Saturday, April 14, 2018

Thoughts I've Had While Listening to "The Sound of Silence"

I have always liked the Simon & Garfunkel song, “The Sound of Silence.” Until recently, if you had asked my opinion, I would have said I don’t think anyone else could do it justice, but then I heard the version that the band Disturbed has recorded.  My teenage son assures me I would not like Disturbed’s other music, and I’ll just go ahead and take his word for it, since he knows about these things. :-) One other version I loved recently happened during a marching band performance from one of the high school bands at the one and only competition we went to this year. The band played some of “The Sound of Silence,” and then, with the echo and overtones of the last chord played ringing in the stadium, stood on the field in complete silence for several seconds before playing again.  It was musically and emotionally very powerful.  But I’m digressing far from my point.  I do like this version of “The Sound of Silence” that I’m posting under this paragraph very much,  as it captures well a sense of heart wrenching alienation as it begins softly and builds in intensity. Something about the pathos of his voice and the musical arrangement captures the angst of the alienation that I think we are seeing more and more in our culture.

Paul Simon wrote this song in the 1960’s, capturing his own generation’s angst and alienation, but I think he was sort of a cultural prophet, too, because every time as I listen to the words and tone of the song, I can’t help but think of the whirlwind of alienation we are reaping upon ourselves with our smartphones/devices and social media. 

Look at this stanza:

“And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.”

Does that not describe what happens on Facebook and Twitter a hundred thousand times a day? We are more connected than ever in this generation, yet the depth of those connections is superficial at best in most cases. When I first joined Facebook almost nine years ago (I actually had to go check because I can’t believe it’s been that long), it was only after resisting for a long while and I only joined because people from my old high school were working on a reunion and looking for people and someone (my brother, I think) said someone had contacted him looking for me. So I joined, thinking it might be a neat way to keep up with people from the past, especially since we move so often. And that part has been pretty cool. But, one of the griefs of my life is that I’ve found, while it’s cool to stay in touch, the closeness of the friendship is just not the same when we aren’t able to be face-to-face friends anymore. People I was very close to when we were able to go to lunch together and spend time in each other’s homes, just aren’t able to seem as close and well-known once we move away, even though we all post on Facebook and like each others’ statuses. Something is lost.  And then when you factor in the ‘friends’ or people you follow on Twitter (or any social media platform) who you don’t actually know in real life and watch the way conversations tend to go on social media, you begin to see that there are an awful lot of people talking without speaking and hearing without listening, when you see how quickly such conversations can go sour. The silence that ensues from that kind of communication is the alienation of misunderstanding and talking past each other and the depression that can cause to descend, because the nature of the medium just does not lend itself to true conversation and understanding.  It just doesn’t.  And it is frustrating, because I believe we all long to be heard and understood and known and truly connected, not this false connection that social media fosters. It makes promises it just cannot deliver, like clouds that never bring rain. 

But that’s not all. My thoughts as I listen to this song drift along in other directions, too.

Take a look at this phrase:

“And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.”

I bet you can guess where I’m going with this one, but what comes to mind every time I hear this is the generation of smartphone zombies we’ve cultivated. When was the last time you were in a room with random strangers when the majority weren’t lost in the glow of a personal screen? When was the last time you were sitting in a restaurant and you didn’t see people sitting at the same table together, but lost in their own little private worlds, looking at their phones, not talking to the person right at the table with them? Do you even remember a time when you could strike up a friendly conversation in a waiting room or grocery store line because people weren’t consumed with their own private little world? Do you remember people actually smiling at each other or just noticing someone else was even there in such cases? Have you ever been walking along in the grocery store and seen many someones oblivious to the fact that anyone else was there because they were so engrossed in their private little smartphone worlds? In moments when we have to wait, what’s our first inclination? Pull out that phone and start scrolling or texting, right? It’s unthinkable that we might take that time and let boredom steer our minds to actually have to think on our own, or, gasp, actually talk to someone else. 

