Little House, Wounded Knee: Beginning the Journey Toward “Un-Settlement”

NOTE: This post was originally written for and published in the January 2017 edition of the Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries Newsletter. It was also read aloud at a September2016 church service at Church of All Nations (the recording is archived here).


I learned to read books when I was four. (Or so my mother tells me.) This is the first in a long line of book-related events in my personal childhood mythology.

little house prairieBy first grade, I was hooked on my first big chapter books: the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

According to my mother, I was so enthralled with these books that I would stay up way past my bedtime, sneakily reading in bed until my wimpy mortal eyes betrayed me and I’d fall asleep with a book on my face. (Literally. A book-tent on my face.)

I loved reading about spunky Laura and her simple prairie family. I loved that she was a tomboy who hated bonnets and dresses — just like me. Even as I grew older, I loved to follow along with the Ingalls family’s migration across the country — perhaps because my family migrated a couple times, too.

Time passed. I went to college, got busier, wrote papers, got jobs, didn’t have much time for pleasure reading anymore.

Then, a few years ago, I was reorganizing my bookshelves and came across my Little House books — still the same boxed set that I first loved when I was seven. It had been 10 or 15 years since I read them, and I decided it was time for the Ingalls and me to get reacquainted.

bury-my-heart-at-wounded-knee-dee-brownBut as I went to place Laura and her stories on my “to read” pile, I noticed an interesting juxtaposition: right next to my Little House books lay Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West.

Ding! A lightbulb went on as I realized these two books happened at the same time.

Although what I remembered about Laura’s story was kind and fun-loving Pa, sibling love and rivalry, and the courtship of Laura and Almanzo, all of those beloved pioneer-enshrined events on the prairie happened during a largely unmentioned backdrop of Indian dispossession and genocide, black enslavement and migration, and even the Civil War!

I decided that, while I would reread the Little House books, this time would be different.

And so I began a project that spanned almost a year from conception to completion, in which I read the Little House novels in their historical context. I plotted the chapters of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (which proceed chronologically from 1838 to 1890, each focusing on a different Indian nation) and the books of Little House (which take place from 1866-1890) on a single timeline and added relevant historical events of the time. Then, since the Little House books are written for children, I searched for other historical children’s novels to help fill in some of the gaps in the timeline. Here’s the reading schedule I came up with:

Little House Wounded Knee reading list UPDATED

Thus began my Little House / Wounded Knee project. Over the next months, I read my reading each week and blogged my thoughts and analysis before moving on to the next assignment. I began with my childhood nostalgia still partially intact, but as the weeks progressed I began to shift my perspective from my Eurocentric view of “westward expansion” to a view of history that “faced east,” as Dee Brown says in his book’s introduction.

Today, so much white nostalgia is focused on “the good old days” when times were “simpler” and things were “better”. But as I discovered, the only reason these nostalgic white daydreams persist is because much of white America is ignorant of what “the good old days” were actually like. We reminisce about stories of our hardworking immigrant forebears, proud of their grit and perseverance. And it’s not that they weren’t determined or hardworking. But we are blisteringly unaware of the fact that our stories — the stories of white America — are told in total isolation, completely divorced from the concurrent stories of indigenous peoples (let alone black and brown immigrants, enslaved people, and settlers).

wisconsin Native tribes wLauraEven from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s very first book — Little House in the Big Woods — the disconnect is apparent. This book takes place a couple-hour drive from my house. So I did a little research to see where Laura’s cabin in the woods was on a map.

You can see that the Big Woods were already quite full of (Native) inhabitants — and yet the following is how Wilder begins book one in her Little House series:

The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses. There were no roads. There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them. (Little House in the Big Woods, p.1-2, emphasis added)

It’s literally the FIRST PAGE of the book, and already Wilder has erased at least five Indian nations and thousands of people from existence.

Honestly, it kind of gave me whiplash; I could hardly believe the casual ease with which Wilder simply writes “there were no people”. I could feel the violence in that statement when I read it. Because here’s the truth behind that casual opening paragraph: the Dakota were tricked into signing away their lands after which they were rounded up, starved, cheated, imprisoned in a camp, hanged in Mankato, bounty hunted for their scalps, and forced into a tiny, barren reservation where many of them died before the survivors were legally expelled from the state of Minnesota (a law that is still on the books today). So, there WERE people. But many were killed and “relocated” so that families like Laura’s could be given “free land.”

