Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Moment of Silence

Introverted Church opened its doors on March 5, 2007 and hosted 5 total visitors that day. It was an intimate dinner party, perfect for introverts. We knew each others' names, talked at a normal volume, passed the salt, clinked our glasses, and lingered late at the table. It was a charming and rustic little spot.

Last month there was one day when Introverted Church hosted over 7,000 people. It was introverted Disneyland. There was no shoving or yelling, just a steady buzz of people talking quietly, usually one-on-one. Few walked down Main Street, instead choosing to tuck themselves away in the corners of the park. One guy rode the train around the park, by himself, all day long.

Truth be told, I started this blog because I wanted a book deal. In the summer of 2005 I submitted a proposal to InterVarsity Press that was about introverts in church leadership. They were intrigued, but ultimately unpersuaded. I was crushed, and I didn't touch the manuscript again for a year and a half.

In January 2007 an idea woke me up in the morning. What if I expand the book to include not just the experience of introverts in leadership, but the overall experience of introverts in the church? What if, along with leadership, I also discuss spirituality, community, evangelism and church participation?

But I needed that mythical "platform" in order to share my quiet ideas. Really, what introvert wants a platform? But it was at that time that Introverted Church was born. I posted the first two chapters of my manuscript, a few paragraphs at a time, and my few readers at the time gave me excellent feedback. I even included some of their comments in my revised book proposal to demonstrate the felt need for such a book. 2 years later, Introverts in the Church was released.

My convictions about the importance of this issue have not wavered in the last 5 years. From my interactions with literally thousands of people, I continue to believe that introverts have great struggles in the church, and great gifts to bring the church. I am amazed at how widespread this discussion has become.

When I sent in my proposal for what became Introverts in the Church, InterVarsity Press said, "Well, it's not a very sexy topic, but we see the need for such a discussion." But when, last year, I sent in the proposal for my second book, which I am calling The Listening Life (2013), people said "Well, it's not as sexy as your first book."

Somewhere along the way, introverts got sexy. That quiet, awkward kid you knew in school grew up, got himself some confidence, and now is the cover boy for Strong & Silent Magazine. And for so many reasons, he's not taking your call.

We have Susan Cain, in large part, to thank for the new sexiness of introversion, and I am grateful that I and my book have a prominent place in her tour de force. She has given me a higher platform than I could have ever built on my own.

I leave this blog today, not because my convictions have faded, but because I know that the message is out there now. Believe it or not, last month tallied the highest number of visitors in Introverted Church history, coming in at almost 25,000 people. Some people will think I am crazy to step off this platform now, but in my mind, last month gave me the permission that I needed to stop. People are talking about introverts and church, and I have accomplished what I set out to do.  It was never my intention to become The Voice for introverts. It was always my intention to help my fellow introverts find their voices.

The archives of Introverted Church will live on, and all my contact information will remain the same. If you want to continue to hear from me, then I suggest you follow me on Twitter and become a fan of my Facebook author page. The rest of the the year will be a quiet time for me, as I finish the manuscript for my new book. You will not be surprised to learn that I relish life in the underground, and though I will resurface again, that is where you will find me for the next season. If I do it right, I will not re-emerge as the same person, because the inner journey always brings transformation.

And now, I hope that those of you with fresh energy and creativity will take up the torch of introverts in the church. My book and this blog are certainly not the last word on the subject, and I hope this is just the beginning.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Loving the Quiet Places - Guest Post by Addie Zierman

It was my intention to have one post per day this week, but then another potential guest post appeared in my inbox on Monday, and its level of awesome was enough to destroy my well-laid plans. Tomorrow morning will still bring the very last post, written by yours truly, but until then relish the language in this post by Addie Zierman.

About the author: Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She blogs twice a week at How to Talk Evangelical, where she's working to redefine faith one cliche at a time.

Like all bad ideas, it started off sounding like a really good idea.

It came white-hot, a spark off of our discussion of Acts 2 – that end bit about the early church where they all sold their possessions and lived together. Had everything in common.

It sounds like a glowy Jesus utopia when you read it aloud in a group, and we were, after all a house church. We were committed to pursuing community in new, out-of-the-box ways.

Someone said, “We should spend all day together every Sunday. Just wake up and have breakfast together, and then hang out for the whole day. You know, just do life together.”

