Loving and Listening to God in Every Season

In every season, my garden speaks, reinforcing in leaf and humus Scripture’s messages around patience and diligence, inviting me to rejoice with the arrival of every cucumber and blazing pumpkin and to lament with the erect skeletons of sunflowers, their heads bowed at season’s end. Predictable and yet ever new, the cycling of beauty and fruition, the presence of thorns and the dirt under my fingernails together corroborate the peaceful truth that heaven and earth conspire in declaring the glory of God.

That is the message of All Shall Be Well by Catherine McNiel, in which she shares the trajectory of her own awakening to God’s presence in his messy, abundant world. Her observations pay tribute to every season in its turn:

Find spring on a walk outside, coupled with a look inside.

Spring is the season of thawing hope and widening light. It invites us to look despair in the face and to trust for joy because God is present in the clouds that obscure our view. Spring-hope whispers that if you listen with your heart, you will hear God’s voice rejoicing over you with singing.

McNiel’s spring tonic is a prescription to take in the beauty with all your senses–the aroma of green and the sound of wetness–and to make a celebratory list of all the gifts of the season.

Find summer with wide open eyes that take in the night stars on a sultry evening or the power of wind and lightening during a storm.

The season of abundant fruition, summer is also the season of toil. Long daylight stretches faithfulness thin and makes demands that remind us of how cushy our life is in other seasons. McNiel interjects the concept of telos–a Greek word that means “end purpose” or “goal” (68)–to tame summer’s crashing pandemonium. Flourishing in the midst of the buzz and brouhaha of summer requires clarity of purpose and a mindful stewarding of our faithfulness.

Find autumn by celebrating the advancing darkness with candles and twinkling lights.

In all its bright beauty and generous harvest, autumn whispers a gentle warning. While we celebrate with pumpkin carving and corn mazes, McNiel reminds twenty-first century readers that harvest carried a dire significance just a couple generations ago–and still does in many parts of the world–for abundant fall harvest is the only way to eat and live through a long, bleak winter.

The curriculum of autumn assures us that death is transformation, that letting go of the old makes room for something new; and the twilight hours are for resting, pondering, and deepening as the light gives way to darkness.

Find winter in every season by making room for rest.

God’s creative work in winter is quiet as a blanket of snow and dangerous as sub-zero air. McNiel warns readers of the futility of trying to “overcome dormancy… mutinously straining to move forward anyway.” (131) In winter, we celebrate the arrival of snow with hot chocolate and snowmen, maybe to protect our hearts from the knowledge that cabin fever will set in come February as the glory of whiteness begins to feel like wilderness living.

Celebrating every sign of life and giving thanks for the borrowed strength that comes from God and others, we are called in winter to exercise faith that endurance is not for nothing, and that a long slog through a bleak season may require good traveling companions who carry and sustain us with their presence and their love.

Predictable and yet ever new, the cycling of beauty and fruition, the presence of thorns and the dirt under my fingernails together corroborate the peaceful truth that heaven and earth conspire in declaring the glory of God.Because I love to greet each new season with joy, I will be keeping All Shall Be Well handy for, like its author, I hear God inviting me to come near in their unique beauty, and “I’d like to get better at meeting him halfway.” (32)

 

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

Because “all manner of things shall be most well,”


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World, 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.

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Wonder 101: What Your Kids Can Teach You About Delighting in God

My grandson’s favorite grape tomatoes ripen to a vivid orange in the sunshine on one of the outside rows of my garden. He literally quivers with delight when we pick them together, filling container after container with their bright beauty–and a small one to stow in his cup holder for the ride home. Children do not take for granted that small orange balls of deliciousness show up in the summer time, that they burst with flavor between your teeth, and that they produce with ridiculous abundance for a short season, and then are gone with the first frost.

