31 Days: Niche Convictions

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I have an obsession with grace.

I sin all the time, but God still forgives me. Everyday. Because grace. I don’t understand everything about God. But that’s ok. Because grace. I have a bad attitude. I believe some wrong things. I act when I should not. But grace. And the list goes on and on.

Grace is what I always come back to and want to share with others. And, because of the grace I so urgently want to show and receive, I lean towards peacemaking. I believe that, because grace extends to cover our beliefs, we can extend grace to our fellow believers beliefs. Grace and finding the middle ground are simply where I see God’s glory most in this world. It’s my niche.

I think each of us has a niche conviction that God has indelibly marked into our soul for a purpose. So we yell it out to the world, like, “isn’t this amazing?” because it also becomes so important and life-changing for us.

And it is amazing.

But I think sometimes in our enthusiasm we forget that someone else might be irrevocably impacted by some other characteristic of Himself. And though that person’s conviction might fly in the face of yours, God might be using that just as he uses yours.

Often it is hard for me to extend grace to someone who (in my eyes) is being legalistic (and therefore ignoring the gray areas in life I value so highly as a grace-lover and a peacemaker). But then I think about how, as the body of Christ, we are meant to work together in our differences not in our identicalness. God might be leading us through each other. So I am forced to wonder if their legalism might actually just be a balance for my grace obsession. And maybe I’m supposed to set my initial response aside and remind myself of the importance of the other person’s niche. Because “Do we keep on sinning so that grace may abound all the more? By no means!” comes ringing in my head as soon as grace gets out too much the focus.

Discord among Christians is running rampant (and loud) these days. I think we too quickly forget that even in all our differences (and conflicting doctrine, even) we represent one God and we are each a piece of one body. One church. We are not a body of eyes, or ears, or hands.

Our differences are good and God-ordained. Because who can know exactly the right balance for perfect beliefs about God, the church, the world, everyday issues, and everything? Conflicts of opinion in the church might draw us closer to His purpose, point out our own naivety as Christians, and center us on His infiniteness instead of our own small store of knowledge. Might a well-timed nudge from a fellow christian throw our lives – and our theology – into a more productive spin? Alone we might be out of balance but together we have the ability to present a bigger picture of who God is. Because, in spite of us attacking each other and drawing lines when the only lines should be the Cross, God is using our differences to refine our faith.

Each day this month I’m going to choose a person or a group (from history or the present) with a niche conviction and briefly share about them, their niche, and how that might tell a story of a God bigger than our opinions. My definition of what I’ll be doing is loose, as you can tell, but the impetus behind it is the conviction that God is bigger than we think. Looking at the faith of others is a way to find out how small we may have made him out to be and how big he actually is. Our sounding board is the Bible, but beyond that how can we know?

This month is just the beginning of an exploration of an infinite God.

Welcome.
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I’ll post the links to subsequent days here as they are written.

Day 1: is this post!
Day 2: Martin Luther
Day 3: Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz
Day 4: Brother Lawrence
Day 5: Mother Teresa
Day 6: Jonathan Edwards
Day 7: Revangelical, Lance Ford, a book review
Day 8: Elisabeth Elliot
Day 9: Christine Caine
Day 10: Church and Liturgy
Day 11: Eric Liddell and John Piper
Day 12: Larry Osborne and Pharisees
Day 13: Sarah Young: Jesus Calling
Day 14: Rick Warren
Day 15: Watchman Nee
Day 16: Mark Driscoll
Day 17: Phillis Wheatley
Day 18: Larry Crabb on Community
Day 19: Martin Luther King Jr.
Day 20: Mark Driscoll Revisited. Because grace.
Day 21: William Cameron Townsend
Day 22: Sarah Jakes on Colliding with Destiny (book review)
Day 23: missed it!
Day 24: The Bible People
Day 25: Joel Osteen
Day 26: William Wilberforce
Day 27: Ruth Haley Barton
Day 28:
Day 29: What I’m Into (Niche Edition)
Day 30:
Day 31:

I am trying to make my list fairly diverse. I’d love to entertain suggestions, if you have someone in mind.