Someone else said, “Definitely,” and then there were a couple of hearty mmmm-hmmms. One of them might have been mine. And it was a plan.

But the first Sunday rolled around and we rolled out of bed, and suddenly, it did not seem like a good idea. At all.

For both my husband and I and our respective introverted tendencies, an all-day hangout session suddenly felt like weight to our souls, and so we ditched. Gave some lame excuse. Did life, that day, on our own.

*

I am intrigued and inspired by people who manage to merge their lives together in radical ways. People like Shane Claiborne and his community, for whom Acts 2 has translated to multiple families in one single home. To shared meals and shared bathrooms and shared routines.

I love the idea of loud, family-style meals every night, everyone stuffed into one kitchen slicing peppers and browning beef and kneading bread into great loaves meant to be shared, meant to be broken.

But I also know my own quiet soul. I am the girl who sat outside reading for most elementary school recesses. I am the one who never liked slumber parties because I hated waking up in the morning, surrounded by people.

I prefer quiet to loud, reading to conversation, writing alone in a coffee shop to almost any other pleasure.

In a more-is-more, louder-is-better, Americanized version of Christianity, it often feels like a kind of failure. In my darkest moments, I’ve felt an acute sense of responsibility for my own loneliness. Like if I had been more communal, more committed, more of a slumber-party kind of girl, this would not be happening to me.

*

I’m reading this book by this one guy. It’s called Introverts in the Church, and it’s fantastic. I am learning something about the shape of my soul. I am learning to love my quiet places.

I am beginning to believe that radical community is more intricate than I thought. It is not, as I once thought, spending every second of a given Sunday together or living under one roof. Rather, it’s about movement. It’s turning toward each other in whatever ways we can. Big or small.

In this sense, community is like a kaleidoscope. The pattern is constantly changing, and the emptiness is as essential as the beads are. Without the open spaces, there could be no order at all, no beauty. The quiet shapes the connection, throws the pattern into stark, beautiful relief.

The white spaces will be wider for me than they might be in the lives of others. The patterns will be smaller. One-on-one coffee dates. Small group dinners. Visits with a shut in. Every now and then, a bigger shape will emerge, and there will be grace for that.

And every bit of it will be beautiful. Every bit of it can be radical, if I keep moving in my own, quiet ways toward Love.

Incarnating the Books - Guest Post by Aubry Smith

Aubry Smith has become one of my favorite young writers. I first encountered her writing in this post, which leapt to the top of the charts, stayed there for 9 months, and by the end was played on every station, from pop to country to easy listening. Her writing is honest, insightful, often funny, and, as is the case with this last post she wrote, moving. I asked her to write a post for this final week of the blog.

About the author: Aubry Smith writes about theology-in-real-life at aubrysmith.com. An Arkansas native (the shoe-wearing kind), she now lives in Raleigh with her husband, Brady, and their two energetic sons Breckon and Kian. You can find her on Twitter at @AubryGSmith.

Books have been my friends as long as I can remember. I call them “friends” because I sense a very real relationship with many of them. They give new ideas, and I debate with them, I go to them as a refuge when I’m tired or lonely, I laugh with them. I can look at a book and tell you where I was when I read (met) it. As an ISTJ, the key to my life has always been information - how others act, how I should act, how the world works, what stories I should know. Books provide this information in an efficient way for me.

So when I grew into my faith and uncovered the path of discipleship, I was happy to discover that the path seemed laden with books. Want to know about God? Read the Bible. Want to know how to read your Bible? Go to a “Bible study,” where you will probably read another book about the Bible. Or go to Bible college to read large stacks of books about the Bible. Go to a “Bible-believing” church, where the main focus is on the exposition of Scripture.

This book-based life fed my introverted, information-seeking soul. And so somewhere early on, I learned that knowing more information about God meant that a person was more spiritually mature. I read more books on that quest, thinking that my deep-and-wide reading made me wiser, godlier.

There is truth to all of this, of course. Reading the writings of those wiser than ourselves, those who have lived differently and offer another perspective – to me, this is like being friends with the cream of the crop. I’ve avoided some measure of youthful foolishness because of these mentors I’ve never met. God administers a kind of grace through books, especially to those of us who are worn out by face-to-face interaction with people.

