Monday, October 10, 2011

The Cata-List - 2011 Edition

When I wrote this post about last year's adventures at Catalyst, and how I felt attending it, I never knew that history was going to repeat itself. Strongly.

This year was about fellowship. Not leadership. 

I think there may have been some people who stood on a stage somewhere and spoke about something, and maybe there was a gymnast at one point. But in all honesty, I didn't take as many notes as I usually do. I didn't pay as close attention as I usually do. I didn't try to find myself I the words spoken by the presenters.

I found myself in the throngs of the people I saw, hugged, and shared this journey with.

Matt Appling. (Whom I still owe a Skype date with...again...)
Joshua Freshour. (My unintentional Catalyst shadow.)
Ashley Linne. (Best. Editor. Ever.)
Angus Nelson. (My twin. Sort of.)
Nicole Unice. (Whom I really wish I could have spoken more to - she's awesome.)
Dustin Valencia. (I'm not sure that it's legal for him to be as tall as he is...)
Darrell Vesterfelt. (If you ever need a place to crash in SC...)

Now go enrich yourself. Read their blogs. Follow them on Twitter. Stalk them in the grocery store. 

Each and every one of these people made the conference come to life for me. 

I owe all of you coffee. 

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Catalyst 2011 and Socks

I used to over-pack for conferences. Like, crazy over-pack: one professional and one casual set of clothes for each day, plus at least one entire extra set of clothes "just in case." Multiple shoes, multiple name it. But time, a reshifting of priorities, and having a toddler have taught me to pack light and pack well.

Case in point: I took three pairs of socks to Catalyst this year. Just three. For a five day trip. I have learned the art and majesty of recycling my clothes. But that's fine. I only needed three pairs of socks. Because the individuals I saw in person helped to shore me up and support me in so many ways.

I don't think I have any socks larger than Moe, who is larger than life. But for all the online bluster and joviality he brings, the man is a lover, not a fighter. All the time we were together, he was hugging. High-fiving. Fist-bumping. He wants you to know you matter, you are heard, and you are important to him.

I think I have socks that weigh more than Tracee. Seriously - she redefines petite, but in a ridiculously cute yet very professional way. And she has a heart that has such courage, such faith, and such power that it inspires me. And challenges me. And I very much regret not saying that to her face.

I don't think I have socks in better shape than Scott. Although our personal interactions have been too few and too short, I am in awe of and humbled by this man who has it all together. No loose stitching. No holes. And that he has chosen to interact with me gives me an incredible sense of self-worth. And hope. And having him as a friend (if I may be so bold) challenges me - in a good way - to be a better husband and father. 

I don't think I own* any socks more beautiful than Alece. Like me, she has socks she does not want to wear. They are socks that the world would say are unclean, beyond repair, and have no worth. But she has taught me to see the beauty in the brokenness of my own socks, to honor the journey in which I wore them, and to be courageous. And that they are indeed of infinite worth.

* = Ashley and Kai ARE more beautiful than you, Alece. I just don't own them. They're my favorite socks to have and to wear 24/7.

I know I don't have any socks as fun as Amanda. But just like a pair of goofy, fun socks - she has warmth. Depth. And a complexity and intelligence that makes her fun-sock self that much more valuable to have in the drawer. Meeting her was like meeting family.

I don't think I have any hiking socks as good as Jamie. I love to hike, and if there was anyone that I wanted to just blow off the conference with to spend time talking, walking around with and drinking deep of life, it was Jamie and her husband Steve. I mean, Jamie saw me. SAW me and came to intentionally speak to me. ME. She knew my name, and knew me. Knew about me. Sometimes we forget that hiking socks are designed for longevity and endurance, and these two are people that I would love to have opportunities to just be a big freaking goofballs with, because I have a feeling the goofy times would be intertwined with some amazingly meaningful times as well.

Thank you for being in my drawer.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Guest Post: Philemon II - This Time, It's Personal...

This letter is from Onesimus. Yeah. It’s me. I know you’ve already gotten a letter from Paul, but I wanted to follow up on his, and take a moment to touch base before I returned to you.
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I am writing to you, Philemon, because like Paul, I kept hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I had to wonder: was this the same Philemon I knew and served? Because I have to be honest, there were times when I did not feel that love shown to me. That respect shown to me. And as a servant to you, that hurt. It cut deeply. 

To read the rest of the story, head on over to The Usual Suspects at

Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review: NOT ALONE

The subtitle for this book could have been Stories of Hope, and I don't think anyone would have found it ironic. 

Not Alone, available now from Civitas Press, is a beautiful example of what has become a growing trend from some publishers. Gone is the idea that a sole contributor can and does know everything about a specific topic; instead, this book is community based in its authorship. It spans a wide gamut of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with clinical depression. And it is the very fact that so many different and unique people have allowed us as readers to take a peek into their often private struggles that the book finds it's greatest strength: proclaiming not proudly but with open arms "You are not alone."

At first, the wide and sometimes jarring differences in writing styles, tones, and narration of the stories can be a little off-putting, but that is because we as readers have become adjusted to the comfortable sotto voce of a single writer sharing her or his opinion. In Not Alone, we are reminded that what one person experiences in dealing with depression is not the same as what every individual experiences. Age, gender, life experiences, sexual orientation, spiritual development - all are variables that can and do affect how we respond. A heterosexual male may not be able to fully, completely "get" what it's like to be a mother suffering from postpartum depression, yet both may be in the throes of their own versions of depression. And it is in this shared pain that they find community and common ground. Two or more are gathered in the name of hope, and they express to others the grace shown to them by the One who gives hope. In doing so, they offer help to one another to be able to emerge out of the darkness.

That is the true beauty of this project, especially for those of us as readers who may suffer from depression [raises hand]. Not Alone reminds us that for as much as we may feel we are at times, we're NOT alone. The title is not just a cute play on a phrase. We may suffer in a silence of our own choosing, but the authors recognize that many of us share a variation on the same theme of pain. By having the courage to speak up, to lay bare their souls and their sufferings, their accomplishments and their failures, their good days and bad ones, the family of Not Alone invites join them at this table.

Two words of caution: (1) the language in this book is as authentic as the pain and frustration that some of the authors feel, and as such, it at times comes across as raw. Real. And beautiful and perfect in the freedom to share what may be offensive to some; and (2) do NOT try to read this in one sitting. Soak in the lives of the people who are sharing themselves with you. Let the reality of what you are reading take root in you.

And if you see yourself in some ways on that printed page - know that you are not alone. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Guest Blog: Careful - You Never Know What'll Stick

Kids used to scare me. Now I'm a stay-at-home parent. God loves to play "Gotcha!" with me.
One of my first exposures to dealing with kids – and learning how much one has to be CAREFUL when speaking around them - came one evening under the warmth of the summer Georgia sun. My friends Scott*, Trevor* and I were engaged in the manly art of charbroiling animal flesh. Scott's two daughters (Gail*, age 2 & Tina*, age 4) were with us because that's clearly where toddlers should be: with men who are holding sharp spears and raw meat while standing around a charcoal altar. At one point, Scott got it into his noggin that he could flip a chicken breast into the air and have it safely land back on the grill. You can imagine how well this went.