Monday, May 18, 2015

REVIEW: Never Say No by Mark and Jan Foreman

My friend Kristin Lee had really bad seats at her first Switchfoot concert. She also had her first drink at that show. It was a Sex on the Beach.

Things only have gotten better for Kristin, on both the seating and cocktail fronts.

Since then, she has seen the band perform too many times to count.
She's volunteered at shows and hung out backstage. She's pulled frontman Jon Foreman into a crowd surf, and he played her favorite song "Twenty-four" for her the day after she'd turned 25. He'd written it the day before he turned 24. We saw the band's documentary "Fading West" and its parking lot after show a year ago at the Copernicus Center, and we'll see its Tour de Compadres this summer at Ravinia

But before she really was a fan of Switchfoot or Jon Foreman, Kristin was a fan of Mark Foreman.

In high school, she'd borrowed a friend's Switchfoot album on cassette tape and liked the music. Another friend told her Switchfoot wasn't really a Christian band, though, because it didn't give altar calls at shows. So she started digging on this new-fangled thing called the Internet and stumbled onto Mark Foreman's preaching. Mark Foreman is the father of Jon and Tim Foreman, both members of the band.

"How he taught gave me an insight into how they thought," she said.

So when I was offered a chance to review "Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids" by Mark and Jan Foreman for Litfuse, I knew I wasn't the right person to tell you about it. Kristin, however, absolutely is (because also? she works full-time in Chicago as a nanny). I chatted with her about it this weekend after she'd spent the day curled up in the hammock on her back porch with the book. Here's a condensed version of what she  had to say about it.

“Never Say No” opens with a story of panic and failure.

The Foreman family is at the beach. Mark and Jan Foreman are focused on their son Tim, who is just a couple months old, and their older son Jon is in a raft sitting on the beach, not even in the water. They hear somebody yell out, “Hey, can that kid swim?” and they look up, and they see the raft out in the ocean. Mark Foreman goes out and finds Jon. He pulls Jon out of the water, and Jon says, “Oh, I couldn’t find you.” He knew his dad was going to save him.

As much as we get right raising children, there is so much that goes wrong.

Mark and Jan Foreman open their book just to disarm in that way ­– just to disarm everybody. This isn’t just about getting it all right. It’s good that it’s disarming. It’s comforting.

A lot of the stories they share are actually not painting them in the best light as parents.

It’s how they’ve learned in dealing with their children and dealing with their own upbringings: which parts they’ve chosen to rewrite as their own and the freedom for their readers to do the same thing.

It’s a lot of common sense, like listen to your kids and look at them when you’re talking and enjoy your kids and be curious with them – just general life things that can get lost in keeping them alive and paying the bills and making life happen.

And it’s asking the questions: What am I keeping these kids safe for? What am I keeping them healthy for? If I’m keeping them alive, what am I keeping them alive for?

That goes into why you’re raising kids to have good character and self-esteem and an ethical compass. It’s not just about physical appearance, material possessions or athletic ability, according to the Foremans. It’s all of those other things.

I like that one of the chapters is called “I Enjoy You,” and I think that’s one of the things parents often forget you can do. You can enjoy your kids all the time – not just, “Oh, ha ha, you made me laugh,” but the whole time you’re with them, you can enjoy them. They’re enriching your life just as much as you’re meant to enrich theirs.

I think what makes the Foremans’ message so attractive is the fact that their view of Christianity is not that Christianity is Christianity, but that it’s a part of their lives and how they’re living out their lives. This book offers a look at Christianity on a life level. It’s a very authentic point of view – relatable and genuine and personable in the same way Switchfoot’s music and lyrics are, and the way they live their lives.

For more information, or to buy "Never Say No," visit Litfuse's "Never Say No" Blog Tour.

For more about today's guest, Kristin Lee, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, where she posts about her adventures in Chicago, the local music scene, the kids she nannies (who she truly enjoys) and her heart for Myanmar.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the books mentioned above for free from Litfuse Publicity Group in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo: Kristin Lee.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Holy Name to hang Cardinal George's hat at Month's Mind Mass (Chicago Sun-Times)

It’s the No. 1 question asked on tours of Holy Name Cathedral, according to Monsignor Daniel Mayall: “What are those those five red circles up front?”

“Now it’s going to be six.”

Those five red circles are the five red hats of Chicago’s cardinals.

