Reclaiming Our Pilgrim Identity

I did not set out to live at the same address for 25 years, and, technically, I suppose my deep roots in this country hill may disqualify me from reviewing a book entitled Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity.  At the outset, I actually thought I had been born to wander, having purchased my first one way plane ticket at age 17 with no intention of ever returning to Maine.

Life does have a way of handing us gifts we didn’t expect, and for me, the gift has been rootedness. For the past 25 years, the only time I’ve changed mail boxes is when the snow plow has wiped ours out and sent it flying into the ditch. However, having read Michelle Van Loon’s thoughts on the pilgrim life, I have found that there are those who “pilgrim in place.” (135) This is good news to me, because I know from experience that it is possible to choose to stay in one church for two decades because staying put is more difficult than cutting and running. I have borne witness to the gritty process of knowing and being known by people who remember most of my faults and failings, but love me anyway.

Looking for Me in All the Wrong Places

Even when staying put, the pilgrim at heart acknowledges that the Christian life is one of exile. Post-Eden, humanity has lived uprooted. The people of Israel in Old Testament times were formed by wandering and displacement. The New Testament church grew because the hot breath of persecution blew them like milkweed over the field of the world. Contrary by nature, Christians have become experts at finding ways to live opposed to this part of our history, either by leaning into safer narratives and getting stuck or by turning the pilgrimage into a self-centered pleasure jaunt.

Van Loon describes a tourist mentality as a “slogan-based approach to faith.” (39) When we fold aspects of the American Dream in with a pinch of entitlement and a dab of self-focused ambition, we have dropped our pilgrim’s staff and re-defined the following life.

The Gentle Slope, Soft Underfoot

C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape described the safest path to hell as a gradual one with a “gentle slope, soft underfoot without sudden turnings,” and perhaps this is also the best description of how easy it is to fall into the life of the “Settler” —  without even realizing it. While we crave contentment and were created with a longing to live in safety and security, the Apostle Paul describes a form of contentment alien to most of us in 2018 with our desires continually spurred on by affluence and Amazon Prime. This godly contentment says “enough”  regarding material things, while also keeping the believer in a state of discontentment that will not be assuaged on this planet.

“Godly contentment makes pilgrims out of us.”  (55)

The pilgrim life is lived in moment-by-moment obedience, praying like breathing, and assiduously avoiding the diversions offered by formulaic living. This is best done in community, but with the caveat that “formulas may work in math class, but real life in a rebel world is rarely that simple.” (152)

From the moment of new birth, the believer is drawn into the wandering life that is imprinted upon our spiritual DNA. As we follow the invitation to come and be loved by the God who promises to meet us at every point until the end of our following road, we find that the home we have always longed for is not a destination, but a Person, and can be captured by this question:  “Are we moving toward God or wandering away from him?” (26)

Many thanks to Moody Publishers 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 If you should decide to purchase Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity 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.

One more thought:  Author Michelle Van Loon has teamed up with Amanda Cleary Eastep to curate a lovely gathering place called The Perennial Gen. In a community of Christian women and men in the second half of life, they tackle issues pertinent to midlife via the wise, curious voices of thoughtful Christian writers in their second adulthood. If this sounds like you, be sure to hop on over for an encouraging read.

Thanks for reading, and may you find yourself wandering in all the best ways,

Mailbox photo by Mikaela Wiedenhoff on Unsplash

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The Missionary Experience: A Path of Faith in the Midst of Paradox

Starting in the book of Acts, the history of missions is characterized by controversy. It may have begun when Paul and company set out with freshly-minted instructions from the Jerusalem Council, defining the parameters of the message they were sharing. It was certainly evident when the citizens of Lystra decided to fold Paul and Barnabas into their eclectic assortment of deities–and then to take up stones against them. And remember the story of New Testament heroes of the faith clashing over personnel issues and going their separate ways for a season? Throughout history, according to His own counsel and sovereign wisdom, God has chosen to put the transmission of the Gospel into the hands of His fallen and often short-sighted children, and the effects of that have made for some fascinating reading.

A Train-Wreck of Two Cultures Colliding

Over fifty years ago, Eleanor Vandevort came home from South Sudan in the wake of political unrest. Her thirteen years of language acquisition, Bible translation, literacy work, and relationship building were cut short with no certainty as to their effect or ultimate impact. When she set down the account of her struggle and her achievements in A Leopard Tamed, she 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.

