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Listen & Learn: Philemon & Colossians Weekly Talks (Audio Files)

Lindsey Smallwood

Last week I announced the publication of my new Bible study guide book - Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone. It's been so fun sharing it with all of you. There are still copies available with special discounts and free shipping for small groups.

This week, I'm thrilled to share a bonus component for the five week study on Philemon & Colossians - audio files of the weekly talks you can stream or download to use in your small group. Each talk is 10-20 minutes long and contains insights into the chapter, along with some personal stories and other Scripture connections. 

Thanks for reading and listening along!

Note: You're welcome to listen along even if you're not doing the study. Just know that on week 1, I spend the first 5 and 1/2 minutes tackling some study-related administrative stuff - so if you're only looking for Scripture talks, fast forward to 5 min, 30 seconds into the Philemon message and you'll be good to go!

Want to know more about the book? Check out Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone here

Note: You're welcome to listen along even if you're not doing the study. Just know that on week 1, I spend the first 5 and 1/2 minutes tackling some study-related administrative stuff - so if you're only looking for Scripture talks, fast forward to 5 min, 30 seconds into the Philemon message and you'll be good to go!

Want to know more about the book? Check out Philemon & Colossians: In Christ Alone here

Call Me Maybe {Lily Ellyn Dunn}

Out of the OrdinaryLindsey Smallwood

I'm so pleased to welcome Lily to the blog today. Lily writes about life, books, faith and figuring it all out - so basically all of my favorite things. She's just back from a long season living and teaching in South Korea, which is where her out of the ordinary story takes place...

It was the night of the end-of-the-year teacher’s dinner at the Korean elementary school where I worked as an English teacher. After several rounds of speeches of which I understood only a handful of words, and copious amounts of nodding, bowing, and smiling, we’d been released to the buffet. Although I’d been living in Korea for several months now, I was still unsure of the etiquette in many situations. I closely watched my coworkers for guidance on what I should eat and how much to take. I’d long ago given up on trying to figure out what was in the various unfamiliar dishes and decided to take whatever looked interesting and make the best of it.

After managing to eat most of my dinner without fumbling my chopsticks or dropping food all over myself, I started to relax. I still felt awkward and out of place, but I understood the dynamics of a work dinner with colleagues. I had a framework for this kind of social setting. And then they wheeled in the karaoke machine.

Perhaps the only thing Koreans love as much as kimchi and soju is singing karaoke, or norebang as it is called in Korean. Singing is such a deeply embedded part of Korean culture that it’s virtually unthinkable to be Korean and not sing (sort of like being Korean and not drinking, but that’s a different story for a different time). Much like golf in America, singing karaoke is a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to do as part of a business meeting or work event.  

When we’d first arrived at the restaurant I’d scouted the room for the telltale sign of the cart with the microphones, speaker, and video screen and had been comforted when I didn’t immediately see one. I should have known there was always one in reserve.

Once the principal announced that it was time for norebang, the book of song choices was thrust into my hands and I was told, “Here. Choose song! English!” I tried a polite, “No thanks! I’ll just listen!” but my coworkers seemed to take this as a personal affront. “Just choose. Just one is OK!” they badgered until they eventually wore me down.

It should be noted that I love singing. I sing to myself all the time. But I am objectively bad at it. And for some reason, I’m much worse at karaoke than I am at singing a capella or singing along to the radio in my car. I know those machines are designed to make everyone sound like a pop star, but when I use them, I lose all sense of rhythm and pitch.

I flipped through the song book, heart racing, unable to concentrate on the words on the page much less make a purposeful decision about what to sing.  “Which one? Which one?” my coworkers asked. They wanted to pass the book to someone else.

Something caught my eye. Finally, a song I recognized! I pointed triumphantly and they nodded enthusiastically. “OK, OK. Wait one minute,” and cued up the machine.

And then, there I was, in front of the entire faculty, My heart was beating so hard I thought I might pass out, when the sweet strains of Carly Rae Jepsen’s international hit, “Call Me Maybe” came through the speaker.

My vice principal seemed inordinately pleased to see me singing, but I could tell that my coworkers were underwhelmed by my abilities.  My face was bright red and I was starting to feel like I couldn’t possibly make it to the end of the song when I had a flash of genius. I remembered a conversation I’d had with the music teacher, Mr. Kim, about western pop music. He’d been complaining about the Justin Bieber song his sixth grade students were learning for the school festival, but then mentioned that he had a daughter who loved the song “Call Me Maybe.”

