A Very Tozer Christmas

My growing-up Christmases were heavy on Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.  Linus’s hushed tones filled me in on the true meaning of Christmas via our first colored t.v., but I wanted that story to take center stage for my own children.  The celebration of Advent has been key for our family in spreading out the teaching, the excitement, the special family activities, and the wonder of the incarnation over the entire month of December.

This year, for our daily Advent devotional, we are gathering around From Heaven, a 28-Day Advent collection compiled from the sermons, books, and editorials of beloved 20th century pastor and writer, A.W. Tozer.  As we light the candles and sing the carols, we will be savoring the familiar story against the backdrop of Tozer’s unique insights:

On the Incarnation

“Nobody has ever seen God, but when Jesus Christ came He showed us what God is like.”

“The Word became flesh . . .What we have here is one of the darkest mysteries of human thought:  How the Deity could cross the wide yawning gulf that separates what is God from what is not God.”

On the Meaning of Christmas

“It does seem strange that so many persons become excited about Christmas and so few stop to inquire into its meaning, but I suppose this odd phenomenon is quite in harmony with our unfortunate human habit of magnifying trivialities and ignoring matters of greatest import.”

On the Gospel

“If the tender yearning is gone from the advent hope today there must be a reason for it:  [we] emphasize the utility of the cross rather than the beauty of the One who died on it. . . What He did for me seems to be more important than what He is to me.”

On Jesus’ Mission

“It could have been very easy for God to have loved us and never told us.  God could have been merciful toward us and never revealed it. . . . The eternal Son came to tell us what the silence never told us. He came to tell us that God cares and God loves and God has a plan and God’s carrying out that plan.”

On Christ’s Second Advent

“We live between two mighty events — that of His incarnation, death, and resurrection, and that of His ultimate appearing and the glorification of those He died to save.  This is the interim time for the saints — but it is not a vacuum.  He has given us much to do, and He asks for our faithfulness.”

Blessings to you at the beginning of this season of advent as we celebrate Jesus’ coming to Earth From Heaven — and as we anticipate “the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory,” (I Peter 1:7,8).

//

This book was provided by Moody Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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November Musings — 2016

4988 — Warm zucchini bread smelling like a cinnamon candle

4989 — Church supper to celebrate our new pastor and our family connection

4990 — Clanging of wind chime in the chill autumn breeze

On the Monday before Thanksgiving Day, I recorded gift number 5,000 in my gratitude journal — confirmed evidence of God’s goodness to me every single day of the past year.  November always seems to mark a collision of holidays, but it’s especially true this year since I spent quite a few hours of the past month working on a new Advent banner (just like ours, of course!) for my oldest son’s family.  I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am that he wants to lead his family in remembering the Greatest Gift Who entered this world in an ordinary moment, in the fullness of time.  We’ll be doing the same thing at our house in December, just as we have for the past twenty plus years . . . such good memories and such promise for the future.

On the Nightstand

I can’t get enough Christmas poetry this time of year, and Luci Shaw’s Accompanied by Angels is a faithful friend.  Poems of the incarnation, these have been collected from Luci’s other books AND from her annual tradition of sending a Christmas poem to family and friends. (What a great idea!)

And even though I’ve finished reading Ann Voskamp’s new book, I keep going back to The Broken Way because of the breaking and the giving away, the timely exhortation to “live given.”

On the Blog

I have been overwhelmed this month by encouraging comments from friends who have read A Legacy of Striving, my reflections on our Sister, Eve.  As usual, I am grateful for the hospitality of the SheLoves community where I was able to share the truth that Eve’s story drives home:

Only God is equipped to be God,
and when I trust Him for the unknown quantities that furrow my brow,
when I say the words, “Your will be done,”
I join hands with Eve in remembering
And in waiting for the plan of God to be fulfilled,
For He will stop at nothing to restore and to reconcile.

Do we need any further evidence of this than the story of Christmas?

