speaker interview with shauna niequist

Shauna is every bit as warm and inviting as one might think.  Her heart beats to bring people together and to engage in life in true community.  Her gentle spirit and assurance are most certainly reflective of the heart of the Lord to gather us all around tables and to experience life together.

It’s our pleasure to introduce you to Allume speaker, Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist - Allume 2014
What was your favorite food as a kid?

Cold pizza…and it still is :)

What sound do you love?

My kids’ laughter

If you could only do one things for a whole year what would you want it to be?

Have a dinner party every night

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?
Speak Italian

What do you do with 30 minutes of free time?

Read a novel

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A novelist

If gifted an all expenses paid vacation to anywhere where would you pick?

Paris, my all-time favorite city

If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would we have?

Arugula salad and risotto, cheese and bread, vanilla ice cream with salted caramel sauce

Shauna is the author of Bread & WineBittersweet, and Cold Tangerines. Have you read any of them?  Oh, you MUST this summer!! Learn more about our friend by visiting her Website /// Twitter /// Facebook

Confessions of An Affiliate Flop

confessions of an affiliate flop

Hi, my name is Caroline and I am an affiliate flop.

It feels so good to write that out and let it be known that I have failed in 99% of the affiliate programs that I have signed up for on my personal site and I was even rejected by Amazon. Yep. I’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Some of you may be asking the question that I know I asked myself at first, “What is an affiliate program?”

An affiliate program is an agreement between you & the product owner that pays you a commission when people buy that product having found that product on your blog.

If you are an avid blog reader, I’m sure you have seen your favorite bloggers mention at the bottom of their post with a little * or within quotes stating “this post contains affiliate links, thank you for supporting _____”.  My curiosity took over and I started reading all I could about affiliate programs. At this point {and still today} selling ads on my blog wasn’t an option because, well, I’m nowhere close to offering that on my blog, but signing up for an affiliate program where I could earn a few $ here and there seemed like such a great idea.

After some research, I decided to give it a try. I found some affiliate programs that I was interested in and signed up. From digital photography e-books to iPhone e-books to camera bags to clothing to Amazon. In the past 3 years, I’ve tried at least 10.

Only one of those turned into being a tiny bit successful.

I even failed at being an Amazon Associate. I was so excited earlier this year when becoming an Amazon Associate finally became available in Illinois. I immediately signed up & added widgets to my sidebar highlighting some of my favorite products & books on Amazon. I even added some affiliate links in a few of my posts. Did you know there’s a 90 day trial period with Amazon Associates? If you do not generate a referral in 90 days, your account will be rejected. The email actually says “We are writing to notify you that your Associates Program application has been rejected.” Rejected.

I thought I was following all the right “rules”.

So, why am I here to share my affiliate flop & rejection? To encourage you – especially those of you that are like me and do not have a large audience of readers.

I want to encourage you that it is ok to try a few different affiliate programs until you find one that works for you & fits your blog. I also want to encourage you that it is ok to flop.

Lessons You Can Learn from an Affiliate Flop:

1. Research. My go to resources on this topic: Amy Lynn Andrews & Darren Rowse. {Click their names & the links will take you to their series on affiliate opportunities. Really, the possibilities are endless for you & they have done a ton of research for you on how to get started}.

2. Do not sign up for an affiliate marketing campaign for personal reasons. If I’m 100% honest, I was looking out for personal gain. “If someone clicks on my affiliate link & makes a purchase maybe I’ll have enough money to get ______.” My focus should have been their incredible product, not my personal gain.

3. Do not be discouraged if it flops. Send me an email & we’ll share our flop stories & if you get rejected by Amazon then we’ll be instant friends.

4. Know your audience. Find out what your readers are interested in hearing you talk about. This is another reason my affiliate programs flopped. I loved the products & assumed my readers would love them as well.  But, it was all about me {see #2 again}.

