Once a month, I like to point to all the good stuff I’ve been reading, watching and listening to, especially as it relates to what’s going on in the world and in my own life. If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed I’ve been thinking, writing, and posting about the theme of hope recently. Maybe you’ve seen an essay on my blog or post on Instagram. We’re finishing up that theme with a round up of resources from around the internet, off my shelves, and even on my own blog.
1. Treasures Hidden in a Field by Kristin Lucas for Fathom Magazine. This personal essay about the author’s experience spring foraging for fiddleheads is loaded with hidden gems about faith, grace, and the kingdom of God. You might even say if feels a bit like searching for hope during a pandemic. You’ll want to read it to experience its full beauty.
From the essay: “We had hoped to find a whole chorus of sprouted fiddleheads ready to be plucked and carried home in the plastic shopping bag that hung halfway out of my pocket. But several careful forays across the hillside didn’t produce a single escaped sprout amongst all of the padlocked crowns.
“We were too early.”
2. Deferred Maintenance: Finding God in the Breakdown Lane by Sam Bush for Mockingbird. So much about this essay feels like the slog of summer when I knew I needed to do things, take care of things, but I was just too overwhelmed to act. Bush’s humor makes for an entertaining read, and he gives us all a lot to think about through his personal reflections.
From the essay: “Deferring upkeep in our lives during Covid-19 seems to be a microcosm of how we deal with inadequacy and judgment. The reason why I denied that my fridge needed to be fixed in the first place is twofold: 1. I don’t want to be the type of person that needs his fridge fixed (thank you very much); and 2. the necessary steps it would take to fix it are beyond my mental capacity at the moment. Life is hard enough as it is and a broken fridge may be all it takes to send me over the edge.”
3. Kimchi by Jason Lim for Reclaim Magazine. This personal essay about the author’s growing up experience as a second generation Asian American offers a great metaphor for how to wrestle with overlapping identities, especially when those identities aren’t part of the majority culture. Lim offers an empathetic peek into his own childhood, but also shows us what it means to grow into one’s self through maturity, self-knowledge, and acceptance.
From the essay: “The beauty of kimchi is that, as it ages and ferments, its flavor profile becomes richer. For me, the funkier the kimchi, the better. It makes for a better kimchi stew and it better complements some of my favorite Korean soups. Similarly, I needed time for my thoughts and emotions to breathe, age, and ferment.
“This emergence of my self-awareness has led to redemption. God has revealed to me just how beautiful it is to be both Asian American and Christian. I realized that my value is not based on these identity markers. Rather, my value is in the fact that God created me this way. ”
4. Cultivating Christlike Virtue in a Virtue-Signaling Age by Dustin Crowe for The Gospel Coalition. I love this article for the ways it calls us to care as much about our own virtue, or about doing right, as it does about thinking rightly or being perceived as someone who is right. Dustin highlights examples from the life of Christ when He tends both the mind and the heart, marrying right action and right thinking with love and compassion. When we move beyond virtue signaling to living out Christ’s likeness in us, we find ourselves, like Jesus, feeling “indignant against anything that’s ‘not the way it should be.’”
From the article: “Jesus teaches us not only what is right and true, but also how to display the beauty of the truth in our words, posture, and deeds. He models how to live righteously and love compassionately alongside how to think deeply.”
5. Messy Hope by Christine Langford for The Perennial Gen. This article feels appropriate because Christine writes about hope and gardening, both topics I included in this week’s blog post. I especially love that Christine removed the shiny glean from hope by calling it messy. It’s a key part of the distinction between hope and optimism that I discussed in this week’s blog post.
From the article: “We tend our gardens, weeds and all. We live our messy lives. Messy hope may not look good on an Instagram Feed, but we do it anyway. We hope, even when the world feels hopeless. Because our hope is not in a virus-free life or in gardens with no weeds, but in our God, who loves us and provides for our future.”
6. Think Again: How to Reason and Argue by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. I’m still in the middle of this one, too, but it seems like the perfect companion for a pandemic-ridden, economy-struggling, racial-reckoning election season. I want to be better at that “constructive interaction” the publisher speaks of above, which means I have to learn how to have good arguments rather than bad. I’m looking forward to all I’ll learn here.
From the publisher: “Think Again shows the importance of good arguments and reveals common misunderstandings. Rather than a means to persuade other people or beat them in an intellectual competition, Sinnott-Armstrong sees arguments as an essential tool for constructive interaction with others. After showing how the failure of good arguments has led us to society’s current woes, he shows readers what makes a good argument.”
7. Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful by Tara Haelle for Medium. If you’ve been feeling off lately, this article might help you name some of the disappointment, stress, and grief that the pandemic has created for all of us. I also talked about this phenomenon in last week’s Wonder Report. Let me know if you didn’t get a copy, and I’ll email it to you. (And be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss any issues in the future!) I particularly liked the section on ambiguous loss and grief, something we’d all do well to learn more about because of its prevalence in our COVID existence.
From the article: “Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.
“‘The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity,’ says Masten. When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?”
8. In The Light with Dr. Anita Phillips podcast. I don’t listen to tons of podcasts, but I’m a loyal fan of a few. And now I’ve added Dr. Anita Phillips to my list of favorite podcasters. She is a nationally acclaimed trauma therapist and life coach who speaks with such compassion and vision. In one of her first episodes, she talked about the important connection between our spirit and emotions, and it was so helpful to see how being healthy emotionally helps us grow spiritually and vice versa. She also talks a lot about bringing light into dark places — the light of God, the light of knowledge, the light of healing — all of which seems to be another way of talking about hope.
From the podcast: “Listen along as Dr. Anita Phillips talks to special guests and everyday callers about thriving in love, life, and relationships. If you’re brave enough to stand in the light, Dr. Anita is here to help you evolve into the best version of yourself. Are you ready?”
9. Eight Prayers for the Online Dating Journey by Margot Starbuck for Christianity Today. I spent 42 of my almost 50 years single, and even met my very own husband through an online date site, so I can definitely relate to these prayers. I might add, however, that every one of them is just as appropriate for my married life. Read through them yourself to see how you might pray them in your own life whether you are single or not.
From the article: “But just as the Bible’s prayer book, the Psalms, includes a variety of prayers for different occasions—Help! and Thanks! and Sorry! and Yikes!—so, too, different prayers fit the various seasons of the dating journey. Here are eight prayers that I and others navigating the online dating world have found useful.”
10. The Wonder of Hope: The Benefit of Living in Darkness from my blog. Hope is born in the shade, when the absence of light might otherwise leave us stunted. Instead, the darkness propels us to seek out bright spots, to find those places, however narrow, where the sunlight can break through.