Vandevort’s narrative centers around her work among the Nuer, a remote and primitive culture eking out a living on dry, flat, hard-packed land bordering on the Sobat River in South Sudan. She was fortunate, early on, to connect with Kuac (pronounced /kwich/, rhyming with quite), a young man who had been educated at the mission-sponsored village school and was, therefore, a valuable informant for learning the language and reducing it to print.

What followed from Kuac’s conversion, subsequent education, and eventual call to pastor the church in Nasir is a glorious triumph of light over darkness–and it is also the story of a train wreck of two cultures colliding in one frail human soul. With vivid descriptions of the Nuer way of life, this 50th anniversary edition transported me to a land of unique beauty alongside unimaginable hardship and hopelessness.

As Eleanor learned to respect and collaborate with national believers who did not share her affinity for logic, efficiency, or planning, she also gained a sharper image of God in the context of heathenism, for He has made it clear that He loves the entire world, even the parts a North American Christian cannot comprehend:

“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.” (11)

A Bridge that Spanned Two Cultures

In 1949, at the tender age of 24, Eleanor Vandevort embarked upon her career as a Bible translator, joining the ranks of Wheaton College classmate Elisabeth Elliot and her peers who put their hands to the plow with no thought of turning back. It was an era in which the boundary between Christian culture and Western culture was decidedly blurred, so Vandevort was nonplussed to find that she had arrived in Africa bearing a message that would meet a need the Nuer did not even know existed.

With Kuac’s help, Eleanor slowly acquired a working command of the language with its fourteen vowels, three levels of tone, and absolutely no Christian jargon. Learning her way into those speech patterns helped in building the bridge that spanned the two cultures. However, observations throughout the book reveal a growing awareness that along with the Gospel, she and her fellow missionaries were sharing a full menu of lesser messages, some merely lamentable and others disastrous:

  • “I was incredulous that after fifty years of missionary work among these people, there was no striking hunger on the villager’s part to hear the Gospel. I wondered where the people were who reportedly were crying out for the Word of God.” (34)
  • “As far as I could ever tell, Christian behavior patterns were outlined by the missionaries and were not born out of the Africans’ own experience with God.” (22)
  • “It was painful and disappointing to be making friends with people for whom my ideas were nonsense. The more I came to know them, the more I realized the barrier of taboos between us. But my disappointment went deeper. It stemmed from the fact that God was not shining in the darkness as I had prayed and hoped for and expected.” (39)
  • “Is my scientific orientation to life, which has removed me from the constant threat of death, the factor which stabilizes my faith? Or, in that I need not fear God physically as the heathen do, has this freedom set me adrift from God, missing Him altogether?” (46)
  • “How does a person decide that he’s not going to be afraid of death?” (83)
  • “The many problems of translation exploded my theories of Bible translating, and precluded the possibility of producing an exact and therefore inerrant–as Evangelicals used the term–translation of the Scriptures. (95)
  • “We did not foresee that our things would become more important to the people than our Gospel, that they would want them. No one was to be blamed for this, but as it was turning out, were we not becoming more of a stumbling block than a help to the people?” (187)

Leaving the Results in God’s Hands

As a young missionary, Eleanor Vandevort began to realize that the methods she had inherited from her forebears were an imposition upon the culture. From the tone of voice used when speaking aloud in prayer to the denominational distinctives around church government, Christianity and its trappings became an ill-fitting garment in a world that required Christians to address issues such as polygamy, marriage to the dead, animal sacrifice, and grisly coming-of-age ceremonies.

The prevailing idea among Presbyterian missionaries was that “what was good for Calvin was certainly good for the south Sudan.” Within a context of very isolated and individualized people groups, the concept of “a congregation” was strange enough, but then they must “call” a pastor and provide for him. “It would hardly have occurred to the people to pay a man just for talking about God. . . In that as Christians they were now to believe that God works by the faith of His people, it would seem likely that they would wonder at having to pay a pastor at all.” (82) Then, they must submit to the leadership of the Presbytery with decisions handed down from the UPC of the USA.

