A Mosaic of Images on Joy and Prayer

I come from a tradition that is suspicious of written or scripted prayers, believing that spontaneity is a sign of sincerity and casting askance glances at those who must borrow the words of others in order to talk to God.  Then I became a mother and realized that not only were my own words in prayer untrustworthy at times, but there were also events in life for which words would not come. Praying the examen of conscience at the end of a day has often given my tired brain a place to go and an outline to guide my conversation with God.

Light When It Comes by Chris Anderson is a guide book for the practice of “paying fierce attention” to life in order to enhance one’s prayer life and to ensure that we catch all the stories that matter.  At the end of the day, it is helpful to me to remember that I have an audience with God and to review the events of the day with thanksgiving, paying attention to emotions, to the ways in which guidance has come and miracles have happened.  It is also a time to offer up all the failings and disappointments for forgiveness and grace and to make plans for a more Christ-centered tomorrow.

In the midst of this reflection, I find that life distills down to a series of moments.

“The only place I can be is the moment.
Everything else is an abstraction.” (25)

Chris Anderson intersperses his teaching on joy and prayer with vivid re-tellings of moments from his own life in a way that I found to be jarring at first:  a story about a yellow warbler calling “sweet-sweet-sweet-sweeter-than-sweet”  jostles around between a vignette from a funeral and a description of the sound of his son playing the harmonica with a Bruce Springsteen CD.  Eventually, though, these disjointed stories began to “appear in their real potency,” just as the unsettling stories of Scripture do when we let them speak for themselves and to communicate beyond the stained glass and the flannel boards.

Reviewing the events of the day in the presence of God is an opportunity to face the darkness as well as to remember the joy.  This too is part of the paying attention, part of the humility that acknowledges that “God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things“– including the things we wonder about.

The author examines servanthood from his perspective as a church member and a deacon, acknowledging his own mixed motives (the only kind of motives available to humans), and the thirst that tries to satisfy itself with something other than Living Water (Praise?  Order?  Certainty? No, these do not quench the thirst . . .)

He portrays service as a learning process:

“Whatever else it is, the story of Jesus is the story of letting go and the giving up we have to do every day of our lives.” (86)

This paying attention to life means that God shows up in surprising ways:  in the midst of confusion, on the days when I don’t like myself, when what I really need to do is to stop analyzing and to start trusting. It is a recognition of the humility of a simple “and” when viewing the pieces that make up the mosaic of our lives, not striving for or forcing our way into “thus” or “therefore” before light has come, but offering up the individual events, both good and bad, so that the creation of the mosaic is, in the end, left to God.

Chris closes with two premises that bring the pieces together into a joyful whole:

  1.  “God is present in every moment and in every molecule.  His grace and His love are nowhere less than complete and full, anywhere in the universe, anywhere in time.
  2. The love of God and the grace of God are freely given, are nothing but gift, [and] there’s nothing we can ever do to earn them.  No matter how much I read or pray or do good works, I will never be more loved by God than I am in this very second.  Yes, we should strive to be better, we should strive to be more moral and faithful people, but not in order to merit the love of God but rather as a loving and grateful response to it.”

Having said all that, it is not in premises that Light When It Comes urges us to find our life, but rather in the blessed randomness of holy joy that flows into the wildly disjointed pieces of our moments and our days, making of it all a gift.

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This book was provided by the William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company 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.

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Finding Rest in Humility

Apparently, in addition to all his better-known gifts, Thomas Jefferson was a gardener. His experimentation with horticulture added over five hundred new fruits and vegetables to the world, but he was never able to successfully cultivate a vineyard at Monticello, his beloved Virginia home.  Here’s why:  the French varieties of grapes he coveted had no resistance to the tiny root louse which feeds on the roots of grapevines and thrives in North American soil.  His dream of a beautiful vineyard was being, quite literally, cut off at the roots.

Hannah Anderson shares Jefferson’s gardening woes as an illustration of the effect of pride on the human heart.  An infestation of pride not only cuts peace and joy off at the roots, but also heightens stress levels and causes the oblivious host to strive for levels of self-sufficiency and competence that we were never meant to shoulder.  In Humble Roots, Hannah shares a number of definitions of humility that give structure to her words and that also reveal the important role that a humble heart plays in the formation of a soul that is both grounded and nourished.