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Also a disclaimer: At this point in my life, I am not a theologian or a historian. So my ideas are more than open for discussion. Though I will do my best to research as well as possible within the scope of the project.

I am excited.

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What’s your niche?

Are you interested in this idea?
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If you’re new here, I’m also on Facebook and Twitter if you want to follow with me there. :)

Thanks for reading. I hope you find these ideas inspiring and challenging!

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P.S — I promise this is the longest post in the series. I’m aiming for brief the rest of the month! :)

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(( Find the rest of the 31 Dayers here: http://write31days.com ))

What I’m Into | Niche Edition!

Today I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer‘s What I’m Into crowd to highlight some of the things I’ve been up to this month and to share some random reading related to this my 31 days series this year! Since this is day 30! :)

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Related 31 Dayers:

Liz at So I Married a Youth Pastor with 31 Days of Breaking Religion

Faith at Sweet Violet with Confessions of a Roadkill Christian (you have to start at the beginning!)

Related Articles:
This month I’m switching it up a bit and instead of articles I’ve read this month I’m listing some articles I’ve come across in the last few months as I’ve realized I’m not the only one thinking like this.

Must-Reads:
when the love of Jesus is large, generous, and wild ( <–must read!) and a passage from “Tables in the Wilderness” by Preston Yancey
Christianity is not a Two Party System by April Fiet
How to be an Optimist No Matter What You’re Facing by Ann Voskamp
We Can Be Fully in the Right but Still Bring Death by Rachel Toalson

Also:
How to not be obnoxious even though you’re passionate by Tsh Oxenreider
Kingdom of Rejects by Rachel Held Evans
Accusations and Accolades by Sarah Bessey
1 Thing Writers Shouldn’t Forget by Jon Acuff

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Books that point towards beautiful grays and a bigger God in a black and white world of limitations:

Read:
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
True Spiritual Community by Larry Crabb
Accidental Pharisees by Larry Osborne
Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha
Speak by Nish Weiseth
Evolving in Monkeytown and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans

Begun:
Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey
50 Women Every Christian Should Know by Michelle DeRusha

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And on to the more usual aspects of the month!

Pictures of Fall:

Books I read:
Revangelical by Lance Ford
No Drama Discipline by Daniel Seigel and Tara Payne
Colliding with Destiny by Sarah Jakes
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

(And skimmed/dashed through many others for my 31 days series!)

Books I’m currently reading:
Tables in the Wilderness by Preston Yancey
Fluent Forever
50 Women Every Christian Should Know

Happy things:

- my brother just got engaged! (To an Erika, believe it or not!)
– my mom’s third book released! Forever Mom: What to Expect When You’re Adopting by Mary Ostyn
– Israel and I got to go out an unusual number of times thanks to friends and family who aren’t afraid of screaming babies.
– Gilmore Girls (I tried to hold out until the end of the month for the sake of my writing, but finally gave in on Tuesday… Worth it :)!)
– Chocolate covered coffee beans (do I have to explain?)
– cheaper newish clothes! Thrifting and kid’s consignment sales make me happy (i.e. I let myself shop for clothes!)
– Cooler weather. I have a love/hate relationship with fall. I love fall! But I hate that winter and wet and snow are coming. I think I’d like it better if I had sled runners for my running stroller. :D
– christmas and thanksgiving and bedtime coming soon! (That bedtime thing was totally an accident, I meant to write vacation. The sentiment is the same though :p
– i melted down a million of my old crayons in a muffin tin and I already much prefer having only eleven crayons to pick up now.

On my blog I’ve onlyonly written in my 31 days series. I had grand schemes that maybe I would do an extra one or two ‘fun’ posts…but you know. :)

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(So many posts!)

In my favorite I talk about God, and calling, and fear, and empowerment and Elisabeth Elliot: go here!