I threw a Hail Mary. “Now, Mr. Kim! Sing with me!” I yelled into the mike. I grabbed the second mike from the cart rack and thrust it into his hands. The fifty-year-old Mr. Kim looked startled for a second, then put the mike to his mouth, “And all the udder boys, try to cha-ase me. But here’s my number. So call me maybe,” he belted out.

We were a hit.

Ok, maybe not a hit, but we were certainly memorable.

I sat back down feeling shaky and embarrassed, but also exhilarated. If you’d told me a year before that I would do a duet with a middle aged Korean man to a Carly Rae Jepsen song in front of a roomful of coworkers, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. But there I was, doing the unfathomable.

Was I embarrassed? Extremely. Was it one of those situations where I thought it was horrible, but everyone else thought it was great? No. Everyone else also thought I was horrible. (“Hmmm….Lily Teacher…Maybe you no more singing?”) But that’s OK.

It’s OK because for once I didn’t let Embarrassment or Shame dictate my choices. I didn’t let Shame tell me how to feel about myself afterwards. I said yes to something that was out of my comfort zone, and while it didn’t end in an inspirational success story I could publish in Reader’s Digest, it taught me something important.

Failure isn’t the worst thing. You will survive embarrassment. You can let Shame tell you who you are and who you have to be, or you can chase hard after Life until you catch up to him, then try to play it cool while you slip him your digits.

“So... here’s my number. Call me, maybe?”

Lily Ellyn Dunn is a faith-wrestler, a freelance writer, a substitute teacher, an avid traveler, and (most importantly) an ice cream connoisseur. She and her husband are trying to adjust to life in Columbia, SC after two years in South Korea. Lily writes about life, faith and every day grace on her blog, http://lilyellyn.com. You can also find her on Twitter @lilyellyn.


Wow! Didn't you love that ending? Failure really isn't the worst... and oh how I need to hear that often and loudly. Leave Lily a comment below and let her know your favorite karaoke song... or how much you liked her piece. 

Do you have a story to tell? Check out my Guest Post Guidelines and submit your story.  

Just Like Riding a Bike

Lindsey Smallwood

I'm writing over at The Mudroom today, as part of their monthlong theme of Distress, Disquietude and Dread. Sometimes dread gets bigger than it needs to, but it doesn't have to be that way...

Four years ago a teenage boy pointed a gun at me while demanding I give him my money. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Oakland, California. I was standing at the flagpole in front of the elementary school where I’d recently been assigned to teach. My husband Chris and I had ridden our bikes there together, trying to determine the best route for my commute.

After he waved it in my face, the gunman turned to Chris, jabbing the weapon toward his chest, repeating his demand for money. Chris slowly took out his wallet and passed him the bills. As he took the money and ran down the block, we got back on our bikes and rode to a liquor store where we called the police.

When the cops arrived, they took down our story, called in an account of the suspect, put our bikes in the trunk of their squad car and drove us home. Riding in the back of that car felt like being secured in a tank, there was hot relief in my chest that nothing could happen to us behind the locked doors and heavy glass. I saw a boy pass on a bicycle and it occurred to me for the first time how vulnerable it is, to pedal around the streets with no walls between you and the world around you. I wondered if I would ever ride a bike again.

I didn’t.

Though I had been a bike commuter and recreational rider for years, I didn’t get back on my bike. I didn’t get on that week or that month or that year. I tripped over it in the garage, demurred when Chris asked if I wanted to ride somewhere with him, not wanting to outright refuse and risk actually having to talk about the feelings of dread that sat heavy in my stomach every time I thought about going out into the world on my bike.

Then I got pregnant and had a baby. A few months later another followed. No one expected the pregnant lady to be tooting around on a bicycle. After our second child was born we moved to Colorado, where most people’s bikes were put away for the winter. But ever since the grass turned green and flowers began to bloom, I’ve known it’s time. Time to face the unsettled feeling I have when I see my bike leaned up on the back fence.