Nearing the end of her time in South Sudan, it was evident to Eleanor that Kuac was floundering in his role as “Pastor Moses.” (Upon ordination, national pastors took on a biblical name which, in Kuac’s situation, was never adopted by his people because it was unpronounceable and meaningless to them.) With the introduction of a money-based economy and the acquired need for clothing, furniture, blankets, soap, and utensils, Kuac was under pressure to become something for which there was no precedent in his experience or in his history. When the mission withdrew their support and yet continued to expect Pastor Moses to pay the expense of travel to official church meetings, it became clear that the white man was dictating “what was to be done from behind the Bible without having to submit to the discipline involved himself.”

Therefore, when Eleanor received word from the Commandant of Police in December of 1962 that she was no longer welcome in South Sudan, she wondered, with a sinking heart, what would become of her translation work and of the ministry. The Arab military government had already imprisoned Kuac numerous times in an effort to stamp out Christianity through fear. Like Elisabeth Elliot in These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?she was called upon to leave in God’s hands the results (or lack of same!) of any work to which He had called her.

To Know, to Believe, and to Understand

From her home and new career in the United States, Eleanor heard of war coming to the Sudan, and then coming again.  Her story challenges many of our western assumptions about missions, while underscoring the sovereignty of God. He is free to work in a nation –or in a young, white, and slightly perplexed former missionary–in any way He deems fitting. As believers who are committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, let us also read and love God’s words to Isaiah, setting forth the purpose of our witness on this planet:

“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.”  (Isaiah 43:10)

In our witnessing and serving, the path of God may cut through mystery and paradox. Sometimes the greatest test of faith is to know, believe, and understand the power and presence of God, even when the evidence we receive is not what we had expected.

Many thanks to Hendrickson  Publishers 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 If you should decide to purchase A Leopard Tamed or These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge?, 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.

I appreciate your joining me today in thinking through the conflicts and the joys of the missionary experience,

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.

8 Blessings of the Unsatisfied Life

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.”

If this is (secretly) your experience as well, find companionship with the writer of Ecclesiastes and take hope from these words from the author:

“Jesus doesn’t fulfill all our longings in this life. Instead, he offers us his peace. Jesus does not remove us from the fog of death and the ongoing consequences of human rebellion against God. He does not give us a ‘get out of suffering free’ card.” (4)

The moments of satisfaction we experience on this planet are transient at best. Here, we live in the tension of embracing the blessing of an unsatisfied life in which contentment lives alongside longing, and where we rest and rejoice in the given without succumbing to a Pollyanna-ish form of optimism.

Living unsatisfied is acres and acres apart from living dissatisfied, for nothing is ever acceptable to the chronically discontented soul. “Dissatisfaction is an active–sometimes even purposeful–absence, rejection, or refusal of satisfaction in a context where satisfaction is expected. It breeds discontentment, contempt, and a feeling of emptiness. And it is miserable.”  By contrast, an unsatisfied life combines acceptance with anticipation in an “embrace of the God-shaped vacuum in us, . . . a healthy hunger that is content to wait for the feast.” (41)

With this mindset, Amy Simpson shares 8 blessings that accompany the unsatisfied life:

1.  The Blessing of Need

Unsatisfaction is a reminder that we need God. No matter how gifted or “together” I am, my self-sufficiency is insufficient for living Christ-like and for managing the disappointments that come. Moses knew it and tried to warn the nation of Israel:

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied,then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…”

2.  The Blessing of Perspective

If I can be satisfied by clicking “Add to Cart,” I will not go looking for answers beyond my next purchase. However, living in an awareness that there is NOTHING (even on Amazon!) that will slake my cravings and fill my emptiness, my ears are open to the voice of God, and my heart is looking for answers in the intangible Truth of Scripture.

3.  The Blessing of God’s Heartbeat

My longing heart is the puzzle piece that will connect with the big picture of God’s family and with humanity at large, a collection of longing people, all with their own disconnected edges. When I stop longing for a better world and miss the needs of others, I’m a corner piece, hanging off the edge of the picture and missing the truth of God’s great love and HIS ache for the disconnected and the hurting.