And then there is this: Want to try a scary little experiment? Take a walk down one of the busier streets in your neighborhood and count how many of the cars that drive by have a driver who is looking at a phone. I do this regularly and It’s quite terrifying. We’ve allowed ourselves to become addicted and enslaved to the dopamine hit of ever constant ‘new’ information. Only most of what we’re so enthralled with isn’t all that important, but we’re addicted, nonetheless.  Try leaving your phone at home sometime, or, hey, just leave it in the other room. See how long you can stand it.

We’ve opened a Pandora’s box with our constant connectivity that I’m not sure we can close again. And I’m right there in the thick of it, too, I’m not pointing any fingers that aren’t coming squarely back at me. 

I’ve seen studies that seem to point to a correlation in the rise in depression and suicide among our youth to the incidence of most people owning a smartphone. I think this bears some serious consideration. Is it possible, likely even, that with our constant connectivity we have sacrificed real, deep friendships for shallow ones, which means we are actually more alienated than ever? Is it possible that in the name of being more social, we’ve actually become much more consumed with ourselves, our image? We’ve become so consumed with taking the best selfies and posting the very best about ourselves and making sure our image is attractive that we aren’t really thinking about much of anything else, except maybe how offended we are about the current issue of the day and how we can best virtue signal how aware we are and how in tune we are with the current politically correct opinions. Are we more consumed with what we want to say than with how our words may affect other people? Are we more concerned with seeming to be in step with the culture than we are in thinking deeply about issues and searching the Bible to inform our thoughts rather than what the latest social issue people demand our thoughts should be? Don’t you see how quickly a social media thread can degenerate into unkind and unfair accusations and assumptions? Do you often walk away from reading social media feeling better about people? 

Granted this is anecdotal, but I heard a story the other day that shocked me and made me very, very sad.  I was talking to a realtor who told me that when she shows houses, very often her clients would prefer to text her their questions rather than ask them in person. I looked at her funny, and said, “You mean when they are right there in the room with you?” She said, “Yes.” I don’t know how common this actually is, but it is something she has experienced often enough that she was telling the story, and that just seems heartbreaking to me. Are we truly raising a generation that has lost even the barest minimum of social skills necessary to carry on a real conversation? Are we truly raising a generation that has lost the ability to have face-to-face, true relationships? Are we truly raising a generation that can’t enjoy a special moment without posting it, without having to seek the affirmation of their thousands of social media ‘friends?’  Are we truly raising a generation that has lost the skill of making genuine, deep friendships that do not have to be validated and upheld by Snapchat? Are we becoming so lost in our own little private worlds that we are missing the in-the-flesh people and needs all around us?

 I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and I think part of what we lost in the Fall is the ability to truly be transparent and real with each other. No longer can we be naked and unashamed, not even emotionally. And now instead of being God-focused and others-focused, we are consumed with ourselves. Yet, don’t we long for true community and real connectedness? Don’t we long to know and be known? Isn’t that the draw of social media, that we can feel that what we have to say matters to someone, anyone? Isn’t that why we overshare the mundane details of our lives all over social media? Getting real and personal here, but perhaps, isn’t that why I’m writing this blog? To share my thoughts with someone who might listen? 

A few of us ladies were having a discussion recently about friendships among Christian women. One lady was lamenting the fact that it is hard to get past the surface where everyone seems so ‘perfect’ to where you can share what’s real with other women. That is part of what we, as the church, should be able to do better than anyone else. We are called to love one another. That involves getting to actually know one another. We have to let down some of those walls and actually speak and listen, even and especially when it’s uncomfortable. We need community. We long for it. We may not ever experience it perfectly this side of Heaven, but we who love Jesus should be striving for it among our brothers and sisters. Have you noticed how very often believers are described as family and as a Body together? Together.  I think we need to think long and hard about how important it is to put down our personal screens, spend less time cultivating our online pseudo community, look up, and expend the energy and even the sacrifices to get to know the few people we have in our real life circles, face-to-face. We are created for community. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves.

