Thursday, June 06, 2019

Praying With Faith and Wisdom

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Proverbs 1:7

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Proverbs 9:10


This morning I reached 2 Kings 19 in my daily Bible reading.  I think King Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 19:14-19 may be one of my favorite passages. Let me quote it here and then share my thoughts today. (Read all of chapter 19 for context)

“14 Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. 15 And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said: ‘O LORD, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.  17 Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone.  Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone.” 


King Hezekiah and Judah were facing a dire threat.  They knew what Assyria had done to other nations, and now they were threatening Jerusalem. The Assyrians wrongly assumed the God of Israel was like the gods of the other nations and mocked Him.  They did not know that while they may destroy those gods who were not gods, but mere inventions of man, this God is the Creator, the one true and living God.  Hezekiah knew his God. He knew the promises of God and he was one of those kings we rejoice when we read, in 2 Kings 18:5 - 7, “He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD.  He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.  He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.”  

So, what I love about this passage which records Hezekiah’s prayer, is how he takes this terrifying and impossible seeming situation and spreads it out before the Lord.  While he is concerned with deliverance from the threat, from reading the prayer, his deep concern is for God’s glory.  He has absolute trust that God can save them and that when He does so it will show all the kingdoms of the earth that the LORD is God alone.  

I want to learn to pray like this.  When I pray, may my overriding, main concern be to see God glorified. I think too often I am too focused on wanting to be delivered from the pain or the hardship or the discomfort, too focused on my own anxieties and fears and sorrows, too focused on myself and what I want, and not nearly focused enough on wanting to see God’s purposes advanced.  May I learn to pray to the end that all the kingdoms of the earth, and all my family and friends and neighbors, may know that He is God alone.  I think that would greatly change the character of most of my concerns and prayers.  


What a gracious God, to grant us the privilege to trust Him completely, no matter how impossible the situation may seem from our limited perspective.  We can rest in His sovereignty. This is wisdom. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Respect

Before reading this post, please read this and watch the video clip at the end.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for David Platt and how he handled this. His longing to guard the integrity of the gospel in his church ought to be the longing of all of us who belong to Christ. Platt wonderfully did not allow this to become a distraction from the main message of our unity in Christ, and chose, instead, to allow his pastor's heart to shine through and to speak the gospel truth and to demonstrate beautifully how we are to pray for our leaders - no matter who that leader is. He was humble, gentle, and respectful, and he was laser-focused on Jesus. 

I have grown discouraged with what I see as a too America-centric view of Christianity in my country, especially among my tribe - those who lean conservative. Too often we tend to blend patriotism with worship of Christ and it is not right. It just isn’t. It becomes a syncretistic different gospel, all too often. If our church service is more American than it is Christian, we are doing it wrong.  If we are known more for being “America first” than we are all about JESUS first, we are doing it wrong.  

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my country, and I am patriotic. I am not saying it is wrong to have strong political opinions and beliefs and to be civically active. If you know my family, you know the whole reason we move as often as we do demonstrates our family’s service to our country. HOWEVER, that pales into nothingness compared to my worship of my Savior. HE is supreme, and He will not share His glory with anyone or any nation. Being a proud American and wanting to make her ‘great' is not what makes one a good Christian.  Christianity is not America first.  Christianity is Christ first, Christ above all, and Christianity, the good news of the Gospel, is for the whole world. 

So, watching David Platt graciously pray for our president in such a gospel-saturated way makes my heart sing.  His longing not to have the main message be obscured is admirable, and I hope more of us will have such a longing. That is the very reason I’ve chosen not to talk much about politics on my social media. We must not obscure our message. Jesus is everything. He is supreme and sovereign over all. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Remembering the Impact of a Kind Teacher

I’ve recently joined a Facebook group made up of people who went to my high school in the ’80’s and ’90’s. It has been fun to reconnect with old schoolmates and remember some things I hadn’t thought about in years. In one thread, we’ve been discussing memories from our elementary school years, and it reminded me of something I have thought about often through the years.

