Review of “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield

If I am honest this might be the most torn I have ever been on a book review.  I was overjoyed to begin this read, having heard its title as a recommendation from another favorite author.  The title alone sparked my curiosity as I am so deeply passionate about discipleship through hospitality and the calling on our lives to love our neighbors through welcoming them.  Few things bring me more joy than the ability to welcome someone into my home and make them dinner when they are weathering a storm.  Because of this, most of the students I minister to know where I store my spare key.  Many times I have walked into my kitchen or living room to find them full of my people or with one or two asleep on the couch or taking a video interview in my bed.  I love every minute of hosting.  I honestly find creating a nourishing place for people sacred, even worshipful.

Thus, I began the journey of The Gospel Comes with a House Key eager to discover words I would soon have posted in calligraphy on my dining room walls.  The author Rosaria Butterfield’s life and story dramatically changed due to Christian hospitality.  Butterfield served as a college professor at a liberal arts university.  She was a noted advocated in the LGBTQ community as she identified as a lesbian herself.  I am making use of the past tense here as Butterfield’s life dramatically changed upon a couple who invited her into their home.  The hospitality was simple, a meal and conversation; yet, the sacredness, the specialness of someone seeing her, knowing her, and continuing to provide her a place where she was welcomed and loved, changed everything for Butterfield.  Upon experiencing such hospitality, the author came to know Jesus and her life dramatically changed.

Hospitality always includes heads, hands, hearts, messes, and weaknesses.

And I am here for how transformational hospitality can be.

I loved the ways Butterfield challenges believers to walk in obedience by loving their neighbors.  She offers a story in her own neighborhood when her family in North Carolina befriended the neighbor on the street everyone else simply whispered about.  They befriended this neighbor and assumed the best of him, despite each of their neighbor’s warnings that he was not to be trusted.  Upon forming a tight connection, this neighbor was arrested and removed from his home for cooking methamphetamine.

Following his arrest, Butterfield shared that she and her children continued to write this neighbor and his girlfriend.  They mailed packages and pray for them.  Despite his decisions and locations, they were determined to be a good neighbor.

The transition from stranger to neighbor  to family does not take place easily, but over grace, intent, grit, and sacrifice.  The hospitable develop thick skin.

Butterfield explains hospitality does not have to be complicated.  She emphasizes the simplicity of setting up a card table in the carport and placing paper plates in a stack in an effort to make strangers, neighbors and friends.  She explains that practically this includes budgeting for hospitality, purchasing extra groceries, and in her case owning multiple crock-pots (aka speaking my language).  Practicing what Butterfield terms “radically ordinary hospitality” includes making room to host a single friend following eye surgery on a living room couch by buying blackout curtains and filling her prescriptions.  Making room includes making space in her schedule to help pick up a neighbor’s child from soccer practice or feeding another neighbor’s dog.

Hospitality renders our houses hospitals and incubators.

Having been so touched and moved by Christian hospitality in her own story, Butterfield doubles down on the importance of welcoming one whose beliefs and ideas are foreign and making them feel welcomed and valued.  She preaches the importance of making room for someone’s perception and experience incredibly.

Do I have the grace to say little on a subject rather than everything possible?

Stop thinking of conversations with neighbors as hidden evangelical routes.

Have I made myself safe to share the real hardships of your daily living?  Even in a post-Christian world, we can still claim unearned privileges rooted in sentimentality for days gone by.

And if you have read up to this point, you may be thinking, I don’t think Emily Katherine is actually on the fence about this book. I think she actually loves it.

You see if I were Butterfield’s editor, The Gospel Comes with a House Key would have been shaped as the book I reviewed.  Yet, should you flip to the second or third page which list the publisher and editor, my name will not be found.  While I loved certain fruits in the forest of this book, many times I almost stopped and turned away due to the weeds.

When Rosaria Butterfield came to know God through Christian hospitality, her life radically transitioned.  She left her established career in academia along with her homosexual lifestyle.  She was soon married to a Reformed Presbyterian Minister and became a homeschooling mom.  She radically embraced “conservative Christianity” and often claims that title both for herself and her readers throughout the text.