5. Find a mentor. I value the opinion of those who have cleared the trail of ahead of me in the blogging community. I asked a few of them to share with me their thoughts on affiliate programs:

Commit to a strategy and see it through. My best performing affiliate posts are gift list posts with all affiliate links and best wardrobe pieces for particular stores. But, with both of those I have to make sure they are well promoted. I spend lots of time making the post beautiful, convincing, and then finish it well by making sure there are enough eyeballs on it.
Hayley Morgan

I believe there’s value in just hearing about a site, clicking over, seeing a ware used in a creative way. They say you have to see something 7 or 8 times before it resonates… So for me, affiliates can feel like free advertising.
Myquillyn Smith

Last week, Denise encouraged us, “The great thing about blogging is the fact that there isn’t one correct way to do things.”  The same applies to affiliate programs. Figure out what works best for you & your blog audience and go from there.

What about you, have you had success with affiliate programs? If so, would you care to share with us a few of your tips? Or are you an affiliate flop like me that could use a little encouragement?

12 Editing Tips for Writers

Editing Tips
When it comes to writing and feedback, I’m always reminded of my grandma’s words: When yer eatin’ fried chicken, swallow dat meat and spit out them bones.

My grandma’s advice speaks to the truth of editing tips too. Swallow the meat and spit out the bones.

The following are twelve editing tips for writers. If any of these suggestions ring true, then great. But if any of the following suggestions don’t resonate with you, I believe you know what’s best for your process and your style. Pick and choose the approach that works best for you.

Writers are at their best when they’re trusting their instincts. <Tweet this!>

These twelve editing tips discuss when, where, and how to edit:

1. Begin the editing process with rest.

Once you’ve finished your writing project, put it away for a few days — or longer if possible. Don’t look at it. Go outside. Hang out with friends. Watch a football game. Engage your mind on something else. Then, when you return to the words on the page, you’re able to see your work with fresh eyes.

2. Schedule a time for editing.

Put it on your calendar. And enlist the support of those nearest you. When family and friends know we’re nearing the end of a writing project, it helps to have their support. This, of course, pertains to lengthier works. If it’s a shorter work, like a blog post, simply set aside a separate time to review it before publishing.

3. Sit in a location other than where you write.

This may not seem like a big deal, but editing is a different activity than writing. When we edit in a location that’s different than where we normally write, we’re alerting our subconscious to prepare for a different kind of mental endeavor.

4. Edit from a hard copy.

Yes, this requires the use of paper, but it’s more effective. When we read on a computer screen, our eyes are accustomed to scrolling quickly through the text. With a hard copy, each section is contained on a separate piece of paper. This helps us slow down and focus. We’re also less likely to tinker endlessly with cutting, pasting, and rearranging. We can write our editing notes in the margin and move on. We can recycle the paper when we’re finished.

5. Use a colored pen — preferably red.

English teachers are notorious for bleeding on essays with scathing red ink. In fact, some educators have suggested that red ink shouts at the reader, similar to the use of ALL CAPS. So I’ve tried editing in every color possible, and I’ve discovered that blue, purple, and brown ink pens don’t contrast enough with the black toner on the page. It’s easy to skip an editing comment when it’s so close in shade to the black toner. At the same time, most orange, pink, yellow, and green ink pens are too light. The eyes are forced to squint while deciphering the individual letters.

Red ink isn’t about shouting. It’s about contrast. Our eyes don’t have to strain as much to discern the red ink from the black toner.

6. Develop your own coding system.

Whether it’s a word that needs omitting or a letter that needs capitalizing, English teachers use a canonized set of symbols to indicate the specific change required in the text. But the actual symbols don’t matter as much as the meaning behind them. As long as you know what you mean when you mark your page, you can use whatever coding system you like.

7. Read your work aloud.

The importance of reading your work aloud cannot be stressed enough. This is one of the best techniques for catching your own errors. When you read aloud, mark every place where you stumble over the words. If you have to stop reading to figure out what you’re saying, then you can be sure your readers will too.

