Embrace Fiercehearted Living

The Fiercehearted come in all shapes and sizes on this day, and their beautiful faces circle the table from all ages and stages of life. A gray-haired woman sips orange soda facing a 96 year-old faith warrior who prays fiery gospel truth over our meal. Our hostess chows down at one end of the table, mounding up joy like the whipped cream on her brownie pudding cake as if the cancer that has dogged her steps for ten years were only a minor inconvenience. A missionary on home assignment contemplates aloud the challenges of living on both sides of an ocean, but it’s clear that she is among the company who have borne seed with tears but now rejoice over a harvest.

In her manifesto scribbled in the dim light of an airplane seat, Holley Gerth has drawn the boundaries wide and grace-filled for who gets to wear the the name “Fiercehearted,” and her words have found their way into a book she never intended to write.

manifesto

When Holley disembarked from that plane, she walked away from unhealthy peace-keeping behaviors, signed up for counseling, and committed herself to the “brave, hard thing” of acknowledging and dealing with conflict in healthier, peace-making ways. For her, that was Step 1 of learning to take grace — not just for salvation, but also for making a way through a life, lived fully.

Fiercehearted is a series of essays devoted to one woman’s journey of learning to love her successes and her failures by grace alone. Digging into its pages like a prospector, I collected bright nuggets for the reader who has become tired of feeling controlled by fear, of living alone with her imperfections, and of being shackled to continual striving. Hear and believe these gentle reminders that God is tender toward your brokenness and stands ready to cover you all over with His righteousness:

If rules and systems for prayer don’t help you, let them go!

“I love my husband very much, but if someone gave me all kinds of rules for how I had to talk to him, it would stress me out and shut me up. I would become focused on my performance instead of our connection.” (72)

Stop imagining that you can somehow control how other people will respond.

“There’s no escape hatch from being an opinionated human surrounded by opinionated humans.” (90)

The church is an appropriate place for freedom and for fun.

“[W]e can sometimes intellectualize faith to the point where learning takes the place of living. . . We are not just minds. . . . We want to feel fully alive.”

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Holley invites readers to embrace freedom in Christ without fear; to sing from the depths of our hearts and our lungs; to laugh together and to forget about how “important” we are;  to enter into joyful celebration. Or even to enter into a crazy photo booth at a church celebration!

The true gift of fiercehearted living is the freedom to admit to imperfection, to accept it in those we love, and to live genuine, messy, and imperfect life in community.

“[S]ometimes it’s inconvenient and annoying and downright exasperating to be human. But it’s what we’ve got to work with. So perhaps one favor we can do for each other is to not believe anyone has it all together . . .In other words, we all need more kindness than it seems.” (124)

Holley’s words have tumbled onto the page at just the right time for me. Coming down the home stretch on raising a family of boys, I’m thankful for a new baby granddaughter who will need to see what strong looks like. There will come a day (sooner than I can imagine!) when she’ll need to swap stories about brave faith and audacious ministry — and she’ll realize that Bam’s house is never as clean as she’d like it to be.  Turning the last page, I’m praying for another generation of fiercehearted women who realize that God has already equipped them with everything they need for a life of living fully and loving bravely.

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This book was provided by Revell, 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.”

 

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The Light of Resurrection

Waiting for spring, hanging off the northeast end of the U.S. mainland, it’s a challenge to get into an Easter frame of mind. The dark is still holding sway over the light, and resurrection-thinking requires a muscular faith. Although the calendar tells me that spring will come, this hope in a future date can seem like a flimsy thing.    

Pressing into a Truth that challenges me to fathom the unfathomable, I leave my heart ajar to the record of resurrection in John’s Gospel. After all, Mary Magdalene had nothing but Sunday morning silhouettes to go on when she visited the tomb.

But this one thing she knew:  stones don’t move themselves. 

The absence of death, the presence of angels, and the sound of her own name carried by the voice of Jesus opened Mary’s eyes to Life, and, reading it again today, my heart is blown wide open to the reality that there is a God at work Who is beyond my understanding.

The power that raised Christ from the dead spreads a layer of clear abundance across the sky, and it rebukes all my tattered scripts of scarcity and inadequacy.  Under the light of resurrection, the myth of “not enough” that presents itself as gospel is revealed for what it is – blasphemy, after all.

When I stand before a class or sit around a table with my weekly women and feel like handing off my notes to someone else and saying:
“Here, you do this. It’s too much. I’m not enough,”
I slam my heart shut like a tomb full of death.

