Monday, December 29, 2014

Highlights (and Lowlights) From the Books I Read in 2014

I’ve kept track of the books I read this year in the page called, “Books Read 2014” on this blog,  but here at the end of the year I thought maybe I’d highlight the ones I either liked best or that have stuck with me most.

  1. 11/22/63 - Stephen King (F). I wrote quite a bit about my thoughts on this one on the list page, and as I said, I probably wouldn’t recommend it without qualifications, but it’s one that I still think about and enjoyed.
  2. Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue - Matthew C. Mitchell (NF). I wrote a blog post about my thoughts on this one here, and yes, it’s one that I’m glad sticks with me, and I probably need to read it again at some point. 
  3. Cutting for Stone - Abraham Verghese (F). My mom and dad gave me this one for Christmas last year and I very much liked it.
  4. The Orphan Master’s Son - Adam Johnson (F). Another one my mom and dad gave me last Christmas that I very much liked. Both of these I find myself remembering long after I had put the book back in the bookshelf, and both I will probably re-read at some point.
  5. Two books in this one: A Time of Departing  and For Many Shall Come in My Name- Ray Yungen (NF). These have stayed with me, too, and I found it disturbingly eye-opening to the influence of “New Age” type of spirituality that is creeping into the evangelical church. I do wish more people would be alerted and concerned about this.
  6. I thought when I was reading the first of the Divergent books by Veronica Roth that they would end up on a list like this, but I ended up HATING the last book and ending so much that I would say, “Don’t bother,” if anyone were to ask me about this series.
  7. Safely Home - Randy Alcorn (F). Though there are things about this book that made me a little uncomfortable, over all it has really stayed with me and I find myself thinking about the overarching story in a good way.
  8. A Land More Kind Than Home - Wiley Cash (F). I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. 
  9. The four Light books by Terri Blackstock - Last Light, Night Light, True Light, and Dawn’s Light - (F). I really enjoyed this series, and I don’t typically like much Christian fiction for reasons I’ve mentioned on the blog before like how problematic many I’ve read are theologically, but these I did like, so they make the list.
  10. The Witch of Blackbird Pond - Elizabeth George Speare (F). This is a classic I had not read before, and I very much liked it.
  11. The Gospel’s Power and Message and The Gospel Call and True Conversion - Paul Washer (NF). Written with a pastor’s heart.
  12. The Hole in Our Holiness - Kevin DeYoung (NF). Another very good read that I hope sticks with me, and just may need to be read again. This one was challenging and I'm glad I read it.
  13. Stepping Heavenward - Elizabeth Prentiss (F). Probably one of my favorite books since I was a young girl. I like it more every time I read it.
  14. John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace - Jonathan Aitken (NF). I very much enjoyed this biography about a fascinating Christian man. I love how his testimony and life show how he never forgot God’s amazing grace.
  15. Unfriend Yourself: Three Days to Detox, Discern, and Decide About Social Media - Kyle Tennant (NF). This has been the beginning of me finally starting to break my addiction to Facebook, and it couldn’t have come at a more welcome time. 
  16. The Blessing Way and Dance Hall of the Dead - Tony Hillerman (F). Books one and two of Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries. I read some of these years ago, but didn’t read them in order, so I’m reading them from the beginning now. I am enjoying the mysteries and the peek into Navajo culture and thinking. 

These are not all of the books I read in 2014, and you can see the full list on that page. Just because a book didn’t make this list doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, necessarily, but these were some of either my favorites or the ones I find myself still thinking about. I could have added the books from my list that dealt with Christians and pop culture as well. There were at least two of those, and they’ve continued to make me think also.

Happy reading and as we are reaching the end of 2014, I’ll wish you a Happy New Year, too!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Isaiah 9:2
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

John 1:9-18
9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 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. 15 (John bore witness about him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ” 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

“When we were undone, with no will or ability to return to Him, He came, God-incarnate, to save us, as man to die our death, to shed His blood on our behalf, and work out a perfect righteousness for us.

O God, take us in Spirit to the watchful shepherds and enlarge our minds, let us hear good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, and adore. Place us with the oxen and sheep in that stable, to look with them upon our Redeemer’s face and know ourselves delivered from sin in Him. In Him, you have given us so much that heaven can give no more. (Adapted from Valley of Vision).” - from our Christmas Eve service at Parkside Church last night.