The most viewed post in November came out of our collective frustration and angst surrounding the election here in the United States.  As I was bracing myself for the difficult task of going behind the curtain, it occurred to me that my choice of words, attitudes, and responses on the day after the election was over would be even more important than the choices I made in the voting booth.  In the aftermath of the political hurricane, maybe this Prayer for November 9th is still relevant?  Certainly, the Scripture that inspired it will carry us a long way into grace:

“Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us,
Just as we hope in You,”  (Psalm 33:22).

Just for Joy

Is it just my imagination, or is there more music in the world the closer we get to Christmas?  Since September, our family has been practicing to sing in the Living Christmas Tree, so the carols and the beauty of the Word made flesh have been singing their way through these autumn days.  (Yep, that’s me on the right in the next-to-the-top row!)

And thanks to my friend, Susan Shipe, here’s a first for Living Our Days!  We held a drawing for the giveaway of her lovely book, 31 Days in the Gospel of John, to one reader on Thanksgiving Day.  My adorable grandson reached his tiny hand into a blaze orange hunting hat (we are pretty high tech here on this country hill!) and selected . . .  drum roll, please:

Ariel Tohme

Congratulations, Ariel!

I hope many of you will visit Ariel’s writing home, His Grace Goes Deeper, for a blessing in words.

Thank you, Susan, for stirring things up around here, but even more for compiling your reflections on the life of Jesus just in time for Advent, a reminder to 21st-century readers of the Gospels that Jesus is not a two-dimensional Savior, trapped on the page or in the past.  He is alive and active in our day, and a commitment to read about him for 31 days is only the beginning.  God has given us an eternity of days to savor the beauty of Jesus, to turn the Truth over in our minds, and to let it sink deep into our prone-to-wander hearts.

An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”  It’s a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

More details to follow!  Please weigh in below with your thoughts on the discussion group.  Have you read Till We Have Faces?

Thank you once again, friends, for another month of encouragement through our conversations about books and about Truth.  As we begin our celebration of the mercy, the forgiveness, the promise, and the welcome that flow from the birth of our Savior, may our hearts rejoice together in this spectacular evidence of God’s “never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”* 

//

Photo credit for Living Christmas Tree:  Beth Birmingham at Village Soup

* Quote from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ amazing words in The Jesus Bible Storybook.

Be sure to hop on over to Leigh Kramer’s place to check out what she and others have been into and up to during the month of November!  I’m also sharing this post at Emily P. Freeman’s Let’s Share What We Learned Fall 2016.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

Grateful Parents: Grateful Kids

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m taking a blogging break in honor of my favorite holiday, but I hope you’ll be inspired by these words about gratitude and parenting from a book review that I shared some time ago.


Finally, about ten years ago, the light began to dawn, and you can’t imagine how disappointed I was.  I realized that parenting is not a cause and effect proposition.  It’s not a vending machine in which I insert my actions (seizing teachable moments, training in character, consistency in discipline) and then am rewarded by equal and corresponding reactions (obedience, respect, good behavior).

I’m a slow learner, so this was earth-shattering for me, but . . .

Having said that, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch reminds me that if I want my children to appreciate their blessings and to operate out of gratitude rather than entitlement, I had better be modeling the right heart attitude myself.

In the Great Balancing Act called parenting, we are at war against three words:  “Is that all?”  In ourselves, in our kids, Western culture exacerbates our entrenched selfishness in everything from “ice cream servings to allowances.”  “Enough” is never enough.

Kristen is writing from the trenches of raising three kids, and so the tone of Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World is NOT “we have arrived and here’s how your kids can ooze gratitude like our perfect children do.”  She comes alongside her readers with humble offerings:  “Here’s what we’re doing.  Here’s what others have tried, and that’s great, too.”  Kristen’s perspective is derived from the knowledge that parents who are willing to fight against the prevailing culture and for an attitude of thankfulness in their children will feel as if they are swimming upstream.

My oldest son talked early — and often — so I can still hear his husky toddler voice saying, “There’s a difference between a need and a want.”  To me!  Even so, one need that is common to all kids is their parents’ love, and ironically, in our culture of possessions and privileges, it is common to find children who are sadly lacking in that need while every want is speedily fulfilled.