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The author steps away from the topic of hospitality including lengthy discourses in topics such as gender, the Refugee crisis, politics, and church discipline.

Butterfield’s tone is so conservative- literally including the phrase “sacred patriarchy” that when she began sharing her story of her life before Christ I checked back multiple times to be sure she wasn’t sharing someone else’s story.  I was shocked to learn this pastor’s wife in suburban North Carolina who knits by her neighbor’s bed sides during surgery and bakes bread each Saturday for Communion on Sunday came from such a different lifestyle.

Thus, The Gospel Comes with a House Key is a challenging and compelling read, with sections and ideologies I would omit in order to reach a more relevant and diverse audience surrounding an important subject.

But these are my thoughts.  Comment below with yours!


Thanks for stopping by!

H8ULakjvMGHuOo5uritQ9Lrm0KZkxT0ncqFEIMOVNU0My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

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Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

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Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


FullSizeRenderThanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of Everybody Always, by Bob Goff

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Click to purchase.

I seem to have this funny theme in my life of always running into Bob Goff, but never meeting him.  It’s honestly hilarious at this point the number of times we’ve been in the same room.  A couple years ago I went to lunch at work, and he was also eating lunch there.  This past year, I attended three different conferences in three different states, in which, Bob spoke at all three.  So here’s my faithful pledge next time, I’ll say hi.

I was eager to start Everybody Always as I loved Bob’s first book, Love Does in 2015.  I also loved Maria (Bob’s wife) Goff’s Love Lives Here.  (Read my review here.)  I love listening to audiobooks on long drives or while folding laundry, and when I learned Everybody Always was recorded on Audible by Bob himself, I downloaded right away.

This book focuses on “becoming love.”  And I love that about Bob Goff.  Having crossed paths with him many times, I have been able to see that for him, it’s not about understanding love or having a correct definition of love, it’s about stepping out and becoming.  When I heard him speak at the past couple conferences a line he said got under my skin- not because I disagreed, but because I felt so challenged and compelled.

“Go.  Go and find the people that creep you out the very most and love them.”

I had just read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness (review here) challenging me to “move in” because people are “hard to hate close up.”  And Bob Goff’s words reminded me of how often I fall short of loving “those people.”

When we draw a bigger circle around us in the world like grace did, God’s loving kindness gives us bigger and newer identities.

I love Bob’s writing style and even have used it as an example at writer’s conferences when some more tenured friends just cannot seem to understand “those Millennials.”  (Funny how sometimes we, ourselves, are the ones people have to walk across the line to love.)  He tells wild and crazy stories that made me laugh, cry, and have chills all over.  Then, he draws connections to the nature and character of God and who He calls us to be packing many heavier punches than I ever thought possible.

Sometimes when we ask God for an answer, He sends us a friend.

Jesus promised to be a voice they could trust.  All they had to do was run toward it.

Bob simplifies what we overcomplicate emphasizing the theme that Jesus never gathered people around Him to agree with Him; instead, He gathered people around Him to go and be like Him.  Bob challenges believers to love bravely, deeply, and to never overlook our own personal transformation in the process.


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Thanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Guest Blog: Five Steps to Plan Repeatable Events

This guest blog is written by a dear friend, coworker, and my supervisor, Preston Tippett.  Preston has worn many hats in the WinShape College Program including Event Planner, Small Group Leader, Event Specialist, and now serves as a Coordinator of Programming.

Everyone who works around us thoroughly enjoys laughing at our dynamic as Preston is definitely the “how” to my “wow”.  While I am most excited to meet new people and dream up new ideas, Preston keeps us grounded, on track, and productive.  Below he shares practical insights on planning repeatable events!


As a ministry leader of students, you know very well how often events take place.  All. The. Time.  As soon as one is finished, your focus and energy shift to what is next on the calendar.  Often, you are forced to think about and plan for multiple events simultaneously.

I’m here to give a few thoughts about how you can go about planning for events in a way that could alleviate your future to-do list.  Because let’s be honest, who wants to reinvent the wheel or duplicate work every time you gear up for an event?  Me neither!  Below are five essentials for creating repeatability in planning events.