8. Read with a ruler under each line.

This may feel awkward at first. But we already know what comes next because we wrote it. Using a ruler helps us slow down and concentrate on one line at a time.

9. Read backward.

Again, this technique may feel weird. But if we read one sentence at a time, starting at the end and working our way backward, then we’re less likely to “hear” the content, and we can focus on the form.

10. Read a section at random.

Another way to pull ourselves out of the content is to randomly select a paragraph and examine the form. I’ve caught more typos and minor mistakes this way.

11. Focus on one editing technique at a time.

Either read with a ruler or read backward or read a random section. But don’t try to do all three in one sitting. Pick and choose. And spread it out.

12. Take planned breaks.

I prefer to work in long stretches of focused time, but after a few hours, my brain is tired, and I’m ready to stop editing for the day. So I’ve learned that I can prolong my productivity if I schedule intermittent breaks. For me, I try to walk away from my desk every sixty minutes or so. Even a five-minute break each hour can yield positive results. Oftentimes, my brain continues to mull over my current project while I take a walk outside. When I return to my editing desk, I’m ready to re-engage.

The editing process can be as unique to the writer as her voice and style. <Tweet this!>

So try a few different methods and see what works best for you.


What are your favorite tips for editing?


12 Editing Tips for Writers on the Allume blog today! <Tweet this!>


speaker interview with amena brown

Dear Allume Family,

We’ve posed several questions to our speakers this year to allow you to get to know them better.

We are having such fun learning about them.

Today, it’s our honor to introduce to you the phenomenal Amena Brown.  Amena is one of those people who’s creativity just oozes with the heart of the Father.  Her poetry is beautiful and her performance of spoken word will easily captivate your heart.  Please welcome, Amena!

Amena Owen

What was your favorite food as a kid?
Chocolate chip cookies

What chore do you despise the most?
Washing dishes!

What sound do you love?
A good bass line in a soul, R&B, or hip hop tune

If you could pick anyone as a mentor who would you pick?
Maya Angelou and Black Thought (lead emcee of The Roots)

If gifted an all expenses paid vacation to anywhere where would you pick?
Italy and Ghana. Italy because of the wine, bread, pasta, pastries, history, art. Ghana, because of the food, culture, art, music, and because I would love for my first trip to Africa to be for leisure with a chance to see an urban center, villages and countryside.

What are your 5 favorite books?
On Writing – by Stephen King, The Creative Habit – by Twyla Tharp, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf – by Ntozake Shange, The Gifts of Imperfection – by Brene Brown and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – By Maya Angelou

To learn even more about our friend Amena, visit her at amenabrown.com or better yet, find out if she is near you performing and go see her!

Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Is a Picture Worth a Thousands Words?
A fellow blogger recently asked me:

Is it absolutely necessary to include a photo or graphic with every post?

Graphics are usually a major component of blogging, but they don’t have to be the central focus. I know of some high-volume blogs that don’t use any pictures. People are drawn to these text-only blogs because they enjoy the content.

At the same time, the blogging world is inherently more visual than other types of writing. So the photo-option is really up to the individual blogger and the kind of audience he or she is trying to attract.

When I started blogging, I didn’t bother with pictures. I considered pictures to be superfluous. I was only interested in the writing. Well, in my earnest effort to focus on the writing, I failed to recognize that some readers are naturally drawn to the visual elements. By neglecting to include a picture or a graphic, I was unintentionally neglecting the readers who brightly respond to sight and color.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of a nice photo or two, here and there. Instead of seeing them as “filler,” I now see them as additional agents of communication.

So the use of pictures really depends on two things:

  1. What is the purpose of your blog?
  2. Who is the audience of your blog?

The purpose of my blog has always been to share the light of Christ through the stories He has written in my life. Photographs are not necessary for me to write these stories, but they can enhance the reader’s experience.

