Reading as a Way of Life

I never leave the house without a book . . . BUT one busy Wednesday when an unexpected medical appointment pushed an already derailed schedule even further off track, I jumped into the driver’s seat of our car, headed down the bumpy hill of our driveway, and only then realized the horrible truth. In my rush, I had not even thought to grab my book on the way out the door. Time was already in short supply, so there was no turning back. My fate was sealed, so I faced the daunting prospect of a waiting room chair and magazine roulette with as much courage as I could muster.

If you are not a bookish individual, well. . . you’re probably thinking that I have bigger problems than an over-booked Wednesday. However, if you ARE of a book-ish persuasion, then I feel certain that you have just commiserated with me throughout this first paragraph, because you know. When reading is a way of life, there’s always a book somewhere. Packing for vacation becomes a delightful process of choosing the right number, size, and selection of books to fit the space and the time available. Finishing the book of the moment always leads to the joyous question of, “What Should I Read Next?” Anne Bogel has come alongside book lovers with a podcast that seeks to answer that important question, and now there is a book, a collection of essays, uniquely crafted for the bibliophile’s journey through life, coming from a guide who is also a fellow traveler.

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life is the conversation you long to have over tea with a fellow book nerd. It’s the 150-page embodiment of the classic C.S. Lewis friendship filter question: “What? You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”  True to her claim that she “doesn’t get bossy,” Anne poses a number of the great questions of the reading life, shares her own conclusions in a conversational style, and leaves readers free to live their way into their own conclusions as they experience the delights and persevere through the dilemmas of the reading life:

To Find or to Be Found?

While Anne makes reading recommendations to guests on her podcast, she is also a firm believer that “books move in mysterious ways” (29) and may come looking for you at just the right time. Of course, it is also true that for the sincere book lover, planning one’s reading is a huge part of the fun, and suggestions from friends and catalogs and book reviews make this kind of planning possible.  Recommendations from one adult to another should never be delivered as assignments, and Anne warns against the word “should–a dangerous word, a warning sign that we’re crossing an important boundary and veering into book bossiness.”

What’s your opinion? Do you like to find your books or do you prefer to be found by them?

Library or Bookshelves?

The minimalist in me loves my local library. I can read, enjoy, and return without making a dent in the precious space on my bookcases. Some books, however, just have to become part of the collection, and Anne offers suggestions for organizing those book shelves that range from suggested methods (by color? by Dewey Decimal? by Trivial Pursuit Category?) to thoughts on the expendability of dust jackets. Before I started reviewing books for publishers, at least 75% of my reading material came from the library. Now, I read fewer than a dozen library books per year, which makes me a little sad.

Are you a borrower or a buyer?

Do You Read the Extra Stuff?

Anne recalls the season in which she began reading the author’s acknowledgements, discovering whom they thank, in what order, and what they divulge about their writing process. To me this is all a gold mine! In addition, I keep an extra book mark in the footnotes so I can easily turn back and refer to them as they appear in the text. (They are a great source for future reading!)

Do you skip over the introduction, author’s acknowledgement, and footnotes to a book or are they part of the reading experience for you? 

To Re-read or Not to Re-read?

One fall in the early 90’s a friend recommended Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, and it became my go-to read every autumn for years afterward. I picked it up again this fall for a ruminative re-read after a gap of at least ten years and found that the aging process has only heightened my appreciation of the book. Bogel, too, has “found that a good book not only holds up to repeated visits, but improves each time we return to it. Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.'” Because we change, a re-read is hardly ever a static experience.

Do you feel as if there are too many great books in the world to bother re-reading or do you re-visit old books like old friends?

Are You a Book Person?

I’d Rather Be Reading piggybacks on a rich Madeleine L’Engle quote:

“The great thing about getting older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”   

Your present day reading life has been shaped by all the readers you have ever been. This is good news because it means that somehow, in this season of reading lots of Christian non-fiction, my impressions are being enriched by my depressing-Russian-novel-phase, my obsession with Luci Shaw’s poetry, and the year I read nothing but Tolkien.

If you regularly find yourself getting hooked on a story line, if you think about the characters in a book long after you’ve reached the last page (maybe even mentally continuing the story or wondering what those characters are up to), or if you feel as if you know a favorite author well enough to have decided that they could be your friend should you happen to meet them–or that you would be terrified of them–you are probably a book person. For you, reading is more than a hobby or a pastime or a means to an end. Reading is a way of life.

Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Loving the reading life,

Michele 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 I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life,simply click on the title here or 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.

Advertisements

Pastoral Ministry: The Courageous Calling to a Faithful Love

Ministry professionals rarely lead with their weaknesses. We want church leaders with plenty of personality, charisma, and confidence. Missionary letters and reports may dip into Brené Brown vulnerability territory for a paragraph or two, but the overall theme is generally a litany of accomplishments and success stories. The 21st century church largely agrees that blessing and success are the measure of a person’s calling. Of course, we have a pretty way of defining “blessing,” and an even prettier way of judging anyone whose life does not exude the evidences of “blessing.” This is human nature, but it is ironic given the pattern established by apostles who commended one another to “share in suffering as a good solider of Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 2:3) Church history trumpets the stories of saints who chose death over defection or endured unfathomable hardship in carrying out their calling.

Editors Collin Hansen and Jeff Robinson have selected the stories of 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry in an effort to dismantle 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.”

It may surprise readers to learn that renowned preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered from depression or that Jonathan Edwards was ousted from an influential pulpit and spent the remainder of his ministry in the wilderness. John Newton composed Amazing Grace, but he also weathered financial distress and professional pettiness and politics in the pursuit of his calling. It turns out that many of the names we associate with great faith and “success” in ministry were plagued throughout their lives with criticism from their community (often from their own people!), chronic health concerns, or circumstances that were a continual source of mental anguish and despair.

Grueling, Glorious Calling

Historical heroes of the faith ministered in an era of high mortality rates among children, depressing statistics for women in child-bearing years, and the total absence of antibiotics and effective methods of pain relief. Add to this the challenges of ministry life, particularly in cultures where the gospel was not welcome, and it becomes clear that “the surpassing power belongs to God,” and His servants are merely fragile vessels with a powerful message.

Fast forward a century or two, however, and statistics from The Gospel Coalition point to the sobering fact that “pastor suicides climbed 24 percent between 1999 and 2014.” (32) In spite of heightened awareness of mental illness and treatment options among the general population, pastors continue to be reluctant to share their own struggles with depression or doubt.

Pray for Sanctified Courage

Reading the stories of historical figures who loomed larger than life against a backdrop of persecution, jailing, pressure to compromise, and family drama has encouraged me to pray with greater wisdom for present-day ministry leaders. Family challenges may not include a small-pox epidemic, but parenting in the 21st century is not without peril. Add to this the pervasive consumer culture rampant within the church in which Christians “shop” churches for programs, sermons, decor, and a coffee menu that is tailored to their specific preferences, and it’s easy to see why a pastor could become discouraged.

It’s said that Spurgeon’s preaching career resulted in larger church sanctuaries, built to accommodate the crowds he drew. Most ministry leaders will never experience that degree of exposure, and yet we can pray for them to share the truth with holy boldness among the flock God sends to them.  Pastors who love courageously put their hearts at risk in a way that is Christ-like and winsome and yet costly.

Peter, the fisherman turned ministry leader, warned his own flock:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”

He spoke from experience, of course, but suffering in the context of ministry is never wasted, and after reading about the endurance of these 12 men in church history, I can sense my own tiny mustard seed of faith sprouting just a bit more.


Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

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 12 Faithful Men: Portraits of Courageous Endurance in Pastoral Ministry 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.

Thankful for those who have run the race with endurance,

Oh, and if you’re looking for some inspiration from the lives of faithful women, Eric Metaxas has compiled seven biographies of seven women who demonstrate virtues such as vision, perseverance, and faith. You can read my review here. Michelle Derusha has put together an incredible resource highlighting 50 historical women, each of whom was a world changer in her own way. Click here to read more. 

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.

The Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving

It’s the terminal milestone on the parenting journey:

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” III John 4

Even so, there are a good many ways of measuring its achievement. It’s what we aim for and pray for, but how do we know that are children have made the leap from following their parents’ faith to actually “walking in truth” on their own?

Kristen Welch would argue for two measuring sticks:  Gratitude and Generosity. In her first parenting book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes she reminds readers that if we want our children to appreciate their blessings and to operate out of gratitude rather than entitlement, we had better be modeling the right heart attitude ourselves. One of the ways we (and our children) demonstrate our gratitude and our biblical understanding of the role our possessions and our bank accounts play in our lives is by holding them with an open hand.