And later this month, Cardinal Francis George’s hat, called a galero, will be raised to the cathedral ceiling to join his predecessors’, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Wednesday.

The gesture will be part of the Month’s Mind Mass marking a month since George’s death.

That Mass will be open to the public, celebrated at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, May 17, at Holy Name Cathedral at State and Superior streets in Chicago. Mayall, the rector of Holy Name, will be the main celebrant and homilist, according to the archdiocese.

The Month’s Mind Mass is a centuries-old Catholic tradition to remember those who have died, the archdiocese said. Those Masses aren’t normally held on Sundays in the archdiocese, Mayall said, but for the archbishop emeritus “we’ll make an exception.”

And the tasseled, wide-brimmed hats – a symbol of the cardinals – will hang in the cathedral for centuries more, according to the Holy Name website.

“The hat hangs until it turns into dust, a reminder that all earthly glory is passing,” it said.

For the rest of the story, read Holy Name to hang Cardinal George's hat at Month's Mind Mass

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Photo: Chris Smith via Flickr.

Monday, May 4, 2015

4 Churches Changing Everything (RELEVANT)

When I asked on Facebook for churches that were changing everything, that were putting hands and feet to Jesus' words, you answered. 

You said you were glad I was writing an article about this, that you could use some good news about the church. (Honestly, so could I. Usually, I get the assignment to write about controversial issues in the church, like racism or sex.)

And you sent me names. Names of churches you attended and pastored and heard about that one time. Names of churches that were big and churches that were small. Churches that were progressive and churches that were conservative. Churches that had been pillars in their communities for 100 years and churches just celebrating their first anniversaries. Churches that reflected the glorious diversity of the capital-C Church.

That article became an awesome map of four churches changing everything in the May/June issue of RELEVANT Magazine, on newsstands now. Others ended up on the cutting room floor, and I'm checking with my editors now to see if I can't share some of those clips with you here in the coming weeks. (UPDATE: I'm told RELEVANT will be publishing them in the future, so stay tuned!)

Meantime, here's one of the churches that made it into the magazine and a link to the map, where you can read about the rest. I hope you're both challenged and encouraged, as I was.

Galileo Church, Mansfield, TX

“You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody in Texas who hasn’t heard of Jesus, but there are lots of people who think Jesus isn’t for them,” says Rev. Dr. Katie Hays.

That’s why Hays started Galileo Church: to seek spiritual refugees, rally spiritual health for all who come and fortify every soul with the strength to follow Jesus without pretensions.

“You can be the same person on Sunday or with your church friends as you are other places. You can be fully engaged as your whole self,” she says.

But, she says, her congregation doesn’t want to be the mission, they want to have a mission. The church takes its name from Galileo’s discovery that the sun did not revolve around the Earth—“We are not the center of the universe,” Hays says.

Tell me about your church: How is it inspiring you?

For the rest of the story, and three more churches that are doing things differently, read 4 Churches Changing Everything.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Friday, May 1, 2015

What I'm Into {April 2015}: Saying no to sub-par books and yes to a Disney vacation

I had an epiphany this month while riding on the train to work, reading a library book I wasn't really into: I don't have to finish this. It was an OK book; it wasn't bad. It was a manifesto for ambitious women a friend had read and liked, but I couldn't help thinking I would have liked it so much better 10 years ago. So why was I still reading it when I had a huge stack of spring releases I couldn't wait to get to? Then I thought of another library book on that stack, a book about creativity that was was more annoying than inspiring me. I didn't have to finish it either.

And then I quit the empanada place around the corner. I feel like I should like it because I like empanadas, but you know what? I don't like their empanadas.

I know Bob Goff has been saying on Thursday, we quit things for years, but I just am getting how weirdly freeing that is.

That's sort of a random anecdote, I know. But I've been saying yes to so many new things lately, and that means saying no to some things, too, even if they're just sub-par books and empanadas that aren't as good as homemade. I also am trying to remember to say yes to margin, to time to rest and play as well as time to work.

Here's how I've done with that this past month. 

Things I Love

Disney World. I never would have thought I'd be excited to go to Disney World; my travel style is a bit more off the beaten path. But this was my 4-year-old nephew's first trip to Disney World. And, cynical as I was about the whole Disney thing, I have to admit it was pretty magical. My nephew did a crazy dance to cheer up Eeyore at dinner, wore a pink-sequined pirate hat in every photo and held my hand through his first roller coaster (afterward, he said, "Let's do it again!").

