Musings: October 2018

When jets fly overhead, stitching up the airspace between Boston’s Logan and somewhere-in-Europe, by the time they reach the sky over Mid-coast Maine they are barely visible, nothing but contrails. My roots are deep here on this country hill, thirty thousand feet below, so I’m no globetrotter, but over the years, visitors from around the world have eaten apple pie, soaked up their gravy with warm yeast rolls, and responded in grace to the imperfections and barely managed chaos of this busy household.

At the same time, they have enlivened my family’s vision of an international, border-crossing Gospel and a God with room in His heart and in His plan for everyone He has created. It turns out that missionaries are some of God’s best warriors against small-minded belief, because they put flesh and bone around this truth:

“Biblical religion is aggressively internationalist.”

In Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, Eugene Peterson writes about Jeremiah, the “prophet to the nations” (1:5) who barely ever left home. Since October is missions emphasis month at my church, it is well and good that I am deep into Jeremiah’s letters to “the nations.” By “nations,” God meant foreigners, in the same way that people around here might describe you, if you happen to come “from away.”  You see, folded into Jeremiah’s job description–along with carrying to Judah’s kings all the bad news about Nebuchadnezzar– was the task of writing ten oracles to ten different nations comprising an area of about 750,000 square miles. He was “the prophet to the nations” who only left Jerusalem at the end of his life because he was carted off to Egypt, probably against his will.

Hand-Carried Judgment

The letters Jeremiah wrote were hand-carried–but not by him. We know the identity of one courier, Seraiah, the messenger to Babylon with the news  that she would “sink to rise no more because of the disaster [God] will bring on her. And her people will fall.” By way of Jeremiah’s tethered pen, God’s message was delivered to nations that could have been written off as hopeless pagans. Eugene Peterson notes that letters of condemnation employed “judgment in the service of salvation.” Read for yourself:

This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“See, I will break the bow of Elam,
the mainstay of their might.
 I will bring against Elam the four winds
from the four quarters of heaven;
I will scatter them to the four winds,
and there will not be a nation
where Elam’s exiles do not go.

“Yet . . .

I will restore the fortunes of Elam
in days to come,”
declares the Lord.  (Jeremiah 49:35-36, 39)

God extends a glimmer of hope, not in all ten oracles, but then, He went on record with some stern words to Israel as well, and He did not relent.

This Month at Living Our Days

We’ve run the gamut from poetry to memoir to biblical exegesis in October, and I love offering resources here and sharing my reading with you.

First poetry:

As Christians, we have no light of our own, but the nature of our Borrowed Light is so compelling that others are drawn to its warmth and luminosity, just as we are drawn to the borrowed light of the moon against an inky sky.  In her poetry collection (The Consequence of Moonlight: Poems), Sofia Starnes has expressed this exact quality of sainthood, the here-ness or there-ness of a life that “orbits the earth but [is] not of the earth.”  It is the discipline of recalling the source of our Light that keeps the underlying Presence in proper view. And maybe it’s because of Mr. Roger’s influence, but when I reviewed the book, my takeaway was that the believer’s right response to our borrowed light is to run toward the darkness with it.

That same week, I shared one of my own poems, inspired by a sermon series on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount from my excellent pastor. If His warning to “beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” has ever jarred you into pondering your motives, you can read my own reflections on it here.

Bring Me a Vision: A Story of Redeeming Hope is the true unfolding of BeckyReview of Bring Me a Vision: A Story of Redeeming Hope Moreland’s story. Founder of RAHAB Ministries, she lived a miracle of turn-around and her co-author Pam Ecrement bore witness to it, first as her counselor and then, later, as her friend and colleague in ministry. When Becky first approached Pam for counseling, she was seeking help for her children, but Pam soon learned that Becky’s own traumatic childhood was impacting her mothering in ways that were detrimental, in spite of her best intentions. The glory of God is put on display as His story runs its course in the life of an ordinary woman who has been impacted by the love of an extraordinary God. Purchasing details and a link to RAHAB’s website are available here, as all proceeds for the book will be turned over to RAHAB ministries.

Nancy Guthrie picked up her pen, gathered up the tangled threads of the earliest story set in a garden, and then she moves forward in hope through the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in her latest book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story. On her meandering way from the thunderous God-force of creation to the end of the ages, she shares stunning truth about “what the original garden has to show us about the more secure, more satisfying, and more glorious garden we’re destined to live in forever, which will be even better than Eden.” (14)  This was one of those books that I can’t stop thinking about. If you’ve read it, too, I’d love to have a conversation with you. Here’s a link to more details.