In Raising World Changers in a Changing World: How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving, she follows up that initial message with stories from her experience in establishing and operating Mercy House, “a ministry that exists to engage, empower, and disciple women around the globe in Jesus’ name.” As her family has traveled to strategic locations, they have seen poverty and suffering first hand, and they have been changed by it. Even as their efforts make small but measurable changes in the world, they are learning the impact that being a World Changer can make upon an entire family as they share their parents with others, welcome visitors into their homes, and give up their rooms for long-term guests who need a place to stay.

The backstory Welch shares is that “the beauty of sacrifice and the joy of giving” can also wear a family thin like an over-used dish rag. Therefore, it’s important to develop family-care strategies, open communication, and healthy boundaries to provide respite and privacy for a family of World Changers.

We Are Where We Are for a Reason

The Welch’s story began with a question, posed by a young Kenyan teen to Kristen’s daughter Madison:

“Why do you think that I was born here in Kenya and you were born in America?”

She might as well have asked, “Why was I chosen for a life of suffering and you for a life of privilege?” Madison’s answer was perfect:  “Maybe I was born in American and you were born here because I’m supposed to help you.”

The point of Mercy House ministries and Kristen Welch’s writing is to float before North American Christians the consequential truth that we are where we are for a reason. (21) God, the Greatest Giver, has strategically placed His people with our spiritual and material abundance to respond to the needs and the suffering of others.

“In economic terms the global North (United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand)–with one quarter of the world’s population–controls four-fifths of the income earned anywhere in the world. Inversely, the global South (every other country)–with three quarters of the world’s population–has access to one-fifth of the world’s income.” (51)

Four Ways to Live Generously

The Welch family has learned how to become a bridge. They straddle continents to connect the resources of the haves to the great and glaring needs of the have-nots. The truth is, however, that every believer can be a bridge right in our own homes, communities, and churches:

  1. See the people around you. This requires more than just observing people; it means stopping to notice them.
  2. Spot the needs in others’ lives.
  3. Scatter kindness by donating a meal, offering childcare, or providing needed transportation.
  4. Start over with number one. When we make this a way of life, it changes everything.  (55)

This practical giving is how we love others well, and Welch ends each chapter with a set of tips for practicing generosity. Some are exceedingly mundane such as hosting house guests and asking kids to give up their rooms or paying it forward at the drive up. Others are more philosophical and poke us in the reasons we do what we do such as letting our kids fail as a natural consequence or giving our time away without complaining.

Another practical feature at the end of each chapter is a set of questions to stimulate World Changing conversations around a dining room table or in the mini-van on the way to band practice. The questions come pre-test-driven as Kristen provided her own children’s answers to queries including:

What do you value most?
How can parents encourage kids to grow?
Why do you think some people have enough food and some people don’t?

The role of a parent who wants to raise World Changers can feel very risky. We want our kids to be happy, comfortable, and safe. However, if we shield them from reality and protect them from life, we train them to live small and to take shortcuts. The providence of God is equal to anything our children encounter as they serve God, and John Piper uses Scriptural stories to back up this line of reasoning:

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” (140)

Raising World Changers in a Changing World is not merely a book for privileged Americans about giving back. It’s a book for the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots about “giving it all.” (163) If we agree with the premise that God has placed us where we are for a reason, the blessings God heaps upon us are not merely to change our own lifestyle. God may be calling you and your family to change a life. He may be calling you to change the world.


Many thanks to Baker Books for providing this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with complete honesty.

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 Raising World Changers in a Changing World: How One Family Discovered the Beauty of Sacrifice and the Joy of Giving or Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes, simply click on the title (or the image) here or 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.

Blessings to you and your World-Changing Family!

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.

Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Life

Published in 1927, My Utmost for His Highest has sold more than 13 million copies and has never been out of print. Over the course of its 90+ year history, it has been translated into 40 different languages, and Oswald Chambers’s unique and timeless wisdom is quoted far and wide.

However, until recently, little thought has been given to the fact that My Utmost was not published until ten years after Chambers’s death, and that it was his wife, Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs Chambers who took on the mammoth task of compiling and editing nearly twenty years’ worth of sermons and lessons. Michelle Ule has traced this process in telling the story of the woman behind the great man:  Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional

“It Is God Who Engineers Circumstances”

Trained as a stenographer, Biddy learned to type as well with the goal of financial stability and the lofty hope of one day becoming the first female secretary to England’s prime minister. While she remained very private about her spiritual life, it’s clear that her spiritual journey began under the ministry of Oswald Chambers’s brother Arthur. At some point after she was baptized, Oswald led a week-long mission at his big brother’s church, representing an early interdenominational para-church organization, the League of Prayer.