One way I’ve found that is refreshing and beneficial in building this kind of face-to-face community is to sit with a few friends and share scripture together and pray together, sharing our deepest heart desires as we pray fervently. This builds deep, Christ-centered friendship in a way social media never can. Taking a meal together and sharing our hearts over coffee and biblical wisdom, phones carefully tucked away, leads to much richer connection than hours staring at a glowing screen ever can. Another way to build the kind of true connection we long for is to serve together, striving side by side for the sake of the gospel - the good news that Jesus came to save sinners and reconcile us to God. He lived a perfect life and fulfilled God’s law for us, He died on the cross and rose again. By His blood we can be declared righteous and freed from the penalty of our sin, freed from the curse, and freed to love God and love others. We need flesh and blood friendships. We don’t need hundreds or thousands of ‘likes’ on our social media posts to affirm us. We need to be looking out, away from ourselves to others, to serving and loving others well, as we talk face to face and share real life experiences together. 

So, while I like that song, I don’t so much like the alienation masquerading as connectivity that so clearly marks this world my kids are growing up into. May I be one who seeks to look up and out and love well the people God has placed near me. May I be more concerned with loving others than I am with feeding my own pride. And that very well may mean posting and reading less and less on my social media platforms, and learning to be wise and teaching my children to be wise about how we use those platforms and not asking of them more than they can deliver. So be it. 

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Some Thoughts, A Book, A Song, and A Prayer

Reading Proverbs today, this verse stood out to me: 

Proverbs 28:26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

I believe some of the most dangerous advice dished out by our culture, especially in things aimed at children, is to follow your heart.  It’s the gospel of Disney, if you will. You also hear it expressed as, “follow your truth.” This is dangerous, because our hearts, in our natural state, are deceitful and desperately wicked. Things that seem right to us, quite often are treacherously wrong. That’s expressed in another Proverb, by the way. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” I must, must, must know, trust, believe, and obey God’s Word, not look to my own heart or understanding as my guide.  What I think and feel can deceive if my thoughts, feelings, and conscience are not informed deeply by God’s Word. His Word is truth. He will sanctify us in the truth.  I know this, because Jesus prayed for it in John 17. 

This is why that verse in Proverbs 3:5-7 that is so well known, but I wonder how well we actually follow it, is so important to ponder deeply and apply. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” This is the opposite of ‘follow your heart.” When my heart seeks after the things the world values and when my heart is convinced that what God’s Word calls evil is good or that what God’s Word calls good is evil, I must trust God’s Word, not my heart. I must be seeking first HIS kingdom, not my ‘truth.’  My one aim must be seeking HIS truth and living in its light, and loving Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength who died and rose again to reconcile me to Himself and enable me to die to myself and die to my sin and to live to love Him in spirit and and in truth. 

I’ve been thinking on these things in light of a book I’m reading, called Growing up Christian by Karl Gaustein with Mark Jacobsen. This is a wonderful tool, first for me as an adult who grew up as a ‘church kid,’ as I’m reminded how very grateful I am for the blessing of growing up in the home I did where my parents lovingly taught me God’s Word and modeled for me what it is to love Him, and how very grateful I am that God brought me through the navigation of the many dangers, too, and allowed me to emerge believing and growing in Christ, for granting me a faith that is real and alive. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my children, too, who are no longer little ones, but with one in college, one in high school, and one in middle school, they are people who have grown up as ‘church kids’ with all the blessings and dangers, too. May they learn to appropriate the faith as their own, to learn not to be complacent, to learn to trust God’s Word, not their own hearts, and see how amazing the grace of God that has been showered on us all truly is.

I called my parents the other day and tearfully thanked them for raising me as they did, and tearfully confessed how selfish I was as a young adult, not fully realizing how much they loved me. As the parent of a college aged young adult now, I see things I just did not see then, and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to see and thank God for the blessing of growing up in a Christian home, for the grace of saving faith, and for my parents’ love. I’m also thankful for their grace-filled response to my tears when I talked to them the other day. 

I listened to this song by Andrew Peterson this morning, and though I’m pretty sure I’ve probably shared it before, I just love this song, especially as I watch my children grow older. He captures well that tug in the heart as we learn to let them go as they grow. I do pray they will know the joy of trusting God with all their hearts as they grow into the adults they will be. 