Looking at the faith of others is a way to find out how small we may have made God out to be and how big He actually is. You can find the full list of posts and people by clicking on the picture below!

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And that is basically that! How has your October been? What are you into?

((Find me on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads!))

Pope Francis {29/31 Niches}

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Pope Francis (Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in 1936, Argentina)

“The greatest leaders in God’s tribe have been those men who have left room for doubt.”
– Pope Francis in Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, 2010″

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“I don’t say that [the atheist’s] life is condemned [to Hell], because I am convinced I don’t have the right to pass judgment about the moral uprightness of that person.” (Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, 2010)

“I don’t have all the answers. Nor do I have all the questions… . I confess that, in general, because of my temperament, the first response that occurs to me is the wrong one… . It’s curious, but that’s the way it is with me.” (El Jesuita, 2010)

“We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential Church. It’s true that when we stray from its path, as can happen to any man or woman, accidents can happen. But if the Church stays enclosed within itself, self-referential, it will grow old. And between a Church that accidentally strays off its path and one that is sick because of self- reference, I have no doubt: I prefer the former.” (El Jesuita, 2010)

“The challenge of creative beings is to be suspicious of every discourse, thought, affirmation, or proposal that presents itself as “the only possible path.” There are always others. There is always another possibility.” (Annual Message to Educational Communities, 9 April 2003)

“The religious ministry sometimes calls attention to certain points of private or public life because it is the guide of its parishioners. What it does not have the right to do is force a [specific kind of] private life on anyone. If God, in His creation, ran the risk of making us free, who am I to meddle?” (Sobre el Cielo y la Tierra, 2010)

“Leadership is an art … that can be learned. It is also a science … that can be studied. It is a job…that demands dedication, effort, and tenacity. But above all, it is a mystery… that cannot always be explained with rational logic.” (Speech, Archdiocesan Social Pastoral Conference, 16 October 2010)

“He who has a little more power has to serve a little more.” (Homily, 7 August 2005)

All quotes from: “Pope Francis in His Own Words” by Julie Schwietert Collazo.

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What do you think of Pope Francis? He has an interesting way of being more liberally accepting of humanity, but more coherently adherent to following Jesus than one would think possible.

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Francesca Battistelli {28/31 Niches}

Somehow Francesca Battistelli has stayed relevant to me since I started college. I guess it’s because we’re having similar life experiences. So it’s fun and relatable to listen to her music.

I’ve loved all her albums. My Paper Heart was probably my theme music (ok, it was) for my first couple years at BSU. I loved her honesty and just how real and applicable her music seemed to me at that time.

This one may have been my theme song :)
Free to be Me

Her music touches many places in my heart: God, mothering, life, theology, time, fun, christianity, dreams, anything really. And since my introduction to her music six years ago I’ve enjoyed every album since. It’s interesting how music and musicians can follow you around like that.

But I just keep coming back to it.

This is the Stuff

I’m not really sure why I’m including her in this series except that she is one who has impacted me indirectly. She doesn’t teach theology or anything directly. She uses music to influence and encourage.

If We’re Honest

Her words are honest, loving, and whole. She is being completely herself. And the fact that her everyday experiences come into her music makes it easier to relate and to trust her as you listen.

And to me that seems like a niche.

Write Your Story

What do you think? What are some of your favorite musicians? What’s their niche? Why do you like them?

Thoughts?

But you know, maybe this was just an excuse to put some of my favorite music all in the same spot. Who will know. :)
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Ruth Haley Barton {27/31 Niches}

I’ve been working a while to get through this book: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. When I bought it a couple years ago, I was so excited, because some of the bloggers I follow and resonate with were reading it and loving it and recommending it. But then when it came in the mail and I began to dig in a little I realized the book began with some practices that were a basis for an InterVarsity retreat I found repellant/unBiblical during college a few years before.

It was just too soon to read and actually appreciate it.