Merry Christmas! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Far As the Curse is Found

Revelation 21:1-8
“1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ 
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ 6 And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.’ “

Revelation 22:12-14
“12 ‘ Behold I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’
14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.”

Revelation 22:20
“20 He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

I’ve been thinking quite a bit the past several months about relationships. There are several reasons for this pondering, but one is that I read a book recently called, Unfriend Yourself: Three Days to Detox, Discern, and Decide About Social Media by Kyle Tennant. I wrote a little about the book on my book list page, and I’m not writing a review of it here since it isn’t the final point I’m wanting to make today, but that book has done what it was meant to do and started me thinking a little more about how and why I use social media, which has also helped me continue thinking through relationships in general. What came out of reading that book for me is that I’m really trying to spend less time with Facebook - reading and posting. I think that we impose expectations on social media that it really isn’t designed or able to fulfill. Social media is helpful and can be good for networking and maybe staying in contact with people when, like my family, you have to relocate often. In that way social media has been a blessing and I’m not ready to completely give it up. But, on the other hand, social media can hold some dangers in that sometimes we can expect it to provide closer relationships than it is actually capable of delivering. 

A couple of observations I’ve noticed along these lines to sort of lay some groundwork for the point I really want to make is that, first of all, we can be tempted to assume that if we interact often on Facebook that we have a close friendship, or that we’ve sort of done our duty to care for our friends. This an especially attractive temptation for those of us who are more introverted and not as naturally outgoing. The sad thing is that, though that kind of friendship is a type of relationship and sweet in its own way, it isn’t as close as real, face-to-face, in-the-flesh relationship. It just can’t be. Online communication cannot substitute for the more vulnerable, frankly messier but so much more fulfilling ultimately, nature of in-the-flesh relationship where we talk face to face and share life together. Mediated friendships allow us to carefully control how we present ourselves and how others perceive us. We can edit and delete posts that we think show something about us that we don’t want others knowing or thinking of us. Face-to-face, it’s much easier to know the real person, but it’s also a lot scarier because we may find out that we do not seem as perfect or flawless as we want people to see us, and we have a whole lot less control over that carefully crafted image while sitting across the table from someone than we do behind a computer screen. Another thing I’ve noticed is that because so many of us aren’t as careful as we maybe should be about remembering our whole audience of social media ‘friends’ and the varying levels of intimacy we’ve earned in those friendships when we post our every thought out there on the internet, sometimes we end up knowing more about mere acquaintances than we would without social media. We have a false expectation of intimacy because of this - and it opens the door for more hurt feelings and misunderstandings, in my opinion, because we assume a level of friendship that isn’t actually there because of how much we think we know based on what we’ve read on Facebook.

So, spring boarding from those observations, I’ve been thinking about relationships in general, beyond social media, because what I’ve been pondering is how even in ‘real-life,’ away from the screen, in-the-flesh, sitting-across-the-table, sharing life relationships, we still very often have a hard time really getting to know anyone else. I think part of the Curse, the Fall, is that we crave intimacy, but we also fear it and run from it even while seeking it. I think we all have walls and eggshells that we use as shields to varying degrees to protect our vulnerability. Some have huge walls, some have miles of eggshells, some have lower walls and fewer eggshells, but in the end, I think that it is very, very difficult to really know another person and truly relate to them in full fellowship. 

This is one reason that marriage is such a precious gift from God to humanity. This is also why divorce is so hurtful and capable of inflicting such deep wounds, and why it is so important for a Christian to marry a godly spouse and seek to be a godly spouse. Marriage, and to a great extent the family, is the one human relationship where we should be able to really be ourselves and not have to hide behind our walls and eggshells. Marriage, as God designed it, is the one human relationship where we should be able to be vulnerable with each other and not have to fear that vulnerability. In our fallenness and sin, even the best marriages can only hint at that, but how kind of God to give us this glimpse of what relationship should be. Marriage is also a grand picture of the gospel - Christ so loving the Church that He laid His life down for her to make her a pure Bride. 