But even for introverts, is a solely book-based discipleship enough?

Last year, I decided that I needed to learn to pray more deeply, more fervently. So – you guessed it – I got a book. Richard Foster’s book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home told me something unexpected. To learn how to pray, he writes, you must… pray.

It doesn’t sound so profound now that I’ve written it out. But in this simple statement, Foster reconstructed my entire framework for how I am to grow as a Christian: knowing and doing. In a word, it’s incarnational.

When God wanted to reveal Himself to humanity, He walked in a Garden, He spoke in a bush ablaze, He thundered from the mountain. His people pushed away – sewing together fig leaves and nudging Moses to the front: “Speak to God for us!” And so began a tradition of mediators: Moses and Joshua, the prophets and priests and judges. The Law, read aloud so that they would remember His words. A scroll. A book.

And then – the culmination of all His words – the Word made flesh. Jesus took the words of the Law off the flat page and lived righteousness that fulfilled, and even surpassed, the Law. He scooped up ancient commands in his hands and then touched lepers and befriended tax collectors. Jesus was the Book-turned-Real-Thing.

The irony in all my reading to become wise is that I’ve become quite snobby about my knowledge. I scoff inwardly when people say trite or incorrect things about prayer – but the reality is, my knowledge about prayer from books is weak compared to their knowledge gained by calloused knees. I roll my eyes when I hear cheap 30-second evangelism techniques, but these people are sharing Jesus – however sloppily – with those who need the salve of the Gospel on their wounded lives. They are incarnating the commands of Scripture, whereas I am only speculating about them, turning them over and noticing all the nuances without putting them on.

My introversion – a gift, I know now – has often caused me to err on the side of extreme caution in my actions. I want to know everything there is to know before I do it. I want to pick it up, examine it from every angle, read what Jesus and the Church Fathers and N.T. Wright say about all of it. And by that time, my beaten neighbor has dragged himself off the road to die in the sagebrush.

My life has been made rich through reading, and there is often wisdom in being quick to think and slow to act as introverts do. But I am praying for the ability to incarnate those written words, a little more quickly and wisely, just as my Jesus has done.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Introverted Angel - Guest Post by Anne Bogel

Anne Bogel is a legendary Introverted Church guest blogger. Every post she writes almost instantly lands on the most popular posts list. She wrote this one last December, and by the end of the first day, it was the 6th most popular post in my blog's history. Then she threw this one down in April and it made the list by the third day. It was clear that I had to ask her to write a post for this last week of the blog. She has game, and I am merely providing the playing field for her to showcase her skills.

About the author: Anne Bogel is an INFP and self-confessed Christian education nerd, and she muses about the intersection of faith, the church, and women on her blog Anne-with-an-e. You can find her on twitter at @ModernMrsDarcy. Each summer she devotes a fortnight to acting out the entire Jane Austen corpus for the neighborhood kids using finger puppets and her mastery of English dialects. Also check out her review of Introverts in the Church. 
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You're gonna have to believe me on this one: I'm really good at coming up with smart, creative ideas and devastating insights into your soul.

I rarely get credit for them.

This used to bother me. A lot.

For the longest time, I bemoaned the fact that assertive people got credit for their good ideas. They were acknowledged, thanked, and praised. But I seemed to lack the charisma to be memorable, and I never got any credit for mine.

As an introvert, I like to work behind the scenes, but I still wanted people to knowI was there. I knew my ideas were good: I could tell because they were implemented and acted upon. But I grew weary of watching others get the credit, while I stood to the side, forgotten (again).

But then something unexpected happened, something that completely changed my perspective.

My women's Bible study was finishing up a 12-week study, and we closed our last gathering with one of those painful-for-introverts Share Fests. Each of the 20 women held the floor in turn, sharing a little about her experience with God that spring.

The talking stick passed to my friend, and she began to speak about the amazing ways God had moved in her life that spring. Her eyes brimmed as she described the changes that were happening in her heart, and in her home.

God had given her a message--a mantra--and she'd been living by it, clinging to it. But the funny thing was, she had no idea where she'd encountered those words. She didn't know who had told her, where she'd read them. But she shared the message she'd been living by that spring with us all, and then she shook her head, saying, "An angel must have whispered those words in my ear."