As a long-time journal-keeper, I was happy to review Deborah Haddix’s is Journaling for the Soul (Nourish the Soul), a handbook of journaling methods that goes beyond pen and paper and invites readers to span the spectrum of spiritual disciplines in their walk with God. Deborah explores the use of drawing, paper crafting, photography, and even decorative lettering as an expression of her heart to a God who is NOT in the business of putting His children in ill-fitting boxes.

In The Gift of Prophetic Encouragement: Hearing the Words of God for Others, we find Kitterman’s confidence and fervor flow from years of learning alongside biblical characters like little Samuel that the voice of God in our ears and in our hearts requires action on our part.   We are built for connection, for relationship with God and with each other. Living in harmony with the example of Jesus means embracing a lifestyle of encouragement. “Jesus had radical encounters with ordinary people every day. By listening to the Father’s voice and doing what the Father said, Jesus was able to release heaven into the situations and lives of those He encountered.” (21) You’re invited to read more about Debbie’s bridge-building ministry of encouragement here.

News from the Hill

The garden has exhausted itself just in time for our kitchen to be torn apart and put back together again. The new cabinets arrived on the 15th in a very impressive truck, and since that day we have been moving toward the goal of peace and order. Let us live in awe of the Lord our GodNonetheless, homeschooling, enjoying the grandchildren, the comings and goings of turkey hunting and trumpet playing sons, and a glorious fanfare of fall color have filled this month with plenty of joy.

Crossing to Safety (Modern Library Classics) by Wallace Stegner is the book I used to re-read every fall. It’s a story in which a friendship is so front-and-center that it seems to become one of the characters in the book. I’ve been luxuriating in Stegner’s gorgeous prose this month, so I will leave you with his rich definition of friendship, and with the prayer that you have people like this in your life.

Friendship:
“It is a relationship that has no formal shape,
there are no rules or obligations or bonds
as in marriage or the family,
it is held together by neither law nor property nor blood,
there is no glue in it but mutual liking.

It is therefore rare.”

Blessings and love to you,

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 any of the resources mentioned in this post, simply click on the title within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Image credit:  Jason Leung of Unsplash

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God Has a Bigger and Better Story for You

We are a story-telling family, composing on-the-spot homespun tales, filling up the long minutes of road trips with audio books, laughing together over replays from crazy conversations, and delighting in glory-moments together after the fact. As our family continually rotates in wider orbits, stories have become the fibers that connect us, that keep us known to one other.

I’m grateful that all our story threads are woven into the fabric of the huge over-arching narrative found in the pages of Scripture. This once-upon-a-time-that-really-happened got its start in the mind of God, but the plot first hunkered down in the idyllic setting of Eden. Nancy Guthrie picked up her pen, gathered up the tangled threads of that story set in a garden, and she moves forward in hope through the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan in her latest book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story

On her meandering way from the thunderous God-force of creation to the end of the ages, she shares stunning truth about “what the original garden has to show us about the more secure, more satisfying, and more glorious garden we’re destined to live in forever, which will be even better than Eden.” (14) It’s easy to forget that Eden was born out of an uninhabitable wasteland on a planet that was “formless and empty.”

  • Guthrie follows this story of wilderness through the Old Testament and the wanderings of the discontented Israelites, the ruins of Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had had their way, and into the New Testament where Jesus passed His wilderness testing and Paul lived pinned down by a thorn in the flesh, but found contentment in his spiritual wilderness;
  • Then, there’s the story of the tree, a symbol from Genesis to Revelation that pops up in the appearance of the lampstands in the Tabernacle and in prophetic symbolism. By grace, we are invited to find our way to the tree of life by way of Calvary’s tree;
  • The story of God’s image is full of hope, for though it was marred, it was flawlessly revealed in Christ and will ultimately be restored in us;
  • The story of clothing begins with God providing for Adam and Eve with love and tenderness that points to the truth that one day we will be beautifully clothed in “the greater glory Adam and Eve forfeited” (70);
  • The story of the Bridegroom features Eve as the original bride in the very first wedding conducted by God which went terribly wrong. That pain resonated throughout Israel’s history, but the ruined bride will one day be restored and presented to God’s Son, the second Adam’
  • The story of sabbath began before there was Law and remains as God’s gift;
  • The story of offspring unpacks Psalm 91 within the greater context of God’s sovereignty over evil and the “Offspring of the Woman” (Jesus) who will put an end to evil once and for all;
  • The story of a dwelling place assures believers of God’s intention to make His home with us–an intention that cannot be thwarted even by our own fumbling and fluctuating intention to cling to Him. The tabernacle, the temple, and God’s indwelling Spirit all bear witness to His zeal and devotion;
  • Finally, the story of the city reveals that all of Scripture points toward the story of two cities– “the city of man and the city of God. And what matters most about your story is which city you have made your home.”

