7 quick & cozy takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) new album I'm listening to on repeat (It's that good!)

Work Songs: The Porter's Gate Worship Project Vol. 1

In June of 2017, musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from around the country gathered together in NYC to collaborate on a series of worship songs for a new worship record themed around faith and vocation.  

The live worship album features over a dozen artists, including Audrey Assad, Josh Garrels, David Gungor, Liz Vice and Urban Doxology.

(2) music videos I can't stop watching

You can watch music videos for several of the tracks on the Work Songs album. (See them all here.)

1. This one, featuring Josh Garrells, is by far one of my favorite. Everything about it is beautiful.


2. This video of Baltimore’s Cardinal Shehan School’s choir singing Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” went viral. You’ll want to turn the sound up on this one. (Thanks to my friend, Carol, for sharing this on FB.)

(3) podcasts I enjoyed this week

I promise that I listen to witty, lighthearted, and trivial podcasts, also. (Like this one, for instance, in which I hope one of my kids will get the same idea and feature me on their own podcast someday.) The weightier ones just happen to catch my attention at a more meaningful level.

  1. On Being with Krista Tippett: Tech's Moral Reckoning - Anil Dash
  2. Cultivated Podcast: Andy Crouch - part 1, part 2
  3. Q Podcast: Refugee Children - Rich Stearns and Khalil Sleiman

(4) books blog readers recommended to me in response to my post about my favorite art & faith reads

Here's the original post: My top 14 favorite art & faith books

I haven't read any of the following, and a couple I haven't even heard of before now. Adding these to my TBR list.

  1. Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts by Jerram Barrs
  2. Gray Matters by Brett McCracken
  3. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey
  4. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth by Mike Cosper (which reminds me I've been meaning to read Movies Are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings by Josh Larsen)

(5) fall-type movies we love

Apparently you either need to be about sports or Meg Ryan to make it into this category. Best watched with popcorn.

  1. When Harry Met Sally
  2. Remember the Titans
  3. You've Got Mail
  4. Dead Poets Society
  5. Hoosiers

What would you add to this list?

(6) Photos from our new home

Every once in a while I participate in one of those photo-a-day challenges. Sometimes the challenge is of my own making, like the #WhatISeeWhenIPray series of photos I've posted on Instagram as @a_sacramental_life . This month I'm following a challenge someone else made, #MyCozyFallHome with @thenester.

These photos are probably not very interesting to many of you, but just in case you love snooping in on other people's houses like I do, here's a few snapshots of how the Loft is shaping up. 

(7) blog posts from the archives

2016 - You Are Here to Kneel [for Art House America blog] (That time I got in trouble with a monk - more than once!)

2013 - Road Rage [a mini story] (That time I embarrassed myself in Austin traffic.)

2012 - How to Keep Your Kids From Reading Too Many Bible Verses [Parenting Unrehearsed] - (Including that time I really messed up when listening to my son's music.)

2011 - Bookish Rebellion (The time(s) I got in trouble because of the library.)

2010 - Top 10 Movies to Watch On a Rainy Day (One of my favorite guest posts from my son Andrew.)

2009 - Art-making For the Children's Sake (From my other life as a worship and arts director.)

2008 - Art Show on Main (Sometimes it's hard to believe this part of my life ever happened. It was a lot of work, and so rewarding!)

May your weekend include something as lovely as a bowl of soup, a bonfire, and a good laugh, friends. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!


My top 14 favorite art & faith books

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about one of my favorite subjects. Sitting on her back deck, bundled in blankets against some especially cool September breezes, sipping herbal tea, we stumbled into the conversation about writing. The conversation quickly shifted - as tends to happen - to what it means to make time for writing even without sensing inspiration. And how it sometimes is guilt-inducing to put time into something that's not "productive" in the technical sense. 

It's hard to believe how long I've gone without this kind of conversation since it represents some of the most life-changing learnings of my whole life.

