Visit the 6 Most Beautiful Churches in the World

The famous churches in the world are popular for a reason. It took years of hard work to make the masterpieces. If you go on a world-trip to visit the most beautiful churches, make sure you visit the following six:

1. Notre Dame de Paris, France

Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic, Roman Catholic Cathedral. Its treasury contains the purported Crown of Thorns. The construction of the Notre Dame Cathedral started in 1163 and continued until 1345. Its magnanimous structure and brilliant architecture make it one of the most beautiful churches in the world.

2. Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Russia

Located in the exact center of Moscow, Saint Basil’s Cathedral is a thing of beauty. Its colorful exterior and beautifully-crafted indoors make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can understand why thousands crowd here every year.

3. Sagrada Familia, Spain

This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It took more than 50 years to construct this work of art. You will feel like entering into one of those magical castles that you often see in movies.

4. Wailuku Union Church, Maui

The makers of the Wailuku Union Church call it “a masterpiece offering for the glory of the God.” Its crenelated towers, corner buttresses, and stone-layered finish make it look astonishing. Apart from the astonishing towers and buttresses, the gravel roof is something to behold, one that you may want to ask your Maui roofing contractor to install in your home.

5. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia

According to history, the maker saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary here in 1754. This apparition instigated the building of this gigantic basilica church. It’s a popular tourist spot in Colombia as people gather around to admire the church’s beauty.

6. Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia

Sitting atop the Gergeti village is one of the world’s most picturesque churches. Reaching there feels like reaching the top of the world. The beautiful landscape surrounding the church is magnificent.

It’s Moving Time

'The Door' photo (c) 2009, Brad Montgomery - license:

I’m so grateful to all of you for reading my words for the past few years. I have loved writing for you in this space.

A lot of things have happened in the past year and pretty much everything in my life has changed. That is not all bad, but it does mean that this space feels awkward for me moving forward. And moving forward is something that I am determined to do.

To that end, I’m closing up shop here. I’m not deleting this blog, but I’m not going to be posting here.

I’m also not going to quit writing. It is something that energizes me, and I’m going to keep doing it. Perhaps not with the frequency that I was writing here, but still writing.

If you’d like to continue to read what I have to say, you can check out my new blog here. I would love to see you there.

Again, thank you so much for the kindness that you have extended to me by choosing to read here. I know there are a lot of blogs out there and I’m so grateful that you have included this as part of your reading experience.

This short article was written by one of the members of tree removal company.

In the Church, but not of it

Lady Justice

My favorite presentation while I was at Wild Goose was hosted by Jared Byas with Levi Weaver. They spoke on spiritual creativity, and as someone who fancies herself a bit of a creative, I was interested to hear their thoughts on that issue.

Jared’s talk and Levi’s performance were amazing, but one of the things that really struck me about them was that they both said that we had to get beyond cynicism if we wanted to create. They did not suggest that we could not experience seasons as a critic, but cautioned against setting up camp there because it is nearly impossible to create from that space because it can be just as limiting as the things that we’re cynical about. If we constantly put ourselves in the position of critic, the ability to see beauty diminishes and with it, the ability to project beauty with our art.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear this message.

I didn’t realize how much I need to have hope affirmed.

While my real life circles are primarily conservative, online I run with a fairly progressive crowd. The people who I interact with grew up in a Church culture that emphasized to they be in the world but not of it, but mostly meant not to really be in the world either. But we discovered that we related to God more through Alanis Morrissette than Darlene Zschech, more Kurt Cobain than Stephen Curtis Chapman. We joined AOL chat rooms and found out that the world was much bigger than our local church and that the scary people we were warned against weren’t all that different from us. We realized that the alternative to black and white wasn’t grey, but rather a stunning array of color.

As a result, we found ourselves in the role of critic. The status quo could no longer satisfy, the old answers no longer accepted at face value.

And our mantra changed. We became in the Church, but not of it.