To riff on Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a [budding ministry], must be in want of a wife,” and although Chambers did not come seeking, he found, and to frame it with his own words:

“Love is not premeditated, it is spontaneous, i.e., it bursts up in extraordinary ways.”

The “bursting up” was followed by a long distance courtship which evolved into an on-the-road marriage in which Oswald and Biddy crossed the Atlantic and covered the Eastern U.S. as far south as Maryland, as far north as Maine (!), and as far west as Ohio, with Oswald speaking at camp meetings and Biddy faithfully taking shorthand at every venue.

When the newlyweds returned to England, they soon took up residence and took on leadership roles in a Bible Training College started by the League of Prayer.  While Oswald lectured, Biddy served as the school’s superintendent and together they grew into the kind of wisdom that taught them the folly of playing the role of “amateur providence” in other lives and the deep faith that comes with depending upon God for every need to be met.

A man of “perpetual motion” (55), Chambers became a bit of a celebrity in his small circle with everyone wanting a piece of his day. In quietly cherishing his words and in unraveling the administrative nightmares of life together in an educational setting, Biddy began to live her way into a calling of her own in an era when a Christian woman was largely seen as an adornment for the arm of her more influential husband. After the birth of their daughter Kathleen in 1913, summer traveling and school-year activities resumed in full force with a small, blonde curly-haired addition to the ministry team.

“God’s Purpose Is Never Man’s Purpose”

When England entered World War I, the Bible Training College era come to an end, and the Chambers family traveled together to Egypt where Oswald served as a YMCA chaplain. Early in their parenting life, they committed themselves to raising Kathleen themselves and keeping her with them, rather then sending her off to boarding school as was the custom of that day.

Life in Egypt was characterized by a “ministry of interruptions” in which Biddy Biddy Chambers: A Sacramental Lifeand Oswald made themselves available to anyone who needed to hear the Truth. “Washing the disciples’ feet” often meant feeding hordes of service men under challenging circumstances, and, for Biddy, it always meant patiently recording every word of her husband’s many sermons and devotionals. With amazing prescience for this time, Oswald referred to Biddy’s great contribution to their ministry in his letters:

“As for Biddy I love her and I am her husband, but I do not believe it is possible to exaggerate what she has been in the way of a Sacrament out here — God conveying His presence through the common elements of an ordinary life.”

When Oswald passed away in Egypt on November 15, 1917, from complications following a ruptured appendix, God’s Word to Joshua became a comfort to Biddy:

“As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee. I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee . . .Only be strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:5)

Amidst the fires of sorrow, Biddy continued what Oswald had begun and was comforted by the understanding and appreciation of the servicemen she and her husband had served together. One by one, she began producing books and pamphlets taken from her careful notes and publishing them at her own expense, and this became the scaffolding of her life in England when she returned home to a “home” that did not feel like home with a young daughter who had no memory of the family there and who was used to living amidst the bustle of an Army camp.

“Faith is Deliberate Commitment to a Person Where I See No Way.”

Because Chambers had not been employed by the military, Biddy had no pension, and times were lean for her and Kathleen as they moved from one situation to another, always typing, always publishing, and always just short of enough resources to make ends meet. The notion of publishing a daily devotional work that compiled Oswald’s teaching followed on the heels of the enthusiastic response to a devotional calendar Biddy had produced. Thus, it was in October 1927, in the days when Lewis and Tolkien were lunching at the Eagle and Child pub, when Winnie the Pooh was holding court at the London Zoo, in the year that Amy Carmichael’s Dohnavur Fellowship came into being in India, and that someone made the first transatlantic phone call to North America that My Utmost for His Highest was first published in England.

Biddy went on to run a boutique publishing house, editing and launching Oswald’s writings to an enthusiastic readership that still profits from his words — and from her skill and determination. Personally, my appreciation for Chambers’s work has been heightened by this introduction to his wife’s story. Because I learned that Biddy carefully chose the meditations for Oswald’s birthday, their wedding day, and the anniversary of his death, I want to make a notation in my copy to remind me that the message for that day is specifically assigned.  As a single mum who persevered through two world wars and lived all her days under challenging circumstances, Biddy Chambers lived out the title of her husband’s book, offering her utmost in faithfulness and focus for His highest purposes in her own life and in the lives of her readers every day.