  1. Have a trackable task management system, something that you can refresh and reuse each time.

    Ideally, this system should track how far out from the event (days, weeks, or months) you need to complete the task.  Once you input that information for each particular task, you won’t have to take the time to think about when you need to do that certain task, nor are you feeling overwhelmed in looking at every task that needs to get done for the event to happen.  Rather, the system is reminding you when you need to complete that task.  I recommend your system to have a filtering or ordering option, where you can select which parts you want to view based on how far out from the event that task is to be completed.

  2. Know your budget.

    We are called to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us.  Planning events usually comes with stewarding a good bit of money and using that money wisely.  It is important that you keep track of how much you are spending throughout the planning of your event.  The benefits to tracking your spending are twofold: you know on the latter end if you spent more or less than you were allotted, and you have a very accurate estimate of how much to allot for each line item the next time around.  I would recommend not just tracking the overall amount spent, but know how much you spent on each individual aspect of the event.  Break it down as specifically as you can.

  3. Take notes!

    Have you ever had a great idea and think, “There’s no way I’ll forget that, that’s too good of an idea,” only to later have no recollection of it?  One of the easiest ways to limit your ability to create repeatable events is to forget what you’ve done before.  This might sound slightly like the part above regarding task management, but the difference here is not just knowing the task that needs to be done, but knowing how to go about completing that task.  Let’s say, for example, that you used an outside vendor to provide supplies for your event and you would love to use them again.  You would want to take note of that company’s name, the specific vendor’s name and contact information, as well as any additional notes about the specifics of what you did.

    Bottom line: take note of how you completed tasks, and create a reminder in your task management system to review those at the start of your next event.

  4. Evaluate and refine.

    This step is crucial if you want to create repeatable events and maximize your efforts.  If you don’t evaluate what you are doing, how would you ever know if you are creating the best version of what you are doing?  Don’t just do it the same exact way year after year.  You could be left with designing your programming around a theme to a TV show series that none of your students have context to because it’s that outdated (yes, my team has made that mistake).  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to replicate what you do year after year, but rather to do so with discretion.  Essentially, you should schedule time after each event to sit down with your team and evaluate what you believe went well and what needs to be improved.  I have a practice of creating a new note in my phone during events where I can quickly jot down anything that comes to mind in the realm of tweaking, improving, or removing.  This helps me when I come to the team’s evaluation meeting, as I can pull up that note and see the list of items I think should be reconsidered to make better.

    The second step to evaluating is refining.  The reason for evaluating is to know the areas that need refining.  Use the energy and momentum from your evaluation meeting to put the refining into action.

  5. Celebrate!

    This isn’t necessarily a tip for planning for repeatability, but it is an important step that, surprisingly, can easily be overlooked.  After you’ve accomplished your event and evaluated its success, it can feel natural to simply move on to the next event that needs attention.  However, I would highly encourage you to schedule time for you and your team to celebrate the completion of your event.  Set aside a specific time in your calendar for your team to enjoy a meal together or create a shared experience.  Be sure to clarify the connection between the accomplishment and the celebration.  Celebrating with your team is a great way to create a natural close to the event you have just planned and executed.

Review of Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley

I became a Simplified Planner user in 2016 and have never looked back.  This planner is my heart beat, my saving grace, and one of my most treasured possessions each year thanks to the craft, talent, and intentionality of Emily Ley.

I was late to the Grace Not Perfection party, but so thankful I picked it up.  Emily Ley openly shares her story of battling to be perfect and in the midst of striving, finding grace.  Within each chapter she shares practical tips for organization and cleanliness in your home, work place, and daily life.

Ley’s word pictures of her story battling perfectionism, infertility, and health issues, invited me into her home to sit down and have coffee.  Each chapter felt like sitting across the coffee table from a wise friend and rather than feeling tasked with another creative organization plan, I felt accompanied by a friend saying, “me too, girl.”

The good life is rich, slow, real, and flawed.

In those moments when we give ourselves the grace to let everything else fade away, we find our most sincere happiness.

Emily’s battle to be the perfect daughter, woman, wife, mother, leader, business owner and designer ran her life, just as many of us find ourselves slaves to perfectionism- or at least perceived perfectionism (guilty).  But she decided to no longer be paralyzed by perfectionism and striving, missing out on the life she always wanted for a life she felt she was meant to continue striving to perfect.