In about the fourth grade, I had a teacher who, as I look back over the years, made a big impact on my life, and I’ve often wished I could contact her and thank her, but I don’t know how to do so. Anyway, one day as we were sitting in class doing some desk work, I remember us kids talking, like kids do, and I said something unkind about someone else. Word got back to the teacher about what I had said, and she called me over to her desk. I was mortified, just sure I was in trouble. However, she very kindly, very gently told me a story about how she had known a girl when she was in high school who she hadn’t been very friendly with and who wasn’t the most popular kid, but later they ended up going to the same college and living on the same floor in the dorm. She told me she and this girl ended up being really good friends, and how she regretted not being kinder to her in school sooner because she missed out on those years of being friends with her. The point was, be kind no matter what. I felt then, and still to this day feel ashamed of what I had said that day. I don’t even know why I said it. I didn’t mean it, and I was being a dumb kid.

As I’ve thought about that incident through the years, I’m so thankful for how kindly my teacher handled that situation.  She could have just scolded me in front of the class, but she chose to make it a teachable moment instead, and I remembered it. Forever after that, it made me think before judging or dismissing someone unkindly. Even at that age it helped me to realize it’s not all about me.  Everyone has a story. I believe the Lord used that teacher in my life to begin chipping away at my prideful little heart, because as I look back, wow, I sure did have a lot of self-centeredness going on, even in fourth grade. I’m thankful for that teacher’s influence in my life. She probably doesn’t even remember that day, I’m sure there were lots of moments like that in the life of an elementary school teacher, but I have never forgotten it.


Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Some Thoughts About Social Media

I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion last night for the women of our church, encouraging us all to think about how we use social media and how to navigate it for the glory of God. So much good information and great thoughts were shared, and I wish I could share all the panel speakers' topics here, but I thought since I haven't written a blog post in a very long time, maybe I could at least share what I wrote for my portion of the discussion and try to allow my blog to live another day. I do not love public speaking, but when asked to participate with this forum, I was excited. This is a topic I've thought a great deal about and I'm thankful I got to be part of it. The topic I got to speak on is "Things to Consider Before Posting."

I have to admit to you that I have not always handled my use of social media well and have made some unwise mistakes along the way.  So, in looking at how we use social media I am not going to lay down rigid, legalistic rules - we all have different personalities and reasons for using social media, so it won’t look the same for all of us, but I would like to encourage us to think carefully, and give us a bit of a starting point, mindful that we want to honor God as we use social media.

The first thing we want to consider is that we who belong to Christ are ambassadors for Him - always. No matter what we do, in real life or online or at the store or driving, wherever we are, we represent Jesus Christ. So as we examine our social media habits one overarching question we want to ask ourselves is, “Is what I say and how I behave in this format something that brings honor to God? Am I adorning the doctrine of God in how I use this media, as Titus 2:10 tells us we are to do in everything? Am I acting in a way that will attract others to Jesus when I speak of Him, am I saying anything that contradicts the message of the gospel or might make it harder for unsaved friends to hear that message when I do share it, or saved friends to be encouraged by it?” 

 Next we want to keep in mind as we post:  Why am I using social media? Some seek connection, some use it to teach or encourage or share helpful information.   It’s a good idea to examine your reasons for using social media, not just mindlessly posting. One thing I’ve become convinced of is that social media is better used as a SUPPLEMENT to real life relationships, NOT as a substitute for them. The Bible has a whole lot to say about loving one another - this means we are in real, in person relationships.  A book I found helpful is, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. I was struck by something he addressed in that book, that we are embodied people. We NEED face-to-face relationships. This may be due to my more introverted nature, but I find it a great temptation to substitute online interactions for real face-to-face interactions and settle for a level of relationship that isn’t as fulfilling as real, embodied friendship. If I’m not careful, I can coddle my inner hermit instead of pushing out of my comfort zone and learning better how to interact face-to-face. I settle for less, because it’s easier to like a post or write an encouraging comment than it is to actually get together in real life or make a phone call, and not as ‘uncomfortable’ as taking the time to come alongside someone in person. 

Reading friends’ posts can give us a springboard for things to talk about in real life, which is a helpful supplement, but they don’t substitute for truly knowing each other. To have real relationship, we need to do life together. I kind of see Facebook and Instagram as great replacements for the old Christmas letter. It’s a way to stay in touch with people, and a tool to share life events with our friends, but not necessarily to share everything. 

And in our everyday lives, texting is great for quick messages and staying in touch when we don’t need a longer conversation - I mean, I don’t always have time for a two-hour phone call when I really just wanted to ask a quick question or confirm plans to meet, so texting is great for that type of thing, or a quick, “I’m praying for you!” is always encouraging. 