When I reject wisdom that whispers:
“Wait; lean into relationship with Me and stop your ceaseless striving;
When, instead, I soldier on by the seat of my pants–I choose darkness over light; death instead of resurrection.

My faithless frame of mind locks me into a small room … and then sucks out all the oxygen.

This was not unlike the post-resurrection dwelling place that the disciple Thomas had created for himself. He’d been given a whole week in which to savor the bitter brew of hopelessness and disappointment, to hear about Jesus’ appearances to others—always when Thomas was conveniently absent. He had cobbled together his own response, apparently deciding that He was not going to be taken in by all the hype. He would not be deceived by any false messiahs who go and get themselves killed in the most humiliating manner possible.

Locked door and double-bolted heart notwithstanding, Jesus showed up with a fresh supply of oxygen and irrefutable evidence—the marks of crucifixion and his own unique wound, a spear-thrust through the ribs.

Thomas’s skepticism melted into adoration and an astounding confession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”

Mary’s eyes had been opened by the sound of her Savior’s voice.
For Thomas, it was the sight of His wounds that spoke resurrection.

Millions of us now, following in hundreds of generations behind Mary and Thomas, have never been invited to put our hands on the risen Christ or been treated to the sound of His voice speaking our name aloud, and yet the reality of resurrection and the power of Life over death is so much a part of our creed that we hold it as a mark of orthodoxy. God does not require an empty “faith in faith,” but offers reality, transparent vindication in the form of eye-witness accounts upon which I base my own belief.

“Jesus of the Scars” is Edward Shillito’s poetic invitation for me to join Thomas in bearing witness:

“The other gods were strong, but thou wast weak;
They rode, but thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds, only God’s wounds speak,
And not a god has wounds but Thou alone.”

When, through Thomas’s eyes, I see a wounded God, I am brave to come, wounded, to Him, for if it were not for those visible wounds all would be winter.
The stone would still seal in the stench of death;
the door to the upper room would stay forever locked;
there would be no framing of the heart to resurrection truth.

Like Mary, though, I am seen and known.
I hear the sound of His voice through His Word:
a whispered hope,
a release from shame,
a path away from the downward draw of brokenness,
a promise of eternal spring.

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Today, my family and I are beginning spring vacation (Hooray!) For a few days, things will be quiet here on the blog while we re-connect, relax, and make memories together.  May you also find joy in your celebration of resurrection life and the Savior who lives. 

This post first appeared at SheLoves Magazine.

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Embracing Brave

It certainly doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does, it’s a glorious thing — the meeting over tea that has all the marks of the C.S. Lewis definition of friendship:

““Friendship … is born at the moment when one [wo]man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”

Open the cover of Brave Faith by Mary Geisen and begin to ponder with an understanding friend what it means to move toward the courage that leaves “fear, uncertainty, and other stumbling blocks behind.”  Read Mary’s personal narrative, and find yourself also yearning to be on the way to a soul-enriching journey down the road and away from your comfort zone.

Dipping her brush into the Scriptural accounts of the lives of brave saints, Mary also consults with well-known authors who have offered their wisdom on the brave life including Holly Barrett, Preston Yancey, Annie Downs, Emily Freeman, Jennie Allen, and Ann Voskamp.

Living brave may mean correcting our misunderstandings of what qualifies as brave.  In her own journey, Mary found herself staying put when that was not her plan at all.  Caring for her father in the final days of his life, Mary put her dreams on hold and found a contentment that was every bit as inexplicable as the wild courage that enabled her to tackle a mid-life missions trip to Nicaragua.

The brave give thanks by faith, and Mary challenges her readers to stop in their tracks and to give thanks for the gift of their present circumstances — whatever they may be.

Brave living is seasoned liberally with an abundance of well-placed yeses — and circumspect noes — and a clear-eyed awareness that much of life is not ours to control.  Living life’s messy stories with grace and strength requires a God-given courage and a living faith that trusts when God says, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you . . .” (Jeremiah 29:11).

With daily Scripture reading and an offering of questions that invite the reader to ponder and to journal in reply, Brave Faith opens a soul-lifting conversation and then leaves space for the Holy Spirit to work as the reader steps out in courage — and in surprise, for the journey toward brave is a life-long process with a new vision and a fresh opportunity to experience the wonder around every corner.

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

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

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