So, what I’ve been thinking about this morning as I ponder various friendship mishaps and misunderstandings and brokennesses I’ve experienced and grieve over, I’ve been wondering if perhaps some of the tears that God will wipe away in the new Jerusalem just might be the tears I can’t help but think we will cry when we get to Heaven and we finally know each other as we are meant to and realize what we’ve missed behind our walls that we built between ourselves. That person we were so angry with, when we see their heart, when we know what we didn’t know here, what did we miss? What have I missed when I misunderstood a friend’s intent and chose not to assume the best but rather assumed the worst and was hurt and angry or bitter or distant and lost some of the intimacy that friendship could have had? What have I missed when I chose to remain hurt and hold a grudge?  What have I missed when I was indifferent to someone I should have cared about? What have I missed when I’ve harbored prejudices? What have I missed when I was just too busy and distracted or selfish to share in friends’ joys and sorrows? What have I missed when my pride caused me to care too much about what someone else thought of me, or what I perceived that they thought of me, and I kept myself at arms’ length, unable to just be and not have to carefully guard my image? And the list could go on.

This is where the gospel gives such hope. Those tears WILL be wiped away. Wrongs will be righted and misunderstandings cleared away.  But even here, even now, there is such amazing hope and grace. You see, in reconciling us to Himself, which is such amazing grace, God also grants us to be reconciled with each other. Understanding that I am, actually, just as wretched, no, even more wretched, than I suspected is actually quite freeing. Rather than having to carefully guard the notion that I’m all that and oh-so-wonderful, I can admit that I am a sinner, I am so very, very flawed, and so is everyone else. Jesus came to us while we were yet rebels, while we were ugly, pride-filled, self-centered, sinful people, and He came to redeem us and wash away our sins. When we repent of that ugly, ugly, ugly sinful wretchedness and turn to Him in grateful trust and faith, He washes us white as snow. We are freed to love others. We are freed not to have to carefully guard our image. If only I would learn this well. 

I think on this side of Heaven, relationships will always have that tension of wanting intimacy, but fearing it and feeling tempted to run from it, not really being able to lower the walls completely. But, for the Christian, we ought to be growing in grace and the ability to lay down grudges, forgive each other more easily, share in joys, sorrows, and burdens - life, in other words, and learn to really be a friend and family member who chooses to assume the best, bear with wrongs, choose to overlook misunderstandings when we’re able, give much room for grace in other people’s lives, and trust our Savior to teach us ever more to walk in His light. We are the grace people! We are Jesus’s people! We ought to be growing in that light and walking in it ever more closely. The light has dawned in the darkness and we have beheld HIS glory. 

That’s what I’ve been pondering recently.

In light of that, here are the words to one of the most beautiful, joyous Christmas hymns. Pay special attention to verse three in light of those thoughts. Jesus reigns, and He makes His blessings flow - far as the curse is found!


Joy to the World, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room, 
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Psalm 139:13-18
“13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.”

My oldest son is taking AP Biology this year. He loves it. He has that kind of a brain that gets science and math and really, really enjoys learning it. I don’t have that kind of brain, but he does, and it’s been fun watching his eyes light up as he learns things and tries to share them with me. I say tries, because, honestly, lots of times I don’t actually understand all the intricacies of what he’s trying to explain, but sometimes I get just enough of the idea of it to be able to join in his excitement, and that’s pretty awesome.

For example, we had a true ‘awe’ moment the other day. As I’ve said here before, ‘awe’ is not a word to be used lightly, and I’m not using it lightly here. I’ll try, in my limited way, to explain, because it really was a moment of AWE for both of us.

My boy was struggling with a chapter on genetics and DNA and having a bit of a time truly grasping what he was studying, and feeling a little nervous because he had a big test coming up at the end of the week and he wanted to have a firmer grasp of the concept than he felt he had on the first several reads through the material. The light finally went on, though, and I saw it in his eyes when he brought his book downstairs and said something along the lines of, “I think I finally get this! I’m finally understanding it!” What he was studying about was the process of meiosis and reproduction. As he just explained to me when I asked while writing this, “It’s the process of splitting DNA - both parents producing half of their DNA to produce a brand new human being.” Those individual cells formed through meiosis in the mother and the father come together to form a whole new little person with his or her very own unique DNA combination. I’m NOT going to get all technical in this blog post, because, frankly, I can’t because the whole thing kind of blows my mind, but what we discussed that afternoon was how complex our DNA actually ends up being. My DNA comes from both sets of my parents, which comes from each of their parents, which had also been through this meiosis process for all the successive generations of parents upon parents, meaning my DNA isn’t JUST from my two parents, but a combination of everyone in my family history, and their histories, and their histories, and so on and so on. We know this, of course, being that we know about our family trees, and all, but thinking about the extreme complexity of the chromosome pairs that intertwine in each parent to create a whole new pair of chromosomes, meaning, well, it gets very complicated, but the process of combining all those sets of genes involves complex crossing over,even more complex than I can even try to hint at in this limited blog post, and I thought, “Wow. The Bible says we are knit together in our mother’s womb,” and I said that. My son said, “Yeah! The picture in the book looks a lot like knitting in a way.” 