However, it’s easy to have a false sense of intimacy with these media. Because we do share so much or because communication is so instantaneous, it’s easy to think we know people better than we actually do. Researchers are beginning to notice that people who spend a lot of time on social media are experiencing a greater sense of loneliness than you would expect considering how superficially connected we are. While I was writing this, I heard Al Mohler mention this in a segment at the end of his The Briefing podcast on March 21, so it is something people are noticing.  Because we have a real innate desire to know and to be known, we need to consider that It is not the same level of intimacy you have when meeting together, spending time in each others’ homes, praying together, serving together, seeing each other LIVE in real life. So, that’s something to keep in mind as you consider how much time we spend in these venues.

While I was working on this talk, we were discussing the chapter in Respectable Sins in LIFE group, covering sins of the tongue, and we read Matthew 12:36-37, which says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” I have to tell you I found that pretty scary as I really stopped to think about how that lesson applies to how I use social media - so many careless words, I’ve posted. In fact, during every lesson the of the Respectable Sins study I was strongly struck by how applicable every heart issue we covered is to our social media use, too.  That’s why I have listed it as a resource for this topic.


To move toward application, I’m sure many of you have probably heard the acronym THINK before. I find it to be a helpful grid to work through when posting on social media, and I’ll give you some examples.

First, there’s T - is it true? We Christians are to be truth tellers. We have the most amazing news of all - the gospel - that we want our friends and neighbors to hear. So, we want to be people who tell the truth even in little things, so that when we talk about the most important truth, they can better hear us. One area to be careful is with forwards and memes and news stories. Do not forward things that are not true. Always check it out. We come across as gullible and foolish and we clog up our friends’ newsfeed when we thoughtlessly forward things that are not true. Proverbs 14:15-16 says, “The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.” When my friends see me falling for hoaxes and fake news things, what will that make them think when I then turn around and post about Christ? If they see me as gullible on these less important things, will they see me as discerning when it matters? We, of all people, ought to be most careful with our words. At the same time, we do NOT need to post every single thing about our lives in the name of being ‘real.’ I’ve seen the criticism sometimes that we are fake and not transparent on social media if we don’t share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Well, just because it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s wise to share it with our whole friend list.

Which brings us to H - Is it helpful? I don’t know that we need to agonize over whether every single thing we post on Facebook fits this, and I don’t believe we need to only post serious things, it’s ok for it to be fun, but I certainly want to keep this in mind. Why am I posting this? Am I wanting to share something humorous? Am I sharing good information? Am I cheering for my favorite team? Or am I being annoying, boastful, or hurtful with my posts? Am I oversharing? When my friends open their feed, do they have to scroll through 14 of my posts before seeing what anyone else is talking about? That is kind of like that person in a group who dominates the conversation, talking mostly about herself. Really, who honestly cares what I had for lunch today? What am I trying to gain by running to social media to post every thought? As a recovering oversharer, I’ve found myself pausing when I have an urge to share a thought or picture, why am I sharing this? Can’t I just live in the moment? Or what about an overabundance of selfies? Again, think about what are you trying to accomplish with this post and what is this saying to the people on your friends list. Am I posting things that are overly divisive? For example, I have friends on my feed who are unsaved, and they also hold very different opinions from me on things like politics and pop culture. If I am posting a lot of strong opinions and generating animosity over those things, am I making it harder for them to hear me when I speak about the things that are eternally important? These days, people often are very quick to take offense and we can be unnecessarily polarizing when we aren’t thoughtful about the venue in which we share opinions. Keeping in mind that first, overarching consideration that I am an ambassador for Christ, is social media, where I have friends of various spiritual states, the best place for me to be overly opinionated in a way that might hinder the most important message? That’s not to say it’s wrong to have opinions on politics or pop culture or that it’s wrong to ever post about them, or that they aren’t important, but do consider what do I want my main message in this format to be, what is most appropriate for this format, what do I want to be most known for, if I have non Christian friends and family watching? 