But in the same way that they didn’t mean in the world, we didn’t really mean in the Church either.

Instead, we positioned ourselves as the new arbiters of what it meant to be Christian. We traded one form of judgment for another that fit us a bit more comfortably.

I have to be honest, though. Any kind of judgment starts to chafe after a while. This seat became hard, this robe confining. Being on the outside is lonely, even if there are others there, because really, everyone is suspect.

Last week, Tina and I were talking about how we need to absorb the shock waves that result from the loss of power. How do we take something that is hurtful and potentially harmful and lessen the impact? She asked how we become Antoinette Tuffs in those situations.

As I listened again to the 911 tape of a woman talking down a shooter at a Georgia school, what struck me about her was that rather that placing herself as the shooter’s critic, Tuff came alongside him and found commonalities between them. She acknowledged her own hurts and disappointments. She showed compassion, even when it was a risky.

This is what I want. Not to be on the outside, but to be in the midst. I want to be one who sees the humanity of people, even when we disagree; even when there could be some cost. I want to surround myself with people who acknowledge pain, but search for beauty, and when they can’t find it, create it themselves.

I don’t simply want to say that I’m in the Church, I actually want to be in the Church.

Your Gagging Isn’t Loving

love out of reach

Last night I had to take some deep breaths after reading the internet. My friend Stephanie linked to this post by Thabiti Anyabwile and my initial response was just a blind rage. I have long thought that one of the primary objections to marriage equality is the “ick” factor, but I never thought I’d see a group like The Gospel Coalition put that forth as a valid argument against it.

The post is terrible. And other people who are much smarter than I am are going to talk about why it’s terrible.

But in the tweet storm that erupted last night, there was one that stood out to me. From Joe Carter, one of the editors at TGC:

So here’s the thing. Well, two things.

First? Being gay affirming when you’re a Christian does not make you popular. It’s not nearly the bad thing that it was even a few years ago, but trust me, it’s not going to make you the most well-read blog, the most sought after speaker, or the most quickly published author. So let’s please put THAT to rest.

But more important,

That post wasn’t loving.

If I tell someone, “The way you have sex makes me want to vomit, therefore you are sinning,” it isn’t loving.

It. Isn’t. Loving.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)

I’m tired of good news that is hurtful in the way that it engages people. I’m tired of prejudice masquerading as love. I’m tired of the lives of gay and lesbian young people being brushed aside as some kind of diversion from what God really wants.

Yes, love tells the truth.

But when your truth degrades people, it’s not loving.

When your truth reduces relationships to sex acts, it’s not loving.

When your truth makes people want to hurt themselves, it’s not loving.

When your truth makes the gospel something that is only available to people who believe like you, it’s not loving.

When your truth pushes people away from Jesus instead of toward him, it’s not loving.

And if your truth isn’t loving, is it really truth? 


A few months ago, I wrote about some of my favorite gay and lesbian Christian resources. I still highly recommend each of these. Additionally, I encourage you to check out The Gay Christian Network. I believe that the work being done there is important and worth supporting.

When You Don’t Fit In At Church

square peg round hole

On Sunday mornings, I wake up early, kiss my still sleeping husband good-bye, and drive nearly an hour to my church in one of the more rural parts of West Virginia. I park my van, covered in HRC and Obama and Strong Bad bumper stickers in a sea of conservative pickup trucks. I wear an Arrested Development t-shirt among a throng of Christian t-shirts.

I should not fit in.

According to a number of demographics, I am nothing like a lot of these people. It would be all too easy for me to focus on our differences. There are plenty, and if I’m being perfectly honest, some of them matter to me. I care about things like LGBT equality and access to birth control. I’m pretty iffy about hell. I’m far more likely to reach for John 3:17 as a life verse instead of John 3:16.

And yet this is my home. The owner of a local bed and breakfast who brings in flowers every Sunday never fails to give me a hug. The Christian school teacher asks me how things are going with my book writing. The man who helps run the children’s archery program stops me to let me know that he’s praying for the women at Beginning of Life with me. The pastor’s wife calls me beautiful and the pastor always thanks me for being a part of the family.

