Musings: September 2018

Tired metaphor though it be, the transformation from chubby caterpillar to seemingly inanimate chrysalis, and then to elegant and dainty flying monarch was new again to me in this late summer season of 2018, because it was new to my tiny grandson.

“Leafy” had no idea that the milkweed he munched in a retired goldfish bowl was anyLeafy different than the succulent salad he had been savoring in the field adjacent to my garden. He went home with the boy who had christened him and for a few days, it was his job to put the creativity of God on display.

Following the dotted lines back to the glory of New Life, to the comprehensive and bone-deep transformation that comes with New Birth, or even to the patient waiting that accompanies a process would be a stretch for a four-year-old spirit, but awe is very much within his grasp. The God who says, “Do it again!” every day to the sun never tires of amazing his children, both big and small.

In the Morin Kitchen

I will save a final jar count until after the beets and carrots have been dug, the dill dried, and the last of the tomatoes have been harvested, but this has been a banner year for preserving the blessings from our garden. Then, in the midst of all this, after 25 years here on this country hill, we are turning our attention toward the kitchen, and the time has come for new cupboards, new flooring, and a whole new look. I can just barely believe it.

On the Blog

Kitchen reno 1

I shared a video over on the Living Our Days Facebook page, celebrating the new wall along with a heads up for some future books scheduled to appear here soon. If it seems to you that everywhere you look there is an announcement about a new book releasing, your perception is accurate–or at least it seems that way to me! Therefore, I shared six book reviews this  month in addition to pulling together a collection of recommended parenting resources for The Redbud Post.

The Perennial Gen featured my review of Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions by Casey Tygrett. AtBecoming Curious: God has equipped our souls for exploration. mid-life and for all our days, the spiritual practice of becoming curious is God’s gift to His people, and He has equipped our souls to take the shape of an explorer into the deep things that will change our way of seeing the world. The question is, are we curious enough to follow Him there?

"Reading literature, more than informing us, forms us." Karen Swallow PriorKaren Swallow Prior has been on my list of voices to pay attention to since I read her excellent bio of Hannah More. Her new book, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Books, analyzes twelve of the books you may have read courtesy of your childhood library or bookmobile and invites you into the ones you missed. In a non-fiction format, Prior employs the most compelling aspects of fiction to take readers to a new level of understanding in their reading life, and this is a great gift because “reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.”

Self-care is definitely a growth point for me, but in In Four Gifts: Seeking Self-care for Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength, April Yamasaki 4 Gifts: 4 Ways to Boost Your Self-Care Quotientopens her own life to self-care scrutiny and examines Scripture’s claims about the abundant life alongside biblical promises of God’s care for those who believingly follow Him.  To my great relief, Yamasaki frames self-care with a bigger vision than manicures and a daily green smoothie, as she encourages readers to receive the gifts that flow from the first great commandment:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  (Mark 12:30)

Marilyn McEntyre is a delightful thinker and writer. I shared Word by Word hereReview of Make a List by Marilyn McEntyre: Your New Life Beyond the To-Do List some time ago, and her latest,  Make a List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts,  elevates list writing to a creative endeavor, a writing exercise that is partly spiritual formation, partly imaginative play, and partly a recording of the music of one’s own soul. Putting the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard, the list maker asks questions, poses possibilities, and frames her desires.

Pastoral Ministry: The Courageous Calling to a Faithful Love12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry successfully dismantles the cool factor that prevails in our view of ministry life. Beginning with the Apostle Paul, who knew well the sting of the lash and the sting of rejection, the record shows that those who have been profoundly used by God “to build the church suffered grinding affliction along the way.” Editors Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson of the Gospel Coalition have provided 21st century believers with a resource to heighten our gratitude for church leaders of the past and our appreciation for those who serve us today.

Conversations about missionaries and missions strategy are commonplace in our A Review of Mapping Church Missions by Sharon R. Hooverhome. We talk about the latest newsletter updates, who’s “home,” and who’s “back on the field.” We wonder about the members of our missionary family when we don’t hear from them, and we puzzle over big picture concerns in an era in which more missionaries are retiring than can possibly be replaced by new recruits. In Mapping Church Missions: A Compass for Ministry Strategy, Sharon Hoover introduces a way of thinking about the genuine challenges of initiating and maintaining a program of global outreach that is in keeping with a biblical view of The Great Commission, while also taking into consideration the uniqueness of each supporting church. Her good work and varied experiences have helped her to produce a road map for intentional missions strategy that will transcend personal interests and agendas.