Next we have I - Is it inspiring? Does what I share tend more toward encouraging, or more toward complaining? Do I lift up, or drag down, overall? Not that you have to be happy, happy, happy all the time, but what’s the general tone of your social media profile? Since we are specifically thinking about how to use social media for the glory of God, I wanted to encourage us to really think about how we handle His word when we use it in our social media. Scripture is such a powerful way to encourage others, but how many times do you see scripture verses mangled and used out of context to say something they don’t mean?  I am a Christian. I love Jesus. This is what I want most to talk and think about. So one thing I’ve prayed is that I would be careful not to ever lead anyone astray by not being careful with doctrine and what I say about Jesus and His word. It is a joyous, but serious responsibility to talk about our God, and we want to be accurate when we do. Be careful about quotes you share, too. Sometimes you may see a great quote on a beautiful background and love the sentiment, but if you look a bit into the author of the quote or the site it came from, they may not be a source you want to be pointing people toward. We want to be careful not to seem to endorse a source who may not be trustworthy overall. We women really need to guard our hearts and minds - there’s so much out there that just isn’t the best in the way of books and teaching. Proverbs 11:22 has a pretty graphic picture warning for us, “ Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” 

Which leads to N - Is it necessary? Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” Have I thought about the people on my friend list? I don’t know about you, but not everyone on my list interacts with me, and sometimes I forget who all may be reading my posts. Some are close friends, some are family, some are merely acquaintances I’ve known in the past, some are believers, some are not. Is what I’m sharing something I would share with a mere acquaintance in real life?  If it’s too personal to tell to those not-as-close friends in real life or could easily be misunderstood, I should think twice about posting it on social media. When posting pictures or mentioning a get-together, think common courtesy first- Could this make real life friends feel left out?  And what about Vaguebooking? You know what that is? It’s when you're annoyed with someone and you really want to say something, but you don’t necessarily want to say it directly so you post a passive aggressive comment hoping maybe they’ll see it, or you’re having a hard time and you want a little sympathy, but maybe don’t want to share it all out there, so you share some vague comment about what a hard time you’re having. They're the sort of posts you read and think, “Who is she talking about?” or “What’s going on with her?” Worse than vague complaints are actual, airing of the dirty laundry rants. Again, remember your audience - it’s unwise, foolish, even, to vent all over social media, and honestly it’s embarrassing and not the best witness. Proverbs 29:11 “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

And then we reach K - Is it Kind? As a mom, I really want to touch on this, and I wasn’t quite sure where to put it, but I think it fits here under kind - what about what and how much I share about my children? When they were little and I shared a funny little story it didn’t seem quite as big of a deal as it is now that they are older. I caught myself recently sharing a story I thought was funny about something my daughter said, but the more I thought about it, I was sharing something that to me was funny, but to her was embarrassing. So I took the post down pretty soon after sharing it. I am much more careful now to think, how would I have felt if my mom had a Facebook account when I was this age, and how thankful I am she didn’t? Ephesians 6:4 warns us against exasperating our children, and this is one area we need to consider. It has made me much more aware of the fact that loving my neighbor well, including my kids, means thinking more about what is best for them, regarding what I post. As my children’s mom, I want to protect them, and that means being wise about what I share. And then, more generally about kindness - we are to be people who love others. Our words are powerful.  The people on the other side of your social media interactions are real people.  Think about how you come across. Think about how it would impact you if someone posted or texted the way you do and be careful with your words.   We can use this tool as a supplement to aid us to encourage and rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep when used wisely. Not that we necessarily want to overanalyze and constantly walk on eggshells, but we do want to be caring of others. Do I know someone in my friends feed who is struggling especially with something right now and maybe I could be a little considerate about what I’m sharing, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with them - could what I’m posting hurt them unnecessarily or be a bit tone deaf to their pain at this time? We are to be peacemakers - Romans 12:18 tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Especially in the mediated world of social media, where facial cues, tone of voice, and body language are missing, be kind -  in what you say, and in how you interpret what others post and say. It’s so easy for mediated words and pictures to be misconstrued.  I’ve seen comment threads degenerate quickly into angry interactions that I’m willing to bet would not have happened if the people were sitting across from each other over coffee, or left private conversations private, not put out there on social media.  This is so important - Don’t text or post angry. James 1:20 warns us “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  In that same vein, most of the time it is wise to stay out of Twitter and Facebook arguments. Think - do I need to address this at all? Do I have the kind of relationship with this person that earns the right to correct or reprove? If I think I do need to address it, I probably should go to the person privately - in person if at all possible. Remember, as far as it depends on you, preserve peace and one of my favorite Proverbs says, “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” (Proverbs 17:14)

In summary, really what all this boils down to should be that when using social media - Am I loving my neighbor as myself? Am I preferring others, and am I bringing honor to my Savior and loving Him first, and is that reflected in how I interact in this format? This can be such a powerful tool for good and for encouragement and for sharing gospel truth. Let’s be careful that we use it for good and watch out for pitfalls.