And I was hurt, as I heard my words repeated back to me. She'd remembered what I'd said, but had forgotten all about our conversation in her kitchen. I was so happy for her--but wounded, too. Because my friend had forgotten about me.

I felt so childish when I confessed what had happened to my husband later that night--word by painful word--but I was weary of being the forgotten one and needed honest feedback.

His response stunned me: You are not weak, and you are not forgettable. How could you be? She mistook you for an angel--an angel from the Lord.

From that day on, I've been able to embrace my peculiarly introverted gift: the gift of angel whispers.

I'm an introvert. I'm not forceful and bold; I don't drip with charisma. My personality blends into the background at times, and this used to bother me. A lot.

But no longer. For I've learned that when I fade away, it's his glory that shines.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Spirit-Led Parenting - Guest Post by Megan Tietz

Today begins the last week of Introverted Church. I have three guests posts lined up for Monday-Wednesday and then I will close on Thursday with my parting words. 

Here is something I never could have predicted: over the past two years Introverted Church has become a place for significant conversations about parenting. I don't have children and my knowledge about them is limited, although I did become a first-time uncle in May. There have been some remarkable guest posts on introverted parents and children highlighted by Introverted Parenting Week last year. I even convinced Susan Cain to write a guest post for that series. Here is a link to all the posts that have fit into the parenting category. And today my friend Megan Tietz adds the last post to that category.
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I remember it being a little bit like that no-turning-back moment on a roller coaster, those months leading up to our first child being born. Just like when the seat belts are buckled and the coaster cars click-clack away from the platform and you know you absolutely cannot change your mind now...anticipating parenting is something like that.

I should note that I don't really like roller coasters. Not at all. And I especially hate that feeling of knowing I'm about to be pulled way out of my comfort zone and I am totally powerless to doing anything other than hang on tight. So to counter that feeling of weightless terror, I decided, in the months before our oldest daughter was born, to read everything I could get my hands on about parenting a new baby.

I would conquer the terror. And I would conquer it by staying safe and following the rules.

And all of those books and all of those rules did, indeed, make me feel safe. They made me feel powerful and in-control. And then our daughter was born and I was shocked to discover that these rules in which I had placed my every hope and all of my trust were useless. My daughter was nothing like the books described, and I was left dizzy and in despair, wondering if there was something wrong with her and more convinced than ever that there was something wrong with me.

Sometimes God shows up in the most unexpected of places, doesn't he? For me, it was a short column in a free parenting magazine that I just happened to pick up at the pediatrician's office. In it, I read about an approach to parenting an infant that was uninterested in following the rules and was entirely built upon discovering and responding to the uniqueness of the baby in your arms.

I can remember even now, over seven years later, how peace and comfort lifted my heart and mind that day. It's interesting because as an ENFP personality type, I have a strong need to be independent and am highly invested in honoring the individuality of others. It just never occurred to me, for some reason, that the intense, dark-eyed baby in my arms was herself an individual, not just some creature to be subdued or a doll baby with no preferences about the new and overwhelming life she was forced into on her birthday.

She was a real person. Babies are real people. Small and immature in every sense of the word, but people all the same. And just as Adam has written extensively about in his book, Introverts in the Church, and here at Introverted Church, all people represent the wonder of God's creation, each one of us uniquely created with temperaments and personalities and gifts that reflect the glory of our Creator.

That was a tremendous shifting of paradigm for me, the idea that the secret to navigating the hairpin curves of the thrill-a-minute ride that is infancy is not found in the formulaic rules of parenting books, but rather in letting go of our white-knuckle grips on who we think our children are. Then we are freed to experience the thrill of discovering who our children actually are.

And so for several years now, my co-author and Laura and I have been passionate about sharing with others this discovery that changed our lives:


Spirit-led parenting is not a one-size-fits-all approach.  It has no "rules" and doesn't rely on the wisdom of others.  It requires only that you listen to your child, to your intuition, and most importantly, to the Lord's leading to determine the best way to respond to each unique situation.  -- pg. 45, Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby's First Year

It is our hope and prayer for every parent and parent-to-be is that a spirit-led approach to life with a new baby will inspire families to seek after the Creator as we seek to make the best decisions for these squirming, grunting, teething, grinning, giggling wonders of his Creation.