“Humility is accurately understanding ourselves and our place in the world.  Humility is knowing where we came from and who our people are.  Humility is understanding that without God we are nothing.” (56)

In directing our gaze to the lilies of the field, Jesus invites His followers to a humble dependence on His provision.  With 75% of Americans reporting that they experience some level of stress on any given month (21) — and all its attending health issues — a humble acknowledgement of our need can be life-saving.

“Humility is not feeling a certain way about yourself, not feeling small or low or embarrassed or even humiliated.  Theologically speaking, humility is a proper understanding of who God is and who we are as a result.” (103)

This clear view of the self reveals that most of our struggles are rooted in a pride that exalts and prioritizes our own feelings over all else.  It takes a certain amount of courage to agree with John the Beloved Disciple’s assessment that God is “greater than our hearts.”  The humble admission that He “knows all things” — and by extension that I do not know all things — is a tremendous first step in admitting the limits of human reason and in acknowledging the truth that all is gift.

“Humility remembers both your human limitation and God’s transcendent power.” (157)

Proverbs 16:9 yields truth that eases my control issues with the knowledge of the choreography that exists between my decision-making and God’s sovereignty, for indeed, plan as I may, it is God who directs my steps.  How glorious that God invites me to dream, while also reassuring me that I need never lose sight of His ultimate control as the One who is writing the patterns for every figure of the dance.

“Humility teaches us to find rest in confession.  Rest from the need to hide, the need to be perfect.  We rest by saying, both to God and others, ‘I am not enough.  I need help.'” (186)

Life here outside The Garden means that no one is immune from brokenness and fallibility, but humility alleviates some of the sting, for when we freely confess our brokenness to God and others, we are free to grieve it, to stop hiding it, and to take grace.

There is irony in Hannah Anderson’s choice of a title for her book, for it quickly becomes clear that it is pride that lives in the roots of humanity.  Thus, it becomes the lifelong journey of the Christian life to uproot all that is harmful (or, depending on one’s perspective, to cooperate with God in His uprooting) and to transplant (by grace) all that redeems.  In the meantime, having read and allowed the truth to land on plowed soil, I’m enjoying the message that “God raised Jesus up because this is how God responds to humility.” (199)

And on this February day in which my refrigerator is playing host to two tomatoes that can only be described as “plastic,” my gardener-soul is nourished by this lovely sentence:

“A sun-ripened tomato is one of God’s clearest acts of common grace.” (118)

In Humble Roots,  Hannah Anderson has drawn a clear connection between the cultivation of those sun-ripened beauties and the pursuit of soul-nourishment, peace, rest, and an end to the ceaseless striving.  Using metaphors as earthy as our clay-based bodies, she cooperates with the Word of God to reveal that the quality of life we most desire will not come to us through power or reason or productivity or any number of quick fixes, but, rather, through roots that are sunk deeply into a theology of need and answering grace — and a humble acceptance of a life that is lived close to the ground.

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This book was provided by Moody Publishers 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.

 

The Freedom is in the Falling

Because I’m a planner, I carry a planner, but the truth is that my planner carries me.  All pristine and un-besmirched, the 2017 edition holds out the promise of glorious accomplishment and blessed organization in a life that often feels like spinning plates and chaos management.  Shannan Martin started her marriage and motherhood in much the same way.  Plan-the-work-and-work-the-plan as a way of life had secured for her and her husband their dream farm with a cute little family and a life that had all the trappings of security.  In a journey that began with the hunch that God might be leading them to move — literally — outside their comfort zone, the Martins said good-bye to predictability and hello to an address that had always seemed to them like “the wrong side of the tracks.”

Memoir meets manifesto in Falling Free, for Shannan not only shares her story, but also describes the safety she found in risk and the stunning realization that when we say, “God is all I need,” we may be asked to make good on those words.   The Martins’ income plummeted to make space for ministry in a life that became centered around a community that included a struggling public school and a circle of friends who had done jail time, who struggled with addictions, and who continually battled poverty.