Monday, December 31, 2018

What I Was Reading in 2018

I've made it something of a habit at the end of a year and beginning of a new year to post a list of the books I read in the last year. One fun little tradition my dad and brother and I have is that we share our reading lists with each other at the end of the year, as well, and I always pick up interesting suggestions for future reads from their lists. Since I won't be finishing any books today, I can go ahead and post my 2018 list, and the book I'm currently reading will have to go on the list for 2019. This is a little unsatisfying to my sense of completeness since it is the third in a series and I would have liked it to go on this list with the first two from the series, but it is what it is. 😊  As always, just because it's on the list doesn't necessarily mean I might wholeheartedly endorse a book, so if anyone has a question, please feel free to ask. I didn't always write whether I liked a book or not, and, looking back, I kind of wish I had done that more often - I find that when I look back, I don't always remember all of them very well. Some of them stick with me quite a bit, while others are less memorable.  Anyway, for what it's worth, here is the list of books I read in 2018. 



January 2018

  • From the Resurrection to his Return: Living Faithfully in the Last Days - D.A. Carson (NF)
  • East of Eden - John Steinbeck (F)
  • A Specter of Justice - Mark De Castrique (F). My brother-in-law gave me an autographed copy of this book for Christmas, written by a friend of his. I enjoyed it very much and plan to look for more in the series.
  • Wonder - R.J. Palacio (F). Wow, this is such a great book. I cried so often while reading it - sad and happy tears. My daughter's cousin gave it to her for Christmas last year and she loved it and has talked and talked about it and wants to see the movie, and she begged me to read it, so I just finished it, and it is just so good. We're planning to go see the movie tomorrow. :-) The writing is so good and I love how the story is told from the perspective of several characters, and very believably. I love the message of not only choosing kindness, but going beyond and  choosing to be even kinder than necessary. Highly recommended.
  • Who is the Holy Spirit? (Crucial Questions Series) - R.C. Sproul (NF)
  • Foundation - Isaac Asimov (F)
February 2018
  • Can I Be Sure I'm Saved (Crucial Questions Series) - R. C. Sproul (NF)
  • Foundation and Empire - Isaac Asimov (F)
  • Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems - J. D. Greear (NF).  Recommended! I very much appreciated this book.
March 2018
  • Second Foundation - Isaac Asimov (F)
  • The Cold Dish: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 1) - Craig Johnson (F)
April 2018
  • Growing Up Christian - Karl Gaustein with Mark Jacobsen (NF). This is a great tool to use for discipling our children who are growing up as 'church kids' to help us to help them to recognize the blessings and dangers in growing up 'Christian.' It is very helpful at encouraging them to examine themselves to be sure they truly understand the gospel and are in the faith, rather than merely mimicking their parents' faith. Very much recommended.
  • Death Without Company: A Walt Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 2) - Craig Johnson (F).  I've found a new favorite series. Some language caution (a couple of characters can at times be a bit salty in their language). Interesting and believable characters, humor, intriguing stories.
  • Race and Economics - Walter E. Williams (NF). 
  • Christy - Catherine Marshall (F).  I loved this book!
  • Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.D. Vance (NF).  This is such a good book, sad, poignant, but somewhat hopeful. I have so many thoughts I wish I could discuss with someone after reading this, I'm going to have to call my mom. I see many similarities, yet many differences to things she has told me about her family and grandparents and great-grandparents.  To some extent, the 'hillbillies' are my ancestors, too, though there are differences to mom's and dad's stories that are significant. One thing that made me angry while reading, though, is that the Christianity that is pictured is more cultural than Christian. While I know I'm reading through the author's lens and it's possible that in his youth and struggles he just missed the larger message, it seems that even when he went to church he was more inundated with outward things and changes rather than the actual gospel message. We all need the gospel, not mere separation from the world, but we need to know reconciliation with God through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. This is what changes us and grants us true hope. I agree with a lot of the cultural issues discussed and analyzed so well and insightfully in the book, they are real and need to be addressed, but I'm angry and saddened at the shallow Christianity presented in many churches that preach Americanism on one hand and focus on separating from the world but seem to miss the point ultimately in preaching true gospel salvation. Our identity needs to be in Christ, we need to be following HIM, we need Him and His righteousness to save us from ourselves. It isn't enough to have our own version of Christianity apart from any church but remaining in our deep-seated, individualistic, I'll-do-it-my-way pride,  nor is to legalistically change outward behavior and stop watching movies, listening to certain music,  and fill our minds reading Left Behind books and steeping ourselves in the evangelical subculture while seeing the devil behind everything else. That is not Christianity. Christianity is dying to ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ. It is to see Jesus as more precious and worthy than anything else in life. I have so much more I'm thinking, but this isn't the place to share it, and I need time to think. I really am glad I read this book. 