As we delight together in the miracle of fruition in my garden, my grandson is schooling me in the practice of awe. In The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God, Christine Aroney-Sine has produced a curriculum of awe, reminding readers of spiritual practices which can be as natural and as much a part of our life as eating a ripe tomato. For example, when I’m walking the dog and the bees are hard at work ransacking the honeysuckle bushes for all they are worth, it is an act of worship to stop and listen to their buzzing productivity. The small insects’ devotion to the task at hand instructs me in unity of purpose and focus for my own calling.

Imagination as a Pathway to Loving God

Our big picture thinking ends up shaping the minutes of our days, and the inclusion of delight, playfulness, imagination, and love of nature becomes a scope and sequence that shapes our thinking about God. Embedding the spiritual practice of noticing God at work in the beauty around us sharpens our prayer life and leads us to worship in the present moment. Aroney-Sine works this out personally by taking regular Wonder Walks with her husband, and has introduced me to this spiritually seismic question:  “What has God enjoyed today about who I am and what I do?”

The imaginative practice of painting names and inspiring phrases on rocks to serve as prayer reminders is an alternative to structured list-making. Using colored markers and clipboards for note taking during a sermon can heighten comprehension and retention for some listeners. As a gardener, I find that God’s voice comes to me more clearly when my hands are in the dirt.

Finding God in the Present Moment

My grandson’s enjoyment of grape tomatoes is not lessened by the fleeting nature of the season or by foreshadowings of the coming frost. He takes every flavorful bite as it comes, and this ability to live in the present is a gift to the very young, but not inaccessible to adults. Christine gently inquires:

“What distracts you from the Divine Presence and prevents you from fully appreciating the revelation of God in this never-to-be-repeated moment?” (126)

Creative spiritual practices reassure the believer that God is not a workaholic–even as he is always at work! Therefore, the invitation and the example are one. He longs for us to enjoy him and to enter into his singing, buzzing, fluttering,  splashing creation as co-creators–lovers of God who bring maximum glory to him.

Many thanks to Intervarsity Press 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 The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God, simply click on the title within the text of my review, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a very small commission at no extra cost to you.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

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.

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Is It Time to Declutter Your Soul?

My friend Joanne was continually clearing off her kitchen table–with little success to show for her valiant efforts. Whenever we talked on the phone, I could hear her moving about, tethered by a 1970’s era phone cord, and I knew what she was doing. She was clearing off the kitchen table. Again. Even so, whenever I visited, the piles had returned, and books, mail, groceries, and newspapers would need to be swept to one side, a vivid, visual image of her hospitable heart making room for me in her full and busy life.

In the decades that have passed since my last visit with Joanne, there have been seasons in which my soul felt like her kitchen table, weighted down with untidy piles that I shuffled and moved around, but never really tended to. The clutter never failed to get in the way of what I was trying to accomplish.

Emily P. Freeman has just such a table in her own backstory, and when she set out to produce a podcast and, eventually to write a book called The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, her goal was to share her own space-making practices. As we learn to clear our cluttered tables and souls, we make room for life-giving activities and create space for listening to the voice of God.

Decisions are Hard

According to Freeman’s research, American adults are privileged to make over 35,000 decisions every day, and over two hundred of these are about food. (14) With that in mind, as we clear away the chaos, priorities and categories become clearer, and we find, among all the daily decisions that there really is “space for our souls to breathe.”

Decisions are hard, and we want to make good ones. I, personally, want divine guidance on the level of sky writing:  “Buy the Silver Honda” in puffy, white lettering against a blue sky of clarity. Since this has never been my experience, I’m in the market for quiet wisdom that will heighten my listening skills for the guidance God does choose to provide, and so I found myself pausing and paying attention to Emily’s gentle suggestions for discovering my Next Right Thing.

“Do the next thing” as a mantra and as marching orders came into its own through the ministry of Elisabeth Elliot, but it actually has its roots in an anonymous poem, assuring believers that “Many a questioning, many a fear, Many a doubt, hath its quieting here. Moment by moment, let down from Heaven, Time, opportunity, and guidance are given. Fear not tomorrow, child of the King, Trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.  Certainly Jesus held to a “next right thing” mindset in his ministry among people. Whenever he told someone to hold out a hand, pick up a bed, wash in a pool, or go home, he was offering an object lesson in the importance of small acts of faithfulness.