An apt picture or graphic can help communicate the message I want to share.

Of course, not every blog is devoted solely to communicating a message. Many blogs simply wish to inspire others. And beauty is inspiring.

What is the purpose of your blog? To communicate? To inspire? Or both?

The great thing about blogging is the fact that there isn’t one correct way to do things. <Tweet this!>

Blogging offers many options. Part of the fun is creating a blog space that’s unique to you.

If you’re drawn to the visual beauty of pictures, then it would be wise to include them. If you’re drawn to the words more than pictures, then create a blog space that works for you.

For some, too many photos could be distracting. For others, not enough photos could be boring.

Most of the time, “like is drawn to like.” In other words, we tend to attract readers who like the same things we like, who enjoy the same kinds of things we enjoy.

If you’re a blogger who would like to experiment more with pictures on your blog, you don’t need one of those crazy expensive cameras with telescope-type lenses either. The camera on your phone works just fine.

Free photo-editing is available online too. Do you want to crop a photo? Add text to it? Or brighten it up a bit? Check out www.picmonkey.com. Upload a photo and try out the different options. It’s an easy way to polish your photos.

Also, last year at Allume the amazing photographer David Molnar taught a session where he shared a lot of the basics of photography. You can check out last year’s session here!

Is a picture really worth a thousand words? It can be. It’s all up to you.

Do you enjoy including pictures with your blog posts?

Do you prefer more text-only kinds of blogs?

All About How You Rock

You rock - Allume

Let’s do something fun today. Let’s celebrate our gifts and talents and what makes us unique as bloggers.

We tend to beat ourselves up for what we don’t do right, don’t accomplish and haven’t  yet achieved.  Sometimes we beat ourselves up so much that we are paralyzed with fear to even take a step. I’m guilty of this very thing.

I have far more things on my to-do list for my blogging than I have actually achieved.  I have unwritten ebooks in my head and widgets to install and posts left half written in my drafts. But today, as I was thinking on these things and starting to get a little depressed, I was reminded that I need to take my thoughts captive.  God knows my limitations and most of these ideals are my own and not pressure that He puts on me.

Let’s allow ourselves to think today about how far we’ve come and what we have learned and achieved.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Let’s praise God for how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. For our uniqueness and the way He weaves our stories together for His glory.

Because the truth is that YOU ROCK! There is no one else exactly like you. No one else has lived your life, walked in your shoes and has truth to tell in the same way that you do.

Your blog? It’s awesome! It’s a reflection of you and that is beautiful. Even if you have things to polish up, look for the beauty where it is right now.  It’s a process and I guarantee you that being grateful for where you are at each step of the way will get you farther than beating yourself up ever did.

Speak kind words to yourself today.  Go ahead.  Tell us something absolutely amazing about you and your blog today!  We can’t wait to hear and celebrate with you!

Creating a Beautiful Writing Space


For weeks I avoided the office in my house where I do most of my writing. I wasn’t really sure why at the time, it just sort of happened. Of course I would force myself to go in there to get certain things done, but the writing girl inside of me felt stuck for some reason.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to write. The words were certainly there. I would write blog posts in my head while feeding my babe at night, and I would jot down ideas in my journal throughout the day as I felt inspired. I even used my dictation app to share some insightful words with my future self.

And one day it hit me…..I didn’t want to spend time in the office because it was UGLY!

When I looked at it that way, it made total sense. You see, I’m a design addict. I love to be surrounded by beauty. It helps my soul rest. And my office? Well, it was a mix of odds and ends that had no purpose, it was by no means hideous, but it was far from warm and inviting. My desktop computer was stuck on a desk in the middle of a space that was drab and boring– and I found that this undermined my ability to relax.