On the Hill

Maybe this section should be captioned “Over the Hill” because in September, I

I just happen to share a birthday month with these two cuties!
Bam just happens to share a birthday month with her two grandbabies.

left 55 in the rear view mirror, but there’s certainly no time around here for lapsing into maudlin ponderings. The leaves outside my dining room window this afternoon don’t have the sheen they wore in June, but they are still green, and they are still doing their job.

The tiny hand that released the beautifully transformed “Leafy” for his southbound flight was acting in brave faith. Every single cell in his body wanted to hang onto his butterfly friend, to keep him warm for the winter, to enjoy his company. By grace, we are all in a season of letting go in some way or other. My prayer for you (and for me!) in this autumn of gentle warning is that you will have wisdom to know when to let go — and when to hang on for dear life!

Blessings and love to you, 

Image Credit for Pumpkin/Monarch Butterfly/Tiny Boy Hand: Christine Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this post simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field 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.

 

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Musings: August 2018

One true gift of God is the tension of struggle:

challenges that come out of nowhere just when you think the coast is clear;
the demon Comparison that threatens to anchor you always in the Desert of Lack;
besetting sins that cycle and re-cycle in a life that resembles an on-going game of Whack-a-Mole.

Up close, the struggle feels overwhelming, but taking one step back so the light of Truth can fall upon the day’s page, it becomes clear that struggle is evidence of life. Paul knew this in his bones, following up his Romans 7 howl (“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”) with a Romans 8 rallying cry (“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”).

The struggle is not for nothing.
Watching my grandson’s fervent pursuit of the ducks on Damariscotta Lake is a study in futility, for he is still learning that his feathered friends have the secret weapon of flight –which is not available to him. By contrast, the believer’s pursuit of righteousness is supported by every weapon in the Spirit’s arsenal.

Your struggle is exactly fitted to your soul,
your soul to it exactly fitted.

The mark of a sincere following life is struggle, but we do not struggle alone, and we do not struggle in vain.

The World of Words

Five books read and five books reviewed!

 

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Of course there’s always reading going on behind the scenes, and the number of books that have shown up in my mailbox this month tells me that this must be book launch season! I’ve been sharing my meandering through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community over on the Living Our Days Facebook page (which, by the way, passed the 500 followers mark this month, so thank you to everyone who gathers there!).Bonhoeffer Listening

Now I’m moving on to C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, and the edition I’m reading includes an introduction by Walter Hooper, Lewis’s assistant during his final days. He shares biographical insights I have not read elsewhere, and then, of course, Lewis’s incredible essays follow.

Capture

Desiring God very graciously shared an article that I wrote from the gleanings of one of our more challenging seasons of parenting. Based on John 17, it’s a call to prayer for our teens, and a reminder that when parents pray over an open Bible, the words of Scripture wrap themselves around the desires of our hearts and give us the words we don’t have. While you’re there, be sure to take advantage of their many helpful resources.

The Gardening Life

My basement shelves are filling up with shiny jars of spaghetti sauce, pickles, relish, green beans, salsa, and canned tomatoes. Much to the delight of our adorable grandson, we’re growing a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year, and in addition to squirreling away the bounty, it’s been a delight to have plenty to share with family and friends.

Around the Dining Room Table

The youngest son and I have already resumed the daily routine of homeschooling. This will be my last round of algebra and chemistry, and since he’s taking his English at the local community college, someone else will be singing the praises of the Oxford comma with him this year. God has used the rhythms and routines of homeschooling to speak patience into this flibbertigibbet of a soul with the reality that school happens one day, one subject at a time, and the thick textbook that looks so intimidating in September is conquered by showing up and doing the few things required on any given day.

Standing with you in the freedom of the struggle,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this recap post, simply click on the image below, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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. And for these month-end posts, I’m always happy to visit Leigh and Emily! Join me there?

Musings: July 2018

Life Together gets messy.
People stand in our way at the kitchen counter and leave toothpaste in the bathroom sink.
Mired in the muggy heat of July, we mess up each other’s routines and call one another at inconvenient moments.

And yet, the truth is that we need each other.
We need the jolt that sends us careening out of the center of the universe and into another soul’s perspective.

Summer, with all its shipwrecked routines and glorious gatherings around picnic tables and marshmallow fires is the perfect season for reading Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Just in case your eyes are busy elsewhere, I’ll share these favorite quotes, because that’s  what friends do:

 

Reading, Writing, and Rejoicing

 

One unexpected gift of the blogging life has been the warm connection with others who are also writing, and some of them even manage to publish books! It’s a great privilege to help them with launching their books out into the world. Michelle Van Loon’s  Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity explores her thoughts on the pilgrim life while sharing her own story, set against the narrative of wandering found in Scripture. I shared my review here along with my story of “pilgrim-ing in place.”