Thoughts on Decluttering

Simple, soulful practices offered in The Next Right Thing bring grace to the reader’s cluttered table. For example, pro/con charts have been toxic for me in the past because I’m intent on (obsessed with) a successful outcome.

These thoughts felt like someone opened a window to the light and the fresh air:

  • “You can only make decisions based on what you know at the time. We live in an outcomes-based culture where the correctness of our choice seems based on the success of the result… Successful outcomes might look great on paper, but we want to build our lives on love, faith, connectedness, redemption, laughter, wholeheartedness, joy, and peace.”
  • “We make our list alongside Jesus and bring these things to him, asking him in every situation what he wants us to do. And then we trust that our desire can be trusted because he isn’t just with us; he lives within us and he’ll let us know what we need to know.”

Doing the next thing in love lightens the decision-making load by fine-tuning our focus. Following Jesus certainly involves multiple and complex choices over the course of a lifetime, but this is accomplished by following Jesus for the next ten minutes. And then the next. He has promised us light for our path, but most of the time my eyes are darting off the path, worried about eventualities that never materialize. By faith, we can clear away the clutter of indecision and walk with confidence and joy in the light that’s given as we do the next right thing.

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

Trusting Jesus for today’s next right thing,

Michele (1)

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate  If you should decide to purchase The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions, 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.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

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The Gift of Language and the God Who Speaks

The recent biographical movie featuring the life of J.R.R. Tolkien captures him saying, “After all, what’s language for? It’s not just the naming of things, is it? It’s the life blood of a culture, a people.”

Language and the way we use it reveals our thinking and our character. The structure of a language reveals what’s important to the people who speak it. In Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers, pastor and author Eugene Peterson argues that language is a gift from God through which we sing and pray and, using the very same syntax and parts of speech, can also order a burger at the drive through or tell a story to a two-year-old. Peterson describes the language Jesus used in his three embodied years by capturing a line from an Emily Dickinson poem:

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”

Particularly in Jesus’s parables, it’s clear how the truth “comes up on the listener obliquely, ‘on the slant'” (20) and then overtakes one with its clarity. His use of language wars against our natural tendency to compartmentalize speech into secular and sacred spaces. Jesus used the language of the people and the metaphors of his space and time to tell stories and to pray.

Jesus in His Stories

The four gospel writers differed in their focus, but collaborated in presenting the ways in which Jesus used language to preach, teach, and converse his way through first-century Palestine. Peterson zooms in on the ten parables unique to Luke’s gospel to illustrate Jesus’s “story telling way with words” (31) that give us deeper insight into God and His ways:

Life is Personal by Definition

“When we deal with God, we are not dealing with a spiritual principle, a religious idea, an ethical cause, or a mystical feeling.” (44)

Avoid Chattering Godtalk

“A lot of our talk about ‘the things of God’ is a way of avoiding the personal presence of God in the hurt and hungry people we meet.” (56)

The World is Prodigious in Wealth

“God does not barely save us, doling out just enough grace to get us across the threshold of heaven. He is lavish.”

Jesus in His Prayers

The language of prayer is “local and present and personal.” (160) Words that bubble up from the heart are the same when addressed to God or to a close friend. The six New Testament transcripts of Jesus’s prayers mentor readers in the language of prayer–and also in the absolute necessity of it in a following life.

Peterson advises readers to leave room for silence in prayer, a form of punctuation in which monologue is transformed into conversation. Then, he cautions about the ease with which we can lapse into pretending to pray, to use, “the words of prayer, practice the forms of prayer, assume postures of prayer, acquire a reputation for prayer, and never pray.” (161)

Jesus’s prayers sing his life of unity with God and shimmer with intimacy that invites us to advance beyond the “I’ll pray for you” narrative and jump into something more relational, substantial, and whole in our conversations with God.