This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 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.”

I have begun to experiment with including an Amazon affiliate link here in my book reviews. If you should decide to purchase Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling Devotional click on the title here, 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.

Headings have been quoted from My Utmost for His Highest.

Images are shared from the Michelle Ule’s Pinterest account.

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.

It’s Not About You — And It Never Was!

There’s always a certain amount of eye-rolling that goes on in a household overrun by teens and young adults. My husband and I are amazingly un-cool. His humor is entirely “Dad-jokes.” My questions and observations are overwhelming evidence that I’m over-thinking everything.  But here’s one tiny bit of wisdom that has been passed down without protest, maybe because it is so abundantly clear: “People who are all wrapped up in themselves make pretty small packages.”

Sharon Hodde Miller found the pull of this variety of self-focus to be stronger than gravity, robbing her of her joy and killing her confidence, for no accomplishment was ever stellar enough to overcome the downward pull of comparison; no applause was loud enough to drown out the self-condemnation; no audience was large enough to banish the feeling of invisibility.  What we’re all fighting is a “mirror reflex” (25) in which everything is a reflection of ourselves, leading to the tendency to shape our self-image around people, possessions, and profession and to live in a state of self-focus that will “make everything about you, even when it’s not about you.”

The writer of Hebrews has thrown the window open wide for all of us who live in the stuffy room of self absorption, inviting us to stop running the race distracted, focused on our cute sneakers and flawless form, and to “fix our eyes on the only One who can heal our wounds and set us free.” (35)

Living life as if it is all about me sends me off course in seven very specific ways. Sharon refers to them as “mirrors,” and in our own brokenness, they reflect back an image that has nothing to do with the real world as seen through God’s eyes.

  1. When you make God about you, it’s as if He exists to make you feel better about yourself, to serve you, to make your life easier, and to bring about your kingdom and your will on this earth.  Freedom comes when our life focus becomes the glory of God.
  2. When you make family about you, everything comes back to image management. Your kids, your husband, their accomplishments (or lack of same) either puff you up or deflate your bubble. Here’s the truth: “The purpose of your family is not to make you look good. The purpose of your family is not to make you comfortable. . . The purpose of your family is to love your family and other families. The purpose of your marriage is to love God and the world better than you could have done it alone.” (67, 68)
  3. When you make your appearance about you, it becomes an idol, a demanding tyrant. Preoccupation with appearance drives a wedge between women. The alternative (and healthy) view is “compassion over comparison.” “[O]ur goal is not to be the cutest girl in the room . . .” And on the flip side of this, physical imperfections become opportunities to “relinquish our splendor” in humility and grace. (77, 78)
  4. When you make your possessions about you, your hope is in something that is very temporary and unreliable. Sharon unpacks Paul’s instructions to women about modesty in I Timothy with an emphasis on the cultural context of extravagance — apparently a problem in New Testament days as well! The modesty Paul argued for was a path to decrease their own glory and to exalt God by hoping in Him rather than in wealth.
  5. When you make your friendships about you, you will operate out of a position of perceived rejection and continual loneliness. “Our friendships are for us, but they are not about us. They exist primarily for the glory of God. They point us toward the perfect friendship we have with him, and as long as our friendships remain grounded in that truth, even the broken ones will be swept up into the arc of redemption.” (102) 
  6. When you make your calling about you, you will live in dissatisfaction with the present and may find yourself acting in disobedience to his calling in self-protection or self-promotion. Paul was a man who carried a heavy calling as if it were feathers on the scale because “he wasn’t living for his own glory, so nothing was on the line.” (112)
  7. When you make your church about you, suddenly your preferences have become essentials and your search for the “perfect” church will become a matter of consumerism. Sharon compares church attendance to marriage in that both are intended to grow us and to teach us perseverance — for better or for worse.

With the tendency for self-focus hard-wired into our fallen DNA, it would seem to be an impossible struggle to ever become Free of Me, and yet, there are four broad categories of healthful habits that can put us on the right path:

  • Loving God

  • Loving Others

  • Pouring Out from the Well of Your Gifts and Interests

  • Letting God Plant You and Trusting His Heart

Throughout Scripture’s narrative arc, God points to a redemptive plan in which all things will be redeemed — nothing will be wasted. Freedom comes when we see ourselves as part of God’s bigger story, crucially involved in the advancement of His vision for the world while swallowed up in the freedom and contentment of self-forgetfulness. Free of Me is an invitation to throw off the burden of self-focus and to find worth and belonging within the larger context of an obedient following that is all about Christ, His purposes, and His glory.