Here are some scriptures I am using to inform my prayers for my children as they enter the confusing and challenging worlds of middle school, high school, and young adulthood: 

Jude 24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time, and now and forever. Amen.”

Philippians 1:9-11 “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

Philippians 4:8-9 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” 

Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.”

Proverbs 28:26 “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”

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

Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.”

Proverbs 23:15-18 “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.  Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.  Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” 

How I pray that where we have been faithful, God will continue to embed the truth in their hearts, and yet, where we have been inconsistent, that God may have mercy and teach them to love Him in spite of our failings. He is a gracious and merciful Savior, and He is mighty to save! 

Monday, March 26, 2018

One Thing is Necessary

Luke 10:38-42
38 Now  as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” 

We had a women’s retreat this past weekend with the ladies from our church, and I wanted to put down some thoughts that were a takeaway for me so I don’t forget them. Our speaker, Betsy Harris, blessed us by speaking in three sessions on Growing in Godliness. We looked at examining our definition of godliness as more than mere behavior, but as that which is better defined as “devotion to God which results in actions which please God.” Deep devotion to God is the beginning and the goal. We spent much time developing what it is to be deeply devoted to God and having a deep and personal relationship with Him through cultivating a right fear of God, appreciation of the love of God, and desire for God. Recordings of her sessions will be available on the church website soon and I recommend them! 

There was so much that I took notes on and am going to benefit from reviewing, but I am not going to go in depth in this blogpost. Here I just wanted to share something that struck me and that I’m still pondering and meditating on today. The second session dealt with training for Godliness, and she closed it with the passage from Luke 10 about Mary and Martha that is so very familiar to many of us. But this time as I listened to Betsy describe the language in the passage, how Martha basically bursts out and demands that Jesus tell Mary to help her, I got to thinking about it in a way I hadn’t before. I’ve usually heard this taught as sort of a caution against being distracted and caring too much about putting on a perfect dinner party or caught up in the busyness of life and neglecting time with the Lord, and that is correct. But what truly struck me was Jesus’ compassion for her in her distraction and frustration. 

Here’s what I’m getting at. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet learning from Him, in a culture and time when rabbis did not teach women, Jesus was willing and wanted to teach her. She was learning from Jesus, God With Us, the Lamb who would take away the sin of the world. And the tragedy is that Martha was missing this opportunity. She was missing it! And it seems from the exchange, that she was missing it for the sake of an expectation she had placed on herself, that it wasn't something Jesus was asking her to do. She would have been welcome to sit at his feet, too. In her good intentions to serve well, she was missing the main thing! She was missing the precious opportunity to be taught by the rabbi of all rabbis because she was ‘anxious and troubled about many things,’ yet she was missing the main thing, the one thing that is necessary - to hear from Jesus. And Jesus is so very gentle in His correction, drawing her back to the main thing.

I don’t know how to write this in a way that adequately conveys why that brought me to tears, but I think it’s the tragedy of missing it, missing the main thing while being busy with important, but not most necessary things.  How often do I rush, rush, rush through reading my Bible in the morning but neglect to really think about what I’ve read to the point where I’m taking part in what is most necessary, to commune with Jesus and train my heart to desire Him first? How often do I not take the time to pray until I’ve truly prayed? How often to I go through the motions during the day and not reflect upon what an awesome thing it is that God would save any of us, let alone that He would save me?

May I develop a right fear of God that leads to a deep reverence and devotion to Him that wells up in a right rejoicing in Him that grows and leads to actions that please Him every day. I’m thankful we got to ponder growing in Godliness this weekend, and I pray it will produce good fruit in the days to come. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Lord, Have Mercy

I almost never watch the morning news shows, but they are on the overhead TVs when I go to the gym to exercise.  Usually I ignore them, but for some reason today one caught my attention, and after watching segment after segment, story after story, when I left I felt so heavy hearted, I sat in my car and wept. 