  • Kindness Goes Unpunished: A Walt Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 3) - Craig Johnson (F).
May 2018
  • Another Man's Moccasins: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 4) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • The Alice Network: A Novel - Kate Quinn (F).
  • The Dark Horse: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 5) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that's a good thing) - Jen Wilkin (NF). Recommended!
  • Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - Leah Remini (NF). 
  • Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God - Athena Dean Holtz (NF). 
  • Junkyard Dogs: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 6) - Craig Johnson (F).
June 2018
  • The Quest for Cosmic Justice - Thomas Sowell (NF). Wow.  I would love to see this as recommended reading for every high school senior.  Very well thought out and written. 
  • Hell is Empty: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 7) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Memory Man - David Baldacci (F).
July 2018
  • The Last Mile (Memory Man Series Book 2) - David Baldacci (F).
  • As the Crow Flies: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Book 8) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Believe Me - JP Delaney (F).
August 2018
  • Watchfulness - Brian G. Hedges (NF). Recommended! I took my time reading this short little book because it is packed with wisdom and I want to remember, not just read it, put it down, and move on to other things, but to take to heart what I've read. 
  • The Things You Find in Rockpools - Gregg Dunnett (F).
  • A Serpent's Tooth: A Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries Book 9) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Divorce Horse (Longmire Short Story) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Christmas in Absaroka County: Walt Longmire Christmas Stories - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Messenger: A Walt Longmire Story - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices - Thomas Brooks (NF).
September 2018
  • Pushing Brilliance (Kyle Achilles, Book 1) - Tim Tigner (F).
  • Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng (F). Having lived in Shaker Heights, OH for a year, I enjoyed this book. Definitely captures the feel of living in Shaker Heights.  Some things I liked, many I did not. 
  • The Storyteller's Secret - Sejal Badani (F). I loved this book. 
October 2018
  • Any Other Name (Walt Longmire Books Book 10) - Craig Johnson (F)
  • Gilead - Marilynne Robinson (F). Beautifully written, I loved this.
  • Wait for Signs:Twelve Longmire Stories - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Made For His Pleasure - Alistair Begg (NF). This is the book I will be recommending to anyone I can.  Such an encouraging book! How I want to love and serve Jesus more. 
November 2018
  • Them: Why We Hate Each Other - And How to Heal - Ben Sasse (NF). HIGHLY recommend.  How I long for more voices like Ben Sasse to speak into the current public discourse. Whether you agree with him on policy or not, what he says about regaining a sense of being fellow countrymen, good neighbors who invest in community, and recognizing and honoring the dignity of all people, even those with whom we disagree, is a refreshing and MUCH needed corrective to the current mess that we find ourselves in. 
  • Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church - Keith and Kristyn Getty (NF).
  • Black Rednecks and White Liberals - Thomas Sowell (NF). One of the premier thinkers of our day. He really ought to be required reading for those who want to talk about 'social justice.' 
  • Frankenstein - Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (F). My high school senior was reading this for English and I realized I don't remember if I've actually read the original book or not, so now I have. Didn't really like it all that much. 
  • 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You - Tony Reinke (NF). This is probably one of the most useful and important books I've read this year. I would go so far as to say I HIGHLY recommend this to any Christian who has a smartphone or engages at all with social media. Truly well written and thought-provoking, on a topic that is vital that we think well and deeply about - how to use smartphones and social media wisely and to God's glory and not get lost in the trivial and idolatrous, examining carefully our habits and motivations in this area.  This is a warning and a message that is desperately needed today. I've been thinking a great deal for some time about how and why I use social media, and I found this a refreshing and much needed discussion. I'm going to put this in front of all three of my kids and insist that they read it thoughtfully.
December 2018
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart (F). I bought this for my daughter after a recommendation from several friends, and it's very good. I hope she will listen to me and try it - I think she will enjoy it.
  • Dry Bones: A Walt Longmire Mystery (Walt Longmire Mysteries, Book 11) - Craig Johnson (F).
  • An Obvious Fact: A Longmire Mystery - Craig Johnson (F).
  • Home - Marilynne Robinson (F). This is the second in the Gilead trilogy and I truly enjoy her writing. I love how she took the same characters and time period as Gilead and told it from different characters' perspective. Well-done.  I'm currently reading the third book in the trilogy, Lila, but it will have to go on the list for 2019 since I'm not finished with it yet. 
  • The Highwayman: A Longmire Mystery - Craig Johnson (F).