I don’t fit in, but I am loved.

And because I am loved, it is much easier for me to reciprocate that love. I am accepted, so it becomes easier for me to accept. I am honored, so it is my desire to return honor.

I know that there are numerous discussions about people leaving the Church. There are so many valid reasons and I have encountered a number of them in my own experiences with the church, but most of them boil down to the idea that there is some right way to do church. We think that there is a magic formula that we can put together and it will make this whole Christianity thing come together for everyone. More political involvement! More contemporary music! More focus on ritual! More skinny jeans! More candles! More focus on orthodoxy! We make our lists and we assume that if we could just find that sweet spot, people would stay.

There is no sweet spot. There is no right way. There is no magic formula.

But there I don’t think that means all is lost. There is looking at someone you don’t understand and saying, “Tell me your story,” and then listening. There is thanking the person who made coffee for showing up an hour before the service started to get the machines running. There is going out of your way to pass the peace to someone who has a different bumper sticker on their car than you have on yours.

There is love.

And when we love like Jesus tells us to love, fitting in isn’t really a concern, because love makes all kinds of room for everyone.

Stuff I’ve Been Reading

Stuff I've Been Reading graphic

So many good posts out there – it was tough to narrow it down this week. But here are some of my favorites. Enjoy!

  • If you know a Christian teen who is graduating high school this year, please, for the love of everything, make sure they read this post by Addie Zierman. I would love it if 17 year old Alise could read this. But regardless, I found healing for 38 year old Alise.
  • Zack Hunt wrote an amazing piece challenging the view of the inerrancy of the Bible. Don’t miss it.
  • Aaron Smith at Cultural Savage wrote a powerful piece reminding us that when it comes to our mental health, sometimes Jesus isn’t enough. I love what he had to say here and I 100% support this message.
  • Tomorrow is the last day of school for my kids. This post by Jen Hatmaker pretty much sums up the past few months.
  • I’ve had the chance to talk to Amy Martin a little bit at the Sacred Friendship Gathering the past couple of years, and her post over at Zach Hoag’s blog about attraction and shame was straight up brilliant.
  • I loved this short poem by Sarah Askins about choosing not to stand still. It’s just beautiful.
  • And finally, to all of you graduates, have a cake.

Some of the books I have are came from my friend who is working on a mold removal services in Honolulu.

What have you read/written/watched/listened to this week that moved you? Link it up in the comments!

Don’t upset Jesus!


I just read another piece calling out someone for calling out someone else. Maybe there was a third level of calling out in there. I’m not sure. It’s all pretty muddled at this point. The point is, calling out people is bad and we need to call them out on it.

There aren’t many things that make me want to quit blogging, but the unending circle of making sure we’re morally superior to “those other guys” is one thing that makes me vaguely consider it.

Let me be very clear. I am totally okay with people writing blogs wherein they disagree with the writing/teaching/tweeting of any other person. It’s usually big names like Mark Driscoll or John Piper or Rachel Held Evans or Rob Bell. They do something that rubs someone the wrong way. So folks will write about it. Some will write about the actual content, some will attack character. Some will look for dialog, some are using the names to get blog hits.

Whatever. It’s how blogging works. I get that. Most of the time, even if the content is less desirable, there can be positive outcomes from the discussion about their words. There may be clarification offered, or sometimes an apology for something that was stated poorly. It’s not always pretty, but it’s often beneficial.

But then? Then comes the part that I hate.

We see that the person that we like got called out for their words. And we don’t like that.

So we get all hyper-spiritual and we start writing about unity in Christ. And we write about Matthew 18 and going to our brother privately. And we write about being silent. (Because nothing contributes to silence like another thousand words or so about the subject.)