Come, Lord Jesus. Have mercy on this generation. May I be bold enough to speak the truth in love, to act in real love, and may I live as a light in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Lord, please have mercy!

Everywhere you look, we are reaping the whirlwind of the false wisdom that says to ‘follow your heart’ and be true to ‘your truth.’ If I follow my heart, it will surely lead to destruction. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” We are reaping the whirlwind of the original lie from all the way back in the Garden of Eden, “Did God actually say…..?” What a destructive thing it is to say we all have our own truth. When we say, “What’s true for you is great for you, but it’s not true for me,” ultimately, we have lost the meaning of the word, ‘truth.’ Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him, HEAR HIM. 

In the book of Judges, we are told that everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Y’all, this was not a good thing. 

On days like today, when the weight of the world is heavy and the evil seems so pervasive and insidious, and when the world calls evil what is good and calls good what is evil, I think it is appropriate to weep and pray. Because in Christ alone is hope truly found. Jesus wept. He wept over sin and death. And Jesus did something about it. He is the only One who truly could. He is God With Us, our Redeemer and Priest and King. Jesus lived a sinless life, fulfilled the Law of God, died on the cross to atone for sinners who could never earn God’s favor because of their broken sinful lives, and He rose again, the proof of the perfection of His sacrifice on behalf of sinful people. Praise God that when I weep, there is hope. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith - more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire - may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him.  Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” - 1 Peter 1:3-9

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Love Is....

I’ve been thinking about something recently. Have you noticed lately that people in our culture seem to have lost the niceties of social graces? People say whatever pops into their heads, whether it’s appropriate or not, with no thought for how their words may affect the other person. Rudeness reigns. The sad part is that it seems that many do not even realize they are being rude. Then, on the other hand, we also live in the society of the perpetually offended. Everything is seen as an offense, it seems. That can be a rather toxic mix.

Perhaps someone says something that, in my sinful flesh, I find to be rude and have to fight not to take offense, and my unkind gut reaction thought is, “Really, you just met me and you went with that?” Am I going to chose not to be offended and put the best construction on it? Or perhaps someone tailgates me the whole way through the neighborhood when I’m going the speed limit or cuts me off in traffic, and my gut level reaction is a flare of anger. Will I choose to think the best and fight off that unrighteous anger or will I let that anger ruin my afternoon? Or suppose someone says something on my social media feed that just irritates me. Will I scroll on by and ignore it or even say something kind in response, or will I engage in one of those ugly internet comment wars and assume the other person’s intent is evil and insist that I must be right and have the final say? Or, what if someone in my family says or does something that just plain gets up my nose? Will I choose to be offended or lash out in anger or give them the cold shoulder, or will I choose to love and extend grace and seek to look beyond the behavior to the heart and lovingly address heart issues? 

As someone who wants to follow Jesus, and who sees Him as more important than anything else, I don’t have the right to be offended at trivial things, not even at a lapse in social graces. If possible, as much as it depends on me, I must be at peace with all (Romans 12:18-21).  I am not to think more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3). Love is to be genuine, and I’m to love others with brotherly affection (Romans 12:9-10). I’m to keep loving one another because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). I’m to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than myself, looking not to my own interests but to also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). I am to entrust myself in the midst of unjust treatment (real or perceived) to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).   Preaching the truth to my heart and mind. 

The hard thing of it is, when given the opportunity to remember these things, I find there is still so much of that monster, pride, in my heart. If I’m really honest, deep down I want to say something to correct the rude comment or treatment and to enjoy my self-centered sense of offense and stew over it for a bit or even to exaggerate its offense in my mind. True confession, there is much more of that in me than I want there to be. To walk with Jesus is to die daily to ourselves. In times like this, that self that rears up in me is just downright ugly. But Jesus says we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. (Luke 6:27-28) That little unintentionally rude comment or misbehavior in traffic or internet comment or frustrating behavior was NO WHERE NEAR as bad as any of those things, so who am I to hold a grudge or refuse to overlook it? 