4.  The Blessing of Focus

If you’ve heard the plaintive refrain of U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” and identified with the serial disappointment of chasing after the visible and the temporal, you know the importance of turning our eyes toward the unseen–“for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 

5.  The Blessing of Company

My  husband and I have tried to portray this truth to our kids with the old adage: “People who are all wrapped up in themselves make a pretty small package.” And it’s obvious:  if I’m satisfied with my own company and that of a few safe others, I’ll never venture into the unknown. Living unsatisfied pushes me into community.

6.  The Blessing of Growth

Back in the 90’s my co-workers and I rolled our eyes at employee meetings that were basically pep rallies for the latest Continuous Product Quality Improvement initiative. As annoying as institutional rah-rah-rah can be, the notion of continuous improvement is a line from the playbook of Scripture and the unsatisfied life of the Apostle Paul: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

7.  The Blessing of Vision

Amy recalls a joint project in which her own predominantly white church partnered with a predominantly African American church with both congregations enjoying “fellowship” staked out on opposite sides of a cafeteria. She remembers thinking that this was unnatural and wrong . . . but inertia won out and she stayed in her seat instead of reaching out and mingling. I want to be unsatisfied with “as is” so that I will keep dreaming about how things could be.

8.  The Blessing of Anticipation

Every once in a while my boys will ask with a sleepy voice, “What’s for breakfast tomorrow, Mum?” I’ve stopped asking them why they want to know, because I remember from past experience:  they want to know what they have to look forward to in the morning, and when you’re a teen boy, food is a pretty big deal. Anticipation is risky, but if I remain immune to the sadness of loss that comes with death or if I fail to enter into the reality of God’s promises, still pending fulfillment, I may fall prey to the short-sighted notion that redemption is limited to what my eyes can detect today and that this temporary world is my real home.

Sustainable Faith Is Expectantly Unsatisfied

The Sermon on the Mount, with its pronouncement of blessing upon the most unlikely of people, lands like an indictment on the ears of those who prefer to thrive on their own terms. Sometimes it’s easier for us to lower our expectations and to live disappointed and without hope than it is for us to embrace an uncomfortable hope. The truth is, however, that the only sustainable Christian life is one in which we give up the chase, embrace delayed gratification, and lean into the blessings of living unsatisfied.

Many thanks to IVP Books for providing a copy of this book for my review which is, of course, freely and honestly given.

Additional Resources

Amy Simpson was featured on one of my favorite podcasts, the February 15 edition of Quick to Listen. Click here to listen as she answers questions about her book and about issues surrounding mental illness and the church’s response.

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 If you should decide to purchase,  Blessed Are the Unsatisfied: Finding Spiritual Freedom in an Imperfect World simply 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.

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.

Every blessing,

Tired of Taking Sides?

“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call, ‘Christianity And.’  If they  must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference.  Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring.”                     Screwtape

In Part One of Jesus Outside the Lines, Scott Sauls counteracts Screwtape’s advice from the pit.  To walk with Jesus outside the lines of my political leanings or my hobby-horse-of-the-week is to embrace the notion that not everyone in Heaven will look like or agree with me.  (One of the reasons I listen to NPR is that every now and then I need to hear people say things that I disagree with.  I’m practicing for heaven!)  Sauls helps us to see that the Christian’s “uttermost foundation of stone” is Christ — not our political hot-buttons, our worship preferences, or our tax bracket.  Therefore, “we should feel [most] at home with people who share our faith . . .”  Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and many Christians prefer the company of unbelievers, simply because they are “tired of taking sides.”  God intends for His people to need and to be needed by a body of believers.   Sauls exposes the church’s faulty thinking about money with the truth that it is not wealth but discontentment that is the true evil of our day.  In fact, in all our heated discussions as believers, it would seem that the fire blazes most destructively when we lose sight of the truth that the most beautiful thing in the world to Jesus is people.