So it’s been lingering on my shelf for a couple years and on my currently reading list on Goodreads for almost as long.

More recently I’ve been reading it a little more and am almost beginning to reach the ending (that phrase might seem to preambulatory, but considering the pace I’ve gone I might still have another month of “currently reading” it!).

Before I was stuck in the mindset that if the book/practices made me uncomfortable I just wouldn’t read it, but now I’m realizing that books like this are not meant to be taken without a solid dose of the Holy Spirit and consideration for your own personal inclinations and relationship with God. It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

I have come to appreciate the book for what it is: a humbly thoughtful book of opportunities to become more familiar with how God can work in quieter and different ways if we let him. (And I’ve realized it’s not the exactly same as the frustrating IV retreat from years ago.)

So here’s a brief look into Ruth Haley Barton’s niche. Some might still find it too meditative as I did years ago, some might find it helpful. Diverse books and reactions are just part of how God ministers to and grows our hearts right where or when we need Him.

Introducing:
“Life in and around the Christian community does little to help us attend to our longings, to believe that deep within there is something essential that needs to be listened to, or to offer much hope that our deepest longings could take us somewhere good. At times the deeper longings of our heart are dismissed as mere ideealism – beyond the realm of possibility this side of heaven. At other times, subtle fear or outright discomfort arises in the face of such expressions of our humanity. The emphasis on human depravity in many religious circles makes it hard to know if there is anything in us that can be trusted.”

“In the end, this us the most hopeful thing any of us can say about spiritual transformation: I cannot transform myself, or anyone else for that matter. What I can do is create the conditions in which spiritual transformation can take place, by developing and maintaining a rhythm of spiritual practices that keep me open and available to God.”

On the Practice of Solitude:
“Jesus seeks to guide his disciples – then and now – into a rhythm of solitude, community, and ministry. In such a rhythm, solitude helps us stay attentive to the dynamics of spiritual exhaustion and attend to the deeper sources before they pull us under.”

“When we don’t attend to our vulnerabilities and instead try to repress it all and keep soldiering on, we get weary from holding it in. Eventually it leaks out in ways that are damaging to us and to others.”

On Lectio Divina

“We need a way of approaching Scripture that will move us very concretely from our overreliance on information gathering to an experience of Scripture as a place of intimate encounter. We need more than a method or technique that involves asking a different set of questions.”

“Referring to the material being read and the method itself, the practice of lectio divina is rooted in the belief that through the Holy Spirt, the Scriptures are indeed alive and active as we engage them for spiritual transformation (Hebrews 4:12).”

On Discernment

“While discernment is listed as a spiritual gift, it is also a mark of Christian maturity.”

“The capacity to discern and do the will of God arises out if friendship with
God, cultivated through prayer, times of quiet listening and alert awareness.”

Concluding

“One of the great temptations of the spiritual life is to believe that if I were in another season of life, I could be more spiritual. The truth is that spirtual transformation takes place as we embrace the challenges and opportunities associated with each season of life.”

- Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

And of course this isn’t nearly a proper summary or even introduction to this book. There are many other practices and disciplines that are just as interesting but harder to condense thoughtfully and clearly into a sentence or two. So read the book if you are curious.

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May we continue to wonder at the ways of God and always be surprised by how He makes He will known.

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Thoughts?
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William Wilberforce {26/31 Niches}

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William Wilberforce 1759-1833 (He is well known for his part in thr abolition of slavery in England. His life was recently dramatized in the excellent movie: Amazing Grace. )

“What a difference it would be if our system of morality were based on the Bible instead of the standards devised by cultural Christians.”

“Christ gets vilified when those who bear His name use it as an excuse for cruelty or persecution. We must be careful to distinguish twisted zeal from true Christian commitment.”

“It is a great advantage to understand how defective we actually are. It helps us shake off false security and nominal spirituality.”

“It is virtually impossible to get to the place where you recognize your need for the Spirit and depend upon His working when you have created a safe religiosity that is perfectly manageable by means of your own abilities.”