That all took place from about 1852 to 1863. Laura‘s older sister Mary was born in their Big Woods cabin in 1865, followed by Laura in 1867, which means the Ingalls were there no more than two years after the Dakota were forced out. That totally blew my mind. And 1867 — Laura’s birth year — is the same year that the renowned Red Cloud and the Lakota were resisting white invasion and persuasion further west. And yet, none of this is mentioned, or even alluded to, in Wilder’s Big Woods. There is an enormous blind spot in how this story is being told, because the reader has NO IDEA how the Ingalls got there. They’re just there.

As I continued through my reading list, I began to see these two narratives — that of the settler and that of the indigenous community — side by side.

Where before I only saw the “westward ho” adventures of the intrepid Ingalls family, now I also saw the uprootedness and disconnection of the “pioneer spirit” embedded in the founding DNA of this country.

I saw the entire story oozing with Manifest Destiny and the Doctrine of Discovery, treating the land as an empty place upon which European settlers “improved” — as Almanzo’s father says in Farmer Boy, “[America is] the biggest country in the world, and it was farmers who took all that country and made it America, son” (p.188-9).

I saw the parallels between the way settlers treated the indigenous peoples and the indigenous ecosystems, as alluded to when Almanzo explains to Laura about the tree claim on his homestead. “These government experts have got it all planned. … They are going to cover these prairies with trees, all the way from Canada to Indian Territory. It’s all mapped out in the land offices, where the trees ought to be…. They’re certainly right about one thing; if half these trees live, they’ll seed the whole land and turn it into forest land, like the woods back East” (These Happy Golden Years, p.170-1). (This quote spawned my next reading project, “Imperial Geography,” about the impact of white settlement on the land and ecosystems of Turtle Island.)

I also saw the violent disregard for indigenous humanity passed on in these “children’s” books — from less obvious little things, like constantly describing Indians as “savage,” “wild,” “yelping,” “yipping,” and “terrible,” to more apparent giveaways, such as including the phrase “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” no fewer than three times in a book whose protagonist is a four-year-old. (Side note: this phrase misquotes American Army General Sheridan, who originated the phrase when the Cheyenne survivors of two massacres cautiously approached his camp identifying themselves as “good Indians,” to which Sheridan famously replied, “The only good Indians I ever saw were dead” [Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, p. 170].)

As I delved deeper and deeper into the ugly, violent, and atrocity-filled history of American Indian “removal”, I began to be really angry at Laura Ingalls Wilder and the culture in this country that continues to think her books are good reading for children. These books are VIOLENT. They erase and dehumanize an entire CULTURE. They persistently portray Indians as subhuman and savage, and they portray a blackface minstrel show as a jolly evening of entertainment.

At first I thought, no one should ever read these books! But the more I sat on it, the more I thought the opposite: everyone — especially white Americans — should read these books, but with a critical eye. Because these stories of Ma and Pa and eking out a living on the “wide open prairie” are inextricably wound up in the mythology of this country.

We still believe this country is founded on lofty ideals, even though it’s actually founded on theft, murder, and slavery. We still believe that the mainstream white narrative is the truest and most important story. We still believe that we can make our country better by using and consuming the land, that we improve the land by our efforts. We still believe that the stories of black, brown, and Native communities are ancillary appendices that we can choose to leave out and not miss much.

These are blatant and harmful lies.

Mark Charles, a Navajo pastor, speaker, and blogger, often speaks of the need for a common memory before the people here in this land can attempt reconciliation. And if white America is ever going to move forward in the effort toward racial justice and healing, we need to take a long, hard look at the stories we tell ourselves about the way things used to be. We need to mend the rift in the stories we tell, stitch back together the narratives of the settlers and the indigenous peoples, and look with honest eyes on the tall tales of our pioneer heritage. We need to let go of our nostalgia for a time that never was and instead begin the process of undoing what we have done, of pulling up our stakes, of beginning to be “un-settlers” in a land not our own.