      Monday, December 24, 2018

      God's Promise Fulfilled

      “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 
      John 1:1-5

      “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
       John 1:12-14

      I’ve been thinking this year as I enjoy the lights and shiny Christmas ornaments on our tree about just how incredibly meaningful Christmas should be when we strip away the distractions of the shallow, schmaltzy way the world attempts to celebrate it. I hear people bemoan how difficult this season of the year is when they focus on disappointments of Christmases past and allow that to spoil the vision of that perfect Hallmark Christmas. And I do understand that because of the way our world idealizes the sentimental and secular version of the holiday where having all our loved ones around us and having everything just perfect does make it a hard time for many. But the thing is, our world puts so much emphasis on their secularized way of celebrating the holiday, that what is actually true and what we should be thinking about gets completely, and I do mean completely, lost. 

      What I’ve been pondering is that, instead of wallowing in our disappointments in the made-up traditions and obligations and distractions, what if we focused on the truth? Christmas begins way back in Genesis with two shattered people whose eyes were suddenly opened to the devastation they had brought upon themselves and mankind when sin entered the world. But God, in His mercy, in the midst of telling them of the consequences of that sin, in pronouncing the Curse, also gave them the greatest of promises – that there would be a Savior, that ultimately things were going to be made right. Adam, in naming his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living, demonstrated his trust in God’s promise. When devastation once again crashed upon them as Cain killed Abel, once again, faith in God’s promise was demonstrated as Eve gave birth to Seth and said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” Then through the ages, as we read the Scripture, we have the record of God setting apart a people and bringing into the world His Messiah, the Savior of the world. We watch the unfolding of further revelation as God keeps His promise. 

      When the shepherds heard the message of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased," and when Simeon in the Temple held the Child in his arms and blessed God, and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel,” and when the Magi from the East saw His star, journeyed to worship Him and rejoiced with great joy, in all this we see that God keeps His promise. Then Jesus grew, lived a perfect and sinless life, died on the cross and experienced the wrath of God that our sin has earned for us. He did that on our behalf, and then after He died, He rose again, and the Temple veil was torn from top to bottom; the way is now open for sinners to be reconciled to a Holy God. God keeps His promise! 

      How about, instead of looking around us and how disappointing and empty our worldly Christmas celebrations ultimately must end up being, instead of wallowing in past disappointments, we look up and we strip away the distractions and the trappings that pull our attention down to the temporal things that cannot satisfy, and look up and behold Jesus, the Light of the world. THIS is Christmas. He came to reconcile broken and sinful people to Himself and to make all things right. This life is not the all there is. My sins are forgiven! I have been made right with God! I get to spend eternity with Jesus, eternal life, free from my wretched sin. I was once lost, now I'm found, I was blind, but now I see! No earthly disappointment must blind me to this - hope, joy, peace, forgiveness, JESUS - this is hope, this is Christmas, this is joy, even in the midst of sorrow. 

      As I was thinking about these things, I kept coming back to a sermon I heard back in May that has made a deep impact on me. You know, I hear a lot of sermons in a year, and while I’m listening I don’t always realize at the time that this one will be the one I keep on pondering and thinking over for months later.  Joshua Smith preached about finding joy in a fallen world back on a Sunday morning last May, and in it he talked about recognizing God’s portion for you and finding contentment. As I’ve been pondering the depression and lack of satisfaction many of us seem to struggle with so much at Christmas, I kept coming back to that – find joy in God’s portion for you, stop trying to make Christmas something it isn’t meant to be, and cannot ever measure up to be, stop buying the world’s lies and shallow outlook, and LOOK UP. Look to Jesus. Anymore, all I want is to strip away the lies the world is selling and to fix my eyes on Jesus, to enjoy what He deems is best to give me, and to learn to trust Him when my portion sometimes seems difficult.  I’ve linked the sermon at the end of this post, which I went back and listened to again this morning.  PLEASE take time to listen to it.  It will be well worth your time. 