So, in this day of lost social graces on the one hand and perpetual offense on the other, here’s where I must choose to camp and ponder and park: 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Easy? No, it’s not easy to die to what I want, especially when it’s a deep-seated, self-centered want. But when I am praying for God to lead me in the path of righteousness for His Name’s sake, it is right. How thankful I am for Jesus, my great High Priest who is ever interceding for me. By His grace, and only by His grace can I walk the road He leads me on. And here there is joy. Why joy? Because my ultimate aim is to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called me out of darkness into light. I have received such mercy from God (1 Peter 2:9-10). I have entrusted myself, my wayward, wandering sheep of a self to the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul (1 Peter 2:25). Ponder that for a moment. There is joy unspeakable in knowing such a Savior, who has made me clean and who empowers me to slay that monster pride every time it rears its ugly head. And I want other people to know that joy and to walk in His light, too. 

In this day of lost social graces and perpetual offense, let us choose love, the love that dies to self and lives to Christ. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

My Reading List From 2017

As has become my custom, here is the list of books that I read during 2017. I feel like my blog is languishing over here, but this one thing I still keep up with. Here's to hoping I get with it for more blogging in 2018.  I also read the Bible through this year, which is a treasured habit I've kept for many years now.  For 2017,  I used a chronological plan, and also read a chapter of the New Testament each day along with my church family, and, as has also become a treasured habit, a chapter of Proverbs each day, which means reading through the entire book of Proverbs each month.

January 2017

  • Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union With Christ - Rosaria Champagne Butterfield (NF) This is such a wonderful book. She has helped me to think well about the power of the gospel and to glorify God as I do. I highly recommend this and her first book, as well
  • We Have Lost the President - Paul Matthews (F) This was a quirky little book I borrowed for free on my Kindle. It was ok, but not terribly memorable and I don't feel the need to read further in the series. 
  • Chosen by God - R.C. Sproul (NF) This was a reread, but so very good. It's important to read good, theological books, and this is definitely that. Recommended. 
  • No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God - Aimee Byrd (NF) I liked this book, especially the chapters on being discerning with what we read and listen to. I think it is a necessary addition to the discussions that led to her writing of it. Recommended. 
  • A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley, Book 1) - Elizabeth George (F). I've read this one before quite a while ago, but I see she has written several more since I last read the series, and I wanted to reread. I like this series, but I believe I should probably caution it does get a bit rough with language and such - it is a secular detective/murder mystery type of series. 
February 2017
  • Payment in Blood (Inspector Lynley, Book 2) - Elizabeth George (F). See comment on Book 1 from the series.
  • World Religions and Cults: Counterfeits of Christianity - Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson (NF) This is very much written from a conservative, Bible-believing Christian worldview, and I found it quite helpful. It is the first volume in the series, and I intend to try to read the next volumes at some point, too. 
  • Well-Schooled in Murder (Inspector Lynley, Book 3) - Elizabeth George (F)
  • What is the Trinity? (Crucial Questions Series) - R. C. Sproul (NF) These little booklets are a very helpful series for understanding doctrines of the Faith. 
  • A Suitable Vengeance (Inspector Lynley, Book 4) - Elizabeth George (F)
March 2017
  • Eric Liddell: Pure Gold - David McCasland (NF). I like to read biographies, and this one was such a great example of a life well-lived. It was encouraging to read of Eric Liddell's deep love for Jesus and his care and compassion for people.  
  •  In Fairleigh Field: A Novel of World War II - Rhys Bowen (F).
April 2017
  • For the Sake of Elena (Inspector Lynley, Book 5) - Elizabeth George (F)
  • Loving Me: The Hidden Agenda of Self-Esteem - Rick Thomas (NF)  This was very short, but I found it quite helpful, full of biblical wisdom in retraining our thinking away from the worldly wisdom of the self-esteem bent of our culture. We do not need to think more about ourselves, but less - we need to be thinking more about GOD. Highly recommend. 
May 2017
  • Missing Joseph (Inspector Lynley, Book 6) - Elizabeth George (F).
  • The Healing Gods: Complementary and Alternative Medicine In Christian America - Candy Gunther Brown (NF).
June 2017
  • The Religious Beliefs of America's Founders: Reason, Revelation, and Revolution - Gregg L. Frazer (NF)
  • Playing for the Ashes (Inspector Lynley, Book 7) - Elizabeth George (F).
  • Honest Evangelism: How to talk about Jesus even when it's tough - Rico Tice (NF) Excellent book and I pray I will take it to heart and cross the "pain line" and learn to be bold in a way I have not been before. 
July 2017
  • What is Faith? (Crucial Questions Series) - R.C. Sproul (NF)
  • In the Presence of the Enemy (Inspector Lynley, Book 8) - Elizabeth George (F)
August 2017
  • Deception on His Mind (Inspector Lynley, Book 9) - Elizabeth George (F)
  • Reset for Parents - Todd Friel (NF). I loved this book. I wish I could have read it before our children were born, but I'm thankful that by God's grace, much of what Todd discusses we sort of fell into doing some of the time, but I do wish we had been more intentional through the years. I think this would be an excellent book to give as a gift to young or expecting parents. Quite practical and biblically based.
  • The Prestige - Christopher Priest (F). I very much enjoyed this one. I may want to look into other books this author has written.
September 2017
  • The Naturalist - Andrew Mayne (F).
  • In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner (Inspector Lynley, Book 10) - Elizabeth George (F). I didn't end up finishing this, and I am not planning on continuing the series. Though I had read this before and had made it further in the series and was just rereading so I could look at newer books in the series that I have not read, I've decided not to continue with it.  I just got to the point where the description of the depravity of some of the characters in the cases the detectives were investigating was something I no longer want to spend my time reading about and filling my mind with. It just got to be too much for me. Moving on.
October 2017
  • The Twelfth Imam (The Twelfth Imam Series, Book 1) - Joel C. Rosenburg (F).
November 2017
  • Eve in Exile and the Restoration of Femininity - Rebekah Merkle (NF).
  • The Tehran Initiative (The Twelfth Imam Series, Book 2) - Joel C. Rosenburg (F).
December 2017