Here’s the deal. I don’t think that Jesus has a whole lot to do with it. Mostly, we just don’t like that the person or the ideology that we associate with is under attack. Or sometimes even just questioned. It feels a lot like WE are being scrutinized.

It doesn’t sound great to say, “Please don’t pick on my friend,” or “Please don’t question my belief system.” So instead we make it about Jesus or the Church. Instead of “Don’t upset my friend,” it becomes “Don’t upset Jesus!”

But seriously, can we stop? Not the discussion of ideas. But the discussions about those discussions.

And if we can’t stop that, can we at least be honest? Can we please stop dragging God into it?

It sucks when someone who is a friend gets run through the shredder. I hate seeing someone who I know being called names because I know that it actually hurts that person. They’re not just a persona, they’re a real person who has feelings. It can be really tempting to want to get spiritual about how hurtful it is to the Church when we tear down a brother or sister in Christ. But that’s not why I’m upset. I just don’t like seeing my friend in pain.

That’s okay. We’re allowed to empathize with our friends. I think it’s good when we do.

But I don’t think we’re doing ourselves or our faith any favors by dragging God into these arguments. Instead, we make it seem like we worship some petty deity who gets humphy because this blogger called out that pastor or because that pastor called out this author.

By all means, stick up for your friends and for your beliefs. Let your friends know that you care about them, and let us know that you care about your beliefs.

But stop bringing Jesus into it. It’s just making me absolutely crazy.

And I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t want that.

What I get from my cross-gender friend

This post is part of the February Synchroblog “Cross Gender Friendships”.  See the full list of participants at the bottom of this post.


I write about cross-gender friendship with some regularity, but I don’t often write about why I have a male best friend.

Here’s the deal – I have a male best friend because that’s just how it worked out. We drove together to a couple of gigs, found out that we’re basically the same person, and decided that we wanted to be best friends. I wish it was more dramatic than that, but honestly, that’s how close friendship often works. You find someone who “clicks” and you become friends with them. I think most of the time when we enter friendship with some kind of motive, we will be disappointed.

But now that I have a cross-gender friend, what does that mean? What do I gain from this relationship?

  1. A better sense of self. Because I know that our relationship is often under scrutiny, this friendship has forced me to be more honest. And the person from whom it has required the most honesty is me. Because I want to honor my husband, as well as Rich and Misty, I have to be honest about how I am feeling. While I do not love the suspicious underpinnings for much of this self-reflection, I do appreciate that it is an outcome of this friendship.
  2. A better marriage. I know that the narrative is that cross-gender friendships destroy marriages, or at least have the capacity to do so. I in no way want to deny that friendships can evolve into something that is unhealthy for a marriage. But I have found that as I have developed relationships apart from my marriage, my marriage thrives. This takes work and commitment to honesty, but I think it’s well worth the effort.
  3. A better appreciation for my single friends. In the Church, we do a really, really poor job caring for (or about) singles. I have friends who write about this far better than I possibly could, but my friendship with Rich reminds me that if friendship is important to me as a married person, it matters just as much to my single friends. When we magnanimously allow cross-gender friendships before marriage, but then ban them after marriage, we steal a friend away from someone who may want to be a part of the new relationship. This friendship makes me want to reach out and be more inclusive of those who are single.
  4. A better perspective on gender issues. Being married and having sons helps me have a better understanding of how men view the world. But friends shape our worldview in a unique manner, and having a close friend of the opposite gender can allow me to get feedback on ways that I present ideas that a female friend might not be able to notice or that my husband might overlook because he’s married to me. My approach to gender issues is more nuanced because of my friendship with a man.

As much as I appreciate all of those things, what I really get with my friendship with Rich is a close friend. Someone to get a coffee with when we have a break from teaching lessons at the same time. Someone who will go with me to Mountain Stage. Someone who will eat a bowl of guacamole with extra cilantro with me.

These things don’t have anything to do with our genders. It just took us being open to friendship in the first place. 