//

This book was provided by BakerBooks, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 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.”

free of me2.PNG

Additional resources

Read more of Sharon’s journey at her website, where you will also find her blog and resources related to ministry and leadership.

Jamie Ivey interviewed Sharon on The Happy Hour podcast in which they chatted about the way Sharon met her husband, getting her PhD, supporting women in ministry and cheering others on in their unique giftings.

Sharon also shared her story and her book on Melanie Dale’s podcast, Lighten Up! Besides a sneak peek into the concepts behind Free of Me, Sharon talks about what it’s like to be pregnant and professional, falling asleep in class, and resisting the temptation to become cynical in  ministry roles.

This review is coming just in time to be part of #NotAboutMeNovember, an entire month in which we seek God and seek ways we need to make life more about Jesus and less about us. I’m sharing it here along with a crew of other bloggers who are inspired by the goal of making much of Jesus — and less of ourselves!

//

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.

Living Beyond First Person: How to Really Benefit from Personality Inventories

We were the fun department:  Human Resources. We all had cute accessories and big hair. (Hey, it was the 80’s.)  After the whole department took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, we gathered after work to discuss the results. Our facilitator began by dividing us into two seemingly random groups tasked with the answer to this question:  “What do you do with time?” What we did not know was that she had divided us on the cusp of the final pair of the MBTI’s psychological preferences, the Judging vs. the Perceiving types.  When we came back together to report, we were stunned by the difference, for while the J’s used words like “invest” and “schedule,” the P’s happily listed activities like “watch my soaps” or “do my nails.”

That ten minute exercise opened my eyes to the importance of Reading People well — of understanding what makes me and the important people in my life tick, because we are different in so many different ways.  As a “J,” it would be easy for me to imagine that everyone thinks of time as a vanishing natural resource that must be rationed, apportioned, maximized, guarded, and measured.  In her most helpful book, Anne Bogel reminds me that I would be incorrect.

Using personality inventories to understand her own unique take on the world changed Anne Bogel’s life, so she has shared her five favorite — not in a manner that shouts “Classroom!” or “Laboratory!” but in a tone that says, “Hey, friend, here’s something that has helped me a lot.  Let me fill you in.”  She shares her own story with the goal of making her readers’ experience of self-discovery go more smoothly than her own.

Defining “Personality”

When we look at people through the lens of personality, we’re looking at a person’s foundational character which includes “patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make that person unique.  We’re all inclined to think, feel, and act in particular ways.  Our personalities capture what we’re likely to find relaxing or exciting or pleasurable or tough.”  (LOC 117) While character is malleable and arises out of core beliefs, personality is fairly fixed.  Given this, the five frameworks presented in Reading People are comparable to a good map, for, as we learn the lay of the land, we can begin to live more confidently in a world that goes beyond first person.

The Five Personality Frameworks

  1.  The Five Love Languages

The BEST gift I ever received was a load of bark mulch from my four boys.  They bought it, delivered it, and spread it on all my flower beds.  Can you detect from this that my love language is acts of service?  It turns out that not everyone would be as over-the-moon at the memory of that (perfect) gift, because “we all have a vehicle that needs a certain kind of fuel.” (LOC 979) For others, that fuel is love expressed in quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, or by gifts given and received.  The point of knowing someone’s love language is to bridge the communication gap so that we are expressing love in a way that our favorite people can actually receive.

2.  Keirsey’s Temperaments

In the 1950’s, clinical psychologist David Keirsey developed an outline of four basic temperaments.  Some of us still remember Tim LaHaye’s treatment of this concept from the 70’s (sanguine, melancholy, phlegmatic, and choleric).  Under Keirsey’s framework, our temperament is determined and described in terms of how we use words and how we use tools.  The identification of Artisans, Guardians, Idealists, and Rationals puts on glorious display the truth of C.S. Lewis’s famous quote:

“There are no ordinary people.”

We honor one another’s differences by appreciating and attempting to understand each other — without trying to shoehorn others into our favorite cookie cutter image.