Now, I am certainly not declaring that a perfect space is required for meaningful writing, but if you’re like me…maybe you feel most creative when you’re surrounded by beauty. I know that everyone has a different idea of what qualifies as beautiful. If you crave a personal space that stimulates your creative juices, here are a few tips for that may help your words flow.

Define your space. Your writing space doesn’t need to be a whole office. In fact, you may just write at the dining room table after all of your kiddos are in bed, and that’s great! Use whatever space you have, and transform it into something a bit special. Maybe this means taking a few extra minutes to put away the dishes and put a vase of flowers from your garden just within eye sight. Maybe it means pushing the table closer to the window so you have a little view while writing. The point is, make whatever space you have be a place of rest and beauty.

Make sure to have a comfy seat. Maybe you have a laptop and prefer to snuggle up in a comfy chair, or maybe you prefer to write at a desk. Wherever your booty lands, make sure it’s on a comfortable surface, this will make all the difference when sitting for long periods.

Surround yourself with meaningful pictures or art. If you write about motherhood, maybe you could frame a few pictures of you and your kiddos. Maybe you have a mentor who writes beautiful poetry; why not frame some of her words to inspire creativity when you’re staring off trying to think of just the right way to phase that sentence. Whatever the case, incorporate pieces of art and/or pictures that inspire you.

Put away the phone and turn off the TV.  This one is important. My writing space needs to be clear of the temptation of social media and HGTV. I find that if I have my phone charging right next to me, it inevitably ends up in my hand–and somehow {not really sure how it happens} I end up scrolling through Facebook or some such timesuck. When I deliberately leave the phone out of reach and the TV turned off, that’s when I get my most focused writing done.

Add a few textiles. I don’t know about you, but a comfy blanket and a pretty pillow can really bring a smile to my face. Doesn’t something simple like that just add a little joy to a space? If it is within your budget, maybe think about splurging on a few soft and comfy pieces for your space. Some new bright and airy curtains and a pillow or two might just do the trick. Such pieces may just make you want to stay in your writing  space a little longer.

Organize your space. I know, I know….some of you just aren’t the organized types, and that’s ok. But, I would encourage you to spend some time transforming your space into some semblance of order. When we’re surrounded with things that need our attention (bills, your child’s homework, laundry, the to do list, etc.), that’s when our mind can easily drift off and settle on what else needs to get done. Try your best to keep your writing space free of the “to do’s”.

Add some lighting. Lighting can make a huge difference. For the longest time I was working in a dark space. Once I added some lights, I found that I became more alert and was able to avoid drifting off to sleep during my early morning sessions. For some cheap lighting options, check out your local thrift store; you can usually find some very cool eclectic lamps for really cheap!

Over the winter my man and I spent some time sprucing up our office. We used giftcards we received for Christmas to pour a little bit of life into the space. It made a huge difference. I actually enjoy being in my office now! I actually feel inspired and creative, and I genuinely look forward to being in my office for the first time since moving into our home.

What’s your writing space like? What would you like to change about it if you could?

By: Mandy Scarr

When Someone has Lost a Child Some Things to Do … or Not Do

Grief Quote - CS Lewis


Twenty-two years ago today, I buried my daughter, Amy. Amy had a genetic disorder and lived 4 days. She was born on June 9, 1992, died on the 12th buried on the 16th grave. She is buried in another state and I will not be able to visit her. She isn’t there and I know that, but I still wish I were there to put flowers on her grave. To brush the dirt and grass off of her headstone. To sit quietly for a few minutes in the cemetery with the birds singing and a maybe a lawnmower running in the background.

As I reflect on that time 22 years ago, I know that the experience of losing a child played a large part in making me the person I am today. It was also the hardest thing I have ever endured. Yet, I learned much about myself and others during that time.

One of the things I learned was what is helpful and what is not during a situation such as this. I want to share some things TO do and say or NOT to do and say when ministering to someone who has lost a child.

A disclaimer: I do not profess to know other parent’s feelings. I am only sharing what I know from my own experience; what I have learned from talking with other parents who have lost children – children of various ages, infant to young adults.