It is no understatement to say that Falling Free challenged some of the assumptions and guiding principles of this homeschooling mum who can just barely see the smoke from her neighbor’s chimney. Reading about Shannan’s “rescue from the life she always wanted” allowed me to consider some fairly uncomfortable concepts:

  • God reserves the right to do the unexpected and to move His people in unlikely directions.  He is unpredictable and has not “settled down” since Old Testament times.
  • True family transcends DNA and mirrors the welcome that God extends in the gospel.
  • It’s hard to pine for heaven when you already believe you’re there.”  For North American Christians, our stuff is a serious obstacle to living an authentic Christian life.
  • Our most valuable offering to those in need is our “good standing.”  One of the greatest needs of the poor is a future: a way to secure employment, stability, and a permanent address.
  • Missional living makes for missional parenting and produces missional kids.  If God calls a believer to ministry in an area with failing schools, He is asking her to trust Him with her children’s education.

It was delightful to read about Shannan and her family bonding with their newly adopted community around plates of pasta and garlic bread (often well-done).  She testifies to the efficacy of the “unfancy dinner table” and to this stunning truth:

“If community is the heartbeat of the gospel, hospitality is the hand that opens the door and waves it in.”

Falling Free unpacks the biblical image of Jesus “moving into the neighborhood” by first inviting readers to picture someone on the lowest rung of their social ladder — a homeless, meth-addict, for instance.  Shannan first nails the pity and lack of respect that I would feel toward her — and then suggests that my trading lives with that addict would not even begin to approach the utter humiliation of the incarnation.  Embracing my own smallness is more than a matter of having less.  It is about being less, like Jesus, when He “took the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” — less, last, and ordinary.

In a culture that encourages all of us precious believing snowflakes to “shop” for our “perfect church” that “meets our needs,” Shannan reminds her readers that the Kingdom of God is full of surprises.  God may ask us to sink our roots deep into a community that wounds us and exacts a deep cost to our souls while satisfying nothing on our personal wish list.  This is Jesus’ invitation, made explicit in the Beatitudes, but inexplicable to my preferred business plan that’s built around “blessed are the sensible and those who serve dinner on time.”

Not everyone will be called to join the Martin family in the weightless free fall, but the principles that guided their choices and the insights they gained in the process are choreography for my own choices and priorities in this world where I am called to dance the love and the life of Christ.

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This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through the BookLookBloggers 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.”

An Announcement for January

Most of us have a favorite C.S. Lewis book, whether it’s the incisive practical theology of Mere Christianity or the glorious story-telling found in The Chronicles of Narnia.  It turns out that C.S. Lewis’s favorite of all his books was Till We Have Faces.  One Lewis scholar calls it his “most subtle treatment of the relation between good and evil.”  It’s a novel, based on the mythical tale of Cupid and Psyche, and in it, Lewis explores themes such as the selfishness of human love, the limits of reason, the corrupting effects of self-will, and in Lewis’s own words, “the havoc a vocation or even a faith works on human life.”   I’m planning to lead a discussion group about the book starting in January, and am hoping that many of you will join me, so here’s a quick overview of the plan:

  1.  The pace will be leisurely at three chapters per week (about 30-ish pages), which will take us into the beginning of March.
  2. I will be posting weekly starting January 5 (Thursdays) with introductory material and a detailed reading schedule.  My hope is that the comments section here at Living Our Days will become a comfy living room where we can discuss our thoughts on the book.  If you blog, PLEASE plan to include a link to your post about the week’s reading so that we can all benefit from one another’s impressions with more detail than is possible in the comments.  If you don’t blog, no worries.  Just share your thoughts in connection with the weekly reading here, and be sure to visit and respond to others.

More details to follow!

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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.

The Enneagram and The Road Back to You

I googled the term the first time I heard it, not even sure how to pronounce it.

Enneagram:  “Any – a – gram”

Named for a nine-sided polygon, the Enneagram distinguishes and describes nine facets of the human personality, nine different ways of being, nine unique manifestations of the image of God on this planet.  In The Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile provide a clear, humorous, and sensitive road map for the journey of self-discovery that happens while studying the Enneagram.