Nancy Guthrie renders biblical theology with beauty and a depth of emotion that motivates me to become a better learner, and a more passionate student of Scripture and observer of life. A firm grasp on the gospel-oriented-big-picture of the Bible’s 66 books will change the way you read. God takes a long view of goodness and hope, and his promises for our welfare point to a life that exponentially transcends the three-score-and-ten we fixate upon.

A good foundation in biblical theology also impacts on the way we pray.  For example, God’s promise of protection in Psalm 91 is not the lucky-rabbit’s foot that means our children will “never face danger or death in this life. But [rather that God] has promised to gather his own to himself, where he will protect them from ultimate and eternal harm.”

Following the threads of these nine stories reinforced my understanding of God as both transcendent and relational. Finding myself within the context of His desires for me — a hope that far exceeds my own aspirations for myself and those I love — opens my eyes to the beauty of struggle and the redemptive nature of waiting as we fix our eyes upon the unseen, and trust God for a future home that will be truly (and amazingly!) even better than Eden.


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

Grace and peace to you,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Storysimply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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

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

Musings – March 2017

We’ve known for quite a while, so . . . what a relief to finally be able to share with the world the wonderful news that our second grandchild will make his/her appearance in September!  For this blessed grandmother (“Bam”), this also means that I get extra time for painting and baking and reading stories with big brother while my daughter-in-law goes to her doctor appointments.

Capture
This picture was taken before the blueberry stains had found his chin or the molasses had streaked a brown smear over his eyebrows.

After that headline, all other news in this monthly recap will pale, but it’s been a busy and productive month in other ways as well . . .

On the Nightstand

While I’m sure that Krista Tippett and I would not agree, point for point, on a few matters theological, I devoured Becoming Wise for its respectful and listening tone, elegant sentences, and broad scope of voices.  Since I won’t be reviewing it on the blog, I’ll tempt you with a few quotes:

“As love crosses the chasms between us, it likewise brings them into relief.  Stand hospitably before those who offend and harm and drive us crazy.”

“Western Christianity lost some of the cleansing power of mystery when it became a bedfellow with empire and later, again in its headlock with science.”

“Hope, like every virtue, is a choice that becomes a practice that becomes spiritual muscle memory.  It’s a renewable resource for moving through life as it is, not as we wish it to be.”

I’m also working my way (slowly) through Nancy Guthrie’s Seeing Jesus.  Each evening I receive a reminder from its pages that the Old Testament and the New Testament deliver one glorious message, and that this message needs to be at the foundation of all my writing and teaching.  And by the way, Nancy’s podcast, Help Me Teach the Bible, is currently one of my favorites.

On the Blog

It’s always a privilege and an adventure to be invited into another writing space, and this month one of my posts appeared at (in)courage, the online community that is the vision of DaySpring (the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc.).  The (in) means that we are in Christ, connected, and in community with each other, and that was certainly my experience as I interacted with readers on the topic of hospitality and friendship.  I’d love it if you joined the conversation over there.  If you are looking for a community that offers life-giving tools to equip you right in the midst of the chaos, you’ll want to subscribe.

Another community that is less well-known, but vibrant and growing is Ruby Magazine.  They shared one of my reviews in their March issue — A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda, a book about believing which confronts the loss and defeat of Friday and the awkward silence of Saturday with Sunday morning resurrection truth.

Earlier this month, we wrapped up a ten-week long on-line book discussion group that featured C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces.  Not only did we survive the process, but we also enjoyed the weekly sharing of insights and great input from people who approached the book from all kinds of perspectives.  If you love Lewis’s fiction, you’ll be challenged and inspired by his last (and, in his opinion, his best!) book.

The most-read post at Living Our Days in the month of March may possibly have been my most-read post of all time (and someday I’m sure I’ll figure out enough about the backside of my blog to actually make that comparison with confidence . . .).  Start Where I Am.  Use What I Have.  is my commentary on change and the following life; on children leaving and grandchildren arriving; and on my cranky relationship with technology and mud season.

Just for Joy

It’s not every day that I get into my car and drive away from this country hill with no husband and no children, but that’s what happened on the next-to-the-last Friday of March, and the welcome I received on the other end made me wonder what all my angst was about.  The women of North Uxbridge Baptist Church in Massachusetts invited me to teach at their spring conference.  We met over the Word of God three times that day, and the smiles and nods of that group of godly learners, the sound of all those voices lifted in worship, and the warm fellowship over coffee, around the table at lunchtime, and between sessions mirrored the welcome that God extends to all of us in the Gospel.