—–

Rebekah Schulz-Jackson lives in Minneapolis with her husband and housemates and works toward unsettled-ness with the beautiful community at Church of All Nations. You can read more about the Little House / Wounded Knee project at thesjs.com/littlehousewoundedknee.

If you’re interested in Rebekah’s reading list, here is a full list of all books/articles she read:

  • Little House on the Prairie boxed set of original 9-book series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (Dee Brown)
  • The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung, A Chinese Miner (Laurence Yep)
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs)
  • Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past (Diane Wilson)
  • Emancipation Proclamation; Gettysburg Address (Abraham Lincoln; found online)
  • I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl (Joyce Hansen)
  • The Journal of Joshua Loper, A Black Cowboy (Walter Dean Myers)
  • Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West (Lillian Schlissel)
  • My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl (Ann Rinaldi)
    **Do not read this book without also reading Debbie Reese’s review of this book, found on her excellent blog, American Indian Children’s Literature.
  • As Long as the Rivers Flow (Larry Loyie)
  • The Birchbark House, The Game of Silence, The Porcupine Year, and Chickadee (all by Louise Erdrich)
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In which Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorites!

For some of you fellow bookworms who have chatted with me about books, you know that Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is one of my favorite books. I already loved it to pieces when I read it (and its sequels) as a kid. Then I found an audiobook version where Madeleine herself narrates Wrinkle, and I loved it even more because it feels like you sort of know her  by how she reads the book (which is perfectly how I imagined it).

a circle of quiet lengleI remember my mom once told me, “You know, Madeleine L’Engle has written some adult non-fiction books, too. You should check them out.” But I sort of let it drift into vague-land… until recently.

I found and bought a copy of the first book in “The Crosswicks Journals”,  A Circle of Quiet, and let it sit on my to-read shelf for a bit. I had a full plate working through my Little House / Wounded Knee project, so I didn’t pay Circle much attention. Then about a week ago, when I was lolling around with nothing in particular to read, feeling a little down about life, I saw this book out of the corner of my eye. I picked it up and flipped to read the reviews on the back and found, “My favorite of all Madeleine L’Engle’s books. Lovely, charming, a book to cherish. I know it will give great consolation to ordinary people who sometimes wonder why they bother to get out of bed in the morning.

Needless to say, I was sold!

I snuggled in on the couch and started to read… and was BLOWN. AWAY. by the simple, thoughtful, soulful musings of Madeleine L’Engle, writing her thoughts on life, nature, philosophy, marriage, and writing (among others) from her family’s farm house, Crosswicks, in New England. It really did lift my spirits. It felt like this book was A Wrinkle in Time for grown-ups, because it’s about real life, but it’s the same sensible, spiritual Madeleine at the helm.

Anyways. I could rave about this book all day — I’m really excited to read the second one — but for now I just want to let Madeleine’s writing speak for itself and share a few of the way-too-many-to-write-down-because-I’d-write-the-whole-book passages that really struck me and stuck with me.

On community & identity:

Grandma gave me herself, and so helped to give me myself. (p.58)

On illness, death, and relationship:

She was not our mother, child, wife. Our lives would be basically unchanged by her death, except in the sense that our lives are changed by every death. And I think that we all, except perhaps nurses and doctors who see it all the time, have a primitive instinct to withdraw from death, even if we manage to conceal our pulling away. There is always the memento mori, the realization that death is contagious; it is contracted the moment we are conceived.

I always took a bath when I got home from the hospital.

It takes a tremendous maturity, a maturity I don’t possess, to strike the balance of involvement/detachment which makes us creatively useful, able to be compassionate, to be involved in the other person’s suffering rather than in our own response to it. (p.118-119)

On community, the Establishment, and revolution:

Because we are human, these communities [family, village, church, city, country, globe] tend to become rigid. They stop evolving, revolving, which is essential to their life, as is the revolution of the earth about the sun essential to the life of our planet, our full family and basic establishment. Hence, we must constantly be in a state of revolution, or we die. But revolution does not mean that the earth flings away from the sun into structureless chaos. As I understand the beauty of the earth’s dance around the sun, so also do I understand the constant revolution of the community of the Son. (p.131)

Seriously, so much wisdom and humor and real life words in this book. Go grab a copy and give it a try. You won’t regret it!