No one sets out with a goal of “spoiling” her children, but little daily choices that arise from incorrect thinking accomplish the task over time.  Kristen unmasks some of these:

  1.  We want our kids to be our friends.
  2.  We’re afraid to say no because of the fallout (slammed doors, tears, eye rolling, shouting).
  3. We feel guilty about our circumstances and try to compensate with permissiveness.
  4. We are busy.  We eat fast food on the way to one of Junior’s three different soccer league practices, take on an extra job to pay for a Disneyland vacation, and don’t have time for the slow work of eyeball to eyeball interaction in which we pass on our values.
  5. We don’t want them to fail, so we make things “easy” for them.
  6. We don’t want them to feel left out, so we cave to the “everyone else” argument.
  7. We don’t want them to be unhappy.

It is not for nothing, then, that Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World provides an end-of-each-chapter assortment of age-related hints for going against the flow.

For parents:

“Put a plan in place.  Decide in advance what you will say ‘yes’ to.”

For toddlers:

“Make cookies together.  You may eat one for your effort, and then give the rest away to brighten someone’s day.  Teach your children that we don’t have to keep everything for ourselves.”

For elementary age:

“Clean out closets and drawers, and instead of giving away only things that they won’t miss, urge your kids to include something they really love to share with someone else.”

For tweens/teens:

“It may seem to your son or daughter as if she’s the only one in her class or he’s the only one in his grade or on this planet who isn’t fitting in or keeping up.  But if we are going to compare ourselves to others, let’s also compare ourselves to kids who live in poverty.”

The award for most practical feature goes to the chapter called “Making Smart Choices about Technology” with its related idea of a cell phone contract.

Central to all this intentionality and hard work is the goal of  introducing kids to the freedom of self-discipline; to the security that comes from seeing parents follow through on their principles; and the self-confidence that can only come to kids who have been allowed to “struggle” a bit and then to solve their own problem before a parent comes swooping in to rob them of the privilege.  We must love our children enough to make the hard choices that lead to a lifestyle of gratitude.

This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishing,  in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Three Thousand Gifts — A Thanksgiving Checkpoint

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

I’m taking a blogging break, but here’s a post from the past about the year I started counting gifts in a gratitude journal . . .


#2967 — The sweet and tart of cranberry bread.

#2968 — Peach colored dawn behind silhouetted branches.

#2969 — Phone call from far-away friends . . .

. . . and so I approach the end of another year of giving thanks, another record of the day-by-day goodness of God in my Gratitude Journal.  Giving thanks is definitely not my default ( My husband just might have called me “Eeyore” a time or two in the past twenty-four years.); however, the discipline and intentionality of naming and numbering three gifts every day is changing my thinking.

It all started in 2012, a year of seismic upheaval in our family — good changes, yes, but huge and life altering:  a graduation, a wedding, a college enrollment.  My bearings were absolutely gone.  Everything that had been obvious and routine up to that point (“How many plates do I put on the table for dinner?”) had suddenly become ponderous and complicated.

Rattling around in my subconscious (from having read a book review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts), was the idea of keeping a list of blessings in order to fight the darkness and to sharpen the focus on God at work in the dailiness of life.  I had not yet read the book, but I was grasping at straws on that mid-August day, because it had become very clear to me that I needed to take myself by the scruff of the neck and turn my eyes toward blessing and away from negativity.  So, there was the phrase, dormant in my brain:  “one thousand gifts.”

I realize now that it’s a good thing I had not yet read the book, because I would have given myself a year to come up with the list of one thousand blessings as the book prescribes.  For me, at that time, desperate measures were required — not just a pace-maker, but a defibrillator for this dead heart that could not find the words of thanksgiving.  Reaching out from the fog, I asked:

“Lord, can you help me to find one thousand things to be thankful for?

With His help, I set my face in that direction, and resolved to name one thousand gifts in time for Thanksgiving Day. With just over ten weeks to do the job,  I would fight the fire of panic and despair with the fire of gratitude.  From that moment, whenever my mind was still and my hands were free, I would write, combing my minutes for evidence of grace and pinning them down with my pen, desperate for evidence of God’s love and goodness in the midst of my chaotic and unhinged days.