Here’s a summary of all nine types and connections:

capture

It’s important to note that with the Enneagram, motivation determines type.  So, for example, if I believe that a friend is feeling sad, I may reach out to her with a phone call for various reasons:

  • If I call because I see myself as a champion of the sad and despondent, I may be an 8.
  • If I’m motivated by a desire to comfort and to create a safe space for that friend, I am likely a 2.
  • If I join my sad friend in her place of sadness and mirror the entire range of her emotions, I am probably a 4.

The way we take in information has a huge impact on the way we see the world, and the Enneagram provides a framework for understanding this, as well as a new vocabulary for expressing ourselves, for living alongside others, and for delighting in the mystery of our individuality.

To be honest, I’m not entirely settled on my Enneagram number.  I kept hoping that Ian and Suzanne would say, “And if every time you read about one of the types, you think you ARE that type (or at least have all its weaknesses), then you are a _______.”   (They didn’t say that — ever.)

It’s also important to understand that the Enneagram types are not convenient pigeon holes for filing yourself and all your friends into neat little Bento boxes, and this is one of the strengths of the concept.  Because human beings operate at all levels of health and dysfunction, not all Type 1 Perfectionists are on a mission to make over the entire universe in their own image.  Not all Eights are bent on world domination.

If you are curious about your type, you can take an online quiz, but then you will need to do some further reading and research to discover what significance that number has for you.  Suzanne and Ian have also produced a podcast with an abundance of helpful information.

Additionally, it’s important to note that each Enneagram type will manifest characteristics of a neighbor number.  This is referred to as your wing.  For example, when I took the online test, it determined that I am most likely a 3 with a 4 wing (3w4).  If I were a 3w2, I would be much more charming and intimate, but I would also drive my friends crazy trying to be the star of every show.  As a 3w4 (if that’s what I really am), I am introspective and more authentic than the 3w2, but also more conflicted.

Of course, knowing all this won’t change who I am, but it does give me an understanding of the raw material I’m working with so that I can get out of my own way and become a God-honoring version of a 3w4, trusting for grace to deal with the weaknesses, and capitalizing on the strengths that are there.

The Ennegram is also a helpful tool for understanding how others are viewing the world.  Suzanne and Ian have said it well:

“The Enneagram shows us that we can’t change the way other people see, but we can try to experience the world through their eyes and help them change what they do with what they see.”

The authors have also provided a “field guide” for understanding the other types with a “What It’s Like to Be a _________” at the beginning of each type’s chapter.  Eye-opening!

It is clear that the Enneagram doesn’t just provide numbers attached to numerical excuses for us to stay in our present ruts or unhealthy behavior patterns. Understanding my weakness and frailty is true self-awareness.  It is also a call to spiritual transformation.  Thomas Merton has said, “For me to be a saint means to be myself.”  While this may be overstating the point, it’s not by much, for if my efforts to “be a saint” pull me into a personality that is not my own, but rather some concoction of traits that I’ve admired in those I consider to be “saints,” I’m doomed to jettison myself out of that ill-fitting craft and conclude that sainthood is just not for me.  The beauty of self-understanding is the knowledge that saints come in all types and sainthood is as various and multi-colored as the creative genius of God.

The Road Back to You begins and ends with a blessing for the journey, words spoken over those who are about to wake up to the wonder of discovering the true self, and to find more of God in the process:

“May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.
May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
May you have respect for your individuality and difference.
May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful and eternal happening.
May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.”

Amen.

Let it be so.

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This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of Intervarsity Press 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.”

The amazing graphic showing the Enneagram is a creation of Lisa Burgess of LisaNotes, and it is used, gratefully, with her permission.  Be sure to hop over to her place and read her great series on the Enneagram.

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.

Ten Thousand Truths

In my gratitude journal, you will not find the words “back pain” or “dead air conditioner in the mini-van.”  And even though I have read (and re-read) the Beatitudes, I am in a season of mourning deeply over the advancing dementia of a dear friend — and I’m not feeling the least bit blessed by it.

Clearly, my perspective needs adjusting, and, according to author Mark Yaconelli, I am not alone.  As a society, we are intolerant of anything that reminds us that we are not in control, and, instead of viewing failure, disappointment, loss, or frustration as gifts which open our hearts to the caring ministry of others and the heightened spiritual insights that come from a closer following, we become disoriented, cynical, shame-filled, or resentful toward our difficulties.