Chances are if you live in the crucible of ministry, you’ve given some thought to your soul-ish self, and maybe you’ve even felt the danger of losing touch with your real self in the course of a day’s work. This is more than just an academic concern, for the spiritual leader leads from the soul, but it’s easy to lose track of one’s own soul in the care and feeding of the souls of others. Ruth Haley Barton felt the insidious slippage in her own ministry and gathered lessons from the life of Moses as a lifeline back to herself and a vibrant relationship with God. In July, I reviewed the results of her gleanings which have been re-released in the expanded edition of Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry (Transforming Resources).

Reading Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation, I felt Jen Schmidt and the whole (in)courage team nodding and smiling their reassurance that true hospitality is nothing more (and nothing less!) than “an ordinary couple [making] a deliberate decision, intent on getting to know the people around them from more than a polite distance.” (2) In Romans 12:3, the Apostle Paul puts a strong verb in front of the word hospitality when he urges Roman believers who were facing persecution to “pursue hospitality.”

Each chapter of Just Open the Door unpacks a different facet of the hospitable life with words of encouragement and stories lifted from Jen Schmidt’s own parenting, inviting, tail-gating, pot-lucking life. For every “have to” moment in your day, Jen invites you to switch the sentiment to “get to,” as in “Today, I get to change the sheets in the guest room.” A life marked by gratitude opens up the floodgates to all kinds of hospitality. You can read more here.

 

Day to day parenting decision are deeply rooted in timeless truth. #OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton and his wife Frances did not have children, but even so, I found plenty of wisdom to apply to my own parenting life as I pressed into Chapter 7 of Orthodoxy this month. Every decision that we make in the run of our ordinary days has roots in something deeper, or, as Chesterton put it, “There must be something eternal if there is to be anything sudden.” (165) May we find grace to lean into the practical impact of our theological underpinnings even in the day-to-day decisions that govern the way our home functions and they way we shepherd our children’s hearts toward orthodoxy.

Summer Ministry

Packing up the lesson visuals and the juice, the song flash cards and the c.d. player, the prizes and the fake mustaches for our church’s summer children’s outreach, it occurred to me that I can teach a room full of women for at least 45 minutes with nothing but a Bible  and my notes. Children’s ministry is exhausting. Truly. You need all the dogs and all the ponies, and a lot more charisma than lives in this 55-year-old carcass.

But then, God the Holy Spirit is a force to be reckoned with, and so I’m grateful for five days of living the blessing of being a vessel, holding the Truth and pouring it out for our own church kids and for a few who just don’t get it anywhere else.

 

Joel, Rohobot, Sena.jpg

These great teen leaders were a joyful part of the experience, and my prayer for them is that God would continue the great work He has begin in their lives.

God is at work in the humdrum and repetitive tasks we perform. This is the Way of the Cross.Gardening on the Hill

The green rows of growing things draw me like a magnet this time of year. The work inside suffers from neglect, but it will wait, and as hot and dirty as I get out in the garden, it never seems like work to me. Already we are enjoying salads of fresh-picked greens, and there are a dozen jars of dilly beans on my basement shelves. This month, I wrote a piece inspired by the quotidian task of piling rocks into a rusty wheelbarrow and the harvest of blessing that comes from simply showing up to gather stones.

Thank you for meeting here for words about the garden and the rock pile, theLife Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer blessings and the challenges. Thank you for the times when you have been that other “Christian who speaks God’s Word” to me and for letting me do the same for you,

 

 

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books listed in this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The books mentioned in this post have been provided by the publishers to facilitate my reviews, which were, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field 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.

Musings: June 2018

My favorite hoe was a gift from a friend. Its blade is just the right size for scooping up the dirt to support a growing plant or for upending the roots of pesky weeds. While it’s making a difference in the lay of the land and the weed-to-wanted-plant-ratio in my garden, its familiar feel in my hand makes a difference in my attitude toward the task at hand.

In a world where change is inevitable, I want to pay attention to the manner of change that’s at work:

A field becomes a garden.
A jumble of weeds yields to the hoe and a straight row of corn seedlings becomes visible.

Reading Jeremiah’s prophetic words, however, I find a different sort of change:

In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem, and besieged it.  In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the city was penetrated.  (Jeremiah 39:1, 2)

These are the “setting” verses that we hurry through on our way to the action, but there’s a good reason to slow down and notice them, because it is in this manner that a garden returns to being a field and the straight, seeded row succumbs to weeds and is no more.