#1 — Tomatoes in a basket on the counter

#2 — Birdsong coming through my window

#3 — A noisy house with three boys at home

Car trips in the passenger seat with my driver-in-training yielded:

#348 — Beautiful double rainbow

#349 — Autumn leaves on wet pavement

This was just the medicine my ailing soul required, because slowly it dawned on me that, like the recipients of Paul’s letter to Rome, I had become “futile in my thinking.”  Although  I knew God and had taught others about Him and had introduced Him to my children, I did not glorify him as God when my foolish heart was choosing to focus on fear, negativity, and mourning.

Somewhere around #697 I encountered the words of William Law from A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life:

“If anyone would tell you the shortest and surest way to all happiness, he must tell you to make a rule for yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you.  It is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing.  If you could work miracles, therefore, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit.  It heals and turns all it touches to happiness.”

This was realism and grace to look at the hard things of life, and still to give thanks:

#701 — Tough math lesson in school today

#718 — Friday!  At the end of a hard week

I carried my journal in my purse, and suddenly, I was hot on the trail in a daily scavenger hunt.  Where would God show His goodness next?

When I reached one thousand gifts on November 22 (Thanksgiving Day 2012), I noted the milestone in my planner with  I Timothy 4:4:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with Thanksgiving.

The new little journal I started in 2013 sits quietly on my cookbook shelf above the counter where I stand to prepare meals.  I try to write my three gifts first thing in the morning to set my brain in the right direction at the outset, or, as Jonathan Edwards has said, “to stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, but now, much more, it has become my checkpoint.  As I approach #3,000 in 2014, I will challenge my heart with these questions:

During times of disappointment, am I able to see and count evidence of the grace of God?

Can I communicate a spirit of thanksgiving to those who know me best when the immediate evidence does not support it?

Does saying thank you for small, every day graces serve to heighten my appreciation for them?

By writing the truth in ink, bold, I let God correct my wrong thinking as, together, we name and number His goodness:

#2972 — Three red hens scratching under a green pine

#2973 — Time to write, read, and think

#2974  . . .

As the list goes on, the greatest gift is a renewed awareness of God’s gifts — daily.

Celebration and Lament

The walls had been rebuilt.

The people living in and around the city of Jerusalem had gathered.

Along with the fresh aroma of new lumber from Ezra’s wooden platform and his strong voice ringing out over the hum of the crowd, celebration was in the air! Within the barely-renovated city walls of Jerusalem, there was a party brewing, and it was no token religious observance.

For the first time in a thousand years (Nehemiah 8:17), the Nation of Israel was gearing up for the Feast of Tabernacles. “Booths” — little huts, really -– would be cobbled together from branches and set up on rooftops and in courtyards, and families would live in their booths for seven days to commemorate Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Remember, too, that, although Jerusalem’s protective outer wall had been restored, this is all taking place in a city where many houses had still not been rebuilt, (Nehemiah 7:4).

I’m actually a little jealous when I picture this holiday:

An Annual Camp Out!

Gathering piles of branches with the kids, making a cozy nest inside the booth, and hearing the small voice:

“Tell us again, Mum . . . why are we doing this?”

Then the magic of storytelling under the stars would begin in which history flows from memory into the hearts of another generation — with everything made tangible by the show-and-tell of celebration.

Of course, in the re-telling there would be sadness for Jerusalem was still a city in captivity, its citizens still an oppressed people. Forking over up to 50% of their earnings in taxes to the Persian Empire, they were only just beginning to recover from the exile’s comprehensive shattering of their self-perception as God’s people. They were still in the process of learning their way back into fellowship with God. Governor Nehemiah’s gracious pronouncement to kick-off their feasting was desperately needed:

“Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” —Nehemiah 8:10

And so it is today.

We live with one foot in celebration and the other in lament. Whenever we gather on this planet, it is for an imperfect celebration in which our only hope for joy is to look squarely at the empty seat, at the strained relationships, at the imperfect execution of all our Pinterest-worthy plans. Our only prayer for peace is to own the sadness; to recognize the power that grinding sorrow has over our hearts—and then to throw the door wide open to the feast.