Don’t forget about the upcoming Sacred Friendship Gathering on April 26 & 27! You can still register for only $85 through the end of this month. You’ll get to hear me speak along with a lot of other fantastic speakers. I’d love to see you there!


Chris Jefferies – Best of both

Jeremy Myers – Are Cross-Gender Friendships Possible

Lynne Tait – Little Boxes

Dan Brennan – Cross-Gender Friendship: Jesus and the Post-Romantic Age

Glenn Hager – Sluts and Horndogs

Jennifer Ellen – A Different Kind of Valentine

Liz Dyer – Cross-Gender Friendships and the Church

Paul Sims – Navigating the murky water of cross-gender friendships

Jonalyn Fincher – Why I Don’t Give out Sex like Gold Star Stickers

Amy Martin – Friendship: The most powerful force against patriarchy, sexism, and other misunderstands about people who happen to not be us, in this case, between men & women

Maria Kettleson Anderson – Myth and Reality: Cross-Gender Friendships

Bram Cools – Nothing More Natural Than Cross-Gender Friendships?

Hugo Schwyzer – Feelings Aren’t Facts: Living Out Friendship Between Men and Women

Marta Layton – True Friendship: Two Bodies, One Soul

Kathy Escobar – The Road To Equality Is Paved With Friendship

The Nitty Gritty

Beginning of Life

So the other day I realized that I haven’t given you folks a lot of details about what I’m going to be doing in Moldova. Part of that is because I didn’t have a whole lot of details to give, but part is because I’m not a very detail oriented kind of gal. Stuff just happens when it happens and I just go with it.

But since I know people like to have more information than, “Going to a country that you may  not know where it is and spending time with girls who were victims of sex trafficking,” I thought I’d give you a quick run-down of some of the things we’ll be doing.

I leave on Sunday, January 20 and return on Monday, January 28.

Here’s Moldova:

The capital is Chisinau, which I still don’t know how to pronounce (I think it’s something along the line of keesheenew, but don’t hold me to that). We’ll be staying there.

I’m going with Children’s HopeChest and this team of lovely ladies. We will be working at the Beginning of Life Foundation. This is a space that helps rehabilitate girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking. The ages of the girls there are between 8 and 17. (Please let those ages sink in.) My understanding is that there are 12 girls there right now, but that could change before we arrive.

While we are there, we will be sharing skills with the girls. Part of this is to teach them a skill so they can earn money so that they are not victims of human trafficking again. Often the girls are kidnapped when they go looking for work to help support their families financially, since Moldova is the poorest country in Europe.

But the other part is simply to spend time with these young women and to let them know that they are valued. I cannot even begin to wrap my brain around what it is to be a victim of slavery, and to have your body used in such a way. So when we are there teaching them self-defense, or art journaling, or crochet, we hope that they can use that in some practical way, but even more, it is our hope that they feel treasured and valuable.

In addition to our work with Beginning of Life, we will:

  • visit neighborhood families that have either former victims or at-risk victims of human trafficking
  • visit a crisis pregnancy center
  • teach in a public school
  • visit a church youth club
  • visit a local youth community center
  • see an escape presentation
  • tour a monastery

I am so grateful to those of you who donated toward my trip. Thanks to donations from the blog, from my church, and a super amazing Christmas gift from my husband, nearly all of my expenses were covered. I cannot thank you enough for your support. I will do everything in my power to bring you stories of what I experience there and to offer you opportunities to help these girls.

Friendship and Attraction (Part 5)

Friendship & Attraction

On Friday, I wrote about why I hate the phrase “emotional affair” and discussed what emotional infidelity is not. But as much as I think we overuse the phrase, emotional infidelity can absolutely occur in marriages, and it can be very damaging to the marriage relationship. 

As I mentioned in the last post, fidelity is, “faithfulness to a person, cause, or belief demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.” I’d like to break it down to its most basic parts, which I think could be “continuing faithfulness.” Attachments that interrupt that continuing faithfulness are what I would like to discuss here.