3.  The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Some mother/daughter teams write books together, make quilts, or start family businesses.  Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed a personality inventory together.  Based on the work of Carl Jung, and overlapping in fascinating ways with Keirsey’s temperaments, the MBTI assessment is based on eight psychological preferences that come in pairs:

Introversion (I)/Extroversion (E)
Intuition (N)/Sensing (S)
Thinking (T)/Feeling (F)
Judging (J)/Perceiving (P)

Because the focus is on personal growth, this is a favorite test for colleges and in the workplace. Online assessments are available, and may be a good place to begin,  but looking in further detail at cognitive functions associated with Myers Briggs added depth to my understanding and can also be helpful in clarifying one’s type.

4.  The Clifton StrengthsFinder

In 1998, a group of scientists led by Donald Clifton developed a personality framework based on human strengths.  The tool is available in a book that was published in 2007 (StrenthsFinder 2.0).  Assuming that we are NOT well-rounded, the StrengthsFinder is built around thirty-four “talent themes” which are broken down into four categories:  executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking.  Once we find our strengths, the crucially formative question is:  Are we using them?

5.  The Enneagram

Based on the name for a nine-sided polygon, the Enneagram has been around for centuries and focuses on motivations.  I found that focusing on negative qualities of each of the nine types helped me to identify myself, so brace yourself for a personality framework that is neither warm nor fuzzy.  In fact, a good indication that you’ve nailed your Enneagram type is if you feel vaguely exposed and uncomfortable about it.  There are a number of online assessments, and these will get you started on the basics, but there are wings and arrows and subtypes and enough other details to keep the devoted Ennegram seeker engaged and analyzing for a long time.  However, even a rudimentary understanding of our type can help us in becoming a better version of ourselves.

Making the Most of Your Investigation

One of the main strengths of Reading People is Anne’s practical application of self-knowledge.  We don’t take personality assessments simply for raw data about ourselves, and there are a number of very helpful thoughts about the use of assessments that bubbled to the surface as I read Anne’s thoughts on personality:

  1.  Be honest.  “Aspirational answers won’t do you any good; only true ones will.”  So when taking a personality assessment, don’t waste time giving the response that you “know is right” or that you wish you were.  Report on who you are today.
  2. There is no “best type.”  Remember that we are hard-wired for personality.  Therefore, by God’s design there are delightful qualities to introverts who think deeply and respond to beauty as well as to extroverts who get the party going and are the last to leave. Those who feel loved when they receive gifts are no less worthy of love than those who prefer acts of service or meaningful words.
  3. Your temperament or type is not the boss of you.  Identification of one’s type is not an excuse for living cramped and small.  It does not come with a free pass to say, “This is just how I am. You’ll have to put up with me.”  Instead, self-knowledge is an invitation to develop what Ann calls “an arsenal of coping strategies” (Loc 560) for dealing with situations outside your comfort zone.
  4. Understanding your personality and the tendencies of your loved ones will not eliminate conflict.  However, it will grease the skids in traveling through conflict and make the inevitable friction that comes with life together more manageable and less damaging.

In these days of middle age (on the home front) and angry, opinionated words (in the news), I am drawn to the beautiful humility that comes as a fringe benefit with self-knowledge.  Every day, it is my privilege to choose between a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset.” (LOC 2666)  I can keep plowing my rut deeper and lonelier, or I can beat my plowshare back into a sword of Truth and use it as a pointer toward forgiveness and integral living.

Knowing that God has spoken words of blessing over all the types and temperaments is an invitation to declare a truce in the war against myself and to receive with open hands the gift that is me, and then to turn that gratitude outward in thanksgiving for and acceptance of all the different expressions of God’s creativity.

//

This book was provided by Baker Books 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.”

And . . .

. . . come back Thursday to take a look at the reading schedule for Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry. We’ll begin the discussion here on the following Thursday — September 7.  I’ll be sharing my insights on Chapters 1-3 and will be looking forward to hearing YOUR voice.  If you choose to blog about the book at any time, be sure to share a link in the comments so we can all profit from your detailed analysis of the content.

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.

Martin Luther in His Own Words

Five hundred years ago, the writing and teaching of Martin Luther set in motion within the church a series of reforms that were so widespread and foundational that we still speak of them as The Reformation.  In this anniversary year, much is being written about the lives of the reformers, but direct access to Luther’s commentaries, sermons, and lectures is an irreplaceable part of understanding the truth that triggered such sweeping changes in the way we understand justification by faith, freedom of religion, the nature of salvation, and the wonder of God’s grace.  Based on updated translations by Dr. Jack D. Kilcrease, he and Erwin Lutzer have compiled and edited Martin Luther in His Own Words so that the essential writings of the reformation are available as a resource for study and for inspiration.