Even so, The Gift of Hard Things with its gritty and delightful truth-telling makes no claim to spiritual alchemy — there are no magical words that will convert suffering into joy.  Even so,  Yaconelli’s  stories offer a thin place where the gap between my desire to avoid suffering at all cost and God’s desire to use it to deepen my capacity for love and generosity stops feeling so wildly uncrossable.

I was captivated by Mark’s prayer service disaster story:  his careful preparation, his thoughtful attention to every detail, and his thorough marketing of the new campus ministry.  How could it be that not one college student — not one! — ever attended that service?  The disappointment of a ministry-crash-and-burn flies in the face of all my pat answers about God.  Mark’s too:

“Deep down, we believe if we pray, follow the Ten Commandments, and work hard, God will grant us a successful life.”

He admits,”My life has never matched my expectations,” and even though the prayer service continues three years later (sans college students), the experience was primarily a lesson in spiritual poverty and an invitation to examine his expectations for their source:  culture? family? personal need?  It is only through a long re-learning that we may begin to sit in gratitude for what has been given, but it is the path away from disappointment and resentment.

Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century social reformer, wrote:

“God sends ten thousand truths, which come about us like birds seeking inlet; but we are shut up to them, and so they bring us nothing, but sit and sing awhile upon the roof, and then fly away.”

Without a doubt, a goodly portion of God’s ten thousand truths come in the form of suffering.  I miss the point of the song He is trying to sing into my life when I concentrate on simply getting through the trial without looking for the lyrics of healing that are carried on the melody of affliction.  The aim of The Gift of Hard Things is for readers to find in the gift of difficult people, in the blessing of disappointment, or in the bracing realization of our own brokenness the reality of being met in the midst of that frailty with a strength that is not our own.  It is only in this strength that I am able to rejoice in the truth that God is fluent in the language of lament.  His psalm-singers have given us the lyrics, and the human condition provides the material.  By faith, we add our stories to the narrative flow, and by grace we are used of God to reveal that the very things that catch us off guard have actually been placed in our path with a purpose.

In choosing to believe the truth of this, my story is altered, because even when my circumstances careen out of control, I still get to choose “whether [my] helplessness draws [me] toward or away from prayer.”  Mark goes on to say that we get to “choose whether our grief deepens our empathy or sours us into resentment.  We get to choose whether to allow the difficulties we have suffered to break or expand us.”  With this wisdom, I am encouraged to point my divining rod toward Hope, and to hang on for the journey of discovering grace where I least expect it.

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This book was provided by IVP Books, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, 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 from 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.

Dramatic, Wild, and Wet

Living near the coast of Maine and worshiping in a small fishing village, I’ve spent some idyllic moments on the deck of a friend’s lobster boat and marveled at the treasures (the beautiful and the ugly) that come tumbling out of a lobster trap.  I’ve skirted the perimeter of a secluded island with four little boys, admired its tumbled stones,  listened to its pounding surf, and wondered at its stalwart gale-beaten evergreens.  And always, always . . . in the back of my mind was the small voice of worry:  “We’re 20 miles from the mainland.  What if something goes wrong?  What if someone gets hurt?”

Leslie Leyland Fields is no visitor or tourist to maritime culture.  The frigid coast of Alaska has been her home and her workplace for 38 years, and she has lived through many of the what-ifs that teased the fringes of my imagination on my island visits.  In Crossing the Waters, her tenth book, she has woven with elegance the story of her life as an Alaskan commercial fishing woman alongside meditations on the wet and wild New Testament tales of wind-whipped waves and a sleeping savior, of bulging nets and faithless followers.  Leslie tightens the narrative weave with a third strand:  accounts of her journey to Israel, home of the Biblical fishing grounds where the Son of God cast His net wide and found Himself often in the company of a band of fishermen.

Hiking in the autumn heat along the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River with Leslie, I was invited to ponder with her the meaning of baptism, the significance of leaving our nets behind to follow Jesus, and the faith that receives a fish from the hand of Jesus without secretly wondering whether it might be a snake.

From the “gathering of the waters” at the Red Sea, through the washing and purifying that became part of their worship, and then into the New Testament splashing of baptized and believing fishermen, the People of the Book have also been a people who have come through the water; and although Jesus’ disciples were called away from the water for the three years of His public ministry, Leslie and her family have lived the fierce call to remain on the water.