Involved and Participatory Language

Peterson’s writing is almost unbearably relevant and always leaves me flipping pages to check for chapter endings because I’ve become saturated with more truth mid-chapter than I can absorb or assimilate. His insights crackle and spark, leading me into a new way of reading a familiar parable that intensifies its intended message and anchors it in the narrative arc of Jesus’s purpose as The Storyteller.

Tell It Slant sets up a framework for exploring large and sweeping concepts (parables and prayer) using pictures and particulars harvested from Peterson’s experiences and deep understanding of Scripture. He advocates for a use of language that is both “involved and participatory” (68), a use of words that rejects complacency and guards our hearts against depersonalizing God. To that end, he offers the stories and the prayers of Jesus as a model for how language can witness to the holy while still anchoring us to this very real and startling world.

Many thanks to William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 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,

michele signature[1]


I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Tell It Slant: A Conversation on the Language of Jesus in His Stories and Prayers 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.

Photo by Kirill Pershin on Unsplash

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What if Christians Became the Best Advertisement for Jesus?

The philosophical underpinnings of Christianity point the way to a community where each one competes to show maximum honor and respect to the others. The Bible describes a rule of life that values individuals as carriers of the image of God and the church gathered as a place to be refueled for maximum impact when scattered. Biblical Christians made the world better wherever and whenever they showed up.

If we could pull this off, it seems as if every church in North America would have to launch building or church planting programs to accommodate the masses lined up at their doors. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and in
Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist, author and pastor Scott Sauls invites readers to mind the gap between the life of faith described in the Bible and the one that gets practiced here on the ground in the 21st century. With so much at stake, and so much good that could be done, Sauls describes what it means to abide in an “irresistible Christ” (1) and to live in such a way that we do not contradict his teachings at every turn.

What Does Irresistible Faith Look Like?

With a three-part road map, Irresistible Faith plots a journey back toward lived-out doctrine that is winsome and compelling:

1.  Draw close to Christ by taking his righteousness. Think his thoughts after him by immersing our brains in Scripture and allowing God’s Word to shape our understanding of suffering and the objects of our affections.

2.  Live in intimate community with other believers in which members speak life-giving words over one another. This transparent living invites mutual correction based in a spirit of loving concern Sauls refers to as “soul surgery.” (79) This is the essence of true gospel living for all of us, for we are “desperately in ruins and graciously redeemed.” (91) Martin Luther said it well:

“We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” (94)

3.  Carry all this gloriously generated grace out into the world. Share it with the poor. Broadcast it through our words and our worship, our work and our play, and let the overflow leave transformed lives in its wake.

We Can Do Better Than This!

We bury the winsomeness of our Savior beneath tactics designed to preserve and heighten our comfort and our control. Fear keeps us inside our fortresses, making decisions based in self-preservation.

We can do better than this! Empowered by the Spirit, our lives and our love serve as ambassadors for a faith that “leaves people, places, and things better than they found them.”

Simply irresistible!

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

Committed to redeeming the resistible church,

michele signature[1]


I reviewed Scott Saul’s first book back in 2015 —Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides. Also, Scott’s church has pioneered The Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, an organization the aims to equip, connect, and mobilize Christians to integrate their faith and their work for the flourishing of Nashville and beyond. Click here for more on the ways they’re sharing irresistible faith in their areas of influence.

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 linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist or Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides, 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.

 

Subscribe to Living Our Days 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.

Photo by Lumitar on Unsplash

You Can Cultivate Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World

  • There’s Abby, my resource, the friend I call on when I need advice–or a place to vent;
  • There’s Sandi, my ministry colleague and voice of reason; the friend I laugh with and work alongside;
  • There’s Lori who sets the example for me:  hard-working, huge-hearted, and the friend with whom I have grown into mothering.

There are others, older and younger, who have offered life giving friendship to me. In a lonely world where isolation is the norm and competition is the default, the deep connection of friendship is a rare gift.

