Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Fireflies of the Soul July 30, 2013

Filed under: Faith — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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At first glance, it may seem that God sprinkled the Midwest with the leftovers when he was distributing nature’s gifts. We can’t see the purple mountains’ majesty from here, and our shorelines boast no waving palm trees. We don’t waken to the sound of crashing ocean waves or plunging waterfalls, and our rest stops don’t sell postcards of stately lighthouses.


But over the years I’ve come to suspect that God had a few secrets up his sleeve when he made the heartland, a few gifts to compensate for an otherwise lackluster showing. These gifts aren’t big or loud or dramatic, and only those with a discerning eye notice them. But once you discover them, like so many clues on a treasure hunt, you just may find yourself settling in and calling the place home.


There are the sunny daffodils that peek sleepy heads out of the ground after a long, cold winter. There’s the never-ending canvas of sky, alternately dotted with cotton-ball clouds and painted with fiery oranges and pinks as the sun dips below the horizon. There’s the beautiful dying of the trees as they explode in a final display of color before hunkering down for the winter.


And then there are the fireflies that make their appearance on hot summer evenings. Maybe most of all, the fireflies.




My friend and I were walking along the trail at dusk the other night, and it was one of those evenings that succumbed to nightfall in a whisper of a second. One moment we could see the path beneath our feet, and the next we were treading into darkness.


Maybe the cover of evening makes it easier for truth to leak out, but it was in that sacred moment of dusk-to-darkness that my friend’s secret spilled over the edges. Her happy, surprising news that just couldn’t stay bottled up inside her anymore.


The words were barely off her lips when the fireflies ignited in a symphony of lights, illuminating the sky with their pulsing. Just one moment earlier they were nowhere to be found, yet with the single flip of a switch, we were surrounded by thousands of tiny flashlights, small enough to fit in the palm of our hands.


And I wondered: Had they appeared out of nowhere, on cue somehow? Or had they been there all along, and I just couldn’t see them without the curtain of darkness?




Most of the time I fear the darkness, shrink away from it, attempt to push it back. But what if some of those secret bursts of light God has hidden in my heart can only show up against the backdrop of darkness?


I don’t want to miss anything in this ordinary, glorious landscape of my Midwestern soul. So if the darkness needs to come as a backdrop to those little divine beacons, then let it come. Let it come, so I can see the flickering light, so I can hold it in the palm of my hand. I don’t want to miss a single firefly of the soul.


“We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge—the last thing we know before things become too swift for us.”

—C. S. Lewis


Would You Buy a One-Way Ticket to Mars? July 26, 2013

Filed under: Articles — Stephanie Rische @ 11:58 am
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Here’s the opening of an article I wrote for Christianity Today’s her.meneutics site this week about a rather unlikely combination of topics: a Mars expedition, the desert fathers, and commitment.



Wanted: Adventurous individuals who are willing to settle new lands, survive in harsh conditions, subsist on few resources, and—quite possibly—make history.


Our generation’s version of Lewis and Clark‘s transcontinental expedition or Magellan’s seafaring journey has its charts set for a previously uninhabited planet: Mars. What once would have been a plot for a sci-fi flick is now a job opening.


The Dutch company Mars One is currently accepting applications for a mission to Mars…with a big catch. This trip requires applicants to sign on for a one-way ticket.


You can read the rest of the article here: Who Would Buy a One-Way Ticket to Mars?


Where Is God? July 23, 2013

Filed under: Grace — Stephanie Rische @ 12:58 pm
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This summer our small group is taking a break from our usual routine of studying and discussing and making our way through a book together. In an attempt to go deeper with each other, we decided that at each gathering we’d have two people share about what God has done in their lives.


All the stories are different—some of us grew up knowing about God; some of us didn’t meet him until later in life. Some of us went down such dark paths we probably shouldn’t be here to tell about it; some of us were more subtle in our sins of choice. But there’s one thing we all have in common: we’re all broken and in desperate need of grace.


As we started sharing our stories, we noticed a pattern woven throughout each one. As we looked back, the places we could see God at work most clearly were the lowest points in our lives—our most grievous sins, our darkest seasons of failure, our struggles through grief and loss and loneliness.


After one person finished her testimony, there was a moment of sacred silence. Finally Daniel broke in: “Isn’t it amazing to think how we’re hemmed in and held, even when make the wrong choice . . . even when we don’t do the right thing?”


I thought of the three men in the Old Testament who were thrown into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)—how if I’d been in their shoes, I’d no doubt have asked God to take me out of the fire. But as it turned out, God was right there in the midst of those flames.


And I thought of Peter walking on the water to Jesus as the storm raged around him (Matthew 14). Scaredy-cat that I am, I surely would have asked God to calm the storm. But Jesus surprised Peter with something even more profound: he was right there in the midst of the waves.



So what about my own life? I beg for the fire to be quenched, for the storm to be stilled. Sometimes he does just that. But other times Jesus is right there with me—in the midst of the flames, in the midst of the waves.


You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me. . . .
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
—Psalm 139:1, 5


Even in the storms and the fire—maybe especially in the storms and the fire—we see the face of Jesus. It’s then that we are hemmed in, held.


God is here.


Alena’s Story July 19, 2013

Filed under: Gospel Stories — Stephanie Rische @ 10:44 am
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Two of my great passions in life are helping other people share their stories and seeing God’s extraordinary grace at work through ordinary people. So when I was given the opportunity to be part of the Gospel Stories project at my church, it felt like a beautiful collision of those passions.