Memoir runs seamlessly from past to present, from Alaska to Israel, and glorious truth landed like spray on the bow of my boat:

The following life can be a leaving behind of what is dear, but it may also be a staying put while others leave.  Those of us whose nests are emptying out before our incredulous eyes know the bittersweet of the proud goodbye and the gritty faithfulness of “I will follow Christ right here where I’ve been put.”

New Testament images of fishermen blithely walking away from their nets, and Peter scrabbling over the side of a boat onto a stormy sea jump clean off the flannel board and into real life with the reality that no fisherman in his right mind would abandon his boat — or his nets — without very good reason.  Since Leslie has had the experience of standing aghast in a boat full of salmon (calculating extra mortgage payments and tuition money as she surveyed the bumper crop) she takes an educated guess at Jesus’ motives for calling Peter, James, and John away from their nets to fish for souls after His miraculous provision of the catch of their lives:

“Enjoy it.  Count the fish.  Now, come.  I have something greater for you.”

The abundance of the following life comes in unexpected ways — and maybe when we least expect it.

The Fields fish and the Morins mow, so it was helpful to read about another family that is working its way through the tensions of life in a family business and that knows the ache of a work-related argument or the constant need for productivity that presses hard against the desire to be a sympathetic mum.  Leslie’s metaphor of mending nets by pulling shredded fibers back together into something durable and reliable is an apt (and poignant) picture of the work of forgiveness that preserves family unity.

Visiting Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, Leslie longed to see a real storm as a reminder of the “peace be still” that banished the gale, but that also brought tangible fear right into the boat instead.
Go ahead.
Join the wide-eyed disciples in asking the question:  What kind of Savior is this?  Then read the conclusion that comes from the experience of crossing the waters with Jesus:   that He is a Savior who allows the storm to come with all its howling winds, but then who sits beside us in our boat, calling us to do our part to fill the hungry in this world full of danger and fear.

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This book was provided by NavPress in alliance with Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 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 from 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.

 

Persevering – in Grace

Even though the class was a disaster, I still regret quitting high school physics. I wish that I had hung in there with my little TI-30 calculator and all the boys who wore theirs in “denim-look” vinyl cases hanging off their belts or bulging from their shirt pockets — not because I suddenly care about the trajectory of a cannon ball fired at a forty-five degree angle.  It’s because I believe that I would be a different person today if I had persevered in the hard discipline and allowed the dreaded “B” (or less!) to sully my G.P.A.

Annie Downs knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and see a quitter.  By grace, she is also learning that to hang-in-there-in-hope is the path to joy.  Looking for Lovely is the record of her journey in joy’s direction, in which she explores the connection between suffering and transformation and the truth that beauty lives in the spaces that may look like “rain, confusion, hurt, and ugly.”

Looking for life’s loveliness may involve suffering.  Annie’s search felt, at times, like a training regimen in which she built strength and endurance, only to realize in the end that the muscle most in need of conditioning was “the one between her ears.”

Part of our search for hope is the process of learning to ask, and Annie reminds believers that the life of faith involves an awareness that God made us on purpose, and He has called us to a life of courage.  Whatever rope He calls us to climb, beauty will be “the knots in the rope” that keep us holding on.

It’s clear that Annie has spent some time pondering the past and all the changes she intends for the future resulting in a Spirit-fed resolve to mine her pain for every nugget of Romans 8:28 beauty:

“My capacity to see beauty has increased in a much bigger measure than the pain I felt.  My ability to feel the depths of something good was strengthened by my choice to feel the depths of pain.”

The Romans 5:5 hope that does not disappoint comes through embracing (glorying in!) the tribulations that produce perseverance.  Annie also reminds her readers that a pause is not the same as quitting.  In fact, the pause “can actually be part of the victory.”  She shares serial metaphors of her own paused-ponderings in which sushi rolls, nail polish, and Zumba classes all point believers toward healthy habits and grace-oriented priorities.  When we pause to look for the lovely that lives all around us, there is strength to be found in the reality that it is God who is at work behind the scenes, orchestrating the search and strengthening our hearts and minds for the journey.

//

This book was provided by B&H 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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