Megan Tietz is the co-author of Spirit-Led Parenting, and she writes about faith, family, and natural living at SortaCrunchy. Her husband and two daughters make up a happy mix of introverts and extroverts, and they get along quite nicely (most of the time) in their home in Oklahoma City.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Introvert Saturday: The Grand Finale

Introvert Saturday guest posts have probably been the best thing I've done on this blog, and if you haven't read them I encourage you to go into the archives and check them out. There are some varied, heartfelt, and creative posts in there. I thought Kevin's post today was the perfect way to end the series, because it starts with struggle but ends with an unabashed confession of introversion.

About the author: Kevin Haggerty is a 32-year old husband and expecting father. He runs and writes for a humor blog called TheIsleOfMan.Net and is the author of An Idiot’s Guide to the Galaxy. Kevin is a freelance writer, editor and graphic designer. He also writes for a mixed martial arts (MMA) blog called MMAMania.com
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Growing up, I thought I was a weirdo. I wasn’t like a lot of the other kids. I wasn’t generally outspoken. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have anything to say. I had opinions, I just didn’t shout them from the rooftops.

In general, I kept to myself. Not to an extreme sense. I had friends. I liked to play outside, and I enjoyed sports, but there were times were I needed to retreat. I needed to be alone. I like reading. I liked drawing pictures.

According to society, this was abnormal.

This was a trend that has followed me my entire life. I tried to repress it. I tried to be sociable for everyone else. I would make myself go to parties and big gatherings. It was like a rite of passage for me, but afterwards, I always felt totally exhausted.

That’s the paradox of who I am. I was in a band that toured nationally and played in front of crowds of hundreds, and on a couple of occasions, thousands of people. I was a teacher for six years, and it was my job to get up in front of people (albeit, little people) to speak publicly, every single day. I have led worship, on and off, for the past 18 years.

For some reason, I’m able to perform those functions and survive. But if you ask me to go to an extended family get-together, or to the mall to go clothes shopping, or an type of gathering where there will be a lot of people (particularly people with whom I am not intimately familiar), I have an internal reaction that borders on a panic attack.

I don’t think this is a personality trait that many people even know or would guess about me. My wife knows, and so does most of my immediate family. But I would guess that most of friends, even my very close ones, have no idea.

The truth is that social interaction drains me. I enjoy it from time to time. Shoot, there are times when I straight-up crave it because it’s been so long. But most of the time, if you offer me the choice between going out to a big party, or staying home with my laptop, I will choose the latter.

Only recently did I realize that there were other people who felt this way. Other people, normal people, had dealt with the same demons that had plagued me my entire life.

But maybe they weren’t demons that I was dealing with. Maybe it was just part of what made me…me. Maybe, it’s even a positive trait.

Who are these people? They’re called introverts.

Webster’s Dictionary defines introverts as follows:

1) A shy, reticent, and typically self-centered person. A shy, reticent, and typically self-centered person.

2) A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things

See? Even the DICTIONARY makes us sound like freaks. The definition makes us sound like a bunch of narcissists who care nothing for those around them.

This simply is not true.

Are we more self-aware than we are aware of our friends and family, maybe during segments of times, but the whole, I don’t believe that.

Introverts care deeply. They are highly emotional and passionate people. I would go further to argue that it is our moments of self-awareness that brings about a type of external awareness that never would have occurred, had we not had the opportunity to be left alone for a spell.

I’m 32 years old, and I’m just now realizing that I’m okay. It’s awesome that I’m an introvert! I embrace it. If you are an introvert, you should too!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In Which Sarah Bessey Writes a Guest Post

I have been bugging my friend Sarah Bessey to write a post for me for about a year. She has one of the strongest and most beautiful writing voices that I know. Plus, she is Canadian so many of her words have a surprise "u" in them. Since it is the last month of Introverted Church, I finally convinced her to write a post. I said she could write about anything she wanted, and I am honored that she chose to include some reflections on my book.