In which I’m a (recovering) racist

“So, are you reading any books by Native authors?”

A few days ago, my husband asked me this seemingly innocent question, and I froze in shock.

I had just been filling him in on a little bit of the controversy behind one of the books I’m reading. It’s a book in the Dear America series about a Lakota girl who is sent to a white boarding school, and it’s written by a white woman. I won’t say anymore, because I haven’t read the book yet and I don’t want to spoil anything. But suffice it to say that I was speculating that some of the controversy involves the fact that a white author was asked to write the book instead of a Native author, and she may have made some hurtful generalizations or misrepresentations in her book.

“So lame,” I vented. “They could have gotten any number of Indian authors to write this book and it would have been so much richer. But instead it’s just another instance where white people get to tell the story of Native people. Stupid.”

It was at this point that Daniel made his astute observation.

“Are you reading any books by Native authors for your project?”

The room was still. My wheels were frantically spinning, mentally scanning my reading list, hoping, praying, but alas —

“No, I guess not.”

“Well… isn’t that a little racist?”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I, Rebekah Schulz-Jackson, self-proclaimed social justice advocate and truth-in-history enthusiast, embarked on a four-month-long intensive project to learn the “Native side of the story” of American settlement… and I didn’t include a SINGLE book written by an Indigenous person.

Well, let me tell you, I think we can all (especially me) learn a few things from this:

  1. Everyone’s a little bit racist. …or a lot bit. But the point is we all make mistakes. And clearly I will be the first to admit that I do racist things, not to mention benefiting from lots of race-based privileges. (But that’s a whole nother blog post.) Anyway, with personal racism, the important thing is to…
  2. Confess, apologize, and move on. Being called racist is only a mortal insult if you take it personally. But you know — just like any other mistake and/or sin, if you own up and honestly feel sorry, you can ask for forgiveness. And that helps make everything better. Like this: Dear friends, I confess that I am a recovering racist, and I have allowed my white-centric blinders to interfere with my learning and to make my storytelling dishonest. Not only that, but then I pooh-poohed another author for doing the same thing. (I’m also a recovering snooty hypocrite.) Please forgive me. (And thanks to Daniel for being willing to call me a racist!)
  3. Then… make it right! As I mentioned in my last Little House / Wounded Knee installment, I’m adding a few new books to my project. I took this opportunity to do some digging and discovered a wonderful series by Louise Erdrich, an Ojibwa author and fellow Minnesotan, that follows the life of a young girl growing up in 19th-century North America… much like another series I’m reading… so I’ll be reading the first book in the series, The Birchbark House, for next week’s LH/WK. (I’ll also be reading two more in the series, as well as As Long as the Rivers Flow by Larry Loyie.)

In conclusion — I hope we’ve all learned a lesson about the ubiquity (and addressability) of personal racism. So remember, kids, if I do something racist, please tell me! I’ll probably say thank you! =)

(And now, if you’re following a long with the LH/WK project, back to our regularly scheduled program…)

In Which Rebekah Revisits a Childhood Milestone with Grown-up Eyes

I learned to read when I was four. (Or so my mother tells me.) This is the first in a long line of book-related events in my personal childhood mythology. For example, the book with which I taught myself to read (The Ernie & Bert Book, I’ll have you know) is the same one that I immediately turned around and read to my just-born sister. Apparently this book has magical powers, because she grew up to be a bookworm too!

But the phase of bookwormish childhood that I want to focus on today is my first foray into chapter books: the Little House on the Prairie series.

Apparently I was so enthralled with these books that I would stay up way past my bedtime, sneakily reading in bed until my wimpy mortal eyes betrayed me and I’d fall asleep with a book on my face. (Literally. Like a book-tent for my face.) I loved reading about spunky Laura and her simple prairie family. Even as I grew older, I still loved to follow along with their migration across the country — perhaps because my family migrated a couple times too.