Author Sally Clarkson has leaned hard into connection–in spite of having moved seventeen times–and her daughters Sarah and Joy have learned well from her example. Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World is their collaboration in three voices. Part memoir and part road map, it offers “practices of holy rebellion” (22) that have helped the Clarkson women to resist isolation and chronic busy-ness (the enemies of friendship!) and to embrace self-examination, habits of holiness–and large mugs of strong, hot tea around a welcoming table.

While enjoying the pace of the Clarkson women’s stories, readers will be inspired and instructed in the art and science of cultivating deep and lasting friendships. From the harvest of their wisdom, I have winnowed five practices that I need to work on–and maybe you do, too?

1. Call out the strength in each other.

One Girls’ Club adventure happened on Prince Edward Island. The threesome had eaten their fill at a bed and breakfast where they got directions to the location that inspired the White Sands Hotel. Since it was supposedly within walking distance, they proceeded to walk off that big breakfast, but hours and kilometers later, there was still no sign of this Green Gables landmark. Joy was “hangry,” footsore, sunburned, and ready to give up, but her mum called her back to reason with these words:

“I think you have it in you to be brave.”

Adventurous Anne of Green Gables would have done it, so Joy decided she could, too, but the story would likely have ended very differently if Sally had not reached deeply into her daughter and pulled out the determination that was hidden there. Whether on a twelve-kilometer slog through unfamiliar territory, a family health crisis, or a deeply hurtful relationship challenge, women can call out bravery in one another with messages of strength and confidence.

2. Embrace the “Capaciousness of Womanhood”

In 2019, there is room for every kind of woman. When we give one another permission to lean into our callings without judgment, we put on display the beauty of “could.” I knew when my oldest son was born that I “could” have kept on working at a job I loved, but I also knew that I wanted to devote full time to my family.

The blessing of circumstances that worked together so that I “could” do that then have led me now to broaden my imagination for what’s next–and for what God “could” do in our lives when we embrace the wide open spaces created by His love. There is an abundance of work that needs doing in this world, and God has gifted and equipped His women in diverse ways to accomplish His plans.

3. Understand Friendship and Create Space in Your Life for It

If friendship is “something we both create and give,” if it is “a priority we choose amid the demands of life,” (70) it does not make sense for us to sit around and wait for friendship to strike like lightening in our lives. When my kids were all small, and I was housebound and homeschooling, I would lament the long stretches of time without what I would probably have called “meaningful conversation.”

One day it dawned on me that the women God had already placed in my life through play dates and church activities were the gift He was providing for friendship. We leaned into each other with a Bible study and playground appointments to the delight of our children and to the enrichment of all our lives.

“Usually friendship grows over time when planted in the soil of life, grown over seasons, and watered with love so it can flourish in the sunshine of life shared.” (115)

4. Fight for Balance

Boundaries rescue us from emotional depletion and sleep-deprived pity parties, but sometimes we need a little help from our friends in maintaining healthy priorities. Allowing them to speak truth into our lives takes humility, but it is an exercise in self-care that will make us more effective servants of God.

One dear couple expressed their concern–and then loaned us their house on the Atlantic Ocean for a weekend away, because they could see exhaustion from family and ministry was licking at our heels. Uninterrupted sleep and the delicious breakfast casserole they left for us spelled l-o-v-e, and we returned home with new energy and equilibrium.

5. Give and Receive the Gift of Love

When Henri Nouwen said, “The greatest gift we can give each other is the gift of our belovedness,” he was calling believers into an awareness of God’s great love that sings over us and celebrates our uniqueness. When we give and receive friendship, we are changed in ways that expand our capacity to love even more, and we experience the nature of God by opening our own hearts in imitation of His wide, long, deep, and towering love. By faith we learn that the gift of friendship is God’s great love flowing down and turning sideways as it runs its terrain-shaping course through wide-open hearts.

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

Your friend,

michele signature[1]

Sally Clarkson has written extensively about home and family, and The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time is a resource I return to for inspiration. For more Clarkson wisdom, you can read my review here.