Sarah writes at www.sarahbessey.com, where she has become a voice for women in the Church on issues ranging from mothering to politics and theology. She also works with Mercy Ministries of Canada, a non-profit residential home for women seeking freedom from life-controlling issues. Sarah lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada with her husband, Brian, and their three tinies: Anne, Joseph and Evelynn Joan.
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There were a lot of aspects of Adam's book that made me feel, I don't know, less alone. I've wondered, am I not spiritual because I'm not extroverted? if people wear me out so much, does that mean I don't love them? why do I need so much alone time? why does it take me two or three days to talk through conflict? why do I spiral in and out of community? why do I need to process everything alone and internally before sharing my thoughts, even with those I love best?

My husband had a good laugh when I read a few snippets of Chapter 5 out loud to him: "When introverts are in conflict...it may require a map in order to follow all the silences, nonverbal cues and passive aggressive behaviours!"

Bless his heart.

But, in Adam's chapter on introverted spirituality, I felt my soul exhale. Because my own spiritual disciplines were reflected back at me, and it felt affirming.

I've been called a prolific blogger. (Why does that never feel like a compliment?) As life has become more complex and busy over those years - I've had three babies in a little over four years, we've moved a few times, I've cycled in and out of working in marketing for credit unions and non-profits, my husband in graduate school and working full time, now I'm trying to write a book - people just couldn't understand why I was still writing every.single.day. How did I have time or energy for this kind of output? Granted, not all of it is worthwhile, but I write, almost every single day, and I've been doing that for years.

The answer is simple: I have to write. I have to figure out what I think about my life and I can't do it without writing. I don't know what I think until I write it out.

Writing has given me permission to contemplate my life in a daily rhythm, looking for the touches and movement of God across the day. I couldn't explain it, but I needed to take the time to process through my life and even the world's demands, it became a rhythm of my day, almost a spiritual discipline, to retreat and marvel and notice and struggle. I need to figure out what I believe and why, I need to figure out God, life, love, and I do that by reading and by writing, not by talking.

"There is a mysterious, spiritual component to writing. We may start writing our words but then find that our words are being written for us. We may find we are in the midst of an encounter with God, writing things we did not intend, discovering things we did not see." (p.83)

Cue: underlining, scrawling "Amen!" in the margins. Okay, so I did a lot of that.

Part of my spiritual discipline of writing is the act of writing itself, the self-discovery, the tracing of God in my own life and questions and doubts and struggles. But the other part of my writing life is that I feel connected by this work. I feel like it is one of the few things I have to give to the world. Blogging has changed my life, my spirituality, my opinions, my relationships, my heart, my mind, and I make no apologies for that (even if "blogging" is an excessively ugly word.) God has used this medium to profoundly change me, yes, but somehow, weirdly, he's also managed to include a few other people in that, and now I feel like I'm part of a bigger story.

There’s this little sentence in one of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians that I’ve not noticed before, probably because I usually skipped right past it, dismissed it as the unimportant greeting. Adam called my attention to it in that book I won’t shut up about (Introverts in the Church – you should totally read it). Paul is writing to the believers there, the ones like us, in another time and place and also to us, in this time, in this place, me, you:

“So deeply do we care for you that we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.”

Here’s my own life, I’m determined to share it, to pour it out unfinished, imperfect. My fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen wrote "there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in." Sometimes I also think it’s how the light gets out.

And sometimes the sharing of my life, especially the tender and still bruised parts of it, the parts without answers or neat bows of seven steps to whatever-it-is, is as much an offering to God as I can imagine, it’s sometimes the only way I know how to pray and worship.

I gather my thoughts to write or talk or confess and all I can think is: I need to notice. I need to see. I need to call out what I need to feel, what I need to think, what I need to see about how God works and moves and breathes in the world. I need, I need, I need it all, too much (and I also need someone to vacuum the stairs).

Sometimes I only find God as I’m writing and other times I only find Him in the lives of others, and sometimes it’s in the middle of the night when I’m so so so tired and then suddenly He blazes out of my entire life and the world and I can hardly breathe for the beauty in the pain and His faithfulness, His Love, the light through the cracks and it’s coming in and going out and I am dazzled.

