across party lines, or racial and class lines, but even in your own family). It’s hard to be present when you find yourself weighed down with the weight of waiting.

When all you have is a broken heart, you wonder if that’s enough. Can your brokenness be more than a defect? Can it even help heal a nation, a community, a soul?

I'd be honored if you'd read the rest here. 

Ashley Hales

Image courtesy of Kris Camealy


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