Today I’d like to share Alena’s inspiring story with you.



Alena’s Story

When we experience pain—whether the pain is physical or emotional—most of us fall to our knees with the same agonizing question on our lips: Why, Lord?


At the age of 16, Alena asked the same question when she found herself in constant physical pain, battling a condition that doctors couldn’t seem to nail down and wondering if she’d ever be able to dance again. Why did she have to go through something like this at such a young age? Where was God in the midst of her suffering?


It was only when she surrendered to the Lord that she experienced a life-transforming truth: even if God never changed her pain, he was changing her heart. This is the story of how the gospel met Alena at her point of deepest pain and taught her to dance again.


O Lord my God, I called out to you for help, and you healed me. . . . You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
—Psalm 30:2, 11


Click here to watch Alena’s story in her own words.



Sweet Sundays, Part 5: Multitaskers Anonymous July 12, 2013

Filed under: Sweet Sundays — Stephanie Rische @ 11:31 am
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Hello, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a multitasker.


I haven’t always been this way. When I was a kid, I’d get so caught up in whatever I was doing that I was prone to lose all track of time and occasionally even miss my bus stop. Maybe it comes with the territory of adulthood or womanhood, or maybe it’s exacerbated by the various technologies itching at our fingertips, but whatever the reason, it can feel foreign and disorienting to only do one thing at a time. (Let alone rest!)


The other day I was reading Psalm 92 (while finishing my breakfast and drinking my coffee and doing the laundry), and I was struck by the epigraph at the beginning of the psalm: “A song to be sung on the Sabbath Day.”


And it got me to thinking: What is so special about music that God would have us set aside certain songs for the Sabbath?


One of the bonus gifts I received with the Daniel-package is the gift of music. On any given day, our home is graced with strains of live music—anything from the Beatles to Bob Dylan to worship music. Daniel plays the bass guitar for our church band, and on the Sundays he goes early for practice, I like to go with him. In the spirit of efficient multitasking, I usually I bring along something I’m working on—a book to read, a letter to write, some scribbles I’ve been wanting to put to paper.

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But after reading Psalm 92, I decided to just do one thing on a recent Sunday: soak in the songs for the Sabbath Day.


As the melodies and chords washed over me like so much grace, it occurred to me that music engages our hearts in a way that short-circuits our swirling minds and goes straight to our souls. The church father Athanasius suggested that God paired the words of the Psalms with melody to serve as a metaphor of sorts. Music, he said, serves as “a symbol of the spiritual harmony in a soul.” As a Christian sings praises, Athanasius said, he “brings rhythm to his soul and leads it, so to speak, from disproportion to proportion.”


While I sat there listening, I noticed something interesting about the rest notes. As lovely as the music is, the rests make you appreciate the melody all the more.


Just like Sundays.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,

to sing praises to the Most High.

 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,

your faithfulness in the evening,

accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,

and the melody of a lyre.*

Psalm 92:1-3


*Or an ice-blue Fender bass guitar.

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10 Grammar Saves in 10 Years July 9, 2013

Filed under: Writing — Stephanie Rische @ 12:01 pm
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I’m not quite sure how I blinked and 10 years passed, but last month I woke up and realized it had been a whole decade since I jumped into the world of editing and publishing. It has been a good decade, and in honor of the mile marker, I thought I’d share with you 10 of the errors I’ve stopped from going into print over the past 10 years.


{Note: I have omitted the authors and titles of these books to protect the relevant parties, but rest assured, these are all real quotes from real books.}



10. My daddy was a steal worker, and my granddaddy was a steal worker.

[Sounds like a kind of shady business to me.]


9. Gelatins 2:16 clearly states that human deeds can never save us.

[Shockingly, the book of Gelatins made it through spell-check but not canonization.]


8. I was blessed by marring a Christian lady and having three kids.

[The blessing doesn’t quite sound mutual when you put it that way.]


7. As a society, we’ve developed an erroneous belief system that is about as subtle as a rattle snack.

[Hmm, must be a Southern delicacy, up there with fried okra.]


6. Joshua 2: Rehab helps the Israelite spies

[The earliest evidence of a successfully implemented 12-step program . . . ]


5. But the Pharisees hardened their hearts toward Jesus’ wisdom. . . . They planned to deny pubicly that he was Messiah.

[I have nothing further to say.]



4. This relationship is called “the hookup,” referring to repeated one nightstands.

[I’m getting a mental image of row after row of identical bedroom furniture. . . .]


3. Does that mean God wants us to never plop down on the coach?

[I’m not sure he addresses that particular issue, but it does sound rather uncomfortable for all parties.]


2. “You don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blond and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

[Apparently, God prefers brunettes.]


1. From an endnote source: (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Boobs; 2009), 275.

[With apologies to the lovely people who work at Multnomah.]



“There are two typos of people in this world: those who can edit and those who can’t.”

—Jarod Kintz


“Only Southerners have taken horsewhips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscript. This—the actual pistols—was in the old days, of course, we no longer succumb to the impulse. But it is still there, within us.”

—William Faulkner


Announcing the Book of the Month for July July 3, 2013

Filed under: Book Club — Stephanie Rische @ 12:12 pm
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First of all, congratulations to Sarah for winning a free book for last month’s book discussion! You can read about our conversation about baby bath photos, soapboxes, and skeleton airing here.


And the book of the month for July is . . . . Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.



Here’s the description from the jacket of her book:


Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.



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