Musings — October 2017

The sturdy wooden stakes that supported my tomato plants through their season of growing have been pulled and re-purposed. Now that the garden lies exhausted and well past fruition, those beat up stakes have been pressed into service holding burlap to protect our rhododendron bushes from the weight of snow and the whip of howling wind that will scour my winter backyard. Fall is a season of preparation, a time for re-tooling and battening the hatches in obedience to the gentle warning that is carried on autumn’s rasping voice.

As I read slowly through the book of Jeremiah during these fall days, I’ve been encouraged that even stalwart and stoical prophets need encouragement sometimes.  Praying his loneliness, his hurt, his anger, and his fear, Jeremiah received words of strength to carry him through a long winter of disappointment:

Jeremiah: “But why, why this chronic pain,
    this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight?
You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
    a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!”

God: “Take back those words, and I’ll take you back.
    Then you’ll stand tall before me.
Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.
    Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.
Let your words change them.
    Don’t change your words to suit them.
I’ll turn you into a steel wall,
    a thick steel wall, impregnable.
They’ll attack you but won’t put a dent in you
    because I’m at your side, defending and delivering.”

Sometimes we need to hear the Truth again:  God is still faithful.

On My Nightstand

 

Picking up C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce after a long absence, I have been surprised to find not only the expected words about the great chasm between good and evil, but also glorious truth for kicking myself out of the center of the universe. When a visitor from the bus comes unglued over her perception of the unfairness of heaven, she receives this rebuke:

“Friend, . . . [c]ould you, only for a moment, fix your mind on something not yourself?”

Good question.
What is God using these days to startle you into noticing your selfish choices?

On the Blog

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This thoroughly ransacked and flagged copy of Jayber Crow belongs to Pam Ecrement, one of the veterans of our ongoing discussion group. Once again, I’m reminded that community enhances the enjoyment of a reading experience. And did anyone else see that CT Magazine listed Jayber Crow among the top five books to read when you’re looking for a pastor? Click here to read the article. Those of us who are reading this delightful work of fiction by Wendell Berry have enjoyed pooling our observations of Jayber, the bachelor barber and “honorary pastor” of Port William, Kentucky.

I was thankful to be able to share Kelli Worrall’s Pierced and Embraced on the blog at the beginning of the month. In her study of the lives of women in the New Testament, she was startled to note that Jesus’  manner of dealing with women was a uniquely gentle pursuit of their hearts, a piercing embrace. It was the piercing that grabbed Kelli’s attention in the midst of her struggles with infertility and the heartbreak of three miscarriages. She raged against the unfairness and felt abandoned by God until He helped her to see the embrace of His love that came alongside the piercing.

Some of you may remember Liz Curtis Higgs polling her Facebook friends some time ago to discover their favorite verses from the book of Proverbs. Well, she narrowed the list down to the top 31 Proverbs to Light Your Patha month’s worth of daily wisdom, comfort — and jarring insights. The application of ancient truth to a thoroughly modern life begins with opening the pages of Scripture and allowing the Spirit of God to speak Truth into our words, our relationships, and our motives as we are led along His straight paths.

Our gatherings around the table for feasting and fun are symbolic, a pale adumbration of a larger feast, and Sally Clarkson points her readers toward this truth in The Lifegiving TableRemembering her own family’s heritage of traditions, she shares her motivation behind it all: “The soul satisfaction of belonging to one another, the anchor of commonly held traditions, and the understanding that our home was a sanctuary from all the pressures and storms of life.” (5)

 

In Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia, Dr. John Dunlop asks,“How can such a tragedy as dementia be dignified, and how in the world can God be honored through it?” He’s well-qualified to seek the answer to his question. As a geriatrician (a medical doctor trained to meet the special health issues of older people), he has worked with dementia patients and their families professionally. He has also experienced the challenges of dementia from the patient’s perspective as he walked that hard path with his mother, his father, and his mother-in-law, so I was grateful to be able to pass his wisdom along to readers in my review.

And then, finally, Unseen is the product of Sara Hagerty’s collision course with the beautiful “waste” of a poured out life that hides behind hardship, disappointment, challenging circumstances, or the simple routine of an obedient following. We will never know the comfort of God as our “refuge and strength” until we come to a place in our lives in which we need to take refuge.  It’s clear that “our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment,” but rather places in which God intends to teach our hearts to sing. (33)

Cancer Journey

Cancer is this month’s theme for The Redbud Post, and I was able to add my voice to the message that cancer does not have the final say by contributing a compilation of five book reviews from various perspectives on the topic. My hope is that this will be a resource to those who are learning the grace lessons of a day-to-day struggle with cancer.  I’d love it if you’d join me over there, and be sure to check out the other offerings and share, as appropriate, with those in your life who need the encouragement that cancer does not have the last word.