  • The Damascus Countdown (The Twelfth Imam Series, Book3) - Joel C. Rosenburg (F).
  • Internet Inferno: A Contemporary Warning and Reminder Regarding this Ancient Truth - "The Tongue is a Fire, the Very World of Iniquity, and is Set on Fire by Hell" James 3:6 - Michael John Beasely (NF).
  • The Circle - Dave Eggers (F). This one was disturbing and a good commentary on how dangerously dependent we as a society are becoming on social media. It's made me want to share much less and spend much less time interacting on social media, something I've thought a lot about in recent years. It does seem we are destroying things that we don't really want to lose  and developing scary new ways of interacting that are not good for us in this new era of living online. Caution: language and some subject matter.
  • The Holiness of God (NF) - R.C. Sproul. Very highly recommend.
  • How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds - Alan Jacobs (NF).

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Treasuring God's Word

Psalm 119:11
"I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you."

Psalm 119:24
"Your testimonies are my delight; 
they are my counselors."

Psalm 119:54
"Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning."

Psalm 119:105
"Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path."

Psalm 119:144
"Your testimonies are righteous forever;
give me understanding that I may live."

Every time I think I'm going to get back to more regular blogging, I seem to let life get in the way. I am in a different season of life than I was when I started this blog almost 11 years ago. And that is ok.  Once I discovered Facebook, I tended to drift over there more and more, finding it more 'social' to a point since the people I interact with there are people I actually know, and somehow in the midst of that, and in the midst of several moves and my children getting older and myself getting older, blogging here has fizzled. I didn't intend that, but here we are.