Recently I reorganized my bookshelves and came across my Little House books — still the same boxed set that I first loved in first grade. It’s been about 10 or 15 years now since I read them, and I decided it was time for the Ingalls and me to get reacquainted.

But as I went to place Laura and her stories on my “to read” pile, I noticed an interesting juxtaposition: right next to my Little House books was Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (subtitled, “An Indian History of the American West”).

All of a sudden a lightbulb went on: at the same time Laura’s family was wagon-riding around the Midwest, natives were being pushed off their land. Cowboys were ranching even farther west. THE CIVIL WAR was happening, for goodness sakes!

This may sound like a stupid realization, but I never really thought before about how the Ingalls fit into history. I never learned or thought about who ELSE was living on the prairie. As I looked up the dates of when the events in the Little House books took place, I realized that A LOT was going on in the U.S. A lot more people than just “the settlers” were busy living life — and even “the settlers” are more complex, because, people, there were (and still are) BLACK COWBOYS AND FARMERS. And I know nothing about them. I wanted to learn more.

So, I will be re-reading the Little House series… but in its historical context. As I read my way through the 1850s-1890 with the Ingalls, I will also be reading the corresponding chapters from Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, as well as several other (mainly children’s) historical fiction diaries of the time. You can see my full reading list/schedule below:

Little House Wounded Knee reading list UPDATED

And here are links to all the books I’ll be reading, in case you want to join me for any of them!

I’m really excited to revisit the Little House on the Prairie. But this time, I’m excited to meet the neighbors, too.

Let’s dive in!

*Edited to update book list / reading list based on books and resources added mid-project.

Books of the Year: 2013 in Review

As some of you *may* know, I am a *bit* of a bookworm. Just a smidge. =)

One of the ways I challenge myself to keep reading (even though now I’m a busy bookworm) is to participate in the yearly book challenge on Goodreads.com. In 2013, my goal was to read 52 books, or about one a week. I exceeded my goal (56 total, woo!) and today I just set my new goal for 2014. But before I get too far into my new book adventures, I wanted to take a look back at some of the books I read in 2013. So without further ado, here are some of my book highlights from 2013.

The Mighty & The Almighty5. The Mighty and the Almighty by Madeleine Albright

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a while (bought it while I was teaching and just never had time to start it), but this year I finally took the time to dive in, and I was pleasantly surprised at  how much I loved the experience. Not only is Madeleine Albright a seasoned and sensible veteran of politics and world affairs, but she also has a thoughtful and nuanced way of looking at the ways that religion enters into the mix. I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking (and quotable!) read, and I’d highly recommend it to everyone, but especially folks who are interested in the intersection between politics and religion.

Ender's Shadow4. Ender’s Shadow (and its sequels) by Orson Scott Card

Although I’d read both Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow before, I had never read the rest of the Shadow series. Not only did they sink their delightful, action-packed hooks into my brain and propel me straight through, but I found myself contemplating geopolitics in a whole new way afterwards. (Without giving too much away, the sequels show what happens on Earth after the Battle School students return home, and it is messy, let me tell you!) HIGHLY recommended for anyone who loves a good sci-fi.

3. One Church Many Tribes: Following Jesus the Way God Made You by Richard Twiss

Richard Twiss passed away this year suddenly. This is a devastating loss  not only for his family and friends, but also for the Church family around the world, as we have lost a man of strong faith, a faithful advocate for First Nations peoples, and a lover and devotee of biblical reconciliation. This most recent work of his sets forth the case for why Native Christianity is a vital and missing piece of the Body of Christ. If you have ever wondered whether Native beliefs can be compatible with Christianity, or whether Natives can be Christians without being “whitewashed”, then read this book.

2. America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins

The reason I loved this book is that it uses loads of primary source documents (like journals from real women during each era) to vividly depict what life was like for women throughout American history. Gail Collins does a good job of looking at women from as many different arenas — social, racial, and otherwise — as possible. For anyone who loves reading about everyday life in other times and places, or for anyone wondering how women have lived and survived in America, this one’s for you!

1. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

Okay, this book exploded my brain. The subtitle sums up the premise of the book — the history of the world through Islamic eyes — but it’s so much more than just the “Islamic side of the story.” I felt like I literally got a glimpse of how the Eastern/Islamic historical-cultural mindset has evolved and grown from its geographical roots (aka the Ummah/”Islam-dom” as opposed to “Christendom”) and how the development of Islam in various regions has influenced world history and vice versa. If you have a pulse, go read this book right now. It will change how you view the world and history. Seriously.

Well, that’s my top five reads from 2013. I have quite a list for 2014 — some of which are already sitting on my bookshelf! — but I’m always looking for suggestions. Anything that strikes you as a Rebekah-read? Or do you want to share a great book you read this year? Let me know in the comments!

What to Read Wednesdays: What’s in YOUR Blog Feed?

RSS feed symbolThose of you who are my Facebook friends know that I am infamous for posting a pretty steady stream of interesting articles (or at least articles *I* think are interesting!) on my timeline. Last week, after posting this fantabulous gem of a post, a friend asked me to share what blogs I read. She seemed to think it was cool to hear of some new awesome blogs, and I love what these folks have to say, so I’m happy to share them with you!

Below are the two main categories I have in my Feedly, one for general things I like to think about and ponder and one for things that relate to my work as a web presence consultant and writer. (Disclaimer: not all my Facebook articles come from these blogs! But these are the folks I read every day.)

(Also – asterisks indicate my #1 for each category. If you read only one, read THOSE.)

The Rock Tumbler (i.e. things that make me think!)

Experimental Theology – experimentaltheology.blogspot.com

The theological musings of psychology professor Richard Beck. Sometimes this blog can get a little bit academic for me, but more often it makes me think about really interesting theological questions that I haven’t thought about before! From his bio: “Richard’s published research covers topics as diverse as the psychology of profanity to why Christian bookstore art is so bad. And on his blog Richard will spend enormous amounts of time writing about the theology of Calvin and Hobbes, the demonology of Scooby-Doo or his latest bible class on monsters.”

*Rachel Held Evans – rachelheldevans.com/blog

If you read no other blog on this list, read this one. As a self-described evangelical AND feminist, Rachel continually amazes and humbles me with her fairness and grace as she writes about extremely hot-button issues without demonizing either side. Also, her “Ask a…” series is a great way to learn about all different sorts of folks you might not know personally!

Dianna E. Anderson – diannaeanderson.net

Whereas I would place Rachel Held Evans smack in the middle between evangelicalism and feminism, I would place Dianna a little farther down the feminist side. I really appreciate her thoughtful analysis of women’s issues and sexism in Christian subculture.

Confessions of a Former Preacher – danbouchelle.blogspot.com

As a former teacher and forever PK (pastor’s kid), I totally resonate with many of the issues former preacher Dan Bouchelle discusses on his blog. His insightful, spot-on analysis of some of the struggles faced by churches in our country today is a prophetic voice that I have found very refreshing and helpful in my own “recovery” process. (Right now Dan is taking a break from blogging, but his archives are still up and totally worth a peruse!)

Confessions of a Heretic Husband – heretichusband.com

This anonymous blog is written by Heretic Husband, a guy who began as a Christian, de-converted, and is still working out what it means to be himself and also support his Christian wife and kids. I don’t always agree with everything he (or his guest posters) write, but I find it informative and thought-provoking to read about the Christian Church from another perspective.

Hyperbole and a Half – hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Cartoons? Check. Hilarity? Check. Epically honest cartoons about struggling with depression? Check. Need I say more?

Jamie the Very Worst Missionary – theveryworstmissionary.com

This blog is wonderful because Jamie (the Very Worst Missionary) is so honest. She calls life, missions work, and the Church at large like she sees it, which is often a mix of funny and broken and beautiful. No longer in Costa Rica, she is now figuring out what it means to be a missionary with her family in California. Just read it. You’ll see. =)

Newspaper Blackout – newspaperblackout.com

I recently discovered this site, which showcases creator Austin Kleon’s creative newspaper-blackout found poetry. This one is just for fun. (Also, it makes me wish I still got a newspaper!)

xkcd – xkcd.com

Sometimes deep and meaningful, sometimes silly or nerdy, this webcomic is so unique and wonderful that I’ll just let it speak for itself: “Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).”