Vinyl Me Please. April's record of the month was a re-release of Menomena's "Friend and Foe," which was enough to finally push me off the fence. Now I regret it took me so long. I already have converted my friend Kristin, and we've been tearing up Discogs and the members store together since. You usually have to request an invite to the record of the month club, but you can use my link for an invite, and we both can get free vinyl.

Awake the Bones' Indie Seminar (and The Coterie!). If you got a lot out of Awake the Bones' free, Indie Seminar about indie publishing this past month, you might be interested in The Coterie. It's an online writing group I already got one friend to join with me. Over the next year, it will be focusing on individual, mostly indie publishing projects, with classes, coaching, editing and the support of a cohort. Registration is open through June, and I have an affiliate link for this one, too.

Hope for the First Nations. I'm thrilled to be planning Hope for the First Nations' summer trip to Pine Point, Minnesota, with Hope Church in Springfield, Illinois. We'll be leading five days of Hope Day Camp for kids ages 4 to 12 and are looking for other opportunities to serve the week of Saturday, July 11, to Saturday, July 18, on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. We're also accepting applications if you're interested in joining us.

Best thing I made/ate: Apparently, it was all cocktails all the time this month. I reorganized the liquor cabinet and things got out of hand. There were Rumpty Dumpty cocktails for Easter, made with those mini Cadbury Creme Eggs; the Meadowlark for listening to Sufjan Stevens' "Carrie and Lowell," which I think forever changed my life; and The Old Square, this month's cocktail pairing for Vinyl Me Please. Joel, Kristin and I had dinner with my dad this month at Next; the current iteration is a Choose Your Own Adventure-style French bistro menu, but my favorite part again was the restaurant's take on Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon. And maybe that show-stopping seafood tower.


Sufjan Stevens in concert. I'm pretty sure my entire life flashed before my eyes during this concert, Sufjan Stevens' second night at the Chicago Theatre. It opened with an segue from "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." to "Death with Dignity" with cathedral window-like screens and home video and lifting spotlights like the three stars of "Concerning the UFO sighting in Highland, Illinois," returning to the heavens, the whole thing otherworldly and marking the time we spent together as this liminal period somewhere between life and death, good and evil, joy and sorrow. Some of the most emotional moments in a night of emotional moments came as the lights glowed red during "Drawn to the Blood" and Stevens hammered away at his guitar, demanding, "How did this happen?" and during the ending to "Fourth of July," when those same lights searched the audience as he intoned, "We're all gonna die." My heart nearly pounded out of my chest as "Blue Bucket of Gold" crescendoed to the end, spinning disco balls casting stars and cityscapes through the screens.

"That was fun. Here's another depressing song," Stevens said.

He talked about how the band had been watching "Bring It On 2" on his tour bus – definitely in his Top 10 – and how we all needed deadbeat cheerleaders encouraging us in our cubicles: "Look alive!" Then he fumbled through Casimir Pulaski Day – the first time he'd played it on this tour, he apologized – and it was OK; the audience, all of us of deadbeat cheerleaders, was on his side by this point. The final encore was a "pep rally for the city of my first love" – a colorful, transcendent rendition of "Chicago."

"Carrie and Lowell" listening party. Several weekends before the concert, Joel, Kristin and I had a "Carrie and Lowell" listening party. I spun my clear vinyl and mixed Meadowlark cocktails and printed copies of Sara Galactica's guide to color while we listened.

"Friend and Foe" listening party. When my first Vinyl Me Please album arrived, we threw a listening party for that, too. There wasn't a listening guide online for this one, but the record of the month always comes with an art print and a cocktail recipe, and we marveled at all the memories the songs brought back of that time in the mid-2000's when the album just had been released.

"Seven Songs" by Amanda Opelt. I already have mentioned this album once this month, but it's worth mentioning again. It's a beautiful, musical exploration of the sacraments and the perfect companion to her sister Rachel Held Evans' book, "Searching for Sunday" (more on that, below).

A video posted by Emily Miller (@emmillerwrites) on

TV and Movies

Mad Men: The Final Season-Part 1. STOP WITH THE SPOILERS, INTERNET. I'm still trying to get caught up. I can only do a little bit of Mad Men at a time, though, because the characters stress me out too much.