Anyway, something I'm noticing recently is that I spend too much time scrolling through Facebook and I haven't always been as careful about sharing there as I'd like to be. Between the tremendous time waster I've allowed it to become and the fact that my Facebook feed is often filled with questionable theology and frustrating things to read, I've decided it's time for me to turn it off more often and check it less. I've also found myself in rather a bittersweet time of life as my oldest child is just about to graduate from high school, and in spite of all the wonderful things that come along with that, I am also finding that sometimes at odd moments I'm brought to tears and I struggle to fight for joy in the midst of it all, knowing that God is good and so very kind to His people and that He loves my son oh so very much more than I ever could. I know that every mother probably knows this odd tug at her heart that I am suffering, when her children begin to spread their wings - between the joy of watching them succeed and the memory of all the joys along the way (and sorrows and struggles, too - all the things that have gone into making him who he is today) as you sort through the pictures and memories of the boy he was and the man he is becoming, the tears will fall, but they are good tears, and I think even they are tears stored up in the Lord's bottle. (Psalm 56:8 "You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?) Oh, how the Lord knows of my 'tossings' as I've cried out in the night when sleep is fleeting at times.

While thinking all that, I realized I need the discipline of actively putting off time-wasting thoughts and putting on more fruitful thinking. I've noticed that as I've grown more comfortable with my smartphone, I've grown much less able to concentrate on reading or anything else for longer periods of time without 'needing' to check that stupid phone. This is not good. I want to retrain my brain to think more deeply than a Facebook meme and longer than the next 'hit' of scrolling through what people are saying - quite often nothing all that important, it turns out.

I was remembering fondly the time I spent a few years ago memorizing the book of Philippians. At the time I was following a blog that encouraged its community of readers to Partner to Remember and we spent four months together memorizing Philippians. That was such a neat thing. I had never before tried to memorize a long Bible passage like that, and the tips and techniques I learned made it a very enjoyable and challenging experience. While I was working actively to memorize that book, I was constantly going over and over the verses, thinking scripture all the time, and praying scripture, and it was just a sweet thing to be filling my heart and mind with God's Word, and it was also a time of discipline to commit to the long haul and train myself to spend hours and hours memorizing, as I woke up, as I sat, as I walked along the way, and I want that again. It was amazing how often the very verses I was learning would come to mind as counsel and comfort and wisdom in prayer.

So, here's what I've decided to do. I just spent about a week memorizing Psalm 1, and now I'm ready to start working on Colossians, and I thought it might be helpful to type out my plan and share it and encourage anyone who may still be around reading this limping-along little blog to join me.

First, I bought a notebook like this. It doesn't have to be anything fancy or expensive, just a cheap little spiral notebook small enough to carry around with you:

Then I copied Psalm 1 into it like this:

I wrote the date I started at the top, and the date I finished that page at the bottom. The method I use for memorizing longer passages is I start with the first verse and read it 10 times, making a mark to the left to keep count. Then I say it over and over until I can say it without mistake before moving to the next verse. Once I have the next verse where I can say it, I put them together until I can say them with no mistakes before moving to the next verse, and so on. When I was memorizing Philippians, I would take a week to work on one page. Once I'd been through the initial process of learning it as I spelled out here, I'd spend the week reviewing that page by saying it over and over anytime I thought of it - while cooking, cleaning, taking a shower, driving - pretty much whenever my brain was idling, I'd spend some of that time reviewing that week's passage. As the weeks went on, I would keep saying the previous weeks while adding the new weeks, so I never let the earlier weeks slip away. By the end I was able to quote the whole book of Philippians. Sadly, I cannot still quote the whole book of Philippians, but it is still very precious to me, and it is one of my long-term goals to review and remember.

Anyway, now that I've worked out Psalm 1, I'm ready to start Colossians. 

Memorizing longer passages is such a great way to get into God's Word and ponder and think through it deeply. I would caution, however, not to take it on merely as a project or a thing to pat yourself on the back for doing or to merely fill your head with knowledge. This isn't a legalistic, check-the-box, do-this-and-you'll-be-some-kind-of-super-saint sort of exercise. It is simply one way to hide God's Word in your heart, to spend time praying as you think about what you're studying for many weeks and to ask God to help you to love Jesus more and apply His word as you spend much time learning it. All with the goal to love Jesus more and to bring Him glory as you take in His word and let it inform your thinking and how you talk with other people, and to lead you to love following Him and obeying that word more fully.

Anyone want to join me in memorizing Colossians? :-)