Adam writes, “the greatest gift we have to offer others is ourselves, because it’s in our fragile and vulnerable humanness that people see the unconditional love and redeeming power of God most clearly.“

So yes, I share my life for the spiritual discipline of community and noticing it, for the love and passion I have for the world, for the beloved people of God, the broken and beautiful Bride of Christ, for my tinies, for my husband, for my own soul’s health, for you, and because I see God in my own words, just a little better, a little clearer, the light gets a bit brighter every time, for me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Very Special Guest Post

Since this is the last month of this blog, I am asking some great writers for guest posts. Today's post comes from a very special guest.

About the author: Adam S. McHugh is a writer whose work has been described as "genius!" by Stephen Hawking and "enchanting!" by the Blair Witch. He spends his evenings skipping his vintage pager off the surface of the community pool and flying down LA freeways to strange homes, where his hospice work is nothing if not federally compliant. If we could describe his pastoral presence at 3am in one word, it would be "awkward." In his free time Adam enjoys staring thoughtfully out of windows, celebrates the entire musical catalog of Michael Bolton, and takes long romantic walks on the beach, by himself.
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I have been talking about introversion and church for so long that I have developed what I call my “introvert stump speech.” Here’s how it kicks off:

Let me paint you a picture of someone who might be held up as the very model of faith in many Christian communities. Imagine a person who is highly social and gregarious, someone with an overt passion, who finds it easy to share her faith with strangers, who is expressive and enthusiastic and transparent, someone who participates in a wide variety of activities, who knows tons of people, who eagerly invites people into her space, who quickly assumes leadership responsibilities, and who wears her faith on her sleeve.

Such a person would be highly praised in most churches, right? Churches would have a bidding war over her. If we met someone like that, we might be inclined to say that she is the epitome of faithfulness, that she really understands what it means to follow Jesus. And it is likely true that you would be describing a beautifully faithful person; however, you would also be describing a very extroverted person.

I chose the female pronoun “she” in that talk in order to be inclusive, but as I think about it, the gender issue raises another question for me. Is introversion and extroversion perceived differently among women than it is among men? I have been talking for several years about the “extrovert ideal” that pervades much of our broader culture, but I wonder if it is an even more acute issue for introverted women than for introverted men?

To read the rest of Adam's post, and it gets better, go to Emily Freeman's magical blog, Chatting at the Sky, and read "What's it like to be an introverted woman in church?" 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hospitality for Those Who Would Rather Stay "In"

When I tell people that I wrote a book about introverts and church life, their mental Bibles often flip open to Mary and Martha. Martha is the quintessential extrovert, scurrying about to keep all the plates spinning, her attention darting from one task to another. Mary is the archetypal introvert, sitting quietly and lost in thoughtfulness, unaware of the urgent duties of the moment. But while it is tempting to read the story as a biblical forerunner to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I think the scene poses a different issue: What is the nature of true hospitality?

Conversations about hospitality often turn around a person’s eagerness to invite others into their home and their skill in serving food and drink. If that is the proper definition, then Martha is close — but her hospitality is mismanaged. Perhaps a Martha Stewart party book would advise her to prepare food in advance so she wouldn’t be so stressed when Jesus arrives. But we must take our definition of hospitality deeper. We have all been in settings in which delightful aromas wafted yet the air somehow smelled of unwelcome. Comfortable chairs, massive amounts of food, and overflowing glasses are not necessarily synonymous with hospitality.

Martha is “distracted by many things,” observes Jesus, and my guess is that Martha has made a common mistake: she has focused on the trappings of hospitality but has missed its heart. Carving a turkey is not as valuable as carving out real space for others, to help them feel at home with us and not just give them a chair at our dinner table. “Mary has chosen the better part,” Jesus says, and I think the better part is him.

To read the rest of my new article on Crosswalk.com, "Hospitality for Those Who Would Rather Stay "In," click here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Beginning of the End

I have been struggling to know exactly how, and when, to announce this, but here goes: June will be the last month that I post on Introverted Church. I will say more about what it has meant to me in my last post at the end of the month, but I wanted to give all of you some warning. There are some good things in store for June - a few guest posts, a giveaway, my very last post on introversion, and my tea-jerking goodbye, so please don't check out on me yet.

I will be taking the rest of 2012 off from blogging to finish my second book manuscript. I have some thoughts about what will come next but no specific plans as of yet. I'm ready to redefine myself, and my wife and I have some ideas about how that will happen. I will say this many times throughout the month, and I'll start now: THANK YOU!!!!