Writing & Web Stuff (i.e. things that help me be a better web presence consultant!)

I’ll zip through these more quickly, since most of you probably aren’t copywriters. (But if you have questions about any of these, just ask and I will happily spill!)

12 Most – 12most.com – This blog is mostly about business and leadership, but really the posts can be about anything as long as the title begins with “12 Most…”

Copyblogger – copyblogger.com/blog – This is why I do my job as well as I do my job. If you are at all interested in copywriting, content marketing, social media marketing, web design, etc., do yourself a favor and start reading!

Michael Hyatt – michaelhyatt.com – A big name in Christian leadership and publishing. Sometimes I feel like he’s a little slick, but he’s sort of a trendsetter, so good to keep tabs on.

Nonprofit Tech 2.0 – nonprofitorgs.wordpress.com – Author of the book “Social Media for Social Good” (which I also recommend).

Rachelle Gardner – rachellegardner.com – Literary agent for Rachel Held Evans. I like her no-nonsense, practical style.

*Seth Godin – sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/ – Seth Godin is like *the* go-to business and leadership thought leader guy. He’s written about a gajillion books and is memorable for his positive, insightful, and pithy (read: sometimes really short!) blog posts.

Signal vs. Noise – 37signals.com/svn/posts – A blog about technology, working from home, and web stuff.

So there ya go! Those are the blogs I follow on a regular basis. (Plus, of course, a few of my friends’ blogs and my sister’s New Zealand study-abroad blog!) Every once in a while all those posts pile up in my Feedly, but I find that when I read them it really gets my brain churning with new ideas and new ways of thinking.

What blogs do you follow? Any suggestions for what I should add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

On Bible-reading and Genesis

This morning I started a project I’ve been meaning to start for quite a while. One of my bucket list items was to read the entire Bible (I did it chronologically), but THEN I got to wondering about all the historical background and stuff… and I just happened to purchase a TNIV Study Bible a year or two ago… so I decided that I want to read the whole Bible chronologically, but this time to do it in my Study Bible so that I can read all the notes. I also resolved to write down in my journal at least one insight or comment from each day’s reading (some of which I will probably post here on the blog).

Today is day one. It took a long time; the assigned reading for today was Genesis 1-3, but before I could get to that I (of course) had to read all the introductory notes about the translation, about the Bible as a whole, and about the structure of the study notes, not to mention the introduction to Genesis itself. I’m just a nerd like that. =)

But eventually, I did in fact read Genesis 1-3 (and all the notes…). Here are a few of my thoughts for today:

  • There are a crapton of really long notes on Genesis 1-3, especially Genesis 1. This made me realize (even more so than before) the significance of this part of the Bible. These three chapters — creation and the Fall — comprise probably the most important part of the Old Testament, if not the whole Bible (literarily speaking, anyway). This is the “point of conflict” without which we would have no story. So it’s kind of a big deal, hence the extensive research and background info.
  • In the introduction to Genesis, the author mentioned the fact that a list of the themes in Genesis is actually a pretty good reflection of the themes in the whole Bible. For example, Genesis is where the key relationships between God and creation, God and humans, and humans and other humans are established. I love those sorts of parallels, so I’m looking forward to watching for that as I continue reading.
  • I really like interesting background info! For example, there was a note (purely speculative) that wondered if the reason Genesis 1 avoids using the words “sun” and “moon” is because those would have referred at the time to the proper titles for the deities of the Sun and Moon. So fascinating!!
  • To continue in my literary vein, I’m really enjoying (and looking forward to continuing) reading the Bible as a single work of literature, authored by God. It really helps me to think about the arc of the story and overarching themes throughout the entire Bible, rather than just within books. I mean, can anyone come up with a more compelling storyline than the fall and redemption of the entire human race and all of creation with them? Answer — NO, you can’t, because that is the most epic storyline EVER.

In conclusion, loving my Bible plan so far. This is gonna be great. =)

What are your thoughts on Genesis 1-3? How about the Bible as a work of literature? Let me know what you think!