Someone told you you had to do it all and to do it all by yourself.

Chasing perfection had been my way of searching for joy.

But in losing the battle, she found grace.  And in grace, her real and truest self.

You are enough.  You deserve simple, slow, and sweet.

It was time to give myself permission to be a priority again.

Don’t sacrifice the good in chase of the perfect.

When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty of life.

I loved Grace Not Perfection and found myself in a bit of a book rut upon completing it, because I felt nothing could compare as it offers the sweet embrace of a friend and practical insights to simplification and organization, woven amidst a story of grace.


Thanks for stopping by!

profMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church

Lynne and Bill Hybles share their story in detail of building Willow Creek Community Church from only a vision and dream.  The first half of Rediscovering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is composed by Lynne who begins with Bill and her first engagement that she broke off.  She shares of the two of them beginning their ministry together and Billy learning the gifts God had given him of teaching and leadership.  Lynne describes their journey of stepping out in faith to plant a church while both of them were only twenty-three years old.  She honestly shares the difficulties of this season of men coming to Bill stating they were about to lose all the collateral they had put on the line for the church, Bill trying to get out of debt by selling tomatoes door to door, a scandal in the church that split it in half, and the Lord protecting them from purchasing a condemned property.

Bill’s half of this work takes on less of a narrative form, but rather conveys his passion and zeal to see irreligious people become saints.  Bill also shares about times of incredible joy in watching the congregation of Willow Creek grow, make disciples, reach out to others, and give so generously.  He furthermore shares of difficult times and decisions as a leader, yet amidst every struggle and time of questioning of seeing God’s faithfulness.  Hybles consistently focuses on the importance of continuing to reach out to unbelievers and charging members of the congregation to do the same in order to see growth.

A key helpful feature of Rediscvoering Church: The Story and Vision of Willow Creek Community Church is Lynne and Bill’s honestly.  Lynne shared honestly and openly of times when Bill was “married to the ministry” and she had to seek companionship with fellow staff member’s wives in the loneliness.  They share honestly about the difficulty of stewarding such a large congregation with such a small budget to begin with and such big decisions to be made with a team of only three elders.  The Hybles are open and honest about their mistakes and point so consistently to God’s faithfulness to their obedience.  A limiting feature of the Hybles’ work is the stark difference in Lynne and Bill’s writing styles as Lynne provides a narrative and seems to set Bill up to tell the rest of the story in the second half.  Bill, instead, seems to passionately teach a sermon on continuing to reach beyond the walls of the church and tells stories of radical conversion.


Thanks for stopping by!

profMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

Review of Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love

 

Gloria Furman’s work Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love is a message to all women who find themselves in the role of being a wife of someone in full time ministry.  She shares stories of times when many members of the congregation placed their expectations onto her to fulfill obligations she never imagined were hers, such as working to repair a leaking ceiling in the church foyer.  Furman and her husband pastor a church in the Middle East, thus gender roles are defined and experienced differently than in more Western environments; yet, Furman shares stepping into this role God has called her into with courage and care, especially as she has to work so tirelessly to protect her children and care for her husband who faces a muscular disorder.

From her experience as a pastor’s wife, Gloria Furman encourages other women to be aware of the many expectations the church will have for her.  She encourages women to have boundaries in place of what she is able to do for the Body and to always first prioritize her individual relationship with Jesus and caring for her husband and family.  She bravely suggests as a pastor’s wife to still seek out older women in the Body for mentoring and to allow fellow members to assist with children, when trying to attend to them while a pastor may be busy delivering a sermon or caring for a family.

Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love is specifically helpful in honestly addressing many expectations pastor’s wives face with very specific anecdotes that help bring this tension to light.  Furthermore, Furman’s experience translates to a variety of global contexts for pastor’s wives in any part of the world.  On the other hand, Furman’s work is limited in directly addressing wives of pastors rather than all women in ministry and addressing wives from a very conservative context.  She addresses women in similar contexts to her own which prescribes a very small church with limited staff and extremely conservative gender roles.


Thanks for stopping by!

profMy name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.