I don’t believe that any one person can meet all of our emotional needs. Early in our marriage, I thought that Jason was supposed to meet all of my needs. As a result, I felt emptiness for the needs he was unable to fulfill, which led to guilt about needing more than he could provide, which made me look harder for him to meet those needs, and it turned into one big, ugly cycle of guilt and sadness. I believe if I had developed a friendship with another man at that point, we would have been treading on very dangerous ground, because I could have seen a filling of legitimate needs as being a lack in my relationship with my husband, rather than understanding that different people bring different things into my life and I need all of them.

There will be emotional needs that your spouse is unable to meet and I believe it is absolutely acceptable and beneficial to find friends who can fill those needs. However, if having those needs met by someone else causes you to resent your spouse, this could be an area of concern. Resentment can be one of the most profound hindrances to continuing faithfulness and that is something that does require your attention. In an area like writing, I have a bottomless pit of need for affirmation and that can be filled by others with no damage whatsoever to my relationship with my husband, and can actually enhance it. But when it comes to feeling alone in my faith, I need to be careful who is allowed to fill that need, lest it cause negative feelings toward my husband. These needs will be different for each person and require self-examination.

Another area where continuing faithfulness can be challenged is when secrecy is a part of the friendship. If I were to find myself hiding any parts of my friendship with Rich from Jason, I would know that I’m not giving my full self to my marriage, and that would need to be addressed. You need to view yourself from the third person. Think about it like an interview: 21 great questions you have to ask girl about their relationship. Faithfulness thrives in the light. Some outside of your marriage and/or friendship may not appreciate your candor, but those relationships that matter will be so much healthier when they can be conducted without any secrecy.

We can also hinder continuing faithfulness when we fail to address attraction felt toward a friend. As I have written already, attraction toward a close friend is inevitable. If we choose to open ourselves up to another person in a vulnerable way, there will be some level of attraction. However, choosing to ignore that can allow it to build into something more than the natural outcome of a devoted friendship. This can cause us to ignore our spouse in favor of the friend, which damages the marriage relationship.

So how do we avoid emotional infidelity? I think it all boils down to honesty.

Be honest with your spouse. Let partner know that they can’t meet all of your emotional needs and that you don’t expect that of them. Pretending that they can fill everything isn’t fair to them. But don’t cut them off from that friendship. There may be areas where they can grow as your partner by seeing how a friendship builds you up and when you deny them that opportunity to participate in that friendship, even just by keeping them apprised of conversations, you can hinder that continuing faithfulness. A friend of mine recently said that his close cross-gender friendship was forcing him to be more honest with his wife about other things as well. This friendship has enhanced his marriage relationship because he is choosing honesty.

Be honest with your friend. If we notice that something is feeling “off” in our relationship, we need to address it. It can be profoundly awkward to say to your friend that you feel an attraction toward them, but less awkward than allowing those emotions to go unchecked and becoming something more than they are. Honesty can defuse emotions that might otherwise grow into something harmful. And be honest about where you need boundaries. This will be an individual thing and will likely require some trial and error, but by keeping communication open and forthright, you can navigate that without abandoning the friendship. Knowing that your friend wants the best for you and the relationship can allow for grace in situations where there could be discomfort.

Be honest with yourself. This is perhaps the most difficult thing, because we’re really, really good at lying to ourselves. But before we can be honest with anyone else, we must be honest with ourselves. We need to be honest about what causes resentment toward our spouse. We need to be honest about attractions that we experience. We need to be honest about how we communicate with our spouse and our friend. Any discomfort that we feel about honesty up front will be multiplied by a lot if we choose to lie to ourselves. We can avoid so much pain by being willing to give ourselves an honest appraisal. Whatever it takes to be honest with yourself, do it. It is one of the best gifts that you can give yourself and your relationships.

Anything that is ongoing will require effort, and continuing faithfulness is no exception. But it is an effort that will yield beauty and love. And love for one another is where God is found.