One day it’s the siege ramps.
Two years later, Jerusalem has a Babylonian zip code.
The people of Israel had stopped using their hoes.

By this same alchemy of slow transformation, I will not be the same person when I harvest my cucumbers as I am today in this season of weeding.
And neither will you.
Let us use our hoes with care.

Summer Reading 

When school takes a vacation and the gardening season begins and the lawn mowing business flourishes, the wheels come off my reading, writing, and studying routines. Things may be a bit erratic over the summer, so I’m hoping to stay in touch via the blog’s Facebook Page.   If you pop over and gave it a like or a follow, you’ll be able to stay on top of content here — along with other thoughts that don’t necessarily make it all the way into a blog post.

June has been a delightful month for reading and writing, and I shared four reviews with readers:

A Leopard Tamed by Eleanor Vandevort is a missionary story in the very best way, because the author was a woman ahead of her time, asking questions few in the golden age of U.S. missions were asking and even fewer wanted to entertain. In my review, I spent some time reflecting on the challenging history of missions here in the United States and the startling truth that even heroes of the faith struggle in their understanding of the ways of God:

“Try, if you can, to fathom Him, to draw His picture with clear, solid lines, to pin Him down. Just when you think you have God in focus, He moves, and the picture blurs.”

A more modern-day missionary story finds Rachel Marie Stone serving in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. As she leaned into the risks of motherhood in a third world country, she also supported women at the beginning of their mothering journeys in her role as doula. Birth is the metaphor that runs throughout Birthing Hope: Giving Fear to the Light as it binds memoir to meditation and bears witness to the journey that has left its mark on the author.

 

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading by Eugene Peterson is an older book, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s a classic work on the importance of spiritual reading in the life of a believer. A full-bodied entering into a text, essentially chewing on it, is the kind of reading that takes time and a lot more thought and focused attention than most of us are currently investing in our spiritual reading, and yet it is the words of Scripture, the sentences and paragraphs and trains of thought through which God has chosen to communicate His holiness, His wisdom, and His love to mankind. I invite you to read more here about God’s intention to speak with clarity to His people through a written Word.

I don’t read many parenting books anymore. Often they come across as “answer books,” and it’s hard not to detect a smug, formulaic success story behind their perky narrative, but I was happy to read and review Kristen Welch’s second parenting book in which she has woven her experience of establishing and operating Mercy House,”a ministry that exists to engage, empower, and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name.” with her realization that the grace of God has placed us in a country with clean running water and a solid infrastructure so that we can share our bounty with others. In Raising World Changers in a Changing World: How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving, she shares the impact that being a World Changer can make upon an entire family.

Fall.Stand.Orthodoxy

The journey through G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy continues with this month’s post focusing on the challenge of living a balanced Christian life when Christianity itself is characterized by wild paradox and “furious opposites.” Chesterton’s thoughts leave so much room for pondering and challenge:

“We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”

And finally, if you want to have your prayer life turned upside down (in a good way), join me in reading through A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul Miller. I haven’t finished it yet, but took a stab here at sharing the best book I’ve ever found on prayer.

Summer Writing

Transition into Hope, G.K. ChestertonIt’s always a joy to write about grace I’m receiving in this middle-aged following life. When God pours it out as a beacon that helps annoyance finds its grumpy way back to gratitude, I’m grateful. When He uses His Word in the jumbled synapses of my brain, at rest in summer afternoon weeding, to shed light on my path or to put His finger on an attitude or action that needs fixing, it’s a gift, and occasionally the lesson finds its way into a blog post here.

My account of Following the Trail Back to Hope was, by far, the post in June that stimulated the most conversation here, and it left me with the thought that I want to do a better job of balancing this kind of writing and thinking with the book reviews that show up at least weekly in these parts.

Exercising

I know.
You’d think that with all the weeding and tending of the garden and the walking that goes with our summer mowing business, I’d be fit and trim, but the reality is that my muscles need strengthening and my metabolism needs a kick start, so I’ve started exercising almost every day. A friend shared the link to Faithful Workouts, and so I’m going to be that kind of friend to you. The videos are free on You Tube, and the tone is encouraging and spiritually uplifting. I actually look forward to working out!

Summer Gatherings

When our third son turned 19 in June, the crew landed here for pulled pork sandwiches and Frito pie. My husband and I both declare that these gatherings are our new favorite thing as we transition into parenting adults who have busy lives elsewhere.