By acknowledging and even embracing lament—an art we have lost here in North America—our celebration can be restored. Our feasting can be deeply sincere, even in a context of deep suffering or deep disappointment.

In the case of Israel, the people had just stood outside for about six hours (yes, stood), “from morning until mid-day,” listening to Ezra as he read aloud to them their saw-tooth record of rebellion. Their tearful response revealed that they were cut deeply with the weight of national failure over the centuries, but Nehemiah’s instructions proclaimed that the time had come for the people to begin, once again, to eat and drink blessing to themselves:

“Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Until Jesus comes, it will be this longing and this feasting that keeps my heart’s sonar trolling for Kingdom shalom. I will lament the family that could have been if not for alcoholism, if not for mental illness and garden-variety selfishness.

But when I grasp warm hands and gaze at the faces around my table, by faith I will celebrate the family that is because of the forgiveness that lubricates our relational gears; because of much-beloved friends who have been grafted in; because of the cords of grace that hold our hearts in joy.

//

This post first appeared in SheLoves Magazine (November 2015).


If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Enjoy Your Preschooler

“You need to stop reading those magazines.”

Once again, the patient husband had come home from work to find me in a puddle of panic over some detail in the life of our firstborn.  Some days I was convinced that I was a failure as a mother; other days I was sure that I had already done irreparable damage to our son’s development — all based on the opinions of the “experts” I was consulting.   (Thanks be to God that there was no internet access in those days!)

Based on that experience, I’m obviously a little suspicious of parenting books.  Everyone seems to have a handy list of guidelines, an opinion about what’s “normal” or “enough,” a foolproof checklist, or a guaranteed plan for successful parenting — often with advice that is contradictory, confusing, or impossible for normal people to follow!  What would happen if parents decided that instead of doing more and enjoying their children less, that they would do less and enjoy their children more?

In The Low-Pressure Guide to Parenting Your Preschooler, Tim Sanford, licensed counselor and member of the Focus on the Family counseling staff, has offered his Big Four, over-arching, low-pressure principles to help young parents shrug off the pressure:

1.  Shrink your job description

The way I understood parenting in my early days was this: (1) Make sure the boy turns out “right;” (2) Do everything perfectly.  (No wonder I was stressed!)  By contrast, Tim’s first rule of parenting preschoolers is:  Relax!  It is the role of mothers and fathers to nurture and to validate their children.  In actual practice, this will look different in every home, but the message children need to hear sounds like this:

  • “You’re good enough!”
  • “You belong in this family!”
  • “I love you!”

Nurturers and validaters (i.e. parents) take time to hold and play with their little people; their voices are gentle and playful; they are focused on enjoying their child rather than rating their own performance or worrying about the “what-ifs” of the future or the stress of fixing their own past and living chained to by-gone resentments.  Naturally, parents who love the gospel will also introduce the sober truth regarding the havoc that sin has wreaked on our relationship with God, along with the off-setting joy that “good enough” is attainable only through the righteousness of Christ.

2.  Make friends with free will.

One of my sons was born with the conviction that life is a multiple choice test — and all the answers are none of the above.  He and I used to lock horns every day over choices.  Many of them needed to be worked out, but honestly?  Some of them could have been avoided if I had been more comfortable with this concept.  It boils down to sound theology:  God made humans to be choosers, and sometimes we make dumb choices.  It is not a parent’s job to make everything in life turn out perfectly, and, as frightening as it is for a parent, it is important that a child be allowed to experience age-appropriate life lessons, and to be given a voice, even as a toddler, in life’s little choices.

3.  Step away from the power struggle.

As a new mum, I think I truly believed that I was responsible for controlling every stray atom in our family’s universe.  Here’s Tim’s wisdom on that:

“Trying to control what you can’t equals HIGH pressure when it comes to parenting.”

“Accepting the truth that you can’t control all you’d like, and focusing on how to best influence, equals LOW-pressure parenting.”

For example, we are responsible to see to it that our children cannot put a paperclip into an electrical outlet.  This we can control.