Going Clear. I still haven't gotten around to reading the book, so I was excited to watch the documentary. I wrote an article once for The Courier-News about the Dianetics Center in Elgin celebrating the 50th anniversary of Scientology. I've never gotten so many emails and comments in my life.

Mirror Mirror. When in Disney World...


Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans"Searching for Sunday" is a memoir about Rachel Held Evans' relationship with the church – through ups and downs, faith and doubt, Baptist youth groups and Episcopal liturgies. It's personal and universal, essay and psalm, history and theology. And it's rooted, as the church is, in the sacraments, those illustrations of God's invisible work on earth. This is a hopeful, beautifully-written book for those who have wrestled with the church – or need to wrestle with it a bit – and wonder about its future in the United States.

Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour by Michael P. Foley. Amazon knows me too well. It asuggested this upcoming book as I was browsing at Christmastime, and I immediately preordered it based on the title alone. When it arrived this month, hardcover and coffee table-sized, it was even better than I had imagined. It includes a saint and cocktail recipe for each day, as well as cocktail recipes organized by liturgical season, toasts, pictures and a weird sense of humor.

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. I read Jeff Goins' last book, "The In-Between," and I have to admit, I didn't love it. It wasn't bad, it just felt a little empty. His latest feels much fuller, sharing stories of how others have found their callings in life. It's not as cliched as many in the genre are; there's no ill-advised, cookie-cutter advice to just quit your job right now and pursue your passion. Rather, he writes, "A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it's been trying to teach you all along."

The Twible: All the Chapters of the Bible in 140 Characters or Less by Jana Riess. I can't believe I just now am stumbling across this book when – hello – my life is pretty much all Twitter and the Bible. My small group at church has been reading the minor prophets (first, Haggai; now, we're in Zechariah) and I've been punching up our study by reading aloud chapters from the Twible. For example, here's Zechariah 5: "What's that in the sky – a bird? A plane? NO. It's a thirty-foot flying scroll that says we're doomed. G's not one for subtle."

On the InterWebs

Here are my favorite things I've read this month in the news and blogosphere:

In the paper

I've been helping out on the religion beat at the Chicago Sun-Times this past month. Enough that I finally accepted everybody's invitations to join the Religion Newswriters Association (thanks, everybody, for being insistent).

Here are a few of those articles I've written:

And then there was this: WATCH: New 'Jurassic World' trailer reveals more plot.

    On the blog

    I've been thinking about writing about my confirmation since Rachel Held Evans said she was writing a book about the seven sacraments and invited readers to share their stories. That book, "Searching for Sunday," finally came out this month, and I finally wrote the blog post to celebrate.

    If you worry that your boring testimony isn't enough, that maybe your lack of doubt somehow reveals a lack of faith, this one is for you.

    In other publications

    I'm working on an article for a new publication. It's an interview with some controversial figures, exploring the idea of public shaming on the Internet and the role faith played in helping them stay positive through that kind of negativity and whatever else life has thrown at them. That's an idea I've been thinking a lot about lately, what with Jon Ronson's new book "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" and Monica Lewinsky's recent TED Talk.

    As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

    What have you been into this month?

    Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Also, Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

    Photos: For more photos of my everyday adventures, follow me on Instagram.

    Thursday, April 30, 2015

    Cupich names woman to new COO role in Chicago Archdiocese (Chicago Sun-Times)

    For the first time ever, a right-hand man to a Chicago archbishop will be a woman.

    Archbishop Blase Cupich announced on Thursday the appointment of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s first chief operating officer, Betsy Bohlen.

    Bohlen is one of 11 new leaders of the archdiocese announced Thursday. All are part of a vision for the archdiocese that Cupich described to the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board as one of collaboration, decentralization of power in the archdiocese and partnership with the broader community.

    “She is a strong person. She comes with huge qualities and abilities, and I respect that,” Cupich said.

    “If you want to know something about me: I know what I don’t know. I look for the people with the expertise to come in and do that.”

    Bohlen is not the first woman Cupich, as a church leader, has appointed to a prominent position. The chancellor he appointed to run day-to-day operations in his former Diocese of Rapid City, S.D., and the chief finance officer of the Diocese of Spokane both were women, he noted.

    For the rest of the story, read Cupich names woman to new COO role in Chicago Archdiocese.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

    Photo: Archdiocese of Chicago.

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