Learning by Degrees: How Mommy Earned a New Diploma

My daughter isn’t really the one graduating. It’s actually me. 

My other degrees suddenly seem cheap, just small-time tokens of my own ambition. But the one I’m earning this month? It’s the big one--the one from a preparatory school known for the hardest tests on the planet and the highest number of credits. It’s the diploma that I never really thought about eighteen years ago when I enrolled at 12:17 a.m. at St. Agnes Hospital on the sixth floor, Maternity Ward B. 

The other mothers and I whisper about it quietly in between the graduation parties and awards nights. None of us knows quite what to do, even the ones who have two or three of these honors behind them. It’s not because we lost the graduation instructions, but because for us, it’s the season of loss. Diplomas are supposed to get you somewhere. They’re supposed to launch you into another galaxy of opportunity. But this new honor I’m earning seems, at least for now, to be taking everything away from me, just as it’s giving my daughter everything I prayed for. 

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9 Tips for Eating Christianly

For the last 10 months I’ve been writing a book about Christian approaches to consuming culture, and one of the things I discuss in the book is food. How can Christians be better consumers of food? It’s a topic pertinent to anyone of faith (we all eat), but maybe not one that is discussed as much as it should be (though a number of great books have been exploring it of late–such as this, this, and this.)

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Why Can't I Sleep

My energy was low the other day due to not sleeping well. Why do our problems and concerns seem to magnify at night?

I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and began thinking about an issue involving our 11-year-old son Noah. It was nothing major, just some ongoing growing pains with our tweener. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to worry, feeding the issue and before long, it grew to Noah dropping out of school and making license tags behind bars with “mom” tattoo on his arm under a skull with crossbones.

I finally fell asleep and when I awoke in the morning, it all seemed frivolous but it had left me robbed of much needed sleep and an unproductive day.

Pete Wilson’s new book Empty Promises, shares how the ancient Hebrew mindset saw the beginning of the day starting at sunset. Even in the Creation Story in Genesis 1 illustrates this, “Evening came and then morning – that was the first day.”

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Sex Rules: A Generational Grammar Lesson

When you first read this title, did you see a verb or a noun? If you’re younger than forty,  chances are the second word in my title is a verb. 

Sex rules

In this grammatical reading, Sex rules our movies, our conversations, and more than ever, our politics. It rules the way we frame relationships. Sex rules advertising, novels, fashion, comedy, and ballot boxes. Increasingly, it influences the way we think about the world. To most young people, sexual orientation is as natural a genetic marker as your height or eye color. Sexual health depends on freedom of choice, with few forbidden territories. Sex rules culture more than ever before. 

If you were born before 1970, you might have seen a plural noun in my title. When it comes to sex, there are rules. With this interpretation, sex rules prevent a culture from losing its dignity, and they give society a fixed moral compass. Without rules, sex is shameful, destructive. To traditionalists, sex with rules makes it better, not worse. In this grammatical reading, my title anticipates a list--not an observation. 

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Gay Marriage and Stupid Christian Arguments

Gay Marriage and Stupid Christian Arguments


I said this in an earlier post and I still believe it:

There is probably no topic that Christians are more known for these days than hating gays.  The vocal minority has done a great job proving this out and the not-so vocal majority of Christians have done very little to disprove it.  We are known for largely hateful rhetoric and singling out one lifestyle to vilify -- while ignoring the ones Jesus really spoke against – pride, anger, materialism, idolatry, selfishness.

The church has wasted its time fighting gay marriage.  Why wasted?  Because I can tell you as a constitutional law expert that no matter what voters decide, the issue will be resolved by state and federal courts that for the most part don’t care what voters think.  So the church has spent millions fighting something that in the end they have no control over.  It’s like fighting a tsunami with a bucket – or millions of them.  It won’t work but you will die in the process.  

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God's Will Is An Industry


In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps (Proverbs 16:9)

God’s will is an industry. If you don’t believe me, do an Amazon search for the term, “God’s Will” and see how many hits you get. It’s around 334,000.  The reason for this is that Christian publishers know that God’s will sells. Big.

And the reason that God’s will sells is that it is often less about God and all about us. Whom shall I marry, will I get the mortgage modification, and should I move to France and become a potato farmer?

Like many of you, I am in the God’s will business. 40% of the conversations I have revolve around helping people sort out their future. The other 60% is a mix of sin management, past guilt issues and the joys and sorrows of this life.

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Never Judge a Person by Their Cover

This past week I worked at a conference hosting a booth with many of our books. People from all walks of life visited our table and it was interesting to see the different responses, especially to two of our books that are political in nature. One in particular, The Presidents and Their Faith, stimulated much talk on the faith of our current president, some harsh and some loving.

One gentleman approached the table and snidely said, “Well, well, the faith of the presidents. I want to know what you have to say about our present one.”

He picked up the book and began scanning the last chapter. His conservative dress, cropped hair and the sarcastic tone in his voice quickly told me what he believed.

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A Deeper Life of Worship: Why Liturgy Is Valuable

What is liturgy, and why is it valuable?

Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit...

“Liturgy” means a structure of worship, and every church has one, whether the people involved call it that or not. Every service has a structure: a characteristic ordering of the songs, Scripture readings, sermon, prayers, collection, and so on. In typical usage, though, “liturgy” is usually associated with particular traditions such as the Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches, which have structures for worship that include set prayers and responses for the participants.

For those who’ve never attended a liturgical church, think of it this way. Every Christian knows the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s often included in a worship service for the congregation to say together. Now imagine that the whole service is structured around a framework of prayers and responses like this, taken from Scripture or written by great saints of the church. That’s liturgical worship.

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To Be Remembered

This past Saturday me and my husband took a day trip up to Big Bear Lake in southern CA. In the past, we've done a good amount of hiking through the mountains that circle the vast lake. But this time we kept our feet level with the lake and spent our day driving to various parts of the lake while remininiscing about those past hikes and trips with friends to the gorgeous mountains. Thoughts of my grandpa were also swirrling about in my mind that day as I knew his time on Earth was coming to an end. I had the sermon I describe below on my heart as well. As our day in the mountains ended, we descended down the curves of the mountains and I got a phone call. Grandpa had passed and Jesus had remembered him once and for all. I hope the knowledge of salvation in Jesus brings you hope on this day, no matter what life's circumstances are moving around you. And if you don't yet know the salvation and rememberment Jesus brings, I hope that your heart and mind be opened to his grace and forgiveness.

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Sometimes a Sick Day is the Therapy We Need

It’s been a rough week, health-wise, in the Russell household. Anastasia’s been dealing with the coughing funk the past two weeks and I finally had to take her in (to the doctor, not the house, even though at times I was tempted to leave her outside at night, but I fear I’m sharing too much right now) last Thursday.

Noah’s cough started up this past week and today it was his turn to head to the doctor. When I signed him in at the doctor’s office, I swear the nurse looked at me funny, as if I were using my kids to get drugs or something.

Maybe I’m just being sensitive. Either way, I’m sick of the sickness and long for life to be back to normal.

However, I’ve noticed something different in Noah today…he’s talking with me more and even cuddling! He’ll turn eleven next week and each day he seems to pull more away from me and more towards his friends and his room.

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