A virtual gathering in June was initiated by an online friend, Jody Lee Collins. After her April visit to the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College (Grand Rapids MI), she came home resolved to champion the voices of women faith writers over the age of 50. She compiled a resource post listing ten of us and sharing our bios and links to our online presence, and it was a great surprise and gift to be included. I’ll share the link  in case you are looking for more inspiration here on the web.

My heartfelt thanks go out to YOU at the end of this month and the beginning of summer for your faithful encouragement here as you have read, shared, and added your words to mine in the comments section. Blessings to you as you apply the hoe of Truth to the weeds and as you are strengthened by Truth for positive change,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books listed in this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

The books mentioned in this post have been provided by the publishers to facilitate my reviews, which were, of course, offered freely and with complete honesty.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field 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.

Musings: May 2018

Every spring, property owners here in Maine cede our rights over to the blackfly population. With their serrated jaws and overwhelming numbers, they swarm by the hundreds, drawn by breath and body heat, and driving even the most determined souls back into the safety of our homes. When my four sons were all small and yearning for the great outdoors after a long winter, I would pile them into the car and drive to a playground in town, just to escape the bloody, itchy, swollen mess the black flies inflict, aided by their buggy-brand of saliva which is both an anticoagulent (so the blood flows freely!) and an anesthetic (so you don’t realize they’re feasting on you!).

Apparently, early settlers here in Maine welcomed spring in spite of the blackflies, because it meant an end to their diet of un-refrigerated bear meat. The first dandelion greens were perfect medicine for the bleeding gums and boredom that accompanied the winter menu. The local lore is that black flies disappear after the first thunderstorm of the season, and, while I’ve never verified that scientifically, I can attest that they are usually still in full swarm mode when we begin planting the garden at the end of May.

On the Hill

Graduation

Our number two son graduated from University of Southern Maine in May, and it was delightful to celebrate that rite of passage with him and his lovely wife.The college guy is home, but working 60-hour weeks at his summer job and taking an on-line class, so it’s a stretch to call this “summer vacation” for him. On the home front, the school year is winding down with year-end concerts and an end in sight for the homeschooling routine. Meanwhile, the lawn-mowing business is booming.

On the Blog

Caregiving, Sandwich generation, Elderly parentsOn the first anniversary of my mum’s passing, I was invited to share my caregiving story at The Perennial Gen. It was so encouraging to hear the experiences of many others as they offered insight and support in the comments there and also here at Living Our Days.

Taming Anxiety over the UnknownAs a Redbud Writer, I contributed an article to the May Redbud Post, and enjoyed interacting with that community around the topic of Taming Anxiety. The truth is that whenever the unexpected happens, I’m thrown against the framework of my theology. Will it hold? Does what I believe about the sovereignty of God accommodate a veering turn that was not anywhere on my road map? With anxiety over the unknown comes a greater need for and reliance upon a sinewy faith in God’s good intentions toward me in this following life.

Resolve: The power of God is at work within my will, but it does not take the place of it.

 

And then, I was grateful to contribute to the daily conversation over at (in)courage with this post about the partnership of obedience that characterizes this following life.

 

Book reviews continue to be a great gathering place in these parts, and it was a delight to feature four books in May:

Katherine Clark’s story began on a routine Friday, volunteering at her son’s school. However, when she rounded the playground equipment in a schoolyard game of tag, one of the children bounded into the air from above and crashed into her head. She landed on the ground, paralyzed from the neck down, and Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope is her memoir of that collision and of her faithful response in the re-telling of it.

The Clarks learned that grief is “the faithful response to loss.” (211) In excerpts from Care Page posts that were written during Katherine’s hospitalization, John Clark (Katherine’s husband) shared the family’s story of laughter and tears. Their grief over all that was lost with the accident was tempered by hope and gratitude, “the sense that God [was] not only near, but that He [was] doing something mighty and altogether lovely in [their] midst.”

 

It was a pleasure to review Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God (Theologians on the Christian Life). Author, Joe Rigney presses into Lewis’s expression of his theology and considers its outworking in life on this planet. While it is true that C.S. Lewis was careful to remind his readers at every opportunity that he was not a biblical scholar nor a theologian, nonetheless, his writing has had an almost unparalleled impact on the way we think and talk about the Christian life. It is at this intersection of theology and practice that Rigney engages with Lewis’s words.

One of my favorite characteristics of Lewis’s thinking and writing is his ability to turn ideas on their heads until they suddenly–and unexpectedly–become very clear. Rigney’s goal in writing is not to explain Lewis so we don’t need to read him, but instead to create an appetite for his work, which he has definitely done in my case by quoting from The Weight of Glory, reminding me of the brand new copy that’s waiting for me on my bookcase.

