A Quiz about Fear

Quick link: 10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz, at A Life Overseas

I recently heard an interview with Kim Brooks, the author of Small Animals, parenthood in the age of fear, and was reminded of how irrational fear can be. Understandably so, but still, in an age of fear and also judgment and rage, parenting can feel fraught with risk.

I had written this quiz several years ago, but found it again in my drafts and pulled it out to publish now. What are we generally afraid of? What should we actually fear (if anything?)

A quiz:

  1. Are Americans more at risk of dying by terrorist or dying by an appliance falling on us?

Death by appliance.

  1. Is a predator more likely to attack a child walking home from the playground alone or to attack a child playing in the home?

Child playing at home.

  1. Does a child face more of a health risk while climbing a tree or while staring at an iPad?

Staring at an iPad.

Click here to continue with the quiz and to read my conclusion: 10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz, at A Life Overseas

Rethinking, Rebuilding. Love in International Service, a book excerpt

Today I bring you an excerpt from Ryan Kuja’s new book: From the Inside Out. I resonated strongly with his words on wholeness. The world is broken and we are broken. I don’t even have to look outside my own mind and heart to recognize the need for healing and restoration and that reality is amplified as soon as I lift my eyes up to the broader world. What can promote and facilitate healing? Love. Unity. Integration belief and action. Peace.

If you enjoy this excerpt and would like to read more, you can find Ryan’s book here and his website with links to more of his published work here.

Book Excerpt- Chapter 5

Making All Things Whole through Love

“Those who follow Jesus,” wrote Franciscan sister and professor Ilia Delio, “are to become wholemakers, uniting what is scattered, creating a deeper unity in love.” The deepest call of Jesus followers is to be wholemakers— acting in ways that bring about the wholeness that underlies the fabric of the cosmos. We seem separate but in our roots we are part of an indivisible whole. There is an integral connectivity that links us. If this is how reality is construed—through a substrate of love, a fabric of connection and deep unity—than participating in mission as if this were true means looking at our task differently, through the lens of the hidden wholeness that exists in Christ prior to and beneath all things. Jesus followers are tasked with intentionally participating in completing the world; mission is nothing less than action toward the fulfillment of the cosmos itself.

The reconciliation of all things is not only a possibility, human flourishing is not only an idea, shalom not a mere word to be adopted, but realities ingrained in the fabric of creation itself.

Placing ourselves in alignment with the shape of God and thus the shape of the universe itself so that we may be conduits of shalom means bringing together the inner and the outer. It means reintegrating contemplation and action. Our logical Western-trained minds say prayer and work, spirituality and ministry are distinct, autonomous aspects of life, but that is a fairly new invention based on Western philosophy and Greek metaphysics, based on the thought of Descartes and Plato more than Paul and Jesus.

What would happen if we began to reimagine mission as relationship in which we recreate each other through a deep mutuality? Participating in the ongoing creation of the world through mending and being mended, healing and being healed, becoming wholemakers as we are being made whole?

This missional spirituality is radically grounded in materiality while simultaneously oriented toward a cosmological horizon that is coming to us from the future, a future in which “Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11). We experience a foretaste of that eschatological future in the present. From the very heart of reality itself, from within the messes, the brokenness, and the tragedy, Christ redeems, restores, reanimates, and resurrects. The world is being reconstituted, day by day, moment by moment, breath by breath, to reflect the new reality which Jesus referred to as the kingdom of God. It is all heading into renewal.

Every act of peace, each move toward courage, every act of selfless love is an act of new creation, small and often unnoticed perhaps, but powerful nonetheless as it is a participation in God’s being. In this way we don’t merely believe in God, worship God, or work for God, but we participate in God’s life.

(I confess that I have not read the entire book yet, but after I read the excerpt Ryan sent me, the book jumped to the top of my list. If you have read it, share your thoughts in the comments or over on Facebook.)

A global citizen with a background in international mission, relief, and development, Ryan Kuja has lived in fifteen cities and rural villages on five continents. He holds an M.A. in Theology and Culture from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology as well a Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. A spiritual director and writer, he has written for Sojourners, Missio Alliance and several theological journals. His first book, From the Inside Out: Reimagning Mission, Recreating the World, released in June 2018. Ryan is currently serving as the Field Director of Word Made Flesh in Medellin, Colombia. You can find him online at and on twitter as @ryankuja.

*post contains affiliate links

What Mary Chose

The story of Mary and Martha is well known among Christians, Christian women in particular. Its a story that can be used to place women.

See? This a woman’s natural physical tendency, to be in the kitchen. And see? This is a woman’s natural emotional tendency, to be worried and anxious about many things. Whether Martha, or by extension all women, is worried and anxious simply because there is a lot of work to do for one person or because she is proud and her ego in hospitality is getting in her way, doesn’t ultimately matter. We just know, or think we know, or are told, that Martha is in her rightful place, the kitchen, and seized by her natural, sinful attitudes about the work before her.

And, we know, are told, or think we know, that Mary has summoned the spiritual character to eschew the kitchen, to set aside her sinful nature, and sit at Jesus’ feet.

One writer said the lesson here is that we should not be so distracted by good things, even serving and hospitality, that we neglect our own spiritual growth.

Another emphasized the value of listening to Jesus and spending time with him.

Another described the differences between the motivations of the two sisters. Mary, he claims, is motivated by love. Martha, by anxiety.