“Authentic Christian discipleship requires a kind of diligent watchfulness.”

“Most men and women are ignorant of their true state and oblivious to the things that have replaced God in their lives.”

“Authentic faith is not interested in being able to put on a virtuous mask. It demands truth in the inner person.”

“True Christianity, by nature, seems to be particularly and powerfully constituted to promote the welfare and health of political communities.”

“Benevolence is the driving principle of authentic Christianity. It is a direct result of developing a lifestyle of moderation in the pursuit of pleasure and affluence, adegree of indifference to the things culture has decided are important, diligence in the performance of personal and civil responsi-bilities, a commitment to doing the will of God, and a patient and trusting attitude toward the providence of God in one’s response to the unpredictable and often discouraging events of life. A life of authentic faith will produce humility in our lives. Humility is essential if a man or woman is to develop a spirit of genuine benevolence.”

“We live in a state of cultural decline. A dry, unanimated religiosity does not have the ability to inspire the masses. Anyone who thinks otherwise knows little of human nature. People are looking for reality and authenticity in spiritual matters.”

“This way of life requires that we go all the way in our faith. A shallow faith, even if based on the truth, will not be adequate to complete the journey. One will either go deeper or drift backward. The call to the believer is constant: “Further up and further in!””

“By your life and words you must put to silence the voices of ignorant critics of the faith. Be bold to proclaim the name of Christ in this time when many who call themselves Christian are ashamed to speak the name. You may have a greater impact on this nation than that of any politician if you make it your goal to help restore the influence of Christian faith and raise the standard of our nation’s morality.”

“Seek to form friendships with men and women of other denominations who hold to the essentials of the faith, even if they differ from you in the non-essentials.”

- William Wilberforce, Real Christianity: The Book That Helped End Slavery In England also on Scribd

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Joel Osteen {25/31 Niches}

“God wants you to ask Him for big things.”

- Joel Osteen, It’s Your Time

For this assignment I read the first third and skimmed the last third of Joel Osteen’s book: It’s Your Time. (Yes, I skipped the middle, you caught me!)

The quote at the top is my favorite. We tend to limit God by not even asking for things or not believing He could do them if He wanted to. It’s an interesting thing to think about.

Here are the quotes I pulled:

“Zechariah 9:12 says that we should be prisoners of hope. It’s easy to give up. It’s easy to get discouraged. But God wants us to be so full of hope, so full of expectancy, that we just can’t help believing for the best.”

“David said in Psalm 27:13: “What would have become of me had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness…” No matter what comes your way, let this take root. You have to believe you will see God’s goodness again. You must believe you will see God turn it around. Be-lieve you will see God open up new doors. There’s something about a person filled with hope.”

“The Scripture tells us that before we ever showed up on planet Earth, God knew us. We’re not accidents. Your parents didn’t just randomly meet and decide to have a child. God had a purpose for you before your parents or grandparents even knew each other. You have the right gifts, the right talent, the right personality, the right height. You have the courage, the strength, the ability you need. But just as with the physical, some spiritual genes lie dormant, waiting to be activated. Every one of us has potential waiting to be released.”

“God has us in the palm of His hand. He has everything you need. And even if He doesn’t have it, He can create it. He can cause a spider to spin a web and keep you out of trouble. He can cause one smooth stone to hit a giant and bring him down. God is in complete control.”

- Joel Osteen, It’s Your Time

It looks to me like Joel’s niche is hope. And couldn’t we, as a church, use more hope for good to come?

What do you think we can learn from prosperity teaching? Do you think it could help us to balance out another side or draw us to a softer side of God?

Maybe we each know different pieces of who God is and some of us missed the hope piece in favor of the reality piece.

I’m not saying I agree with prosperity teaching (honestly I winced the whole time I was reading), but I do think it’s good to see what it might teach us about God that one of his children sees him this way.

What do you think?

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