 

I had been waiting for the release of Leslie Leyland Fields’s new book, a collection of 40 essays written by and for women over 40, and since I’m doing my own personal research on that season, it was a joy to read and to review.

Leslie Leyland Fields has hung a glorious and fitting banner over these years past the mid-point: The Wonder Years! With gathered wisdom,The Wonder Years: 40 Women over 40 on Aging, Faith, Beauty, and Strength shares insight from warrior-women who have lived and loved past the mid-point, offering both a resource and a tribute to women over forty.

 

In Almost Entirely: Poems (Paraclete Poetry) the reader is treated to the process of a woman becoming. As one who is “predisposed by nature to question everything,” (17) poet Jennifer Wallace reconciles her doubts with the presence of a God who is well able to take in hand her persistent wondering. In the process, God shows up in both surprising and ordinary ways, and the reader wins and is blessed by reflections that excavate grief and plumb the depths of disappointment with God and the journey toward peace and hope.

On My Mind

Memorial Day weekend was a busy time here on the hill. Trumpets are in demand, so our youngest participated in two different events, and we all managed to gather for the traditional hamburgers on the grill followed by apple pie. In all the rush, it’s pretty easy to forget the main reason we celebrate patriotic holidays. Even so, I wonder if patriotic holidays might be a great excuse for a little “peace seeking,” a perfect opportunity to fly the flag, sing the songs, and practice a little “irrational optimism.”  G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is still on my night stand, and I shared thoughts here from chapter five on patriotism and “irrational optimism.” When our love for country is formed around a deep belief that God is at work in our circumstances, we are better equipped to look for Him to be at work in our country and in our world.

Patriotism, Pessimism, Church, Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton,

When the family gathered on Memorial Day weekend, we planted all the seeds and set the gardening process in motion for another year. It was an amazing gift to receive so much help this year! My garden is one way that God really demonstrates that He is at work, and I’m looking forward to participating once again in the glorious rhythms of seed time and harvest.

Thank you for the encouragement of your company and the gift of your time here,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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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.

Musings: April 2018

When a committee of five gathered to draft the Declaration of Independence, it was Thomas Jefferson’s pen that framed the colonies’ complaints against England. Then, taking their own quills in hand, his colleagues made 43 changes to the document, and when it was presented to Congress, they made an additional forty-plus edits. Learning that Thomas Jefferson weathered no fewer than 86 alterations to his draft is a lesson to me about the importance of collaborative process. It’s also a warning for me and all writers about the value of holding loosely to our ideas with a mature objectivity so our offerings can be improved upon by editors and others who care enough to give their input.

On the Road

This little historical moment has come courtesy of my visit to the National Archives where a friendly volunteer docent answered our many questions and enhanced our visit with his wealth of knowledge.

With traffic and frequent stops to stretch a St. Bernard’s legs, it’s a good 10-11 hour drive to our friends’ house in Delaware. We were thankful to have that time in the car with our youngest son and his best buddy, and it was fun to listen to an audio book along the way.

Our day trip to D.C. was packed with more sights and sounds than we could properly absorb, but we maintained a pretty relaxed pace for the remainder of our vacation. It’s good to be back home again well-rested, and I was thankful for a week away from Living Our Days so that I could focus on living my days in real life.

On the Blog

Have you ever had the experience of someone calling something out in you that you didn’t know was there? That’s what Kelly Baker did when she invited me to write a post for her site on the topic of time management.  Could I really do that?

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Community among believers is so valuable, and I invite you to visit her place to read the post and also to profit from the great writing and spiritual insights you will find in other posts.

Every Day Habits of Holiness

It was also a pleasure to be on the receiving end of hospitality from Sarah Koontz and the Living By Design community where I shared some thoughts on spiritual disciplines in the context of everyday life. Everyday habits of holiness nurture our faith and remind us that God is, indeed, ever present and always available.

The Crash and Burn of a God-sized DreamIt’s been a joy to be a regular contributor to the God-sized Dreams website, and when this time rolled around the theme was “When Your God-sized Dreams Go Wrong.” With a rueful smile, I shared a crash-and-burn ministry fail that happened early on in my ministry, how it has stayed with me, and what I learned in the aftermath. I hope you’ll pop in over there for a quick read!

