Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: 10 Quotes about Gentleness



This post is Day 22 of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.


"Gentleness is a conscious decision to temper one's knowledge, skills, authority or power with kindness and compassion. Gentleness does not refer to what we do but how we do it. Gentleness does not refer to what we know but how we share that knowledge." – Mary Ann Froehlich

"Gentle Christians are known for who they represent, instead of what they stand against." – Mary Ann Froehlich

"Gentleness is never a cowardly retreat from reality." – Stanley Horton




“Oh! that gentleness! how far more potent is it than force!” – Charlotte Brontë

"Be gentle to all and stern with yourself." – St. Teresa of Avila

“It is wonderful how attractive a gentle, pleasant manner is, and how much it wins hearts.” – St. Francis de Sales

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness; nothing so gentle as real strength." – St. Francis de Sales




“I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.” – Leo Rosten

“Gentleness is strength under control. It is the ability to stay calm, no matter what happens.” – Elizabeth George

"Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people." – Garrison Keillor




Which of these quotes most resonates with you?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

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 credit: Wikimedia Commons, edited with Rhonna Design.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Conspiracy theories



This post is part of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

"I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, 
'Let us destroy the tree and its fruit;
let us cut him off from the land of the living,
that his name be remembered no more.'" – Jeremiah 11:19

I love conspiracy theories.

I love the people who believe them, too. I always have.

I think this is because conspiracy theorists are folks who are willing to question the status quo. What they're after is the truth. And, as a journalist, I certainly understand the impulse.

Also as a journalist, I also have plenty of occasion to come in contact with conspiracy theorists and their theories. There's the handwritten letter we opened today at the paper that said simply, "Hostile aliens from outer space, suffocate people all over the world not only the abducted ones. That is the reason for the U.F.O. coverup." There are the commenters who post on our Facebook page, sure Ebola is a government conspiracy to control the size of the world's population. There's the "9-11 is an inside job" group that met at the same bar at the same time my friends and I always did in college, whose members sent me home with DVDs to watch that reportedly would explain everything.

The difference is, as journalists, we deal with facts, not theories.

It's an impulse I also understand as a Christian. As much as Christians like to point to proof of evolution or use logical proofs to reason the existence of God, I don't believe Christianity can be proven. If it could, it wouldn't require belief – it wouldn't require faith.

And I'm very conscious my beliefs sound just as crazy to others as the man who believes aliens are going around suffocating people.




Many Christians seem to believe the government is conspiring against them. Take, for instance, the war on Christmas. And one program I used to catch on Christian radio on my long drives back to the city from Elgin forever was referencing how "they" were trying to instate Sharia law in the United States. (I never was clear who "they" were, or why the separation of church and state suddenly applied when it had to do with other religions and not with Christianity, but I digress.)

The government literally was conspiring against Jeremiah when this passage was written. The people of Judah and the people who lived in Jerusalem had "returned to the sins of their forefathers" and followed other gods. Because he had rebuked them, they intended to kill Jeremiah. Jeremiah, when he found out, realized he had been "like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter."

When Jesus sent out the disciples, He used similar language: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).

Jeremiah was shrewd; he understood the plot against him. And his response? He committed his cause to the Lord.

Sometimes we really nail the shrewdness part, but we forget to be as innocent as doves in our response. We forget gentleness when, following Jeremiah's example, we first should commit our cause to the Lord.

After all, we're just crazy enough to believe He will act.


What's your favorite conspiracy theory? (I like the good old-fashioned UFO cover-up ones.)


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

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 credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Power and gentleness



This post is part of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

"See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young." – Isaiah 40:10-11

One of the writing projects I was hard at work on last week was an article for RELEVANT Magazine about the current incarnation of the "muscular Christianity" movement: you know, the one responsible for gun giveaways and fight clubs at churches and all those comments Mark Driscoll made as "William Wallace II."

We had the best thread in recent memory on my Facebook page, one that started with a blog post by David Murrow and devolved into "gender-targeted baked goods."

I talked to John Eldredge, author of "Wild at Heart," among others.

And I watched "Fight Church," a new documentary following several pastors and popular MMA fighters as they wrestle to reconcile their faith with a sport that many consider violent and barbaric. In it, one of the pastors directly addresses gentleness: "There's a fruit of the Spirit in Scripture called ‪gentleness‬, and gentleness is born out of power. It's not born out of weakness. So when He says, 'Be gentle,' it's because you have the ability to not be gentle." (My pastor-friend Sarah pointed out we also have the ability to not be loving, kind, peaceful or any of the other fruits of the spirit, but I digress.)

So I've been thinking a lot about power and gentleness.

This is what I've decided, what I think this passage shows us: Power and gentleness are not an either-or. They're not mutually exclusive.

This is the passage you hear read every Christmas – the one that begins, "Comfort, comfort my people." The one in which God tells Isaiah to "speak tenderly" to His people, to tell them their sins have been paid for. In which Jesus carries them close to His heart like a shepherd gathering the lambs in his arms, and He leads them gently.