On My Mind

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Some of you may have seen my announcement on Facebook about the new Living Our Days Facebook page. This was a project that had been on my mind for quite some time, but an upcoming guest post in which the host specifically asked for a link to a “public” Facebook page pushed me into accepting the help of my gifted friend Abby to bring it to pass.  Click here to visit, and while you’re there I hope you’ll give it a “like” and share any relevant content with your own Facebook community.

I also encourage you to drop in on my friend Abby’s site, Little Birdie Blessings, a place of Christian encouragement that features vintage images she creates and shares (daily!) along with hymns, Scripture, and inspiring quotes.

This picture of Abby’s kitchen table with our two laptops glowing and our coffee getting cold while we worked and chatted has become a symbol for me of the community that has become so much a part of this blogging life. It is a privilege to write words that are read by receptive hearts. Thank you for the gift of your presence here and for your faithful encouragement.
Blessings and love to you.


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The Proverbs: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life

Four young men have grown up around our dining room table, and the book of Proverbs has shown up as a regular on the breakfast menu, along with the oatmeal and the eggs. Liz Curtis Higgs asked hundreds of her readers to choose their favorite verses from the Proverbs and then narrowed the list down to the top 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path, a month’s worth of daily wisdom, comfort — and jarring insights.

Liz loves words and has dug deep into each text, phrase by phrase, holding the truth up to the light and turning it slowly so as to appreciate each facet. The proverbs are all about wisdom, but the goal Liz has in mind is to assist her readers in savoring God’s goodness. God’s words are an invitation to individual spiritual growth and a deep source of satisfaction for “the hunger no breakfast can satisfy.” (14)

Drawing from personal examples and her own humorous observations of life on this planet, Liz brings unique and refreshing insights to much-beloved sacred words:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

Of the 31 Proverbs in the book, 13 have the word but right in the middle. Liz compares but to “a hinged door” that “leads to another possibility or an important comparison. But can also serve as a flashing light, a warning, a stop sign.” (18)

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13)

A chatty personality is delightful, and it can come in handy, I’m sure, when Liz is on the road with people coming and going in her life all the time, but she shares the dark side of loving to talk, and the proverbs offer a path of freedom away from the sins that bind us and the bad habits that slow our growth toward righteousness.

In fact, more than a hundred verses in Proverbs focus on the power of words to wound or heal. Having experienced the down side of this equation, Liz invites her readers to dream along with her about a life in which the only words we speak to one another are “pleasant” and “kind” and “fair.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“Anxiety weights down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Anxiety and depression are a reality that cannot be shrugged off with a scriptural band aid. Liz knows from her own experience of swallowing pride and swallowing the daily pill for depression that the “cheerful heart” and anxiety free living are not empty promises — but there are bio-chemical realities that must be faced head on.

And just in case anyone has become discouraged in their reading of Proverbs as a list of good deeds for the habitual do-gooder, Liz makes the important distinction between “doing a good thing” and “doing a God thing.” Generous living and joyous giving flow from a relationship with the God who owns all things.

When Proverbs 18:10 declares that “the name of the Lord is a “fortified tower” and encourages readers to “run to it” for safety, it’s helpful to have a concrete image to connect with the name of the Lord, and Liz has added something to my tool belt:  a list of twenty-six names of God in alphabetical order for memorization and meditation.  (Thanks, Liz!)

The hands-on, boots on the ground mentality of 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path makes it clear that the light on our path is godly wisdom that emanates from wise choices, righteous deeds, and an intentional following of God that happens over a life time.  Each of the 31 Proverbs comes with a One Minute, One Step practical application.  Suggestions range from the very simple — list everything you are grateful for — to the more intensely meddling assignment of initiating reconciliation with someone we have wronged, hurt, or offended.

With Bible study questions in the back of the book along with complementary passages that allow Scripture to comment on Scripture, Liz has crafted a resource for individual use or for small group study. The application of ancient truth to a thoroughly modern life begins with opening the pages of Scripture and allowing the Spirit of God to speak Truth into our words, our relationships, and our motives as we are led along His straight paths.

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This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging for Books program 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 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.