With all that virtual gadding about (and a vacation in real life!), there wasn’t much time for book reviews, but I was happy to share three very special books in the month of April:

Amy Simpson noticed early on that the tidy claims of Christianity were not lining up with the reality she was living at home. Suffering from the impact of her mother’s serious and debilitating mental illness, her family was certainly not strolling toward heaven with all their needs met and a smile on their faces. In fact, even though they seemed to be “doing the Christian life” according to all the patterns and prerequisites, their family was always just shy of “normal” and the provision they experienced always just short of enough. Unsatisfied with government cheese and feeling deprived on every level, Amy’s childhood was characterized by unmet longings and the dream of a“normal” life.

At this point, standard issue story-telling practices beg for an ending tied with a bow:  college, marriage, a successful career, and a loving family of her own–all a straight arrow toward deep satisfaction. However, in Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World, the reader is caught up in paradox, for even though many of Amy’s personal and professional goals have been met, she confesses that she still lives “with a kind of unsatisfaction that will not be lifted in this life.”

It was also my privilege and joy to serve on two book launch teams this month!

Jamie Sumner is one of my favorite people in the magical world of blogging. She writes with a blend of intelligent prose and humor that is more a grin than a guffaw, and we frequently exchange eye rolls over the mothering life and fan-girl squeals over C.S. Lewis quotes.

I wish her book had been written 25 years ago because motherhood, for me, started out like a tightrope walk. To keep my balance and maintain my place on the tightly stretched wire, I read all the books, analyzed all the angles, second guessed all the decisions, and the only thing that saved my sanity is that Google had not been invented yet.

I’m still in the process of taking grace for this mothering gig, and one huge encouragement along the way is the shared experiences of others. Jamie Sumner is also a mother who walks on the tightly-wound side, and Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood is a memoir of her mothering journey in which she allows her own story to tell itself, while weaving in fresh re-tellings of the familiar life stories of biblical women.

Then, as a member of the Redbud Writer’s Guild, I’m getting to know a platoon of gifted women who write and serve God in a number of ways. Shelli Hunt Wildman is first a mum and then a writer, and her thoughts on parenting in First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship invite readers into an intentional practice of envisioning the kind of family we want and then, by God’s grace, doing what needs to be done to make that vision become a reality. Fortunately, Shelly is writing from a place of self-awareness that prevents her from sounding off as a “parenting expert.” With honesty about her own shortcomings and failures, she shares her own goal of greater mindfulness with the voice of a fellow-traveler on this bumpy road of parenting.

 On My Nightstand

OrthodoxyG.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy has a permanent spot on my nightstand this year, and is also finding a place in my heart. April’s installment of the on-going discussion centered around the challenge of Chapter 4.  In his pre-Christian life, Chesterton worked to frame a personal philosophy or a “natural religion” (75) that would express his thinking about some of the fundamentals of life.

Imagine his surprise in finding that (1) the essence of all he had “discovered” was already embedded in Christianity; (2) his thinking about the world had been shaped by his reading of fairy tales. If you missed the post, catch it here, and be sure to add your own thoughts to the discussion.

Meaning Orthodoxy

 

One of Madeleine L’Engle’s lesser known works found its way onto my night stand last year, and I’ve been plugging away at it, but a recent bout with a stomach virus helped me to make some real progress. (Hey, lemonade, right?)
Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols in Antarctica and Other Unexpected Places (Wheaton Literary Series) is classic-Madeleine with her insights on faith and practice interspersed with anecdotal accounts from her interesting life. The strange title springs from her visit to Antarctica and her musings on the human tendency to make idols out of the good gifts of God which He grants as icons:  “An icon is something I can look through and get a wider glimpse of God and God’s demands on us than I would otherwise.”

“Whatever is an open door to God is, for me, an icon.” (16)

On the Hill

At Christmas time, I had the urge to take a blogging break, but (very unwisely) let the pile of books on my bureau bully me into persevering through the end of the year. Consequently, I’ve been running and writing on fumes ever since.

Live and learn.

Vacation with family was just what I needed to refuel and then return with new energy. When we returned, the crocuses had made their appearance, and daffodils had sprouted and multiplied as if they had an actual business plan! Spring is slowly making her presence known here in Mid-coast Maine. We’re still a long way from planting the garden, but it’s never too early to start dreaming about those sunflowers and ripe tomatoes.

I’m encouraged these days by the spontaneous words of praise from Jeremiah from his context of imprisonment and national chaos:

 “‘Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.”  (Jeremiah 32:17)

Whatever challenges you are facing today, my prayer for you is that you also are encouraged by God’s ability to do anything and His wisdom in knowing just the right thing to do.