  1. DO tell them you are sorry for their loss and you are praying for them and their family.
  2. DO take a meal. We had so much food brought to our home that family members packaged it up and put it in the freezer. After things calmed down and all the out of town family left, it was weeks before we had to cook. We could just pull a meal from the freezer. One less thing to worry about in the days and weeks after she died.
  3. DO be specific when offering to help. Instead of saying, “call me if you need anything.” Say “I’ll come by on Tuesday and clean your bathrooms. Or is there another day that is better?” or “I’ll be by on Monday to cut your grass.” It is rare for people to call and ASK someone to clean their bathroom, but it is even rarer for those grieving to turn down an offer such as this!
  4. DO say the name of the child. Days, weeks and months down the road parents want to know that other people have not forgotten their child. I have a sister-in-law whose birthday is near Amy’s. She usually remembers to send me a text, e-mail or phone call letting me know she remembers.
  5. DO send a card or hand written note. Your note doesn’t have to be fancy, long or eloquently written. Just a note letting the family know you care. I was shocked at the number of sympathy cards we received when Amy died. I went back and read every single card multiple times. Currently, they are bound together and in my closet. They are precious. You may think sending a card is not a big deal. It is. And better yet, send the card or note a week or two or even three weeks after the burial. By that time, out of town family has returned home, the parents may have gone back to work and for those on the outside, things look normal. But, I assure you, in most cases, normal has taken on a new image and receiving a card and knowing someone remembers is comforting.
  6. DO offer to babysit, if appropriate. The parents may be overwhelmed with all the details and having someone help with the other children will, most likely, be well received.
  7. DO remember the grandparents. Not only are the grandparents grieving the loss of a grandchild, they are grieving for their children and the pain they (their grown children) are experiencing.
  8. DO remember the siblings. Two years after Amy died, my oldest brother’s son died and two years later his only daughter died, leaving two young children and leaving my brother with only one son, at that time a young adult in his mid-twenties. A few years after Kathy’s death, my brother’s  only living child got married. It was a joyous occasion. The young lady the son married was the only person that had sent my nephew a sympathy card. The only person to acknowledge HIS grief.
  9. If the child is an infant or young child, do NOT tell the parents they can have another one. The child is not a pair of sunglasses or a vase. One does  not just “replace” a child. Even though Amy only lived 4 days, I carried her for 9 months. I HAVE memories and I HAD dreams. Dreams that died with her. Dreams that slowly slipped away the afternoon she died in my arms.
  10. Do NOT tell the parents they are lucky their child died young. Yes, I had someone tell me this when Amy died. I was lucky that she died young and I hadn’t had time to get attached. Please see number 9 above. I assure you, when you bury your child there is no feeling of good luck involved.
  11. Do NOT tell them that it was part of God’s plan. While I knew that to be true, it was not comforting to me at the time. It took months, a couple of years even, for me to embrace that truth. Parents in the early stages of grief are not ready to hear this. It is Ok to say “we don’t understand God’s ways” or simply, “we don’t understand.”

In closing, one of the things I found to be very helpful for me while I processed my grief and walked that long road with ever-changing landscape was listening to Christian music. There are many songs that are fitting, here is just one: God and Time by Newsong

Have you lost a child or someone close to you? How did you process the loss and deal with your grief?

Adoption: A Partnering Opportunity

Slade Adoption Travel

I have been so incredibly blessed by our surrounding family, online and church community. Many of you may know that we are adopting two girls from Ghana, West Africa. We started the process two years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long already! There was one particular part of the process that kept us stuck for 13 months without movement. It was a very long and hard time.