      We do live in a fallen world. But praise God, He keeps His promises. The promise to send a Savior is fulfilled and is yes and amen in Jesus Christ. THIS is what we celebrate at Christmas, and THIS and only this can redeem even the most depressing of memories and allow us to find joy in the present Christmas. 

      Merry Christmas!


      Finding Joy in a Fallen World from Believers Fellowship on Vimeo.

      Thursday, December 06, 2018

      Trusting the One Who Does Right

      Proverbs 19:11
      “Good sense makes one slow to anger,
      and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”


      I’ve been thinking about how freeing it is to not have to be offended or outraged all the time about things that happen in life.  We live in a culture of the perpetually offended, don’t you think? Take a look at social media – or better yet, don’t if you would rather not swim in the stream of hasty words, what seems like almost purposeful misunderstanding, and hashtag activism – and you’ll see it played out in thread after thread. 

      What got me thinking recently was when my son came home from school telling me about the nasty behavior of a parent who was picking up their student when my son was trying to get out of the student parking lot. The details do not matter here, but anyway, as my son described it, I felt my mom outrage building and fighting thoughts of shaming on Nextdoor social media, until I realized something. I wasn’t there. I did not see the bad behavior. I trust my son’s account of the details was accurate, but he could be mistaken. No matter, it isn’t my job to judge hearts. It’s not my job to be offended or outraged about bad – even sinful – behavior in the school parking lot. All of a sudden I realized, I don’t have to be angry about this.  God saw the whole thing. He knows every detail of it. He knows the state of the hearts involved. I can trust Him to be the just Judge who sees and knows it all.

      This was just a minor little thing, but I did start thinking about how often when I feel that familiar sense of outrage or offense building in me, that it is often over something that I really have no business worrying about. Even when the offense is very real, I do not have to choose to hang on to it.  And, dear ones, being offended or outraged IS a choice. What did Jesus do? He suffered true injustice and what did He do? He did not revile in return when reviled and He continued entrusting Himself to the One who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23). This is to be our mindset. I can, and MUST, trust God to do what is right. Always.  Even when it seems difficult and circumstances don’t look like I want them to. He knows better than I ever can what is best for me. This thing I’m facing is from Him, in His Providence, so I must trust that He knows best what He will use to conform me to the image of Christ. In the midst of even great difficulty, I must trust that His grace is sufficient. Always.

      As I’ve been thinking about this, the idea that I don’t have to be offended or outraged by what other people do – or don’t do, for that matter -  I started thinking about it from another angle. If I’m to continue entrusting myself to the One who judges justly, continue trusting the Lord of Creation to do what is right, then that touches on all circumstances. I have NO right to be angry with God if there are things in my life I would rather are not there.  Life is hard. Difficulties abound. Things aren’t always fair, or what I would choose for myself or my loved ones, and some things are so hard we can find ourselves screaming at the darkness.   Sometimes we face things I really wish we wouldn’t have to. Sometimes we get hurt, or sick, or really truly difficult things come into our lives, or maybe we are treated unfairly or unjustly, Some days things just seem hard. Even then, what I must cling to is the conviction that God knows best what to bring into this life He has graciously given me. He knows best what will conform me to His image. If I complain, what I’m actually saying, whether I consciously think about it or not, is that I think I know better than God does what is best for all of us. That is not walking in faith. That is self-centered pride.

      These have been hard things I’ve been learning and pondering, but I believe it is right. And ultimately, when I give over my ‘right’ to be offended, or hurt, or angry, pick the emotion that fits, it is, ultimately, extremely freeing to trust in Jesus, to believe that in God’s Providence this thing I’m facing is my portion, and to surrender to the conviction that to trust Him in all things is best. I'm not saying we sit back with a sense of fatalism and do nothing, nor am I saying that we passively ignore or excuse away sin, nor that we never remove ourselves from dangerous situations.  I'm saying that as we go about addressing the hard things in life, doing what comes next, doing what we are called to do in being light in the midst of a dark world, weeping or even grieving when it's right to do so when that is our portion, too, in all things, that we do it with the conviction that God knows best and will do what is right, that His grace is sufficient for us in those things that seem so hard to bear, that we do all that we do with His glory for our aim and ever in front of us. 

      May I continue to learn something I have not mastered yet, but long to have more and more become the character of my heart, as we read in Philippians 4:5-6, to not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with THANKSGIVING to make my requests to God – and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.