This is a list of books that I've either read or referenced, and have found important to the overall conversation about the role of art in our walk of faith, particularly for those who make art or minister to artists.


Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination, and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith by Luci Shaw || I wrote a short review here.

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling by Andy Crouch || This book is on my top 15 from the past 15 years list. I wrote about hearing Andy Crouch talk about the subject here

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland || Another game changer. You can read the review here.

For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts by W. David O. Taylor || Another book that changed my life. You can read a bit about that here. If you scroll through these posts, you'll also find that I wrote a blog post for each chapter here.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle || I read this book shortly before I started blogging, and am surprised to discover I've never written a review. You can kind of view the last 11 years of blogging as a response.

The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing edited by Leland Ryken || This might be the first book I read with the intention of learning how to be an artist of faith, a couple of years before I started this blog. As such I don't have an archived review, but this post has an excerpt.

Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner || This post includes an excerpt.

Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card || You can read a reflection and a couple of excerpts from this book here.

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture by Makoto Fujimura

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris || I've reflected on this book in several posts, but here's the mini-review I wrote just after reading it.

Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer

The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O'Connor | This is more about the way Ms. O'Connor integrated her own faith with her work as a writer, but I think what she has to say is important for all artists of faith to consider. I wrote a review here.


What books about art and faith would you recommend? 

p.s. This post contains affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

5 things I learned in September

Consider this a sort of "examen" for what I'm learning month-by-month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. 

September is, was, and always has been a somewhat stressful month. I assumed that would change when we no longer marked our lives by the school calendar. Nope. Granted, we moved in August which precipitated a ripple effect of undealt-with stressors, and included the most painful back experience of my life (including labor with four children). Still, there were plenty of milder moments of reflection, listening, and insight. 

Here's five discoveries from September:

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

Our Fort Worth kids sent a photo to let us know the cookies had arrived.

1. Kids never outgrow first day of school cookies

My kids still want - no, expect - homemade cookies at the beginning of the school year. And some of them are no longer even in school (although, one of our sons is a school teacher, so that's kind of the same thing.)  If you've known me long enough, you know that only means one thing. What's round, and orangey, with chocolate dots all over?

Pumpkin chip cookies on the first day of school! 

Only now, the preparations include finding suitable shipping packages, racing to the post office asap after removing from the oven, and paying a small fortune in shipping. If it helps prop up my false claims at being a cookie-baking mother, it's totally worth it.

The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State. Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

The original location of Stew Leonard's (in Norwalk). which is a chain of 5 supermarkets in Connecticut and New York State. Ripley's Believe It or Not! deemed "The World's Largest Dairy".

2. Stew Leonard's is worth the occasional drive for groceries

I've been hearing about this store since we moved to Connecticut 14 months ago. In September I happened to be driving nearby - close enough to stop in for a few minutes. What an experience! I need to go back when I'm not on a time-crunch (and, maybe, not during rush hour). I didn't even make it to the world-famous dairy section!

September.Mom & Dad's Visit2.jpg

3. Eleanor Roosevelt is a social and political hero, which is way better than being a first lady-lifestyle maven

In July some friends from Austin visited us, and on their way, stopped in Hyde Park to visit Eleanor and FDR's homes (now preserved as a part of our national park system.) Prompted by their description (maybe even, especially, by their elementary-aged kiddos' descriptions), I borrowed from the library Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front During World War II. In September, my parents visited us, and we were looking for a couple of "touristy" things to do together. I was delighted when my mother suggested we travel to Hyde Park (approximately an hour and a half away from us). She and I enjoyed every moment touring both Eleanor's Val-Kill cottage (bonus: We learned that "Val-Kill" is a Dutch abbreviation for Valley Stream, which sounds so much lovelier than "Val-Kill", doesn't it?) as well as the main home, the Springwood mansion, technically owned by FDR's mother, Sara. So much of what I'd just read took on more meaning as we walked through the rooms still displaying the furniture (including a homemade wheelchair used by FDR after his tragic bout with polio). One aspect that was especially meaningful was the difference in formality between Sara's (the mother) mansion and Eleanor's (the wife) taste. The King and Queen of England and Senator JFK, among many other global political and civic leaders, were guests in Eleanor's simple, even somewhat plain, home and she managed to out-royalty most them, anyway. 