In Part Two, Sauls casts his net wider to address the Yin and the Yang of dilemmas that have been argued since Jesus walked this broken ground.  Sauls pulls back the curtain on his own Pharisaism, insecurities, and disappointments, yielding a powerful collection of essays on the Christian life in relation to:

  1. Criticism – The fact that Jesus affirmed both His followers and His non-followers opens the door for present-day Christ-followers to “affirm expressions of truth, beauty, and goodness wherever [we] find them.”
  2. Judgment – The holiness of God requires a realistic look at humanity’s hopeless depravity, and yet, for the Christian, Judgment Day has been absorbed by Christ.  Wanting this freedom for others is the best motivation for evangelism, and Moses sums it up beautifully in Exodus 20:20:  Fear God so that you will not have to be afraid of Him.
  3. Hypocrisy – Yeah, it’s true.  Gandhi and all the others who complain about the hypocrites in church are telling it like it is.  In the words of Anne Lamott, we’re all “very crazy and very damaged,” but the transformation that Christ makes in a life puts the believer on a path toward demonstrating the loveliness of Jesus.  The more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we will become; and, consequently, the more faithfully we will walk His path.
  4. Sexuality – Succinctly, Sauls interprets the whole of Scripture to say that “God is in favor of sexual freedom.”  However, our “culture of casual sex has led to outcomes that are anything but casual.”  Sauls shares heart-rending conversations he has had with believers who struggle with same-sex attraction, and his conclusions are both biblical and compassionate.
  5. Suffering – Christ Himself wept and raged over the suffering and loss on planet Earth.  The knowledge that all will be put to right by “the Resurrection and the Life” when Sam Gamgee is proved right and everything sad does come untrue, is a call for the believer to fight against suffering and injustice in this present age.  Hope and realism are both appropriate responses to life on a fallen planet.
  6. Self-esteem – Competitive, narcissistic humans express our brokenness in our misplaced hunger for approval.  The Bible offers humility as an antidote to our self-absorption along with the fact that “you’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.”

A theme that runs like a fresh-water stream through Jesus Outside the Lines is the truth that Jesus managed to defy all the labels imposed by the religious elite in His day, and He continues to elude our “definitions” today.  Jesus Outside the Lines is a challenge to look for Jesus outside the boundaries and an invitation to join Him there.

This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

The Edges of His Ways

Not a Chance — God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason by R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison:  A Book Review

R.C. Sproul has not written a small-minded, fear-mongering diatribe against science.  His purpose in Not a Chance is to point out the precipitous slide into fiction that occurs when the brilliant minds that discover and describe the unseen workings of God’s creation attempt to make a side step into the realm of philosophy.

Typically, the debate about origins revolves around the controversy of how the universe bridged the gap between “nothing” and “something.”  Intelligent design advocates argue from Scripture that God spoke everything into being.  The burden of coming up with matter (or energy) of any kind with no Prime Mover places the atheist in contradiction with the laws of his own scientific method:

(1) ex nihil, nihil fit  — “out of nothing, nothing comes”;

(2) the law of noncontradiction  — for something to, essentially, create itself, it must be and not be at the same time;

(3) the impossibility of the contrary — if A is, non-A cannot also be at the same time and in the same relationship.

Sproul’s argument necessitates the clarification of the complexities of speech, causality, what it means to know, and what it means to be.  He includes in this section a most helpful description of essence and persona as they relate to the doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation.

Since it seemed to R.C. Sproul that chance has been, over time, ascribed the dignity of causality in scientific musings, he invited Keith Mathison to close this updated edition of the book with a final dialectic chapter addressing scientific and philosophical arguments which have come to light in the ten years since the initial publication of Not a Chance.  Even if the reader is, like me, a died-in-the-wool creationist and impatient with all the verbal gymnastics of those who would strain logic in order to strain-out a Creator, there is food for the soul and for the mind in Not a Chance.  Most of the science discussed in the book had not found its way into the average high school physics class thirty years ago, and there is much to be gained from reading Sproul’s history of quantum theory and his descriptions of dark matter, virtual particles, and the working hypothesis of dark energy.  Not a Chance presents strong and compelling arguments which should be of interest to the atheist who wishes to be intellectually  honest and to do his homework.  Of equal value, it is a reminder to the Christian that, in all our arguments and speculations about God and His creative work, we are only approaching the “edges of His ways.”

I received this book free from Baker Publishing Group. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

The Most Important Thing You Can Do for Your Son

A Mom’s Prayers for Her Son by Rob & Joanna Teigen:  A Book Review

There’s nothing like becoming a mother to ratchet up the frequency, sincerity, and desperation of one’s prayer life.  My husband and I had four boys in eight years, and I was horrified to realize that a new blender comes with more instructions than a new baby.  Furthermore, the advice that comes from well-meaning friends and relatives is usually a confusing kaleidoscope of conflicting information.