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 Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World or The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time, 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.

Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

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 Hard Work of Hanging On and the Brave Work of Letting Go

Twenty years ago, my husband and I made one of the most difficult decisions of our married life:  we decided to leave a church and to worship elsewhere. Leaving behind dear people we loved (and likely offending more than one person in the process), we left that fellowship convinced that God was telling us it was time to let go. Soon, our roots were planted deeply in the good soil of another church family. They welcomed us with warmth and enthusiasm and the years have flown. The church with the white steeple and the red doors is home to us and to our sons, but, quite honestly, there have been seasons when it was not a joy to be there–hard seasons of pastoral searches, dry spells when nothing seemed to click, frustrating years when I would scan the horizon for a sign–sky writing, a whisper from the Word, ANYTHING that would release us and give us a green light to let go. I was tired of holding on, but the clear assignment from God was to do that very thing, and I’m thankful now that we did.

In It’s All Under Control: A Journey of Letting Go, Hanging On, and Finding a Peace You Almost Forgot Was Possible, Jennifer Dukes Lee devotes two full chapters and a lot of wisdom to the tightrope walk of hanging on and letting go. It turns out that “Let Go and Let God” may not be the best advice all the time, but there are also times when letting go is a true mark of bravery. It was good news to hear that “gospel living is not an either/or question. It’s both/and. It’s coming back to that fork in the road every day–with every decision, every obligation, and every relationship–and asking God to help you choose.”  (77) This is a recipe for living surrendered, and it comes back to persevering through the hard work, believing through the messy middle, and practicing the spiritual discipline of active trust.

Persevere through the Hard Work

“Just because something is hard work, doesn’t mean it’s wrong or should be abandoned.” (85) God may call you to write a book, start a new career, or to persevere through a hard season with a needy friend. It is also likely that at some point you will be called into the hard work of letting go, of opening your hands to release grown children, to relinquish a project that has gone off the rails or a task that is not yours to do.  The privilege and the challenge of this following life is living close to Truth so when God’s voice comes, our ears are accustomed to its pitch and timbre, and our hearts are in good shape for the hard work of obedience.

Believe in the Messy Middle

Living on the horns of a dilemma is just as uncomfortable as the metaphor sounds. We reach a point where we want ANY decision that will take the place of indecision, and yet holding on in the midst of the unknown is a powerful affirmation that we are not in control of the situation and are yielding to the One who is.  When guidance comes, if God calls you to hang on, He has the end of the rope alongside you. However, if you are called to release instead and to move on in faith, Jennifer reminds readers that “for everything you’ve ever let go, Jesus is still hanging on.” (107)

Practice the Discipline of Active Trust

Does it help your heart to know that God knows the end result of your holding on/letting go dilemma?  It is entirely true that we may “have to wait until heaven to know he was trustworthy in all that is yet to unfold in our lives. But until then, we have a choice. We can trust him with all that we are because we believe he is all he says he is. He hasn’t done all that we wanted, but he has done all that is right.” (108)

Releasing our white-knuckle control over every aspect of our lives (and those we love) is fueled by that relationship of trust. The prophet Isaiah painted a picture of the point of release around seven hundred years before the birth of Christ. He did not know your situation, whether you are struggling to let go or straining to hold on, but his words come as fresh reassurance today:

“Your teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right: ‘This is the right road. Walk down this road.'”  (Isaiah 30:21, MSG)

 May we find grace to wait, to listen, and then to follow,

Michele Morin

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

Back in 2016, Jennifer Dukes Lee released The Happiness Dare in which sheThe Happiness Dare lays down the challenge to overcome obstacles to happiness with truth that jumps into our hole of unhappiness and builds a ladder toward the light.  To the defeatist notion that “This is just the way I am,” she offers the happiness booster that “little by little, I can become happier by changing the way I think.” The truth of Romans 12:2 is nowhere more practical than in the “renewal” that takes place when the believer alters her thoughts toward happiness. I invite you to check out my review of The Happiness Dare here.

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