4. #BlackOut is another way to boycott the NFL

When I wrote a personal response to the controversy over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, I titled the post "Is boycotting the NFL another example of white flight? and 18 other questions I'm asking myself about the response to the #TakeAKnee protest"

For more perspective on the various responses, my daughter recommended I watch this clip of commentator Shannon Sharpe's critique of what he feels is a hypocritical response of the NFL to the President's comments about the #TakeAKnee protest in Alabama last week. 

This is what Natalie said about the clip:

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I also hadn't realized that there was already a boycotting movement to protest the way the NFL responded to Colin Kaepernick in the original protest. My friend Glorya told me about #BlackOut, a growing number of African Americans that are boycotting the NFL because of the organization's treatment of Colin Kaepernick and their implicit system of racism.

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Here is the video introducing the #BlackOut protest produced by several African-American pastors in Alabama. Here's a boycott I could get behind. (I love that there are 4 tiers to the protest which addresses so many layers of need.)

Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

Bridgeport, CT area pastors in prayer for each other and their city.

5. It is a good and beautiful gift to worship with churches of other denominations and cultures

In the 14 months we've lived in Fairfield County, Connecticut we could probably count on one hand the number of times anyone's had anything good to say about the city of Bridgeport. It's one of the state's largest cities with one of the nation's highest crime rates. When I'm talking to out-of-state friends about Bridgeport, I say "People talk about the city like the biblical question about Jesus' hometown, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" There's unemployment, poverty, and blight. In the way of all God's gifts, He led us (without our even realizing it) to move into a loft apartment inside a renovated factory in the south end of Bridgeport. Without our realizing it, God placed us directly across the street from a church whose pastor we'd had the privilege to meet on couple of different, important settings in our first year in CT.

During the last 10 days of September, this church, New Vision International Ministries, hosted a city-wide event, 10 Days of Prayer for Bridgeport. For 24-hours a day, for ten days straight, the sanctuary was open for prayer and worship with three concentrated services scheduled for each day. I attended a couple different evenings (literally walking out my door, across the street, into their door), unsure of what to expect in a church setting unfamiliar to my own experience in several ways. The discomfort didn't even last to the front door, as several greeters met me along the walk way and into the sanctuary with hugs and "God bless yous". I slipped into the center of room, without knowing anyone around me, and was swept into the fervency of the prayer and worship going on around me.  One time, on the day that Brian was scheduled for a 3-hour time slot as a pastoral prayer, I walked across the parking lot to meet him. A car drove in past me, and a little girl (like, maybe 5?) stuck her head out the window, a headful of braids blowing behind her, and called back toward me, "Peace!!"

Another time, during an evening service, the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart more deeply than ever God's commitment to make His name and truth known in power - with or without the help of the White American church. I responded with both lament (for all the ways White American Christians have let our brothers and sisters down) and with a substantial hope that caused me to intercede deeply for that congregation: "Lord, let the congregations of color in our country lead us closer to Your purposes." I was quite caught up in prayer and worship and, suddenly, felt someone's arms come around me. I opened my eyes and saw a teenage girl who'd earlier been sitting at the end of the row, hugging me and resting her head on my shoulder. I was so surprised I only thought to hug her back and say "Thank you, honey." A moment later she was gone from our row.  I don't know what any of that meant (maybe just that the congregation at New Visions is incredibly hospitable). But as I think back on it, in light of what the Holy Spirit was impressing on me in prayer, the story takes on an even deeper layer of meaning for me.