It also describes Jesus as sovereign and coming with power. It says His arm rules for Him, and He brings with Him justice, both reward and recompense. In a Job-like turn, it asks, "Who has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as a counselor?"

Even in identifying Jesus with a shepherd, God shows us gentleness. The Holman Bible Dictionary says of shepherds, "As cultivation of crops increased, shepherding fell from favor and was assigned to younger sons, hirelings and slaves." He takes His power as a ruler, and He sets it aside to identify Himself with the marginalized and oppressed in society.

His arm rules, and His arm gathers His people to Him.

He is both powerful and gentle.


Where have you seen both power and gentleness at the same time?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

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.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gentleness for the Rest of Us: Rejecting gentleness



This post is part of my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series.

“Because this people has rejected
the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
and rejoices over Rezin
and the son of Remaliah,
therefore the Lord is about to bring against them
the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates—
the king of Assyria with all his pomp." – Isaiah 8:6-7a

I always have to do things the hard way.

The item I want is on a shelf I can't quite reach at the grocery store? I could ask my husband to grab it for me, or I could accept help from a stranger. But no. I use a box from a lower shelf I can reach to knock the box from the tall shelf I can't reach into my outstretched arms.

A friend offers me lotion or laundry detergent? I could turn them down and stick to the gentle products I know don't irritate my sensitive skin. But no. For the price of free, I can stand the itching and redness.

I make soups from scratch for large parties. I take the job more than an hour away from home. I read the comments. All of them. I want to do it on my own – even if that's harder. I want to prove my independence and self-reliance.

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

It can be hard to accept gentleness from others, to admit we need help or have feelings that should be considered. Either is to admit our own vulnerability, or maybe our own self worth.

It's the same reason it can be so hard to admit when we're wrong.

"God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy," Pope Francis wrote in Evangelii Gaudium.

I'm learning this.






This past week, when I ran into some tight deadlines with writing projects, I decided being gentle with myself didn't mean burning the candle with both ends.

I focused on the piece of writing in front of me. I went to bed. I made time to celebrate my writer-friend R.L. Haas making her first book available for pre-orders. Last weekend, I went apple-picking in Michigan with my friend Kristin and husband Joel, one of our favorite fall traditions. I laid in the grass and read a draft of another writing project for a friend and twisted together elaborate flower crowns. Afterward, we ate surprisingly good pizza and breadsticks in the only little restaurant open in town on a Sunday. This weekend, I went to a pumpkin farm with my family and picked out warty pumpkins and rode the kiddie rides with my 3-year-old nephew with my knees tucked up under my chin. Then Joel and I judged our neighborhood Bucktown Apple Pie Contest for the second year.

So now this series is looking more like "24 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us." And as much as that pains me – as much as I just want to press another cup of coffee and stay up all night and power through all 31 days without rest, or hole up and miss spending time with my family and friends and neighbors – I realize that's OK. I'll finish it. And I probably will be in a little better shape at the end of it.

God never gets tired of forgiving us. He never tires of offering us gentleness and kindness and good things, either.

Don't be afraid, as I'm learning, to offer gentleness to yourself.

And don't be afraid to accept it from others.


Do you struggle with accepting gentleness – or is it really just me?


Linking up with The Nester's 31 Days... writing challenge.

Read all posts in my "31 Days of Gentleness for the Rest of Us" series here. Sign up to get every update in your inbox or favorite reader here, and find even more inspiration on my "gentleness" Pinterest board.

You also may be interested in my blogger-friend Jenn's series writing through her one word for the year, "31 Days of Living Boldly," at A Simple Haven.

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, October 17, 2014

Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas -- cover reveal + excerpt + PARTY!



When somebody tells you they're self-publishing a novel about Faeries, you don't expect it to be good.

Or, at least, I don't.

But when my friend and fellow Story sister R.L. Haas, who has guest-posted here before, was looking for beta readers to offer feedback on the unedited manuscript of "Portals of Water and Wine," something about the way the world she had created felt so palpably real to her made me say yes. And I'm so glad I did.

This book is good, you guys, and it's coming out soon: Dec. 1. In some ways, it reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia, one of my favorite fantasy series, or maybe Twilight, if that series had a plot and its narrator, a discernible personality. I'm midway through the chapters she sent, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

I'm excited to be part of the cover reveal today for the book (above) and share a brief excerpt (below).

I also have a surprise of my own to reveal: I'm hosting the book release party for "Portals of Water and Wine" Friday, Dec. 5, at my Chicago apartment. Comment below or email me for more information and to be added to the Facebook event.

That said, here's an excerpt of the book:


The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.

The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.


R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.


"Portals of Water and Wine" releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a beta reader for R.L. Haas, but have not received any compensation for writing this post. The author simply is a friend, and I believe in her words. 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 credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.
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