Another contrasts the Martha Spirit and the Mary Spirit, the busy busy buy spirit and the spirit of restful adoration.

The assumption in all these, (good and positive lessons) is that what Jesus is contrasting is Martha’s harried posture and Mary’s worshipful posture.

I think we have read this passage with far too small an idea of who Jesus is and what he came to accomplish. I wonder if there is something more at play, something that adds to the story and makes it powerfully relevant and not just to overworked women.

I imagine most meal times when a mixed group of guests was present as: women in the kitchen and men at the table. Possibly the guest of honor is speaking, or teaching, or leading a discussion. Probably, that’s what Jesus was doing. The text is not explicit, but I think we can conclude from the first sentence and from the amount of work put on Martha’s shoulders, that the disciples were also present for dinner.

Martha chose the expected position and role for women.

Mary insisted on her right to sit with the men.

Martha didn’t look outside the box of culture and took up her work.

Mary decided she belonged with Jesus, which is to say, where the men were. She had every right to be there, too. Jesus himself confirmed it.

When Martha complains to Jesus, everyone expects him to say, “You’re right! Mary, get up and go help her.”

We don’t, generally, expect Jesus to either:

+ Say, “Hey, Martha, I know you aren’t actually upset about the work. You are actually upset because your sister has just overturned the cultural norms and you are feeling anxious about that, and slightly confused.”

+ Summon fishes and bread from the heavens and wave his hand around to create a nice meal and clean it up, ala Mrs. Weasley?

+ Or, tell some of those lazy-bum disciples (somewhere between 12 and 72 of them), to get off their lazy bums and help? That would have been radical!

But no. Jesus says Mary chose what was best and that it wouldn’t be taken away from her. She chose to place herself right in the front, in the middle, in the center, near the Teacher, and she wasn’t going to be kicked out to the ‘women’s place.’

Mary probably had to elbow her way up there, or maybe she manipulated the situation by carrying a bowl of washing water and when she reached Jesus, instead of moving on after he washed his hands and feet, she simply plopped right down in front of him. Who knows how she got there. What we know is that she is, likely, the lone woman in this room.

Jesus does not say that Mary is so enthralled with him, or so deeply spiritual, or so eager to learn, that she is allowed to stay. He does not praise her for choosing learning over serving. That is what readers assume about this passage.

Neither does he say he is explicitly commending her for her courage in taking her rightful place as a woman among men. But I think we can equally assume that about this passage.

Maybe this is not a story about choosing love or service. Or about checking our motivations. Or about harried women versus worshipful women. Or a quaint tale to teach women the value of choosing Bible reading over dish washing.

Probably, its all that. Probably, it is so much more than all that.

This is a radical story about a woman courageously asserting herself, claiming the humanity that is her right by dint of being created and imbued with the image of God, and being dignified for that courage.

In sitting there, Mary is saying she belongs in the Kingdom, too. She demanded a place, edged her way in, neglected the opinions of men and women and the cultural norms. She saw that Jesus offered himself first to the lowly and the outcast, and said, “Me, too. I, also, belong in the presence of Jesus.”

Even more importantly, she is not saying she, only, belongs there, but that women belong there. The oppressed, the neglected, the overlooked, the discriminated against, those at the margins. We all belong in the presence of Jesus. We all have the right to claim our place at the table.

Mary chose to belong. That will not be taken away.


Luke 10:38-42, (NIV)

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”


New Expats, Old Expats, Hold On to What You Believe

Quick link: Don’t Forget the Things You Know Are True

In case you missed it, A Life Overseas published my post this week about some of the things we know are true that are deeply challenged in the first year abroad. And in every year after that.

All the training, preparing, packing, and planning has left you utterly exhausted, unprepared for reality, insufficiently packed, and carrying plans that will be chucked out the window upon arrival. Those who sent you and those you received you have done their best, but they haven’t been perfect or complete, and I want to remind you of some important things.

There are some things you know to be true. These things will be challenged to their very deepest core in your first few months abroad. You’ll forget them. You’ll call people liars (even if just in your head) when they remind you of them. You’ll wonder how you ever could have been foolish enough to believe them. That’s part of the process. That does not change the fact that these things are things you know. They are true. They have not changed, even while life is only wild, chaotic, and stressful.

Read the rest of Don’t Forget the Things You Know Are True here.

Word Made Art, a Book Review

My friend Heather Lynn Caliri is releasing a book today, a Lent devotional unlike anything you’ve probably read before. It takes the Word and makes it art, it gets us to engage physically with the Bible again, rather than just reading it on our phones: Word Made Art: Lent: A Scriptural Encounter for Ash Wednesday through Easter

The book itself is short but that’s because it is mostly suggestions and directions and then sends you to the Bible to interact with the pages, the words, the ideas, and your own self. Heather asks deep, probing questions that can guide your time and she has you do art projects with the word. I love this unique way of getting back in literal touch, after spending the past few years on my phone.


I already read the book myself, but am going through it again, with a small group. Each time, it can be fresh, which is something I long for and need, in my faith walk. Lent isn’t a practice I knew growing up and I enjoy this guided way to think about this time before Easter. I really loved this book and am happy to recommend it. Head over to Amazon and get your own copy, Kindle versions are just $2.99 and a paper copy just $7.99.



I received an advance review copy of this book