We're grateful for the beautiful welcome we received, and for the vibrant hope for healing and transformation within the church community of Bridgeport. Each night for those ten days, we headed into our apartment with the sounds of full-scale song from inside the church across the street blowing across the sea breeze of our neighborhood. It felt like we lived under a canopy of worship each day. Like the angels who are bowing and worshipping in God's presence night and day, whether we realize it or not.

We are hopeful for all the good to come out of Bridgeport and Fairfield County. Let it be so, dear God. 

Did you learn any lessons - lighthearted or weighty - during September? I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

(here's what some other folks are sharing)

7 quick end of September takes

What I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) poem for your weekend

Free Printable Here

Free Printable Here


You can see digital versions of some of my favorite poems on my Poems board on Pinterest.

(2) books I'm reading right now

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 by Eric Foner

(3) links for autumn root vegetable recipes

Eats: Roasted Autumn Vegetables | via Old Farmer's Almanac

28 Healthy Fall Recipes You Can Feel Good About | via Delish

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pot Roast | via Taste of Home


(4) Spotify playlists I made for autumn

Folk Autumn 2017 - A blend of simple, joyful tunes and harmonic melancholy. Just like Autumn!

Loungy Autumn 2017 - If I'm in the kitchen cooking anything, but especially soup or roast of any kind, loungy music is a must! Have fun with this, and please, please sing into a soup ladle while you're at it.

Instrumental Autumn 2017 - Perfect to play quietly in the background while you're curled up with a good book or writing project.

Autumn Worship 2017 - Think: thanksgiving, gratitude, harvest bounty, beautiful earth.

5 years ago

Alex giving us all a tour of his campus at Rice University. (Parents Weekend)

(6) Photos from in and around Bridgeport this week

My parents visited for part of this week, and we loved showing them our new place in Bridgeport. On Monday, Brian took my Dad and Natalie to a Yankees game (in which Aaron Judge broke the Rookie Home Run record!). My Mom and I drove to Hyde Park, NY to tour FDR & Eleanor's homes. Our tours were fantastic - low-key, but informative - and the setting was lovely. 

We enjoyed participating in a house blessing for a dear couple who attend our church (and have truly adorable grandchildren!). 

Our neighbor churches in Bridgeport hosted 10 Days of 24-Hour Prayer for Bridgeport. We were able to attend several of the evening services. I was humbled, challenged, and renewed in joy and hope. May God hear our prayers.

On Thursday night, Brian and I were invited to a bonfire on the beach - a sort of farewell to summer, in weather warm enough for a few of the kids to jump in the sound. Boy, do we enjoy living in Connecticut.

(7) Autumn-related links (My favorite time of year!)

See more beautiful ideas for fall at my Autumn Holidays & Occasions board on Pinterest.

25 Things to Do in Connecticut This Fall - The joy of listmaking for autumn! | via Connecticut Day Trips

10 Things to Do in Connecticut This Fall (No pressure!) - If you're new to Connecticut like us, this will be one of your favorite blog posts of all time. If you've lived here awhile, you might still might discover something new. If you don't live in Connecticut at all, you'll still get lots of ideas from this post. (Thanks to my friend Monica, for telling me about this blog!)  | via The Size of Connecticut

2017 Farmers' Markets (CT) - Alphabetized by town | via Connecticut Department of Agriculture

Farm Stands and Stores Listings by county (CT) | via Connecticut Department of Agriculture

5 Autumn Activities to Build Stronger Neighborhoods - #4 is an especially thoughtful idea! | via Strong Towns

October Checklist for Flower and Vegetable Gardens - I don't even own a blade of grass right now, but if I did have a garden, this is the sort of checklist I'd need. You probably don't need a checklist. You probably know exactly what you're doing in the garden. Here's a helpful link, just in case... | 

Cranberries: How Does It Grow? - Is your favorite stand listed?  | via The Kid Should See This

May your weekend include something as lovely as a bowl of soup, a bonfire, and a good laugh, friends. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Is boycotting the NFL another example of white flight? & 18 more questions I'm asking myself about the response to the #TakeAKnee protest

A possible response.