It occurred to me on the four-hour drive home that, although I cannot see your nods and smiles, you, my faithful readers, extend that same welcome to me here each time you visit, and so, I thank you for your continual encouragement in this tiny gathering place.  

Grace and peace to you, and may your celebration of Christ’s resurrection be filled with joy.

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As usual, I’m joining the What I’m Into party over at Leigh Kramer’s place.

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.

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If You REALLY Want to Help those Who Grieve

We sat on the couch, side by side, but miles apart.  She had just lost her son in a tragic accident.  I had four living and healthy boys — and no words that could touch her loss.  In the weeks and months that followed, I wrote notes, shared Scripture verses, listened to her sadness, and showed up at her door bearing food, but never feeling confident that any of it held meaning, and often feeling as if I was missing the whole point.

Nancy Guthrie writes to bring clarity and a measure of confidence to people like me:  those of us who want to help and bring comfort to our grieving friends, but want to avoid saying all the wrong words and assuming things that are not true.  Her “research” for What Grieving People Wish You Knew was gritty and uninvited, and began on the day when her infant daughter Hope was diagnosed with a rare and fatal metabolic disorder.  Grief “barged through the door,” and Hope’s 199-day life was a day-by-day good bye that was all too short.

Certainly, this experience alone would qualify a well-known Bible teacher like Nancy to speak wisdom into the lives of those who grieve, but then, a year and a half after Hope’s death, Nancy discovered that she was, once again, pregnant with a baby who had the fatal syndrome and who also lived for about six months.  Working through all this sadness sharpened Nancy’s awareness that often, when Christians try to help those who have suffered losses, we mainly reveal that we just don’t “get it.”

In response, she conducted an online survey in which she asked grieving people for examples of what others said or did for them that proved to be helpful and meaningful. She shares many of these suggestions in her book, and they were truly a highlight, including thoughts as simple (and as obvious) as using the name of the deceased in casual conversation or sharing pictures and memories with family members.

Under the best of circumstances I’m not a great conversationalist, so it was a relief to me to hear the news that “it matters less what you say than that you say something.”  In fact, “even if you come up with the perfect thing to say (as if there is such a thing), it simply won’t fix the hurt or solve the problem of the people who are grieving.”  This is absolutely critical, and with that taken care of, Nancy goes on to provide additional insights:

  • Grieving is as unique as the individuals who grieve.  There is no one-size-fits-all comfort formula.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Don’t assume anything about their feelings, about the spiritual condition of the deceased, or that your own grief experience is comparable — or helpful to share.
  • Don’t feel the need to be a fixer.
  • Examine your heart for selfish motives in your caring or for a warped tendency to get your own need for significance met by ministering to your grieving friend.

Nancy quotes Dr. Kenneth Haugk who cautions us that if you hear yourself starting a sentence with the words “Well, I . . “; “When I . . .”; “I remember . . .”; or “My . . . ” — just don’t say it.

Other red flags that call for a re-thinking of our words include:

“Well, at least . . .”
“It was God’s will . . .”
“I know someone else who . . .”
“God took him/her so that . . .”

According to Nancy, one of the best statements you can make is “I don’t what what to say,” while one of the incorrect assumptions we make is that the grieving family is being ministered to by people who are “closer” to them, or, even worse, that they would rather just be left alone.  Showing up makes a powerful statement of support.

Esteeming the grief of those we love will look like patience and will keep us from putting a deadline on someone else’s grieving process.  It will keep us from looking away when they cry, and will give us courage to shed our own tears in their presence, because this demonstrates the fact that their loved one is worth grieving for.  Our shared sadness is tangible evidence of our love.

Nancy and her husband David host respite retreats for couples who have faced the death of a child and are actively involved in GriefShare which offers a ministry of education and counseling for those who are walking through loss.  She encourages grieving families to laugh and reminisce together and to seek community rather than trying to soldier their way through healing alone.

Over the long haul, friends who mark their calendar to remind them of anniversaries and birthdays, who provide practical help ranging from the casserole brigade to the repair of the broken back step, who offer to baby sit for children, or contribute money for the onslaught of expenses are truly demonstrating the love of Christ and are helping their grieving friends move toward healing and hope.

What Grieving People Wish You Knew is a resource of words and ideas, and it’s a gift to readers which will certainly result in greater courage and a more sensitive engagement of the Body of Christ with those who need to experience first hand the love and mercy of God.

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This book was provided by Crossway 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.