Sometimes, even as we pray, we reveal that same lack of focus.  During the toddler years, we pray that our boys will be healthy, strong and creative, knowing all the while that their vigor, power and ingenuity may be the death of our living room furniture..  As they grow, we pray that they will be humble servant-leaders, even as we storm the heavens on their behalf that they will make every team, nail every audition, and excel in school.   Then, just as most mothers are becoming hormonally-crazed, middle-aged, and exhausted, their sons begin to test the limits of parental authority, the reality of their faith, and their mother’s sanity.  What are the right words to pray, when you’re no longer sure what you want God to do?

Rob and Joanna Teigen have issued a call to prayer for the mothers of sons, and they have taken it a step further by offering the gift of words for all seasons of our boys’ lives.  A mom who wishes to pray for her boy during good times and bad will find help for all the “whens” of life:   when he’s going through a storm, when he’s grieving, when he’s stressed, when he needs to be generous, when he’s making plans for his future, and even when he’s having fun!  The seventy-seven written prayers are interspersed with encouragement to pray for all the many facets of a young man’s life, as well as personal accounts  from popular authors or bloggers who have seen God work in the lives of their sons through their motherly prayers.

I especially appreciated the realism which infuses the book.  Christian mothers have been counseled over the years to dance dangerously close to the edge of determinism in their parenting:  “If you, the mother, do or pray for “X,” then you can be assured that your believing child will do “Y.”  Joanna maintains this view:

“No matter how much I care for and love them , I can’t make them who I want them to be.  I can’t keep them safe.  I can’t control their future or their choices.  I can’t be the perfect mother I tell myself they need.  I look at them and at myself and realize that without God, we are lost.”

This book is a treasure that will encourage a lifetime of intercession, and also stands to enhance the mother/son relationship by increased understanding.  This is a book that I will give to my daughter-in-law as she and I together pray for my first grandson.

I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

The Creation of a Protagonist

Deceived by Irene Hannon:  A Book Review

With Deceived there is no deception when it comes to Irene Hannon’s portrayal of her main characters.  Kate Marshall, a young widow, still grieving the three-year-old sorrow of losing both her husband and son in a boating accident, glimpses a boy who looks and sounds remarkably like her son.  Her suspicions haunt her until she, against her own misgivings, searches out a private investigator, and, thus, a cadre of male protagonists join the story, their office banter, “I’ve got your back” camaraderie,  and quiet competence whisking the plot along to its satisfying and surprising conclusion.

I have had very little exposure to the genre of Romantic Suspense — but, truthfully, what is more suspenseful than romance?  Add to this the agonized longings of a mother to be re-united with her son, factor in the dangerous process of uncovering the secrets of another person, and set the cast of characters in a very believable world where what we think and believe about God, about love, and about other people shapes the course of our lives, and the result is a book that I am eager to  recommend to the women in my church as well as to their high-school age daughters.

Irene Hannon’s protagonists are not flat “good guys.”  Rather, they are punctual, compassionate, moral, competent, hard-working and dedicated individuals who, also, at various times in their lives, make impulsive decisions, experience lust, exhibit impatience, suffer from fear, selfishness,  insecurity,  and addictions.  Her descriptions defy cliche:  for example, Connor Sullivan, P.I. has eyes, “dark as obsidian; they searched, discerned and reassured . . .”    And as Kate begins to trust Connor professionally, she begins to notice how “those dark eyes warmed like the volcanic origins of the black glass whose color they mirrored.”  Poetic imagery such as this  takes “tall, dark and handsome” to a whole new level.

Because in our fallen world no one is all wrong and no one is all right, Deceived gives us three-dimensional characters who  act out their need and brokenness according to their acceptance or refusal of God’s grace.

Because the Word of God is living and powerful, a chance encounter with Ephesians 4:31,32 in a pizza joint during the day triggers a  middle of the night spiritual wrestling match between the antagonist and the God He has misunderstood.

Because God is at work even when He chooses to remain anonymous, small miracles happen, and this truth is most satisfyingly demonstrated in Deceived.

I received this book free from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.   The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255