There was much uncertainty looming on whether we would even be able to bring our girls home. Two weeks ago we finally were granted approval in order to move on to the next step, the final step before we fly out and bring them home. God has taught me a few things during our long wait. I learned the meaning of the verse Proverbs 13:12,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

I was heart sick. Literally, my heart ached. I didn’t even know that was possible until this season of waiting and longing for our family to be together. My husband and I have struggled through the most difficult season in our marriage.

And each week we talk to the girls, their hope has waned as we have continuously put off when we will be back, because we simply did not know. Now we are just weeks away from bringing our family together but we need your help! We are in the final phase of fundraising so we can travel back and bring them home.

We need just $1,317 to complete our fundraising which will pay for the total of $7,500 for all of our plane tickets. Pure Charity has been such a wonderful partner in this. Once the funds are ready, they go directly to our travel agency. All donations made through Pure Charity are tax deductible.

When you give, you aren’t just giving money. You’re investing in the future of two precious girls who long to be with their family. You’re investing in a brand new life for them, with a hope and a future.

There are no gimmicks here. Money is simply a tool we need to use sometimes to make dreams a reality. This is one of those times. Please partner with us and help us bring them home. Click here to make a donation if you’re reading in email and cannot see the donation widget below.

On Stranger Hospitality


Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life


I suppose I’m here as a sort of test case, a run at determining the lengths and depths of hospitality within the Allume community. To the point, I am far from what might be considered the target demographic of Allume, a community which hopes “to minister to the woman, the blogger, the story teller.” More to the point, I am most emphatically not a member of the sorority of womanhood. I am a member of the other sex.

The request to join this community of writing and faith was, I admit, a bit daunting. There were, at last count, twenty writers for the Allume blog, and only one other man (fistbump, Dan King!).   Unafraid of the awkward yes, I decided to jump into this decidedly feminine venue, one with an aesthetic boasting chartreuse, and plum, and frilly hearts. It is true; I come to this community as an outsider.

It is difficult to play the role of the outsider, the differentiated one. We all know this to be true, have all found ourselves on the wrong-track side of money, power, fashion, or sex. And yes, as things go, I suppose I have it easy. A critical analysis of historical exclusion would indicate that being a man in a woman’s conference blog world does not constitute the most dire of “fit” problems.

That being said, it seems, at least to me, that my inclusion at the Allume table (as it were), may stand as a sort of metaphorical reminder. There are strangers among us, those who feel the sting of never quite making it into the inner circle. And perhaps, in an honest moment, you’d admit it–you feel like a stranger too.

Don’t we all have fit problems?

According to dictionary.com, “hospitality,” is “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Did you catch that last word? Strangers. The definition begs an interesting question: if the purpose of hospitality is to create a space of invitation, of welcome, why exercise it only among those whom already feel invited and welcomed? Is the fullest expression of hospitality the invitation of close friends and relatives to a dinner party, or is it something broader?

Jesus taught a broader kind of hospitality, one that favored welcome of the outsider. In Matthew 25, Jesus taught of his triumphant return, praised those who extended warm welcome to God. And how did they extend such a welcome? Jesus taught, “[t]ruly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Jesus was the embodiment of stranger-hospitality, went out of his way to break bread with the outcasts, the tax-collectors and sinners. He was the entertainer of the marginalized, the party-thrower for the little people.

Yes, there are strangers among us, and perhaps I serve as the tangible, awkward reminder of that truth. (And don’t worry, I’ll continue to pop in from time to time as an ever present tangible and awkward reminder.)  But as we push forward to Allume 2014, let’s work to create a culture of stranger-hospitality, to craft places of fit for the outsider. Let’s remember that this is the way of Jesus.

Now… could someone toss me a baseball?!?


Seth Haines is a working stiff who makes his home in the Ozark mountains. He and his wife Amber Haines have four boys and a dog named Lucy. Seth enjoys music, food, fly fishing, and fine sentences. He writes regularly at sethhaines.com, and shares music, art, and quippy thoughts on both Twitter and Facebook.

*Photo by Kulwant Singh, Creative Commons via Flickr.