Rejoicing in the Truth,


Many thanks to my friend Abby who created the lovely “April” image and then graciously allowed me to use it here, thereby extending my vacation by the minutes/hours it would have taken me to produce an image for this post.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field 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.

Musings: March 2018

In this month of serial snow storms, it’s been challenging to get into an Easter frame of mind. So often, resurrection is paired with images of new birth and sprouting things, but then, I was reminded amidst all the shoveling, blizzard warnings, and cancellations that resurrection springs forth out of death and THE resurrection was a complete surprise to Jesus’ friends and followers. Be encouraged, then, that God comes to us today in surprising ways:  in the midst of the hopeless mess or the routine of laundry folding or the deep disappointment that feels like a small death.

Hope in God is a confident expectation — not a cross-your-fingers aspiration.

Run! Let's live in power going forward in that sacred knowing.

On the Blog

It’s been a pleasure this month to focus on resurrection with one post of suggested Easter reading followed by another featuring a collection of poems I’ve written for celebrations of the past.

"When you choose anything, you reject everything else." G.K. Chesterton

 

In March, I continued in my conquest of Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton with a post on the consequentiality of our choosing and its impact on our parenting and every area of life.

“Every act of the will is an act of self-limitation” –even if you happen to be the Son of God.

 

 

The reading in March has been varied with two memoirs, a biography, and a work of fiction.

In How to Fix a Broken Record: Thoughts on Vinyl Records, Awkward Correcting the Soundtrack in Your HeadRelationships, and Learning to Be Myself, Amena Brown looks back over her shoulder with humility and gratitude to honor the resiliency and courage of the women who have contributed to her story’s formation:

“My great-grandmother picked cotton
and worked in a tobacco factory
so my grandmother could work at a hospital
so my mom could become a nurse
so I could become a poet.”

As I progressed through Holy in the Moment: Simple Ways to Love God and Enjoy Your LifeI found myself pausing and pondering over shimmering glimpses of wisdom that stand alone in their gracious beckoning toward truth:

“Aim for consistency but walk in grace.”

“You can choose the thoughts you will receive and the ones you will reject.”

“The faith way is to think,”I know my work is taxing, but Christ is my strength.”

“Far more than a doctrine to follow, holiness is a life to enjoy.”

“It’s important to understand that joy is not the absence of pain in circumstances, but rather the presence of God in the midst of them.”

Everyday choices build a life. Mundane moments of loving our kids, cherishing our husbands, and supporting our friends in ten thousand different ways over the course of a lifetime well-lived change us from the inside out. “Loving God whole-heartedly is choosing the life we were made for,” and one day, we discover that God is doing His work through us, and we shine with a glory that is not our own

In Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals, Mark Galli has The Life and Theology of Karl Barthextended a gift to the community of readers in the form of an accessible and balanced look at a well-known and yet inscrutable theologian. Whether we choose to argue that Karl Barth’s theology supported him in poor moral choices or that his theology was terrific and truthful, but he simply failed to live up to its ideals, he is arguably one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the 20th century. His story becomes a cautionary tale for any of us who teach and study Scripture, for we will never live up to all that we know, but may we find grace to live consistently with the remarkable message of the gospel with all its provision for forgiveness.

Can You See Anything Now?In her review of Can You See Anything Now?: A Novel, Jen Pollock Michel reminded her readers that they’re not picking up a work of Amish fiction when they read Katherine James’s debut novel. While it received Christianity Today’s 2018 award for fiction, it is a complicated read that requires believers to assess their willingness to read R-rated language in order to fully enter into a clear picture of the fractured human heart.

In the Snow

Yes, the snow gets its own category this month because it has played a major role in disrupting life on this country hill. Nonetheless, we’ve had some great moments for walking, enjoying the sunshine when it appears, and visiting with family.

Weekly, I have met in the church library with a group of women who take their Bible very seriously, and we are persevering in our study of Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Grace.

The patient husband and I are continuing in our read through of the Bible out loud, and we even had the opportunity to do some teaching together at a Christian Education conference here in Maine.

Thank you for your encouragement that comes in the form of comments and dialogue. So many of you have become on-line friends and I look forward to your insights whenever they come. May your days be filled with meaning because of the gushing “river of resurrection” that flows just beneath the surface–sometimes washing over us when we least expect it!

He is risen indeed!

 

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I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the titles listed in this post simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

And since this is the end of March, I’m joining the party over at Leigh Kramer’s place where bloggers gather for What I’m Into. Come on over for lots of book, podcast, and viewing recommendations.

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 field 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.

Photo by Bryan Rodriguez on Unsplash