I’ve always loved the poetry of that verse in Psalm 139, but, listening to this excited teenager trying to explain something, that, frankly, is so complicated I barely grasp the edges of it, made me realize, “It’s not JUST poetry.” God DOES, indeed, knit us together, and He knows exactly the combination of all that DNA that He wants to put together to make you the you that you are. He meant those pairs to combine exactly in the way they did to create you just as He did, just as He knit you together in your mother’s womb, He meant it just that way. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And that is true for every human being. His thoughts are SO much higher than we can even comprehend. That was a WOW moment, and tears stung my eyes as I thought about how very intimately our Creator knows each and every one of us. He knits us together in our mothers’ wombs, just as He intends. 

And that Creator is right now upholding all that exists by the word of His power. He holds all things together. That Creator is our Savior and Redeemer. He is not the Deist’s god who spins up the world and stands far off and aloof from us. He is Immanuel, God With Us. He came to redeem His people and save us from our sin. Colossians 1:15-20, speaking of Jesus, says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”  This God, the only wise God, created man in His image, and is not a God afar off, but He has numbered the very days of our lives, He knows every single one of them. He is sovereign over every single molecule, down to our DNA and the very knitting together of it. 

I sat there thinking about how awesome this all is and how offensive the notion that we evolved by random chance truly is. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Yahweh, the very God who spoke all of creation into existence. My son’s biology teacher and the authors of his book may have eyes blinded to that glorious truth and would probably roll their eyes at what I’m saying here, but I am so thankful for opened eyes to see and for the moment I had to rejoice with my son over our Creator who really has knit us together in just the way He intended us to be born, and who has demonstrated His great love to us in reconciling us to Himself, delivering those who repent and believe in Him from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is Lord! My son and I were brought to that remembrance once again that afternoon as we shared that moment of awe at the sheer and immense complexity of His Creation. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Driving, Not My Favorite Thing

Until last night I’ve been able to say I’ve never been pulled over while driving. Not once, no tickets, nothing. Those of you who know me and what a wonderful, hahaha, driver I am can all share in a small laugh right now if you so choose.

When we moved here, we joked that if I managed to get through our year here without being pulled over, it would be amazing. Driving here is that difficult. I made it almost five months. Yay me. 

How fun it was last night to be driving home from taking my oldest son to the doctor, hungry and cranky after waiting at the doctor’s office for over an hour right at dinner time, fighting off the beginning of my own raging headache, minding my own business, driving carefully because I was determined to beat the odds and not get pulled over for driving like a bonehead around here and because I had seen the police car in the next lane over, when I turned onto the main road home and immediately heard that ‘bloo -oop!’ and saw lights in my mirror. My son looked shocked and said, “Is that for us?” I said, “Looks like it is.” So I pulled over and sure enough it was for us.

As we sat there waiting for the officer to come tell me what I’d done wrong, I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out. I had my turn signal on, wasn’t speeding, signaled my lane change, what?? 

Turns out my plates expired last month (exactly 24 days ago). Somehow in all our moving around, we either didn’t get the renewal notice or, worse, I’m going to find it accidentally filed away somewhere when I clean out my files. It’s been a rough year. I have been wracking my brain trying to remember if I ever saw a renewal notice or not. Doesn’t matter now. We went online last night and took care of it, and that little clerical error will now result in me having to pay a not-so-welcome fine to the city and get a report sent to the Ohio Division of Motor Vehicles. Happy I am not.

At least the police officer was nice about it while he handed me my ticket, though I felt really stupid when he said, “Are you aware your plates are expired and have been since October?” and I had to honestly say, “No sir, I was not aware of that.” I didn’t even try to explain about moving and not getting the notice to renew. Fun times, fun times.  

And that headache that was just nudging at me behind my eye last night?  I woke up with it raging this morning, since apparently three of the five of us now seem to be fighting what the doctor informed us is a nasty head-cold that’s going around. Yay me, again.

Actually, I’m thankful that if I had to be pulled over for this, and it was inevitable since I’m pretty much the only one who drives that car and we really weren’t aware it had expired, that it happened at a time when I wasn’t late for an appointment or, even worse, taking my son to school. Can you imagine that humiliation, to be pulled over in the high school car drop off line?