A possible response.

I'm not sure how to respond to the troubling rhetoric that bombards my Facebook news feed regarding the #TakeAKnee protest.

Here's a bullet list of questions that I'm asking myself. Feel free to use for yourself, if that is helpful.

  1. Is it possible to be both patriotic and to protest the inequalities that cause us to not live up to our greatest potential of our founding documents as expressed, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness….”? 
  2. Do I agree or disagree that the people who are opposed to the #TakeAKnee protest would have hated Dr. King, or Rosa Parks, or the Woolworth lunch counter students with the same vitriol? What are the differences or similarities in this protest?
  3. I respect the flag and the anthem, in large part, to honor the women and men who've made the greatest sacrifices for our country in battle. In what ways are their sacrifices honored or dishonored when citizens participate in peaceful protests like #TakeAKnee? 
  4. How is the football field more or less appropriate of a civic space for this protest?
  5. When is it a civic responsibility to question - with our public rhetoric and postures - the systems and actions of our government? 
  6. In what way might Christians be confusing national patriotism with biblical allegiance in their (positive or negative) response to the #TakeAKnee protest?
  7. When is it a Christian responsibility to question - with our public rhetoric and postures - the systems and actions of our government? 
  8. Think about the times I've heard rhetoric that says something like, "You're racist and you don't even know it."? And then the rhetoric, in response, that says something like, "We are not racist. Racism no longer exists." Is it possible that ridiculing the #TakeAKnee protestors or boycotting the NFL because of players' peaceful protest might be a racist response? Why or why not?
  9. If the #TakeAKnee protest is, in fact, misguided, what sort of civic harm could it lead to? 
  10. If I a black brother or sister told me that respecting those who participate in the #TakeAKnee protest was one way to acknowledge and validate them in the pursuit of justice, would it be worth my support for their sake alone? Why or why not?
  11. If the President is not wrong in referring to the NFL players who would offer a peaceful protest as "sons of bitches", how should he have labelled the Nazi, white supremacist protestors in Charlottesville a while back? 
  12. If I boycott the NFL because I believe the players are unpatriotic, were there any other concerns I've had about players' behavior in the past that might have caused me to boycott before now? (domestic violence, for example) How did I respond to those issues? Why boycott now? In what way is this behavior worse than all the others that would lead me to ridicule or boycott now?
  13. In what ways is boycotting the NFL (a perfectly legal, nonviolent protest of its own) similar to the "white flight" response to segregated schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces in the middle of the last century? In what ways is it different?
  14. If I'm not sure whether I should ridicule the #TakeAKnee protestors or not, here's a question I can ask myself. If it's (morally, civically, or religiously) right to ridicule or boycott, and I don't do it, what could be the result?  Conversely, if it's (morally, civically, or religiously) wrong to ridicule the #TakeAKnee protestors or boycott the NFL, and I do it anyway, what could be the harm from that? If I'm not sure, on which side might it be wiser to err?
  15. (For those who are Christian) What sort of rhetoric most points toward the Christ of the Bible? 
  16. If I'm not sure I've committed acts of racism with my words, what might happen if I asked my friends to be honest with me and to give me a little bit of help with my assessment? 
  17. (For those who are Christian) If I'm pretty sure I'm not racist, but I care about loving God with all my heart and loving my neighbors as myself so much I want to be sure, what might happen if I ask not only my friends, but also the Holy Spirit to show me where I might be wrong? Would it be better to humbly repent in light of the possibility that I've sinned in racism even if it wasn't necessary or to avoid admitting that I might possibly be sinning? Which is the most Christian response? Is there any reason to fear humble repentance?
  18. If I don't give a damn one way or another, what might that mean about my heart?
  19.  If a war veteran takes a knee, is she or he unpatriotic? 
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You might be interested in another post I've written about welcoming opportunities for self-assessment and repentance here: This Is An Opportunity To Repent

What questions would you add to the list above? How do you discern if you are promoting racism?