The text is arranged around the five solas of the reformation with supporting excerpts from books, catechisms, commentaries, sermons, and lectures that flowed from Luther’s pen:

Sola Fide:  Faith Alone

“A Christian is free lord of all and subject to none;
a Christian is the most dutiful servant of all and subject to everyone.”

From On Christian Liberty

Although Luther did not hold to mind/body dualism, he often used language of “spirit” and “flesh,” and this quote differentiates between the believer’s standing before God and her relationship with others on this planet.  Both statements are rooted in the writing of Paul who “made [himself] a servant to all” while at the same time urged believers to “owe no one anything except to love each other.”

Luther’s Commentary on Galatians further explicates this relationship between faith and works with the stunning conclusion that, while the works of the law do not assist us in salvation, it is only people of faith who are truly “doers of the law.”

Sola Gratia:  Grace Alone

“To fulfill the law means to do its work eagerly, lovingly, and freely, without the constraint of the law; it means to live well and in a manner pleasing to God, as though there were no law or punishment.”

From Preface to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Luther’s translation of the Bible eventually became the standard translation within the German-speaking world (equivalent to our English KJV).   In his introductions to each book, his teaching lived on long after his death, influencing both Tyndale and Wesley in their spiritual development.

In his teaching and his writing, Luther affirmed the role of the law as teacher, but declared its insufficiency to bring about righteousness since it is impossible for humans to consistently obey the law.  The role of the gospel is to pave the way for new life, a work of grace in which Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believing heart.

Sola Scriptura:  Scripture Alone

“The clarity of Scripture is twofold, just as the obscurity is also twofold.  The one is external, placed in the ministry of the Word; the other internal, placed in the understanding of the heart.  If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scripture but he that has the Spirit of God. . . If you speak of he external clearness, nothing at all is left obscure or ambiguous.  But all things that are in the Scriptures are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light and proclaimed to the whole world.”

From The Bondage of the Will

Luther held a high view of Scripture, affirming that, indeed, the  believer can understand what it teaches on a particular subject with careful teaching, and that knowledge of Christ’s saving death on the cross, the central teaching of Scripture, is through the Word and by grace.

Solus Christus: Christ Alone

“The sins of the whole world, past, present, and future, fastened themselves on Christ and condemned him.  But because Christ is God, he had an everlasting and unconquerable righteousness.”

From Commentary on Galatians:  Christ Took Our Sin

Death of the sinless Christ earned justification for those who believe.  Luther’s Christology differed from medieval theologians who were unwilling to accept Paul’s teaching that Christ’s work on our behalf was a sin-bearing work rather than merely a “superior moral behavior.”    He argued that if we do not believe our sins have been laid on Christ, “then it is up to us to bear them.”

Soli Deo Gloria:  Glory to God Alone

But let this be said . . . that we are to trust in God alone and look to him and expect from him nothing but good, as from one who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health, protection, peace, and all necessaries of both temporal and eternal things . . . as an eternal fountain that gushes forth abundantly nothing but what is good and from which flows forth all that is and is called ‘good.'”

From The Large Catechism

When Luther and his colleagues discovered through visitations to country parishes that the state of Christian belief and practice were far from orthodox, he began writing summaries of basic Christian beliefs — not to replace the Bible, but to facilitate study of the Bible and worship with understanding of who God is and all that He has done.

Kilcrease and Lutzer provide just the right amount of editorial input and background material, and then allow the words of Luther to stand on their own.  Looking through the cultural lens of 2017, Luther’s quest for salvation and earnest pursuit of truth stands out in startling relief against our backdrop of spiritual malaise and cultural assimilation.  Thanks be to God that the realities trumpeted by Luther and his colleagues assure us that it is possible even today to embrace a livelier faith and that those who believingly follow Jesus Christ are privileged  and compelled to be among those who are always growing, always striving for clarity of belief and faithfulness in practice.  Because of the work of Christ and the revealed truth of God’s Word, by grace and through faith, we are always reforming — to the glory of God.

//

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 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.”

Michelle DeRusha has written a biographical account of Martin Luther’s life through the lens of his marriage to Katharina von Bora.  Click here to read my review of Katharina and Martin Luther:  The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk.

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.