So, I can no longer say I’ve never been pulled over, but at least I can say it wasn’t for being stupid with my driving. 

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things I Never Considered When I Lived in Florida

Things that I had never considered or even realized people might have to do when I was growing up in Florida and complaining about the occasional cold day, but which have become a part of my life now that we live up north:

  1. Using a hairdryer to try to dry out the inside of an 8-year-old’s snow boots because she got a little overenthusiastic the day before while playing in the snow mounds on the way home from school and I didn’t realize snow had gotten inside the boots and the insides actually got wet and now it’s frigid and we have to leave for school soon and I don’t want her to have wet feet on the way to school. 
  2. Finally giving up because my hairdryer is overheating and inserting the rack in my dryer so I can put the snow boots in the dryer and hope I don’t have it set too hot for them.
  3. Waking up to a weather forecast that says, “Feels like -7˚ F” in NOVEMBER. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!
  4. Wondering why my strange neighbors next door have their window open when it feels like -7˚ outside and I am standing in my kitchen freezing with the storm windows closed and the radiators on all the time. Seriously, I’m not kidding, my neighbors’ open window is one of the things that plagues my curiosity. I’m not trying to be overly nosy, it’s just so….odd. They’ve had it open every day since the snow started. I would not want to have to pay their heating bill.
  5. Checking the various websites and my text messages every so often, hoping school is closed or at least delayed due to snow or cold. They really take school seriously up here. Tons of snow, arctic temperatures, no snow day. Our last city where we lived for the past four years got snow days when there was even a hint that snow might happen, and 1-2 inches meant at least two snow days. Not here in the snow belt.
  6. Wondering since they didn’t grant us a snow day when we had lots of inches on the ground and snow was still falling or when we dipped into negative temperatures, yet I know they did have some snow days last year, how bad, exactly, is it going to get here? 
  7. Feeling grateful for snow plows and salt on the roads.
  8. Counting shoveling snow off the driveway as part of my exercise routine. 
  9. Actually putting ‘shoveling snow’ into my fitness tracking app so I can count the calorie burn.
  10. Remembering when I thought 60˚ was cold, and it really, really was cold, because I had never lived up north.
  11. Being amazed at how the body adapts to real cold and that what used to be, not just feel, but actually be, cold now is something I long for as a ‘warming trend,’ and realizing just how self-centered I am. Cold is cold, wherever you are, and when you’re used to warm all the time, and you don’t have cold-weather clothes, it takes a lot less time to feel cold in Florida than it does where it gets colder and we’re expecting it. It’s not a contest. Perspective, I guess. 
  12. Eagerly anticipating snow because I just love it and it is so pretty, but dreading it at the same time, because driving in it is not fun. Pretty snow is great when all you have to do is sit and watch it out the window. I love that. But when you have to get out and function in it, not as fun.
  13. Buying several different coats, and not really being satisfied with any of them, because I grew up in Florida and am clueless about how to buy and dress for winter. Wishing I had a personal clothing buyer who could just shop for my winter wardrobe for me and say, “Here, this is exactly your size and it will look just right on you, and we were able to do it on a budget that didn’t break your bank.” Actually, I need one of those for every season. I do not like to shop and I’m not very good at it.
  14. Finally relating to those Calvin and Hobbes cartoons where he always seemed to have the snowiest winters. That’s not imaginary. There really are places that get that kind of snow. I’m living in one this year. In fact, I found out recently that Bill Watterson actually lives around here somewhere. Now I know where Calvin is from.
  15. That I actually have to tell a kid to go back upstairs and put on a coat, a sweater just isn't good enough when it's this cold. Don't they feel cold??
  16. Not being able to feel my legs after walking outside for about 5 minutes.
  17. Slipping and falling on the icy sidewalk on the way home from taking my daughter to school, being thankful nothing is broken just a little sore, deciding to walk the rest of the way on the street since it isn't a solid sheet of ice like the sidewalks are. True story.
  18. That surreal feeling when you are falling that feels like time sort of stops or slows way down and you have all this time for random thoughts, but in reality it is really only a second, you know you are going down, yet there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop the fall, and all the odd thoughts that randomly flit through your brain as it happens. That is one of the weirdest feelings ever.
  19. Being very thankful for a heated house. And boots, oh the joys of a comfy pair of boots!
  20. Learning to really love the change in season. For all the whining, I have loved watching the beautiful leaves this fall, and the novelty of learning to deal with snow is kind of fun....well, it's an adventure, anyway. And freezing in the winter just makes the warming trends of spring that much sweeter. Besides, after how swelteringly hot it was here with no air conditioning in the house when we moved here in the summer, I said I wouldn't complain about the cold. Apparently I lied. It just doesn't work that way. Remembering the heat doesn't make it any less cold today. :-)