My 33rd birthday was last weekend. I asked Chris to fix up my bike as my gift to myself. Our first family ride was a spectacular failure. I sobbed the whole time, the trailer for the babies got a flat tire, Chris ended up going home via a different route and I panicked we couldn’t find each other for nearly half an hour. But my “I can’t” and “Never agains” died on the pavement in front of our apartment, even as the tears streamed down my face.

Wednesday night after work we tried again. I packed a picnic dinner and we rode to a park in the cool of the evening. It was beautiful, easy, like something we’d done a thousand times before. And as my toddler climbed up the play structure and my baby sucked on fruit in the grass at my feet, I thought about fear.

Sometimes we’re afraid of the wrong things. It’s a lot easier to be afraid of riding a bike and so choose to let it gather dust in my garage than it is to face the reality of living in a world where people threaten each other with guns at elementary schools.

Riding my bike with my family was a step toward deeper trust in a God who holds the whole world in His hands—the whole broken messy world where children die unexpectedly and people are shot at malls and movie theaters and no place is truly safe. I live here and though I feel afraid, I am not alone.

I’m learning again to trust Him with my fears and realizing that in not facing them for sometime, I’m out of practice. But trust is a muscle, the more I exercise it, the stronger it surges in my heart. I’m wobbling toward Jesus and remembering that this has always been the path toward freedom and away from fear.

Turns out, it’s just like riding a bike.

 

This post originally appeared at The Mudroom.
You can see it by clicking here

Opening the Thin Envelope

Lindsey Smallwood

It is such a pleasure to write with my friends over at Middle Places. If you haven't taken the time to read some of the other bloggers there, I encourage you to poke around. This months theme of being (re)Routed has lead to some really great writing. I'm sharing a story about dreams and rejection today - and praying you find hope to take your own brave steps. 

No one wants to get the thin envelope.

You've been there. Checking the mailbox everyday, hoping and dreaming and planning for the future, and then it comes, addressed to you. The return address is right, it's the school you want to get into or the company you hope to work for. But the slim profile betrays the news hidden inside.

"We regret to inform you..."

Rejection. Hopes deferred. Dreams stopped in their tracks. Usually softened by language about the talented applicant pool or hopes that you will reapply in the future. But the disappointing view of a longed-for possibly closing it's doors is never easy to take in.

In my final year as an undergraduate, I applied to a national teaching program. Honestly, I was not sure what I wanted to do. I clerked at a law firm as a part time job during college and considered law school. I found community in a campus ministry after I returned to campus from treatment for an eating disorder and thought about working in ministry as a full time job. One of my classes required community service hours tutoring at an elementary school and I'd enjoyed working with kids, which lead to my application to the teaching program.

It wasn’t just paperwork, I prepared a lesson plan and taught it to the interview panel. I answered questions based on case studies. I sat before a group of current teachers and responded to their queries about my experiences and motivations. I left the interview day tired and confident; going through the process left me sure that I would be a great teacher and optimistic that I would be selected.

Until the thin envelope came.

“Dear Lindsey, We regret to inform you…”

For a few days, I felt deep disappointment. I knew my application hadn’t been lost in a pile; they had really looked at me, asked me personal questions and watched me teach, and had decided I didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

My pastor encouraged me to consider ministry again, reminding me of how my gifts of teaching and connecting with people could be useful in that setting. I prayed for an open door, and, finding one, decided to pursue vocational church work. That opportunity lead to another and then another and for six years I worked in full time ministry.

As that season drew to a close and I was trying to decide what to do next, I felt drawn again to classroom teaching. But, having already applied and been rejected many years before, I was afraid to pursue that dream again. The door had closed. It seemed foolish to bring that hope back to life.

Heeding the counsel of some close friends and family, I decided to face the possibility of rejection and go through the process again. The pre-tests, the lesson plan, the group interview – I did it all. And six weeks later, to my surprise and delight, a big fat manila envelope filled my mailbox, welcoming me to the program and outlining my next steps.

My dream of teaching wasn’t lost when I was rejected from that program in college. It was rerouted. I just didn’t know it at the time. But in order to find the way back to my dream, I had to take a risk.

Most things worth doing are scary. Our dreams are worth risking rejection and failure. If you’re in the middle of a reroute in your own life, I challenge you to think about what brave steps you might need to take to find your way back to a dream long dreamt. Remember sweet friends, this is still just the middle of our stories.