We are not responsible for the look on our mother-in-law’s face when our son throws a temper tantrum.  This we cannot control.

4.  Reduce the rules.

Rules that are developed ad hoc and on the fly are usually ineffective.  Because they are so critical for keeping safety in and chaos out, it’s important that rules be few, specific, enforceable, relevant, and — most importantly of all — worth the effort!  If a rule is actually keeping safety in and chaos out, then it’s worth the battle.  If it’s not, then it can be relegated to the category of good advice, but not mandatory, (see Big Four Principle #3).

Cynthia Tobias predicts that Low-Pressure Parenting will have this effect: “You can replace worry with joy as you learn to celebrate and delight in the earliest years of your child’s life!”  I wish this book had been among the piles (and piles) of parenting books (and magazines) that I read when my boys were small.  Certainly, I will be passing this gem along to my beautiful daughter-in-law, because Tim Sanford’s parenting advice really comes down to some extremely astute theology:  God is sovereign.  He is bigger than any of the hurts that my grandson will face in his dear little life.  My son and daughter-in-love cannot control every outcome or circumstance of their son’s days, but the relationship they form with him now will have huge sway over the amount of influence they have with him in the future.  So, in these days of parenting their preschooler, I have begun praying for them that they will find grace to do what they can — and NOT what they can’t.

//

This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

 

An Eternity of Days

With a sigh of relief, I glued the last tiny piece of the decoration into place:  a scattering of yellow felt hay secured to the silhouette of a brown felt manger.  I’m craft-challenged, no doubt, but the adorable grandboy is two, and he’s quite ready to start making memories of an Advent tree banner with 24 Christ-focused decorations.  It’s worth breaking out the craft glue again if it leads to another generation spending some time around the dining room table each day in December to celebrate one aspect of Jesus’ identity, one glorious facet of the miracle of incarnation.

Susan Shipe has opened the Gospel of John and winnowed out thirty-one unique profiles of Jesus that remind me of our family Advent tradition.  Of course, even thirty-one days are really not enough to  encompass the character of God the Son, but Susan has the heart of a true seeker who understands that theology is not a tool for explaining God, but rather a ladder, leaned up against the great truths of Scripture to give us a place to stand and wonder.

Susan’s re-telling of the Gospel accounts surrounding Jesus’ life and ministry slow down the narrative flow and lend a creative spark to familiar verses.  For instance, did you ever notice that the story of the woman who was accused of adultery and about to be executed occurs in the same chapter with these familiar verses:

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
(John 8:32, 36)

Truth walked onto the scene and defended that condemned woman and declared her un-condemned.  Truth sent her away free.  Opening the pages of her own story, Susan shares that Jesus has walked into her life bringing with Him that same freedom.

Starting with Jesus as the Lamb of God, we learn that in order for us to be saved, Jesus had to be unsafe, offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the world. Thirty-one Days in the Gospel of John profiles Jesus’ perfect life, His crucifixion, and finally the fist-bumping, post-resurrection breakfast party in which the disciples see Jesus as their Master Chef who serves up breakfast by the sea.  Even better, they realize that He offers the bread of life which will sustain them for the ministry He has for each one of them.

capture

The challenge for 21st century readers of the Gospels is to see Jesus in the pages and then to know that He is not a two-dimensional Savior, trapped on the page or in the past.  He is alive and active in our day, and a commitment to read about him for 31 days is only the beginning.  God has given us an eternity of days to savor the beauty of Jesus, to turn the Truth over in our minds, and to let it sink deep into our prone-to-wander hearts.

Giveaway!capture

Susan Shipe has graciously provided a signed copy of 31 Days in the Gospel of John for one Living Our Days reader.  To be eligible for the drawing, share your favorite story from the life of Jesus in the comments below (or just say, “Hi!”). All those who comment on this blog post will be placed in a drawing for the book.  The giveaway will stay open until Thanksgiving Day and,  the name of the winner will be chosen by . . . you guessed it!  The adorable grand boy!

UPDATE!
Congratulations Ariel of His Grace Goes Deeper!  Your book will be in the mail soon.

//

This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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