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Stay warm!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Reading Proverbs

For the past several years I have added a chapter of Proverbs to my Bible reading every day. Since there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, I usually read the chapter corresponding to the day of the month we are on, and double up at the end of those months that don’t have 31 days. It’s been very helpful. I wish I could say I apply and follow all the wisdom perfectly after all this reading, but that would be very far from the truth. It is becoming more and more part of my thinking, though. 

One thing that has often struck me is how very often the Proverbs I read speak directly into my life in the exact situations I’m walking along in each day. It says something very ugly about me that sometimes in my flesh I find that I have to fight the temptation not to think about other people to whom I want to apply them sometimes, and when that temptation is strong, I’m learning to turn it around and ask myself, where do I need to apply this to myself? Stop looking outward and look at my own deceitful heart. Trust God to deal with everyone else. And when I’m hurting and confused, run to my Heavenly Father and tell Him, and pray for wisdom, understanding, peace, and grace. His grace is sufficient in every situation. I must learn to rest in Jesus.

One verse that I’ve done a lot of thinking about over the years is Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” With that I also think about Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” The gravity of these thoughts came home to me in a striking way some years ago when I was serving on our county Grand Jury for a couple of months. We had a very complicated case come before us that took the greater part of one day just to listen to the testimony, and no small amount of debating among us about what to do with the testimony we’d heard afterward. The general consensus of the group was to send down an indictment on two people, though it was a confusing and very complicated case, and some of us disagreed about whether both people might be guilty of the indictable offense.  All of us were quite confident about one of them, but not all of us were sure about the second one, though in this case it only required a majority to carry the case forward. Well, when the story of the indictment hit the newspapers, there was much about the case that couldn’t be reported due to some strict confidentiality restrictions on it, so the story in the newspapers, while factual, did not present a very true overall picture of the whole case. I happened to read some of the comments people left under the story on the internet version, and it was amazing how differently things looked to the readers and what that led them to believe and say from what I knew to be true about the case, that it wasn’t nearly as cut and dried as people assumed from the short news article. 

I learned something after that experience, and it was to be more careful about my assumptions. I wish I followed this better more of the time, but I am at least aware of it in a more real way now. I may think I absolutely understand a situation, but I need to realize I may not know all there is to know and it’s quite possible that if I knew more it might change entirely how I viewed the story. This is easy in theory, but very hard in practice. Turned the other way, when someone unjustly misunderstands me or misreads my intentions in a really big way, it’s hard for me to remember that they may not know everything I wish they did, and I also try, hard as it may be, to realize that if someone can so greatly misunderstand me, is it possible I’m misunderstanding them just as much, that probably there are things about them and their situation I don’t know that might change how I see things? These are things I try to think about, though imperfectly, I’ll admit, especially when my emotions are running high. I think this is part of the wisdom in 1 Corinthians 13 that tells us that love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and is not easily offended. Learning to put the best construction on things and let go of my right to be offended when it’s really hard, especially when I’m feeling hurt, and to let go of my need to try to justify myself when someone is unwilling or unable to listen or understand where I’m coming from, is a hard thing, but it is the loving thing. 

Bringing this home to today, this morning I read Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” As I’m thinking on those, I’ve decided to turn off my Facebook for a few days. When you post and then delete several status updates in a row, it’s probably time to just sit out for a while and not be the fool you know you can be at times. Wish I followed that advice more often, too.

So, I am thankful for the wisdom in Proverbs, I’m thankful God gave us this book which has become so precious to me. The more I read it, the more I’m learning to think through the wisdom and learn to apply it. It is one source God is using to grow me in sanctification, a life long, and sometimes slow process I’m finding. I’m thankful that God’s kindness includes His gift of the book of Proverbs to us. 

**If you are interested in taking up the challenge of reading Proverbs daily, and you want a great resource to help in understanding how to read and apply Proverbs, I can recommend Dan Phillips’s book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs.**